December 26, 2011

Baked Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash

Luckily, cooking attempt number 2 was wildly successful!

This recipe is from Real Simple's December 2011 issue and it is a keeper. I love barley and I love one-pot meals that don't require a lot of fussing. This is an excellent simple, but hearty dinner that is savory and fulfilling.

Baked Tortellini with Bacon

The good news is that Marshal Mike is back from Afghanistan and I can start planning dinners for the week and cook for more than one person! The bad news is that I chose this lackluster beige dish for the first meal.

I was going through my old December food magazines and found this recipe in Everyday Food's December 2010 issue. At first glance, it should be really good: bacon, cheese and pasta; how could that be bad? Well, it wasn't a total failure, but it wasn't something I would make again. We decided that it needed more bacon (the recipe calls for 4 slices), and a hit of parsley at the end for some freshness.

We can only go up from here!

December 11, 2011

Spaghetti with Bacon and Tomatoes

Bacon was on sale a couple weeks ago, so I bought a package with no real purpose in mind. (Let's be honest, do you really need a purpose when buying bacon?!) This weekend I decided it was about time I did something with it.

I found a great recipe for pasta with bacon and tomatoes from Lidia Bastianich on Epicurious. The recipe calls for bucatini or another long pasta with a hold in the middle, but I didn't feel like going out to find that kind of pasta, so I used spaghetti. I usually don't like long pastas but it definitely works with this sauce. I halved her recipe, as I never end up finishing all the leftovers, and it worked out just fine.

One thing I really love about Lidia Bastianich is the way she tells stories. This recipe is a great example: the headnote is historically interesting, helpful with ingredients and gives the reader just enough personal information to feel like Lidia is in your kitchen teaching you to cook. Even her recipe is written like a story and not just as steps, as most recipes. You can feel how much she loves sharing Italian culture and food with readers, and we get to reap the rewards!

December 4, 2011

Nicole's Baby Shower

Over the weekend I was one of three co-hosts for my good friend Nicole's baby shower (longtime readers should know this is the same Nicole of birthday cake fame and a regular taster of BlB food).

We held the shower at a restaurant in the Ballston area of Arlington, called Rustico, but of course I couldn't help making some baked goods for all our guests.

For favors, I made a gingerbread mama and baby:

Gingerbread Mama and Baby
I used King Arthur Flour's gingerbread cookie recipe, and I don't think I will ever look for another gingerbread recipe in my life. These have just the right amount of spice, the center stays chewy and the edges are crisp. I used KAF's royal icing recipe as well. Meringue powder is really easy to find. I bought mine off of Amazon, but you can find it at AC Moore, or other craft stores that carry Wilton products.

I found the adorable gingerbread cookie cutters at The mama is 4 1/2 inches and the baby is their mini size.

For our dessert I made red velvet cupcakes.

Red Velvet Cupcake
I used the same red velvet cupcake and cream cheese frosting recipe that I used for my friend Amy's bridal shower last year. (If you don't want to click through, the recipe can be found on Simply Recipes.) They were delicious!

Brunch menu and favor
Tower 'o' Cupcakes
Our crafty friend, Michelle, made this adorable diaper cake snowman. Nicole said she doesn't think she can stand to take it apart!

Diaper Snowman
Michelle also made these great, simple centerpieces.

She spraypainted branches silver and hung a couple small ornaments from them. They were pretty and festive!

November 28, 2011

Sausage and Fennel Ragu

I am not going to lie - my first trip to the grocery store after my CSA had ended was pretty exciting. I was craving fennel like it was my job; into the cart! The cauliflower looked great; join the fennel in the cart! Sweet potatoes are on sale; excellent, into the cart! I also haven't been eating much meat, and was kind of craving it, so I picked up a half a pound of sweet Italian sausage. This ragu from The Kitchn was the perfect thing to make with the fennel and sausage. My adaptation is below.

Sausage and Fennel Ragu
Adapted from The Kitchn
Makes 10+ cups

Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 sweet onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced (I am still using CSA garlic and the cloves are gigantic!)
1 fennel bulb, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice (I used Muir Glen organic because I had a coupon)
1 26.46 oz box Pomi strained tomatoes (I have seen these popping up at my local grocery stores and was immediately intrigued because they are Italian; after using them I am infatuated as well!)
Generous pinch of Giada's Tuscan Herb Mix
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
cooked pasta, to serve (I used cavatappi)
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve

1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Crumble in the sausage and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until browned, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently (use a wooden spoon to break the sausage into bite-sized crumbles). Add the onion, garlic, fennel and carrot. Mix thoroughly and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are beginning to be tender.

2. Add the diced tomatoes and the box of strained tomatoes. Stir to combine, raise the heat back to medium and bring to a simmer. Add the dried herbs, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, lower the heat to a bare simmer and partially cover the pot with the lid. Cook for at least an hour, stirring occasionally and scrapping the bottom of the pot.

3. After an hour, the ragu should be thick and rich. Taste for seasoning and serve over hot pasta.

November 27, 2011

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes

Anyone who has ever been to an Indian restaurant with me knows that I always order aloo mutter (peas and potatoes). Even if it isn't on the menu, I order it and, luckily, the kitchen has never refused to make it. The other dish that always interests me is aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes). When I saw a recipe for Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes on the Smitten Kitchen blog, I knew I had to try it.

The recipe is originally from Gourmet magazine and is really a keeper (oh, Gourmet, why did you have to fold!). I didn't cut my cauliflower small enough, so they didn't roast properly, but the potatoes were creamy and delicious. I didn't have any cumin seeds, so I used half fennel seeds and half caraway seeds. The caraway flavor didn't really work (it was a little too discordant), but the fennel! Oh, the fennel! It turned into candy! I might just roast fennel seeds for fun now that I know what a treat that they turn out to be! I also left out the jalapeno because I am mortally terrified of hot peppers. I did mean to throw some chopped parsley on top for color and a little bit of freshness, but I forgot. (Cilantro is the classic accompaniment to Indian food (the seed of the cilantro plant is called coriander), but I don't keep cilantro on hand.)

One final note, if you have never worked with turmeric, it turns everything yellow (as you can see from the photo), so be careful what you stir it with, what kind of container you put the leftovers in, etc.

November 21, 2011

Roasted Golden Beet and Kohlrabi Farrotto

I woke up craving roasted beet farrotto the other day and luckily I had bought a bunch of beets the last time I was at the store. The golden beets may not have made a pretty pink dish like the red ones, but it was delicious regardless!

I used my second version of Mario Batali's recipe from Babbo. The beets only measured 8 1/2 ounces, so I chopped up half of a kohlrabi (from the CSA 3 weeks ago) to make a pound of vegetables.

November 17, 2011

CSA Week 8 Autumn

In the last CSA bag of the year, we have:

mustard greens
baby kale
sweet potatoes

November 14, 2011

Mushroom Risotto with Peas

I received an email last week from Giada (well, not technically from Giada, but from her mailing list), announcing a Facebook contest where you chose one recipe of hers from a list of 50, cook it, take a picture and submit it for judging. I figured I do that on a regular basis with the blog, so I might as well submit a photo!

As you can see, I made mushroom risotto with peas, and I think my picture turned out pretty well. I did fuss with the recipe a little bit (mainly because I didn't want a huge vat of it leftover); my adaptions are below.

Mushroom Risotto with Peas
Adapted from Giada
Serves 4


6 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I used 2 cups leftover veggie broth and 4 cups chicken broth)
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (the package was 1 ounce and I was not about to half it!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped (again, the package determined how much I used)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup vialone nano rice (or arborio)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add the dried porcini mushrooms and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Remove the mushrooms from pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a cutting board. Set aside. Keep the broth at a low simmer.

2. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet/pot/braiser over medium heat and then add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and garlic. Finely chop the porcini mushrooms and add them to the pot. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the the rice and toast for a couple minutes, stirring continuously. Pour in the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir for about 2 minutes, or until the wine has been absorbed. Ladle about 1 cup of broth into the pan and cook, stirring continuously. (The risotto should be simmering ever so gently; lower the heat if necessary.) Continue adding broth by the ladleful once the previous amount has been absorbed, and stir, stir, stir! After about 20 minutes, start tasting the rice and stop adding broth once it is just tender, but still has bite. (Some days you will use all of the broth, some days you won't.)

4. Stir in the peas and the cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more cheese.

November 11, 2011

Sauteed Greens with Whole Wheat Couscous

I am falling behind on my greens eating, and to be perfectly honest, I am pretty sick of them. I remembered liking the way the greens turned out when I made this Epicurious recipe, so thought I would start with that and then switch it up a little.

The last time I made them, I put them over pasta, but I didn't feel like getting out a separate pot to boil water this time around. I wanted a one pot meal, so I decided whole wheat couscous would be my grain and I could cook it right in the pot with the greens! I also threw on a little bacon for good measure. If you don't want bacon, I might suggest feta cheese for its salty bite.

Sauteed Greens with Whole Wheat Couscous
Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 3-4


Extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chopped greens (I used collards and tatsoi)
2 cups low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
Scant 3/4 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
Couple slices cooked bacon, crumbled

1. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the greens by the handful, stirring to coat with the olive oil. Continue with the remaining greens. Saute the greens for a couple minutes, or until just starting to wilt.

2. Add the broth and the couscous to the pot. Cover and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cook until the greens are tender and the couscous is cooked, 5-10 minutes, depending on your greens.

3. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. After plating, top with the bacon.

November 10, 2011

CSA Week 7 Autumn

In the second to last week of my autumn CSA, we have:

Hakurei turnips
baby turnips
daikon radish

November 8, 2011

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread (Again)

I recently bought three bananas with the specific purpose of allowing them to ripen on my counter so I could try another banana bread recipe. Unfortunately, I did not purchase the other special ingredients that I would need for said recipes, so when the bananas proclaimed themselves ripe this weekend, I had to find a recipe that would work with what I had on hand.

I ended up choosing a recipe from my recipe binder that I had already tried once before, a fact which had slipped my mind. Looking back on my handy blog, I discovered that I made it in April and was pleased with the results. This time, I wasn't convinced. It still had a great crunchy top (and I may have picked the entire top off approximately 10 minutes after it came out of the oven, which is why there is no picture to accompany this post). But it was kind of flavorless otherwise. This time, I used 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips, and honestly, they didn't add anything (flavor, texture, nada) to the bread.

Another one bites the dust....

November 7, 2011

Kale Mac and Cheese

I have been craving mac and cheese for weeks, so this weekend, I finally decided to make a batch.

My thoughtful husband bought me two tickets to see Giada's cooking demonstration at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show this past weekend. My friend, Allison, came with me and we had a great time sampling cupcakes, cheese, granola, iced coffee, flavored olive oil and vinegars, peanut butter - you name it! After watching Giada's presentation, I was starving and started to work on this mac and cheese as soon as I got home.

I followed a recipe from a blog named The Kitchen Sink Recipes. I didn't have any goat cheese on hand (or any cheese other than a block of extra sharp cheddar and a tiny bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano for that matter), so I just used a larger quantity of cheddar. The resulting cheese sauce was (unsurprisingly) pretty one-note, and I was too impatient to get the sauce to thicken (I was whisking for 10 minutes!), so it wasn't thick and creamy. But, the kale worked wonderfully with the baked pasta and because I am all alone, I got to pick out each and every bit of browned crispy rigatoni sticking up out of the pan. Actually, I have been wanting to try this baking sheet mac and cheese from Food 52 because the crunchy pieces are my favorite!

Ultimately, this fulfilled my craving, but in the future, I think I would find a different mac and cheese recipe I liked and just add kale to it.

November 4, 2011

Winter Greens Soup

Work has been so crazy the past two weeks that I haven't felt like cooking when I finally get home from the office and I have been worried that all of my CSA produce will turn slimy and smelly, resulting in a one way ticket to the trash can. Last night, I decided this needed to change. I poured a glass of wine (a delightful Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon), cranked some music and started cooking!

My first priority was to do something with last week's kale and collards (especially because I got more this week). I found this soup recipe on the LA Times website and thought it sounded like a good starting point. I adapted the soup to use what I had on hand and I used vegetable broth, instead of water, because when you start dinner at 7:45pm, you don't have an hour to spare for soup simmering!

I was extremely happy with the results; the tiny amount of rosemary adds a large amount of flavor, so don't leave it out.

Winter Greens Soup
Adapted from the LA Times


2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 cups winter greens (kale, collards, mustard, chard, etc) de-ribbed and chopped
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large, heavy soup pot (Dutch oven), warm the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the onion and carrots, cover and cook until softened, about 12-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.

2. Add the greens, a handful or two at a time, giving them time to soften slightly before you add the next handful. After all the greens have been incorporated, add the vegetable broth, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the rosemary and chickpeas. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes or until the greens are tender.

3. Stir in 1/3 cup cheese, season with salt and pepper and serve, adding more cheese to the individual bowls. (Be warned, soup that has been simmering in a cast iron pot for 30 minutes is HOT, please don't burn your tongue like I did. It hurts.)

November 3, 2011

CSA Week 6 Autumn

In Week 6 of my autumn CSA we have:

mustard greens
collard greens
sweet potatoes

November 2, 2011

Butternut Squash Stuffed Cabbage

Last week I went to my favorite after work destination, Casa Nonna, with my friend Meghan. For the last couple months, Casa Nonna has been offering a traditional Italian aperitivo, where they supply a selection of free appetizers while you drink.

(Random side note: one of my favorite, and perhaps first, aperitivo memories is from a trip to Siena in college with my friend Jo. We had wandered into some bar and after realizing the food was free as long as we ordered a drink, we couldn't have been happier. The theme for the rest of the trip was "sorpresa de frutta," thanks to our kind bartender!)

Casa Nonna always has a nice spread and one of the appetizers on this particular evening was cabbage rolls stuffed with butternut squash and sage. They were delicious and I thought it might be a good use for the butternut squash and cabbage from my CSA.

In my quick search on the internet, the only recipe I could find is from a blog called The Prudent Foodie. It looked easy enough, so I gave it a try. The rolls turned out ok, but my one complaint is that the recipe doesn't state how long to boil the cabbage before you try to roll it. Being from a predominantly Italian family, I haven't had any experience with cabbage rolls, so didn't quite boil them long enough. They rolled ok, but the large end of the rib didn't cook all the way through, so the end result required a lot of chewing. I also didn't think the tomato cream sauce worked with the rolls. I think a sage cream sauce or sage butter sauce would have worked better.

October 31, 2011

Omega-3 Granola

I always crave yogurt and granola in the winter, but store-bought granola is so expensive. Every year I have to remind myself that making granola at home is super easy and recipes for just about any combination you can imagine abound on the internet.

This recipe for Omega-3 Granola from Epicurious is one of my favorites. As I mentioned in my last granola post (almost exactly one year ago), the beauty of homemade granola is that you can throw in whatever you have in the pantry. When I made this batch of granola this weekend, I only had 2/3 cup of walnuts in the freezer, so I threw in 1/3 cup of chopped hazelnuts. I also love dried cranberries, so I used 3/4 cup of chopped dates and 1/4 cup cranberries.

Finally, I bought a container of dried egg whites this weekend, for a super-secret December project, and I decided to try them in this recipe. As far as I can tell, they worked out just fine, and I didn't have to waste a couple egg yolks.

October 27, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 5

In the bag for week 5 autumn we have:

red turnips (at least I am assuming that's what those are)
collard greens
mustard greens (that literally taste like a spoonful of dijon mustard)
butternut squash

October 26, 2011

Sour Cream Banana Bread

This might be the most perfect looking banana bread I have ever made...

But unfortunately, it isn't the tastiest. In fact, if you ate this with your eyes and nose closed, you wouldn't even know it was banana bread!

This recipe is from Chow and is the second banana bread recipe I have made in the past two weeks. I made it mainly because I had some sour cream to use up. The first one I made was called Perfect Banana Bread and I found it on the blog, I Am Baker. I neglected to take a picture of the first one, which is why it didn't make it onto the blog. Well, that, and I insisted in adding 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal to it, and I think it made it cook a little funky. I think that if I am going to add flaxseed meal, I need to adjust other ingredients. But, even with that mess up, the top was the most flavorful and crunchy top I have ever had. I will be trying it again.

October 25, 2011

Last Night's Pasta Frittata

What I learned today: vanilla flavored almond milk is delicious in coffee, disgusting in a frittata!

I had some of yesterday's greens and pasta left over and although I thought it would be just fine reheated, I wanted to stretch it a little further. I also wanted to use some of the cherry tomatoes sitting on my counter. So I pulled up my recipe for leftover spaghetti frittata and decided to make it work for this.

I added the halved tomatoes to the pan just before I poured the eggs in and I used five eggs instead of four (I felt that four didn't quite cover all of the pasta last time). As I mentioned above, I didn't have any cow milk, so I used vanilla almond milk. Do NOT do this, it does not taste good. Otherwise, this turned out pretty well. The cannellini beans are a little weird in a frittata, but at least I know this for next time!

October 24, 2011

Sauteed Greens with Cannellini Beans and Pasta

This recipe from Epicurious was a great way to use both the collard greens and the tatsoi from this week's CSA bag. Raw, the tatsoi tastes a little bit like mustard greens and is texturally very delicate, almost like baby spinach. The collard greens tasted a little sweet, which is certainly not an adjective I would have ever applied to collard greens.When they were cooked, however, the two greens were virtually indistinguishable and, happily, they lost any bitterness they would have had raw.

I liked this over pasta, although I would have chosen a different shape next time. To be honest, I was trying to use up a box of Giada's fusilli col buco, so that is the only reason why I chose it. Finally, I couldn't help but think that this would have been even better with some bacon!

October 23, 2011

Pasta with Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage and Tomatoes

A funny thing happened when I was trying to decide what to do with the remaining two links of apple chicken sausage (the first two went into this frittata): I googled "sweet apple chicken sausage pasta" and there in the middle of the second page of results was my little blog suggesting I take a look at Fusilli with Fennel and Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage! Well, thank you, me, what a great idea!

Unfortunately, I didn't have any fennel around, but I did have a package of cherry tomatoes I wanted to use. (I originally bought the cherry tomatoes to make Domenica Marchetti's BLT Bucatini, which is from her new cookbook, The Glorious Pasta of Italy, but then I read the whole recipe and realized that I need to slow roast the tomatoes for two hours and I just don't have that kind of time on a weeknight!)

I followed the recipe as written, adding the halved tomatoes to the pan when the onions were almost done. Additionally, instead of opening a bottle of white wine, I used up some rosé in the fridge and was pleased with the results. Lastly, as you can see in the picture, I felt like the dish needed some color, so I chopped up two handfuls of parsley and mixed it in at the very end (off the heat). I hate that parsley is usually just considered a garnish; it really adds a ton of fresh flavor to foods. So don't forget the parsley!

October 20, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 4

In the fourth week of the Autumn CSA we have:

collard greens
sweet potatoes
garlic (baby)

October 19, 2011

Sesame Soy Braised Mei Qing Choi

Wow, I am 0 for 2 with these last two pictures!
When I was trying to figure out what to do with the Mei Qing Choi, I decided that since it looks like bok choy, I was going to treat it like bok choy. I remembered that delicious sesame soy braised bok choy and kohlrabi dish that I made earlier this year and decided this should work well in the same preparation.

As you can see in the rather hideous picture, I didn't have as much Mei Qing Choi as the recipe called for, so the ratio of cabbage to rice is a little off, and I didn't let enough of the liquid evaporate, so I ended up with a Mei Qing Choi and brown rice soup. But I didn't mind; it was delicious. I used fresh ginger this time, too, because I had some leftover from last week's cabbage disaster. I could actually taste the difference.

October 18, 2011

Kale and Sweet Apple Chicken Sausage Frittata

Hot mess

As you can see, I am trying to distract you from looking at the frittata by putting an equally crazy looking apron behind it!

Appearances and amateur cooking mistakes aside, this frittata was delicious! As my diligent and observant readers will know, I have been trying to diversify my kale recipes and after inspiring one of my co-workers to make a frittata (for the first time!) last week, I decided I needed to make one, too.

My love of sweet apple chicken sausage is well documented (see here, here, and here) and I buy it whenever it is on sale. I had some in the fridge and thought it would work well with the kale. I followed my basic "What's Left in the Fridge Frittata" recipe, but made one glaringly obvious amateur mistake. I threw the kale right in the pan after the chicken sausage had been browning and was shocked when it didn't wilt like spinach or arugula. Duh! So, learn from my mistakes! If you want to use kale in a frittata, make sure you blanch it first, and then cut into bite-size pieces before adding it to the pan. But, at least I remembered the broiler this time, so the kale and the Parmigiano-Reggiano got nice and crispy!

October 17, 2011


When I made the Snickerdoodles two weeks ago, my grandmother emailed me to pass along a recipe for Snickerpoodles, which she thought Patton might like. I made them over the weekend and they made the house smell like real snickerdoodles! I am not going to lie, I tried a bit of the batter, too. Tasted a little bland. I haven't tried a piece of the finished treat, yet. Patton, being a very special dog, licks the cinnamon and cornmeal off the outside before biting into the treat. But he comes back for more, so he must like them!

October 14, 2011


Not a very appetizing picture...

Looking back at the original recipe for this on Food 52, I realized that I did not cook this cabbage dish correctly. The cabbage was supposed to be caramelized before you add the cream. Mine got to the soft stage and I decided that was enough. (It certainly took long enough.) I guess the heat has to been higher than medium to caramelize this amount of cabbage.

Anyway, regardless of whether or not I cooked this correctly, it still didn't taste bad. I am not a huge fan of cabbage and was happy to find a recipe that even sounded interesting enough to make. Perhaps if you like cabbage and take the time to properly caramelize it, you will love this recipe!

October 13, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 3

In the CSA Autumn Week 3, we have:

Mei Qing Choi (Chinese cabbage)
salad mix
red turnips
broccoli (covered in green worms! I had to throw it all away.)

October 12, 2011

Salted Peanut Butter Cookies

Longtime readers of BlB know that Marshal Mike loves peanut butter anything and salted oatmeal cookies. I recently found this great recipe for Salted Peanut Butter cookies on Molly Wizenberg's blog Orangette and thought, well, that sounds right up MM's alley!

I followed the recipe as written, except I couldn't find pastry flour. I have whole wheat pastry flour, but decided that might be a little weird. So I used half cake flour and half all purpose flour. These cookies are extremely crumbly. Like fall apart on command crumbly. But they are delicious! I brought the extras into work (I sent most of them to MM in Afcrapistan) and my co-workers may like these better than the whole wheat chocolate chip cookies!

October 7, 2011

Pasta with Kale, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Feta

I am kind of obsessed with kale and get really excited when it comes in the CSA bag each week. I usually just bake it into chips, so this week I decided I had to do something different with it. I remembered that fantastic kale and lentil pasta that I made last month, and thought about making that again, but I had two sweet potatoes on the counter that I wanted to use, so I had to come up with something else.

My past experiments with adding roasted sweet potato to pasta haven't been extremely successful (see here or here) and this was really no better. Maybe sweet potatoes and pasta aren't meant to hang out. Although sweet potatoes and Vialone Nano rice are a match made in heaven! This dish wasn't horrible, it just needed a little more depth of flavor (caramelized onions?) and a sauce of sorts. But, it wasn't bad for a weeknight dinner. And Patton loves roasted sweet potatoes.

Pasta with Kale and Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 3-4

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch (bag) of kale, thoroughly cleaned and ribs removed
1/2 pound dried pasta (I used the other half of the bag of shells from this dish, mainly because I wanted them out of the pantry!)
3 oz crumbled feta

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the sweet potatoes with some olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 25 or so minutes until soft.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Blanch the kale in the boiling water (should take 2 minutes or so, depending on how much texture you would like your kale to retain). Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. (If you are particularly ambitious, you can shock the kale in a bowl of ice water. I am lazy, so I tend to undercook it so I don't have to shock it.)

3. Cook the pasta in boiling water. Drain, reserving a cup of kale/pasta water. Mix the kale, sweet potatoes, pasta and feta together in a large bowl. Add a little pasta water to help create a sauce. Taste for seasoning (I had to add A LOT of salt and pepper).

October 6, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 2

In the bag for week 2 of autumn CSA:

Hakurei turnips

October 5, 2011

Flour's "Famous" Banana Bread

Any longtime readers of BlB will know that I am always looking for a good banana bread recipe. I have tried one with a messy topping that overflowed onto the bottom of my oven, one with espresso and whiskey to kick start the morning (or any time of day), one with a boozy glaze, one with peanut butter, one that is spicy and chocolatey, and now I have made what could be considered the most traditional of banana bread recipes. And guess what? I wasn't impressed.

I found this recipe on the blog, Ipso Fatto, but Flour's Famous Banana Bread recipe is all over the internet. Flour is a popular bakery in Boston that is always getting written up or visited on some food-interest show. I had high hopes for this bread! I almost didn't include the walnuts, because I don't love them, but I wanted to make the recipe as is and I figured I could use some Omega-3 in my life. Most blogs link to the recipe on the Food Network. Giada visited Flour on her show and Joanne Chang, the chef and owner of Flour, provided the recipe to Food Network. I used the alternate measurements that Ipso Fatto provides from the Flour cookbook.

Yes, this bread created a crunchy top, which, in my opinion, is the most important part of banana bread. And yes, it was moist and the ratio of walnuts to bread was pleasing. But, the downfall of this bread is that it tasted like vegetable oil. It totally masks the 3 1/2 bananas in the bread. I think butter would have blended better. Or maybe a mixture of the two.

So, my epic hunt for the perfect banana bread recipe continues. (I have already found two more contenders this week!)

October 4, 2011

Beef and Butternut Squash Stew

Let's get this out of the way in the beginning: the end result of this dish is not what I would typically consider a stew. It is much too brothy to be a stew. I would call it a soup. Semantics aside, this was very tasty, hearty and warming on a cool October night.

I had my friends (and neighbors), Nicole and Joe, over for dinner this past weekend and I was craving pot roast. When I was flipping through Giada's Kitchen, I saw this recipe for Beef and Butternut Squash Stew and thought, well, that would be a good way to use the butternut squash from this week's CSA. (A note about the squash: I usually dread cutting butternut squash because they are large and tough, but these babies were a manageable size, easy to peel and easy to cut into.)

While the stew turned out well, it could have used more vegetables. I actually found myself searching for carrots that I knew were not in the bowl. And when I had it leftover at work the next day, I couldn't help but think that barley, or some other grain, would enhance the dish and soak up the remaining broth.

In case anyone is wondering what we had along side the stew, I pan-fried a can of chickpeas and threw them on top of the CSA salad mix and made Ina Garten's Vinaigrette for Green Salad (I halved it and omitted the garlic). Giada recommends serving this stew with crusty bread, and I thought, well, we can't have bread without roasted garlic butter! I first wrote about roasted garlic butter in June, but this time I roasted 6 heads of CSA garlic for 8 tablespoons of butter. (The CSA garlic only has between 4-5 cloves in each head.)  All in all, it was a great dinner!

October 3, 2011


When I told my friend Nicole that I made snickerdoodles this weekend, she said, "Oh, that is a cookie I have never tried to make!" After she said that, I realized that her statement held true for me, too.

I have always wanted to make snickerdoodles, mainly because the name is so fun to say. But also, they aren't complicated and taste of butter, cinnamon and sugar. What could be wrong with that? I used Michael Ruhlman's recipe from his blog and was extremely pleased with the results. These cookies are crunchy on the edges and soft and chewy in the middle. (After looking at the pictures on Ruhlman's blog again, I think I may have overcooked my cookies, which is why they are crunchy; Ruhlman's look a lot softer. Oh well!)

The other thing I liked about the recipe is that the measurements are in both volume and weight. Everything I read says that baking with weight measurements is easier and more precise than using volume and I have been wanting to try out that theory. I got a great kitchen scale for Christmas last year (thanks, Mom!) and have only used it for a couple random things here and there. Let me tell you, recipe writers need to start writing recipes with weight measurements instead of volume. It is so much easier! Put the bowl on the scale, zero the scale, add the first ingredient until its desired weight, zero the scale, add the next, etc. So much easier! And way less clean up!

September 30, 2011

Patton, a Special Dog

This is the scene I came home to yesterday. Someone had fun while I was gone.

Then he got all hyped up, ran around with the turkey (you can see its leg in the top right of the picture) and dug a nest for himself in his couch. What a special dog.

September 29, 2011

CSA Autumn Week 1

In the first week of the autumn share, we have:

salad mix
butternut squash

September 27, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

I usually leave the biscotti-making to my mom, because I don't like how sticky the dough is and how it sticks to your fingers when trying to shape the dough into logs before baking (no matter how much flour I use). (A while ago I watched this show on the Discovery Channel, or something similar, about the Serengeti and a part of it described how when the baby flamingos walk across a dry salt lake, the salt builds up on their wings and it becomes so heavy that some of them collapse and die. Clearly this has scarred me for life and I can't help but think about this every time I make biscotti!) Anyway, I put aside my biscotti/baby flamingo neuroses and attempted these beauties!

I found this recipe on a blog named Make It Naked, which is not about cooking in the nude, but rather cooking with whole ingredients and real food. (Kind of like the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver.) The biscotti turned out all right. They weren't incredibly chocolatey or espresso-y. They have kind of a cake-like consistency. One of my friends described them as tasting a little like devil's food cake. I like the idea of chocolate espresso biscotti, but I would try a different recipe next time. (Or maybe I like the idea of chocolate espresso cookies! No flamingos will be harmed in the making of cookies!)

September 26, 2011

Gajar Halwa (Indian Carrot "Pudding")

A month or two ago, a couple co-workers and I went to an Indian buffet for lunch. At the dessert station there was this delicious, sweet, decadent carrot "pudding" called gajar halwa. With my surplus of CSA carrots, I decided I needed to try to make it!

There are actually a lot of recipes on the web for this, but I chose one on the blog Beyond [the Plate]. As you can see from my picture compared to the ones on Beyond [the Plate], my patience (or lack thereof) got the best of me and I didn't let all of the liquid evaporate. Regardless, I was really pleased with the results. I thought the cardamom flavor was a little strong and would  be interested to try one of the other recipes out there to see how it compares.

September 23, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

Hey, look, BlB is roasting vegetables again!

Did I even give you time to miss them?

My brain and my energy were running on empty this week and quite frankly, the bags of CSA vegetables have started to overwhelm me. It can be annoying to cook for one person! All that work! All those leftovers! (I ate the vegetable barley soup for five meals!) Wait, I have to do the dishes, too?! Can't I just have cheese and crackers again?

That being said, there is nothing wrong with roasted vegetables. It gets them out of the fridge and into my belly and really, isn't that the point? In fact, I think the high heat and silky olive oil do wonders for the texture and flavors of vegetables. I was especially impressed by the eggplant. The outside was crisp and salty and the inside creamy like melted cheese. Everyone would eat eggplant if it tasted like this all the time!

I know you don't need a recipe for roasted vegetables, but here is what I did anyway.

Roasted Vegetables
Serves 1 hungry person and 1 begging dog (seriously, Patton loves vegetables)

1 medium eggplant, diced (unfortunately week 14's eggplant had gone bad, so I used this week's)
1 red bell pepper, diced (I had been scared of week 12's large red pepper, so I was ignoring it; I am so bummed I waited so long to eat it! It was sweet and delicious.)
7 (I think) medium carrots, peeled and diced (from week 14)
1 celeriac bulb, peeled and diced (from this week)
extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
dried Italian seasoning

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss all of the vegetables together in a bowl with a couple glugs of olive oil, a tablespoon of salt, some pepper and about a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs. Spread onto a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, stir, and roast for 15 minutes more. Depending on how large you cut your vegetables they may be done now or they may need more time.

September 22, 2011

CSA Week 16

In week 16's CSA bag, we have:

baby turnips and greens

This is the last week of my summer share and the fall share starts next week. Bring on the sweet potatoes!

September 19, 2011

Vegetable Barley Soup

In the DC area this week, fall gave us a sneak preview of what's to come during the next couple months. Notice I don't say that fall has arrived. Anyone who has lived in DC for longer than a year knows that fall always teases us in September. We get a couple cool days and nights, we open the windows, and rejoice that the stifling sticky summer is gone. Then summer laughs in our face and says, "I'm not done with you suckers! That's what you get for building a city on a swamp!" (Side note: It turns out that DC was not built on a swamp, although it is a myth that won't die. If you have ever been to DC in the summer, I am sure you'll agree that there must be some truth to that myth.)

Anyway, I decided a soup was in order to take the chill off (no matter how low the temperature goes, I refuse to close the windows during the first couple days of cooler weather). I wanted to use up the majority of the CSA vegetables that have been languishing in the fridge and was craving barley for some reason, so I came up with this vegetable barley soup. It turned out quite delicious. The only thing that would have made it better is if I had had a Parmigiano-Reggiano rind to throw in.

Vegetable Barley Soup
Makes a ton of soup (about 10 cups)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup diced carrot
1/4 cup diced celery (I would have used more, but my celery from week 14 had mostly gone bad. This celery was the most flavorful celery I have ever tasted. One word: potent.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow bell pepper, diced (from week 13, it was still in perfect condition!)
28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, slightly mashed (I would recommend mashing the tomatoes in a bowl with a potato masher, or your hands.)
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth and 2 cups chicken broth (The vegetable broth was leftover in the fridge, so I wanted to use it up and I didn't have more vegetable broth in the pantry, so I had to use some chicken. You could definitely use all vegetable or all chicken broth and 4 cups would be fine.)
2 cups diced peeled potato (I used all of the potato from week 15, I would probably use less next time)
1 cup pearled barley
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for a couple minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds - 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 or so minutes, or until softened.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another couple minutes.

2. Add the mashed tomatoes, their juice and the broth. Bring to a simmer and add the potatoes, barley, bay leaf, oregano and 1 tsp salt. Cover and continue to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the barley is tender and the potatoes are cooked. (I wanted the potatoes to keep their shape and not become mush, which is why I added them towards the end.)

3. Taste for seasoning and serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

September 16, 2011

Basil Hummus

Calling all hummus lovers! This is an excellent variation on traditional hummus. And it contains no tahini, which I know can be a divisive ingredient for some people.

I found this recipe on the blog Simply Recipes, which is a blog that just about everyone who reads food blogs reads. (Does that sentence even make sense?) As you can see, I used the purple basil from this week's CSA, so it doesn't have the vibrant green color you'd get from regular green basil. I didn't have any pine nuts, so I used 1/2 cup salted roasted almonds. Ever since I made purple basil pesto with almonds a couple weeks ago, I find I actually prefer the taste of almonds with basil over the flavor of pine nuts.

In the end, if you like hummus, you will like this recipe!

September 15, 2011

CSA Week 15

In Week 15's bag, we have:

brussels collards (the top of the brussels sprouts plant)
purple basil
garlic (the official BlB household head of garlic count is 9!)

September 13, 2011

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Can you see Patton's out of focus face at the top of the picture? He was willing the cookies to fall off the plate and into his mouth. I keep telling him he can't have chocolate, but he doesn't believe me.

Oh my goodness. No baked good I have ever made has solicited the kind of response that these have. My co-workers are asking for seconds and asking when I will be making more. They really are that good.

I am a little late to the Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain bandwagon. Her whole-grain cookbook came out in early 2010 and has accumulated accolades ever since. I had three adaptations for her whole wheat chocolate chips cookies clipped in my recipe book: the Washington Post's version, a skillet version, and Molly Wizenberg's version. I decided to go with Wizenberg's version because she can do no wrong and there were helpful instructions included.

Remarkably, the hardest part about this recipe was finding 8oz of bittersweet chocolate! I had a 4oz bar of 75% chocolate in the pantry and headed to the grocery assuming it would be easy to find the other 4oz. Silly me. Scharffen Berger's 70% bar is only 3oz. Both Lindt's 70% bar and Ghirardelli's 70% bar were 3.5oz. (Hmm, Ghirardelli's 70% bar online is 4oz. Sneaky!) So I decided on the Lindt bar and I threw in some Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chunks to make up the difference (the bag was almost gone, so it needed a purpose anyway).

It was a little annoying to chop up the chocolate, but I liked the results in the cookies. There were some large areas of chocolate, similar to how it would have turned out with chips, but the chocolate also got incorporated throughout the whole cookie because of the smaller chards from chopping.

One more thing to mention: as Wizenberg mentions in her post, the dough benefits from chilling. In the picture below, the cookie on the left was on the first pan that went in the oven. As you can see, it totally spread out. The cookie on the right was on the last pan that went in the oven and had been chilled for 20-30 minutes. Same amount of dough (I always use my 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop, no matter what the recipe says), but different results. There is certainly nothing wrong with a flatter cookie (and if you like crisper cookies, you would probably prefer flat), but you have to place them further apart on the sheet so they don't all run together, which means you have to put fewer on a sheet and as a result, it takes longer to cook all of the batter. And for impatient people like me, that just doesn't fly.

So, long story short, if you like chocolate chip cookies, but are looking for a slight variation that truly elevates the taste of the cookie, give these a try. But be warned, make sure you have enough supplies on hand to make a second batch!