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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Curried butternut squash and brown rice




In a continued effort to pack healthy, veggie or, better yet, vegan lunches, I give you curried butternut squash with brown rice and chickpeas. Thank you to Pinterest and Naturally Ella blog for the idea! I had a butternut squash laying around as a gift from our neighbor's CSA. We always have brown rice in the pantry, and I've been buying chickpeas to make hummus on a regular basis. Canned tomatoes are usually to be found around here too...so, this was also a budget friendly recipe on top of being (at least sounding) delicious. The recipe made enough for four lunches, so next time I might double it...one butternut squash probably gives you enough for two, maybe three of these recipes.  



I know I've said this before, but, just like my Mother says, if I say I'm not hungry, just start sautéing onions in a fat, and I'll change my mind. The onions and garlic in the olive oil smelled sooooo good right away!  


Drop in the butternut squash for a bit, let it start to soften.


After adding in the rice and curry, the smell in the kitchen was amazing. Toasting your spices before adding liquid intensifies and emboldens their flavor.


The tomatoes and their juices along with the chick peas begins the process of cooking the rice, but there isn't enough fluid in just the tomatoes, so...


Adding in the vegetable stock, with some salt, finishes off the active cooking. Just throw the lid on, and wait until the rice is done!


Curried Butternut Squash with Brown Rice and Chickpeas

Ingredients 
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups butternut squash (1/2 inch dice)
1 1/2 tbsp curry powder (we used 1 tbsp regular curry, 1/2 tbsp hot curry)
1/2 cup brown rice
1 can (15oz) diced tomatoes, with juices
1/2 cup rinsed and drained chick peas
Pinch or more of kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth


Start with olive oil in your sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Once heated, add in the onion and garlic.  Cook for two-three minutes, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the butternut squash, cook for another two-three minutes.  Add in the brown rice, and the curry powder, toast for a few minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and a few pinches of kosher salt.  Stir well, cook until heated through.  Pour in vegetable broth, stir well, bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and cook until rice is done, about 45 minutes. Enjoy!  I plan on bringing a little dollop of greek yogurt to add to mine for my lunch, let me know what you do with yours! 



Our lunches for the beginning of the week!




Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pumpkin "Cookies"


If you go back through this blog, you will see the evolution that is our family's work on healthier eating.  Sometimes we're better than others, sometimes it takes a reminder to get back on track. One arrived over Christmas via the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook, as previously mentioned in another recent post.  We do a pretty good job, but it definitely made me take another hard look.

For example, I pack a lunch almost every day for my little one.  She doesn't care for most of what the cafeteria at school serves, she's never been a typical "kid" eater.  Doesn't like hot dogs, doesn't like pizza, not a huge fan of macaroni and cheese.  She IS typical in that when she finds a combination she likes, she wants to stick with it... i.e. eat the same thing everyday.  Therefore, I packed pretty much the same lunch everyday last year: peanut butter and nutella sandwich on whole wheat, cucumber slices, applesauce or other fruit, yogurt pack, 2 oreos, and a chocolate milk box.  My argument was it was "mostly" healthy, and the oreos were a fun treat.  It was not lost on me however that they were the one thing that caused me to shop in the middle of the grocery store, as opposed to produce, organic section, fish counter, and butcher (before we switched to the CSA).

SO, after Christmas and New Year's came and went, and I read my new cookbook, I made my daughter cry.  Let me explain.  I spent the entire day of January 2nd cleaning out my refrigerator and pantry.  It was awful and humbling.  Here I thought we had really done a great job of healthy choices and less wasteful purchasing, but I was wrong.  There were expired items, bottles of sauces that had expired in 2013 (which must have been the last year I did such a cleaning), and all manner of processed crap, er, stuff.  Included in the pile marked: "not expired or dented, to be donated" was an unopened case of Oreos.  They had been purchased as to be ready for 2016 lunch boxes.  I looked at the unopened pack and asked Evie if they could be donated and she give up this processed treat in her lunch during the week.  She is not unfamiliar with the Food Pantry, we've participated in drives for them before.  She bowed her little head and started to say it was okay...and burst into tears. Cue motherly guilt and feeling like a food monster. I gave her a big hug and praised her, and then immediately offered the alternative: her favorite pumpkin cookies.  She brightened right up!  This cookie recipe came to us via our friend Jen, or Aunt Jen as Evie calls her.  When Evie was discharged from a hospital stay, Jen arrived at our home with three homemade (and delicious) ready-to-heat meals for us along with a plate of iced pumpkin cookies.  Those cookies were the first thing my daughter was able to eat by mouth for the first time in almost three weeks.  To say they're somewhat of a favorite around here is an understatement.

Okay. So, we found our Oreo alternative.  Now I had to make it match our new food rule.  No white sugar = honey.  No white flour = whole wheat flour.  Everything else in this cookie is completely okay as long as I skip the glaze.  Therefore, I recognize that this is basically pumpkin bread in cookie shape.  And I'm okay with that.  I baked up my first batch and they disappeared, my daughter and husband begging for "just one more, please?"  I intend to try these sometime with real maple syrup, I'm guessing it would bring it back to a more sweet, cookie like flavor.  For now though, I'm happy with our adaptation!



Pumpkin "Cookies"


1 stick of butter, softened
3/4 cup raw honey
1 14oz can pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°

In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In the mixer, beat butter and honey until incorporated. Add the pumpkin puree, egg, and vanilla, beat until smooth.   Slowly add in flour mixture, beat until fully incorporated.

Place dollops (about 2 tablespoons worth) of batter on cookie sheets, bake for 15 minutes (start checking them at 12 minutes).







Friday, January 8, 2016

Kimchi Fried Rice



It sounds fancy, but it's not difficult...don't let this one scare you! Kimchi fried rice is actually a fabulous meal (or side dish, depending) for during the week. Really! The only things you really need to have are: leftover rice (two-three days out is best), kimchi (Korean marinated cabbage - found in the produce section, the jars are marked mild or hot), eggs, tamari (soy sauce). For the best results, having toasted sesame oil, seeds, onion, and carrots are a must. The dish comes together in less than one half hour, throw in a salad, and you have dinner!

In fact, this meal comes from Curtis Stone's What's for Dinner? This is a great cookbook to have, both for tasty meals and also for busy cooks. Some of them look a little more daunting than others, and those I plan to try when I have more time...just to see if I could pull it off during the week, say in the mad rush before choir practice or Brownies.  Back to the fried rice. I love putting fried rice on the week's menu, and this recipe is my favorite I've found for such a meal. All I have to do is to remember to cook up a big vat of brown rice on Saturday or Sunday. Once it's cooked, I cool it, and throw it in the refrigerator until I need it!

Sundays are usually my big cooking days, we try to have a big Sunday dinner after church, then turn those leftovers into either more meals or lunches. I also bake Evie's "cookies" and anything else I'll need ahead of time during the week. Makes me less nuts when Monday hits. Making a pot of brown rice usually takes anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the type and how much you're making.  

Kimchi Fried Rice

adapted from Whats for Dinner? ©2013 Curtis Stone

6 tablespoons unrefined sesame oil (or canola oil)
4 large eggs, beaten
4 cups 2-3 day old cooked brown rice
1 onion, diced
3-4 carrots, diced
1 1/2 cup drained and chopped kimchi
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds
Sriracha or other hot sauce for serving

Heat 2 tablespoons of the unrefined sesame oil (do NOT use the toasted sesame oil) over medium heat, then add beaten eggs.  Stir eggs around for about 30 seconds, then remove to a plate.

Add to the pan the remaining 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of unrefined sesame oil.  Once heated, add the diced onions and sauté for one minute.  Add the cooked rice, stir to combine with onions, and then leave it be for 3 minutes.  After three minutes, stir the rice around again, and add the diced carrots.  Cook for 2 minutes, then add the kimchi, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil.  Finally, stir back in the eggs until fully incorporated  Cook until all is heated through.  

Spoon into bowls, top with sesame seeds, chopped scallions, and serve with hot sauce at the table.  My preference is Sambal Oelek, the husband prefers Sriracha.   Enjoy!





Saturday, January 2, 2016

Old school twice-baked potatoes and other real food musings

Happy New Year from Cookin' Mama!  Resolution #3 of 3 was to keep up with the recipe blog.  In that spirit, here are some musings + a newly tried recipe at our home!  It was a success and I hope it will be for you.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer in that I really only baked the potatoes once. This recipe is pretty simple though, and tasty!  I adapted it from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, which, even with all of my fancy new cookbooks, is still my favorite kitchen reference book.  It was originally published in the late 1800s as the Boston School Cook Book.  My Mama (the original cookin mama who taught all day yet always had a cooked meal on the table each night) had a Fannie Farmer at the ready at all times as well. I use it as a reference for many things, especially when I want to go "old school" which in today's terminology would be "real food."

Speaking of real food...my Mama got me the 100 Days of Real Food Cookbook as a Christmas present. I kind of love that this has become a new tradition...a cookbook from my Mama to Cookin Mama each year. I sat today (the day after Christmas) and read through the first part of the book. A lot of the items are things we're already doing. BUT (big but) there were a lot of reminders of what we SHOULD be doing!! Consequently, I immediately felt the need to clean up our eating.  We made the decision mid-2015 to only consume locally, humanely raised meat, so we only use our North Mountain Pastures meat when wanting those types of meals.  It comes to us frozen, so when I didn't thaw/plan well, or, as I like to call it: Sudden Pantry Recipe Night, we have to go vegetarian.  Pantry Recipe means I go through the left over ingredients from other meals plus whatever is in the pantry, and I make dinner.  Thankfully, this evening we had a lot of fresh ingredients and some good things left in the dairy drawer! It doesn't say so in the ingredient list below, but all items were purchased as organic/pasture raise/etc. where possible.  (I can see some of you now making comments about "pasture raised potatoes.")

I only had little yukon gold potatoes left, but with a salad, it made a pleasant dinner.  I was gifted a homemade ranch dressing mix for Christmas by an awesome co-worker, and I had leftover buttermilk from another recipe, so we had a treat for the salad dressing!  The potatoes came together quickly, aside from the baking time, it could be a good weeknight dinner on the fly.  A little high on the fat content, but at least it was mostly real food ingredients!

Twice-Baked Potatoes

adapted from Fannie Farmer

Yukon Gold Potatoes (depending on size, one per person)
Fresh Chives, chopped
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Unsalted Butter
Cream Cheese

Heat oven to 450°.  Scrub potatoes, dry, cover with olive oil and himalayan salt.  Bake until done. Usually 1 hour for large, 45 for smaller.  Test by piercing with a fork or knife.   Take from oven and allow to cool slightly.  In the meantime, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add 2-4 tablespoons cream or milk per potato, 1 oz cream cheese per potato, and 2-4 tablespoons unsalted butter to taste.  Cut open potatoes, scoop out flesh.  Add to mixture in stand mixer, beat until semi-smooth.  Add in chopped fresh herbs, stir until evenly distributed.  Scoop mixture back into potato, place back in oven briefly to re-warm. I had turned off my oven, but left it closed, it worked out very well to reheat while I threw together the salad.

All of us enjoyed the stuffed baked potato, and the salad was good...it could have used some nuts and dried fruit, but the spices in the buttermilk really made a great dressing!


Monday, September 21, 2015

Curried Chicken and Cauliflower


It's been a little while since I shared a recipe or my ramblings.  To get you caught up: the school year is off to a good start, MUCH better than last year.  The Mister's work has been very busy.  My new(ish) job continues to be wonderful and wonderfully family friendly. With school and other activities starting back up, I buckled down and got back to true meal planning.  Aiding me in this endeavor is our new meat CSA with North Mountain Pastures.  




What is a meat CSA you ask?  Have you heard of the produce CSA, where you receive either a monthly or weekly box of fresh produce?  Well, this is the meat version of it.  We tried vegan and vegetarian, and honestly, we're really good at it for breakfast and lunch.  Dinners are another story.  However, in an effort to be (in no particular order): healthy, environmentally friendly, kinder to animals, did I mention healthy?, we looked for a local alternative to purchasing industrially farmed meat protein at the local grocery stores.  Here in Central PA there are a lot of great options!  Thanks to the wonders of Facebook and my equally wonderful friends, many ideas, tips and tricks were sent our way.  The most often mentioned and mentioned favorably was North Mountain Pastures.  

We signed up the next day.  However, we signed up after the August delivery, but they very kindly cobbled together a "share" for us.  It wasn't exactly the usual they said, but I was happy with what we got!  It included: all natural hot dogs, bacon, linconshire sausages, pork shanks, pork chops, two whole chickens (more on them in a second), ground beef, and a beef soup bone.  Considering we're doing our best to make meat more of the side in many dishes, this was a perfect share!  We also love doing roast chicken on Sunday, having a big Sunday dinner, then using leftovers for other meals and lunches while making stock and then soup from the bones.  I made a list of what we received, took a look at the September calendar, and started making my meal plans and shopping lists.  As I type this, we are three days away from receiving our next share, and all that is left is the beef soup bone.  I figured I'll wait to use that until the weather is really cold and make something warm and comforting!

Back to today's recipe.  We had two whole chickens, as mentioned above.  One, we roasted as we normally do, then used the leftovers to make chicken noodle soup.  Let me tell you, homemade soup made from homemade stock that is thickened with the gravy from the roast chicken meal...oh my goodness.  To top it off, it was all gluten free.  The second chicken was used for this recipe, a recipe given to me by my friend Angela.  Because of this recipe she should really be listed as my super bestest friend in the whole wide world and oh my goodness, what other recipes do you have my dear friend Angela?!  But, for this post, we'll just go with "Angela."  She sent it to me via FB private messenger, I copied and pasted to print, and we made it tonight.  

Let me back up though.  As I mentioned, we had a WHOLE chicken left.  Not pieces.  This original recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Therefore, I found myself googling "how to cut up a whole chicken."  I found this fabulous video from the New York Times.  Not only do you get the chicken pieces, you also get the backbone for stock!  Bonus!  I cannot show you pictures of the process because my lovely husband had the job of cutting it up while I read bedtime stories.  

Here are the wonderful things about this recipe:
  1. Aside from cutting up the chicken, the prep work is minimal.
  2. The ingredients are not difficult to find or get.
  3. I believe it is what they call Paleo for those of you watching that. 
  4. It cooks on ONE SHEET PAN!  Put some aluminum foil or parchment paper down...easy cleaning!
  5. It is DELICIOUS!!!


Without further ado, here is the recipe:


This is my plate.  I got a thigh and a wing.  I would have been happy with just the cauliflower mix though!


Curried Chicken and Cauliflower with Apricots and Olives

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or, whole chicken pieces, bone in, skin on - or,  
    whatever. Do chicken pieces of some sort)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Kosher salt
1 large head cauliflower, broken into bite sized florets
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 5 mins and drained.
1 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered if large
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 large lemon, cut into wedges

In bowl/container with lid, combine chicken with 2 Tbsp. oil, vinegar,  2 tsp. of the curry powder, 1/2 tsp. of the paprika, cinnamon, and cayennne, and 3/4 tsp. salt, tossing to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450.  Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment.  On the pan, combine the cauliflower with remaining oil, curry powder, paprika, and 3/4 tsp. salt, tossing to coat.  Add the apricots and olives and spread in a single layer. 

Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, fold back into original shape, and place them on top of the cauliflower, spaced evenly apart.  Roast, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cauliflower browns and the chicken cooks through, about 35 minutes.


Remove chicken from the pan and toss the cauliflower mixture with the pan drippings. Serve the chicken and cauliflower mixture sprinkled with chopped cilantro and lemon wedges on the side. (I COMPLETELY FORGOT to put the cilantro and lemon wedges at the table...we didn't miss them one bit, but I'll bet it would have added a nice touch!)

Enjoy!