Eggs in Heaven

Inspiration from @epicurious iPad app + @farmfreshtoyou vegetables = heavenly potato, egg, veggie casserole. For tonight’s dinner, I had 8 eggs to use up and figured some sort of potato casserole would be a good route to explore. I came across “Eggs in Purgatory with Artichoke Hearts, Potatoes and Capers” through an Epicurious recipe search, but the tomato-artichoke sauce sounded a little like heartburn hell (plus I didn’t have all the ingredients). So instead, I improvised with fresh zucchini and carrots from Farm Fresh to You, and whipping cream for what I like to call, “Eggs in Heaven.”

The result was a deliciously creamy potato, egg, and vegetable casserole. Divine!

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5 Minute Pesto

Pre-washed spinach + walnuts + olive oil = 5 minute pesto. I had a stash of leftover spinach and a sudden inspiration to make pesto. If you have a blender or food processor, it literally takes 5 minutes to whip together homemade pesto. First, I blended the spinach leaves, then added walnuts, then olive oil, salt and two crushed cloves of garlic. One batch for the fridge, and one for the freezer. Fresh, easy, and will be delicious with a variety of pasta dishes.

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Loading up on Veggies

Frozen or fresh, veggies rule the plate! In the last year, I’ve made a conscious effort to load our dinners with vegetables. It helps to have biweekly deliveries from Farm Fresh to You, and a stash of frozen options in the freezer. The challenge with fresh veggies is beating the clock. Baby spinach has a limited shelf life, but it’s a versatile veggie. Here are some of the ways I use spinach when the expiration clock’s ticking:

  • Spinach salad: Add chopped walnuts or slivered almonds, dried fruit or apple slices, tomatoes, mushrooms and a creamy dressing.
  • Sauteed spinach: A lot goes a little way, so this is a good way to use up a large batch. Season with olive oil or butter, plus salt and pepper.
  • Tossed with pasta: Add to strained pasta while its still warm; best with tomatoes, fresh parmesan, and any other veggies.

Plus, you enjoy all the Popeye-endorsed health benefits!

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Surprise Pairings

Meatloaf + mashed potatoes = no surprise. Chardonnay + dried apricots? Mmm. The last two nights have been slightly scrappy – using leftover ingredients, I’ve stumbled upon some pleasant pairings of flavor and texture:

  • Last night, I added chopped celery, onion and grated apples to ground turkey to make a deliciously moist meatloaf. (See apple discovery here)
  • Tonight we had creamy mashed potatoes with the leftover meatloaf. Always a very complementary combination of tastes and texture.
  • The chopped celery also made a nice addition to creamy spinach salad – adding a refreshing crunch to each bite.
  • For dessert, we had dried apricots which left a sweet, tart aftertaste that created a delicious palate with a swig of Chardonnay.

Sometimes it’s the little things!

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My First Risotto

Butternut squash + risotto + beginner’s luck = success! I’ve never attempted risotto, but I came across tempting recipes on Epicurious while exploring dinner options for Capay‘s recent surplus of butternut squash. Since I didn’t have enough leeks for Risotto with Butternut Squash and Leeks, and I went with Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto, which was healthy to boot! At just over 300 calories per main dish serving, it was the perfect dinner to kick off lighter eating in 2010 and offered a surprisingly buttery flavor.

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A couple of notes on how I modified the recipe, which originally appeared in now defunct Gourmet Magazine in November 2001:

  • I didn’t include garlic, because I didn’t have any – but would recommend it if you do
  • Rather than saving 6 slices of butternut squash for serving, I mixed all but 2 slices in the risotto. As a result, the squash was definitely the dominant ingredient; so next time I would hold back 4 slices from the mixture (and use for something else later). That way the rice will be more balanced.
  • I used less arugula than the recipe called for, and another Epicurious reviewer didn’t use any at all (I also agreed with her decision not to serve slices off butternut squash on the side, which explains why the squash was so dominant – above).
  • I had only 4 tablespoons of parmesan, even though the recipe calls for 5. I’d go with 5 and sprinkle a little extra on top when serving.

The recipe serves 6 main dish servings – and it earned unanimous thumbs up in my house!

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Stocking up for Winter

Butternut squash + pumpkin + apples = stocking up the fridge. The cold, rainy weather was a good excuse to finally put the remaining fall & winter produce to use. I dug up recipes from Everyday Food for inspiration, and made a mess in the kitchen, but it was worth it! Now we can enjoy at least a week’s worth of butternut squash soup, roasted pumpkin, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

About once a year I go to battle with a butternut squash, armed with knife and peeler, and tonight was no exception. But knock on wood, I haven’t lost a finger or pulled a muscle yet, and the various recipes I’ve used never disappoint. This time, I tried “Corn and Butternut Squash Chowder” from the September 2009 issue of Everyday Food. I made some slight adjustments, substituting olive oil for vegetable oil, and cumin instead of curry. The changes seemed to fit right in and the results were just as delicious, with the added texture of corn.

Meanwhile, I cut and peeled the last sugar pie pumpkin from my Capay delivery to use in a Roasted Pumpkin recipe from the October 2008 issue of Everyday Food. I left out the sage and substituted onions for shallots. The pumpkin was soft, but a little bland without the sage, so I’ll likely add it to pasta or chicken and rice later this week.

This one’s an original, and an experiment at that: I thought apples might make a nice addition to turkey meatloaf, which has previously been dry due to a lack of moisture (and fat) in the meat. So I peeled and shredded three apples in a bowl and added ground turkey, an egg, salt and pepper. I baked the “loaf” at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes (or until the meat was cooked through and slightly browned on the edges). The apples leave juice at the bottom of the pan, but that means extra moist meatloaf with a nice sweet aftertaste! We had ours with buttery mashed potatoes on the side.

We have leftovers across the board – so one night of extra dishes might help alleviate the next 2-3. 😉

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Mmm Soup

Leftover black beans + broth + random leafy greens + bacon = delicious wintery soup! I’m still trying to use up leftovers and exotic veggies delivered by Capay, before my next Safeway delivery arrives tomorrow. So tonight we played it safe with BLTs (cabbage in place of lettuce), and I experimented with soup.

Starting with black beans, I added cream cheese (not the most ideal ingredient for heating, so I wouldn’t endorse it), then put the mixture in a sauce pan, to which I added chicken broth, sliced Napa cabbage, kale and bacon. (I swear bacon makes soup instantly better – as discovered in October.) In fact, there was a slightly unpleasant smell coming from the stove, before I added the chopped bacon. But once it simmered for a few minutes, the soup adopted that delicious, smoky aroma. The results were delicious!

In summary, making homemade soup is easy. Any beans will do. Just make sure you have broth, spongy greens that will soak up the flavors, and bacon if you’re daring. 😉

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Yam I Am

Yams – skins + butter + brown sugar + marshmallows = the extent of my cooking this holiday. I still don’t know the difference between yams and sweet potatoes (if there is one), but tonight I discovered how easy this classic Thanksgiving dish is to make.

Boil the yams with skin on, wait for them to cool enough to be handled, peel the skins off, and place in a bowl or the pot you used for boiling. Add 1.5 cubes of butter (sliced melts faster), sprinkle about half a cup of brown sugar, mash it all together, and spread evenly into a casserole dish. Then sprinkle one layer of tiny marshmallows over the top and bake until golden brown. Easy!

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Pork TENDERloin

Recipe for success: pork tenderloin + Rosemary + honey + pepper = amazingly tender. Perhaps it was due to the cooking method? I baked it on a cast iron griddle at 400 degrees for about 30-45 minutes.

Either way, it was delicious and still tender the second night.

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Sweet & Sour Eggplant

Tonight I made a sweet & sour pork dish, of sorts. I baked pork chops on a cast iron griddle in the oven, while eggplant wedges cooked below. After cranking up the heat to 400, I sped up the process while cooking some white rice in the rice cooker.

When the pork and eggplant were done, I sliced up the meat and blended it with the eggplant wedges – plus lots of honey mixed in. The resulting dish, served with rice, tasted somewhat like sweet & sour pork. And the eggplant wasn’t bad either.

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