November 29, 2011

Slow cooker chili macaroni

We stocked up on beef, including a good amount of ground beef, at the end of our farmers' market this fall. We get the majority of our beef (and a lot of other things like shiitake mushrooms) from Green Heron Growers. Their beef is grass-fed and all their food is organic. I was never a big fan of red meat growing up, but once I started eating grass-fed, it is a whole other story. Plus, I love that I can get our meat from a local family farm and that I know the cows were able to walk around outdoors and eat the diet they were meant to eat (not corn).

This meal is something a little different for me. It's a slow cooker recipe that I modified from The Slow Cooker Bible. I was looking for an easy dinner for a busy weeknight and the chili mac caught my eye. It sort of reminded me of being a kid (ground beef and elbow noodles!) and I thought it would be a comforting and fun sort of meal that we would enjoy. Anytime you cook something low and slow, the flavors really develop and the slow cooker is no exception. I liked this dish a lot and it makes great lunch leftovers, too. This should serve about five to six people as a main dish, especially with a green salad or something similar on the side.

November 27, 2011

Cranberry sauce quickbread

Do you still have leftovers of cranberry sauce from your Thanksgiving dinner? If so, here's a creative way I found to use up some of it. I found this recipe on The Kitchn and thought it was a great idea. Not only did it use up some cranberry sauce, but also buttermilk that I had left. This bread takes your cranberry sauce and turns it in to something completely new, which is a great way to ensure that your leftovers actually get eaten. It also takes those Thanksgiving leftovers and turns them into something that touches on the flavors of Christmas. This bread is simple and versatile. You can add nuts, dried fruits, citrus zests, or spices of your choice. I did modify the recipe quite a bit to add spices and nuts because I thought it may be a little bland as is. My cranberry sauce had clementine and ginger in it, so I wanted to match those flavors. This recipe will make one loaf of bread and it makes a nice breakfast or snack with a cup of coffee or tea.

November 23, 2011

Ginger-clementine cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is something I make every year for Thanksgiving. I've never been a fan of the canned cranberry sauce "log" so I started making sauce with real cranberries years ago. However, I realized that I use the same recipe every year and always make cranberry-orange sauce (which, by the way, I posted here exactly one year ago). I love that recipe, but I decided to change-up my cranberry sauce a little by making it a slightly spicy sauce featuring ginger. Ginger is one of my favorite flavors and I thought that it would be nice to bring it into my Thanksgiving dinner. I've been seeing a lot of cranberry sauce/relish recipes with ginger recently that helped me decide to try the change.

Cranberry sauce is one of the Thanksgiving meal items you can make ahead of time and refrigerate for a couple of days. Those dishes are nice because it's one less thing you need to make the day of your meal. Plus, cranberry sauce is easy and ready in a snap. It's worth making yourself. We have more people coming for our dinner this year, so this recipe will serve about 8-10 people as a Thanksgiving side (and hopefully some leftovers to go on a turkey sandwich). I like my cranberries to remain a little on the tart side, but feel free to add more (or less) sugar according to your taste. 

Ginger-clementine cranberry sauce
2 bags (24-oz. total) fresh cranberries
juice and zest of 2 clementines 
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
about 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce comes to a boil and cranberries begin to burst. Continue to cook and stir, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency (add a little water or more clementine juice if it is too thick). Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

This recipe is being submitted to this month's Healing Foods event which features vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. 

November 21, 2011

Pumpkin gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce

My husband and I went to a wonderful restaurant a couple of weeks ago for our two year wedding anniversary. This restaurant specializes in a small menu comprised of as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. I had a bowl of potato gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce with three kinds of roasted squash and pancetta. It was delicious and it was also the first time I ever had gnocchi. I was inspired to make gnocchi at home and I thought that pumpkin gnocchi would be so seasonal and colorful. However, I had no idea how to make them. I searched all over the web and found quite a few recipes. I decided to use this recipe at Closet Kitchen as my guide. The gnocchi were not that difficult to make. I don't have a gnocchi board, so I tried to roll them on a fork to make the lines. It worked OK, but not great. They didn't look perfect by any means, by they tasted delicious and the orange color was lovely.

It just so happened that the recipe I found also had a gorgonzola sauce like I had at the restaurant. I made that and served it on top of the gnocchi along with some pieces of crisp applewood smoked bacon, fried sage leaves, and shallots. It was fall comfort in a bowl. The salty bacon paired nicely with the rich cheese sauce and the gnocchi were slightly sweet and nutty. I think some roasted cauliflower (maybe purple) or chestnuts would be a nice addition as well.  This recipe will make enough to serve about four people as a main dish. 

November 13, 2011

Orange and honey roasted rutabaga

Up until this I had never eaten a rutabaga anyway except for mashed/pureed with potatoes. I am pretty sure that up until last fall, I had never eaten a rutabaga in my life though. So, I decided to try a new way to make this root vegetable into a side dish. Roasting is pretty much the best way to make almost all vegetables, so I figured that it would be worth a shot.Since rutabagas have a bit of a spicy flavor (similar but more subtle than a turnip), I thought that a sweet flavor would go nicely with it. I decided to keep it simple and roast the rutabaga chunks with some honey and orange juice. It was a good choice and the slight tang from the orange juice and sweetness from the honey paired very nicely with the rutabaga - it didn't overpower the vegetable, but rather complimented it.

I used one medium rutabaga, which I thought would make a side for at least three people, but my husband and I ate it all! I think that this would make a lovely and simple Thanksgiving side dish and a tasty way to introduce people to rutagbagas, which don't tend to be a very popular or common vegetable in my experience. You can easily double or triple this recipe and it is very forgiving. So if you haven't already made friends with the rutabaga, go for it! 

November 9, 2011

Coconut and lime poached white fish with baby bok choy

This recipe is one my mom gave me that was ripped out of the current edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She thought that I would like it and was correct! I thought that it sounded quite delicious. I also thought it would be a perfect dinner to make during this little warm spell we've been having. I used flounder in my recipe, but you can use any white fish that you want (skinless and boneless filets) and that looks good. I adapted the recipe a little bit to the one below because I added some ginger and scallions to the broth as well as rice to make this a more filling meal. I'm a sucker for a good Asian-inspired broth and this one had all the sweet, spicy, salty, and sour that you would expect. Bok choy isn't something that I cook with very often and I'm not sure why. I have seen it all around our farmers' market this fall. I like the baby ones because they are very tender (and cute), but you can get a larger head and cut it into strips if that's all you can find.

This recipe will serve two people as a main course with the rice. I used jasmine rice, but basmati or any long grain rice would work nicely.

November 3, 2011

Apple-stuffed acorn squash

I'm continuing my quest to post more vegetable side dishes (and this one just happens to be acorn squash again). The recipe actually stems from a squash dish my husband made for me a few times when we were dating. I remember we had it one Christmas Eve dinner with some family and friends and it was a big hit. It was a small dinner and we made an half of a squash for each person. It's a nice side dish because everyone gets their own individual half - it's cute and they are very good. I think these would also make a nice Thanksgiving side dish, but only if you had a small gathering - it would be difficult to do a whole bunch of these at one time (unless you had a second oven, which is unlikely). I made this dish recently for my husband and I along with some pecan-crusted chicken. I added some spices like cayenne and cinnamon so that they weren't overly sweet. I think this was the first time I made them myself, but we liked my version, too. This recipe is for one acorn squash, which will serve two people.