September 27, 2012

Smoky pumpkin macaroni and cheese

Pumpkin season is here and I couldn't be happier. Fall is my favorite time of year and one of the main reasons for that is the abundance of wonderful produce: winter squash, apples, turnips, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, grapes, and more. Last year I started making macaroni and cheese with butternut squash puree. I never posted the recipe for some reason, but it became one of our favorite fall meals. On a recent cold and rainy day, I really felt like a macaroni and cheese for dinner. This time, I decided to make it with pumpkin puree and lots of smoky mozzarella, smoked paprika, and cheddar. It was perfect for a cold autumn day. I think you could also use regular mozzarella and smoked cheddar if you wanted - as long as one of these cheeses is smoked so you get that smoky flavor. 

This dish is going to join my other macaroni and cheese creations: classic, Mexican, summer squash, butternut squash, broccoli, and I'm sure others that are yet to come. The great thing about the use of pumpkin puree is that it provides creamy sauce so you can cut down on the use of milk. This recipe makes a great main dish with a green salad or a side dish.

September 24, 2012

Jalapeno-cheddar beer bread

Homemade bread is always a treat, but it can be a long process to make and requires a lot of forethought. Recently, I tried to make a sourdough starter. It was doing really well for the first three days, but then on day four it fell flat and never came back to life.... I haven't tried to make a new one yet, but I will soon. Anyone have any suggestions for making and keeping sourdough starter alive?

This bread came along because we have so many peppers of all varieties (green, purple, jalapeno, poblano, etc.) and so many tomatoes from our family's large crops this year. I was making a pot of chili with lots of peppers and fresh tomatoes and wanted some sort of bread to go with it (but didn't have the time to make a yeast bread before dinner). I saw this recipe on Sumptuous Spoonfuls and knew that the combination of jalapenos, cheese, and beer would be absolutely perfect with the chili. I adjusted the recipe a bit and below is the recipe I used. The jalapenos we've had have been on the mild side, so I didn't find the bread to have much heat. However, you can adjust the amount to your taste. I used Saranac pumpkin ale in my bread because we LOVE our fall beers around here. The beer went well in the bread, but you can use any kind of light to medium beer you have on hand (but make sure you like the flavor).

September 19, 2012

Salisbury steak with red wine-mushroom sauce

Salisbury steak... I don't remember having Salisbury steak since I was a kid - and then it was one of those scary school cafeteria meals that looked pretty unappetizing, and probably didn't taste very good either (and I don't even want to think about the ingredients). This Salisbury steak is inspired by a recipe on Nourished Kitchen. It is full of flavor and is dressed-up a bit to make this school cafeteria lunch an elegant meal for adults (though I'm sure kids will like this version, too).

I have been having pretty intense cravings for red meat lately. I have been feeling pretty run down, and when that happens I often start craving beef and dark leafy greens. It's usually when I make a steak and some creamed spinach. However, I didn't have any steaks on hand, but I did have some grass-fed pastured organic beef from Green Heron Growers. We aren't huge red meat eaters, but when we do eat it, we only eat grass-fed now. On our quest to eat more traditional foods, we've discovered the numerous health benefits to eating grass-fed pastured beef, which you can read toward the bottom of this page

This recipe will make four servings of Salisbury steak. Serve this with some smashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice. I served it with some garlicky red potatoes and a mix of steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

September 13, 2012

Chicken tikka masala

I really love cooking new dishes, especially ones that come from all over the world. I'm usually not quite sure how authentic the recipe is, but I'm always willing to give it a shot. Tikka masala is something I've only ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, so that's all I have to compare this version to. I saw this recipe and was saving this meal for a cool day. I felt like the creaminess and spice would make this dish perfect for when the weather began to change. Even though this is not my traditional 'comfort' food, there's something about it that feels comforting to me...

This recipe will serve about four people. You definitely want to serve it with some Basmati rice. I always like to add some frozen peas to my Basmati rice after it's done cooking/before I fluff it. You could also serve some naan bread with this dish to help collect all the extra sauce. Below is my adapted version.

September 10, 2012

Baked potato soup

I am a happy girl when I can begin to make soups, stews, and heartier foods again. The smell of fall is in the air and the leaves are beginning to turn and fall onto the ground here in western New York. In fact, the weekend actually had a bit of autumn temperatures, which was the perfect reason to make some soup. I've been wanting to make a baked potato soup for a while and now that I have, I only wonder what took me so long. It's a delicious - stick to your bones - kind of soup. Perfect for crisp weather. Plus it's very simple to make. This soup is definitely going to be a popular dish at our place this winter.

This recipe will make a large pot of soup - about 4-5 large bowls. Please feel free to use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock for a vegetarian version. Enjoy any leftovers for an easy lunch at work the next day.

September 4, 2012

Tomato jam

I have been getting a lot of tomatoes from my in-laws this summer. I'm always glad to take free fresh produce from people that have too much. Plus, I love when there's enough to can and save some of that summery tomato taste for, say, the middle of January! I saw a tomato jam recipe at Food in Jars and have been wanting to make it for a while. It sounded like a fancy ketchup without the vinegar and that's kind of what it is... Except it's also not smooth and has a bit more kick. You could use this jam on a burger in place of ketchup. I'm also thinking that it would be delicious in a grilled cheese sandwich, or really paired with cheese any way you'd like.

This took a while to cook down, so make this on a leisurely weekend when you can leave a pot simmering on the stove for a couple hours. It's worth it and it's a different way to save some of those summer tomatoes. I did make a couple of changes in terms of the sugar content (I reduced it quite a bit and still found the jam to be sweet) and I changed the spices a little. My adapted recipe is below. Whenever you are hot-water bath canning, be sure to follow the instructions and don't add anything that will reduce the acid content to the recipe. Otherwise, you'll run the risk of unsafe canning and the realm of using the pressure-cooker method. The yield of this recipe will vary of the water content of your tomatoes and how long you cook it down. My batch yielded slightly more than 2-1/2 pints. The best part of this recipe? --- it uses the skin and seeds, so no peeling!