Monday, October 26, 2009

A Weekend of Carbo Loading Before (and after) a Race

This was yet another weekend of good food - both cooking and being cooked for. Here's the story:

Friday Night: The Pedant and I had very little food in the house by the end of the week and after a long week decided to treat ourselves to dinner out at our local sushi place before seeing Good Hair (Highly recommended!). The place was really busy, but the sushi was as good as ever. Even though I don't eat fish, I personally enjoy sushi - it's never too much for me and I never come out super stuffed or eat too much. Plus, I do love avocados. It can get pricey but it's worth it to know I'm eating better than cheesy Italian food or fatty Chinese food.
Saturday Dinner: I was running my first 10K Sunday morning and needed to "carbo load" (i.e., make a recipe TP saw on line). We made butternut squash risotto from Cook's Illustrated and it was really tasty. It was very different than the butternut squash risotto that TP made last week but really tasty. We amended the recipe a bit - mostly because we bought cut up squash without seeds or fibers (easier to deal with) so we didn't let the stock simmer with the seeds or fibers. But it was still really, really good. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sunday Brunch: Since I ran the 10K that day (with a pace about 30 seconds better than I did for my 5K and my best time ever! 64 (or 68, depending on the time on the website) minutes!), we had planned to make pancakes. However, both TP and I were tired and felt like treating ourselves (well, me, I ran, TP just cheered me on) so we decided to forgo pancakes (which we better make soon since we stocked up on maple syrup!) and went for brunch instead. We went to a creperie I'd been wanting to try and it was really, really good. I got the Crepe Moroccan which was like spinach pie filling in a crepe with a delicious mint-yogurt sauce. We shared the Just Peachy desert crepe and it was just peachy and super. (I did have PB&J before my race, a granola bar and 1/2 a (white bread but part of my post race food packet) bagel toasted with butter and honey before we went for brunch.)

Sunday Dinner: After a much needed nap we began making some dinner foods. Since we still have a hoard of potatoes we found a soup base recipe in Lidia's Family Table for a savory potato broth. That took a while to make (more time than we realized) but the end result was great. We froze more than half of it and made a garlic and onion soup with the rest of the broth. We poached some garlic in water and chopped up an onion and then let them thicken in the broth before pureeing it. And it was SO GOOD. I think I can't stress how good it was, since it was SO GOOD. SO GOOD. The best part (other than the garlic and onions and broth was the pureed bits of Parmesan cheese rind that was a little present. SO GOOD.

To go along with that soup, we made a crunchy couscous salad from our favorite benedictine. It was pretty good, but I think it had too many cucumbers.

I also prepped our last massive sweet potato and acorn squash for a slow cooker soup recipe for winter squash and sweet potato soup. We'll have that for dinner tonight with pasta in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce. Yum!

Here is Sherbs running her 10K. I'm the one in the red shirt (showing my support for Jody Wagner) and the purple jacket tied around my waist

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Time Making Gnocchi - Epic Win!

Last night I made gnocchi for the first time and it was SO WORTH IT. The Pedant had found a recipe on a food blog and it met the requirements for dinners lately: 1) easy; 2) healthy; 3) uses food we have in the fridge from the CSA; 4) tasty. We had planned to make it Saturday night, but we both took a nap that was longer than expected and didn't wake up until 7. By the time I baked the potatoes, let them cool, mixed the dough, boiled the water, made the gnocchi and the sauce, it would have been 9:30. We tend to eat late, but I was running 6 miles in the morning (since I have my first 10K in 4 days!!) and didn't feel like going to bed very late with a very full stomach and running the next morning. So we put it on hold until Sunday, but as I said, we ate too many snacks and weren't hungry. That left last night. TP boiled the water while I was in a work out class and I made the gnocchi (he doesn't like touching food...I know...). I decided not to follow the recipe (never a great idea) and roll them into a long rope and cut it into bite-sized pieces so I made small ovals instead. Turns out that's much more difficult and they come out kinda lumpy. But, they were AMAZING. Sweet, but not too sweet, and warm and comforting. And, except for the pre-baking of the potatoes, not so hard to make.

TP made the sauce and kind of amended it. He sauteed some garlic in EVOO and then added the chard. I put in some of the gnocchi water to help the greens wilt. We added some white wine in and then some (fake) butter to give it a creamy texture. And it was so good. A real winner!

Now, who's coming over for gnocchi!?

Monday, October 19, 2009

As I posted yesterday, we had a weekend full of cooking. We ended up not making the gnocchi for dinner since both of us snacked a bit too much at the book club. Plus, it was after 8 when people left and neither The Pedant or I felt like cooking much. We will make it tonight along with cooking up a Beet and Gorgonzola salad and setting a sweet potato and winter squash soup in the slow cooker for more easy to grab lunches. But, I can talk about some of the foods we made this weekend.

First, I'll start with Friday Dinner. TP found a recipe on the Mark Bittman blog, Bitten, for a Carrot, Spinach and Rice Stew, which worked out really well. It was nice and creamy (thanks butter!) and totally tasty. Also, although it took a while to thicken, it was pretty easy to make. We decided to make some sweet potatoes that we had gotten from our CSA and, according to a brilliant idea of TP's, I mashed 2 up with about 3/4 of a cup of red kidney beans (for protein). I added some cinnamon, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and EVOO and it came out really well. It was sweet and spicy with a really interesting taste.

Sunday we baked for my book club and had had pretty good success. We made polenta cookies from Lidia's Italy and they came out really well. We used a stand mixer not a food processor (I try to keep the food processor parve and the recipe call for butter) and it worked really well. I was supposed to pipe out crescents, but I didn't have a pipping bag, so I shaped them by hand which worked fine. They were a hit, and a bigger hit at work! We also made Peanut Butter Cupcakes from the Joy of Cooking that came out a bit more like muffins. I think for a few reasons: 1) I didn't follow the recipe perfectly and didn't alternate the wet and dry ingredients; 2) I used skim milk not whole milk; 3) I used natural peanut butter that was from the bottom of a large jar and was pretty dense; 4) I didn't frost them with a maple frosting because I didn't have confectioner's sugar. We did add about 1/2 a cup of receese peanut butter chips which added a great flavor, but we should have added in a full cup for more peanut buttery goodness.

As for the minestrone, I was pretty full from snacking during the book club so I only had a few tastes. It came out really well. We finally remembered to add in some Parmesan rinds to the cooking which I think made a huge difference. (A tip of the great Lidia!) Really good!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Weekend Overview

Hopefully more in-depth blogging will come in the next 48 hours, but this weekend has been a great one for cooking:

Friday Dinner: Carrot and Spinach and Rice stew ala Bittman, plus sweet potatoes mashed with red kidney beans ala me (really tasty actually)
Saturday brunch: Potato curry that resembled hash browns with tomatoes and hot chilis from 660 Curries and fried eggs
Saturday Dinner: A pasta creation from The Pedant with canned tomatoes, red pepper and red kidney beans (really tasty)
Sunday Baking: Cornmeal cookies from Lidia's Italy and Peanut Butter Cupcakes from The Joy of Cooking (my bookclub is coming over and TP and I had fun baking, although the cupcakes came out more like muffins, but they are so tasty)
Sunday Dinner (upcoming): Sweet Potato Gnocchi with a kale sauce (the gnocchi dough is chilling)
Sunday Prepping: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

A weekend filled with good food - what could be better!?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Potato Lasagna!

This post is a few days late, but I finally have time to write it. It's about dinner from Saturday night, when I made a Potato and Mushroom Lasagna that The Pedant found on the Food Netwoork site. Mostly because we have LOTS of potatoes from our CSA (and this is the last week for the CSA...I'm going to miss it so much!) I've talked before about what we've done with the tasty starchy veg (potato leek soup, tortilla espanola) but we currently have about 3 weeks worth of potatoes and are at a loss for cooking time.

Since I've started school, I'm out of the house 2 nights a week and don't need quite as many leftovers since I end up taking sandwiches. Plus, between all the Jewish Holidays we've been getting leftovers from family and/or spending weekends out of the house. Plus, we don't want to just make plain old baked potatoes. So TP came up with an idea - Potato Lasagna! He found the Emril recipe and bought most of the ingredients. But of course we ran out of time this week and Saturday, after heading to some wineries with friends, TP came home and fell asleep. I had run 6.5 miles that morning and was hungry (and proud of myself! Go Sherbs!), so I started cooking.

I did come across a one mail problems with the recipe: It did not take 1 hour to cook like I thought it did. (Turns out, I misread it and Emril said it takes 1 hour to prep, 1 hour to cook. That makes more sense. If that was the case, I would never had made it. 2 hours! Not worth it!

Well, it was worth it in the end. It was tasty. The potatoes were well cooked. We didn't have enough mushrooms (TP intended to change the recipe slightly, but didn't tell me, so I followed it closely) and I used 3/4 cup skim milk instead of cream and milk(because really, cream?! Sure it would taste so good but SO UNHEALTHY!) and less cheese since we didn't have enough Parmesan. It did take a while to cook with the cover off. Since it was skim milk and didn't absorb the way cream might, it was on the liquid-y side. And I was getting cranky and hungry - it was nearly 9 PM. So we put it in for longer and finally I just gave up and wanted to eat it. It wasn't actually as liquid-y as it seemed, and was very tasty. Even better the next day since it had absorbed more liquid overnight and while microwaving it.

I would make it again but make a few changes:
1) make it in advance and put it back in the oven without the top to crisp up after letting it sit for a day
2) I'd use the skim milk again (it added a creaminess and crisped up the potatoes) but less next time
3) I would use a full pound of mushrooms and maybe even spinach to make it tastier

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Short Review of Tuna

The foil-packed mango and chipotle tuna from Star Kist is not worth it. Not even with soy sauce.

Risotto Stories

Last night I broke the faucet. Again.

Or, more accurately, the faucet broke while I was handling it, trying to clean butternut squash risotto out of our large pan. It then sprayed me in the chest with hot water, and when I moved out of the way, shot a jet straight out of the kitchen that left a big puddle in front of the entryway.

The risotto was worth it, though. I would say that it came from the Washington Post's most recent Food section, but I doubled the recipe as there's two of us in the house, except not really, as there was only one shallot at the Teet, I have no idea whether the two butternut squash from the CSA were bigger or smaller than required, and I had just slightly more Wolfgang Puck organic vegetable broth (yes, as my brother says in his Dadaist way, I get the Nazi discount at Spago) and arborio rice than would strictly double the recipe, but I added it anyway. Also a bunch of Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend which may not have been exactly doubled. Or the fact that I couldn't get unsalted shelled pistachios at the Pentagon Row Teet.

But thanks to patience and the indestructable tastiness of butternut squash and toasted coconut, I came away with a tasty risotto, which is now in the fridge waiting for future risotto meals.

The only thing I would absolutely change in the future is to mash up the butternut squash instead of merely scooping it out and throwing it in; it was a little clumpy. Still tasty, though.