Easy Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts

This is by far one of my favorite ways to have brussel sprouts and thankfully it’s also the easiest preparation as well.  Every once in a great while I get a hankering for brussel sprouts and let’s be honest, it’s hard to make them really tasty, right? I’ve previously done some recipes where you go through the tedium of removing all the leaves of the sprout and saute that with some apple cider vinegar and some panchetta. It’s tasty but not terribly healthy and it takes close to nine years to trim the sprouts. This preparation is super fast and my husband and I can consume a whole tray of these ourselves. Haven’t subjected the baby to them yet but we did discover he’s a huge fan of Philly cheesesteaks over the holiday so I’m pretty excited. He eats most every other veggie so once he gets some teeth these will be on the plate.

I prepare this using fresh sprouts. I suspect you could do it with frozen but would likely take longer to make.

1 dozen medium sized fresh brussel sprouts

1 Tbs olive oil

Generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle of cider vinegar (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take sprouts, cut bottom off and remove any leaves that fall right off when you trim the bottom and cut the sprout in half lengthwise. Rinse the sprouts and then place them on a cookie sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, making sure the sprouts are well coated with the oil. Place the spouts all cut side down on the cookie sheet and if you want a little extra tang, sprinkle them with some cider vinegar. Place in the preheated oven and check after about 15 minutes to see if they are starting to brown.

You may see the outer leaves really get brown, and if that’s the case, turn your oven down to 375 and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the sprouts are all fork tender. The outer leaves, especially any loose ones, may end up crispy and they are my favorite part!

I served this with some chicken cutlets prepared like the turkey cutlets in this recipe.

My First Jam Session – Onion Rosemary Jam

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Pregnant or not, I’ve never been much of a jam eater. I haven’t got anything against jam, but it’s usually too sweet for me (yes, the person who can shotgun a box of Nerds thinks jam is too sweet) but I am sort of fascinated by the more savory variety. They make excellent additions to any cheese plate or sandwich or even just smeared on an english muffin atop some laughing cow cheese (which is what I had for breakfast today). The recipe and idea for this one came from Serious Eats, which is a really great foodie blog with all sorts of angles on the whole food thing. The best part of this recipe is that it is relatively easy, with many ingredients we had already in the house (always appealing to us lazy folk). I followed the recipe mostly to the letter but the timing listed definitely did not work out for me. I am outlining my notes below as I went through it as this is really a great recipe and worth trying but for those of you who are jam novices like me, some things to consider.

Here is the recipe.

I used a heavy enamel pot for this so that I could fit everything in and also have a shot at not scorching the whole bit and ended up with a ruined jam and worse, a ruined pot. I also started out with probably closer to 4lbs of onions. This could have been mistake #1.

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The recipe calls for 15-20 minutes of heavy sweating in the pot for the onions, rosemary, bay leaf, olive oil and salt in the pot with the lid on. Turns out it really should have been more like 25-30 minutes to really get the onions nice and soft. We’ll call this mistake #2. I think this was probably THE key mistake as the final product was a little too chunky with the onion and while still very, very yummy, it just had too much texture to it. So then I added all the vinegars, etc:

DSC_1111As you can see from the picture the onions are still pretty raw and not as soft as perhaps the original recipe intended. I also (let’s call this mistake #3) upped the vinegar/wine content to account for the additional onions I used but didn’t increase the sugar or honey. Mostly I did that because as I said in the intro, I hate really sweet jams. But I also suspect this meant I short-changed myself in that gooey jammy consistency at the end with too much liquid and not enough sugars to convert to that texture we all associate with jam. Additionally, it took way longer than 15-20 minutes to get the liquid to reduce by half (more like 30-45 minutes) at which point the bay leaf and rosemary were removed and we got to this stage:

DSC_1112I kept going for another 40-45 minutes before the liquid was gone and we got basically down to the consistency which is in the very top photo above. I placed it in sterilized jars, closed them and allowed them to cool before I placed them in the fridge.

The end result, as I said, was still very good and I’d happily try again with some of the things I learned on this go round and it stores for a good 2 months – longer if you follow through with the full canning process of boiling the full jars.

Toasted Butternut Squash Seeds

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So I’m about 5 months preggers now and my desire to consume food still remains bafflingly (is that a word?) mechanical versus being something I get excited about doing. The desire to make elaborate meals (or even easier ones) and then blog about it is just not there. But every once in a while I do still get a whim for something different and this was one such weekend. We had been getting CSA veggies all summer which has been phenomenal and last week was the last delivery. The last few weeks have included some delicious butternut squash which I have been busily roasting and consuming. One of the things I like to do when I have a good sized squash is to take the seeds out and roast them as you would with pumpkin seeds. The squash seeds are smaller than traditional pumpkin seeds but can be boosted by spices to flavor them up nonetheless. Here is a quick recipe which would also be good with pumpkin seeds. The measurements are not in technical terms because it depends upon the amount of seeds you harvest. I had about 1/2 cup of seeds which I placed in a salt water solution (1Tbsp salt to 1 cup water) while I cleaned and chopped the rest of the squash:

Generous pinch of garlic powder

Generous pinch of dill

pinch of sea salt

Light drizzle of olive oil

Take the seeds out of the salt water – mine sat in there maybe 15 minutes – you can leave them in for a while but I wanted to consume them ASAP so I drained them as well as a could and laid them out on a sheet of tin foil atop a baking pan. The oven was set at 375 so I could roast the actual squash while the seeds also cooked. I spread the seeds out in as flat a layer as I could and then added the olive oil. Just enough oil to lightly coat each seed so that the seasoning sticks to it. Then I sprinkled the garlic salt, dill and a touch of sea salt and laid the whole thing in the oven to cook. You should check the seeds every 5-6 minutes and give them a little stir so that they get brown all over. It took about 15 minutes or so for the seeds to get light brown all over and to be nice a dry and crispy.

There are many spice options that would work nice for this – maybe some chili powder or curry powder. It’s good to experiment and see what you can make with this tasty little snack.

It’s Been So Long, How About a Bowl of Lentils?

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For whatever reason I’ve got that “Reunited and it feels so good” song going around on repeat in my head tonight. Must be because this is the first time I’ve blogged, or even remotely felt like blogging in the last month or so. Why? Well it might be the little hormonal/life imbalance of becoming pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m ecstatic about it, but it’s mostly robbed me of my desire to cook and eat. Rather strange no? Instead of having strange pickle & ice cream combo cravings I’ve found that I’ve mostly lost interest in food except as a means to quell hunger pangs and provide general nutrition to myself and more importantly the person in my belly. As someone who loved to eat beforehand, this is a somewhat devastating development. I’m hoping it’s just a “phase” and it’ll pass along with the phase that requires me to get all weepy-eyed at anything young or furry.  But I digress…. for some reason – maybe it was the copious farm share pick up or the fact that not all of our tomatoes were lost to blight this year (this year SUCKED for tomatoes in the northeast) but I actually felt like making something for dinner. AND I felt like writing about it, so here you go..

Tonight I made a kind of crazy concoction which involves Trader Joes pre-cooked lentils (I love them, so easy!) and a bunch of random stuff from our farm share and/or garden. As a side note, my doc tells me that canned food is now a no-no for pregnant and nursing moms as well as tots under the age of 2 because the cans are lined with ….BPA… yeah, I had no idea either …. so canned food is out the window for me for the foreseeable future. Good times. Here is what went into the pot:

1/2 large red onion diced

2 small fennel bulbs, sliced thin

1 carrot, diced

1 package pre-cooked lentils (approx 2 cups)

1 bunch of swiss chard, leaves only, torn into pieces

2-3 cups diced fresh tomato

2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 cup of chicken broth (see my note below regarding TJ’s chicken soup concentrate)

1/2 cup white wine (don’t worry, I cook the hell out of it, there’s no alcohol left)

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt to taste

Take a large sauce pan, place onion, carrot, fennel and olive oil and turn the heat to medium high. Stir often and cook for a good 5-6 minutes while the veggies get soft. Add the lentils, wine, curry powder and a pinch of salt and continue to cook on medium high heat for another 2-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, broth, and parsley. Add chard – You will have to incorporate it slowly as it wilts into the stew. Turn the heat down to medium low and allow the whole thing to simmer for another 15- 20 minutes. In the meantime, add some brown rice to your rice cooker (or cook it stove top) and serve the lentil stew over top of the rice.

On the broth – I actually used Trader Joe’s Chicken Broth Concentrate, which is like crack if you really dig chicken soup like I do. This is THE BEST in terms of flavor I have ever had. And I make my own chicken soup from scratch on a regular basis but the flavors in this concentrate are so good, it’s unreal. Forget powdery bouillon cubes, this stuff is FOR REAL. Only downside: you need to use 1 packet for every 1 cup of water, so you go through your supply fast. I need to go back and buy out the shelf at Trader Joes. Maybe it’s the pregnancy, but this stuff is awesome:

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Gnudi – Done well this time

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So you may or may not remember the first time I made gnudi and it was a spectacular failure because I didn’t add flour. After all my hard work getting the water out of the cheese and the spinach and making all the tiny balls of ricotta yumminess I watched in horror as they disintegrated about 2 seconds after hitting the boiling water. I managed to salvage the remaining batter, freeze it, and then use it as ravioli filling, so not a complete failure I guess. I have poked around online and seen the errors of my ways – needing flour – but haven’t come across a compelling recipe until now. I have recently stumbled upon the Delicious Days blog which had this outstandingly easy recipe for gnudi (or ricotta gnocchi) and I tried it out yesterday. I am so freaking excited because not only was this easy but it was FAST too and something that can be modified in many ways to produce light pillows of ricotta fabulousness. Here is the recipe converted into US measure for those of you that don’t have a kitchen scale:

1 cup ricotta

1/2 cup flour + a little extra for flouring work surface

1/3 cup parmesan

1 egg yolk

1 pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (I added this for extra flavor

I followed the recipe as outlined on the DD blog, so I highly recommend having a read through there first. I combined the ricotta, with the excess water poured out (but no need to wrap it in cheesecloth and drain), with the egg yolk, cheese, salt and parmesan. Stir well so all ingredients are combined. You should start your pot of salted water boiling so it is ready to go before you add the flour.

Add the flour and just stir enough so it is combined but do not try to knead it. The dough will be somewhat wet and sticky but should stick together just fine. Take a large spoonful and place it onto your floured work surface. Roll it out into a long finger-like roll and then cut into bit sized pieces like so:

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Make sure you flour the surface you set them on so they are easy to remove. Once you have cut them all – and it’s important to time this well – put them right into the boiling water. Give it a stir, and watch them float to the top. It took about 3 minutes for them all to float up. Remove with a slotted spoon and add your favorite sauce. I made a crudo tomato sauce using the following ingredients:

1 14.5oz can of diced tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

6-7 leaves of fresh basil

Take the garlic and cut it into smallish pieces, and saute it in the olive oil until it is light brown. Turn off the heat. Add the tomatoes to a bowl, pour over the hot oil and garlic, chopped basil and a pinch of salt to taste. Allow this mix to sit for about an hour or so – this allows the flavors to mingle. I placed the bowl in the microwave for 1 minute to heat it up before adding the gnudi.

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Summer Fruit + Herb Salad

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This is a twist on your typical fruit salad and is something I love to serve with brunch. Now that the herbs are going strong in our garden, I am taking full advantage of it.  The idea is very simple – take your favorite fruits and 2-3 herbs, chop and combine. The following is what went into the photo above but you can make a much simpler combination and it works beautifully:

Apples

Strawberries

Blueberries

Raspberries

Mango

Kiwi

Pear

Mint

Chives

Cilantro

Combine the above ingredients, chopped, into a bowl and allow the flavors to mingle for a while before you serve it.  There are a myriad of combinations to the fruit and herb salad, but I would steer clear of using too strong of an herb flavor – like sage or thyme or tarragon, as it will overwhelm the fruit. Mint, cilantro, chives, parsley and basil are all good to use. You can also squeeze a lime over the salad to add additional flavor but it’s not generally necessary.

This salad is especially good spooned over some plain lowfat greek yogurt and drizzled with some honey.

I’d love to hear any favorite fruit + herb combos you’ve tried …

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