Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Perfect Gingersnaps and My Home Tour

Ginger Cookies

Today, becuase it's my birthday, and we built a house and lived here for five months and I  haven't so much as given you a sneak peak, I'm going to give you  tour of my house. I'm going to have you over for gingersnaps except in cyber world, this means you'll have to make them yourself. Let me know when you've whipped them up and then we'll begin.

We'll start off with the most important room in the house, the kitchen.



I went daring with light blue cabinets (Benjamin Moore's Paladian Blue) on bottom and creamy Monteray white on top. I don't regret for a second. It's fun and bright and a little vintage.

One of my favorite things is the windows that come all the way down to the countertop over the sink. We've planted lilac bushes right outside of them so that in the summer, I'll get to see beautiful purple blooms instead of my neighbors brown fence. My other favorite is the long glass cabinet in the corner.

My little desk where all the blogging magic happens

Dining nook, located directly left of my desk, with a fabulous jar pendant from Pottery Barn

And my very favorite, the pantry

Step in, turn the corner, and...

Living room is small but quaint. It would look a bit bigger if we didn't own a gargantuan couch

Living room view from kitchen

Back yard. I planted a huge flower garden along the fence with hollyhocks, delphinium, peonies and daisies among others, with a patch reserved for fresh mint in the back.

From the front. I love my red house. Theres a garden planted in that barren bed in front, too. Also red rose bushes by the entry and a white snowball bush and more lilacs to the right lining the driveway.

Entry coat nooks. My husband custom built them for me because I love them and he loves me. Thats my dried wedding bouquet on top

Hall to the living room. Aka, my picture wall

Master bedroom

Master bath

I'm not going to show you my kids rooms or bathroom because it's a little creepy being the internet and all. I would show you my powder room but it's so small it was very hard to take a picture of. We also have a guest room, but I don;t have a picture of it and right now there is heaps of Halloween costumes laying on the bed waiting to be put in the attic, and I'm not about to clean it up right now.

Isn't it the cutest? Now back to the kitchen and the cookies. I couldn't have you over without offering you something to eat and in colder months gingersnaps are my favorite. These are made with olive oil instead of butter and fresh ginger instead of powdered or candied which makes all the difference in the world. They're best warm, right out of the oven while still chewy with the crackle of the sugar on the outside. They get harder as they sit. I like all my cookies fresh so I'll usually make the dough in advance, form the balls and place them in a ziplock bag. They keep in the fridge for up to a week and the freezer for 3 months. Just pop on a baking sheet when you are ready and bake (add about 5-6 minutes to the baking time if the dough is frozen and about 2-3 minutes if cold from the refrigerator). Homemade cookie dough is sort of my secret weapon and something I keep on hand constantly for last minute dinner parties (dessert is ready to be baked!) or you know, when strangers from the internet come over to stalk my house. Same, same.

Ginger Cookies

Make these. They are sure to become a holiday classic in your house.
Ginger Cookies

Perfect Gingersnaps
adapted from 17 and baking

makes 2 dozen 2" cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 heaping tablespoons finely diced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
1 large egg
Sugar for rolling 

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, spices, ginger, and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine together the brown sugar, molasses, oil, and egg until smooth. Mix the flour mixture into the brown mixture, stirring until dough comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up bits of dough by the spoonful and roll into balls between your palms, I like them about an inch circle or slightly larger. Roll the balls in sugar and place on the baking sheets 2 inches apart. bake 8 minutes. If you like crispy gingersnaps, try 9-10 minutes.

Cookies will be very soft but will firm up. Leave on the baking sheet several minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool...or just eat them right away because they are so delicious.

My future is looking rosy. Reservations tonight at my favorite restaurant, Cafe Diva, where it just so happens to be "fondue night". Heaven, I tell you. I'm off paint my lips red and gear up for a good night. I'm very, very thankful. Happy 31st birthday to me!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Easy Crusty Bread in a Dutch Oven

Easy Crusty Bread

Did you notice that mention of jogging in my last blog post? It's true. I jogged a mile one day. Then, the next day I jogged two miles. It's been about three weeks since that day and I haven't jogged since. I swear, it's like unless I do it everyday, I don't do it. And I don't do anything everyday, except brush my teeth, which I do anywhere from two to four times a day because I'm a psycho. I thrive on not knowing what I'm doing. Not having planned workouts. Just letting them happen organically. The only problem with this is if your serious about getting into shape, I mean really really, serious, you can't leave workouts to when you feel like it. It requires discipline and consistency. I should know. I've spent many an hour thinking about this and lamenting. It's not that I'm lazy (I can be crazy disciplined) it's just that I'm not "athletic" even though I am coordinated. I like walking, zumba class, barr class, hiking, and the like, but I do not like being uncomfortable for very long. I don't mind pushing myself or sweating a bit, and I do challenge myself on occasion, but don't make my heart beat out of my chest day after day. That feels horrible. Doesn't it sound horrible? Your heart beating OUT OF your chest.

step 1: mix all of your ingredients together until a shaggy dough forms and cover with plastic wrap overnight
Easy Crusty Bread

The next day, your dough will look like this:
Easy Crusty Bread

And so, I suspect I'll spend my life sporadically working out and moving enough to keep my heart healthy, but all the while baking things like bread. It sounds like a nice gig, yes? I'm not complaining. I've made peace with this, which haunts me sometimes because I know I could achieve the whole lean muscle body thing. Do I want to? Not really, which is where the lamenting comes in. I want to want to be better, but I don't mostly because I believe I'm not all that bad to begin with. Which I suppose is a good grace thing. I suppose it's healthy. But I know that won't keep my heart healthy. So I'll keep my walks and classes. But I'll also keep my bread.

Step 2: Turn your oven on and stick a dutch oven into it to heat up. Dump sticky dough out onto a heavily floured surface and form a ball
Easy Crusty Bread

Easy Crusty Bread

Seriously. I've never made bread like this at home. This is the kind of bread you buy at a specialty shop. Crusty, thick outside and soft pockets of pillowy but sturdy dough on the inside. Make this once and you won't be able to stop. It looks like a perfect sourdough boule, but this is not sourdough. Glad you brought up that point which goes nowhere, Krysta. Now, mind you, I've braided challah before, baked oatmeal sandwich bread, quick breads and focaccia but never thought I could get this kind of result in my home kitchen. I was literally shocked. Where has this bread been all my life?! Let your mind go wild with add in's. Kalamatta olive loaf? Yes please. Orange zest and cranberries? Kneed in some roasted garlic and extra salt? My mouth is watering.

Step 3: After the dutch oven has heated through, plop your dough ball inside. Place lid on and bake.
Easy Crusty Bread

Step 4: Remove lid and allow to bake again for extra browning
Easy Crusty Bread

After it's browned up. Do you see what you've made???
Easy Crusty Bread

And you all, this is the crazy part. This is the best bread I've ever made and it's also the easiest bread I've ever made. I have never even heard of this method before. You basically mix all the ingredients in a large bowl the night before. No rising of the yeast, no measuring temperatures of water. Just mix, cover and set aside at room temperature overnight. That's the clincher. You have to plan ahead. Oh, but it's worth it. The next day you'll just add whatever add-in's you'd like, or leave it plain. Kneed in a bit of flour, just so you can pick up the dough. Plop it into a already hot, heated dutch oven and bake. When you take the lid off, you'll be super impressed with yourself. And when you slice it and taste it, and slather with salted butter and a sprinkling of truffle salt, and drool a little, well, I don't even know what will happen because you are not me and I simply can't predict such things.

Easy Crusty Bread

Crusty Bread

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 1/2 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. If you are adding additional ingredients like kalamata olives and roasted garlic, do it now and mix everything together before it rises.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours.  Overnight works great.  Heat oven to 450 degrees.  When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Easy Kale Salad aka "Dinosaur Slaw"

Kale Salad aka Dinosaur Slaw

Call it Kale salad, or if you have a two year old, call it dinosaur slaw. What ever you decide you'll be calling it delicious. And after you see/taste how simple and good it is and watch your kids shovel down kale leaves like it's nothing, you'll be dancing around your kitchen, patting yourself on the back and singing "I got the moves like Jagger". Just me?  Er, nevermind. Cough. I don't really do that. Pshaw, please.

I do make a mean Kale salad though, and I'm very excited to share it with you all. I've tried kale salads in the past but they usually involved onions and raisins and nothing made my kids as scared. I'd be willing to bet some of the adults in town might run from raisin kale too. These people were probably raised in the midwest though, and in their defense, they didn't grow up having anything more exotic than brown sugar on sweet potatoes. No, really. My Mother-In-law is from Nebraska and she once said to me growing up, we had salt and pepper and maybe some garlic salt, you know, but I just never knew about all these spices you cook with. All these exciting things like cumin, and fresh garlic, and chili powder. She made no mention of my cardamom or saffron use. It's true, spices do make food sing, but this particular salad doesn't use any of them except for that fresh garlic my mother-in-law spoke of. Bless her heart. (side note: did you know you could say anything about anybody as long as you say "bless their heart" afterwards? It's true. Try it.) Well, really, you can say whatever you want about people if you say bless your heart and you love them. And I do, so that's good.

Kale Salad aka Dinosaur Slaw

The beauty of this dish is A) The kale is finely shredded making it easier to eat and B) The olive oil based dressing poured over the leaves is hot, so it wilts ever so slightly leaving a soaked in, pleasing, round tang. The garlic is not too strong but is more a background flavor to the overall brightness of the salad thanks to a little sherry or red wine vinegar. A scatter of freshly grated Parmesan on top brings the perfect salty balance and you'll be well on your way to falling in love with kale all over again, or for the first time. I'd serve this as a side salad with chicken, beef or fish instead of a main course, and since it only consists of kale, I realize I shouldn't even have to expound on something like that. But, you see, I know there are a few of you out there, like my husband, who might think eating kale and only kale for lunch might be exciting for health. But this is where you'd be wrong. While this salad is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and kale is full of fiber and can be filling, it is also very well flavored, which, while good, makes you want to take a bite of a little somethin' somethin' else in between mouthfuls if you catch my drift.

Kale Salad aka Dinosaur Slaw
adapted from Family Fun Magazine, October, 2012
serves 6-8

8 large kale leaves, washed (I used a whole bunch, and bumped up the dressing by 1/2)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly grated Parmesan, for sprinkling (about 1/3 cup, or more if you desire)

Strip off the kales ruffly leaves by grasping the bottom of each stem and pulling your hand up forcefully (or cut them off). Discard stems. Stack the leaves, then use a large, very sharp knife to sliver then as thin as you can. Put the slivered kale in a large bowl. 

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the garlic, stirring frequently, until it's fragrant and just on the verge of browning, about two minute. Add the salt and the sherry vinegar and stir as the vinegar sizzles furiously, until the whole thing becomes outrageously fragrant.

Pour the dressing over the kale and toss throughly with tongs. Stir in the Parmesan, add salt to taste, and serve the dish with extra cheese to be sprinkled on top.

By the way, if you are tired of green bean casserole and need a new vegetable side dish for the big Thanksgiving meal coming up, this might fit the bill. It might not seem like the obvious choice, but I love vinegary, fresh foods with turkey and sweet cranberry sauce, plus it's the right color.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Spinach, Tomato and Orzo Soup

Spinach, Tomato and Orzo Soup

It's a strange thing, music. As I sit down to write a post, my dutiful self, set up to write words on the page, I listen to Mumford & Sons Not With Haste on Pandora radio and something stirs in my soul. I suddenly don't want to write about soup, plump with orzo, hearty with spinach and tomato. Honest food, and good and soul soothing as it may be, and all I can think about is my life and the music and what it coaxes out of me. Ever noticed how some songs, all types, inspire us to be better, tell us were better, hint that we might be missing it, beckon us to open our eyes and realize who we are, what our potential is. Bono gets it.

Katy Perry says theres a spark in you, you just gotta ignite the light, and let it shine, just own the night like the 4th of July, 'cause baby you're a firework, come on show em what you're worth. Make them go "oh, oh, oh" as you shoot across the sky-y-y-y. 

And while I partly wince at my quoting of Katy Perry, I hear it again, this time with Taio Cruz in Dynamite. And I wince harder. At this point, your probably questioning my ipod playlist. I'm gonna take it all like, I'm gonna be the last one standing. I'm alone and all, I'm gonna be the last one landing, 'Cause I believe it, and I just want it all. He's probably talking about being the last one dancing in da club. But that's not all I hear.

Mumford's song I Will Wait says So I'll be bold, as well as strong, and use my head alongside my heart. So tame my flesh and fix my eyes, that tethered mind free from the lies. And I will wait. A prayer in essence. A mind free from telling myself I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, and there are other people better than me. And then waiting. Waiting to see what it frees. How it changes me.

Please, please, excuse the horrible pictures on this post. Dang time change.
Tomato, Spinach and Orzo Soup

Truthfully, I think I am good. I think I'm capable. I think I can do a good job at anything I like, or set my mind too. I think no one is equipped to be a better me than I can be. No one can quite do the job I can. I think I was meant for something more. It's just, I'm actually starting to believe it now, and it's quite thrilling. I literally can't be stopped.

When I say I was meant for something more, I don't mean other than stay-at-home wife and mother. In fact, that's all I ever wanted to be and I'm quite content. What I mean is, I think I cut myself short sometimes with opportunities or relationships or anything really, simply because I do not believe I am always worthy. Of what, I have no idea, which is how I know it's part of the lie. I can feel that I'm starting to let go and be free to live the life I was supposed to, wholly and completely, and it's exhilarating.

And so here I am, rambling on about my internal freedom and not a thing about soup. Correcting this issue now. Funny thing about soup. When I read the original recipe I had two thoughts.

A) Sounds like a nice, easy, straightforward meal with enough flavor to make it satisfying
B) If you didn't get Italian canned tomatoes and accidentally picked up regular ones or used vegetable stock instead on chicken, this could be really bland.

The answer? All of the above. It was simple and honest and would be killer with a garnish of nutty Parmesan. Great delicate flavor, but be forewarned that the tomatoes in Italian herbs makes it. Don't use regular. Italian herb tomatoes are sold everywhere. It's right next to the cans of regular diced tomatoes you usually grab. Also, chicken broth specifically will give this soup the buttery backbone needed to carry a more interesting, complex flavor. I fear vegetable stock would fall flat.

Plan to eat this soup the same night you make it. While the flavor would improve over time, the orzo would swell and take over the broth. Maybe you like that. I hate it. Also plan to eat it on a chilly night when you need your insides warmed through, the broth based soup speciality, you know. It would also be particularly good if you have a sniffle and crave clean flavors.

If you are a meat eater yourself, sausage would be an awesome addition to this. Just crumble it and saute with the onion until cooked though.

Um, keep reading after the recipe because, apparently, I haven't said enough yet...And theres a video.

Spinach, Tomato and Orzo Soup
adapted from

serves 4

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 5-oz container of fresh baby spinach
1 15-oz can diced Italian tomatoes (with oregano and basil, and sometimes garlic)
1/2 lb orzo pasta (usually half a package)
1 quart chicken stock
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with its juice, spinach, chicken stock, water, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Add orzo and cook for 12-15 minutes, or until orzo is tender.

Serve immediately

You guys? On my playlist that day I heard all these songs? I totally played "You Ain't Never had  Friend Like Me", you know, from Aladdin? And I was jogging along (yeah- JOGGING. That's another story) and I was all high from thinking I was completely awesome singing/boasting you ain't never had a friend like me to no one AT ALL, but pretending I was telling all my friends. If you asked them they would tell you it's less because I get arrogantly carried away and more because I'm, how shall I say? Theatrical. Yes, very, which is why I jog and lip sing and imagine elaborate costumes and dance routines in my head that have me convinced Derek Hough's got nothing on me, because, remember, I am untouchable in my new found freedom. You can't stop me, no you can't stop me.

Also, since I'm being all vulnerable, I watched Anne Hathaway's opening on SNL (video below) the other night and they did a spoof on Les Miserables where they sang One Day More! which may be my favorite song from that show. It was awesome. And, I got so excited that I shot up in bed, got all stuffy, and shed a real tear. I'm pretty sure I was meant for Broadway on the days I wasn't meant for food. It's a real problem having more than one passion.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Oh, oh, sometimes...I get a good feeling. I get a feeling like I never, nevea, nevea, nevea, had before, oh, oh, I get a good feeling. Do you know that song? I do because I take Zumba and this is the song we always start with. The upside to doing the same dance moves to the same songs week after week is that you actually learn the moves instead of flailing around like a spaz. The down side is that every time you hear any of those songs from there on out, no matter where you are, you'll feel compelled to break out in dance. This can either work for you or against you.

Like, how cool would it be if you were with a bunch of friends at a club who also take the same Zumba classes, and that song came on and you all started doing the moves in unison like a crazy workout flash mob? Except that wouldn't happen because they don't play cool songs like that at clubs. I should know. I was forced into visiting one a few years back with some friends where they played lame techno songs and other music where you couldn't understand any of the words. I was perturbed, mostly because I was up way past my bedtime, then there were the horrible song choices, but also because I had to explain to some nice boy that, no, I could not dance with him, because that would be wrong because I was married and I had three kids at home. He looked at me like Um, why are you here? Exactly. They should have clubs for moms where you can dance with your friends from 7:30-9:00pm to awesome songs that we all know, and where we can break out in Zumba flash mobs without feeling judged.  I rest my case.

All this to say that  oh, oh, oh, oh, I get a good feeling about these Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes. No really, that is where I was going with it in the beginning but I got all sidetracked and can't help it sometimes. I bet you could forgive me a lot quicker if you made these cupcakes though, because, seriously? They are awesome.

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

The pain in the neck thing about these is you do either have to use silicon or spray cooking oil into the paper liners so they don't stick. But, really it's worth it because this tastes exactly like the insides of a pumpkin pie except it's sturdier because you can hold it without it losing its shape. I just used the word "it" six times in that sentence. Did you catch that? Poor form, Krysta. I'm sorry.

Back to the cupcakes. Like I mentioned before, these are like the insides of a pumpkin pie rather than a cakey cupcake, so expect them to be solid, cold, creamy, and insanely delicious. You can pipe or spoon the whipped cream on top of these 2-4 hours ahead of time so they'll be ready to go when you are. A dash of pumpkin pie spice on top and you'll officially be the rockstar of the house. These are also easy and only dirty two bowls. I made a dozen for my family of five and sent two home to my mother and father-in-law, so we were left with ten. They did not make it through the night. Everyone ate two, except for me because my youngest daughter was having a heart attack over these and I was afraid to not give her the last one. She can be a greedy little thing. So yeah, good luck just eating one. After eating all these cupcakes, you'll really have to join Zumba, and then you'll know what I'm talking about with the flash mob thing and I'll be vindicated. Yeah. Like how I just turned that around?

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes
adapted from The Baker Chick

makes 12

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup half and half
spray cooking oil (I used coconut oil)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone liners. *If using paper liners, lightly coat them with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and half and half until well combined.

Add in dry ingredients and whisk until no streaks of flour remain and batter is smooth.

Distribute evenly in the muffin tin. They should be about 3/4 of the way full.

Bake for 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in pan. They will sink as they are cooling, this is good. Chill cupcakes before serving, Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte

This is the easiest dinner you've not made all year. I love everything about this; the way the mushrooms and rice steam together with thyme and soy sauce infusing each with delicate flavor and spice. The way the hot packet is set atop cool greens dressed in a quick lemony vinaigrette. The way it becomes a healthy, comforting meal, not salad, even though it could be mistaken for one.  I love that it is super easy, quick and practically fool proof, yet looks fancy. I love that it has so much more flavor than you are expecting it to. And lastly, I love the interplay of hot and cold, crisp and soft that come together on this plate, and I've been waiting for Fall all year so I could make it again.

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte

En papilotte is just a fancy way of saying  "in parchment paper". Food cooked in this method is sealed in parchment, and put into a hot oven, creating steam that cooks the food. It's a delicate and under used method. Cooking mushrooms and brown rice en papilotte is a great way to introduce yourself because you don't have to worry about the contents being undercooked and not edible. I had a terrible experience with cooking halibut this way many years ago that resulted in take-out and not buying fish again for two years. The fish would not cook. Like, seriously it refused. This stuff can be scary and scarring. No joke. That's why were starting out vegetarian. You've totally got this.

Sealing it up
Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte

Shiitake Mushrooms and Brown Rice En Papilotte
adapted from Whole Living Magazine
serves 4

2-4 cups cooked brown rice (depending on how much rice you want in each packet. I do about a cup per person)
4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
8 sprigs fresh thyme
Coarse salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4-8 tablespoons soy sauce (I use about a tablespoon and a half per packet, but I also use a lot of rice, so use your judgement. You can always add more when it's done.)
4 cups fresh greens, such as arugula
Lemon wedges

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper,  about 12 by 16 inches each. Divide brown rice among each parchment piece. Top with mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the olive oil and soy sauce. Wrap packets up to seal by folding the center down and wrapping end underneath.

Bake on a rimmed baking sheet until packet is puffed and mushrooms are cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Divide greens among plates. Serve the packet warm, on top of greens and squeezed with lemon wedges.

*I usually toss my greens in a quick lemon dressing before topping with the mushroom and rice packet because I like my greens to be coated instead of drizzled in lemon juice. If you do too, just squeeze the lemon wedges into a cup (about 1/8 cup) and add 1/8 cup of olive oil, a hearty pinch of salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Dress greens just before serving and serve with additional lemon wedges.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

vegetarian shepherds pie

Shepherds pie is supposed to be a peasants meal. I always thought it fell into the simple, throw together kind of dinner, until I actually made it. Granted, shepherds pie is easier when you use ground beef as it was originally intended, because you cut way back on vegetable chopping time (a bit of carrot, onion and peas are all thats needed). But this pie is vegetarian, and consequently, a hefty amount of chopping is required - I'm not even gonna lie- It's also a somewhat sophisticated version of the classic dish, elevating it with good red wine, fresh thyme, pearl onions, and very well seasoned, creamy mashed potatoes. It's a contradiction because Shepherds pie is supposed to be no big deal food, but that's not the case here. This is very worthy of company, candlelight, centerpieces, and a nice bottle of Zinfandel. Cue the snowfall in the background, and an apple crisp coming out of the oven for dessert because it's bound to be that kind of night.

vegetarian shepherds pie

To be clear, this tastes like peasants food. I don't mean that in a bad way, quite the contrary. It's rustic, homey fare that tastes quite like you might expect it to, vegetables bathed in wine gravy -which is just fine by me. I like food that tastes like it should, in this case, simple but classy.

I know you've been warned about the chopping, but if you had the time, I might even suggest chopping the vegetables up to a day ahead of time and keeping them in ziplock bags in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Just bag the mushrooms and yellow onions together in a separate bag from the rest, since you add them in first.

In other news, my sister Kaylee had a beautiful baby girl two weeks ago, making me an Aunt to Paisley Sue! If she lived by me, I'd make this Shepherds pie for her and stock the refrigerator up so she had nothing to think about but cuddling that baby all day long.

vegetarian shepherds pie

Vegetarian Shepherds Pie

Vegetarian pie filling:
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 a yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 lbs (3 8-oz packages) cremini mushrooms
7 medium carrots, peeled and cut in 1" pieces on the diagonal
2 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1" pieces on the diagonal
1 1/2  cup cubed butternut squash in 1" pieces
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 cup frozen pearl onions
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 (750-ml) bottle full-bodied red wine such as Burgundy 
5 tablespoons butter, softened
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups rich vegetable stock

For the mashed potato topping:
6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed in small pieces
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup cream or whole milk
3 tablespoons butter, cut into thirds
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Cook yellow onions and mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and mushrooms give off their juices, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add carrots, parsnips, thyme, and butternut squash and cook until vegetables are just beginning to get tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl, pick out thyme sprigs, and cover.

Add wine to the now empty pot and boil until reduced to about 1 cup, 10-12 minutes. While wine reduces, mash together the softened butter with the flour in a small bowl until it forms a thick paste and set aside. 

Add stock to wine and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the flour/butter paste, then simmer, whisking occasionally until thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Add frozen pearl onions, sea salt, and garlic powder. Add vegetable mixture to the pot and simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through.

While the stew simmers, make the mashed potato topping.  Place cubed potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water, then simmer, partially covered, until very tender, about 25 minutes. Combine cream, buttermilk, garlic powder, garlic salt, sea salt and white pepper together in a measuring cup. When potatoes are done, drain them and add them back into the hot pot. Drop in the butter and add the buttermilk/cream mixture and smash together with a potato masher until smooth. 

Preheat the broiler. When stew is done, taste for salt and add more if needed, then add parsley and frozen peas, and mix to combine (this adds a pop of green color), then pour into a large 3-quart (2-inch deep) baking dish. Drop dolops of the mashed potatoes over the stew then spread evenly to cover. Broil about 3 inches from the heat until top is golden, about 5 minutes. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime and A Halloween Recap

Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime

This week has been a little nuts with Halloween, headaches, kids with stomach flu's, family visiting, etc, for a super long post today, but thought I'd pop in to tell you about this tasty little morsel I whipped up for snack yesterday and give you a little recap of our Halloween.

1) Usually I like my avocados straight up and fresh with a little lemon and salt.  but I saw this and couldn't get it out of my head. Broiled crunchy and salty Parm on a buttery warm avocado with a little hit of freshness from the lime? I was in. At first, the cheese scared me. I mean, avocados have lots of calories anyway (albeit good ones) but I was a-scared to add to it by melting cheese all over it, which was appropriate because it was Halloween and all. As you can tell, I got over that. I work on my fears constantly. Luckily, you only need about a tablespoon of shredded cheese for the whole avocado half, so it wasn't that bad.

2) For Halloween last night I dressed up as my 10 year old daughter. It was pretty fun.

This is her:

This was my "costume":
Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime


My own friends walked past me in the street and didn't recognize me right away. It was awesome. When I first came down the stairs dressed like this, Jeremiah looked me up and down and said "Mom, you don't look like yourself". I said " I know bud, I'm dressed up for Halloween. Can you guess who I am?" He sheeplishly smiled and said "Isabella?". Even a 6 year old could tell. All night he kept saying "Mom, I don't recognize you". It was classic. Isabella, upon seeing me said "Mom, your hat is not crooked enough, here" and "fixed it" so I couldn't see out of my right eye. Then as she was taking pictures of me, she'd say "Your not puckering your lips right, keep your head, you don't look like a hoodlum when you do, like this, not that" Let's just say we took a lot of pictures. :)

You know how I got my hair to look like hers? I took a shower and side parted it haphazardly, never brushed it, and let it air dry. Then I put some mousse on the ends to sort of clump it together, and teased parts with a comb. Isabella, I hope you read this five years from now and realize how wrong this is. They invented brushes for a reason, dear daughter.

The fam minus Jeremy who had to take the picture (sucks to be him sometimes):

Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime

Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime

Parmesan Roasted Avocado with Lime
serves 1

1 half avocado
a quarter of a lime
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
Hot sauce (optional)
Sea salt

Preheat the broiler. 

Score the avocado with a knife so that the juice can get to the bottom of the flesh easily. Squirt the juice of the lime evenly over the avocado and hot sauce, if using, and sprinkle with sea salt. Cover the avocado with parmesan cheese evenly and place into a small oven proof dish. Broil until cheese is melted and just starting to brown in places. Eat straight away. Or spread on some warm toast. I just though of that. It would be good.