January 8, 2010

Purple Majesty Potatoes


These potatoes are so pretty...


I made "Jo Jo Potatoes" with them the other day (a cross between oven-baked fries and chips)...



Wow - this picture came out really purple...


They fade a bit when you cook them - but they are a lovely light purple. Here I made an olive-oil based potato salad. The cilantro gives a nice color contrast (and tastes good too!) I wish I had some more potatoes so I could try making lavender mash or purple soup! Sometimes the unusual captures Picky's interest, although I'm not sure she'll go for the "green bits" - we'll see. Of course, I'll probably put cheese on her portion...kinda wrecks the color, though...

January 6, 2010

Jamaican Tomato Soup


I just have too many cookbooks. I pulled this one out the other day: Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special by The Moosewood Collective. I've always considered it one of my favorite books, but if truth be told, I've only ever tried to make a handful of things (or less). This cookbook concentrates on soups and salads, and is mostly vegetarian (some seafood). I have earmarks throughout, but I haven't actually made most of the recipes that have been marked (shame on me!). I've had the book for more than 10 years, so I really have no excuses. 

Anyway, I revisited this cookbook with a new approach: I've been playing things relatively safe (food-wise), and I want to try some new flavors - things that might not actually have cheese in them (I'm discovering that I may be lactose-intolerant, for one - I'm sure I'll be discussing that at some point, but for now I'm trying to forget...). Ok, new but also familiar - you know? I mean, I did bookmark the "Caribbean Sweet Potato Coconut Soup", and it does sound really good - but lets not get crazy just yet - I mean, the goal is for Picky to at least try it, right? I might have to work up to some of the more interesting recipes...

And that's why I landed on "Jamaican Tomato Soup". Picky already likes tomato soup, although I admit that I don't usually make it - I buy the boxed version - Pacific Natural Foods makes a good roasted red pepper and tomato soup that Picky accepts, so I haven't bothered to come up with my own recipe. There is one other tomato soup that we've tried, at a restaurant nearby, and we all love it - and I have to say that this recipe comes very close to the flavors in that soup, but without all the cream.

Of course, I've modified it a little, because I can't seem to leave things alone...



Jamaican Tomato Soup

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions (ok, I need to admit something here - I hardly ever measure stuff like this...I figure that 1 medium onion equals about 1 cup chopped...and 2 big glugs of olive oil is about 2 Tbsp - I mean, soup isn't a science, you know?
  • 4 14.5 oz cans of tomato, undrained (the original recipe called for 3 cups fresh and 3 cups canned tomatoes, but it's winter, ok? I realize that boxed tomatoes would probably be better here, considering the stuff they use to make cans, but I haven't made the switch. I'm sure you can figure out the portions if you use something else - just think "6 cups")
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (I surprised myself and actually measured this - it was much less than I thought it would be...)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or juice from one big juicy lemon)
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange peel (I zested one large orange)
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (please use flat leaf here...curly parsley isn't really food...)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • ground black pepper to taste

  • chopped fresh basil, parsley, or scallions
  • curried croutons (I didn't do this, but they do have a recipe for it if anyone is interested...)
  • nasturtium blossoms (sounds pretty, but unnecessary...)

  1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, then add the onions and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent.
  2. Add the tomatoes, the basil, sugar, lemon juice, and orange peel, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove 1-2 cups of the tomato mixture and set aside. Add the orange juice, cilantro, parsley, salt, and pepper to the soup pot and puree with an immersion blender (or in a blender in batches) until smooth (be careful here - this tends to splash). Add the reserved tomato mixture for texture, or just use it as a garnish for those who like a little texture (in other words, not Picky).
  4. Serve hot, topped with chopped basil, parsley, or scallions and with Curried Croutons (like I said, I skipped the croutons)
  5. Another variation that worked for me: I added a swirl of half-and-half to Picky's bowl (because I had some in the fridge from some other recipe...). It cut the acidity a bit and made it more palatable to her...

According to the recipe, this is also good cold (in summer, I imagine...).

Picky did try this, and proclaimed it "delicious!", although she then ignored it and ate her quesadilla. But still. I thought it was delicious. And really simple. And I love delicious and simple. She'll come around. At least she didn't say "Yuck!", right? 

January 5, 2010

Individual Zucchini and Cheddar Frittatas


I really need to get a flash for my D60 - it's too dark to take decent pictures right now, so I'm just doing everything with a little point-and-shoot. It really doesn't capture the beauty (yummy-ness?) of some of these dishes. Especially this one - they come out of the oven really puffy and beautiful. I know you'll get better pictures, Isabelle! Anyway, I've actually only tried this recipe once, and the only variation I made was omitting the thyme (because I didn't have any...), but I wanted to post it for Isabelle, because I forgot to bring the cookbook over to share the other day (and I know you'll need this before I see you on Thursday...right?). This recipe is from The Family Kitchen by Debra Ponzek.

Zucchini and Cheddar Frittatas

  • canola oil spray
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 medium zucchini, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Generously spray 12 cups of a muffin tin with canola oil spray.
  2. In a medium saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Add the zucchini and shallots and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until wilted and soft. Pour off or drain any excess moisture. Season with 1/4 tsp of the salt and about 1/8 tsp pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, cheddar cheese, thyme, and the remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Season with a few grinds of pepper.
  4. Divide the zucchini mixture among the muffin cups. Top each cup with the egg mixture, dividing it equally among the cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffy, golden brown, and just set.
  5. Run a dull kitchen knife around the outside of each frittata and remove. Serve immediately.
You can try this same technique with other fillings - use spinach, mushrooms, ham. Use Gruyere instead of Cheddar. They re-heat pretty well in the microwave (about 1 minute), but they present much better when they first come out of the oven...

January 3, 2010

Martian Soup!! (Maybe I should re-name it Yoda soup?)


Soup is easily my favorite thing to make for family dinners. You make soup in stages, which works well for me because I can prepare for the next stage while the first is cooking. You can serve soup with a variety of toppings that suit a variety of taste buds. You can make it smooth or chunky, or some smooth and some chunky, depending on tastes as well. Most soups are pretty low in fat, and you can cram all sorts of vegetables in there that may not be accepted in any other form. I make enough to have leftovers to freeze - I'm always happy to pull out a container of soup for a quick lunch or dinner. You can serve it as part of a larger meal, or as the main event with some toast, cornbread, muffins, etc. Of course, we don't have a lot of variety with our soups at the moment - I only have a handful that I make, and I just vary the toppings and sides - but I'm working on it...

The soup I make most often is "Martian Soup" - I've mentioned it several times before, but I've never tried to post the recipe, mostly because I don't follow a recipe when I make it, and I hardly ever make it the same way twice. I got the name from a cookbook, I think - but I never actually followed the recipe that came with the name. It's probably similar, though. It's basically a spinach-potato soup, but you can use other green vegetables instead - I sometimes use broccoli and spinach, or zuchinni and spinach. I almost always use spinach, because it gives it a really nice color - but that varies as well, depending on the ratio of green to potatoes, etc. Once I tried making it with beet greens - don't do that, the red stems make the color look like duck poop. Still tasted good, though.

Anyway, I made a pretty good batch today, and I remembered to jot down the ingredients, so I can give you a pretty good idea of how to make it - and you can vary it how you like, depending on what you have in the crisper.

Martian Soup

  • 1-2 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 32 oz container organic chicken broth, or 4 cups homemade
  • 5-6 small boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 small zucchini, diced (I just happened to have a few that needed using - you could skip this...)
  • 2 bunches of spinach, stems removed (from the big ones, anyway, I usually don't bother with the little ones...)
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley, stems removed
  • nutmeg - to taste
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt - to taste
 To serve (any or all):

  • plain yogurt
  • chopped cooked sausage
  • shredded cheddar cheese (Parmesan is also good)
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Put a dutch oven or soup pot on medium. After a minute, add the olive oil (I don't really measure this, I just do a few glugs.)
  2. Add the onions, give a stir, and put on the lid. This is usually when I chop the celery and garlic, keeping an eye on the onions and possibly turning the heat to medium-low so they won't burn. 
  3. When the celery and garlic are ready, add them in, give a stir, and put the lid on. Stir them occasionally until they are soft, about 10 minutes. 
  4. Sprinkle a bit of salt (be careful if you're using box stock unless it's low-sodium, but it is usually good to add salt in stages instead of all at once at the end. I just do a good pinch of kosher salt. If you put salt in there too early, the onions will not cook properly, so make sure they have a full 10 minutes to cook.) Now add the stock, and bring to a simmer. 
  5. While the stock is heating, I chop the potatoes, being sure to keep an eye on the stock so it doesn't get into a good boil. Add the potatoes and let them cook while you chop the zucchini. 
  6. When the potatoes are soft when you pierce them with a fork (about 10 minutes), add the zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes more. 
  7. Now you can take the pot off of the burner, and stir in the spinach and parsley until they are wilted. 
  8. Blend the soup with an immersion blender (if you don't have one, blend it in batches in a blender) until it is smooth. I spend a bit of time at this, because Picky likes it really, really smooth. 
  9. Once you are done, return it to the pot if you used a blender, and add the lemon and nutmeg (I just grind in a bit - if you are using already ground nutmeg, just add a few shakes). 
  10. Now you can gently reheat the soup if you need to, and taste it for salt. Serve it at the table with some or all of the toppings suggested. I like it with a big dollop of yogurt (everyone is always so afraid to try this! I'm telling you - it's good!! I finally got Picky to try it tonight in addition to her cheese topping, and she loved it!), Picky likes it with cheese, and DH likes it with sausage and green onions. 
One meal that makes everyone happy! And Yoda likes it too, because it's green like him.


January 2, 2010

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

All right, I know I said I was going to do more healthy food...but, you know, ricotta is full of protein, and if you use whole wheat pastry flour in this recipe...well, no - I guess I can't make this into a health food. But it is one of my most requested recipes, and I've been meaning to put it on the blog for awhile!


This one is from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe - one of my favorite cookbooks, and one of two that I have that are specifically breakfast recipes. These muffins freeze and re-heat very well - I often make a batch and freeze them, and then pull out one or two for a special treat/snack. Although I wouldn't really call them "healthy", I feel better giving these to Picky than a cookie, which is much higher in fat and sugar, and lower in protein. Plus the muffins fill you up much better. I also make these to bring as gifts or as a potluck dessert. I made them for a New Year's brunch - I tried to mix it up a bit by adding white chocolate chips instead of regular, mostly because I thought they would look cool, but actually it didn't look or taste as good as the regular semi-sweet chips do, so I wouldn't advise that. You could probably do chocolate chunks instead of chips, though - hmmm, I may have to try that, although it may have to wait until after I've dropped the extra holiday pounds...

Chocolate Ricotta Muffins

  • Nonstick spray
  • 2 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I usually use whole wheat pastry flour)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6-8 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa (use something really good...this makes the recipe...)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or chunks?...)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (she recommends whole milk ricotta, but I've used low fat with good results...)
  • 2 large eggs (curious about egg sizes, or need to convert? click here.)
  • 1 1/3 cups milk (again, I usually use 1% here, but I think anything would work...)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted (I do this in the microwave - be careful not to blow it up, though! It works better if you put a piece of wax paper or butter wrapper over the dish, and start with 35-45 seconds. The time will vary a bit depending on your microwave. Or you could get all old-fashioned and melt it in a little sauce pan on the stove...)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray 12 standard muffin cups with nonstick spray. (I always end up with more, because my muffin tins are smaller - I think I usually get about 20, and I knock a few minutes off of the time...)
  2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cocoa, sugar, and chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Place the ricotta in a second medium-sized bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, beating well with a medium-sized whisk after each addition. Add the milk and vanilla, and whisk until thoroughly blended.
  4. Pour the ricotta mixture, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't overmix; a few lumps are okay.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups. For smaller muffins, fill the cups about 4/5ths full. For larger muffins, fill them up to the top. If you have extra batter, spray one or two additional muffin cups with non-stick spray and fill the remaining batter. (tip - If I have empty muffin tins, I fill them 1/3 with water. I'm not sure where I heard this, but it's supposed to be better for the pan somehow. You do have to be a bit careful taking it out of the oven, though, lest you slop the hot water on yourself or the other muffins...) 
  6.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the pan from the oven, then remove the muffins from the pan and place them on a rack to cool. Wait at least 30 minutes before serving. (yeah, right! Well, at least try them before giving one to your child, because the chocolate chips get really, really hot!! I don't think I've ever waited 30 minutes, though - that's asking too much!)
Ok friends, I've done my duty and shared our favorite muffin recipe! I'd like to now say that after this it will be all healthy recipes, but I haven't posted my recipe for zucchini bread yet...wait, isn't zucchini bread healthy? It's got vegetables in it...