Saturday, November 24, 2007

Squash+Figs+Goat Cheese=YUM.

I truly meant to follow the recipe this time. I even made a special trip to the grocery store to make sure I would have all of the ingredients. And yet, I STILL managed to get home missing three things for the soup and a fourth ingredient for the compote... However, this turned out to be a happy accident, because I cannot imagine improving on how either the soup or compote turned out.

The fig compote came from the December 2007 issue of Food. The original version called for thyme, which I didn't have on hand, but I did not miss it!

Fig Compote
- 1/2 cup chopped dried Mission figs
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- pinch of salt

Boil in a saucepan until reduced and thickened. Cool to room temperature and serve on toast with goat cheese (with squash soup, if available).

The original soup recipe came from the November 2007 issue of Cooking Light. In addition to the missing ingredients, it called for putting the soup through a blender before serving. I don't have a blender, and couldn't really be bothered anyway. Instead I cooked it down a little longer on the stove. It turned out smooth with tasty chunks of squash. Yes, it looks like unappetizing babyfood, but I think that is true of most squash soup; I'm not sure it can be helped.

Squash Soup
- 5 cups water
- two bouillon cubes *please see note below
- 3/4 cup applesauce
- about 2 Tbsp molasses
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 large onion
- canola oil
- half-and-half

Oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squashes in half, clean out their seeds (save them to toast later). Place halves face down on baking sheet lined with parchment. Coarsely chop the onion, drizzle with canola oil, and spread out onto baking sheet with squashes. Bake until squash is soft (40 minutes? 50? I don't remember.)
Next, add water to soup pot and bring to boil. Add bouillon. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides and add to soup pot, along with the onions. Simmer until soup is at desired consistency, then add applesauce, molasses to taste, and half-and-half to taste (I think I used about 1/3 cup?).

*This is what I used - I did not add any additional herbs or salt, and the soup was perfect, so I guess I have to thank my bouillon...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Fries

Happy Thanksgiving! It is six A.M., it is 32 degrees outside, and I am about to head to work...That's right - I will be spending my Thanksgiving at the hospital. For some reason I enjoy being at work during the holidays. It sort of reminds me of being a kid, and going to school at night for a school play or something.(?) Any-hoo, I still need to get my fix of Thanksgiving food:

I love brussels sprouts! These were tossed with melted butter, pecans, salt, and pepper, then roasted in an oven set at about 400 degrees until the were done (browning on the bottom). I had some sweet potatoes that I threw in too. They were good, but nothing compares to brussels sprouts...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Perfect Night In (guitar, knitting, and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies)

It was so rainy today that it got dark earlier than usual (even for Seattle in November). I finished my grocery shopping, came home, and cozied up for the evening.

I am not going to write out the whole recipe for these cookies - I used the one that has been printed on the Nestle chocolate chip bag since forever. I just used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose. I couldn't tell a difference.

Stuffed Pumpkin

I found it difficult to photograph this - something about the Israeli couscous looks a little icky in pictures...
But it tasted really good, and was incredibly easy, so here is the "recipe" (as usual, I don't remember any specifics...)

Stuffed Pumpkin

- a small pumkpin (the kind meant for eating, not carving)
- vegetable broth
- couscous
- tart cherries
- anything else that sounds good (Carrie - I'm sure it would be good with some roasted root veggies thrown in at the last minute?)

I took the top off the pumpkin and emptied it (keeping the seeds for toasting, of course). I think I had the oven pretty hot, around 400 degrees. I put the pumpkin on a baking sheet, then poured hot vegetable broth inside, and stuck the pumpkin in the oven for awhile. When the pumpkin started to seem cooked, I added the couscous and the cherries, then cooked the pumpkin a while longer, until the couscous was done.

One pumpkin made enough for my dinner, and then lunch the next day. The pumpkin become really soft and savory cooked in the vegetable broth, and you can scoop bites of pumpkin out with the couscous. Yum!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chocolate Pudding

Seriously - chocolate pudding. This is not something I would normally crave. I'm sure it has been years since I have even eaten pudding. But I got a hankering, and then my curiosity took over (how do you make that stuff, anyway?!)

It turns out it is easy and yummy and now I wish I had more. It was a little too sweet for my taste, so I may experiment with less sugar next time, but otherwise I had no complaints - it was exactly what I would want chocolate pudding to taste like.

Chocolate Pudding, slightly modified from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book

- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 2/3 cups milk (I used 1%)
- 4 egg yolks, whisked
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Put sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt in medium saucepan, and mix together. Add milk, and heat over medium, stirring constantly, until beginning to bubble and thicken - cook for two more minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from heat. Gradually stir 1 cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, then return egg and milk mixture to saucepan. Continue stirring over medium heat until it comes to a very gentle boil; cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Mix well, then pour through fine mesh strainer into bowl and cover with plastic wrap pressed to surface to chill.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Finally Sewing!

Certain crafts can be challenging to the urban dweller; sewing is one of them. No matter how efficient you are, you still need a wide open space to spread out. For that reason, my sewing machine has been gathering dust for quite some time (the fact that I usually end up yelling curse words whenever I use it probably didn't help.)

Well, I finally have a set-up that will work in my tiny apartment! I christened it by making an apron for my nephew. It is the Vintage Apron out of Bend-the-Rules Sewing, by Amy Karol. I still wound up yelling curse words, but I made it to the end with something resembling an apron. And the best part is that I am still feeling inspiring to try something else!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Chocolate Banana Muffins

Every time I make something with whole wheat pastry flour, I have to ask myself why I don't just use it all the time. I have never had a recipe go bad by replacing it for all purpose. This is another example. These muffins are chocolate-banana heaven. They called for all purpose, and I swapped in exactly the same amount of whole wheat pastry flour. The muffins are soft and cakey and chocolately. I made them yesterday, and then I accidentally left them out all night without wrapping them up, and they were still still moist and yummy this morning.

Chocolate Banana Muffins, modified from a recipe in the 2002 issue of Martha Stewart's Holiday Baking magazine

- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 3 ripe mashed bananas
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 cup and 2 Tbsp sugar
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt

Oven to 375 degrees, line a 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers. Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl whisk together bananas, vanilla, buttermilk, butter, and eggs. Mix dry ingredients into wet using a wooden spoon, then fill muffin tin (I had extra batter left over - enough to make a couple more muffins.) Bake for 20-25 minutes, until toothpick is clean with just a few crumbs.

Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberries! This time of year I am always looking for anything that I can possibly eat with cranberry sauce - in this picture it is greek style yogurt with honey. Yum. I made this cranberry sauce using one bag of fresh cranberries (12 or 14 ounce? Whatever the standard bag is.) I simmered the cranberries for about ten minutes with 3/4 cup of water, a sprinkling (1 tsp?) of corn starch, and about 1/4 - 1/3 cup of Wax Orchards Fruit Sweet, which is basically just concentrated apple juice. It is sweet enough to eat straight out of a bowl, but just barely.