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Month: January 2016

Freezer Friendly Veggie Yakisoba

Freezer Friendly Veggie Yakisoba

I think Saturdays are going to fairly regularly feature freezer meals. When I’m cooking anyway on the weekend and the kitchen is a wreck, it’s not a big deal to do one more dish, especially if it’s one that can be frozen and provides us many easy-in-the-oven weekday meals.

As always, our quirky local market, Sherm’s Thunderbird, provides one of the more unusual ingredients in this recipe – the fresh yakisoba noodles. They also sell fresh Udon noodles, in addition to various types of wonton wrappers. I have no explanation. I’ve made similar style yakisoba or stir fry with both dried Udon noodles, as well as with spaghetti, so there are some options if you can’t find fresh yakisoba noodles.Yakisoba

Freezer Friendly Veggie Yakisoba
Serves 10

5 stalks celery
½ head cabbage
10 mushrooms
4 eggs
1 package fresh yakisoba noodles
¼ cup white wine
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup + 3 tablespoons sesame oil
Siracha to taste

Chop all the vegetables in medium size chunks. Set the cabbage and mushrooms aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in a large pot or wok and then add the celery, sautéing for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, another tablespoon of sesame oil, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and the ¼ cup white wine and cook until the cabbage and mushrooms are soft and reduced.

Add the yakisoba noodles, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, and ¼ cup of sesame oil and mix well.   Crack the eggs directly over the noodles and stir them briefly to fully distribute the eggs.

Cook the noodle, vegetable, and egg mixture until the egg is set and most of the liquid is absorbed.

Serve with a drizzle of siracha, sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste.

This freezes and re-heats well.

 

Mulberry, Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Granola

Mulberry, Pecan, and Dark Chocolate Granola

I’ve posted before that we have some quirky markets here in my part of the PNW. One of my favorites is a regional chain called Grocery Outlet, largely because it has, hands down, the best selection of wine in our town. It also has a fascinating organic aisle – the selection changes from week to week and you never know what you might find, including the dried mulberries I used in this week’s granola.

I grew up with only one association with mulberries – a childhood song that starts “all around the mulberry bush…” and ends with “pop goes the weasel”. I also distinctly remember a jack in the box toy that played this as I wound it up and then terrified me when it popped open. I didn’t have a clue what a mulberry bush was until I moved to New Mexico, where there was a mulberry bush across the street overhanging the parking lot of the local bank. I’d go out late at night and gather mulberries. I believe that, technically, these mulberries were fair game, since they did overhang the sidewalk and the road, but I enjoy clandestine foraging.   I’d eat handfuls of the mulberries for lunch and even went so far to make a pavlova with mulberries one time

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When we moved to the PNW, no more mulberries. I have encountered them once at the farmers market, so I’m sure they grow here, but I also think they may have a reputation as an invasive species (or at least they did in New Mexico).

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find dried mulberries at Grocery Outlet. They taste a little like a raisin with a bit more of a seeded crunch. They are sweet, so a lovely counter to pecans and dark chocolate. I don’t recall seeing these at other groceries, but they are available via Amazon.

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Dried Mulberries, Pecan, Dark Chocolate Granola
Serves 10 – 12

4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
½ cup honey
1/3 cup olive oil
¾ cup pecans, broken into pieces
¾ cup dried mulberries
½ cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the oats, honey, olive oil, and pecans. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Add the dried mulberries and the chocolate chips after taking the granola out of the oven. The chocolate chips will melt a bit – this is the way I prefer them in my granola. You can wait to add them until the granola is fully cool.

Cool and then store in an airtight container.

Massaged Kale Salad with Preserved Meyer Lemons

Massaged Kale Salad with Preserved Meyer Lemons

kalesalad1 kalesalad3 Prior to moving to the PNW, there were a number of vegetables I’d encountered that only ever seemed to be served in cooked form. Kale was one of those vegetables, and though I liked it well enough, I started to really love when I realized it could be eaten raw. To balance the butter-load in this week’s prosciutto and swiss cheese croissants, I thought it might be wise to have a healthy salad on the side. I especially enjoy kale salad with preserved lemon, so this recipe does double-duty, as it showcases kale, but also is the first of several recipes using the preserved Meyer lemon recipe from last week. I also threw in some canned chickpeas, a little parmesan cheese, and a tahini and lemon salad dressing.

This salad holds up well in pint mason jars so can be prepared on Sunday for the entire week.

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Massaged Kale and Preserved Meyer Lemon Salad
Serves 6

Tahini and Lemon Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1 and ½ tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients and stir thoroughly until tahini is smoothly distributed.

Massaged Kale and Preserved Meyer Lemon Salad
1 bunch kale, washed and de-stemmed
2 preserved lemons, rinsed
1 can chickpeas
¼ cup parmesan cheese

In a large bowl, tear the de-stemmed kale into bite sized pieces. Add the tahini and lemon dressing and massage the kale until the dressing is well distributed and the kale starts to soften. Chop the preserved lemons into small strips and add the preserved lemons, chickpeas, and parmesan cheese to the kale. Toss and serve.

 

Croissants

Croissants

Do you ever pause for a moment and really think about food? Often, as I’m eating something, like an artichoke or a hazelnut or mushrooms, I pause and consider how our ancestors first thought to eat this particular food or thought to prepare it in a particular way – or really, even thought to prepare food at all. I think about this when I’m baking bread and when I’m making pasta – about how this combination of simple things – flour, yeast, eggs maybe or just flour and eggs (in the case of pasta) – came to be.

I also think about the memories we attach to food. I can’t think of much else in life, except music, perhaps, that so firmly attaches to a memory as food does. Some foods have a stronger memory association than others, and for me, one of the strongest is croissants. My first association with croissants was chocolate croissants and almond croissants that my mom would buy at a little chain in Colorado called Petite Boulangerie on Green Mountain. It seems to me that the bakery was next to a bookstore, so for me, those two things – pastry and books – are inexorably linked. As an adult, I encountered chocolate croissants in a meaningful way again in New Mexico. A daughter of one of my co-workers sold chocolate croissants, which she’d learned to make in France, at the local farmers market in Tularosa. I would buy six or eight at a time and we would freeze them and then heat them up again on lazy Sunday mornings. Croissants are also closely tied to my honeymoon – my only trip to Paris thus far. We stayed at a small B&B and the proprietress would make us croissants and eggs in the morning, along with some miserable coffee she’d microwave. It was ok – we had fresh croissants, a bit of jam, and some cheese.

For a long time, we had a baker here in my part of the PNW who made chocolate croissants and sold them at our farmers market. Two years ago or so, he left to go start a bakery somewhere in Mexico, and I decided it was time to stop relying on others for croissants – it was time to make my own. And maybe because I have these strong associations with my memories, I was afraid to make these – they seemed so complicated, like a mystical ritual that took a full moon to fully realize or something. One holiday season, I found a recipe online that looked easy enough and dove in. The results were good – flaky, but a bit on the small size. What I discovered in this process was that there was nothing mystical about the croissant – it was basically dough with a hefty amount of butter. The magic comes about in the layering of dough and butter, but even this is not as complex as it looks. I’ve since found that a little devil-may-care attitude seems to work well to get the croissants nice and fluffy.

If you’ve never had a fresh croissant right out of the oven, I strongly encourage you to try these. One note of warning: this is a two-day recipe that takes a fair amount of time on the first day (though most of that time is inactive time waiting for the dough to rest).

What follows below is a step-by-step guide with pictures.

Start by breaking two eggs into a two-cup measure. Fill the measure with warm water and then give the eggs a good stir until they are incorporated with the water. In a medium size bowl, pour the egg and water mixture and then add 2 ¼ teaspoons active yeast. Add to this mixture 3 tablespoons sugar. Combine. Gradually add 5 cups of flour, stirring as you go. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for four or five minutes – until the dough is supple and soft, but not overworked. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.croissantstep1

While the dough rests, put 4 sticks of butter (a total of 1 lb.) into a one-gallon size freezer or storage bag. The next step is an extraordinary stress reliever: place the bag with the butter on the counter and start whacking it (hard) with a rolling pin.

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The goal here is to flatten the butter out into a rectangle that’s about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Once the butter is flattened out and in a rough rectangle, refrigerate until the dough is ready to go.

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When the dough is ready to come out, turn it onto a well-floured surface and roll it into a rectangle about 16 x 18. Place the butter rectangle into the middle and fold each corner of the dough toward the middle, over the butter.

croissantstep2croissantstep3

From here, flour the surface again and roll out the dough to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. Once this is complete, fold the dough into thirds (like you might fold a letter). Turn the dough one-quarter turn and roll it out again to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. This completes two turns (you’ll turn it four times total). Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.croissantstep4croissantstep5

When the dough comes out, roll it out again to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle and then fold by thirds and refrigerate again for 30 minutes. This is the third turn.

Do this one more time – roll the dough into a 16 x 18 inch rectangle and fold into thirds. This time, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, put the dough on a well-floured surface and divide it into two sections.  You’ll be able to see the multiple layers of the dough.laminateddough

Put one section back in the refrigerator and roll the other on a well-floured surface into a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. Divide the dough into 12 more or less evenly divided sections. Place your filling in the middle of each section and fold the dough. Repeat with the second section of dough.

croissantsquaresprefilling

I used two fillings this time around. The first half of the dough was filled with prosciutto and Swiss cheese. The second half of the dough was filled with dark chocolate chips.

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At this point, you can do two things: first, you can put the croissants in the oven on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Keep an eye on them – when they are evenly browned on the top and bottom, they are finished.

croissantintheoven

Second, you can put the croissants on a parchment covered baking sheet and freeze them (once they are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag). The beauty of uncooked and frozen croissants is that you can pull as many as you need out of the freezer the night before you plan to bake them, put them in the refrigerator and then bake them the next day and they will still puff up just as beautifully as if you had made them fresh.finishedcroissant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Croissants (recipe adapted from King Arthur flour)
Makes 24 croissants

2 eggs and enough warm water to fill a two-cup measuring cup over the eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active yeast
1 lb unsalted or salted butter

Prosciutto Croissant Filling
8 or so slices of prosciutto
6 slices of Swiss cheese

Chocolate Croissant Filling
1 package dark chocolate chips

Start by breaking two eggs into a two-cup measure. Fill the measure with warm water and then give the eggs a good stir until they are incorporated with the water. In a medium size bowl, pour the egg and water mixture and then add 2 ¼ teaspoons active yeast. Add to this mixture 3 tablespoons sugar. Combine. Gradually add 5 cups of flour, stirring as you go. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for four or five minutes – until the dough is supple and soft, but not overworked. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough rests, put 4 sticks of butter (a total of 1 lb.) into a one-gallon size freezer or storage bag. Flatten into a rectangle and refrigerate.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and roll it into a rectangle about 16 x 18. Place the butter rectangle into the middle and fold each corner of the dough toward the middle, over the butter.

From here, flour the surface again and roll out the dough to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. Once this is complete, fold the dough into thirds (like you might fold a letter). Turn the dough one-quarter turn and roll it out again to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. This completes two turns. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

When the dough comes out, roll it out again to a 16 x 18 inch rectangle and then fold by thirds and refrigerate again for 30 minutes. This is the third turn.

Do this one more time – roll the dough into a 16 x 18 inch rectangle and fold into thirds. This time, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, put the dough on a well-floured surface and divide it into two sections. Put one section back in the refrigerator and roll the other on a well-floured surface into a 16 x 18 inch rectangle. Divide the dough into 12 more or less evenly divided sections. Place your filling in the middle of each section and fold the dough. Repeat with the second section of dough.

Bake at 375 degrees for twenty minutes. Alternatively, you can freeze the croissants. When you are ready to bake them, take them out of the freezer the night before and then bake the next day at 375 degrees for twenty minutes.

 

 

 

Lunch This Week – 1/24/16

Lunch This Week – 1/24/16

After two weeks of a strange schedule that involved just a few lunches at my desk, I’m back to a fully normal week.  Thus, I spent most of my day today preparing food to get ready.lunchthisweek

So, from the left going around: dried mulberries, pecan, and dark chocolate granola; yogurt with Meyer lemon jam; massaged kale salad with preserved Meyer lemons; sweet and salty trail mix (with dried papayas instead of cranberries); a hard boiled egg with cornichons; and a prosciutto and swiss cheese croissant.

Happy eating this week!

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Sometimes, particularly on a rainy PNW day, I like to curl up with a cookbook and just browse the pages, imagining all the cooking I might do. One of my favorite cookbooks with which to while away the hours is The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters. I don’t recall that I intentionally set out to purchase this cookbook – I suspect it might have been a remnant of the cookbook book club days when I often forgot to respond to the email declining my monthly book selection and so ended up with a bigger than intended cookbook library. I’ve only ever made one recipe from Waters’s book – salt preserved kumquats – but that one recipe made me a lifelong aficionado of salt preserved citrus.

Since then, I’ve explored salt preserving regular lemons and have made more salt preserved kumquats, but by far, my favorite citrus to preserve are Meyer Lemons. The combination of salty and sweet and floral livens up so many dishes. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing how I use up my most recent jar of this beautifully simple, lovely condiment. I’ve read that these can last in the refrigerator for up to six months, but I’ve always used them up well before that.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

The lemons take a month to cure. You’ll know they are ready when the remaining pulp in the lemons looks mushy and the rinds are soft. They are an easy preserve – they take just a few minutes to put together and then can go in the back of the refrigerator and be forgotten about until a month has gone by. I do occasionally give them a good shake to distribute the salt a bit, but I don’t think that’s really necessary. I just like to be assured they are coming along as well as be cheered by their sunny lemony appearance.

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons

8 Meyer lemons, thoroughly washed
1 ½ cups kosher salt
Juice from the 8 Meyer lemons
2 bay leaves
6-8 whole black peppercorns

In a pint jar, pour a thin layer of salt – it should just cover the bottom of the jar.

Cut each of the Meyer lemons in half and juice them. Fill each half of the lemon with salt. In a pint jar, layer each lemon half filled with salt and press down each time. After you’ve added three or four lemon halves, place the bay leaves and peppercorns. Continue to layer the remaining salt-filled lemon halves, pressing firmly on each to fit them in the jar. When you’ve gotten as many of the halves in as will fit with about an inch left at the top of the jar, pour in the lemon juice. You may have more juice than you need, so reserve what’s left for other recipes. Run a chopstick or knife around the inside of the jar to release air bubbles and ensure the lemon juice is covering as much of the salt-filled lemons as possible. Pour an additional layer of salt over the lemons at the top of the jar, covering the lemons as much as possible. Put a tight fitting lid on the jar and store in the refrigerator. The lemons will take a month to cure.

When they are ready, pull out each lemon for use, remove the remaining pulp and rinse thoroughly. Only the rind is used.

Daisy’s Birthday Dog Biscuits

Daisy’s Birthday Dog Biscuits

daisysbiscuits3

A year ago, I had to make the awful decision to help my canine companion of 10 years across the rainbow bridge. It was a heart-wrenching decision, and I was thoroughly convinced I would never find another dog. About two months after my dog’s passing, I was feeling sorry for myself and telling Clay that there were no puppies left – I’d never, ever have puppy-love in my life again. That night, perusing the classifieds online, I ran across an ad for Mastador/Golden-Doodle puppies. We went to visit the puppies a week later, and a tiny white and golden pup decided she kind of liked us. A month later, she came home with us, and I spent spring break alternatively fretting about housebreaking and sleeping on the couch, and sometimes the floor, with Daisy.

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Sunday is Daisy’s first birthday. She has an incredibly sweet personality and has blended well into life with our four cats and with us. I thought it fitting to make her some gluten-free biscuits for the big day. The happy birthday message was written with dog-friendly icing. It’s a combo of peanut butter and plain yogurt, which she got to have as icing on a Kong ball filled with homemade dog biscuits and dog food.  daisysbiscuits1

Daisy’s Dog Biscuits

Makes 30 biscuits

3 cups brown rice flour
2 eggs
½ cup pureed pumpkin
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup chicken stock
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and mix. Once the ingredients are mixed together (it will form a very shaggy dough), use your hands to knead a bit. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface (our dog is fairly gluten intolerant, so I used the rice flour to roll out the dough). Roll the dough to about an 1/8th of an inch to a ¼ inch thick. Cut out using cookie cutters. Place the shaped biscuits onto a parchment covered baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Biscuits store well in an airtight container or can be frozen.

 

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta

I’ve been experimenting lately with making just enough panna cotta to make it through the first few days of the week. In my experience, panna cotta can hang out in the fridge without unduly losing any of its creaminess for about three days, so three days worth of panna cotta is my perfect amount. This also helps to get through the first three days of the work-week with a perfect little afternoon snack, and really, in my mind, it’s the first three days of the week that are the hardest. Past Wednesday, the weekend is right around the corner.

I’m also heading into that time of the year when I’m scrutinizing everything that’s left in the freezer from the prior season. To that end, it was time to rescue a bag of raspberries I picked last summer. Thus, small batch raspberry panna cotta was created.pannacottaraspberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Batch Raspberry Panna Cotta
Serves 3

Raspberry Sauce

1 cup raspberries – fresh or frozen
¼ cup sugar

Combine raspberries and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the raspberries begin to break down and the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside to cool and then refrigerate until ready to use.

Small Batch Panna Cotta

½ cup milk
1 teaspoon gelatin
1 ¼ cup half and half
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put ¼ cup of the milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Set aside.

Combine the half and half, the remaining ¼ cup milk, and the vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a simmer. Pour the milk and gelatin mixture and stir, continuing to simmer for one minute. Divide the panna cotta into three small jars – half-pint jars work very well for this. Let the panna cotta cool and then put in the refrigerator until it is set – about 6 hours. Once set, divide the raspberry sauce over the panna cottas. Keep refrigerated until ready to eat.

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix

The theme for me this week has been to keep it simple.  I’d been thinking about experimenting with trail mixes, especially as a prelude to spring and summer hiking, because despite the days and days and days (and days) of rain, I know spring has to be somewhere around the corner, right?  I saw the combination of cranberries and wasabi peas somewhere recently, and thought I’d give it a try.  I wanted a bit more sweet than salty, and the apricots fit the bill.  This is a great snack to parcel out into snack bags and keep handy in the desk drawer or school bag.

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix

Sweet and Salty Trail Mix
Serves 5

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 cup dried apricots, cut into halves
1/4 cup wasabi peas
1 cup salted mixed nuts

Combine all ingredients in a jar.  Keep in an airtight container.

 

 

 

 

Not a Niçoise Salad

Not a Niçoise Salad

This week, I had a serious craving for a robust salad for my lunch. I also wanted smoked salmon, but then became enticed by a smoked trout I found at our local grocery. I’m a fan of a mix of interesting vegetables in a salad and had created what I thought was a Niçoise salad last summer, complete with roasted potatoes, salty kalamata olives, and blanched baby green beans. After doing some research today, I learned that this isn’t strictly a Niçoise salad. So I’ll own up to it not being such a thing and let it stand on its own for just being a great lunch salad.

The smoked trout was a bit too teriyaki-tasting for me and clashed a bit with the pesto dressing. I think either canned tuna or baked salmon would have been a better choice, so have included those as options here

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Pesto Lemon Dressing
Easily dresses 3 salads

3 tablespoons pesto
¼ cup olive oil
Juice from a small lemon
½ teaspoon salt
A few grinds of fresh pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small jar, cover with a tight lid, and shake vigorously.

Not a Niçoise Salad
Serves 3

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut in half
1 package smoked steelhead trout, smoked salmon, or one can canned tuna, or a small fillet of baked salmon
One head endive
One small head romaine lettuce
5 or 6 radishes, sliced
½ cup kalamata olives
1 can quartered artichoke hearts
6 or 7 baby potatoes, quartered and roasted (see below)
Drizzle the baby potatoes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and roast in an oven at 400 degrees for thirty minutes, stirring half way through.

Divide ingredients among three plates or containers. Dress with the pesto lemon dressing.

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