Cranberry Orange Muffins

These muffins are easy, but also perfect for any fancy occasion with their streusel topping. When we have leftover cranberry relish from Thanksgiving it always turns into these treats on Sunday morning following the holiday.

IMG_1717

Cranberry Orange Muffins
Yield: 1 dozen muffins

1 large egg
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter, melted
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/8 tsp orange oil or zest of one orange
1 ½ cups flour (I use wheat pastry flour)
1/4 cup sugar or maple syrup
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup cranberries fresh or frozen (or substitute fresh cranberry relish NOT jellied sauce)
1 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 400° degrees. Generously grease one muffin tin, or line with paper liners. Beat egg slightly with a fork. Stir in milk, butter, vanilla, orange oil, and zest.

In a food processor, pulse cranberries and 1 Tbsp sugar until finely chopped (alternately, chop by hand and toss with sugar).
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add chopped cranberries and stir till coated. Make a well in dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, and fold very gently. Scoop into prepared tin and top with streusel topping. Bake approximately 20 minutes, or until just turning golden.

Streusel Muffin Topping

¾ cup flour
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together in food processor (or with a pastry blender or your fingers) until like crumbs. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon on top of muffins before baking.

Cranberry Peach Smoothie

Last night’s smoothie was so great I had to share it!  It was born of a need to decrease the freezer content. Putting something new in the freezer has become a joke around here, with all the food preservation and freezer meals we have crammed in there.  So, we are going to work on using ingredients and meals we already have frozen in the next few weeks. This smoothie is working on our load of cranberries and peaches hiding out in the deep freezer. My daughter claimed it tasted like a milkshake, so it’s definitely a win-win!

IMG_1595.JPG

Cranberry-Peach Smoothie
2 cups coconut milk or other dairy or non-dairy milk
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 a banana
1 Tbsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp real vanilla
2 peaches, frozen (just estimate if you have sliced frozen peaches. Mine
are in halves so it’s easy to count this way)
4 large strawberries, frozen
2 large handfuls cranberries, rinsed (approx 1/3 cup)

Layer all ingredients in order listed in high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Makes 3 large servings or 4 medium-sized servingsIMG_1595.JPG.

Garlic Rolls

Winter is upon us.  As I type this, I have a blanket wrapped around me like a shawl and a mug of herbal tea standing by.  A friend of mine used the hashtag #puttingonthewinterweight in a social media post the other day, and I laughed out loud.  There is some truth to the fact that our bodies crave different foods in the cooler months.  We long for calorie-dense meals that will give our bodies the energy to keep warm.  Our genes are unaware of central heating and certainly haven’t heard of a desk job.

We’ve been turning up the oven for dinners lately and enjoying the warm kitchen while we feast on baked meals and pots of soup.  Homemade bread in any form speaks of winter comfort and rolls are often where we turn when we want to be reminded of grandma’s house and slower times gone by.

These rolls are a variation on my slightly-famous (ha!) Hearth Bread.  If you know me, and I’ve brought you a loaf before, then you will recognize the dough. It also makes a killer pizza crust, especially if you raise and bake the dough in a little melted butter.  (It tastes just like Pizza Huts’ famous pan crust, I swear!).  Though we will be making my grandmother’s rolls for Thanksgiving, these would made a beautiful addition to any holiday table.  Enjoy your cozy winter evenings at home!

IMG_1547.JPG

Garlic Rolls

Dough:
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
2 cups warm wate
1 ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary or  Italian Herbs or equal parts dried basil and oregano
½ tsp black pepper
dash granular garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp sea salt (or kosher salt)
Bread flour (you will use about 4-6 cups, maybe a little more)

Topping:
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp granular garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
finely grated Parmesan cheese (I sometimes us a combo of Parmesan and Romano in my rotary grater)

Combine yeast, sugar and water in a stand mixer (I use a BOSCH) or a large mixing bowl if mixing by hand.  Add herbs , pepper, oil and about 2 cups flour and stir just for a minute to combine.  Add salt and gradually add more flour until dough is tacky, but not sticky.prinkle with cheese.  Bake in a 400° oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.

Place in a well-oiled bowl and allow to raise at room temperature until doubled.  I often do this first raise in the refrigerator overnight.

Shape into rolls, or knots and place on a greased cookie sheet.   Raise until nearly double in size.  Combine topping ingredients, except for the cheese and brush over rolls. IMG_1547.JPG

Soy-Glazed Tofu

Tofu is weird.  Weird people eat tofu.  I get it and I’m OK with it, especially when I can make a meal of it in 10 minutes.  I spent a large portion of my life as a vegetarian and here is something important I took away from that experience:

Meat is meat.  Fake meat is not meat.

For me, choosing to abstain from meat didn’t mean trying to recreate meat and meat dishes from the past.  There are countless bean and vegetable dishes that are much more appetizing than meat-lookalikes.  Sure, you have to think about protein sources when meal planning, but I never understood the urge to recreate a tuna or egg sandwich with tofu.  Exhibit A:

image1 (3)

So, you will never find me posting a recipe disguising tofu as meat or dairy.  What you will get is the following recipe, which is one that meets tofu head on and embraces it for all it’s jiggly soybeaniness.  It needs some love and attention to be delicious, but that is neither complicated, nor time consuming.  In fact, this is one of my fastest dinners!

I almost always make this when we have leftover cooked rice.  Paired with some steamed green beans or a quick salad, it’s a quick, balanced meal that everyone enjoys.  Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!  You may end up with the same result I did:

IMG_1434

Soy-Glazed Tofu
Recipe from Catherine Newman

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
14 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into about 12 thin slices
Juice of half a lemon

Begin by cutting the tofu and then heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet on medium.  Add the tofu when the butter is melted, turning the heat up to medium-high.  Fry slices for about 5 minutes per side.  Flip once, when golden brown.  Reduce heat to low and add soy sauce and lemon juice.  Swirl to coat.  Flip the tofu and heat for one minute more.  Serve.

The tofu tends to splatter quite a bit as it sautes.  Use a splatter shield, or this alternate oven method to avoid excessive cleanup:

Alternate Oven Method:

This method works best with a double recipe, so use two boxes of tofu.  Preheat oven to 450° F.  Slice butter into thin pats and line a jelly roll pan with them.  Arrange tofu over butter and roast 10 minutes.  Switch oven to broil and broil 2 minutes per side, or until golden.  Add lemon juice and soy sauce, swirl to mix , flip the tofu so the other side is coated and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes more, until slices are nicely glazed.  Enjoy without having to wipe the stove top.

Menu Plan and Week 2 of the 30 day Eat-In Challenge 

Monday did its best to knock me down this week, but I’m determined to get back up and finish the week strong!  Here’s what’s for dinner:

Monday: Pasta Primavera.

Tuesday: Leftovers. I want my Tupperware back!

Wednesday: Pan-Glazed Tofu with rice and garden veggies. Yes, we eat tofu. We are that weird!

Thursday: Something from the freezer. I’ll figure out what to defrost Wednesday night.

Friday: Cedar plank salmon, salad and oven fries.

Saturday: Ribs, cheddar biscuits and salad. Our best rib-cooking friends are coming to town and I’m planning to con him into helping with the meat. 🙂

Sunday: Popcorn, smoothies and a story.

Hurry Curry

Curry is such a great dish for families.  It’s natural sweetness is a hit with kids, yet it can be spiced up to suit the grownup tastes as well.  If you’d like to keep it mild, be sure to use a mild or sweet curry powder, rather than a hot variety.  For those of you wanting to turn up the heat, try adding a couple dashes of ground cayenne with the other spices.  Be sure to put some rice on before you begin the curry, or you’ll be ready to eat long before the rice is done.  The best part?  It’s on the table in 20 minutes!

IMG_0764

Hurry Curry
adapted from a recipe by The Pioneer Woman

2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon curry powder, I like a sweet one
Dash garam masala
1 cup chicken broth
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 smallish red potatoes, cooked and cut into chunks
2 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges for serving

Precook potatoes by either boiling, steaming or microwaving in one of those handy cloth pouches. (When cool enough to handle, cut into large dice.)

Heat a large skillet on medium for a minute and then add the oil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and saute onions for several minutes, until beginning to brown.  Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for another minute.

Add spices and toast, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.  Stir in broth, coconut milk, honey and lime juice until combined.

Add chickpeas, potatoes and peppers and simmer for 5-10 minutes to combine flavors.  Remove from heat, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve over rice with lime wedges.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Many herbs can be grown as perennials, either in the garden or as a decorative accent plant around the yard. Rosemary is perfectly suited for both locations and adds a wonderful flavor to dishes throughout the year. Chances are, if you don’t already have a rosemary plant in your yard, there is one close by. Many landscapers use rosemary as an accent for it’s evergreen beauty in both residential and commercial settings. In the kitchen, I use it to spice up mixed nuts during the winter holidays, as an accent for whole-roasted chicken in spring, in a marinade for grilled meat or fish in summer and as a perfect pair for roasted potatoes come fall.

The humble potato has been a main food source since ancient times and it continues to nourish much of the world today. Even in America, with our relatively short national history, we go way back with the potato. My father is a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy who spent a portion of his childhood on a farm and prefers a potato aside his protein any day of the week. My children’s generation is definitely acquainted with the french fry!

Potatoes can be anywhere on the spectrum from comfort food to five-star fancy. However, in any application, they need a few ingredient partners to succeed culinarily. First is fat, and many kinds work well with potatoes: butter, olive oil, canola oil, etc. Second is seasoning. At the very least, potatoes need a good helping of salt and pepper to shine. There are many herbs and spices that can be added to a potato dish successfully, but you will be hard-pressed to find an herb better suited to the potato than rosemary. In these Rosemary-Roasted Potatoes, you will find the trio of olive oil, potatoes and rosemary complement each other particularly well.  The key to the success of this recipe is to par-cook the potatoes and then roast them, cut side down until a golden crust forms on the underside.IMG_0666

Roasted-Rosemary Potatoes

2 lbs red potatoes, about 12 small potatoes
3 Tbsp delicious-tasting olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp kosher salt, divided
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 tsp granular garlic

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Scrub potatoes, removing any large eyes or blemishes. Halve potatoes so that you end up with two long flat pieces rather than two tall pieces. In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, toss potatoes, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper. Cover completely with saran wrap or a silicone lid and microwave on high for three minute increments (toss them around to redistribute in between times) until potatoes are about ¾ done, approximately 6 minutes. Microwaves vary.

Meanwhile, spread remaining olive oil in a film over the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Sprinkle rosemary, remaining salt (I actually like to use a salt grinder for this), pepper, and garlic evenly over the oil.

Using tongs, place par-cooked potatoes cut-side down in oil. Roast 15-20 minutes, or until you see a nice golden crust of spices and cooked potato when you lift one of the potatoes from the pan.

IMG_0641-001 IMG_0642-001 IMG_0643-001 IMG_0644-001 IMG_0645-001

IMG_0666

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

This is our “Halloween Soup.”  We make it every year on October 31st before our ghouls head out for the night. It’s a delicious combination of fall flavors, and there’s no reason to sequester it to just one night of the year. If you have a food processor, this soup whips up in a flash. Alternately, you can use an immersion blender, or transfer the soup, once cooked, to a blender and puree in batches (if you’re using a traditional blender, just add the beans and tomatoes whole at the instructed time). I like to leave some texture to it, rather than having it come out completely smooth.

It’s a great crock pot recipe as well, and I’ve included some tips at the conclusion of the directions for those of you who will be utilizing your slow cookers.  Toast some pepitas with salt and a little olive oil before serving and pass the cheese and sour cream at the table.

IMG_1310

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

3 Tbsp butter
1 ¼ cups onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/s tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
3 15.5 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (one 16 oz can)
3 to 4 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 cup chopped ham, optional (I almost always leave this out)

In food processor, finely chop onion and garlic.

Cook onion and garlic, in butter in a 6 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat till softened and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, puree beans and tomatoes in food processor.  Leave a little texture to the beans, rather then letting them become totally creamy.

When onion mixture is ready, add cumin, salt, pepper and smoked paprika ad stir for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add bean puree, broth and pumpkin.

Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally about 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat back of spoon. Just before serving, add ham, if desired (I never do).

Serve with salt, pepper, grated cheese, sour cream and toasted pepitas.

Changes For Slow-Cooker:
Brown onions and garlic, toast spices as instructed and add to slow-cooker. Decrease broth to 3 cups and cook on low 4 hours.

Eat-In 30 Day Challenge

We are reading The Little House On the Prairie Series aloud as a family, and I have been marveling at the fact that every meal they ate was prepared at home. We just started the eighth book in the series of nine, and only once has the family purchased a meal when they were moving across the country by train. There has been the occasional meal shared with the extended family, or a church social, but still the food for these events was made at home. When circumstances necessitated lunch being eaten away from home, there was always the dinner pail with bread and butter. Dishes and menus were prepared days in advance, and there was a natural rhythm to the family’s meal preparation.

I am often harried, throwing something together for dinner at the last minute, or waking in the morning and quickly latching onto the first breakfast idea that comes to mind. Some days, I give the kitchen up entirely and grab something from a local restaurant. The result of this is repetition, rather than rhythm. I have been feeling the difference lately, and the need to plan in advance for our meals.

I have been mentally tossing around the idea of this “eat in” challenge for awhile. We actually don’t eat out that much, but I know that we’ve never gone an entire month without visiting a single eating establishment.

So, that is the challenge: 30 days, or the entire month of November, of preparing all our meals, snacks and desserts at home. One of my main goals with this is to actually plan in advance and have dinner going earlier in the day in order to bring a calm to our evenings. I’ll be posting my meals on Instagram to keep myself honest and following a few guidelines:

  • Food eaten by the family must be prepared at home, including lunches for those not at home during the noon hour.
  • Menus for dinners need to be planned once a week.
  • As much as time and circumstances allow, we will make our own dishes, rather than relying on prepared alternatives.

That’s it!  Join in if you’d like, or just come along for the ride, I’m sure it will offer at least a few entertaining moments!

Dinner menu plan for November  2nd – 8th:

Monday: Burgers on the grill with steamed beets.
Tuesday: Dip-it dinner.  We do black bean dip and hummus with veggies and crackers for dipping.
Wednesday: Ham fried rice.
Thursday: Eggplant Parmesan (I have this already in the freezer).
Friday: Leftovers or Omelettes, depending on how the fridge is looking.
Saturday: Chickpea curry.
Sunday: Popcorn and smoothies.  This is our weekly tradition.

Here was today’s breakfast to get us started:

IMG_1284