Friday, February 20, 2015

Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto

It seems as though everyone on the island is preparing for the mass school vacation exodus. I popped into the bookstore this morning to grab this book for our trip (not that I'll be leisurely reading on the plane but love the idea of a "vacation book") and overhead three conversations about the eagerness to escape and what new books to pack. And this island we are all fleeing? Well it looks something like a magical (but really freakin' cold) ice kingdom. Here I'm sharing some of local photographer Alison Shaw's amazing shots.

Before we go, I had to try this Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto from the February issue of Bon Appetit. It lived up to all my expectations and makes the perfect winter dinner.

 Oven Risotto with Kale Pesto
 serves 4

1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, divided
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup arborio rice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 small garlic clove
1 cup (packed) fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 cups Tuscan kale leaves, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces Parmesan, finely grated (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Stir in rice; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until some grains are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, bring to a simmer, and cook until pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups very hot water; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and bake in oven until liquid is mostly absorbed but rice is still starchy in the center, 15-18 minutes (it should be undercooked).

Meanwhile, pulse garlic and half of toasted walnuts in a food processor until very finely ground. Add parsley, chives, half of kale, remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and 1/4 cup cold water; process until smooth; season pesto with salt and pepper.

Set saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup very hot water and cook rice, stirring occasionally, until it is tender but still has some bite and sauce is creamy, about 3 minutes. Stir pesto, butter, three-quarters Parmesan, and remaining kale. Adjust consistency with water, if needed (I did), season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with remaining walnuts and cheese.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Winter Juice

You would think that juicing in the dead of winter is really a good sign. It means we're being proactive with our health, getting in front of those flu germs, and gulping down fresh fruits and veggies, right? Well yes, I guess it is all those things but really it isn't a good sign at all - it's a desperate one in fact. We have whipped out the juicer more often this week because it is the last trick in my bag. This weather has taken us through dozen of puzzles, a new gallery wall of marker art, and enough snow play to last a lifetime. Small appliances however (especially with plungers and fierce motors!) are new and exciting. So we are juicing almost everything in our refrigerator drawers as edible experiments. Most have come out well (besides a very bitter orange juice) but this mix is our favorite.

Winter Juice
makes 2 small glasses

6 carrots
1/2 a cucumber
2 apples
1-inch piece of fresh ginger
4 celery stalks

Simply juice the fruits and vegetables according to your machine's instructions. We start with the softest produce and work our way up to the hardest (typically carrots). Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Juices from years past:
Sunny Juice
Healing Pink & Green Juice
Pear Lemon Ginger Juice
Apple Carrot Ginger Juice

Cheers to only 29 more days until Spring!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Clean Slate Salads & Book Giveaway

Getting a new cookbook in the mail is my kind of fun. I flip through it right away, bring it into bed at night, start folding down pages, and ultimately create grocery lists for a handful of first choice recipes. We cook and eat those, check out the other folded pages, again shop and cook, slowly eating our way through it. I'm in the middle of a love affair with this new book, Clean Slate, from the editors of Martha Stewart Living, and am giving away a copy. Leave a comment below to enter the drawing and I will pull a name early next week!

I can't wait for one of you to bring this home. There is so much important information in here from an overview of nutrients (including super detoxifiers, antioxidant powerhouses,  inflammation fighters, and digestive aids) to a simple pantry restock approach, and two specific mind/body detox action plans (one is 3 days and the other is 21 days - both come with full menu guides and recipes). Personally, I'm starting with the 3 day detox plan (call it trip prep or snow distraction strategy #99) and really appreciate the ease of it. You just cook three big batch meals (a smoothie, salad, and soup) to enjoy over the 3 days. It's so simple that I may even be able to talk Nick into it.

I have at least a dozen recipes dog-eared but started in the kitchen with these two salads and loved both.

Farro, Pea Shoot & Goat Cheese Salad
serves 6

1 cup farro
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh shelled peas
2 ounces pea shoots, torn into bite-size pieces
1/3 cup small fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled (1 ounce)

Place farro in a medium saucepan, and cover with 4 inches of water; add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until tender; 30 to 35 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl; let cool completely.

Meanwhile, cook peas in a small saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

Add peas, pea shoots, mint, almonds, and lemon zest to farro. Toss with lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with goat cheese.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado & Pumpkin Seeds
serves 6

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and leaves separated
2 tablespoons raw hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced

Whisk together lemon zest and juice and mustard in a bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

In another bowl, toss dressing with brussels sprout leaves and pumpkin seeds. Gently stir in avocado, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

PS. Tell your friends to enter too and here's a look inside...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Overnight Soaked Oats

We bit the bullet and booked a spontaneous family trip to visit Charleston, South Carolina during the last week of February. From all reports, it's a charming southern city with beautiful architecture, enough fried chicken, pimento cheese, and grits to sink a ship, and lots to do (did I mention it should be in the 60s - practically flip flop weather if I'm concerned). The idea of walking along a snow-free sidewalk gives me goosebumps.

But back to the food. Charleston's local food scene is already impressive and I haven't even set foot in the city yet. Nick and I are eagerly planning every meal and I'm sure we still won't fit in all the recommended spots. So no, this trip is not going to be a light eating experience but will be a memorable one. Before we hit the road, I'm packing in as much work and chores as possible. These overnight soaked oats are my new favorite breakfast for busy weeks- so simple to prepare and perfect for a quick breakfast, the lunchbox, baby's meal, or after school snack. If you have a sweet tooth, drizzle a little maple syrup over the top before digging in. The best part - you don't cook anything, just stir all the ingredients together and you're done.

Overnight Soaked Oats
from Green Kitchen Stories
makes 1 jar, simply multiply for multiple breakfasts

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
a pinch of ground sweet spice (vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom or mixed spice)
a few drops of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon seeds (chia, flax, sesame etc.)
3/4 cup unsweetened plant milk (almond, oat, coconut etc.)
2 tablespoons fresh or frozen fruit (berries, mango etc.)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a small jar and stir. Pour over chosen liquid and stir again then top with fruit. Screw on the lid and place the jarred oats in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

PS. If you are under feet and feet of snow and craving a warm breakfast you can certainly heat the soaked oats up before digging in.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Everything Bagel Mix

The past two weeks have been somewhat like a recurring groundhog day - wake up, eat something, hear that school is canceled, eat something, brave the elements until somebody gets too cold, eat something, read books, build something, then eat again. Yesterday felt like normal life for the first time in a while and I'm starting to plug away at my massive to-do list that grew pretty darn long.

These "eat something" moments are usually filled with a favorite snack like apples and peanut butter or buttered bread. Hummus is typically on the table too usually with crackers and carrots. I've been making my own Everything Bagel Mix using our market's spice bins for some time now - well ever since these kale chips and the salty topping has found its way onto our snack table.

Everything Bagel Mix

1 tablespoon dried onion
1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

We've sprinkled Everything Bagel Mix on top of smashed avocado and hummus (then drizzled with olive oil) but I also want to try it in a breading - perhaps for chicken or tofu?

Stay warm out there!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Potato-Leek Soup

I'm sure the last thing many of you want to see is more pictures of giant piles of snow. But guys we got almost two feet of snow! I have been on the island for hurricanes and average snow storms before but for the first time we were truly housebound with snow piling up our front door and sticking to every window. It started Monday night and a bulldozer came down our road to start the clearing Wednesday morning. Like many others, we had the tub filled with water and candles and batteries at the ready but happily the lights stayed on.

While hunkering down, Nick and I took turns in the kitchen. He made rice, beans, and kale while I soaked some overnight oats, roasted carrots, and made some soups. Here is a simple and yummy potato leek soup. Unlike many potato soups it is not dense or sticky and the buttermilk gives it a good tang.

Potato-Leek Soup
adapted from Serious Eats

2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
2 large leeks, white and pale green parts only, rinsed and roughly chopped 
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock (sub vegetable if you'd like)
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters (about 3/4 pound) 
1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 cup buttermilk 
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1 lemon, juiced
Sliced chives, scallions, or fennel fronds for serving

Heat butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until melted. Add leeks, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft but not browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until potatoes are fall-apart tender, about 15 minutes.

Add heavy cream and buttermilk to pot. Use an immersion blender to blend soup until completely smooth or, working in batches if necessary, transfer soup to a blender. Slowly increase blender speed to high and blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Return soup to the pot. Whisking frequently, bring soup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add lemon juice then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with chives, scallions, fennel fronds, black pepper and olive oil.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Carrot-Banana Super Baby Muffins

We're here on an island awaiting the storm and counting the hours until the power goes out (that is really my least favorite part so I'm unrealistically hoping everything stays on). We are all preparing in our own ways - Nick is reading articles like this on his computer and laughing out loud, Dylan is turning out all the lights and carrying around the cheerfully decorated glass vase and candle he brought home from preschool, I'm cooking like a crazy person, and Gray is running around without a shirt on. We got this.

A couple of mornings ago the boys and I baked these mini muffins in a spontaneous 6:30 am breakfast moment. We developed the recipe as we went and they turned out to be one of the best muffins - flavorful, moist, and full of good stuff. I froze half of the batch for future snacking which just makes me feel so prepared for the blizzard - hello I have 18 mini muffins frozen, what could go wrong!?

Carrot-Banana Super Baby Muffins
makes 36 mini muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut 
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a mini muffin pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat germ, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, flax seeds, and coconut.

3. In another bowl, combine the banana, honey, vanilla, and egg and beat with a hand mixer until combined. Mix in the shredded carrots.

4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.

5. Fill the mini muffin tin and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (If you use a regular muffin pan, bake for 20 minutes; this makes 12-regular sized muffins.)

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