Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

I adapted this recipe from the October (2009) issue Bon Appetit. I added about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans and one chicken breast (grilled and then sliced) for the carnivores in the household to add into their salad. This recipe needed a bit of extra balsamic vinaigrette to really finish it, so I’d plan on adding a bit of extra, if you plan to make this.
This salad is very adaptable. You could substitute blue cheese, if you prefer. This could be a fabulous first course, or, if served in larger portions, it’s a great entree salad. Toasted pumpkin seeds would be nice, too. Substitute lettuce or spinach if you’re not a fan of arugula.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts, Vegetarian Edition

Holy cow, does our family ever love these brussel sprouts. Seriously, it’s a visceral thing. I could eat a pound of them. Every day. They are absolutely addicting. On the rare days when we actually have some left over, I’ve been known to have them for breakfast the next day. But…Girl is now a vegetarian. And that means no pancetta. Well, I’m not insane; it means no bacon for HER. The rest of us still have the original version, but I had to come up with a version for her that would be as tasty (well, close to as tasty…I mean, you can’t just leave bacon out of a dish and expect it to still be as tasty!)
So, anyway…this is the version that I came up with and it was actually quite nice and, with the added nuts and cheese, managed to give her a bit of much-needed protein.
Oven-Roasted Brussel Sprouts
1 pound fresh brussel sprouts, washed and halved
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced (or run through a garlic press)
1 – 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 -2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (removed from woody stems)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
(Bake at 250 degrees until fragrant and lightly browned)
2 Tbsp crumbled Blue cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sprouts with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and pour into a medium-sized baking pan (you don’t want the sprouts to be too crowded.) Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until soft and darkish brown around the edges, turning and tossing about every 5 minutes until uniformly cooked. Sprinkle with vinegar and thyme and stir in to incorporate. Cook for another 3 – 5 minutes, or until vinegar is thickened and absorbed. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the pecans and cheese. Serve.
Vegetarian and Carnivorous Sprouts, ready to go in the oven together.

Pumpkin-Nut Doughnuts

Pumpkin-Nut Doughnuts
For doughnuts:
2 3/4 cups flour
2/3 cups almond flour (finely ground almonds)
3 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup whole milk
2 heaping Tbsp sour cream
heaping 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 stick melted butter
For cinnamon-sugar coating:
1 heaping cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and salt.
In a medium bowl, stir together the pumpkin, milk, sour cream, sugar, eggs and melted butter. Gently stir this mixture into the dry ingredients until it begins to hold together as a soft, sticky dough. It’s OK if it’s a bit lumpy.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until you have a smooth dough. Sprinkle a little more flour over the top of the dough and roll it out to a 1/2 inch thickness. Using a doughnut cutter (or two round cookie cutters – one about 1 inch across and another about 4 inches across,) cut out the doughnuts and put them on a cookie sheet dusted with some flour.
Pour at least 2 inches of canola oil into a large, deep frying pan and heat it over high heat until it reaches 375 degrees (this takes a while!) Fry about 4 to 5 doughnuts at a time, depending upon the size of the pan. Do not crowd the pan. The doughnuts will sink to the bottom of the oil, then float back up to the top. When they float to the top, turn them over and cook them for another 1 to 2 minutes until uniformly browned. Be careful not to overcook them.
Fry the doughnut holes separately, watching them carefully, as they will cook VERY quickly.
Drain the doughnuts and holes on paper towels for a moment and then, while still hot, coat them with the cinnamon sugar. Coat the doughnuts a few at a time, as they come out of the oil, rather than waiting to coat them all at the same time.
Yummy spices!

Brown Butter Gnocchi with Spinach and Pine Nuts

From January 2009 Cooking Light magazine. Recipe here.
Needed more brown butter than the 2 Tbsp specified to give it enough flavor. Pre-packaged gnocchi definitely leave a LOT to be desired. I would make this again, with homemade gnocchi (don’t get scared off by the recipe, gnocchi are EASY), adding a little extra browned butter.
A good vegetarian meal for Girl, though, and a good, easy and quick side dish to accompany Chicken al mattone for the rest of us.

Chicken al Mattone (Chicken under a brick)

When I saw this recipe on the cover of September’s (2009) Bon Appetit magazine, I knew that I would have to try it. I have an overabundance of pride about my ability to butterfly (spatchcock) a chicken, so I tend to get a little excited when I see a recipe that requires that particular technique. A recipe that also incorporates garlic, red pepper, rosemary and lemon? Well, where do I sign?
Going into the oven, under the foil-wrapped brick.
This was REALLY easy (the trickiest part is the butterflying, but it’s simple once you get the knack – there are lots of videos on YouTube – I’ll probably make my own soon) and absolutely gorgeous and delicious. I love cooking whole chickens, because everyone gets to pick their favorite: dark meat or light? drumstick or breast? The chicken stayed moist and had lots of great flavor. This will definitely be a “keeper.” If I make it again for adults only, I’ll up the level of red pepper flakes a bit.

Martha Stewart’s Citrus Sugar Cookies

As I have mentioned before, I am a sucker for anything citrus-y. I would choose a good lemon meringue pie or lemon bar over the fanciest chocolate dessert any day, so when I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website (*), I knew that I had to try these.
These were absolutely DELICIOUS. The citrus flavor is nice and tangy, but still subtle enough for this to be a SUGAR cookie, not a LEMON cookie. This is the easiest dough to work with that I’ve ever seen in my life; it was smooth and soft, without being sticky at all.
The ice cream scoop directions made it VERY simple. My scoop may be a little bigger than Martha’s, though, because I ended up with only 24 cookies, rather than the 30 that she yielded. Actually, if I make these again, I will use a smaller scoop (1 inch?) and bake them for a few minutes less, because using the bigger scoop yielded massive, monster cookies almost 4 inches across (fun for a party or event, but a little big for an everyday treat.) The one good thing about the larger size, though, is that it gives more of the chewy cookie interior, while a smaller cookie would provide more of the crunchier exterior.
I’m not exactly sure about why the directions say to brush the unbaked cookies with water, but I did it and they turned out well, so why mess with a good thing? I used citrus-colored (orange, green, yellow) sanding sugar on a couple of them, just for grins. The water made an interesting glaze-y design on those cookies that wasn’t evident on the ones with the clear/white sanding sugar (I used coarse sugar, because that’s what we typically like on muffins, etc.)
* I came across the recipe because I bought some Boyajian lemon oil to make these cookies and was looking for other recipes that would call for it.
Pondering a purchase of the citrus oils, but not sure whether or not it’s worth it? If you love to bake and either LOVE citrus as I do or love experimenting with all different flavors, then you MUST buy them (you’ll need the orange oil for when I post my chocolate-orange truffle recipe soon). If you’re not a big baker, you may not find enough uses for the oils to justify the money and effort to buy them. They are a little hard to find, even in Austin, however you can order them directly from Boyajian’s website. Locally, the only place that I’ve found the 3-oil set (3 small bottles that will last a LONG time for about $10: one lime, one orange and one lemon) is at Sur la Table in The Domain. Central Market sometimes has the lemon and orange, sold individually, but does not carry the lime oil. Williams-Sonoma used to carry them, but no longer does.
A couple of the recipe commenters on Martha’s site complained about the fact that Martha specifies “drops” of oil, but the bottles don’t come with droppers. Check around at a craft store (or possibly even a drugstore?) for small little eyedroppers that can be washed and reused. Make sure to clean them thoroughly, if they’re plastic (a glass one is even better, if you can find one), because the citrus oils are VERY strong and acidic and can actually melt plastic (think about it – this oil is the active ingredient in those cleaners like Citra-solve, etc…it’s STRONG STUFF!)

Polenta Triangles Stuffed with Spicy Greens and Cheese

Polenta, served with some pesto-grilled chicken thighs for the carnivores…
This meatless recipe from Serious Eats was tasty and not too difficult (although it does require some advance prep and a few hours of chilling time,) but the wine flavor (I used a light Pinot Noir) in the greens layer was a little too strong for the little people that live at my house. I like this preparation of polenta, but may experiment with sandwiching different things in the polenta layers, like possibly a sun-dried tomato concoction or sauteed mushrooms or maybe spinach (or another green without the wine.)
The greens looked gorgeous as they were cooking (beautiful color!)
Onions and garlic with beet and chard stems.
Adding the greens.
The greens, pretty much fully cooked. I continued to cook them until the liquid was pretty much dry, because I wanted to be sure the alcohol cooked out and because I didn’t want the greens layer to be soupy and risk it separating when I cut the polenta.
Layering the polenta, greens and cheese. I used smoked mozzarella, because I had no idea what Caciocavallo was and didn’t want to go on a search.
Polenta, after being chilled and cut (before baking.) They are not kidding when they say that this recipe feeds a crowd. This dish would be GREAT for a buffet or potluck or for a light first course (instead of pasta) before the main/meat course.

Does bacon count?

As much as I want to support Girl in being a vegetarian, I am really struggling to come up with recipes that will suit all four of us these days. I won’t give up, but it’s definitely testing my creativity. If only bacon didn’t count. Is there such a thing as vegetarian, except bacon? Apparently, I’m not the only person to ponder this idea…
If there were such a thing (and Girl would agree to it), I could make this and this and this.
Small side note: for some reason, the search field on this blog is intermittently (and inexplicably) not working. We are attempting to get his problem rectified, but in the meantime, if you are trying to locate a recipe and are not able to find it (in the categories at right or by searching,) then try googling for “feed your kids” and the name of whatever recipe you’re looking for, for example, “feed your kids” and brussel sprouts. Like this. There I am…the fourth link down.

Grilled Apple and Chicken Salad with Cider-Maple Vinaigrette

IMG_7822.JPGthis salad on Serious Eats, it looked like something that everyone in my family would eat, with a few minor adaptations.
First off, Vegetarian Girl left the chicken off her salad, of course, but I figured that with the cheese and the nuts, she would still be getting plenty of protein.
Secondly, I used toasted pecans instead of the almonds, because we like them better and it’s what I had in the house.
Thirdly, I omitted the raisins, because most of my family believes, like Lilly, that raisins taste like dirt.
This salad was QUITE yummy. It never would have occurred to me to grill apples, but they were tasty and we all liked them. I know that safflower oil might be difficult for some people to find, but it’s worth the effort, because it is MUCH lighter than other oils and keeps the dressing from being too greasy on the delicate ingredients.


Glazed Buttermilk Cake Doughnuts

It seems like doughnuts are everywhere lately, maybe because lots of the food blogosphere is involved in testing recipes for Lara Ferroni’s new doughnut book (coming next Fall.) It seems like every food blog that I read is talking about doughnuts, posting recipes for doughnuts, etc So, I’ve had them on the brain lately, as well. It was kismet when I saw
this recipe on Serious Eats and just happened to have a bit of leftover buttermilk in the fridge. These require quite a bit of advance prep (the dough must be made, then chilled, then cut out, then chilled again, then brought to room temperature and then fried), but they were quite yummy and not overpoweringly sweet. The only criticism that I have was that the glaze was a little…meh. Just nothing special about it, just sweet. Next time I might use buttermilk to make the glaze instead of water (or maybe just regular milk or cream) and would add a pinch of cinnamon and maybe a drop or two of vanilla, just to give the glaze some character of its own.
Cut out dough, waiting to be fried.
Completed doughnuts (well, there might be just one or two missing…)