Saturday, October 27, 2012

roasted squash with quinoa and sausage




Often when I come across a recipe that intrigues me I have a pretty good idea of what it will taste like. Sometimes I am disappointed (the chocolate compost cookies that I tried this week were hugely disappointing - I love the original compost cookies and so had high hopes but .... blehhhh! They seriously tasted like the cookies that I used to find in my grandma's cookie jar along with various other odds and ends - compost for sure) and other times I am euphorically surprised. This meal in a dish is for sure in the latter category. I thought it would be really good but it is so much more than that. I try to keep the bar* high on the blog here regarding what I share. I have to be pretty excited about whatever I share because I know that everybody has so many options and only so much time. This I am super excited about - healthy, easy, and fantastically delicious. I was filled with evangelical zeal when I made it; something this great needs to be shared. Good food isn't really all that hard to find but sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort. Or a long list of ingredients. Or time. Or a toll on one's health. To find an option that hits the trifecta of simple, healthy, and incredibly good is uncommon; adding kid-friendly makes it rare as hen's teeth.

The recipe is from a cookbook that is my newest enthusiasm -  Whole Grains for A New Generation by Liana Krissoff. (Although it is currently slightly out of vogue to be excited about eating whole grains - or any grains at all - I am a fan and think they can have a place in most diets.) I used a pretty little Carnival squash instead of the more common butternut that was called for and didn't peel it because (this is old I know) I don't believe in peeling much of anything with the exception of beets. Aside from adding a tiny bit of fennel seed, those are the only very minor tweaks I made to the recipe.

Make this. Soon.

roasted squash with quinoa and sausage
(from Whole Grains for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff)

1 small Carnival or butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 shallot
1 small onion
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
225 gm mild Italian sausage
1 tsp dried sage leaves
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scrape the seeds out of the squash and cut it into 1-inch chunks. Chop the onion into large chunks. Put the onion, peeled shallot, and squash chunks into a 9x11 inch baking dish and drizzle with  1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until tender - about 30-40 minutes. Give the vegetables a stir about half way through.

Meanwhile remove the sausage from the casings and brown in a 2-quart saucepan with the remaining olive oil. Add the sage and fennel seed, 1/2 tsp of sea salt and 1 1/2 cups water. Stir and scrape up any brown bits. Add the quinoa. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn off the heat but leave covered and on the burner for another 5 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and add the mixture to the roasted tender vegetables. Gently fold to combine.

*my bar you understand - everyone has a unique idea of what is yummy. One of my dear ones is probably busy pitying David every time he eats with us; his idea of good food is quite different from mine.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

baked cod with dill sauce



This is definitely comfort food for our family. It is another one of those super-simple recipes that  gets pulled out when time or tempers are short and dinner needs to be on the table tout de suite. I found the recipe in a magazine (long forgotten now) when I was a very newly married lady. It worked for two very poor and very tired university students and was popular with a tableful of toddlers and preschoolers. We ate it often all the way through soccer games and ballet classes and then another generation of university students. Now the grandkids love it and so do their moms because it is just that easy and yummy. All the ingredients are usually stocked in my pantry or fridge so it doesn't even need to be planned for. Just whip it up and  dinner is ready. 

This is not something that plates up beautifully but it sure goes down well. We always serve it with rice and peas. Always. Just works.

If you don't have sour cream use plain yogurt. If you are out of dill weed or chives, try another herb. We have used herbes de provence among other options. Any firm white fish is good. Double or halve the recipe depending on how many you want to feed - or if you want anything left for a lunch another day. This is that kind of dish. Simply easy and very forgiving. Like the best friends.

baked cod with dill sauce

4 small cod fillets
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp dried dill weed
1 Tbsp dried chives
1 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Arrange the cod fillets in a baking dish that just accommodates them. Drizzle with lemon juice.

Mix together the sour cream, mayonnaise, dill weed, and chives. Spread over the fish. (There will be a lot of sauce but you will want it. Trust me.) Sprinkle with the paprika. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until the fish flakes easily.

Serve over rice  - that's where the sauce comes in :)



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

apple lunchbox yummies





I have almost worked my way through the apples from our apple tree. The basketful was a bit of a double-edged sword - lots of delicious little apples to use in yummy, yummy ways but keeping is a bit of an issue, so we have auditioned plenty of apple recipes in the last few weeks. This easy option is a keeper that keeps well. 

Most apple desserts don't travel particularly well so they are not great options for a lunchbox treat. This one works at home with a scoop of superior vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the leftover salted caramel sauce (if you haven't eaten it by the spoonful or used it all as an apple dip) and is honestly equally delicious all by it's naked self, freshly unwrapped from a square of waxed paper straight out of a brown paper bag. This really tastes like apples, not caramel, not cinnamon, but apple. The crust is nice and crispy-crunchy, the inside moist and perfect. That's my take anyway.

This a twist on a recipe from my grandma Ina Merrill. She called it 'apple crunch' and we love it exactly the way she always made it. The only reason I played with the recipe was just to see if it could be made into something that travelled well and didn't need to be eaten with a spoon. A simple matter of increasing a bit of this and that (principally more butter and flour), and voila! a happy success. Once again, I don't peel the apples because I just don't - why throw away all that goodness? But if you are a person that dislikes apple peel in their desserts, peel away. The apple pieces should be fairly chunky - about 1/2" 'cubes' (but don't get bent out of shape making them terribly cubic)

apple lunchbox yummies

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
5 small apples, cored and chopped (roughly 3 cups)

Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl beat together the brown sugar, melted butter, and egg until well-mixed and pale. Toss the apples with the dry ingredients, add the butter/sugar/egg mixture and stir gently until combined.

Spread the batter in a buttered 9x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 425 degrees F  for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.




Friday, October 19, 2012

apple dumplings







My dad loved apple desserts and my mom enjoyed making them for him. The rest of us were grateful for that arrangement for obvious reasons. A few years ago my mom gave me the recipe card that my dad had written out for her with the recipe for apple dumplings. I treasure this card (and keep it on the bulletin board in my kitchen) because it so reminds me of him - his unique handwriting, the small joke, and of course the apple dumplings. The joke was on me when I made these dumplings the other day because in the course of shredding the apples I remodelled my thumb quite significantly and had the dickens of a time keeping my own red blood out of the filling! (I know, gross but true - maybe some day I will learn that rushing in the kitchen while trying to do three things at once is not terribly wise.) One of the things that I love about the recipe on the card is the abbreviated method - this is a simple dessert but not quite that intuitive! Old recipes are often written like though, with the assumption that all one needs is a reminder of what ingredients are required and everything is a go.

In the original recipe a whole peeled apple is wrapped in each square of dough, my mom's version uses grated or shredded apples liberally laced with cinnamon. We love it that way and I follow the family tradition. I know that the apples in the photo look like they have been sitting out far too long but really, under all the cinnamon they are wearing they are still fresh. My aunt once told my mom that if it isn't brown (re the cinnamon) it isn't Merrill. I added a little oil of cinnamon to the sauce and omitted the blood but other than that this is the recipe my dad copied for my mom. The red food coloring is optional but pretty.

After the encounter with a sharp blade I finished the apple shredding with my much-loved Kitchenaid food processor. I recommend using a food processor if you have one but if you don't, grate carefully. Digits are precious and I prefer mine as integers.

apple dumplings
(from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook circa 1955)

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 drops oil of cinnamon
2 drops red food coloring
3 Tbsp butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup milk

filling:
5 medium apples, cored and shredded
1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar (or to taste)


Mix the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, oil of cinnamon, and red food coloring in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add butter. Set aside.

Shred the apples and mix with the cinnamon and sugar.

Sift the dry ingredients together; cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk all at once, stirring just until moistened. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a large rectangle - about 1/4" thick. Cut the dough into 5-inch squares.
(I got 11 'squares' - some of them weren't exactly straight on the sides but that doesn't really matter in the end and I prefer not to work the dough too much by re-rolling it.) Place  about 1/4 cup of apple filling on each square. Bring corners to center and pinch edges together.

Place 1 inch apart in ungreased 9x11" baking pan. Pour syrup over the dumplings. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 35 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

isaac


A sniff away from 10 months old and sweet, sweet, sweet. I love that face. And when he smiles.... the most adorable dimples appear. He reminds me so much of his dad when he was a tiny boy - quiet, sweet, busy, and quick as a cat. Gently trusting. I love him to bits. I am the luckiest grandy. So much love.

I am full and content.

Monday, October 15, 2012

almond-apple cake with salted caramel sauce





Prepare to be amazed!! Recipes for apple cake are ubiquitous but this is really good. Super simple and quick to whip up, it is a good recipe to have tucked away for those times when you just need a little something. The salted caramel sauce is also very simple and although it is not absolutely necessary it takes the cake from delicious to heavenly. Maybe you will want to add it to the list of lovely things to make with apples.

My great-grandfather was apprenticed as a nursery-man in his native Wales before he came to Canada. When he arrived here he carried on planting trees and among those trees he planted an apple tree on his own farm. A generation later my grandmother used apples that grew on that tree to make her crisps, pies, and other desserts  - I used apples from the tree in my garden. My apples (like hers) are small-ish, crisp, and on the tart side; you will want to judge the number of apples you need based on the size you choose. I wanted chunks rather than slices of apple and cut the pieces accordingly. 

almond-apple cake with salted caramel sauce

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp good quality cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp almond extract
6 small apples, cored and cut into eighths

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon). Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk, almond extract, and melted butter. Mix by hand until all ingredients are combined.

Spoon the batter into a buttered 10" springform pan. Arrange the apple pieces on top of the batter. Sprinkle with 2 tsp cinnamon and 1 Tbsp of sugar.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the cake is golden and a tester comes out clean.




salted caramel sauce

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
large pinch sea salt

Melt the sugar in a 1 quart saucepan, stirring constantly so as not to burn. When the sugar is melted and golden in colour remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. It will foam up. Add the salt and stir well. Finally add the cream, stirring until the foaming subsides. Done!


Saturday, October 6, 2012

grilled pizza with cheesy corn, fresh tomatoes, and basil







I love pizza. Not the typical greasy pizza joint Americanized version with dozens of toppings but the simple and delicious Neapolitan style. I love the thin chewy crust and the fresh clean flavours. My very, very favourite is a Margherita pizza. Simple perfection. When we go for pizza that is the one I always choose and the one I always make when I make pizza at home. Boring? maybe to some but ... why mess with perfection? Although I haven't changed my mind on that score the simple tweak of adding a corn "sauce" instead of tomato sauce is divine.

The recipe is from the August issue of Martha Stewart Living and it is every bit as good as I thought it would be when I fell in love with the picture. Martha's team has come up with a winner again. They suggest using store-bought dough; I have a recipe for pizza dough that is really good and honestly easier than making the trip to the market and buying some so I used that. Aside from that small change this is straight from the magazine. 

Once again I am late to the party but better late than never! I have had grilled pizza on the list of things I wanted to make for years. Really - years. Fast, easy, and super delicious, it is the closest I have been able to come to the perfection of a wood-fired oven pizza at home. I can't believe I waited so long. 

grilled pizza with cheesy corn, fresh tomatoes, and basil
(from Martha Stewart Living)

1 1/2 cups corn kernels (cut from 2 ears)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp salt

Put the corn, Parmesan, garlic, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and 1/2 tsp sea salt in food processor and puree until smooth with small chunks.

Spread remaining oil on a baking sheet. Place dough on pan and stretch to an even thickness, turning to coat both sides with oil. Let rest for 30 minutes and then restretch.

Preheat the grill to medium. Season dough with salt and transfer to the grill. (It took four hands for us to transfer the dough to the grill and keep it reasonably flat.) Cover grill and
cook until dough is just charred on the bottom. It happens super fast (about 3 or 4 minutes) so don't wander.

Flip dough and top with corn mixture and tomato slices. Season with a bit more salt and top with mozzarella. Cover grill and cook until the mozzarella has melted - about 5 or 6 minutes. Top with basil and serve.

(This dough recipe make enough for two pizzas and works equally well for oven-baked pizza)
Dough:
1/4 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher salt

In a small bowl mix together the first three ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the flours and salt. Make a well in the center and add the 3/4 cups water, cider vinegar, olive oil, and yeast mixture. Using a wooden spoon stir gently until a shaggy dough forms. You can add more water if it feels too stiff - this wants to be quite a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is supple and silky. Form dough into a ball, coat lightly with oil and place in a bowl. Cover with a damp towel and set in a warm-ish spot to rise for a couple of hours. (The longer the rising time the better the taste. So if you want to make your dough in the morning - or even the night before - all the better.)

those are Hannah's pretty hands . Thanks Han :)

Last night I had a private birthday celebration. Just me and memories of Merin. It was not at all maudlin, just private. She would have been 25 on Thursday. 

I didn't start out to have the private party. I simply wanted to watch a movie. I sat down, opened Netflix, started the search for a pleasant two-hour distraction, and saw "Center Stage" on the list. Eden and Merin watched that movie more times than I would like to count; I sat in on a few of the viewings. Watching, I was flooded with memories - of ballet movie nights and, of course, of Merin dancing. Those memories are precious and sweet.

I loved watching Merin dance - she was beautiful. Technically yes, but more, she shone. Last night I was thinking about that and I wondered if perhaps part of the reason she was such a joy to watch was because she found so much joy in dancing. When she was 15 she wrote in her journal that one of the reasons she loved to dance was because she felt close to God when she was dancing. She felt her ability to dance was a gift from her Father in Heaven and that when she danced it glorified him. 

Merin was one of my special gifts from God. I was grateful for her life the night she was born and I am multiple times more now. Happy 25 sweetie. I loved the party.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

corn cookies






Momofuku's Compost Cookies are well known and loved so when I saw a recipe for their Corn Cookies I didn't think twice about should I or shouldn't I, I just knew I would. And I did. These are so very worth the leap off the healthy-eating wagon. Sweet, salty, and buttery with an irresistible chewy center. The ground freeze-dried corn adds an intriguing texture and the taste? .... like corn, of course. I really cannot describe them and do them justice. You'll just have to try them.

Freeze-dried corn is available at Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma and on-line. You'll need it to make the freeze-dried corn powder - just grind the kernels to a powder in a blender or food processor. If you can't find the corn I suspect that a good cornmeal would be a reasonable substitute but I must admit that I haven't tried it. The downside would be the loss of the fresh corn flavour.

corn cookies
(from Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi)

225 gm (1 cup) butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cup flour
2/3 cup freeze-dried corn powder
1/4 cup corn flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream them together on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes - until they are fluffy and light yellow in colour. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the egg. Increase the speed to medium-high again and set a timer for 8 minutes. This long creaming process forces the sugar and fat together, making the sugar fully dissolve. When you are finished the mixture will be a very pale in colour - almost white - and will have nearly doubled in volume.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix just until the dough comes together. Don't overmix.

Using large ice cream scoop portion out cookie dough onto a parchment sheet lined sheet pan. Spacing isn't really an issue at this point because you need to cover the pan carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least an hour but not more than 1 week. DO NOT bake the cookies from room temperature. IF you do the butter will melt out too quickly.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the cookie dough balls on another parchment lined sheet spacing them about 3" apart. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will spread, puff up, and crackle while in the oven. After 18 minutes, the cookies should be very faintly golden on the edges and bright yellow in the center. Cool the cookies completely on the pan.

Monday, October 1, 2012



Ysa is so much her father's daughter in looks that it was fun to catch this resemblance. Merin is a year older in this photo than Ysa is now but ..... those eyes.

photo credit: Merin - unknown. (this was the lighting check from a modelling job in Japan)
                         Ysa - Aubrie Lang. And yes, this photographer is 6! A talent to watch for.