Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grilled Cheese and Cabbage Sandwich

I used to eat grilled cheese sandwiches with cabbage in them a lot when I was a kid, and I always loved them. Now I almost never eat grilled cheese, but this week I started craving them. I wanted to make a slightly more "adult" version of the sandwich, so I upgraded the cheese from American to colby jack and havarti, and since I had no red cabbage on hand (the usual type, and honestly my favourite), I used napa this time. I really love the cabbage and pickles in a grilled cheese, because it adds a nice crunch to the sandwich, a little extra nutrition and a slight twist on the usual flavour. Hope you enjoy!

2 slices bread
handful of pickle slices (optional)
1 slice colby jack cheese
1 slice havarti cheese
1/4 - 1/3 cup sliced or shredded cabbage
thin layer of oil or butter

Heat pan or sandwich machine (I use a sandwich machine), or grill. Put a tiny layer of fat on the outside of each piece of bread. Put a slice of cheese on the bread, then top with pickle slices and cabbage. Add second slice of cheese, then second slice of bread. Grill, fry or cook in the usual manner you use at home. Serves 1.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pomegranate, Mango and Blueberry Smoothies

I found a bunch of frozen fruits on sale, so I snapped them up to make smoothies for P. When the POM juice came, of course I thought it'd be wonderful to use some of it for the smoothies as well. These are a wonderful addition to lunch; relatively low in calories and chock full of nutrients. If you add protein powder, it can even make for a quick meal replacement. Hope you enjoy!

8 ounce pomegranate juice
1 cup frozen mango
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup ice
Up to 1 cup of water, as needed

Blend. Stream in water if needed while the blender runs. Serves 2.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vanilla Bean Quince Paste

I love the humble quince. I don't care how it's prepared, I still love it. Quince jam, quince tarts, quince everything. But most of all, I love quince paste. Quince paste is like magic to me. Unbelievably delicious in an almost peaceful sort of way. It's sweet, but not to sweet. The rich pectin content of the quince gives it a silky yet gelatinous texture. It's the perfect snack. Good alone as dessert, as a midnight snack, or beautiful with cheese. It can be melted down to use as a glaze or incorporated into dressings. And yet, it's so satisfying that just one square is enough to make you happy.

Because of all this, anytime I see quince at the store I try to buy several so I can make enough paste to last me through the year (though I usually do this in more than one batch). Quince is back in the stores now, and it's a huge source of excitement for me. However, I decided this year to do something a little different with it. Enter vanilla bean. I always figure that vanilla makes nearly everything just a little better than it was on its own, so I thought I'd see if that rule held true for quince paste. For me, it did. This recipe is best made on a chilly, rainy evening when you have nothing else to do but get through a chapter of philosophy homework. I hope you enjoy!

3 quince, peeled and cored, then cut into chunks
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I reserve the pod for homemade vanilla extract)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
sugar equal to the volume of the cooked quince

Place the quince in a baking dish and place in the oven. Set the oven to 350 and set the timer for an hour. The quince should be soft at this point. Remove from oven and puree with the cup of water. Measure this mixture, then pour into a saucepan. Add an equal volume of sugar, the lemon juice and the vanilla seeds. Cook over the lowest heat setting on your stove, stirring every 10 or so minutes, until it seems like it's setting up (this will take a couple hours). Heat the oven to 170F or the lowest available setting you have. Grease a pan (or two little ones, like I like to) and pour the paste into the pan(s). Smooth the top, then put it/them in the oven for a couple hours to dry a bit. When it's dried and completely set, you can either leave it in the pan and take out slices as you want them (this is what I do), or you can unmold and cut them into pieces, then wrap with wax paper.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Pasta with Pesto

Today has been a big cooking day for me. Instead of doing homework, like I should be, I've spent the entirety of the day in the kitchen. I made pasta salad for us to snack on during the week, pumpkin bars that I'll likely take most of to school, and the lengthy process of starting meat sauce. I'd also intended to make quince paste, but I just didn't get around to that yet. I suppose I can read my philosophy and make quince paste tomorrow at the same time (since you have to sit there stirring for so very, very long).

In light of how much is going on in the kitchen, I wanted something simple for dinner, but still relatively healthful. I had a sweet potato lying about that really did need to be eaten, and I'd purchased a jar of pesto recently in the middle of a craving (okay, I was craving fried plantains dipped in pesto, but I forgot to get the plantains) that I was having. I know... most of you are probably purists in the sense that you don't buy your pesto pre-made, but since I know I am too lazy to make pesto the right way, I'm okay with buying one that's made with decent quality.

I thought the flavours would mesh well together while acting as a nice deviation from either sage (which goes so well with sweet potatoes and squash) or sweetened, dessert-like sweet potatoes. We both really enjoyed this dinner, and happily ate up seconds of it (accompanied by asparagus which I'd sauteed simply in olive oil with salt and pepper). I hope you enjoy!

1 large sweet potato
8 ounces penne
3/4 cup pesto sauce

Wash your sweet potato, and stick it in the oven. Turn the oven on to 400F. When the oven is heated, set timer for approximately 30 minutes and let the sweet potato keep baking. Poke the sweet potato with a fork to see if it's done, and if it is, remove it from the oven and slip the skin off (I love poking up a flap of skin with a knife then peeling it off the whole potato). Slice it in half lengthwise, then cut into roughly 1" cubes. Prepare the penne according to package directions, drain and return to the pot. Add the sweet potato cubes to the penne, then toss with pesto and keep on the burner long enough to heat through. Serves 2-4.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mom's Roasted Potatoes

Well, sort of. My mom always made these when she was baking a chicken, so they're a little different today than how she normally made them. I always remember when she made these potatoes, that I was more interested in them than anything else that was on my plate. I could probably spend days eating bowl after bowl of her potatoes.

So, after the second day in a row that we went to the butcher seeking bones for Francis that they were out of dog bones (apparently the K9 unit snaked them all), we decided to have a treat and get some nice ribeyes. Yum. For a side, I'd originally planned to use up some of the frozen cauliflower and brussels sprouts, but P wanted potatoes. Just so happened I'd found a 5 pound bag on sale recently and hadn't used them all for potato salad (though I did make a lot of potato salad). I'd mentioned just making baked potatoes, but P thought they take too long to make so he suggested I cut them up and roast them.

Immediately, I remembered mom's potatoes. No chicken, but I figured I could make a rough approximation. I got really excited for potatoes then! If you want to make them more like mom's, ditch the celery salt and put a chicken on top of them to roast. Anyway, I hope you enjoy them.

2 russet potatoes, cut lengthwise into eighths
drizzle of vegetable oil
1 teaspoons each: lemon pepper, seasoned salt
pinch each: celery salt, paprika

Preheat oven to 450F. Cut the potatoes and put them in a baking dish. Drizzle on the oil, then sprinkle on all the spices. Bake 45 minutes or until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside (pierce with a fork to check). Serves 2.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Pomegranate Braised Vegetables

My goodness, the gaps between posts are just getting longer and longer, aren't they? I'm telling you, this semester is going to kill me. Thankfully, the lovely people at POM Wonderful offered to send me some of their juice, which I accepted. This rekindled my desire to be a little more creative with food and to focus slightly less on comforting stand-bys (which means a post, at long last!). They generously sent me a full gallon of the juice, which is good because P has been drinking it faster than you'd believe. He advised me to hide some of it if I intended to cook with it, so I hid some. Good thing, too since we're almost out of the juice that wasn't hidden! Anyway, if you haven't tried the juice, thus far it's been lovely to cook with (and for drinking as well). They didn't send me any of their teas, but I've tried them on my own and recommend them as well.

Onward. When I started thinking about pomegranate, and pomegranate juice, the first thing I thought of, of course, was red (maybe it's a rebellion against all the Descartes I've been reading?). Then I remembered I had a beet in the fridge I'd been saving for... well, I don't remember what it was for (though I'm glad root vegetables last a while without going bad). It seemed like it'd be really nice to cook the beet in the pomegranate juice, and then I thought I might have other produce that'd be good as well in it. I love how pomegranates are sweet but still a little tart. Turned out I had a little more produce I'd forgotten than I want to admit to (this seems to be a common theme with me these days), so I made the whole thing as one dish instead of just the beets and served it over rice. Oh, initially I'd intended also to boil down any remaining liquid after it all cooked to make kind of a glaze, but I ended up deciding the juices would be even better on the rice. Hope you enjoy!

1 beet, peeled and cut into cubes
1 red onion, cut into large chunks
5 large button mushrooms, quartered (these were supposed to be stuffed, but...)
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
3 carrots, cut into 1" or so pieces
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 ounces POM pomegranate juice
1/8 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup broth (I used a mix of beef and chicken, you use what you like)

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix all the ingredients together in a roasting pan and put in the oven for 30 minutes. Get really impatient that your food is taking too long, and stir the veggies, crank the oven up to 400F and cook it another hour, stirring half way through. Serve over rice (which I made using chicken broth and a bay leaf). Serves 2-4.