Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Black Bean Soup with a Cajun Twist

I adore black bean soup with plenty of white rice, plus a garnish of some diced onion for a bit of crunch.

I've been known to add so much rice that I end up with something more like a stew, and other times, I leave it a little more soupy. Sometimes I'll add a little cilantro or sour cream or crumbled cheese as well. Like any soup, there are plenty of opportunities for customization and embellishments.

This recipe is so simple to make, it's almost cheating. Sure, you have to do a little slicing and dicing, but then it all goes into a slow cooker and there's nothing else to do until you're ready to serve.

The sausage I used here was from Teet's who partnered with the blog group 37 Cooks. It was a smoked garlic pork sausage - a spicier Cajun version of a typical smoked sausage. It added a nice amount of spice to the soup, but it wasn't at all what I'd consider spicy hot - just what I'm looking for in a black bean soup.

Black Bean Soup (with a Cajun twist)

2 cups dried black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup diced onion
2 cups diced Teets smoked garlic pork sausage
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 tomato, diced
1 fire roasted red pepper, diced
2 quarts water
2 cups rice, cooked
Diced onion, for garnish

Place the beans, 1 cup of onion, sausage, cumin, salt, tomato, pepper, and water in a slow cooker.

Set the cooker on low and cook until the beans are fully cooked. It took about 14 hours in my cooker, but the time will depend on your slow cooker. And I live at high altitude, and dried beans always take longer to cook.

If you prefer the soup with a little more body, you can use a fork or potato masher to smash some of the beans. If you prefer something even thicker, you can use a stick blender briefly to puree some of the beans.

Serve hot. Pass the rice and onions separately.

Slightly Tipsy Mac and Cheese with Peas

The alternate title for this post could have been: What I Made for Dinner When I Came Home From the Hospital Way Too Hungry and Hadn't Planned Better.

But that was sort of long.

It all started with fondue cheese. You see, I got chosen to receive some cheese tools from Boska for review (not for this blog, although I might talk about one or two, anyway) and in order to properly test the tools, I got cheese from Emmi that I could use with those tools. Good deal, right?

I like cheese. It's good for snacking and sandwiches and more snacking ... and salads and snacking ...

Among the wedges and bricks and wheels, I had this package of fondue cheese from Emmi staring at me. The idea is that it's got everything you need, so you just heat it up and start dipping bread in. But it's just under a pound of cheese, and I'm living alone while my husband is in the hospital.

So when I came home late from the hospital, I thought it was time to do something with that cheese. But I wasn't in a fondue mood. Comfort food, on the other hand, sounded really good. Since the fondue cheese was formulated to melt smoothly, I figured it would make good mac and cheese.

Yep, I'm wild and crazy, right?

Since the cheese includes a bit of alcohol (as you would if you were making your own fondue recipe) the mac and cheese had a slightly "adult" flavor. Not overpowering, though.

I didn't measure any of this, but it's so simple ... and it tasted pretty good.

I used:

Elbow Macaroni
Emmi Fondue Cheese
Frozen Peas

I cooked the macaroni in boiling salted water until it was done (a little al dente), then drained it and added some of the fondue cheese, let it melt, and added a bit more until it was cheesy enough. Then I added milk to make it creamy enough. Your idea of cheesy enough and creamy enough might be different than mine, but that's fine, too.

Then I added a couple hand fulls of the frozen peas and mixed them in - not too long on the stove, because I like them best when they're still crisp.

And that's it. The only thing that took any time was cooking the noodles - once they were done, it was a minute or two to finish it.

I don't know if I'd buy the fondue cheese just to make mac and cheese, but if I had leftover cheese from fondue, this is a great way to use it up.

I used the original fondue cheese but there's also a Gorgonzola one - I'm thinking that would also make a good mac and cheese, or maybe a sauce ... for steak, maybe?

By the way, this reheats well, but it needed just a little extra milk to get the sauce creamy again.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Roasted Mushrooms

Guest Post by Maurita Plouff

I adore mushrooms, I'll confess that right now. They adorn my pizza, they lurk in my stews, they sometimes sneak their way into salads. Some folk do not have the lust for mushrooms that I do - and I feel vaguely sorry about that, while I gobble up their share. 

If you're like me, you need to cook these right away. But be warned! Even those who are generally indifferent to mushrooms find these mushrooms enticing, no, addicting. These mushrooms may change your life. 

They are everything that mushrooms should be - fragrant, delicious, sizzling. Roasted well, their texture firms; they are chewy. They go together quickly enough that they can be made on the spur of the moment, and they're dead easy besides, so they're a feature in my kitchen. And quite possibly soon, in yours.

Roasted Mushrooms with Garlic Butter
Adapted from

1 pound mushrooms, halved or even quartered if they are large
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/8 tsp salt
several grinds of pepper
Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice [optional]
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 450˚ with the rack in the middle. Toss mushrooms with oil, garlic, and salt and pepper in a 1 1/2 to 2 quart shallow baking dish. Dot the butter over the top.

Roast, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and golden, and a bubbly garlic sauce has formed in the bottom of the dish - this takes about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, if you like it and also the parsley.

Serve immediately, with crusty bread to sop up the juices, and be ready for squabbling about who got a bigger portion.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

A guest post from the lovely Madelyn from Karma Free Cooking.

This recipe has been getting a lot of buzz around the folks at the SE Water Cooler on FaceBook. And I thought it might be of interest to your Cookistry readers too. This is the first recipe I did for my first official vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner since I started my blog, KarmaFree Cooking. And since then, it is still one of most popular recipes/posts there.  

This Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese packs a lot of nutritional punch and color from the butternut squash in the cheese sauce. You can substitute the squash for regular pumpkin. It works just the same.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Roasted butternut squash or pumpkin – about 1 pound
1 pound whole-wheat elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
2 cups reduced-fat milk
4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
4 ounces of Shredded mix of melting cheeses – Mozzarella, Asiago, Fontina, etc.
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (also cream cheese will do in a pinch)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan

First step is to roast the butternut squash…
1. Peel, remove the seeds and cut the butternut squash or pumpkin into 2” pieces.
2. Roast the butternut squash or pumpkin on a baking sheet by adding a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of thyme. Massage the squash pieces so they’re seasoned all over. Roast in a 400F oven for about 45-60 minutes. Basically, until the squash is fork tender.
3. After it’s done, allow it to cool down a bit and puree in a food processor.

Now for the Mac and Cheese part…
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Bring a large pot to a boil for the pasta.
3. Meanwhile, start building the cheese sauce in a pot that’s big enough to accommodate the sauce and the pasta when it’s cooked. Over medium heat, bring together the milk, all the cheeses, the mustard, and pureed butternut squash. Season with salt and pepper. Your goal is to make a homogeneous cheese sauce where everything is blended and combined.  As soon as that’s achieved. Turn off the heat and set aside.
4. When the water boils, salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender but still firm.
5. Drain the cooked pasta and transfer to the pot with the cheese sauce. Mix well together.
6. Transfer to a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and some of the leftover cheese blend all over the top.
7. Bake for 20 minutes and then broil for 3 additional minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned. Everything is already cooked, so you’re just heating everything together and browning the cheese on top.

This recipe is delicious. The Dijon mustard gives it a different and grown-up taste. I hope you like it too. Tell me all about it if you try it.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why I'm not giving away Snickers for Halloween

Mmmmm ... cookies. Made with peanut butter cups.
A few weeks ago, my husband had his big "turnaround" moment in the hospital. After weeks of little or no improvement, and a sudden decline, he suddenly started getting better.

It took me a while longer to accomplish my own turnaround. But it happened.

My turnaround wasn't a health issue, but one of attitude. It took me quite a while to realize that the guy who drove himself to the doctor wasn't going to get well as fast as he got sick.

You see, all those weeks on the ventilator and under sedation meant that he wasn't moving. When you don't move, your muscles get weak. And it takes them longer to come back than it takes to lose them.

I saw how far my husband had to go to recover, and I saw how slowly he was recovering, but it took me a while to accept that it would be many months before he came home.

I mean, I even told people it would be months - but I didn't hear it that way. In my mind, it felt like he was going to walk through the door any minute.

Who's this? You'll see ,,,
The breakthrough came when I realized I was planning things with parenthesis. Every thought had (When Bob comes home) attached to it. And then one day I realized that I couldn't put everything off until he came home.

It didn't make sense to wait until he could discuss things with me, either, because his priority is to get better, not to worry about whether I find a cheaper car insurance company or whether I should eat all the cheese before he has a chance to sample it.

And frankly, some days he's just confused. It happens to people who stay in the ICU for a long time. He's in no position to be making decisions. I knew I had to adjust; it just took me some time to be comfortable with this "new normal."

This is Dax.
I mean, I got through the hardest decision so far - to put down our aged and ailing dog, Dax - without talking to him first. Bob still doesn't know about Dax because I don't want to tell him any bad news until he's healthy enough to deal with it. And that might be a while.

The next thing I decided wasn't a big deal. Or maybe it was. I guess it depends on how you look at it. This is the sort of thing where, if Bob was here with me, he would say, "if that's what you want to do, then do it."

But it still felt strange to move ahead without talking to him about it.

You see, after I put Dax down, I thought it might be okay to live dogless. But that didn't last long. The house grew to mammoth size, echo-y and empty. Every little noise made me jumpy. I was achingly lonely, particularly at night. I slept worse than ever. I hated getting up and I hated coming home and I hated going to bed.

Meet Snickers.
So, I went to the Humane Society to test my emotional readiness to bring a dog back into my life. And then I brought home The Dog Formerly Known as Madison.

She is four years old, housebroken, polite, and crate trained. She knows "sit," and a few other useful commands, and is past the destructive chewy stage of her life and she is far from the elderly sickly stage.

Wanna play?
Since she was from the shelter, she was very inexpensive, and considering the food that the shelter gave me and the food left over from the previous dog, she's going to cost nothing to feed for quite some time.

I also have dog treats, toys, pillows, bowls, dog beds, leashes, and all the paraphernalia necessary to care for her for a long time.

Since my previous dogs were large and Snickers is small (20 pounds) most of that paraphernalia is a bit over-sized, but she doesn't seem to mind that her bed is roomy and her pillow is ginormous.

She listens when I talk. And this is important, because I talk a lot when I'm home alone. Now, I'm talking to the dog, and that's normal. Before, I was talking to myself, and that's mental.

She is quiet. Unlike a lot of small dogs, she doesn't bark much, and she's not hyperactive. She fits perfectly on my lap, and I can pick her up and carry her if need be.

Dog yoga. How can this be comfortable?
Since I brought her home, my productivity has actually increased as my mood has improved. I don't dread getting up in the morning to start the day, I'm not creeped out when I come home, and I sleep better at night.

But what to name her? Madison didn't seem to fit. That was the name given to her at the shelter, but since she was a stray, it wasn't a name she recognized. It didn't matter if I re-named her.

I toyed with all sorts of names, like Gadget (because I like gadgets) or Grace or Karma because it fits this time of my life.

But somehow those names didn't seem fair - they were about me, not about her. Snickers (the candy) is one of my "comfort" foods, and Snickers (the dog) is sweet and nutty and comforting and energizing, just like a bite-size Snickers bar. And her colors remind me of the candy. And you can't help but smile when you say "Snickers."

I think the name fits her. And I KNOW she fits my life perfectly right now.

Bob doesn't know about Snickers yet, but that's because I haven't told him about Dax. When that time comes and I tell him about Dax, I'm sure he'll be more than happy that I brought Snickers into our home to keep me company.

I mean really, it's so much better than bringing home a boyfriend, right?

Just a few maintenance items ...

Watching TV. So intent.
The one major thing I decided (for me, anyway) is that I need to stop being so ... stressed ... about having a fresh post every single day. It's not good for me, and it's not good for the blog.

When I'm back to my usual writing, there will be weekly posts about bread, gadgets, and Whole Foods recipes, because I write those for other sites. There will be articles republished from my newspaper column and Fooducopia, as well, if I'm running at full speed. That's about four days a week of fresh content. Some weeks, that might be all I post, and other weeks there could be more. I'd like to try for five each week ... but we'll see.

There also might be more sponsored posts and paid videos and product reviews and sidebar ads, because if I can make a few extra dollars from this blog, I'm going to do that. I won't hawk products I dislike, and I'll always have a lot more un-sponsored than sponsored.

And even the sponsored posts will be honestly "me" and not a bunch of PR stuff. So don't worry about this blog becoming a billboard for anyone who pays. I'll still be selective, and I'll still be honest with you about everything I write. And I'll tell you when something is sponsored. No secrets, I promise.

And while I will continue to update you on my husband's condition and my life events, I'm going to try to keep these to a minimum. After all, this is a food blog.

And now for the FOOD

Wanna know what to do with your left over Halloween candy? Like I said at the top of the post, I won't be giving away Snickers. But I probably will buy Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And with the leftovers, I might make two-ingredient cookies.

I was skeptical the first time I made them, but it really worked. That's the photo you see up at the top of this post.

Check out THIS POST for the recipe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Caramel Nut Pumpkintini

Guest post from Snappy Gourmet

I can't seem to get enough pumpkin this fall!  I'll probably be in pumpkin overload by Thanksgiving, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying all sorts of pumpkin inspired dishes.  To compliment all my pumpkin dishes this fall, I thought a pumpkin flavored cocktail was in order.  I love creating fun and quirky cocktails and this Caramel Nut Pumpkintini is no exception.  It's like a dessert in a glass that will surely impress your friends.  These Caramel Nut Pumpkintinis are easy to make and can easily be multiplied to make more than 1 drink.  You could also serve these Pumpkintinis out of small glasses or shot glasses for a small treat.  Hope you enjoy!

Caramel Nut Pumpkintini
4 tablespoons pumpkin spice liqueur (such as Hiram Walker)
3 tablespoons caramel Irish cream (such as Bailey's)
3 tablespoons cream or milk
1 tablespoon vanilla vodka (such as Pinnacle)
1 tablespoon amaretto (such as Disaronno)
Whipped cream
Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1.  Place all ingredients in shaker with ice. Shake for about 10 seconds, then strain into martini glass.
2.  Top with whipped cream and dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.
Makes 1 drink

Lisa Huff

Snappy Gourmet
Fun food that's a snap to make!
Visit our Website 


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Spidey Loaf

I found a spider in my oven. Fortunately, it was a loaf of bread. Yup, I got into the Halloween spirit and baked up a not-so-spooky spider.

For the eyes, I used apricots, but any dried fruit would do. Or you could even do a design with the seeds to create eyes. And those seeds? I used poppy seeds, brown sesame seeds, and toasted sesame seeds - but really anything would do. Or nothing. I think this would look just as good without the texture of the seeds. Totally up to you.

The loaf was just slightly sweet from the honey, with richness from the yogurt. Since yogurts vary in thickness (and thus the amount of liquid you're adding) you might need to adjust the amount of flour needed. For shaped breads like this, I prefer a slightly lower hydration than my standard bread so it's easier to shape and there's more rise and less spread in the oven.

Spidey Loaf

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 to 3 1/2 cups (13 1/2 to 15 3/4 ounces) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Eggwash (1 egg beaten 1ith 1 tablespoon water)
Poppy seeds, as needed
Sesame seeds, as needed
1 dried apricot or (other dried fruit)

Put the water, yeast, honey, and yogurt in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk until the honey has dissolved. Add the 3 cups of flour and salt. Knead with the dough hook until the mixture is smooth and elastic.The dough should completely gather around the hook and the bowl should be clean. If there's a little "foot" of dough clinging to the bottom of the bowl, add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough gathers up that foot into the doughball.

Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the oil is completely incorporated into the dough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about an hour. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on the sheet.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Knead it briefly. Cut off a piece of dough that's about 1/4 of the dough, form it into a rectangle, and roll it to about 3 inches wide by 12 inches long. Using a pastry cutter, pizza cutter, or sharp knife, trim the edges, then cut it into 4 strips - this will form the 8 legs.

Lay the strips on the baking sheet to form the legs of the spider. Stretch them longer, if you like or trim them so they're shorter - it's your spider, so make it look however you like.

Take the trimmed pieces, and add them to the remaining unused piece of dough. Divide that piece into two, with once piece about 1/3 of the dough and the other piece 2/3 of the dough. Form those pieces into to rounds, and arrange them on top of the legs you formed to make the head and body of the spider. Make sure the two pieces are touching each other. Adjust the legs so they look the way you want them to.

Cover the completed spider with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Meannwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover the spider. If you're using several types of seeds, it's best to eggwash one part of the spider at a time. I eggwashed the legs first and sprinkled them with poppy seeds, then I eggwashed the body and sprinkled that with brown sesame seeds.

Before you sprinkle the head section, cut the dried fruit (if needed) to the shape you want and apply them to the eggwashed head section. Then sprinkle the head with the seeds you choose. I used a combination of toasted sesame seeds and poppy seeds for the head.

Make a vertical snip to create the mouth, and if you like, make small snips at the ends of the front feet for a little extra character.

Bake at 350 degrees until the bread is nicely browned, about 30 minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven so it bakes evenly during baking, if necessary.

Transfer the bread, still on the parchment, to a rack to cool. Once the bread is thoroughly cooled, remove the parchment.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sausage Scramble and a slight blog-turn

Cookistry has always focused on whatever I happen to be cooking. That's not going to change, but in the future, what I'm cooking is going to be just a little bit different. Just a little.

Not only am I cooking for one instead of two while my husband is in the hospital, but my lifestyle has changed as well. I no longer have long stretches of time at home to prep and cook dinner. Nowadays, I spend quite a bit of time at the hospital, I can bring my laptop and do some writing there, but I sure can't stir a pot of soup.

So instead of long-simmering stovetop meals, now I make quick meals that I can cook and eat when I get home from the hospital, or I cook things in the evening that I can reheat for dinner the next day, or I put things in my slow cooker so I have a hot meal when I get home.

I think that's how a lot of people cook. So this isn't all bad for my readers. It's just a change for me.

One example of a quick meal is this sausage scramble using smoked garlic pork sausage from Teets. I got hooked up with them through 37 Cooks. Along with the garlic sausage I got some ponce and some tasso. Recipes for those will be coming along later.

Some people might think this dish is breakfast food because of the eggs, but I seldom eat breakfast food for breakfast. Maybe it's because mom was seldom awake for breakfast when I was a kid. I like breakfast foods for dinner and if I eat in the morning, it's quite likely to be dinner leftovers. Or something simple like toast.

I ate this as-is, but it would be great on a sandwich, too - I'd probably stuff it into a hot dog bun. I garnished it with wedges of tomato - I love the combo of tomato and egg - but salsa would be another great choice.

Sausage Scramble

1/2 link of Teet's smoked garlic pork sausage, sliced
1/2 medium onion, quartered and sliced.
1 small green pepper, sliced in pieces similar to the onion
1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
3 eggs
Tomato wedges, for garnish

Put the eggs into a saute pan and heat, stirring as needed, until the meat is warm and the fat renders. Teets sausage wasn't super-fatty, so if you're using a sausage that's really fatty, you might want to pour off extra grease.

Add the onions and pepper and cook, stirring as needed, until the vegetables have softened.

Beat the eggs lightly, add salt, as desired, and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the eggs are cooked the way you like them.

Serve with the tomatoes as garnish.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hot-Wing Style Delicata Wedges

This is Angela, from Seasonal and Savory, sharing one of my favorite seasonal produce recipes: Hot Wing-Style Delicata Wedges. My cooking is heavily influenced by what I find at the Farmers’ Market or in my weekly C.S.A. share, and the winter squash are coming on strong right now. Delicata squash are a wonderful winter squash option because the thin skin does not need to be removed before eating.  That makes them ideal for slicing and roasting, and in this recipe I have spiced them up with a sriracha sauce.

Serve with blue cheese dressing for dipping, and you have a fun and healthy appetizer or side dish.  Adjust the amounts in the sauce according to the heat level you prefer.  I cut the squash both crosswise and lengthwise and then scooped out the seeds and sliced the quarters into small wedges. 

Hot-Wing Style Delicata Wedges

2 medium Delicata squash, seeds removed and cut into small wedges
5 tablespoons salted butter, melted
4-6 tablespoons sriracha, or preferred hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Your favorite blue cheese dressing, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray to coat. Arrange the squash wedges on the tray, spaced slightly apart and with the skin sides down.

Stir together the melted butter, sriracha, and smoked paprika, and brush the mixture on each of the wedges.  You should have some of the sauce left over. 

Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife and the edges are just started to brown.  Brush the warm Delicata wedges with any remaining sauce, and serve hot, with blue cheese dressing on the side. 

Thanks for reading,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Barm Bread

Thanks to Mary Bilyeu, the blogger at Food Floozie for this guest post. Look for her on Twitter and Facebook, too!

It's fall, and cold weather has started to creep into Michigan. The leaves are gorgeous shades of red and orange and yellow ... cider mills, offering their cinnamon-coated doughnuts, welcome families ... baseball play-offs are in full swing (couldn't help myself!) ... and we get nightly "cuddle alerts" from a local weather forecaster.

In other words, it's time to bring out an old favorite recipe: Barm Bread.

This is an Irish treat, traditionally served at Hallowe'en; but it's lovely at any time when there's a chill in the air, because a hot cup of tea or cocoa is the perfect accompaniment. Usually a yeast bread, this is a quicker version that relies upon baking powder.

According to Wikipedia: "In Ireland it is sometimes called Bairín Breac .... This may be from the Irish word bairín - a loaf - and breac - speckled (due to the raisins in it), hence it means a speckled loaf (a similar etymology to the Welsh bara brith)."

Regardless of the language, the occasion it's served for, or any other variable, this is just a fabulous sweet, spicy bread!

Featuring dried fruits, it's perfect when the fresh bounty of summer is tapering off. Basic ingredients that store well can be kept in the pantry for when the inspiration to prepare a loaf of this treat strikes you. And you can definitely make this your own by varying the fruits and the flavor of tea in which they macerate.

One of my very favorite authors, James Joyce, even refers to Barm Bread in his book Dubliners:

The fire was nice and bright and on one of the side-tables were four very big barmbracks. These barmbracks seemed uncut; but if you went closer you would see that they had been cut into long thick even slices and were ready to be handed round at tea.

Toast a slice of bread, schmear it with butter, offer a nice cuppa something warm and cozy, and enjoy!

Barm Bread

(adapted from Angela Hynes' The Pleasures of Afternoon Tea)

1 cup dried apples, chopped
1/2 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups brewed Constant Comment tea
1 egg
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously grease an 8"x 4" loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine apples, dates, raisins, brown sugar, and tea; let rest 8 hours or overnight.

Stir egg into fruit mixture. Combine whole wheat flour, flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt; stir into fruit, then pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top of batter with the sugar.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let bread cool, then turn out of the pan.

Makes 1 loaf.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

10 Pantry Storage Mistakes

Guest Post - Fran the Country Cousin
The Kitchen Cousins

10 Pantry Storage Mistakes

Here is my “everyday” short term pantry. This repurposed wardrobe holds the things I reach for while I cook.  Making, stocking, and using this pantry has taught me a few things about food storage. My ten “mistakes”  list is really a collection of “don’t do as I did”  or “this is what I learned” by making mistakes. Food is just too expensive to play around with.  Keeping a well thought out pantry can save you money. I know, I’ve lost food because of inexperience and I have learned from my mistakes. I know I save money.  I have also spent some time looking through Google Images for pantry pictures.  Oy!!  I saw picture after picture of beautifully stocked pantries and proud owners. Unfortunately I also saw picture after picture of poorly stored food that will be lost in storage.  What follows is a list of simple tips that will help your food store longer, make your storage flexible and usable and, in the long run, save you money.  Mistake number one. . . . . . . .
1. Storing food in its original packaging.  Boxes and bags can easily be chewed by rodents and infested by insects. Ask me how I learned that?! Everything in your pantry should be in glass jars or metal cans. I also have a few things in food safe plastic containers (PET, PETE, or HDPE are food safe) and have not had anything invade them.  I collect glass jars with bail closures. I have never spent more than a few dollars – even for gallon jars. I shop at Goodwill and rummage sales and have managed to build a useful collection. I cut preparation directions from original packaging and tuck them inside each jar – notice the box part in the quick barley jar.  It is also important to label each jar. You will not remember  – again, ask me how I know that! – if the contents are dried milk or dried buttermilk or cornstarch. Notice the red rubber rings between the lid and jar rim.  These necessary rubber rings are often missing on used jars. I buy  boxes of these rings at Lehman’s Hardware  and keep them with my stored jars.  Every so often a jar needs two rubber rings to make a tight seal.
 2. Storing pre-made foods instead of “ingredients”. Pancake mixes, rice mixes, and boxed macaroni and cheese are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to prepared food most Americans have on their pantry shelves.  Prepared foods drive up your food costs not to mention your blood pressure and cholesterol. When prepared and prepackaged foods aren’t used in a timely way they go stale or rancid and you lose a lot of money.  Think ingredients. Shop at bulk food stores and stock up on “ingredients” such as herbs, spices, flours, wheat berries, pastas, rices, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, sugars, honey, oats, beans, powdered milk, and more. I bring all of these things  home and vacuum pack them into canning jars for long term storage or bail jars for short term storage. I safely store – for years if necessary – everything I need to prepare healthy meals.
3. Chaos in the kitchen!! Plain old lack of organization will cost you lost food and lost time. Group foods by “families”. Put grains, pastas, and rice together. Keep baking things together – flour, sugars, baking spices, honey, chocolates, vanilla, cocoa, peanut butter, and dried fruits. Keep bouillon cubes, savory herbs, salt and pepper together. Vinegars and oils go together. Keep small containers collected in small bins for easy retrieval. LABEL  and date LABEL and date  LABEL and date!! I simply write out the jar contents  on a piece of paper and tape it to the outside of the jar. I can say that it is certain that if things are not labeled they will get lost in the shuffle of your pantry. Lost food is lost money.
4. Not buying bulk.  Find a bulk food store near you and get over there with your pantry list! Oh my gosh!  Prices per pound at a bulk food store are less than at a traditional grocery store. I find the prices for bulk herb and spices one of my biggest savings. Bring home your bargains and repackage them in freezer bags and get them into the freezer, fill bail glass jars, or vacuum pack them into canning jars.  It’s simple -  buying bulk – for most things – will save you money.
5. Storing home canned food with the rings left on the jars. Canning rings should be removed when jars are completely cool. Jars can then be completely cleaned, labeled, and stored. Leaving the rings on the jars can hide poor seals – if your canned foods “need” the ring to stay sealed they are not sealed safely and should not be in dry storage. Leaving rings on in storage can also contribute  to corrosion and rust and shorten their useful life. If the rings begin to corrode they can be very difficult to remove. If you home can a lot of food you would need a lot of rings in order to leave one on each and every jar. Rings are meant to be used, removed, cleaned, dried, stored carefully, and reused, over and over.
6. Inadequate shelving. Jars of food will be very heavy. Building your pantry from 1/2 inch shelving is asking for problems – especially for rows of home canned foods. Think thick – be safe. One inch shelving wood is good and anything thicker is better. Shelves should be anchored well. Just after we moved into this old farm house we stacked canned food on shelves in the basement. One evening we heard a crash  – we went down stairs to find  broken shelving, shards of glass, and splattered food. What a mess!! My suggestion is to over compensate with any shelving you build. Attach everything tightly and build strong.
7. Poorly spaced shelving. It is sooo frustrating to have jars or containers of food ready for storage and find your shelves are too closely spaced. Build big. Measure everything you will be storing and build to match. Tall bottles of vinegar, 5 gallon buckets, gallon jars,  and gallons of olive oil will all need lots of vertical space.  Plan for unexpected sizes. My shelves are 15 inches, 12 inches, 10 inches, and 81/2 inches. Always assume that something will need a bit more height between shelves and plan for that.
8. Not using what you store.  You bought it, you stored it, now use it. Learn to cook with “ingredients” instead of relying on prepackaged foods. Ingredients cost less and that can be a strong factor in your food budget, more so as the cost of food goes up. Your families health will also be impacted in a positive way by “from scratch” cooking. Also remember that food security for your family  will be a positive force in your daily life. Need ideas for your “ingredients”?  Check out two helpful books –Pantry Cooking by Laura Robbins and I Can’t Believe It’s Food Storage by Crystal Godfrey.
9. Using turntables. Turntables seem to be a great solution for small bottles and packages – - but things fall off, jam up, and get lost in the back of the cupboard – always in hard to reach corners.  I think the round footprint wastes valuable space. I can get much more organized with small rectangular bins that can be pulled completely out to find what I need, that line up edge to edge on the shelf and make use of every inch of space. I vote for bins and no turntables.
10. Think dark. Sure, all those foods lined up in jars look pretty. The truth is that foods stored in jars in your pantry will store better/last longer if they are stored in the dark. Keep things behind closed doors or curtains and you extend their useful life.
That’s about it. Hopefully, my list will help you avoid common mistakes . The idea is to begin. Just do it!
Hey from the farm,
Fran, The Country Cousin

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Green Tomatoes

Guest Post by Maurita Plouff, at her blog Get the Good Stuff 

As the leaves begin to show beautiful colors, the last fruits on the tomato vines reflect them in reverse. Instead of ripe red fruit, cooler weather brings more green tomatoes, with only a few showing color at all. It's a bit sad, knowing that tomato season is quickly drawing to a close. 

Any gardener or farmer wants to get the most yield possible from the plants. A dedicated tomato fan like me wants to savor every last bit of flavor! I learned from my grandmother that tomatoes with a bit of red showing will ripen, if wrapped loosely in paper and kept in a cool cellar. But what to do with the hard green ones? 

This year, after experimenting with about a half bushel of them, I have four very good answers to that question. These are the recipes that passed my tests for flavor, simplicity, and ingenuity. They're all keepers in my kitchen, and perhaps you'll like them in yours! 


Friday, October 19, 2012

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

A guest post from Toni at Boulder Locavore

As the sweltering heat of summer turns to the chill of fall, it’s usually a signal for me to start turning the bounty of the harvest into goods for winter. A few years ago I got a wild hair to see if I could eat over a Colorado winter sourcing the protein and produce I ate only from a Michael-Pollan-100 mile radius. I dove headlong into food keeping practices such as canning, freezing, dehydrating and root cellaring. Quite frankly I canned so many tomatoes my first year (150 pounds to be exact) I never wanted to see anything made with tomatoes again for a long time!

As luck would have it, around that time I discovered Tomatillos.  Odd little things, I was not sure if they were fruit or vegetables, let alone what to do with them.  Loving a challenge and new discovery I spent some time chatting with the farmers at the local Farmer’s Market about what the heck a person would do with tomatillos; which is when I learned they are used in a number of different sauces and salsas.  Since then I have run into them everywhere but I was not even sure what they would taste like upon first casting my eyes on them.

Determined to make something delicious I settled on a roasted salsa.  It was simple and straightforward with a wonderful end flavor which has become a favorite in my household.  The tomatillos bear a light, sweet quality, as you’d identify in a tomato (though the overall flavor is different than a tomato) and they blend perfectly with the spicy heat of the chilies.  This salsa is great for enjoying simply with chips or would make a beautiful sauce on grilled meats as well.  I have frozen the salsa too (in much more civilized amounts than the tomato endeavor) with great results when thawing to enjoy during the winter months.


This salsa is a unique blend of spicy and sweet, along with more traditional salsa flavor notes of cilantro and onion, and could not be simpler to make.  Try to use peppers that are red to add some color contrast to the visual of the salsa!
Yield: Approximately 6 cups
Time required: 15-20 minutes

3 pounds of tomatillos
A large onion
4 Serrano chilies, de-stemmed and seeded*
2 jalapeno (large), de-stemmed and seeded*
Garlic, 5 cloves, unpeeled
Salt, two large pinches (about 2 teaspoons)
Cilantro, 1 cup

*A note on handling chilies; whenever handling spicy chilies like those in this recipe I highly recommend using gloves.  The oil from the chilies travels easily on the skin and getting it in your eyes, nose or mouth is something to be avoided!

1. Preheat the broiler.  Line two cookie sheets with foil.

2. Husk the tomatillos and rinse them. Note: their skin has a tacky feel which will not rinse off completely.

3. Place tomatillos, chilies and the unpeeled garlic cloves on the cookie sheet. Put them under the broiler checking them every few minutes until they char (approximately 7-10 minutes for the tomatillos and faster for the chilies). If the chilies char first, remove them, set aside and allow the rest of the ingredients to complete roasting.

4. While other ingredients are broiling, peel and cut the onion into large chunks and put it into the food processor bowl or blender to await the rest of the ingredients.

5. When the tomatillos are done roasting let them cool until able to be handles and place them into the food processor bowl. Squeeze the contents of the garlic cloves into the food processor bowl ensuring the peel does not go into the salsa.  Toss in the cilantro and salt. Process all ingredients until reaching a pureed salsa consistency.  Enjoy!

Like this post? Want more? Don't forget to stop by Boulder Locavore for more recipes! It's not just for Boulder locals, it's a food blog for everyone who wants to cook and eat fresh, local, seasonal, and delicious food. And Toni is a real sweetheart. You'll love her blog, I'm sure.