Friday, January 28, 2011

Picking up where I left off

After going to a Winter Farmer's Market in Raymond, NH this past weekend I was inspired to try out some new recipes this week for dinner. I found lots of winter root vegetables, Macintosh apples from the fall harvest still and some homemade blueberry jam. Once I returned home I was determined to plan out our entire week of dinners, which was only complicated by the fact that our oven broke on Sunday! Some of you may have seen the start of this on facebook, but to recap:

Sunday: Roasted Chicken with Apple Chutney, Mashed Root Vegetables and Sauteed Brussel Sprouts with Baked Apples for dessert!

Cooking is all about innovation and creativity. With the oven broke I decided to sear the chicken (bone-in chicken breasts) first in a hot pan on the stove, and finished under the broiler - making sure not to keep the pan too close to the top.

The Mashed Root Vegetables drove this menu. I bought a Rutabaga at the farmer's market and had never cooked with it before - so I went in search of a recipe to use it. My dad recently bought a vegan cookbook (The Vegan Table) thinking it was a vegetarian one - but as it turns out the book is full of these great, healthy recipes. This is where the recipe came from - except I substituted all of the animal products I wanted for their ingredients - no butter substitute for me, thank you!

Mashed Root Vegetables
4-5 cups root vegetables (I used majority rutabaga, then carrots and yellow potatoes)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup skim milk
2-3 tsp. of fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
4-5 TB. butter
4 cloves minced garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Peel and cube all of your root vegetables, attempting to cut them close to the same size so they cook evenly. Put in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add the salt and bring water to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until they are very tender.
2. In a smaller saucepan add milk, butter and all of your herbs and garlic. Simmer over very low heat - you don't want to boil the milk, you just want the flavors to all come together into the milk. Be sure to remove the bay leaves before you're ready to use the liquid.
3. Drain root vegetables and empty back into the saucepan. Mash with a potato masher, gradually adding the milk and mashing further until the mixture is smooth and the consistency you like. Don't add the milk all at once because if you have a runny mash there's not much you can do to fix it!
4. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and serve warm! When I made this it could've served 4 as a part of this meal.

Baked Apples

5 large baking apples (something firm, like green or golden delicious)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup golden raisins
2-3 TB butter
3/4 cup juice or water*

1. Wash apples and remove cores with a small, sharp knife. Be careful not to cut through the bottom, you want to be able to stuff the inside of the apples and not have it fall out the other side. The hole should be about an inch wide. Place the apples in a glass baking pan/dish that they'll fit in - size doesn't matter as long as they can stay standing up on their own!
2. In a small bowl mix together all of the other ingredients except the butter and juice/water. Stuff each apple with equal amounts of this mix and if you have extra mix simply sprinkle over the apples, not to worry if it gets in the bottom of the pan. Top each apple with a dab of butter.
3. Add your liquid to the bottom of the pan. (*I used a mixture of orange juice and blueberry pomegranate juice, which, after cooking, helped make a sort of syrup that was nice to drizzle over the apples. You can use whatever juice you have on hand or just use water). While baking be sure to baste with this liquid every 10 minutes or so.
4. I baked on the lowest rack in the oven on broil for just 15-20 minutes, but the original recipe suggested 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes. Feel free to open after 15 and stick a knife in the apple to see if it feels done - you don't want mushy apples!
5. Serve warm with a side of vanilla ice cream - I like to think it's a healthier option than apple pie.

Tuesday: Cuban Black Bean Soup, Purple Potato Gratin and Steamed Spinach

My family was skeptical about a meal with no "protein" - i.e. chicken, meat, fish ... But! They were all pleasantly surprised with how full they were at the end of this meal! Even said they could've just had the soup given how filling it was. I want to try and push having a vegetarian night once a week.

Cuban Black Bean Soup
2 TB water
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans black beans (1 of mine was reduced sodium)
1 medium, ripe banana, peeled and sliced
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
Dash of cayenne pepper (depends on how spicy you like your food)
1 can light coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup frozen corn
Salt, to taste
Garnishes: light sour cream, chopped scallion, chopped avocado

1. Add water to a large soup pot and heat over med-high heat. Add onions, garlic and chopped red pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Rinse black beans and add to pot. Next, add chopped banana, cumin, ginger and cayenne (if using). Stir and cook until the fruit seems like it has softened. Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low heat and simmer to help liquid reduce (about 30 minutes).
3. Place about half of soup in a blender ( in batches if you have to) and blend together to create a thicker, smoother soup. I like mine to have some chunks, but if you prefer a pureed soup you could blend the entire soup batch in the blender. After adding blended parts back to main soup pot, add corn. Then add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
4. As the main dish, this served the 3 of us (with three large portions), so as an appetizer or starter it could probably serve more like 6 people. Serve hot and garnish with whatever you like!

Thanks again to The Vegan Table for the inspiration for this dish!

The link to the Purple Potato Gratin is above but it was my first time cooking with these potatoes and they were just so beautiful I had to show you a picture of just how purple they were!

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