A Sunday Routine

I’ve mentioned the Sunday evening routine at my house before.

Some how, this past weekend, the stars aligned or something, and I had almost all day at home on Sunday. And it was glorious.

I took full advantage, and spent a good part of the afternoon and evening in the kitchen. In between the time I spent snuggled up on my bed with coffee and the Sunday paper.

I heart Sundays at home.

We didn’t have any errands to run, or any family visits to make, so I knew we’d have a rare Sunday supper at home. And that calls for something kinda special.

But not too hard since I wanted to enjoy a relaxing Sunday afternoon (and I already had a lot of other stuff to cook–see below). It called for one of my favorite winter recipes of all time–Winter Squash Carbonara.

I found this recipe a couple years ago on the Closet Cooking Blog. I absolutely love Kevin’s delicious, made-from-scratch food that’s not too fussy. I’ve made a number of his recipes, and they all have a unique twist on a straight-forward dish. Like this one.

I’ve modified it a bit, as I’ve made it over the past couple years. This time, I made it with pumpkin cubes that had been roasted and frozen. They were pretty soft when I added them to the sauce, and kinda mushed up. I thought that was going to be a bad thing, so I tried to be very easy as I stirred. I realized they kinda incorporated into the sauce, and made this creamy, gooeyness that was better than any other time I made it.

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Carbonara is a traditional Italian pasta dish with the sauce made from cured pork, cream, egg yolks and hard cheese-either parmigiano or pecorino. Italians generally use pancetta, which is cured pork similar to bacon, except it is not smoked.

In a recipe like this, with simple flavors that become the star of the dish, it’s important to use the best quality ingredients you have access to. I use bacon in my recipe. But I only buy bacon from farmers I trust. You won’t find any Smithfield at my house. Ever. There are a myriad of reasons to buy bacon from a farm that raises their pork humanely that I won’t bore you with. However you feel about how your meat is raised is up to you, but I urge you to try some bacon made from pasture-raised pork. You might not think it would taste that different, or be that much better, but it will blow you away. The quality of pasture-raised pork is enough of a reason to use it alone. The bacon is meaty–you know how sometimes you get a piece of bacon that seems like all slimy fat in store-bought bacon. And the taste is more pork-y and yummy.

My eggs came from a farmer that I’ve gotten to know through the Monroe Farm Market. Even this time of year, his hens produce eggs consistently. They eat worms and bugs in an outdoor pen, in addition to their natural corn feed. The yolks are an amazing yellow because of their diet. And the taste is incredible, which is important in a dish that you’ll be eating them only very lightly heated in.

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I mentioned that I used roasted pumpkin in place of the butternut squash in the recipe. I also changed it up by using four pieces of bacon. That’s about it. Here’s the link to the original recipe on Closet Cooking Blog.

My usual Sunday evening routine, even when I am out and about on Sunday, entails baking something for breakfast for the upcoming week. And sometimes, if I have time, I throw together a soup to eat for lunch in the upcoming week, too.

I thought it was high time for some quick bread for breakfast. (After last week’s scone incident.) Bam. Nutty Pumpkin Bread from my Simply In Season cookbook.

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I have a ton of frozen pumpkin from last fall. I never buy canned pumpkin. It’s too easy to make yourself. Cut in half, remove the seeds and roast. That’s it. Some I diced up after roasting and froze for dishes like the winter squash carbonara I made for dinner, and some I pureed to use in baking.

I’m not a big sweets-for-breakfast person, but I like this recipe because it’s kinda healthy. It uses 50/50 white and whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and I sub applesauce for the oil. It only has one cup of sugar, too. That sounds like a lot, but some quick bread recipes call for as much as three cups! The pumpkin in this bread is so sweet naturally, you don’t need any more sugar.

For lunches this week, I made a big pot of vegetable “venison” soup. My favorite soups are the ones that you just dump a bunch of stuff in and turn on the crockpot, then you have hearty delicious soup in eight hours. This one was almost all local, save for the organic onions and carrots I used. I emptied a lot of jars from my larder. I used a quart each of tomato juice and whole tomatoes that my mom canned, a quart each of venison and green beans that my mother-in-law canned, a pint of frozen venison stock I made from roasted bones, a pint of frozen corn from the end of the season last year, a fresh potato I buy from the farmer I work with, roasted garlic from the Monroe Farm Market, and some salt, pepper and paprika. Now the Hubs and I are set for lunch this week, too.

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It’s going to be a delicious week.

Kohlrabi Greens and Meatless “Monday”

Y’all know that I try to observe Meatless Monday, and while I usually get at least one vegetarian meal in a week, it’s rarely on Mondays. Such was the case last night.

This meal came together on the stove ridiculously quick, but there’s quite a backstory. The meal was interresting, (I think, anyway. Maybe I’m just a vegetable nerd, though.) because I used kohlrabi greens. I don’t think I’ve even ever eaten kohlrabi. I know what it is, but I just never had a reason to use it or try it.

I planned on making a recipe for Orrecheitte with Chard from my Fresh from the Farmers Market cookbook, for my Meatless Monday meal this week. But when I went to the store, the only orrechiette I could find was in the specialty foods section, and it was three times the price of humble store-brand mini shells. And, when it came time to place my bi-weekly order at the Monroe Farm Market, I didn’t log on when ordering opened. Instead, I waited about 45 minutes, and all the chard and kale was sold out. I was lucky there were kohlrabi greens left. They probably were left because customers were like “Whaaa? What am I supposed to do with those???” just like I was. So, Orrechiette and Chard turned into Kohlrabi Greens and mini shells.

And, last week, when it came time to deliver the orders from the market, Monroe County got somewhere around 16 inches of snow. So delivery was delayed almost a week. Which put a kink in the delivery of some of the products. Greens that were picked the morning of the regular scheduled delivery languished in the back of a truck or someplace that allowed them to partially freeze. Anyway, I got my greens when I picked up my order, but the nice peeps at Monroe Farm Market didn’t charge me for them because they were damaged by being a little frozen. No worries, I was planning to wilt them anyway.

I had a hair dresser appointment yesterday evening at a weird time: 6 pm. Enough time for me to go home and changes clothes, but probably not enough time to cook, and I didn’t want to wait until 7:30ish when I got home to start cooking. I needed something super fast. And I couldn’t find my Kindle, which had the cookbook on it with the recipe I needed. Here’s why these farmers at Monroe Farm Market are so awesome–there was a recipe neatly folded up and placed in a zip lock baggie with my greens. It was for wilted kohlrabi greens with soy sauce and sesame oil.

And it gave me an idea–How about a stir fry with the greens and some noodles? Once I tasted a little piece of the greens raw, I knew they were destined for an Asian dish rather than the Italian dish I had planned. I threw this together in literally 20 minutes, start to finish. So it’s perfect for a busy weeknight when you need dinner on plates STAT.

Stir-fry of Kohlrabi Greens and Noodles (serves 2)

1/4 lb of kohlrabi greens*, washed and with the stems cut out
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
1/2 a red onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tb coconut oil (or any neutral oil suitable for stir-frying)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tb cornstarch mixed in 1/4 cup cold water
4 oz. soba noodles (I used angel hair because I didn’t have any other kind)
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
1 tb sesame oil
1 tb sesame seeds

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the kohlrabi greens and boil about 3 minutes, or until they become tender. Remove from water and place in a colander. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking, and drain them. Gently press the water out of them, but not too hard. You don’t really want to smash them down into mush. Add the noodles to the water and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, heat a wok and the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes. Add the onions and cook a few minutes longer, until they begin to become tender. Add the garlic. Cook for only a minute or so, and stir to keep it from burning. Add the soy sauce and rice wine vinegar, and stir to coat all the vegetables. Add the water and cornstarch and reduce the heat to medium. Roughly chop the kohlrabi into strips. Add the kohlrabi and noodles. Stir to mix the sauce evenly as it thickens. Turn off the heat and add the sesame oil and red pepper flakes. Stir one final time to mix it throughout. Serve immediately and top with sesame seeds.

*You could easily sub any winter green for the kohlrabi greens, as I realize they could be difficult to find. However, kale or perhaps mustard greens would be best because of their bitterness. This dish definitely had all the tastes, bitter from the greens, sour from the rice wine vinegar, sweet from the coconut oil, and salty from the soy sauce. It may take away from it if you use something that doesn’t have that bitter bite, but if bitterness isn’t really your cup of tea, by all means, chard or even bok choy or something would be great, too.

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I hate that this is the only picture I got of the dish, but I was in such a hurry to make it, then eat it, so I could get to my hair appointment on time. Don’t get in the way of me and my hair stylist when it comes time to get these roots touched up. I didn’t have any sesame seeds, but as I was eating, I kept thinking that they would have been the perfect finishing touch on this dish. Something with a little texture. I was wary about feeding this to the Hubs, but he seemed to really like it. We both really like Asian flavors, and cooking Asian food at home.

I was so happy to have a successful dish with an ingredient I’d never used (or eaten) before. Kohlrabi is super healthy. It’s in the cabbage family, and all those veggies in the cabbage family are important to a balanced diet. They are high in vitamin C and, of course, fiber. And they are a cool season vegetable. I definitely won’t shy away from eating or cooking with the greens again. Now, I just have to try the actual vegetable itself.

#ProjectRecipe Whole Wheat Blackberry Ricotta Scones

So, I kinda have a soft spot in my heart for scones. And I never knew it until the last couple years. I tried a copycat recipe for Starbucks Pumpkin Scones and it was love at first bite. Mind you, I’d never even tasted the original.

Since then, I’ve tried several scones recipes, but I keep coming back to the one that won me over. (And I really don’t care for the actual Pumpkin Scones at Starbucks. They left a weird taste in my mouth and made me really thirsty. Probably all the chemical ingredients they have that mine don’t.) At any rate, if I see a recipe for scones on the internet, I’m at least going to take a gander. The fact that these have whole wheat–making them healtier, is what pulled me in. And that I have a bazillion pints of blackberries, frozen and canned.

The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. The recipe is actually for whole wheat raspberry ricotta scones, but I subbed in blackberries because that’s what I have. I’ve seen the same recipe with a few tweaks on another blog. And I actually printed off both of them without realizing it. I guess it really made an impression on me.

Scones are basically like blank canvases with some universal ingredients and processes, that make them scones. Scones have a crumbly, almost dry texture. And they are traditionally made by cutting cold butter into the dough to give them their delicate crumbly texture. Pretty much all the recipes I’ve looked at call for the same amounts of butter, flour and baking powder, with something to wet the dough a little and give them some flavor.

You might recall that I stopped buying cereal for myself for breakfast, and stopped buying the Hubs frozen breakfast food like Hot Pockets and Jimmy Dean biscuits a couple years ago. I try to make a batch of grab and go breakfast food on Sunday nights for us to eat all week. I am not much of a sweets-for-breakfast kinda person, which I think is why I am so fond of scones–they really aren’t that sweet. Just enough.

The Project Recipe Verdict: Eh. It PAINS me to do this, but I wasn’t jazzed about these for one reason: the dough was too wet. After I got done mixing the dough up, I knew something was off. I looked back over the recipe twice just to make sure I hadn’t made a mistake. They only thing I can think of is it could be because I used blackberries that I canned last summer. Even though I drained the juice off them, they still had more juice in the berry than if had I used fresh. Looking back, I should have omitted the cream. Maybe I owe it to Smitten Kitchen to give this recipe one more try because I absolutely adore that blog. But there are hundreds of scone recipes out there, and I am kinda over this one. Maybe someday I’ll be surfing the web for recipes and it will show up on my radar and I’ll try it again.

They are very pretty, though.IMG_2887

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I couldn’t even roll the dough out and cut the scones into pieces it was so loose. I just dropped them by the spoonful onto a baking sheet. It was very “rustic.”

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They are pretty tasty, but the texture just isn’t right. We’re still eating them for breakfast this week though. You can click the link above, or click here to check out the recipe and the Smitten Kitchen Blog if you aren’t already a devoted follower. You’ll thank me if you do.

Being home alone & eating Roasted Winter Veg and Lentil Stew

Sometimes it’s really nice when the Hubs is away for a few days. Don’t get me wrong, I love having the guy around, but a little “me” time is so nice sometimes. I can sleep spread eagle in the middle of the bed, watch MSNBC, and eat beans. It’s paradise, I tell ya.

The reason I eat beans when the Hubs isn’t around is not because of their notorious side effects. It’s that he doesn’t care for them. And I LOVE them.

So when he has to be away for work for a few days, I take that as the time I get to have for dinner the things that I love that the doesn’t much care for. Like roasted beets. And lentils. He would think this already sounds totally gross.

But, it’s so, so delcious in my book. Especially when it’s all rolled into a dish like this Roasted Winter Veg Lentil Stew.

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I wish I’d gotten a better picture. But I was hungry, so this didn’t last long. I was also sitting in the middle of the bed watching Martin Bashir on MSNBC.

Sometime before the holidays, I ordered from the Monroe Farm Market, a two-pound bag of baby beets–the last of the fall harvest. I roasted a handful of them one evening for dinner, and the Hubs told me he didn’t really like them roasted, only pickled. Wha??? But, you’re the person who got me to try them in the first place and convinced me that they really weren’t that awful. Too bad, I prefer them roasted to pickled.

So, I had this bag of beets in the fridge, and who knows how much longer they’d be any good. It was pushing on a month. I decided I just go ahead and roast the rest of them to eat while he was gone. Then, I got the idea for this stew. What if I threw in some carrots, onion and garlic and mixed it all in with some hearty green lentils? Boo-ya! Perfect for a cold winter evening.

Roasted Winter Veg and Lentil Stew (makes about 3 servings)

1 lb whole fresh baby beets, cleaned (and tops removed if not already—save the tops for salad)
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch sections
1 medium red onion, cut into large chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
2 cups dried green lentils
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock
2 ½ cups of water
1 or 2 cloves from a head of roasted garlic (see below)
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cumin
2 tsp garlic powder
2 cups fresh spinach

Pre-heat oven to 375. Place beets in a large baking pan (with a rim) and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until beets are fork tender (it may take longer if you beets are larger). Remove the beets from the oven and let cool enough to handle. Peel skin with a paring knife (WEAR GLOVES UNLESS YOU WANT RED FINGERS). Place carrots and onions in another baking pan, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 40 minutes until the carrots are tender and the onions begin to turn golden brown. You will need to check and stir both pans periodically to ensure even roasting. In medium to large sauce pan, bring the water and stock to a boil. Add lentils and spices. Place the lid on the pot and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are totally soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the roasted garlic cloves , roasted vegetables, and spinach. Adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Mix well and cook on low for a few minutes to give the flavors time to combine and the spinach to wilt. Serve immediately.

If you’re going to be roasting anything in the oven for more than a few mintues, why not throw in a head of garlic? Roasted garlic is heavenly. When roasted, it looses its sharp bite and becomes this buttery, almost sweet, mellow goodness. Place a whole head of garlic (no need to even peel it) on a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Wrap the foil up around it to make a little pouch. Roast about 15 minutes at 350 to 375 until cloves become soft. It will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or so. It’s delicous on pizza, crostini or bruschetta, or mixed in pasta sauce. The possibilities are endless. If you’re going to mix it into something like sauce, or this stew, simply mush it up a bit with a spoon before you put it in.

This dish is meatless, but you could totally use chicken stock in place of the vegetable stock, or maybe chop up some bacon and brown it to throw into the stew. You could also use any combination of vegetables you have available. Sweet potatoes, winter squash or broccoli would also be delcious in place of the beets, carrots and onion, and any winter green could be used in place of the spinach. Heartier winter greens such as kale might take a few more minutes to wilt, so you would want to chop those and throw them in earlier while the lentils are still cooking down.

I only peeled about half of the beets because it was such a pain. Looking back, I should have peeled them all. The peeled ones are much better. You can also make the roasted vegetables a day ahead. I did and it cut down on the prep time considerably.

January #PROJECTRECIPE Update

Just because you weren’t seeing any PROJECT RECIPE posts this month does mean I wasn’t making some absurdly good dishes in my efforts to control the growing pile of recipes in my binder.

I hit some homeruns in the last couple weeks. My inability to get the pics uploaded in Blogger thwarted my progress of blogging about five recipes in a month, though. I thought I’d just do a wrap up showing you what I’d made so far.

IMG_2809 I’ve always been kinda partial to Hamburger Helper since it’s an easy way to use all that ground venison in our freezer. But, ugh! That sodium content! And the neon orange cheese powder! Not the healthiest thing to eat. I was stoked when I ran across a recipe for Homemade Hamburger Helper on the Farmgirl Gourmet. It was just as easy as the original boxed version, and it tasted even better. Making it yourself allows you to play around with the spices and cheese. For instance, I added some smoked paprika to jazz it up a little, and I left out the sugar. You could even swap out cheeses to play up the flavor. I think it would be great to sub out some of the sharp cheddar for some monterey jack.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: This one is definitely a keeper! No more boxed stuff for me!

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This was one of those dinners on one of those evenings when it is so tempting to go out to eat. I was tired and it was late when I started cooking. I needed something easy and fast. And healthy since it’s New Year’s Resolution Diet time. This was even a PROJECT RECIPE “two-fer”! Bonus points! It’s not the greatest picture, but on the right is Parmesean and Wasa Crusted Tilapia, and on the left is some simple spaghetti with arugula pesto.

When I attended Mixed Con, I met lots of fabulous peeps and took home lots of bangin’ swag. One of the things handed to me on my way out the door was a package of Wasa crackers. I had heard of these, but never eaten them before. I will say, they are not great just plain. But, low and behold, a few days later, one of the new blogs I “found” at Mixed, Baked Bree, featured a Wasa recipe for how she was using her free package of Wasa crackers: Parmesean and Wasa Crusted Tilapia. I didn’t have tilapia, but I did have cod, so no problemo. The cod might have actually worked better since the filets were a little bit heftier. I imagine it might be difficult to bread delicate tilapia filets with this breading since it is pretty coarse. The Hubs and I both agreed the breading tasted like that stuff you used to be able to get (and I assume you still can) at Long John Silvers–the “crunchies” or whatever they call those bits of fried batter you can get on the side. In the interest of health, I used olive oil instead of butter, and reduced the amount by half. When I make these again, I might use a little bit more olive oil since the breading didn’t bind together that great–I suspect that was why. But it was still delicious!

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: It’s a keeper. I do still have 3/4 of a pack of wasa crackers left, after all. We loved it!

When I plan dinners, I always try to have either a vegetable or a carb with the main dish, and as I was thinking about this dinner, I was racking my brain of what we could have with it based on what I had in the fridge. We’re a bit tired of rice and roasted potatoes. I sometimes forget how wonderfully simple pasta and little pesto can be. Back the week before Christmas, I had ordered arugula from the Monroe Farm Market that was on “special” because the pests had gotten to it, leaving little pin holes in some of the leaves. And then I never used it. After the holidays, in an effort to try to eat healthy, I got it out to mix it in some salad greens, and realized it was a bit past it’s prime. Not like black and slimy or anything, but kinda wilted. And I knew if I didn’t use it soon, it was going in the trash–which I loathe! At that point, about all you could do with it would be to wilt it (further) or make pesto. I got the idea to substitue basil in the traditional version of pesto with arugula from the Table for Two blog, and a recent entry for bow-tie pasta with arugula pesto and goat cheese. I LOVE arugula, so I was sold on that alone when I saw the recipe, besides traditional pesto gets a little boring sometimes. It’s nice to change it up a bit. I had a box of Dreamfields spaghetti, also swag from Mixed Con, and the pesto came together in the time it took to boil it. Side dish in minutes!

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: I only used the pesto part of this recipe, and I’m not going to call this one a “keeper,” but let me qualify that. Pesto is ridiculously easy. I’m not going to write down this recipe because I know how to make pesto without looking at a recipe. I would definitely make this again, but I’ll just keep in the back of my mind that next time I have some arugula that’s about to be thrown in the trash, this is a good way to use it up.

Three PROJECT RECIPE recipes down, two more to go this month.

Welcome to the new and improved Delicious Potager!

Hey, There!

Thanks for finding me at my new web address. If you haven’t already, please update your RSS feed or bookmarks to www.deliciouspotager.wordpress.com. I’ll no longer be making updates on my Blogger site.

Long before I attended Mixed Con in December, I was thinking of switching from Blogger to Word Press. But I got tons of ideas from all the wonderful presenters and many, many fabulous bloggers I got to rub elbows with over the weekend. Switching blog hosts is just one thing around there that’s different.

I’m still tweaking the look and layout, so don’t be freaked out if it changes from it’s current look. I’m trying to figure out what I like and what works, and that may take a few weeks. I’m still toying with the idea of getting my own URL, but haven’t made up my mind yet.

I’m on Pinterest! I mean–I always was on Pinterest, but now I have a Delicious Potager board with my original pictures of food I’ve made. That’s another trick I learned at Mixed. I can’t believe that never occurred to me before. I’m also working on a Facebook page for the blog. Social media is a beautiful thing and I’m embracing it!

And the best part of all this shiny newness, for you anyway, is that I’m working on my first ever giveaway! I’m looking for just the right swag to giveaway to a lucky reader of this blog. It’s all the rage in the blogisphere. Trust me, I’ve won a couple from other blogs, and once you get hooked you’ll keep coming back here for more. I’m hoping anyway.

So, please, be patient with me. I’m super excited about all this, and I know you’re going to love it! I promise.

A Delicious Potager Update

It has been almost two week since my last post, but it’s not because I haven’t tried.

I have been fairly uninspired in the kitchen, but like I have to force myself to workout, I’ve been pushing along to do projects and take pictures for this blog.

Something is wrong with Blogger though. Other bloggers have complained. There’s been a recent glitch that prevents pictures from being uploaded from your computer. I know there’s other ways of doing it, but that’s how I upload pictures for this blog.

For a while, I’ve contemplated switching over to WordPress for blog hosting. And getting my own URL. Now seems like just as good a time as any, and I tried again today to upload pics, and still nothing.

So please bear with me while Delicious Potager transitions to something better. Something bigger. Something with pictures…