Friday, December 30, 2011

It’s Breakfast, It’s Lunch……no. It’s BRUNCH!

This time of year we seem to have more people around the house at breakfast time. Enjoying the lazy mornings of holiday vacation, what better way than to have a delicious brunch to start the day. We are doing a Mediterranean inspired Strata, which is a great thing to put together the night before and just throw in the oven in the morning. A very versatile dish, you can really put anything you have in the fridge into it and it serves a crowd.  The Eggnog French Toast will help you use up that leftover eggnog and please, who doesn’t love some bourbon-spiked syrup to top! We are doing an old school Ambrosia, well because it brings back good memories (didn’t love it as a child but it was always there around this time of year and as an adult I can’t get enough) and citrus IS in season. Of course, we have a few  “getcha going” cocktails to go along with. A refreshing Mimosa made from the leftover citrus in the Ambrosia, and of course a spectacular Bloody Mary…gotta get your vegetables somehow, right? We used a locally source Bloody Mary Mix we bought from Rosebud Restaurant ( in the VA Highlands…yes they bottle and sell it, locally made hot sauce called CHANTICO , by my friend Ralph Davia (, some celery bitters by The Bitter Truth( that we purchased at Holeman and Finch Bottle Shop ( and to make it super, extra special, we rimmed the glass with some Hiwa Kai black lava sea salt from Hawaii, I know not local but it was a gift and it is tasty! So, please, enjoy, the food (and cocktails) and especially, each other! -V

Eggnog French Toast with Bourbon Syrup - Serves 6-8
2 cups eggnog (recipe here)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Sourdough Boule, 1/2 pound, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices (or challah)
butter for the pan and service
Powdered sugar for service
Bourbon Syrup:
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup natural cane sugar
splash of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Bourbon
Special Equipment:
Griddle or non-stick pan, you could use very well seasoned cast iron here!
8x8 baking dish
sheet pan with a wire rack

Whisk together the eggnog, eggs, cinnamon, and salt in an 8x8 baking dish. Heat your griddle over medium heat. Place 2 slices of bread at a time in the dish with the egg mixture and allow to soak on each side for about a minute (let if you are using challah). Butter the griddle and lift the slices out of egg mix and let excess drip off. Cook on each for about 3 minutes, or until golden then flip and cook 3 minutes more. Transfer to a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack and place on a warm oven while you finish the rest. Repeat with the rest of the bread and egg mixture. In the mean time make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the bourbon. Serve the French toast dusted with powdered sugar, more butter and warm Bourbon Syrup.

Mediterranean Strata - Serves 6-8
Butter for the pan
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of salt and pepper
Sourdough Boule, 1/2 pound, cut into 1 inch cubes, about 6 cups
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 big handful baby spinach, or mature spinach chopped, about 1 cup
1/2 cup chopped orange bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Special Equipment:
2 quart baking dish

Butter your baking dish and set aside. Whisk together the eggs, milk, oregano, and salt and pepper.  Place the bread cubes in the pan and scatter the rest of the ingredients evenly over it, toss gently to combine and distribute. Pour the egg mixture over the bread mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°F and remove the strata from the fridge. Remove the plastic and bake on a sheet pan for about  35- 45 minutes or until it is puffy, golden and set in the center. Cover with foil if it begins to get too brown. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Winter Ambrosia - Serves 6-8
4-6 navel oranges, cut into supremes*
2  yellow fleshed grapefruit, cut into supremes*
2 ruby red grapefruits, cut into supremes*
1 cup Bing cherries, pitted and halved
1/3 cup finely shredded unsweetened coconut
2-3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

*To supreme means to cut the fruit out of the rind and pith into sections. The best way to do this is by cutting off both ends of the fruit. Set it cut side down and use your knife to go all the way around the fruit removing the rind. You should have a naked fruit, no rind and no pith (the white stuff). Now with the fruit in your hand (and over your mixing bowl, to catch any juice) take the knife and cut down each section between the pith that separates each one and scoop out the section and remove any seeds. Keep the guts of the fruit to squeeze for juice for the mimosas! Combine all of the ingredients and chill before serving.

Get Your Vegetables Bloody Mary
Black lava salt (or whatever good salt you have)
Wedges of lemon and lime
Your favorite vodka, about 1 1/2 ounces per drink
Your favorite Bloody Mary Mix (we used ours from Rosebud Restaurant)
Celery Bitters, optional
Hot Sauce (we used CHANTICO)
Cutting celery, celery, fennel fronds, pickled okra, olives, or cucumbers for garnish

Use a wedge of lemon or lime to run around rim of each glass. Spread the salt out evenly on a small plate. Dip the rim of each glass in the salt. Fill each glass with ice. Pour in vodka, bloody Mary mix and a few dashes of celery bitters and a few of the hot sauce. Stir to combine. Serve with your choice of garnish!

Citrus Mimosa
Leftover juice from insides of citrus used to make the Ambrosia.
1 bottle Champagne, Prosseco, or Sparkling wine

Place about 1 tablespoon of juice in each champagne flute and fill with bubbly! Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 Here We Come!!!

My mom always reminds me to eat collard greens and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. It is a Southern tradition to ensure luck and prosperity for the New Year. I wanted to class them up a bit for the special occasion so we are doing a Black-eyed Pea “Caviar” which I think is a Texas thing and a soufflé with the greens. Souffles can be daunting but they are so much fun and very impressive. My friend Maureen Petrosky, author of The Wine Club, has paired a wonderful bubbly to go along with these holiday traditions.

Black-eyed Pea “Caviar” - Serves 4-6
1 can black-eyed peas, rinsed, about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup diced tomato, about 1 medium
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup diced orange bell pepper
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 tablespoon chopped celery leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 small jalapeno, diced (optional)
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for at least a few hours before serving. This can be made the day before, it actually improves the longer it sits!

Collard Green Soufflé  - Serves 4-6
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
3 pieces of bacon, diced, about 1/2 cup
8 big collard leaves, stemmed and chopped pretty small
Pepper vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
6 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
Special Equipment:
Stand mixer or hand mixer
1 1/2 quart soufflé dish or round stoneware dish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Butter the soufflé dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the Parmesan and evenly coat the inside of the dish with the cheese.  In a large straight sided pan cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy, about 8-9 minutes. Add the collard greens and cook just until they turn bright green and soften a bit, about 4-5 minutes. Add a few splashes of the pepper vinegar, a bit of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Remove them to a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter to the pan and add the onions. Cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Using the end of the whisk, add about 1 tablespoon at a time, of the milk and onion mixture to the egg yolks, mixing completely, doing about 3 tablespoons total, then add the yolk mixture to the pan with the rest of the milk and onion mixture. Add the Gruyere and stir until melted, and then add in the bacon and collards. In the mean time, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixture to stiff peaks. Fold in 1/4 of the collard green base to the whites. Then gently add the rest of the egg whites to the collard green base. Pour into prepared pan and cook for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top but still a bit jiggly in the center. Serve immediately.

Bubbles that Won't Break the Bank 
Typically on New Year's Eve I bust out bottles I've been saving all year, but since this one past required I drink them prior to the ringing in of 2012 I had to head to the wine shop along with the zillions of you seeking sprtiz for your special occasion.  Never seeing myself as a wine snob I usually look for affordable and delicious sips to serve.  I know Champagne, from Champagne France, is always a fave in my house but I wasn't looking to spend more than $20 a bottle. When it comes to bubbles this can be a risky venture. I didn't want something flat, or sweet or lacking finesse.  In order to find this diamond in the rough I had to start taste testing and after a few sad little sips I found my shining star.  Trapiche Sparkling Wine NV (non- vintage) ringing in at $15.99 a bottle is a stellar bottle of bubbly from of all places Argentina. Argentina has been pumping out delicious still wines at awesome prices and now I can say they are kicking it on the bubbly side too.  This pour is full of vibrant bubbles that taste fresh and will make your mouth happy this New Year's.  It's versatile enough to go with lots of different dishes or you can simply sip it all by itself.

Maureen C. Petrosky
The Wine Club, A Month- By- Month Guide to Learning About Wine with Friends

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Hors D'oeuvres

Here are a few ideas for your next holiday gathering. A few little nibbles to get the meal started off, all very easy and delicious. The Marinated Mushrooms are raw and tasty, use leftovers in a salad or sauté quickly to add to some grilled chicken or steak. The Goat Cheese with Lemon and Thyme was something I had at my friend Terry’s house once and is super easy and pretty. Any leftovers would be good in an omelet! Grilled Shrimp are always a crowd pleaser. If you don’t feel like grilling just quickly sauté them and serve with the complimentary sauces…one spicy and one cool.  You can choose the size of shrimp. Don’t go too small or too big, they should be a 1-bite deal. Crostini are one of my favorite party foods. You can top them with anything and they are easy to eat. One, standard sized baguette can yield about 45-60 crostini. I would count on 2-3 per guest. We are suggesting some nice toppers as well as a healthy twist with the cucumber in place of the bread for the Trout. You could also top a cucumber with a piece of sushi grade tuna, a bit of wasabi, pickled ginger and a drop of soy…YUM. The amounts are suggested for 6-8-ish servings but any of them can be easily doubled for more! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!!!

Marinated Mushrooms:
Serves 6-8 as an hors d’oeuvre
1 pound small cremini mushrooms
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup minced shallot
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 lemon, zest and 1 tablespoon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of dries marjoram
Pinch of cayenne, optional

If there are larger mushrooms mixed in cut them in half or quarters to be uniform with the average size of your whole shrooms. Whisk together all the other ingredients. Add the mushrooms and allow to sit at room temperature for at least a few hours (or overnight in the fridge) stirring occasionally. Serve at room temperature.

Goat Cheese with Lemon and Thyme
 Serves 6-8 as an hors d’oeuvre
 4 ounces log of fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Extra Virgin olive oil for drizzling over the log
Fresh cracked pepper
Crackers to serve with

On a sheet of plastic wrap combine the thyme leaves and lemon zest in the shape of the cheese. Lay the goat cheese, topside down into the thyme and zest. Pull the plastic wrap up and around the log pressing the plastic wrap to the cheese to affix the thyme and lemon. When ready to serve, remove the wrap and place on serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and top with some fresh cracked pepper. Serve with crackers.

Grilled Shrimp with Remoulade and Spicy, Smokey Cocktail Sauce
Serves 6-8 as an hors d’oeuvre
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
1 teaspoon grainy or Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 cup ketchup
1-2 tablespoons prepared or fresh grated horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Hot sauce, as many shakes as you prefer
Cayenne, pinch, plus more if you wish
Cracked black pepper

Heat a grill to medium. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on each side for about 3-4 minutes until they turn opaque.
To make the sauces, mix all of the ingredients until well combined and refrigerate until ready to serve. Place 1 shrimp on a toothpick and serve with the sauces.

Crostini: Pimento Cheese, Roast Beef, and Smoked Trout
Serves 8-10 as an hors d’oeuvre
1 baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
Olive oil

Heat your oven to 375°F. Brush 1 side of the crostini with some olive oil. Toast in the oven until crisp and golden, about 10-15 minutes, flipping half way through the cooking time.

Warm Pimento Cheese Crostini
2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 a small Vidalia onion grated, about 1/4 cup
1/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons chopped pimentos or jarred roasted red peppers
1/4-cup mayonnaise

Heat your oven to 350°F. Put all of the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Pulse until blended to desired texture.  Should be a little chunky.  Spread on crostini and warm in the oven until melty and delicious. Serve immediately. You may have some pimento cheese left over…just refigerate and enjoy in some scrabbled eggs or on top of a burger!

Roast Beef, Brie, and Horseradish Crème Fraiche
12-20 slices top round roast beef about 1/4 #, (I used Boars Head Londonport)
1 small wheel of Brie (put the rest out on a cheese platter), sliced into thin wedges
1/4 cup very thinnly sliced red onion
1/4 cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon prepared or fresh horseradish
pinch of paprika
parsley leaves for garnish

Combine the crème fraiche,horseradish, and paprika. Place 1 small wedge of brie on each crostini. Roll up the roast beef into a cylindar and place on top of cheese. Top with about a 1/2 teaspoon horseradish sauce. Place a few slices of red onion and  a parsly leaf on each one and serve.

Smoked Trout with Lemon Pepper Cream Cheese on Cucumber
1 hot house cucumber, sliced into 1/4 inch thick,  on the bias
4 ounces Smoked Trout, flaked
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
pinch of salt
Fresh chives, cut into 1/2 inch batons, for garnish

Combine the cream cheese, lemon juice, pepper, and salt in a small bowl. Spread a bit of the cream cheese on each cucumber slice, top with a bit of trout then garnish with a few chives. Serve cold.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Cocktails

A holiday gathering wouldn’t be complete without these players!!! Here are a few traditional drinks with some twists, some warm, some cold, something for everyone. These are all very versatile, you can omit or change spices, you can switch up the liquors; make them suit your needs and the preferences of your guests. The Rum Chai Spiced Cider is delightful, with essence of chai spice, a bite from the ginger, and warm cozy feeling from the rum. It is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. The Choco-nog is a bit different than traditional but ridiculously yummy. It is like dessert and can be made with out the cocoa and spices for a yummy after dinner drink. The Holiday Sangria is stupid easy and a good crowd pleaser. This can also be made with white wine if you wish. And the Kir Royale just screams celebration! This is such an elegant drink and a great way to kick off your holiday gathering! Please enjoy responsibly!
Happy Holidays!

Rum Chai Spiced Cider - Serves 6-8
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
15 whole black peppercorns
13 slices candied ginger, reserve 8 for garnish and chop the rest
2 star anise pods
8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 quart apple cider or natural apple juice
Juice and rind from 1 orange
1 cup light or spiced rum*
Special Equipment:
Mortar and pestle
Fine mesh strainer

Using a mortar and pestle crush the whole spices: cinnamon through fennel seeds, (alternatively you could put them in a zip top bag and crush with a heavy bottomed pot). In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine the apple juice, orange juice and rind and ground cinnamon. Add the crushed spices and bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain out the solids and discard, then add the rum and serve with a slice of candied ginger on the side of the glass.
*We tried this with both light and spiced rum. The spiced rum gave us a bit of a kick and the light rum seemed subtler and fruity…you choose!

Choco-nog - Serves 6-8
3 cups heavy cream or 1/2 and 1/2
1/3 cup sugar
6 eggs
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
1/2 cup bourbon or brandy
Grated chocolate for garnish
Special Equipment:
Microplane or rasp style grater

In a medium saucepan set over medium low heat combine the cream and sugar. Bring to a simmer (about 170°F) stirring occasionally to ensure that the sugar dissolves. In a blender, blend the eggs until light in color and frothy. Add the cocoa powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cayenne and blend until combined. With the blender running carefully add 1/2 of the warmed cream/sugar mixture to the blender.  Return the egg mixture to the pan and whisk to combine. Add the bourbon or brandy and whisk to combine. You can serve it warm or chilled with grated chocolate.
* If you want just traditional nog omit the cocoa, cinnamon, and cayenne and garnish with grated nutmeg.

Holiday Sangria - Serves 8
Simple Syrup:
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/4 cup water
1 lime
1 lemon
2 oranges
1 small grapefruit
1, 750 ml bottle red wine (we used Syrah, but Zinfandel, Merlot, or Shiraz will work)
3 ounces Brandy
2 cups club soda
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

For the simple syrup: Heat the water and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved, set aside and cool. Cut all of the citrus fruits in half and juice into a pitcher (oranges use 1 1/2 for juice) then slice the other halves into thin slices to add to the sangria. Combine the red wine, brandy, and simple syrup. Stir to combine and chill. When ready to serve add the club soda and most of the pomegranate seeds and stir. Serve over ice with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds in each glass.

Kir Royale:
To make a Kir Royale just add about a tablespoon of Chambord to each glass of champagne then garnish with a lemon twist…rub the yellow part of the twist around the rim of the glass…it will leave some essential oils from the rind for the drinker to enjoy with every sip!

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's COOKIE Time!!!

I love this time of year but I am usually so busy right up until Christmas that I can’t take the time to do all the fun stuff, like making and decorating cookies. Not this year. I am still busy but I have a reason, well lots of reasons.  One of them is writing this blog…sharing things like ideas and recipes with you. I did the basics with a little twist. The best part is that you can make all parts, dough and frosting, up in advance, whenever you have a moment. They all refrigerate well and the doughs can be frozen until you are ready to bake and serve. This time of year is all about efficient time management and I am all about it, even down to my cookies. Share any of your favorite cookie memories, flavors or tips. And happy December! -V 

Recycled Sweater (felted) Ornaments:

Lime Cardamom Holiday Cookies
Makes about 24 cookies

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lime zest*
Decorating sugars or sprinkles
Easy Decorating Frosting (see recipe below)

Special Equipment:
Stand or hand mixer
Microplane or fine rasp style grater
Rolling pin
Holiday shaped cookie cutters between 2-3 inches
Parchment paper or a silicone baking mat

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium low speed add the egg, vanilla and zest, just until combined. Turn the mixer down to low and little by little add the flour mixture until completely combined. Turn out dough on to a piece of wax paper and form into an even disk. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours (or up to 3-4 days, you can also tightly wrap and freeze until ready to use, just thaw in the fridge overnight and allow to soften a bit at room temp) before attempting to roll.
Preheat your oven to 350 °F. On a lightly floured surface (you can also use powdered sugar to dust the surface, it will absorb into the cookie) roll the dough out until it is an even, less than 1/4 inch, thickness.  Cut out desired shapes and place on baking sheet with parchment. Re roll the leftover dough and roll, and cut until all dough is used. Sprinkle with decorating sugar if using and bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes then move to a wire rack to completely cool before decorating with frosting.

*You can really use any flavoring you like here, 1 teaspoon of a single one or 1 teaspoon total of a mixture. You could even try rose water; a teaspoon will do for this size recipe. Or even do a different extract such as peppermint, cinnamon, or almond. Also, any zest would work here too…you could skip the spices all together and just do zest, or skip it all and just go with the OG and no flavors. You chose!

Makes about 1/2 cup - Easy Decorating Frosting 
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tablespoons water or milk

In a large bowl whisk together the ingredients. Store in an airtight container or place plastic wrap right down on the surface (it will forma crust) until ready to use.
I usually put into a zip top bag and just cut off the corner to decorate.
This will decorate 1 batch of sugar cookies (depending on your design) and plenty to decorate the Ginger Peeps. You can also easily double this recipe for lots of cookie fun. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks; just let it warm up at room temperature before using.

Makes about 18, 4 1/2 inch Gingerbread Peeps

3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup candied ginger, diced
Easy Decorating Frosting (see recipe)
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons Red Hots, or red candy hearts

Special Equipment:
Stand or hand mixer
Microplane or fine rasp style grater
Rolling pin
Holiday shaped cookie cutters between 2-3 inches
Parchment paper or a silicone baking mat

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and all the spices and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. On medium low speed add the egg, vanilla, molasses, zest, and both gingers just until combined. Turn the mixer down to low and little by little add the flour mixture until completely combined. Turn out dough on to a piece of wax paper and form into an even disk. Chill in the fridge for at least 1 1/2 hours (or up to 3-4 days, you can also tightly wrap and freeze until ready to use, just thaw in the fridge overnight and allow to soften a bit at room temp) before attempting to roll.

Preheat your oven to 375 °F. On a lightly floured surface (you can also use powdered sugar to dust the surface, it will absorb into the cookie) roll the dough out until it is an even, less than 1/4 inch, thickness.  Cut out desired shapes and place on baking sheet with parchment. Re roll the leftover dough and roll, and cut until all dough is used. Sprinkle with decorating sugar if using and bake for 13-15 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the baking sheet for a few minutes then move to a wire rack to completely cool before decorating with frosting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Grains & Legumes

          Lentils Growing in Washington's Palouse
I don’t know about you but I am feeling a bit piggish after this past week of gorging and re-gorging on Thanksgiving leftovers. I kind of give myself a free pass for the week. After all, Thanksgiving IS a day about eating and making enough food to continue to eat on it for a few more days, plus some. These are things we may not eat through out the year, at least not that often, that symbolize this time of year. I look forward to it. I embrace it. But I have had my fill, now I need a bit of a belly break, and a break from cooking and planning. I want to share with you a few very healthful, easy recipes that are comforting, filling, satisfying, and yet really good for you…so you won’t feel bad about having seconds. The first one is a Lentil and Brown Rice Soup. This is super easy, really yummy, and a great thing to make and freeze.  I know, lentils aren’t local to most, unless you live in the North Western United States but they are a great pantry staple to have on hand, along with a nice crusty whole grain bread and – boom- you have a great meal on your hands. The next recipe is Get your GRAINS Waldorf Salad. We use wheat berries and a mix of dried fruit and nuts and a little Greek style yogurt. It is a perfect lunch with some salad greens or a great side to accompany a nice piece of grilled meat. This recipe gets better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to mingle. So take a break, and give your tummy a rest and feel good about eating good! Here is a recipe for Lentil cookies from Alton Brown's Good Eats, a great way to get kids to eat more lentils!

LENTIL and Brown Rice SOUP: Serves 6-8
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 rib of celery diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 bay leaf
12 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup green lentils
½ cup brown rice
10 ounces fresh spinach
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
1 cup Greek style yogurt or sour cream for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until they begin to soften about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Add the cumin, bay leaf and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the lentils and brown rice and cook, uncovered for
45-50 minutes or until the rice and lentils are tender.  During the last few minutes of cooking stir in the spinach, lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Note: You can add sausage (about ½ pound, turkey or chicken, removed from the casing) to this recipe for a complete meal. Add to the pot after the garlic step and cook until browned, about 4 minutes, then carry on with the rest of the procedure.

To Freeze: Allow the soup to cool completely and freeze in small amounts. To reheat, allow to thaw in the fridge then warm over medium heat.

Get Your GRAINS Waldorf Salad:

1 cup wheat berries, soaked in water over night
3-½ cups water
½ cup toasted and chopped pecans
1 medium crisp apple like Gala or Granny Smith, cored and chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 scallions, chopped
½ cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Greek style yogurt
1-tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
A few grinds of pepper
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Drain the wheat berries from their soaking water. In a medium saucepan bring the 3-½ cups of water to a boil and add the wheat berries. Turn the heat down to maintain a simmer and cook for about 50-60 minutes, or until they are tender and beginning to burst open. The wheat berries will be pleasantly chewy. Drain them from the water and allow to cool. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cooled wheat berries and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.