Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter Muesli

Most mornings I have a bowl of muesli for breakfast, typically with yogurt, and a big cup of coffee. After scooping pound after pound of the Swiss breakfast from the bulk bins at our local market I realized it was high time to make my own and happily, the process and recipe couldn't be simpler. 

We are usually up a good hour (at least) before sunrise so I'm especially enjoying our newly decorated tree during those early morning hours when I feel like we are the only people awake in all of America. If you look closely, our tree perfectly describes our family life right now. There are no ornaments on the lower third (for fear of one year old consumption), the silver garland is pulled off in most places, and all the ornaments are three or four to a branch (apparently Dylan is into the layered look this year). It's so sweet and anything but perfect.

Winter Muesli
makes about 4 cups

2 cups classic rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
5 dates, pitted and chopped
Milk or yogurt for serving

Using your hands, simply toss everything together in a large bowl. Be mindful of the sticky dates as they tend to clump together but once everything is in contact with the oats the clumps will loosen up. Muesli can be eaten with milk like a traditional cereal, sprinkled over yogurt, or soaked in milk overnight to soften up its texture. I like it all three ways. For those who like a little sweetness, simply drizzle over some honey or maple syrup.

A large mason jar filled with muesli, tied with a ribbon, and small recipe card attached would make a great gift for those left on your list (especially beloved teachers and neighbors). Because muesli is gluten free (if you purchase certified GF oats), vegan, and easily adapted to be nut free (substitute walnuts for pumpkin or sunflower seeds) it works for everyone. If you want to make a few personal mixes some additions that I especially enjoy are dried unsweetened cherries, shredded coconut, chopped pecans, and dried blueberries.

Here are a couple humble holiday shots of our home via my instagram.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Farrotto with Acorn Squash & Kale

I'm sitting here at our kitchen table with Nick and my dad tearing out our 8 remaining windows from 1924. I am shocked Gray is sleeping through the rip and roar. This is how it seems to be lately - moments of pause amongst frantic events. I finally got my act together this week to prepare dinner while the sun was still up so I could actually snap some photos and share it with you. We've had some yummy meals lately but they've all happened after the 4:13pm sunset and are in our stomachs come the sunny (photographable) morning. How I wish I had just one shot of that apple cider braised chicken.

I knew I had to make time for this recipe when a food-loving friend of mine emailed me "If you still have Heritage, turn to page 93 and cook!  Did not disappoint, flavors are right up your alley (and mine)! It seems only fair to pass along the advice so fill a mug and stretch out that stirring arm as quick a farrotto is not.

Farrotto with Acorn Squash & Kale
from Heritage

Acorn Squash:
1 small acorn squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Scant 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
1 bunch Red Russian or other kale (about 3 pounds)

2 quarts vegetable stock
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1 1/2 cups farro
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup diced white onion
1 garlic clove, sliced paper-thin
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the squash in half. Remove and discard the seeds and rinse the squash under cold water. Place the squash cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Divide the butter between the two halves and sprinkle with the salt and white pepper. Roast the squash for 35 minutes, or until fork-tender.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the kale: Remove the stems and ribs from the leaves. Make stacks of the leaves, roll them into cylinders, and cut them into very thin ribbons. Wash the kale in a sink of cold water, changing it several times, to remove any sand. Drain and dry with paper towels.

When the squash is done, remove it from the oven and pour the butter and juices from the cavities into a blender. Let the squash cool enough to handle.

Warm the stock in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Peel the squash. Place the pulp in the blender, add warm stock, and blend on high to a very smooth puree, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

For the farrotto: Preheat the oven to 425 F. Heat the stock in a partially covered large saucepan over medium heat; keep warm over low heat.

Heat the canola oil in a medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the farro and stir to coat it with the oil. Place the skillet in the oven and toast the farro for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes. Transfer the farro to a bowl and reserve. Wipe the skillet clean.

Put the empty skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, about 2 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of the butter and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat to high, and cook until the wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the toasted farro to the pan and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup of the warm stock, reduce the heat to medium, and stir until the liquid is almost absorbed before adding the next, until the farro grains have expanded and are al dente, about 1 hour. The farro will look creamy like risotto.

To complete: Remove the farro from the heat, add the squash puree and kale, and stir until the kale is wilted. Put the skillet back over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and cheese. Stir and serve.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Turnips in Coconut and Mustard Seed Curry

I remember thinking last winter, overwhelmed by mothering a newborn and 3 year old under feet of snow, that I would never feel light and free again. I wondered if there would ever be a day I could take Dylan on a special outing just the two of us, listen to the radio in a quiet car, or get a hair cut. Slowly these (seemingly trivial) things are coming back to me and because this past year's efforts are still so fresh I'm really appreciating them.

Just before Thanksgiving, Dylan and I went on a special adventure to the Cape Poge Lighthouse. We piled into the back of an open pick up truck with friends and drove over sand, through the sea, and up to the light. We climbed to the top and saw, because it was a clear day, all the way to Nantucket. For the first time in 14 months I wasn't looking at a clock, worried about impending nursing or nap time, but was able to simply enjoy this magical place and my little guy's company. Don't get me wrong, everyday is not this smooth, but it helps to have a little push now and then. On the way home I caught a minute of The Splendid Table and decided to make Turnips in Coconut and Mustard Seed Curry right away. It was the best curry I've made at home - a must try.

PS. If a Yukon gold potato and a parsnip had a baby it would be a young turnip.

Turnips in Coconut and Mustard Seed Curry 
From The Splendid Table (via Vikas Khanna)
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds *I used yellow because that's what I had
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic 
1 small red onion, finely chopped 
1 fresh green chile pepper (such as serrano) seeded and minced *I omitted for the kids
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 tablespoon ground coriander 
1 medium tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped 
1 pound tender turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk *I used the whole 15-ounce can
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup water 
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, for garnish *I left out because didn't have any

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until crackling, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, and green chile and cook until onion turns golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the cumin, coriander, and tomato and cook, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Add the turnips, coconut milk, turmeric, and salt and mix until all the ingredients are well combined. Add water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the turnips are cooked, 15 to 20 minutes. Increase the heat to high and cook until any remaining water is evaporated, about 3 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with dill.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

White Bean & Butternut Squash Mash (with Garlic & Sage)

There is a storm a brewin' and this island is full of panic. Because we have a ticket to get our car on the ferry I received an email warning of major ferry cancellations tomorrow due to stormy weather. Everyone I've run into since reading the news is trying to figure out how to make it out of here (or get their families here) safely. I have my fingers crossed we'll sail away tomorrow morning before the winds pick up.

We are heading to Truro for all seven cousins to takeover two houses for five days. Menu talk is in full swing at our house but if you have yet to finalize your Thanksgiving sides I highly recommend this White Bean & Butternut Squash Mash (with Garlic & Sage). Here are snapshots of the leftovers eaten on toast with baby arugula but it is the perfect creamy and rich puree on its own.

White Bean & Butternut Squash Mash (with Garlic & Sage)
Slightly adapted from The Nourished Kitchen

1 cup cooked white beans
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
4 large cloves garlic, in their skins
Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup chicken stock (sub vegetable stock if you'd like)
1/2 cup heavy cream

PS. This is a great puree for babies as well - full of protein, fat, and veggies.

(The daily wild turkey chase).

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Split the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out its seeds. Stuff the cavity of each squash half with 2 cloves of garlic, then carefully invert them onto the baking sheet. Brush a bit of oil over the squash's skin to help loosen the skin from the flesh as the squash roasts. Roast the squash in the oven to 45 minutes, or until the flesh yields easily when pressed with a fork. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool until it becomes comfortable to handle.

3. Take each clove of garlic from the squash's cavity and press it gently between your thumb and forefinger to remove the garlic from its papery skin. Discard the skin. Add the garlic to a food processor. Scoop the flesh of the squash from the skins and drop it into the food processor.

4. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, stir in the sage, and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the cooked beans and chicken broth and simmer until the broth reduces by half, 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Pour the beans and cream into the food processor with the squash and puree until smooth. Serve warm.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Cranberry-Orange Muffins

Most mornings Dylan builds an elaborate structure of some kind before pre-school. Sometimes it's out of magna-tiles, other times out of legos or blocks. The moment he walks out the door I quickly take pictures of it from all angles so I can try and fix it, to my best ability, after his little brother inevitably knocks it down. Some days I pass the test and he doesn't catch my mistakes in a wall or tower but other times he knows right away that something is different and starts to inquire about every detail of my day - did anyone come over, what did Gray do, did I touch anything?

It's this balance of a spastic one year old and thoughtful four year old that is challenging. Baking together as a threesome is not that fun these days. The little guy wants to splash in the flour while the big guy wants to crack the eggs all by himself. Lately, when Gray is napping Dylan and I get to work in the kitchen together where used the rest of our locally harvested cranberries to make muffins. Baby brother was quite happy when he woke up.

PS. The cheetah is basically part of the family.

Cranberry-Orange Muffins
From Flour

3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/3 cups pure cane sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup creme fraiche, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
2 cups chopped cranberries

(The zoo before being demolished.)

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, coat with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed. Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, milk, creme fraiche, and vanilla until well combined. Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until the ingredients are combined. Gently fold in the cranberries and orange zest until evenly distributed. The batter may seem lumpy, but don't try to smooth it out.

3. Spoon the batter in to the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups to the rim (almost overflowing).

4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.

5. The muffins taste best on the day they are baked, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. If you keep them for longer than 1 day, refresh them in a 300 F oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or, you can freeze them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 1 week; reheat, directly from the freezer, in a 300 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Whole Roasted Carrots with Dill

Now that we have two children it is divide and conquer at bedtime. The boys have a bath together and I nurse and snuggle Gray while Nick reads to Dylan (and his stuffed animals). They have been getting into short chapter books this year. Stewart Little, My Fathers Dragon, Dr. Doolittle, and Charlotte's Web are a handful of favorites. But at the top of the list (I think they've read them a few times each now) is Pooh's Library: Winnie-The-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six.

Because of this beloved relationship with the friends of the 100 Acre Wood, we have adapted a few Pooh-isms. So like Pooh Bear, when Dylan is feeling hungry, he says he's feeling "a little eleven o'clockish". I laugh every time because it perfectly describes how most people are feeling that time of day. Although not an obvious snack choice these roasted carrots tossed with fresh dill hit the spot around eleven the other morning (which is essentially lunch time when you wake up at 5 am right!?) and would make a great holiday side dish.

You can adjust the number of carrots any way you'd like and if you love dill then just toss more on. I like to roast them in our cast iron skillet to create a nice crust but a baking sheet would be fine too. 

Whole Roasted Carrots with Dill
1 bunch whole carrots, peeled
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

PS. I had to stop and snap these driving to preschool. Seriously fall, you rule.

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Toss whole carrots with olive oil, salt, and pepper and arrange in a single layer in a large cast iron skillet.

2. Roast for 30 minutes or until they are deeply caramelized. Remove from the oven and toss fresh dill into the pan, shake everything around and serve.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Popovers with Cranberry Butter

Most of the time I forget we live on an island but sometimes it hits me like a ton of bricks. Yesterday, Dylan and I were talking about all the kids in his class. I mentioned one little boy and he said "Oh no, he's not in my class anymore because he moved to (long pause) AMERICA!" America being off-island. Should I worry about this perception or appreciate its humor?

Maybe it's the holidays creeping up on us but I'm also dying to go to Trader Joe's (mainly for dried blueberries because our baby is obsessed) and Target (mainly for nothing I really need). Alas, those places are an ocean away but guess what, we have a cranberry bog! Recently, I took the boys to Cranberry Acres to harvest organic island grown cranberries. I wish I had my good camera but a bog + 2 boys + harvesting + expensive camera = disaster.

When we got home Dylan suggested making cranberry butter after having some at school (a friend brought in berries from Cranberry Day and their Island Grown Schools teacher made the butter.) We gave it a shot and he approved. And to me, any good butter deserves a warm popover. 

makes 6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F for 20 minutes. Evenly divide the butter between a six cup popover pan or six 1/2 cup ramekins, dropping a small piece into each cup.

2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs then whisk in the milk.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until well blended. Gently whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until small lumps are left, and set aside.

4. Place the popover tin on  baking sheet and into the oven for 4 minutes. At 3 minutes, give the batter a light whisk. Remove the hot tin from the oven and immediately divide the batter among the prepared cups (I like to first pour the batter into a large liquid measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring).

5. Bake for 25 minutes without opening the oven door. The popovers will be puffy, with crisp brown crusts and hollow, moist interiors. Serve immediately with cranberry butter.

Cranberry Butter:
makes 2 cups

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon honey 
1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest
1. Simply whiz everything together in a food processor, pausing to scrape down the sides, until the cranberries are fully incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy.
Extra cranberry butter is great on toast, spread under the skin of poultry before roasting, atop roasted root vegetables, sauteed green beans, or boiled potatoes, and spread onto muffins.  

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