Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall Squash

I was so excited to see squash back in the grocery store this week. I love to eat baked spaghetti squash with some butter, pepper and Parmesan cheese. If you get yourself a butternut squash from the store try out this Butternut Squash Ravioli recipe. Leftover, butternut squash? Don't forget the Curried Red Lentil Stew that incorporates red lentils and the squash with a healthy dose of Indian flavor.

What dinner is complete without dessert. We are daily dessert eaters at our house and this Simple Fruit Cobbler is perfect for the chillier months. Stay tuned for Chicken Pot Pie and a free form Fruit tart next week.

photo from Whole Foods

Simple Fruit Cobbler

This cobbler is so easy to whip up and using frozen berries with canned peaches makes it even easier! Cooking times vary so give yourself plenty of time- since after 50 min you may still have some gooey cobbler parts. My husband and I can often eat the 8 by 8 pan ourselves so double the recipe if you doubt your self control:)Mine is often bubbly and messy looking but with a dallop of whipping cream and one bite no one cares what it looks like.


4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 cups of sliced fresh fruit such as peaches, whole blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries, OR a 12-ounce package of frozen berries and a can of sliced peaches, drained
1 tablespoon sugar


Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Put butter in an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan; set in oven to melt. When butter has melted, remove pan from oven.

Meanwhile, whisk flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt in small bowl. Add milk; whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour batter into pan, then scatter fruit over batter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 Tb. of sugar.

Bake until batter browns and fruit bubbles, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Butternut Squash Ravioli

from Whole Foods

Serves 4
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 –2 cups (1 small) butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 yellow onion, diced
8 to 10 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package frozen cheese ravioli
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash, onion and 2 chopped sage leaves in oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast 20 minutes, turning once or twice, until tender. Cook ravioli according to package instructions. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry sage leaves in one layer for 1 minute. Flip and fry until crisp, about 1 minute more. Remove from skillet to drain. Reduce heat to low, add broth and bring to simmer. Add drained pasta and butternut squash/onion mixture. Adjust seasoning, garnish with fried sage and sprinkle with cheese.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Turn Your Fresh Herbs Into Homemade Blends

I love using fresh herbs in my cooking. I hate using just one branch and letting the rest of it wither in my fridge to be thrown out four days later. Here are some methods and recipes, taken from Hallmark Magazine’s Kris Wetherbee, to make the most of your fresh herbs- or just creatively mix the dried ones that are already in your cupboard. Kris has an herb garden and makes herb blends to give as seasonal gifts. I would love for someone to give me a baby food jar filled with a homemade herb blend and a recipe to accompany it- so even if you don’t get around to the actual cooking part, think hostess gift!

Drying- The method best for herbs that have long stems like rosemary, sage and oregano. Hang herbs upside down in bundles in a dark, warm and dry location. You could tape or tack a bundle to the inside of a cupboard.

Freezing- For fresh flavor, in an ice cube tray freeze chopper herbs (individually or in blends) mixed with a little water or broth. Once the cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and store in freezer bags.

PS This is also the method you would use if you steamed, pureed and freeze your own baby food.

“Freeze Drying”- Good for herbs such as chervil, chives, cilantro, dill and tarragon. Place chopped fresh herbs or herb blends in a paper bag and refrigerate. In two to three weeks the herbs will be dried but will still have their bright color and flavor.

Herb Blends

Pan-Baked Herbed Salmon
Butternut, Chicken & Lentil Stew
Tuscan Tomato Focaccia

photo from Team Sugar

Herb Blends

Tuscan Herb Blend
This seasoning blend is quite versatile and can be used to flavor foods from soups, salads and stir-fries to appetizers, baked goods and main-dish meals.- Kris Wetherbee

3 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Crumble or chop the leaves before measuring, then mix ingredients together and store in a glass jar or tin in a cool, dry location. Makes 1/3 cup

Camelot Herb Blend

This seasoning blend disappears quickly in my kitchen so I usually make lots to ensure there's plenty for gift-giving. These herbs combine well to create a synergy of flavor that brings out the best in a variety of foods, especially pastas, poultry, potatoes and other vegetables. - Kris Wetherbee

2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried lemon verbena (or lemon zest)
1 tablespoon crushed fennel seed
1 tablespoon garlic granules
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram

Crumble or chop the leaves before measuring, then mix ingredients together and store in a glass jar or tin in a cool, dry location. Makes 1/3 cup

Hearty Herb Blend
This is a must-have blend for anything bean-related, but is also a tasty choice for recipes that use tomatoes, cabbage, summer squash or eggplant. Also good with chicken. - Kris Wetherbee

2 tablespoons dried summer savory (You can substitute with summer savory with thyme which is stronger. Or, combine thyme with a pinch of sage or mint. Since this recipe calls for those you could leave it out.)
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Crumble or chop the leaves before measuring, then mix ingredients together and store in a glass jar or tin in a cool, dry location. Makes 1/3 cup

Summer Blend

Use this blend to enhance any creamy soup, sauce or dressing. I also use it to enliven quiche and other egg dishes as well as greens- and grain-based salads. Add at the very end of cooking or, if an uncooked dish, preferably 1 hour before serving to allow flavors to meld. - Kris Wetherbee

1/2 cup snipped fresh chives
1/3 cup snipped fresh dill
1/4 cup snipped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

Mix ingredients together and use immediately. Or "freeze-dry" them: Place in an uncoated brown paper bag and store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.

Makes 1 cup fresh/1/2 cup dried

Pan-Baked Herbed Salmon

Kris Wetherbee

1-1/2 tablespoons Camelot Herb Blend
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 salmon fillets (6 ounces each)
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine the Camelot Blend and lemon pepper.
2. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the fillets, skin-side down, and sprinkle with half the seasoning mixture. Cook for 2 minutes without turning. Carefully turn the fillets skin-side up. Pull off and discard the skin.
3. Sprinkle the second side of the salmon with the remaining seasoning mixture and a dash of salt. Cook for 1 minute, then turn and cook for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle the salmon with the lemon juice. Loosely cover the skillet with foil, place in the oven and bake for 5 to 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fillets), until the flesh just flakes when tested with a fork.

photo by Hallmark Magazine

Butternut, Chicken & Lentil Stew

Kris Wetherbee

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped sweet onion
2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 large stalk celery, with leaves, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup red lentils
1-1/2 teaspoons Hearty Herb Blend

4 cups peeled, cubed (1-inch) butternut squash (1-1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, for garnish 1. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. In a shallow bowl or pie pan, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
2. In a large nonstick Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly golden on all sides, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
3. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add the onion and carrots, and cook, stirring, until the onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the celery and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the broth to the pan. Return the chicken to the pot and add the lentils and Hearty Herb Blend. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the squash and simmer, covered, until the squash and lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired. Serve garnished with the toasted almonds.

photo by Hallmark Magazine

Tuscan Tomato Focaccia

Whole wheat flour and flaxseed meal not only make this focaccia healthier but also add lots of flavor. I find that focaccia is best enjoyed warm from the oven, but it can also be frozen (although in my household there’s usually none left to freeze). --Kris Wetherbee COOK'S NOTE: A vegetable peeler works well for shaving the cheese

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Tuscan Herb Blend
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint (10 ounces) grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon Tuscan Herb Blend
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 cup shaved pecorino-Romano or Asiago cheese

1. Make the dough: In a small bowl, combine the yeast and sugar. Stir in the warm water. Set aside to let the yeast dissolve and begin bubbling, about 5 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine 1-1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour, the whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal, garlic, Tuscan Blend and sea salt, and mix by hand. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture and 1/4 cup of the olive oil, and mix in by hand. Transfer to the mixer and slowly start adding 1 cup all-purpose flour while mixing on low speed until a soft ball forms.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead--working in the remaining 1/2 cup all-purpose flour as needed--until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
4. Place the ball of dough in a clean bowl coated with cooking spray and turn once to coat. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil or cooking spray. (The baking sheet can be 9 x 13 inches or up to 10 x 15 inches.) Punch down the dough and place on the baking sheet. Pat it into a rectangle, pushing it into the corners and up over the rim. With your fingers, rub the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the surface. Cover with the towel and set aside in a warm place to rise a second time for about 30 minutes, until nearly doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
6. Top the dough: With your fingers, poke deep indentations all over the dough. Brush with the oil, then arrange the tomato slices on top. Sprinkle evenly with the Tuscan Blend, salt and shaved cheese.
7. Bake for 18 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the sheet and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into 12 squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cider and Doughnuts

As promised, here are recipes for Breakfast Doughnuts, Hot Apple Cider and my new found favorite- Cinnamon Apple Yogurt.

I love love love cider and doughnuts. My father made doughnuts every once in a great while and would fry the doughnut holes in the wok and roll them in cinnamon sugar. I got a hankering for them last weekend and found a great recipe for cake doughnuts. I prefer yeast doughnuts but since I don't have the patience on a Saturday morning to wait for dough to rise we went with the cake variety. They are so moist, I hardly noticed though! I have very little experience frying foods but did it easily in a large saucepan with some vegetable oil and a good apron!

Theresa recommended I feed my toddler Yo-Baby's apple yogurt variety. So I bought it and as I enjoyed it I thought of how easy (and much less expensive) it would be if I made my own! So here is the most delish and simple (so simple I am sure many of you have already thought of it) recipe to compliment your Fall breakfast of cider and doughnuts.

Breakfast Doughnuts

Hot Mulled Cider
Cinnamon Apple Yogurt

PS Visit Tartlette to find a treasure trove of mouth watering doughnut recipes from food bloggers all over the world.

Image from Buck Hollow Farms

Breakfast Donuts

By Mary E from Apron Strings and Simmering Things- Taken from “Tartlette”

4 1/4 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c sugar
4 tbs melted unsalted butter
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla
oil for frying.

Sift dry ingredients together.
Beat eggs and sugar until light. Add cooled melted butter, vanilla, and milk. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
Knead lightly on a floured surface, roll 1/8" thick, and cut with floured doughnut cutter. OR roll into 1 inch balls. If using the cutter, be careful not to twist the cutter but cut straight down. Fry at 370F until golden on one side and then turn and fry until done. Set on a paper towel to soak up excess oil. Do not allow to cool completely and roll in cinnamon sugar or frost with confectioners frosting.

Confectioners frosting:
1/4 c melted butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and add enough confectioners sugar in to make a good glaze.

Eat while warm.
You can freeze these unglazed and heat in a 375 oven as needed.

Cinnamon Apple Yogurt

1 cup Vanilla Yogurt
1/2 cup Plain Applesauce

Mix yogurt and applesauce and add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

Hot Apple Cider

from the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten

16 cups pure apple juice or fresh apple cider
4 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, peels and juice
8 whole cloves
6 star anise

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall Soups

I love Fall. I love everything about it. What could be better than a release from the hot summer, the beautiful leaves, the sounds of geese flying south, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and lets not forget- the food. Hot cider and doughnuts (stay tuned for that) and hearty soups. It may still be warm outside but I thought I would get a head start on Fall and start testing out some soup recipes.

I am including a recipe for whole wheat rolls as well as popovers. I don't like to serve carbs with carbs. But my husband needs bread to dip in his soup. So if you are like me and have a husband like mine you will find the popovers to be a much lighter dipper.

Cold Carrot Soup

Potato Chowder
Whole Wheat Rolls

Potato Chowder

By Brittany Seiter

8 cups diced red potatoes (about 10)
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 cans (10 ¾ oz each) Chicken broth
1 can cream of chicken soup (undiluted)
¼ tsp. Pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1 pkg. Cream cheese (8 oz) cubed
½ lbs. Sliced bacon (cooked and crumbed) or real bacon bits

Stove Top-Bring potatoes and onions to a boil in the broth and cook until tender. Then add cream of chicken soup, pepper, and corn and heat until the corn is warmed through. Before serving, add cream cheese and bacon, stirring to mix well.

Slow Cooker Method- Combine first 6 ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook 8 hours on low or until potatoes are tender. Add cream cheese and bacon; stir until blended.


You can buy special popover pans. But if you are like me and don't care if they aren't perfect looking- I have cheated and used a cupcake tin.

2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and flour a popover tin (ramekins, custard cups and even a cupcake tin all will work too).

2. In a medium bowl beat eggs slightly, beat in flour, milk and salt until smooth. Fill cups (or each opening in the tin) 1/2 full.

3. Bake at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes more. Remove the popovers from the cups and serve while they are hot!

Easy Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

from Whole Foods

*Warning- will need about 2 1/2 hours to prepare

Homemade bread, especially dinner rolls, bring that special, home cooked feeling to just about any meal. These "no need to knead" rolls are actually quite simple to prepare and have a delightful, rustic flavor. If desired, brush a bit of beaten egg over the dough before baking for a rich, golden brown color.
Serves 6 (12 rolls)

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast (.28 ounces)
1 cup warm milk (105 to 115°F)
3 TB butter, melted
1 large egg, room temperature and lightly beaten
1 cup unbleached white flour

Have all ingredients at room temperature to start. In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat flour with the sugar, salt and yeast. Add the warmed milk, melted butter and lightly beaten egg. Beat until smooth. Add the unbleached white flour, mixing until fully incorporated. The batter should be smooth. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to one hour.

Meanwhile, lightly spray 12 muffin tins with extra virgin olive oil spray. Set aside.

Cold Carrot Soup

Carrot Soup
Makes about 6 cups (4 servings)
From Williams Sonoma Healthy Cooking cookbook

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 large carrots (1 lb.), peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ cup thinly sliced celery
3 fresh parsley sprigs
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups roasted vegetable stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 slice good-quality white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the oil. When hot, add the carrots, onion, celery, parsley, and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened slightly and the onion has wilted, about 5 minutes.
2. Add ¼ cup of the stock or broth; cover and cook for 5 minutes more, stirring once at the halfway point.
3. Add the remaining 3 ¾ cups stock or broth and the bread and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the carrots are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20-25 minutes.
4. Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender or into a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until smooth. Alternatively, use an immersion blender or food mill.
5. a If serving the soup hot, return it to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat over low heat without boiling, then ladle into warmed bowls and serve at once.

5. b If serving the soup cold, transfer it to a bowl or other container and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate, stirring it every hour or so, until thoroughly chilled, 4-6 hours. When ready to serve, taste and adjust the seasonings, then ladle into chilled bowls and serve at once.

Monday, September 1, 2008

After School Snacks

A mother's work is never done. It seems as though just when you sent them out the door with the bag lunch you packed and finished cleaning up the breakfast dishes they return home saying "Mom, I am hungry!"

Here are some snacks to feed your "starving" children after a hard days work. Most, I found in Family Fun (don't you love Family Fun?) and a couple I have concocted for myself.

School of Fish

Shrunken Sandwiches
Goofy Waldorf Salad
Fish In a Pond
Cold Fruit Fondue
Crumbled Yogurt Pie