November 29, 2009

Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge (congee-style)

Before diving into making Christmas sweets I needed some detox food to recover from my Thanksgiving indulgences. My mother made a wonderfully simple squash and rice soup for our Black Friday brunch and I couldn't resist playing with the idea when I got home. I used up one of my smaller butternut squash with short grain brown rice. After they cooked together to make a creamy porridge I topped it with green onions, fresh ginger, soy sauce and fried locally-grown shiitake mushrooms. It was savory and comforting and was the perfect stomach healing food I craved. I also tried out a variation with brown sugar and Earth Balance margarine for my son. Alas, he objected to the squash, which is usually a favorite vegetable of him. I thought it was pretty tasty myself but not as appealing as the savory version. Here is what I did:

Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge
Based on this recipe for Yum Yum Brown Rice Congee
Makes 4 servings

1/2 cup short brown rice
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup peeled and diced (1/2 inch dice) butternut squash, other squash or pumpkin
toppings (suggestions listed at the end)

-Add the brown rice, salt and water to a small soup pot. Bring to a boil, stir and then reduce the heat to a strong simmer. Cook covered for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
-Add in the squash and bring back to a strong simmer. Cook covered for another 30-45 minutes until the squash is tender.
-Top with your desired toppings and serve warm.

Optional toppings:
-sliced green onion, fried shiitake mushrooms, freshly grated ginger, soy sauce, chili oil
-brown sugar and butter (or EB)
-if I had some I would have tried some kim chee and a poached egg or maybe

Another variation with brown sugar and Earth Balance margarine
(real butter or a splash of cream would be even better if you can have them)
This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
bok choi, parsley and rosemary, rye bread (my favorite), apples, potatoes, salad greens and kale
*note the cat tail and rear, they were eager to be fed
It's been ages since I posted a shot of Abbie.
She likes to annoy me by sitting on the counter, where she isn't supposed to be, and chewing on the squash stems.

November 27, 2009

DB Cannoli, done dairy-free

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli. My prior experiences with this pastry were that the taste never lived up to the pretty image they presented. However, a chance to try making something new is always welcome and so I dove in hoping for the best. The shells themselves didn't have any dairy ingredients and I made just as the recipe stated. They were time consuming to roll and fry, since I could only roll up four at a time and only fry one or two at a time but it all went relatively well. Can fried dough ever *really* disappoint? The filling is where I dropped the ball.

I decided to try two experiments. Number one, make a typical tofu pudding with silken tofu and melted chocolate. I've been making this pudding since my college days and made with dark chocolate it's always fairly decent. But since my dairy-allergic son isn't a fan of dark chocolate he hasn't liked the tofu pudding I've made in the past. So, I tried making a "Milkless" milk chocolate pudding...big mistake. I used up the last of his leftover Halloween chocolate skulls, which I had ordered from Premium Chocolatiers. They were a lot of fun to watch melt! Along with the melted chocolate, I added a smidge of soy milk, a pinch of salt and splash of vanilla to blend together with a block of silken tofu. Warm it tasted ok but it was too runny to pipe into the cannoli and after it chilled it looked nice enough but had a very harsh soy taste. The pudding did look pretty piped into the cannoli though.

My second experiment was tastier but visually and texturally even a bigger failure. I decided to try and make an almond creme using soaked almonds. I took a chance and left the skins on the almonds knowing that they would make the texture a little rough, but I thought more texture might be good. Then I added a little coconut oil along with powdered sugar and almond extract to make what I hoped would be a ricotta-like, creamy filling. The coconut oil added smoothness to the warm blended mixture. Again my experimenting fell apart when I chilled the creme so that it would be better suited to fill the cannolis. The coconut oil separated out and left tiny fat blobs floating in pureed nuts and liquid. Ah well, it did still taste good.

I've never had a bought cannoli that I loved and although I hoped differently I had a suspicion that it would end up this way. Maybe they just aren't the dessert for me. Thanks to Lisa for the experience, it's always fun to deep fry things!

-The full recipe for cannoli (including what is surely a much tastier filling than mine made with ricotta cheese) can be found HERE at Lisa's blog Parsley, Sage Desserts and Lineups.
-For the recipes Lisa adapted to create the challenge check out these two cookbooks: Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook: As Compiled by Artie Bucco by Allen Rucker and Michele Scicolone
-Are you curious about how to become a Daring Baker yourself? Visit the Daring Kitchen! There you can also check out all the other cannoli made this month by browsing the Daring Baker Blogroll.

"Milkless" chocolate skulls from Premium Chocolatiers
Die you evil chocolate spawn of Satan!
My finished cannoli, tofu pudding filled (bottom) and almond creme filled (top)

November 24, 2009

This year's pumpkin and squash lineup

My squash and pumpkin pile is growing significantly smaller and soon the rest will get stored out of sight to make room for Christmas decorations. (I'm itching to start playing Christmas music and making gingerbread!) Inspired by this post on the blog Popcorn Homestead, I took a quick shot of the varieties I grew this year to post my thoughts on each.

Long Island Cheese, I fell in love with this variety during the years I lived without enough space to grow pumpkins. A farm stand down the road sold them and I loved their flavor and deep orange-colored flesh. It performed moderately well this year but I only got one really big one. Musque de Provence, I bought this variety because I liked the look of the deep ribs, very Cinderella's carriage I thought. Though they didn't ripen to the tan color expected (probably due to my late start) they produced quite a few exceptionally large pumpkins. It was easily the most prolific pumpkin in the garden this year, pound for pound. When I first picked them after frost killed the plants, the flesh was pale and not terribly flavorful. However, after a few weeks of curing the flesh is now a gorgeous color (the top photo is a cut Musque de Provence) and very tasty. A batch of roasted puree from one of these monsters is waiting in the fridge for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. I'll be planting these again and I can see them replacing the Long Island Cheese in my garden.
Marina di Chioggia, these didn't do well. I only was able to harvest two usable pumpkins and I thought the flesh seemed overly starchy. Plus, mine didn't get the interesting bubbled look.
Bliss, the "frog skin" description coerced me into trying this pumpkin. It produced lots of small fruit but many of them were not mature inside. They did make attractive decorations stacked on top of each other. The less sweet flavor of the flesh has me struggling to find a recipe to make with them that my whole family will like. This Quick Asian-Spiced Kabocha (Winter Squash) from One Frugal Foodie is a recipe I plan on trying.
Waltham Butternut Squash, with all the pumpkin seeds I purchased I hadn't planned on growing squash as well, but my husband surprised me with a heirloom seed collection that included this butternut squash. Well I'm very glad I planted it, the plants produced a ton of squash! A few were large but many of them are the perfect size just for a single meal.

*With my substantial harvest, I've gone through many recipes for soup, muffins, roasted, and bread with squash and pumpkins. Of those I've tried so far this year these two are my favorites:

Pumpkin Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls, I made these with maple frosting and soy milk and margarine in place of the milk and butter.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Bars, A Paula Dean recipe without a pound of butter! These bars are very moist and plenty sweet and rich enough without the frosting. I topped mine with a little powdered sugar instead. I liked them best with two of the eggs swapped out for flaxseed meal and I bet they would be good made vegan with all flax.

**For next year I'd like to add these to my garden:

American Tondo, I saw these at the farmer's market and love the look of them.

Table Gold Acorn Squash, I grew these many years ago and liked them cooked young like patty pan squash as well as mature. I missed having acorn squash to serve stuffed this year.

November 21, 2009

This week's 9 Bean Rows Share

This week's 9 Bean Rows share: (clockwise from top)
kale and parsley,
argula/rocket (I have to get the name of this variety because I really like the taste),
whole wheat bread, radishes, big bag of potatoes,
apples (a little too sweet for fresh eating-I'm thinking pie),
collards and salad greens

It was pretty basic cooking this week though Alex and I managed to eat our way through two more squash. I think I should move the rest of my pile into the garage to store them after I get out Christmas decorations next week. Will they get too cold? I have no idea. We're heading down south for Thanksgiving and so I have to figure out what what I can bring that will taste good chilled and reheated. Or maybe it'll just bring baked goods...

There aren't any pictures of food I cooked this week and I don't really think too many of you want to see the photo of the dead squirrel Fritz dragged home. Instead here's a Lego minifig my son Alex made that I really like. He built the entire body out of little pieces.

November 15, 2009

Another beautiful Indian summer week

This week's 9 Bean Rows box (clockwise from top right):
small collard leaves, kale,
bread (which was really great this week and couldn't make it whole into the shot),
apples (huge and really juicy),
a rocket variety, red potatoes, parsley and rosemary,
mizuna (which I ate Saturday morning with this Warm Miso, Maple and Bacon Dressing),
mixed salad greens, and
a large head of bok choi (which I think I'm going to try in some egg foo young/an Asian omelet-- my plan is to somehow combine these two recipes Shiitake, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Foo Yung and Mushroom Egg Foo Young with Gravy and swap in the bok choi for one of the vegetables.)

We had another week of beautiful weather and I made a serious dent in my pumpkin/squash collection. The huge butternut squash from last week went into a roasted vegetable mix. Then I used it in pasta and with apples in a salad. I also baked off some turban squash and made a batch of vegan pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. I thought they were great but my son Alex drove me nuts by loving the raw batter but only eating one of the cooked muffins!?

I attempted a cinnamon cupcake with an apple leather swirl (inspired by this ginger pumpkin cake) but they were overfilled and I shouldn't have let the apple leather stick out. They spilled all over and the leather stuck out too much, back to the drawing board...
Today we stayed in. Alex and I played several games of Jenga Max, which is very fun but maybe a tad to easy to beat. Alex helped make pizza for lunch. He's determined to be super creative with his pizza shapes and has been making balls and rolls. Today he came up with this pizza "Fortune Cookie", it was quite tasty.

November 6, 2009

9 Bean Rows share and the Dog Hill dogs

This week's 9 Bean Rows box and my plans: (clockwise from top right)
salad greens - more cashew/tamari dressing on these
Swiss chard - lots of caramelized onions is how I make this, my least favorite green, edible
bread - my son Alex stole most of the soft middle and John and I are sharing the crust
curly parsley - with apples in a quinoa salad with fennel bulbs from my garden
walnuts - added to the pile for my Christmas nut bowl and some for the above salad
apples - see parsley, plus it has been FAR too long since I made some cupcakes and I need to think of an entry for this month's Iron Cupcake Earth: Apple
garlic - I'm feeling a pot roast urge coming on
radishes - ume plum vinegar, black pepper and honey dressing
fingerling potatoes - pot roast as well
butternut squash - Crap, I already have 10 sitting on my counter and that's not including the pumpkins!! This one isn't in great shape so it has to be used quickly, maybe roasted in cubes and tossed with pine nuts and pasta...or more pumpkin bread.
kale - in bean soup later this week
pak choi - in miso soup

Now that I've gotten my autumn olive jam and leather done for this year, I've moved on to what's left in my garden. I harvested the Late Flat Dutch Cabbage on the left and they're in my crock becoming sauerkraut. Our dog Karmal is making sure there aren't any stray chipmunks that could cause me grief.
Most of my husk cherries are already jam but I keep finding a few strays while cleaning up. Maybe even enough for a torte. I have this recipe saved, it's on the list all the way at the bottom and husk cherries are called their other name, cape gooseberries but the almond/husk cherry combination sounds good so I'd like to give it a try.
Roxy helped consume some of the apples from the many trees on our land.
The criticism of CAFOs is becoming more main stream. If you missed it, last night's Bones episode dealt with factory farming. I'm a fan of the show as well as Kathy Reichs's novels and was happy to see them touch on a topic I care about. If you missed it, you can watch Bones: The Tough Man in the Tender Chicken on Hulu. Do you know where your chicken came from or how it was raised?

November 5, 2009

Smoky Collard Greens (no meat version)

No rain for trick-or-treating, sun peeking out from behind the clouds all week long and bearable temperatures even though we saw a few snowflakes. I'm a happy girl.

So between tests of every pumpkin cake/bread recipe I can find, to use up some of my squash-load from the garden, I made some greens today and thought I'd share my recipe. Now, I have no moral problem with pork and I love when someone else makes a big pot of collard greens with ham hocks. My mouth waters just thinking about driving through South Carolina and finding a really good BBQ joint. But, since I'm the only green lover in my house I've learned to make do with small batches, that means a slice of bacon or this version which has no meat at all. Smoked paprika (pimenton) is one of my most beloved of spices and can give a slice of bacon some competition.

Smoky Collard Greens
Makes ~1 1/2 cups of cooked collards

1 bunch collard greens (~8 leaves)
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Frank's RedHot, optional*

*Note that my bottle is nearly empty, I go through the stuff like my son goes through ketchup. It's killer on buttered (or EBed - Earth Balanced) popcorn.

-Sweat the diced onions in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, the pimenton, a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of salt until translucent.
-Remove the collard stems, roll and chop the leaves and then wash them well in a lot of water. Do several changes of water for dirty greens.
-When the onions are soft, add the greens, vinegar and a splash or two of water. Cover and let the greens wilt over medium heat. In a minute or two check the greens and give them a stir. Add more water if needed to keep the greens moist, you want some liquid in the pot but not a soupy mess since we aren't cooking these very long. Cover and reduce the heat to low.
-Cook for 20 minutes or until the greens are tender enough for you.
-Taste for seasoning and serve with Frank's RedHot on the side.

Other collard recipes:
Gina Neely's Best Collard Greens
Crock Pot Collards from Mother's Kitchen
Braised Collard Greens from The Kitchn
Veganized Southern-style Collard Greens, with shiitakes

My son Alex was happy to find the milkweed pods are finally ripe.