November: From the Blog

I've talked about the blog a little bit in the past and the reasons why we do it. One of the main reasons is to record what we're cooking and eating and how we do it. I hate it when I know I've cooked something really great in the past and can't remember how I did it or where to find it. So the blog is purely selfish and we just hope you enjoy reading it or trying something new every now and then. Some of the recipes we cook have never been repeated and lots pass the test to try again. In this post I wanted to share a few recipes from the blog we cooked this month (which means we really like them!) and actually come to the blog to verify the recipe. Patrick will pull the recipe up on his phone and we'll have this in the kitchen.

Just the other day I had planned salmon cakes for supper. Patrick wanted to get a head start on the prep but couldn't find the recipe on the blog or in any of my cookbooks! So be on the lookout for that (but not anytime soon because we messed up that night). Unfortunately Mom didn't reply to her text message fast enough and we missed the ratio of wet to dry ingredients that held the salmon into a cake. Our salmon cakes turned into salmon scramble, oops! But it was delicious. And this is another reason to do the blog, to show that cooking can be fun! If you mess up just move on and learn from your mistakes. As long as the kitchen doesn't burn down and you're not hungry at the end of the night then it's a success. Without further ado, here are the tried and true yummy recipes:

There isn't a month we go without cooking Buttermilk Waffles with Fresh Strawberries. Lately I've put chopped pecans in mine and enjoyed it with Blueberry Syrup from the Shenandoah Valley.

I picked up ingredients today at the grocery store for Farfalle with Sauteed Mushrooms. We've served this when Patrick's mom visited so it's a good recipe for company or just a casual evening at home.
  [Update: When Patrick and I were home for Thanksgiving we had extra cream leftover from Pumpkin Pie so we recommended Mom try this recipe and she did!]

The other week I had a craving for Citrus Chicken. Patrick certainly didn't complain since we fixed couscous to accompany it.

This November has been unusually warm but for those few days that dipped into the 50s I was ready with Potato Soup and cornbread.

And fall wouldn't be complete without a Pumpkin Party! October slipped by without pumpkin carving or painting but I knew I couldn't miss out on my annual pumpkin party--four years in a row! As usual I fixed Quick Italian Beef & Vegetable Soup.

The 2011 Pumpkin Party pot of soup & Grilled Cheese sandwiches

What are your favorite recipes?

Butternut Squash-Pear Bisque

As previously mentioned in a few posts ago, I've got a yummy new fall cookbook called A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash: Seasonal Recipes. It's the perfect time to try all the wonderful recipes in here especially since our CSA is usually filled with winter squash such as the butternut squash needed in this recipe.

Butternut Squash-Pear Bisque
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-in chunks
1 large Anjou pear; peeled, halved, cored, and cut into chunks  
     I used whatever pear I already had in the fridge
1 parsnip or carrot; peeled and cut into chunks
    I used a parsnip
1 qt low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
    I topped the soup with Gruyere cheese

Here are the main ingredients!

In a large pot, melt the butter (I used half the butter and some evoo) over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 8 minutes. Add the squash, pear, and parsnip and saute for a few minutes longer. Raise the heat to high and add the broth, bay leaf, honey, and thyme. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is very soft, about 15 minutes.

Simmering away.
Remove the bay leaf and let the soup cool slightly. Working in 2 or 3 batches, in a blender or foot processor fitted with the metal blade, process the soup to a smooth puree. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. 

The man in charge.
Return the soup to the pot if necessary and stir in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir over low heat until the soup is hot throughout. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the cheese or garlic croutons. Serve immediately.

Such a pretty color, perfect for fall. We'd suggest adding something to the meal with a little protein.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday with family and friends. We have so much to be thankful for. I'm not going to elaborate on what I'm personally thankful for but instead say a little something about food!

Growing up I saw my mom put a lot of effort into fixing all my school lunches and making sure we had a home-cooked meal most nights. This is what I'm thankful for now. She instilled that sense of what a home is in me. Cooking and eating at the dinner table is how we bond and share what's important to us. The other day I was looking at a new blog, Food 52, and I really liked their mission and view on food. I'll share it with you (and you can find it here).
"We think cooking is really important — especially now. Over the past decade, many studies and books have shown that children from families who eat together do better in school, that eating "whole" foods is healthier, that eating sustainably will save the environment. But no one has pointed out that the only way to achieve all this in a comprehensive, lasting way is for people to cook.

    If you cook, your family will eat dinner together.
    If you cook, you will naturally have a more sustainable household.
    If you cook, you'll set a lifelong example for your children.
    If you cook, you'll understand what goes into food and will eat more healthily.
    If you cook, you'll make your home an important place in your life.
    If you cook, you'll make others happy.
    If you cook, people will remember you."
To me, this is why we cook.

 Be on the lookout for homemade pumpkin pie!

Orzo with Yellow Squash, Leeks, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

When Patrick and I were coming home from Disney World, one of our pit-stop meals was at Cracker Barrel--Patrick's first visit! Being the good Southerner that I am, I couldn't let Patrick go any longer without eating here! Of course we played the triangle tee game simply known as the Peg Game, ate some dumplings, and shopped in the Old Country Store. Unfortunately we ran out of time to relax in the rocking chairs and play checkers... next time.

In the Old Country Store I found an interesting little cookbook with lots of yummy fall recipes and pictures. I decided it would be a fun memento of our trip but I also couldn't pass up some of those recipes in A Harvest of Pumpkins of Squash: Seasonal Recipes. And here's one of the ones that made my mouth water!

This made a great lunch!

Orzo with Yellow Squash, Leeks, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
8 oz (1 1/2 cups) orzo pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part only, chopped  I used the light green parts as well
   *more leek notes below
2 yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-in dice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 shallot or green onion, finely chopped  I used shallot
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh dill or 1 tsp dried dill  I omitted the dill, not our favorite flavor
2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1/2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and snipped into small pieces
1/2 cup (2 oz) crumbled feta cheese  I substituted goat cheese since Patrick loves it
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley  Omitted this too
Arugula leaves for serving  Didn't have any of these so omitted

   Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain, letting some of the cooking water cling to the pasta. Let cool for a few minutes.
   Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tbsp of the oil. Add the leek and squash and saute until soft, about 3 minutes.
   In a bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tbsp oil, the lemon juice, shallot, dill, oregano, and salt and pepper. Add the pasta and toss to coat. Stir in the squash mixture, tomatoes, feta, and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 3 hours, if you like. When ready to serve, tuck the arugula around the edge of the serving bowl or individual plates.

*Leeks can be a little tricky because they're super dirty! For more details, visit this "How to Clean Leeks" website from This is what I do.

Chop off the large green portion of the leek down to where the leek turns light green. Then I slice the leek down the center, starting at the white root all the way to the end of the light green section. After that I chop the leek every 1/2-inch or so for a good saute size. Once that's done I toss the root end.

Then place all the chopped leeks, white and light green portions, into a medium sized-bowl and fill with water. The dirt will now sink to the bottom. I usually rinse the leeks twice. Then I scoop out the leeks with a slotted spoon into a strainer. If you pour the leeks into the strainer, you may not leave all the dirt behind. Leeks do require a little more preparation effort but they're worth it.

Black Bean & Salmon Tostadas

Salmon certainly needs no introduction. I found a new recipe to try from EatingWell. It's got a Mexican twist to it and I think Patrick and I both really enjoyed this. The recipe does call for canned salmon which I was planning to use fresh (bake it, then flake onto the tostada) but there was no fresh salmon when I went shopping so I'm definitely looking forward to making this again with fresh salmon. Here's the link to the recipe on-line and the recipe is pasted below with my notes. We really tweaked the recipe quite a bit.

Black Bean & Salmon Tostadas Serves 4
8 6-inch corn tortillas -- I used small whole wheat tortillas
Canola oil cooking spray
1 6- to 7-ounce can boneless, skinless wild Alaskan salmon, drained
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeƱos, plus 2 tablespoons pickling juice from the jar, divided
     -- I omitted this completely but feel free to spice yours up!
2 cups coleslaw mix or shredded cabbage -- I was planning to use this but forgot
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro -- Omitted, not a big cilantro fan
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
3 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared salsa
2 scallions, chopped
Lime wedges (optional)

Position racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 375°F.
Coat tortillas on both sides with cooking spray. Place on 2 baking sheets. Bake, turning once, until light brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Do this if you want the tostadas to be crispy. If you prefer the softer tortilla and would like to wrap up the beans and salmon, skip this step.
Combine salmon, avocado and jalapeƱos in a bowl. I also added freshly chopped tomato here. Combine cabbage, cilantro and the pickling juice in another bowl. We didn't do this. Process black beans, sour cream, salsa and scallions in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on High until hot, about 2 minutes.
To assemble tostadas, spread each tortilla with some bean mixture and some salmon mixture and top with the cabbage salad. Serve with lime wedges, if desired.
I served with brown rice!

Tastier than it looks! I promise!

Skillet Turkey with Cranberries and Apples

Fall is synonymous with apples, right? Well we've got fresh apples on-hand directly from the Virginia mountains. Many thanks to Granny and Poppa for sharing with us! We know Patrick loves to bake with apples but I decided to grab a few to use in this savory dish that I saw in one of our EatingWell magazines. Here's the link to the recipe on-line. It was very tasty. The major thing we did differently was using turkey breasts instead of chicken; we also substituted dried cranberries for fresh/frozen (only because they were in the pantry).

Skillet Turkey with Cranberries and Apples  Serves: 4
1 pound chicken tenders, trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal (used turkey breasts)
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme, divided (used fresh)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 crisp red apples, such as Braeburn, Fuji or Gala, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, quartered and sliced
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice, divided
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Sprinkle both sides of chicken tenders with 1/4 teaspoon each thyme, salt and pepper.

Patrick preparing the turkey breasts. After sprinkling the turkey with the seasonings he rubbed the herbs in for maximum flavor.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add the chicken. Cook, stirring, until lightly browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a clean plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan. Add apples, onion, 2 tablespoons cider (or juice) and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and salt. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, until the apples and onion are softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cranberries and sprinkle flour over everything in the pan; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the remaining cider (or juice). Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes more.

Served with couscous and steamed cabbage.

Garlic Roasted Salmon & Brussels Sprouts

As Whitney has mentioned previously, we're always up for trying a new salmon recipe, so when this showed up in our most recent Eating Well, we had to give it a shot. The recipe was easy enough, but I somehow managed to overcook the salmon (cooking salmon perfectly is a constant challenge for us). It was a very garlicky dish, which means Whitney liked it more than I did. I'm also still trying to come around on Brussels sprouts - I find them more tolerable when they're chopped up like in this recipe, but I didn't really like the burnt edges from the roasting.

Anyway, if you're still interested after that glowing review, here's the original recipe. I cut it by about a third to make two servings.

14 large cloves garlic, divided 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano, divided 
1 teaspoon salt, divided 
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided 
6 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced 
3/4 cup white wine, preferably Chardonnay 
2 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet, skinned, cut into 6 portions
Lemon wedges 

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mince 2 garlic cloves and combine in a small bowl with oil, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Halve the remaining garlic and toss with Brussels sprouts and 3 tablespoons of the seasoned oil in a large roasting pan. Roast, stirring once, for 15 minutes. Add wine to the remaining oil mixture. Remove the pan from oven, stir the vegetables and place salmon on top. Drizzle with the wine mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Bake until the salmon is just cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges.

At least the couscous turned out well

Gruyere Cheese Sauce

On a recent trip to the Guglhupf bakery, we checked out their cheese selection and picked up a block of cave-aged Gruyere to experiment with. For our first experiment, we decided to make a simple cheese sauce for some potatoes. We grabbed this recipe from the first google result. It was easy to prepare and made for some very tasty potatoes!

2 tablespoons butter 
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
1 1/2 cups whole milk 
1/2 cup grated gruyere cheese 
kosher salt, to taste 
fresh ground white pepper, to taste 

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour; stir 2 minutes (do not brown). Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk. Increase heat to high; bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese, stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Aren't we fancy, with our un-pronounceable Swiss cheese

Roasted Butternut Squash and Onions with Tortellini and Goat Cheese

Here's another post with that tortellini we love so much! The refrigerated packages of tortellini are something I kind of keep an eye on at the grocery store. I don't usually plan them for a meal but I'll buy a few when they're on sale and they're a perfect option for when we're not really sure what to fix.

This night we had the tortellini on hand, a butternut squash and yellow cherry tomatoes from our CSA, onions, and herbs. And goat cheese. (Remember Patrick just buys goat cheese for fun; reference this post.) This is really easy and the wonderful thing about the tortellini is it pairs well with so many roasted vegetables (see what other veggies we've roasted before for tortellini here) or sauces. Like I said, keep some on hand! I promise you won't regret it.

Roast vegetables and prepare tortellini
Peel and chop the butternut squash and onion. I did these in bite-sized pieces. Place the veggies on a lined baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss the vegetables with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a freshly chopped (or dried) herb of your choosing. I think we used thyme this particular night. Roast on 400F for at least 20 minutes and check for doneness. The size of your vegetable will determine how long it needs to roast (another reason to cut them into small pieces). Add the cherry tomatoes half way through and toss the vegetables together. Boil the tortellini according to package directions and try to time it to get done when your vegetables will be done!

Combine everything and serve
Once the vegetables have roasted and the tortellini has cooked and been drained, combine everything. If it's an informal, casual evening use the same pot you cooked the tortellini in! If it's a formal evening and you've got friends over you want to impress put it in a nice serving bowl. Crumble in some goat cheese and munch away.

Fall Themed Potluck

The potlucks are becoming a little sparse... thanks friends for moving away! Even though there are fewer of us we still filled our bellies with good fall-themed dishes. I'll have to expand the guest list for upcoming potlucks. Any takers?!

Back to a buffet style potluck. All the food was served on the island. [From top left, clockwise]: Crockpot Pot-Roast, Acorn-Butternut Squash Risotto, Apple Pie, and Homemade Apple Sauce!

Richard recommends a strong stirring arm for the making of risotto. Not only did he include the winter squash but there were a few surprise mushrooms as well.

Tim treated us to homemade apple sauce. After the apples were peeled and boiled, some sugar and cinnamon did the trick.

This Crockpot Pot-Roast was super easy and my mom's recipe. Begin with a small layer of cream of mushroom soup in your crockpot (about 1/3 can), then add 2-3 chopped yukon gold potatoes, 2-3 chopped onions, and 2-3 chopped carrots. Add a chuck roast. Then combine the rest of the mushroom soup with a Lipton's powdered Onion Soup and Dip mix packet and place on top of the meat. Roast on low all day or medium/high half a day.

Patrick's no stranger to making apple pies. Check out this post for details.

Salmon with Citrus Glaze

Meal planning with salmon is quite easy and since we're trying to eat it quite a bit, it's not hard to say "ooo, we haven't had salmon in awhile so let's have it tonight." Or that's what happened this night anyway. We enjoy salmon all ways and enjoy the recipes we've tried in the past but I wanted to try a new one. I found this Alton Brown Broiled Salmon with Citrus Glaze recipe through a google recipe search. We both thought it was good but certainly didn't vault itself to our favorite salmon recipe. It's a super simple method and just for that reason alone I'd make it again. If you follow the link above you'll find the actual video of Alton making it in the "video" tab and lots of great user comments in the "ratings & reviews" tab. The recipe is also below.

We served the salmon with a side of steamed broccoli.
Unfortunately the brown rice didn't make it out of the pot. I didn't put in enough water... oops!
1 side, skin-on, sockeye salmon, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds, pin bones removed
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

   Position a rack in the oven 3 inches from the broiler (a lot of comments said this was too high and the sugar would burn so I put it about 6 inches below). Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil and place the salmon on the pan.
   Place the sugar, zest, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a small food processor and process for 1 minute or until well combined (I didn't feel like getting the food processor dirty so I just mixed everything well in a bowl with a fork). Evenly spread the mixture onto the salmon and allow to sit for 45 minutes, at room temperature.
Here's the salmon before going into the oven. Look at all that glaze! I turned the edges of the foil up to the salmon to prevent the glaze from burning.
   Turn the oven on to the high broiler setting for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, place the salmon into the oven and broil for 6 to 8 minutes or until the thickest part of the fish reaches an internal temperature of 131 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the salmon from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Lots of comments said they had trouble with burning. As I've already mentioned I took quite a few precautionary steps to avoid any burning. I lowered the oven rack a bit more than the recipe for and folded the edges of the foil around the salmon. Finally as one last precautionary step I had Patrick watch the salmon while I steamed the broccoli!