Sunday, September 30, 2012

Almost October Sunday

Yesterday we made the obligatory visit to our local apple orchard to find out just "How Tall This Fall" our kids are, to take a wagon ride behind a big green tractor, and to stock up on apple cider donuts, a treat of which I honestly cannot get enough. Sadly, the U-Pick portion of the orchard was not available, but that didn't stop us from buying a peck of apples in the store that someone else picked.



                
I woke up this morning with applesauce on my mind. I used Stephanie O'Dea's crock pot recipe, in part because I didn't much feel like being tied to the house on this beautiful day. The only thing wrong with this recipe is that it just doesn't make enough - I tripled it, and I still only got about a quart of applesauce. Fortunately, it's easy enough to repeat as needed. I hope you enjoy it.

The rest of the apples went to a German Apple Pie, which we will enjoy on this eve of October. Finn and I made some seasonal decorations for the windows, and there are vegetables roasting in the oven for dinner. Oh fall, how I love thee.



Slow Cooker Applesauce
Adapted from crockpot365.com

4 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 cup water

Place the quartered apples into the crock pot. Sprinkle with remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours. When the apples are super tender, mash with a potato masher or fork.

* Note: I tripled the recipe with no ill effect. I let mine cook the full 6 hours and then left it to cool for an hour before stirring it up.




Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekday Winner: West African Groundnut Stew

Oh my goodness, this was a huge winner all around...sooooo delicious. It has a lot of the same flavors as our favorite peanut sauce, but with the yummy textural addition of sweet potato and chard. I served it over quinoa with roasted plantains on the side. I had never thought of roasting plantains - I typically fry them - but they turned out super good and were so much less messy and hands-off to prepare. In this household, things that cook at high heat in the fully enclosed oven are much more easily prepared than those cooked on the stovetop, particularly if there is splashing oil involved. I roasted them at 450 for about 20-25 minutes, flipping once about halfway through.

As with so many savory dishes, this tasted even better the next day. Make a big batch and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Mmmmmm.

Roasted plantains

You put it all together...

West African Groundnut Stew
Adapted from Vegetarian Soup Cuisine

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1 tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 cups water
2 cups tomato juice
1 14 oz can stewed tomatoes
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (2 cups)
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter, preferably natural
2 cups chopped Swiss chard

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, pepper, garlic, ginger, and chile and saute 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, sweet potato, and seasonings and cook for 25 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potato is tender.

Aggressively stir in the peanut butter. Stir in the chard and return to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Remove the stew from heat and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with couscous or rice and roasted plantains.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baked Tofu

My family can't get enough of this baked tofu; we snack on it after school, bring it for lunches, take it on picnics, stick it in sandwiches or in salads. The marinade is actually adapted from one that I found in a seafood cookbook and is intended for fish, but it works beautifully for this recipe. For my local readers, this reminds me a lot of the marinaded tofu at Strawberry Fields, which I have always loved, and, like their tofu, it works equally well straight up or on a sandwich. The flavor and texture deepen the longer that you bake it, and the resulting strips are positively addicting.

I use the really grainy, dense organic tofu that is available at our co-op, but this also works with standard grocery store fare. When I use the denser tofu, I don't think it is necessary to press it, but I always press the vacuum packed variety.

To make it a dinner, I cooked up some frozen shelled edamame and prepared soba noodles that I served cold with a noodle base (I like the Shirakiku Soba Noodle Soup Base, which I get at the Asian market). So pretty, so fresh, and so satisfying!

Enjoy!



Baked Tofu

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For marinade:
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. lemon juice

1 16 oz block extra firm tofu

Drain and rinse the tofu. Place it on a plate and cover with paper towels. Put another plate on top then weigh it down with something heavy (I typically use a big ol' cookbook). Let sit ~20 minutes. You can skip this step if you are short on time.

Slice the tofu into 1/2 inch slices. Place in a shallow baking pan and cover with marinade. Let sit in marinade for 20-30 minutes, flipping every ten minutes or so. The longer it sits, the more flavorful the tofu will be.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Temporarily transfer the tofu to a plate. Rinse and wipe out the baking pan and cover it with foil and cooking spray. Move the marinaded tofu slices bake onto the baking pan.  Bake the tofu slices for 30-40 minutes, flipping every ten minutes. The longer you bake it, the chewier it will be. This is good warm, cold, or at room temperature.






Friday, September 7, 2012

Weekday Winner: Garden Gazpacho

I'm rolling out a new feature on this here blog. My world is suddenly structured in a way it hasn't been in a while, so I think it would be advantageous to throw in some structure to my blogging efforts as well. That said, I present to you the inaugural Weekday Winner posting!

Here's the idea:
  • Every week I cook three or four dinners I haven't cooked before. This isn't changing because I've gone back to work. If anything, cooking has once again become my beloved, much anticipated, end-of-the-day hobby, and I'll be eager to try new things.
  • At the end of every week, I'll share my family's favorite from the week before. 
  • If you play along with me, you'll have a whole arsenal of weeknight meals at your disposal. Doesn't that sound great?

I'll say upfront that most of these will be vegetarian, since that is pretty much how we are eating these days. Most of these will be fairly kid friendly (though my kids are more adventurous than some). Most of these will be fairly easy on the budget. Most of them will take thirty minutes or less to prepare. And all of them -- I promise -- have been tested and tasted and passed the rigorous weekday winner criteria.

So...to start off the weekend, a DELICIOUS recipe for garden gazpacho that is just the thing to have in hand before heading to your Saturday morning farmer's market. I served this on my fancy soup and sandwich platters with open face egg salad sandwiches on the side...super yummy all around.

Enjoy!


Garden Gazpacho
Adapted from Vegetarian Soup Cuisine

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2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups canned tomato juice
Tabasco to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend thoroughly. Transfer about three-quarters of the mixture to a blender or food processor; process for five seconds. Return the pureed mixture to the mixing bowl. Alternately, use an immersion blender in the original bowl, being careful to leave some chunks. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Serve in chilled bowls garnished with fresh parsley. 




Saturday, September 1, 2012

Blog? What blog?

I can't believe it has been almost a month since I last posted. On second thought, I can totally believe it - I can hardly catch my breath around here, let alone compose my thoughts in writing. It has been a whirlwind, but we are slowly figuring things out.

I'll take a moment here to summarize a few things we've been up, and then maybe, just maybe, I can try to get back on track. I have been cooking, and even crafting a bit, and I occasionally remember to snap a photo or two...so I'd love to share some of that with you. Since the original intent of this blog was to prove that you can be a busy mama and still have hobbies, I have to prove myself right, after all.

  • I'm knitting a few coasters for Sean's office...a super easy, super mindless knitting project that gives me some much needed meditative needle time to wind down at the end of the night. I love Cascade 100% Highland Wool - it's not too fancy (these are coasters after all) and it felts beautifully.

  • We're on a whole grains, produce heavy cooking kick. Eating tons of roasted vegetables. Last week we roasted a huge batch then used them for paninis and pizza throughout the week.

  • Finn wants a blanket to bring to school for naptime. Apparently the one he has been using is "too small," so we'll probably spend some time this weekend working on that. School is going really well for the boys...and they are super cute trotting out every morning in their backpacks. I sure miss them, though.


  • I'm not home much, but when I am, I'm cooking and baking as much as I can. Made a few loaves of multigrain bread to get us through the week. Made a few batches of yogurt. And we are enjoying big weekend breakfasts...more on that to come.

  • Have plans to make an apron that I can wear at work. In part because, frankly, I miss wearing an apron. And in part because there are parts of my work that are just plain dusty, so it'd be nice to have one on hand. Hoping to try the grownup version of this pattern with some kind of wacky librarian print. 

So there you have it. I'm secretly grateful for this rainy, rainy Saturday, and grateful for three days in my little house with my boys.


Here's wishing you all a lovely weekend.