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Archive for November, 2011

Blame it on pregnancy cravings or harried school mornings, but we’ve been subsisting on Applegate turkey with sprouted bread, PB&Js, and cereal for several months now.  In search of a change (and in need of some new flavors), I prepared this simple strata.  Vary the filling ingredients and cheese for endless possibilities.

Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Sausage Strata

Ingredients

3 cups of cubed French bread (we used a whole wheat challah)
1-2 cups grated cheese, your choice (we use mozarella)
7 large eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 lb sausage (we like hot)
1 medium sweet potato
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
several handfuls of fresh spinach (or frozen)

Directions

  1. Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Chop sweet potato into cubes.  Toss the pieces of sweet potato with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, spread in a roasting pan and roast in the oven until tender, about 15-20 min.
  2. In a saute pan, brown sausage with onions and mushrooms.  Fold in spinach at the last minute and turn off heat.  Cool slightly.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, and salt.  Fold in bread cubes, cheese, and sausage mixture. 
  4. Oil or butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Pour in the strata.
  5. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
  6. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Uncover the baking dish and bake for 60 minutes, until the mixture has puffed up slightly and is golden brown on top, and the strata doesn’t shimmy with uncooked custard when you shake the pan. Tent the dish with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve by the spoonful, using a large serving spoon.

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Pumpkin(less) Yeast Rolls

These rolls are fluffy and beautifully orange-hued.  But there is not a bit of pumpkin flavor.  The pumpkin just adds a custard-like moistness and color.  Slightly sweet, they are a nutritious, irrisitable Fall offering. 

Make a batch and freeze extras; they reheat beautifully and retain their light, moist texture.  A favorite in our house for french toast/bread pudding, a sandwich roll, or simply with butter or jam.

Pumpkin(less) Yeast Rolls, from Food.com

Rolls
1/2 ounce active dry yeast(2 .25 oz packs or 4.5 tsp)
1 cup warm 1 or 2% low-fat milk (110-115 degrees F)
1/3 cup canola or other plain oil (or butter, as the original recipe calls for)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2-6 cups bread flour, divided (I used half white whole wheat, half bread)

Egg Wash
1 tablespoon cold water
1 egg

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Add butter, sugar, pumpkin, 2 eggs, salt, and 3 cups flour. Stir in enough of remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface—-knead until smooth and elastic-like (should take about 5-7 minutes). Place in a large greased bowl and turn once to grease top. Cover with a clean towel or paper towels and let rise in a warm place until doubled—takes about 1 hour. Punch dough down; turn onto lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape each portion into 12 balls (so you’ll have 24 balls total). Roll each ball into about a 10″ rope; tie into a knot and tuck ends under. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover again with towels and let rise until doubled—takes about 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together water and 1 remaining egg. When rolls are done doubling again, brush them with the egg wash. Bake at 350 for about 15-16 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Remove and serve or place on wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm or cooled with butter or honey butter.

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This spicy ground-chicken dish is known as larb in Laos and Thailand. It’s often served hot over cool lettuce, cabbage or with steamed rice.  I make it with chicken, but pork or beef are also used.  A key ingredient in this dish is fresh mint, as well as ground sticky rice.  I don’t often break out the grinder for the scant amount of ground rice a more “traditional” version requires, but I do sometimes add ground peanuts for texture.  Serve in lettuce cups for an appetizing first course.

Thai Spicy Chicken, adapted from various websites 

3 tbsp fish sauce
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, outer layers removed, and inner core minced (1 Tbs.)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, or sliced thai chilis
1/2 tsp packed light brown sugar (or honey or agave)
1-1/4 lb. ground chicken
1 medium shallot, minced
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint
1/2 – 1 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in water (start with 1/2 tbsp)
1 medium head butter lettuce, for serving (or rice or noodles)
3 tbsp toasted, ground Jasmine rice, for serving (or nuts)

Directions

  1. Combine the fish sauce, lemongrass, pepper flakes, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a 12-inch nonstick skillet and bring to a simmer over high heat. Separate the chicken into large clumps and add to the pan. Cook, breaking up the chicken into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat is no longer pink, 5 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle 1/2 tbsp cornstarch of the ground rice over the chicken and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid in the pan has thickened, about 2 minutes longer.
  2. Remove from the heat. Stir in the shallot. Sprinkle with the lime juice, scallions, cilantro, and mint and stir gently to combine. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve with the lettuce leaves on the side to use as cups for the chicken, or over rice or noodles.

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Rainbow Pasta Bake

Feeling inspired to fit the rainbow in tonight’s dinner, this is a simple pasta bake with chicken apple sausage, red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, red onions, spinach, kale, green peas, edamame, and tomatoes.  Now if only we could find blue….

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I often cook pasta the “clean” way, as I refer to it as – with a few mix-ins, and a simple douse of chicken stock to moisten and flavor the dish without added fat.  It’s not to say we don’t enjoy the flavors of a tomato sauce, pesto, cream or cheese sauce over our noodles, but this is an easy, simple method that pleases everyone in our family. When our friends, Shinie and Luke, came over for dinner recently, Shinie said to me, “you do what?  Well, it tastes great.”  This is hardly a recipe, but one that has a place in our kitchen.

Pasta with Peas, Pancetta, and Chanterelles

Ingredients

1 lb pasta
Your choice of meat (or omit entirely), I used diced pancetta this time
Your choice of vegetables – I like to use peas, mushrooms, leeks, and onions
2 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
1/3 – 1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Cook pasta according to directions.
  2. In the meantime, in a medium saute pan, cook meat, if using, and vegetables until tender.  Add garlic.  Saute another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Drain pasta and pour immediately into the vegetable mix.  Add chicken stock and allow pasta to absorb much of the liquid.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

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Spicy and moist, these taste like Fall and can be made into cake, loaf, or muffins.  Cream cheese frosting isn’t necessary, but it would turn these into a party-worthy dessert.

Applesauce Spice Cake, from Simply Recipes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (I use half butter, half canola oil)
2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup white whole wheat and 1 cup AP)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup applesauce
1/4 cup plain yogurt diluted a bit with milk, or 1/4 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter and flour an 8-in square baking pan, set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat butter until light, add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Add the vanilla and the applesauce and beat until smooth.
  4. Mix in half of the dry ingredients. Just before they are blended, add the thinned yogurt (or buttermilk). Then mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, until completely incorporated. Do not over-mix.
  5. Pour out the batter into your prepared cake pan. Place in the middle rack of the 375°F oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until done. The cake should spring back to the touch, and a toothpick or thin skewer should come out clean after being inserted in various spots in the middle of the cake. Remove the cake from the oven. Let cool for 15 minutes. Then invert to cool completely on a rack

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Peperonata

Peperonata is an authentic Italian side dish that starts with peppers and onion and then, as these things go, is guided by personal taste and family tradition.  This version comes from Red, White, and Greens: The Italian Way with Vegetables by Faith Willinger who writes that peperonata with potatoes is traditional in Tuscany.

Since peperonata is served at room temperature, it’s a good make-ahead dish or for a potluck or picnic. Rather than cooking the peppers until they were stew-like, we opted for a light sauté so there is still some crunch in the vegetables.  A perfect side dish for chicken or fish, it’s also delicious on bread (cook it longer for a stew-like consistency), or by itself.

Peperonata

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced small
12 ounces peppers, cut in strips or diced
8 ounces potatoes, skins left on, diced
1 tomato, seeds scooped out
Salt & pepper to taste
pinch of oregano
basil, optional

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat until shimmery. Add the onion and garlic as they’re prepped, cook gently until softening but not browning, about 10 minutes. Add potatoes and let gently cook until the potatoes are done, 20 – 30 minutes. (There should be enough liquid expressed from the peppers to cook the potatoes. But if not, add a tablespoon or two of hot water.) Add the peppers and stir well to combine with the onions. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. The peppers should be al dente—cooked, but with a little crunch left in them.
  2. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  3. Note: For softer peppers, add the peppers with the potatoes.

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