February 28, 2011

Baked Fennel, Potato and Tomatoes

Hello, gorgeous

Big thanks to MM who asked the Valentine's Day fairy to deliver the gorgeous Le Creuset braiser in the above photo!

My good friend, Lilly, inspired me to pull some frozen meat out the freezer this weekend, and the 1/2 pound of leftover ground turkey from this dish won! (Good thing to know: if you wrap ground turkey in plastic wrap and stick it in a freezer ziplock bag, it will be totally edible and have no freezer burn after 7 months! Shocked? I was!) I also had fennel, a bag of potatoes and an onion that were just screaming to be used. After a little bit of internet searching, I found this recipe for Baked Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes with Fontina from Food & Wine. I figured with a couple alterations, this could work for me.

The resulting dish was good. I cut the potatoes too big, so they didn't cook all the way through. I didn't have any meltable cheese on hand, so cheese was omitted, but I think it would have elevated the final dish.

Baked Fennel, Potato and Tomatoes
Adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound 7-month old frozen ground turkey (thawed)
1 onion, cut into thin slices
1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small bag of yellow potatoes, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dry white wine
28 oz. can whole tomatoes, liquid reserved, tomatoes chopped (or you can empty the contents of the can into a big bowl and smash them with a potato masher (my preferred method of smashing))
1/2 to 3/4 cup orzo
(The original recipe called for 6 ounces of grated fontina cheese to be melted on top of this dish at the end; I didn't have any fontina, but if I did, I certainly would have included it.)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large oven-safe pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground turkey and saute until it is cooked through and white. Remove turkey to a plate.

2. Heat remaining one tablespoon of olive oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic and fennel seeds and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and salt and cook, covered for 5-8 minutes.

3. Stir in the wine and simmer until evaporated. Add the tomatoes, their liquid and about 1/3 can of water (swish the water around in the can to get all the tomato juice). Stir in the turkey and orzo and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. (If using cheese, bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese on top and bake for another 10 minutes.)

February 23, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

I had three ripe bananas on the counter and decided it was time to make another loaf of banana bread. I love banana bread, if you couldn't tell by this, this, and this.

I found this most recent recipe on Joy the Baker's blog, which I just love. She is very clever and her pictures actually make her food look good, unlike mine that look like they are taken in a dark cave. (Note to self: find a job that lets you stay home during the day to cook and photograph using natural light.)

This bread turned out well. The only changes I made to Joy's recipe was that I don't have allspice, so I left it out and I decided at the end that I didn't want to add peanuts (even though I dug them out of the cupboard). As you can see in the picture, I did add some mini chocolate chips because I had about 1/3 or 1/2 cup remaining in a bag.

The best part about this bread? The ground flaxseed! The Bananas Foster bread I made a couple weeks ago also had ground flaxseed in it (both recipes are adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. Coincidence? I don't think so.)

February 22, 2011

Chocolate Nutella Cookies


This is my second attempt at Nutella cookies (see first one here), and I am pleased with the results. This recipe is from the well-known blog, Simply Recipes, and is actually a guest post by a gentleman named Garrett McCord of the blog Vanilla Garlic. (As I mentioned on this post, if you have an extra couple minutes in your day, visit Vanilla Garlic and search "Eat Beast" - you will cry from laughing so hard.)

Anyway, a couple things I liked about this recipe: it calls for a full cup of Nutella (yum!), less butter than the first recipe I tried (healthier!), brown sugar and white sugar (interesting!), cocoa (chocolaty!), and chopped hazelnuts (crunchy!). All of those things combined into delicious cookies!

The recipe says to bake them for 10-12 minutes, but at 13 minutes mine were still practically raw in the center. I would say that mine baked for 15-16 minutes and they are still tender and soft. The recipe also says that it will make 6 dozen 1 tablespoon-sized cookies. Well, my cookie scoop is 1 1/2 tablespoons, so that is what I used, and I ended up with 42 cookies.

February 19, 2011

Jasmine Rice with Edamame and Chickpeas

Well, now, that looks healthy, doesn't it?

This is another one of those "what have I got in the fridge and pantry and can throw together relatively quickly" meals. And, it was one of the best.

There's nothing too special going on here: a starch, some protein and vegetables and an acid, but it was super delicious (and the leftovers reheated well the next day, which is practically a requirement in my world). The only thing that would have made it better is some crumbled feta cheese, but I didn't have any on hand.

Jasmine Rice with Edamame and Chickpeas
Serves 2

1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice
Extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 cups frozen edamame (about half a bag), partially thawed (I run the frozen edamame under cool water for a minute or two)
1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pine nuts (I forgot to toast them, you should remember to do that)
juice from 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

1. Cook the rice according to package directions. (I used Harris Teeter brand rice and the directions suggest that adding butter and salt to the cooking water is optional; I think it is required, but to each his (or her) own.)

2. While rice is cooking, saute shallot over medium heat in a teaspoon of olive oil, until soft. Add edamame, chickpeas, and pine nuts to the pan and cook, stirring, until heated through.

3. When rice is done, add it to the vegetables, stir to combine and add in the lemon juice. Season to taste and stir in the parsley.

February 16, 2011

Birthday Cupcakes

Happy Birthday, Joe!

My friend, and loyal BlB reader, Joe, celebrated his birthday this past weekend, and had asked ever so nicely if I would make him the same cake that I had made for his wife, my good friend and loyal BlB reader, Nicole. As you may remember from this post, Nicole's cake was the Restaurant Eve cake recipe. Well, I decided that I wanted to make cupcakes from the cake recipe because my plastic cupcake carrier is much easier to transport than my "needs two hands" glass cake stand. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my cake stand, it just doesn't travel well.

The cupcakes were mostly a success (that cake recipe is just unbelievably delicious - may have something to do with the butter). Although, even though I used a cookie scoop with the hopes that each cupcake would be the same size, I had some that barely made it above the liners and some that over flowed onto the pan. The one in the picture above was the only one that was actually presentable! Luckily, appearance does not affect taste.

The other problem I had was that I ran out of frosting and ended up with a bunch of ugly naked cupcakes. Now, this may be user error because I lost count of how many cups of powdered sugar I had added to the mixing bowl, but when I tasted the frosting it was plenty sweet, so didn't want to add more sugar.

In case anyone out there would like to try making cupcakes out of this recipe, I followed it exactly, except the cupcakes were done at about 19 minutes. I made 36 cupcakes, but if I had portioned the cupcakes correctly, I probably could have made 3-4 more (and truth be told there was about 1 cupcake's worth of batter left in the bowl after #36, but I wasn't going to put a cupcake pan in the oven with one well filled).

February 15, 2011


Dear loyal readers,

I do have some posts that need posting, I promise. Unfortunately, they also need words, so once that gets rectified, they'll go up on the blog.

Also, I wanted to share a bit of exciting news: I have decided to join a CSA for the summer and fall! (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.) It is through Potomac Vegetable Farms and I am super excited to be forced to eat more vegetables. The first week of produce is June 6, so we have awhile to wait, but I bet it will be worth it!

February 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Pasta with Fennel, Chicken Sausage, Tomato and Olives

Obviously, this pasta dish appealed to me because of the fennel. I will print just about any recipe that I come across that has fennel in the title.

I found this one on a blog called The Perfect Pantry, which happens to be written by a Rhode Islander, so of course I was immediately enamored.

The dish turned out ok. I liked that the tomato juice and the pasta water created a sauce, so it certainly was not dry. I didn't think the olives were necessary, and would probably replace them with a leafy green, such as swiss chard, escarole or spinach in the future. I also discovered that I am not a huge fan of chicken sausage. (Unless we are talking about this lovely specimen right here: Al Fresco wild blueberry breakfast sausage with maple syrup. OMG, I could eat the whole package in one sitting.) Since chicken doesn't have much inherent flavor, I feel like all you taste is the seasoning the manufacturer (in this instance, Harris Teeter) adds to the meat. I would much prefer pork or turkey sausage for the flavor.

The other problem I encountered with this dish was that I didn't cut the fennel thinly enough, so some of it did not cook as well other pieces. That usually does not present a problem the first night, but for some reason, I find that after it has been refrigerated and then reheated, the fennel that isn't cooked all the way through becomes hard as rock. (Ok, maybe not that hard, but definitely harder than anything you would like to find in your lunch-time pasta.)

So with a couple changes, I think this could be a great weeknight go-to meal!

February 3, 2011

Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt

This is the kind of dish I have to make when MM is not around. "Lentils, rice and onions for dinner? That's it? Are you mad?"

No, I am not mad, this dish was delicious! I found the recipe on Food52 and was really excited to try it because I love lentils and caramelized onions (see here, here, here, and here).

I don't eat a lot of rice and am not well-versed in the best methods of cooking it (unless we are talking about risotto!), so was intrigued when the recipe said this particular method was "tried and true." Well, I followed the directions and when I took the pot out of the oven after 17 minutes, the rice was mushy and adhered to the bottom and sides of the pot. It definitely could have come out at 15 minutes. However, I found that not only do I love the way jasmine rice tastes, mushy texture notwithstanding, but I loved the crunch of the rice that I chiseled off the bottom of the pot! I literally stood there and started to think of a way to only get crunchy rice! So if you don't want crunchy and mushy rice (which, by the way, became not mushy after it sat for a little bit), I would recommend checking it at 15 minutes.

Another note about this recipe: the intro note and comments from readers say that it tastes better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to blend. Well, I thought it was good the first night, and didn't necessarily improve the second or third days. It just kind of tasted the same.

February 2, 2011

Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta

This is the sad story of a lonely sweet potato that took up residence on my counter for about 2 1/2 months:

Prior to Thanksgiving, the Ft. Myer Commissary had the largest sweet potatoes I have ever seen. As big as a football. So naturally, I had to buy a bunch of them. One actually went into a Thanksgiving dish (my mom's famous maple brown sugar sweet potato slop - yes, I know it needs a better name), one went into a roasted vegetable dish, and eventually there was one sad hold-out chilling on the counter.

Before I knew it, it was the end of January and the lonely sweet potato still sat there. It watched onions, garlic, bananas, apples, fennel a plenty, and others come and go. And still it sat. I poked it every now and then to see if it was getting soft, but it never gave in to my assaults.

The other night I decided I finally had to do something with it and the partial package of bacon that had been chilling in my fridge for almost as long as the sweet potato had been chilling on the counter. What else do you (ok, maybe not you, dear reader; perhaps you are more creative than me) do with random ingredients, but throw them into a pasta dish!

Unlike my last attempt at a sweet potato pasta dish (see here), this one was lacking substantial flavor, but the texture didn't bother me much. You can't really see it in the picture, but the sweet potato broke down a bit and clung to the shells. So the sad ending to the story is that the perseverant sweet potato ended up in a so-so pasta dish. The end.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Pasta
Serves 2-3

Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2/3 of a massive sweet potato, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from a couple sprigs of fresh thyme
4 slices bacon (the dish could have used more bacon, but I only had 4 slices left, so I would recommend using more. Unless you are a communist.)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 box medium shells
1 cup chicken broth (I meant to grab the vegetable broth, but after I opened it, I realized it was chicken)
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for a couple minutes. Add the sweet potato and thyme to the skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon according to your preferred method. Usually, I like to bake the bacon in the oven, but seeing as my oven takes 4 days to preheat, I decided to cook it in a sauté pan and make a huge bacon grease mess. When it is nice and crispy, let it drain on a paper towel-lined plate. When it has cooled, crumble into bite-sized pieces.

3. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente and drain, reserving a cup of the cooking water.

4. Back to the sweet potatoes. After a couple minutes, you will notice the pan looks really dry; add about a half cup of broth. After that has been absorbed, add the remaining half cup. Try a sweet potato to make sure it is tender and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

5. Add the pasta to the sweet potato mixture, stir to combine and add lots of cheese. Add some of the reserved pasta water if it is too dry. Top with the crumbled bacon.