Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Apple Challah - Bread Baking Day


I have decided to try to enter a few more challenges or blog round ups. So far, the only one that I have managed to do with any sort of regularity is Weekend Herb Blogging. But when I read about bread baking day on Chris's blog I decided that this was something that I could do. After all, I bake bread usually once a week. As I read more about it, I realized that the theme was shaped breads. Ahh..I've never made a shaped bread before, so this sounded like a perfectly challenging challenge.


Um, challenging it was. I found a recipe in The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. The recipe was for an Apple Challah, which sounded intriguing. You make the dough and make an apple filling. Then you divide the dough into 3 equal parts, roll it out, fill each part with filling, form a strand, and then braid those 3 strands. Intriguing, yes, within my skill level, no.


As you can see in the pictures, after about 30 minutes of rising, the dough began to split. Since this is my first time ever attempting something like this, I can't rule out user error. The recipe may be fine, I just don't have the talent to make it work. Though, I have to say that I think that there were too many apples. The recipe calls for 3, I had at least 3/4 a cup left over and I still feel like I used too much in the bread. I also think the apple mixture was too wet. I drained it like it said, but there was still quite a bit of liquid which made the dough sort of liquidy and weak. And if I make this again, which I might (because I absolutely hate when a recipe doesn't work like it should), I think the apple mixture should not be in the center, but just slightly to one side to make rolling easier.


So, I know that this is not a shining example for my first entry into Bread Baking Day, but I don't have time to make another. Plus I have a cold and feel pretty miserable, so this is it. Hopefully, better results next time. This months Bread Baking Day is being hosted by Eva at Sweet Sins.

Apple Challah
Adapted From The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

3/4 cup water
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Apple filling
3 medium tart baking apples, peeled, cored and diced
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons hone
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar for sprinkling.

Place dough ingredients in the bread machine in the order recommended by your manufacturer. Process dough on dough setting.

Prepare the filling by combining the apples, lemon juice, honey and cinnamon in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to fill the dough. Drain before using.

When the dough cycle is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rectangle about 12 by 3 inches. Brush with melted butter and place 1/3 of the filling down the center. Starting from a long edge, roll up each rectangle, jelly roll style and pinch the seam to seal.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the 3 ropes on the sheet and braid, alternating the outside ropes over the center. Sprinkle with sugar and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

WHB - Avocado Salsa


I've said it before and I'll say it again, I think it is a bit of freshness added at the end or a flavorful garnish that really elevates a dish. I used to look at magazine recipes and see their lovely freshly chopped garnish on the top of their soup, and think how pretty it looked. And that was what I thought it was for "to look pretty", I had no idea how important it was. But I've slowly started changing my ways and adding a nice fresh handful of something or other on the top of my soups. What a difference! It really changes the flavors and definitely increases the visual pleasure of a dish. I have vowed..no more naked soups.

This fresh avocado salsa was the perfect accompaniment to a spicy mexican style chicken soup. The soup would have been good without it, but it was so much better with it.

Avocado Salsa

1 peeled and diced avocado
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 hot pepper, diced (seeded if you are a wimp)
juice of one lime
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
kosher salt

Mix avocado, tomatoes, hot pepper, lime juice, and cilantro in a bowl. Add salt to taste.

This was so good. I found myself trying to ration out my limey-tart bits of avocado into each spoonful of my soup. This would have probably been good with some finely diced red onion, but I am not a big fan of raw onion. I loved this so much, that I am going to go searching out some other ideas for fresh garnishes and salsas for the steady stream of soups and stews that come out of my kitchen in the winter.


And since it contains my fav herb, cilantro, this will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. It is hosted this week by Anna at Anna's Cool Finds.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mangoes in Lime Syrup


Sometimes, for me, deciding what to serve with something is as hard as deciding what to serve. I love Thai food, and while a simple Thai curry served over rice can be a complete meal, I like to serve a light side dish or dessert with it. This recipe is perfect because it's both.

Mangoes in Lime Syrup
(adapted from Perfect Thai)

2 large ripe mangoes
1 lime
3 tablespoons sugar

Peel, pit and slice the mangoes.

Remove a few shreds of zest from the lime for garnish, then juice the lime. Combine the lime juice with sugar until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour the syrup over the mangoes, sprinkle with the lime zest and refrigerate until serving.

That's it! Once you've made this, I guarantee it will become your go-to dish for Thai accompaniments.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Whatever You Want in it Frittata


When I started to write this post, I wasn't sure if I should title it frittata, baked omelet, crustless quiche or what! So I went and looked up frittata. A frittata is basically an omelet only the filling is mixed with the egg instead of being folded over in the center. I also found references to the need to start the frittata on the stove and then finish it in the oven. That is how I usually make my frittatas, however, when I'm busy and really want it simple, I just dump everything in a tart dish and bake it in the oven from start to finish. It doesn't seem to get as fluffy as when it it is started on the stove and finished in the oven, but it so easy. But if you are not in the mood to stand over the stove or carefully observe the frittata under the broiler (like maybe you need to go read some blogs), this way is perfect.

I usually make my frittatas the day before I go grocery shopping. It is perfect to use up the bits of vegetables and meat that might accumulate in the fridge through the week. In this case, I had a red bell pepper and some green onions that needed to be used up. I always, always have cheese in my fridge and this time it was some feta.

Red Bell Pepper Frittata
Serves 4

1 red bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, sliced
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
8 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Spray tart pan (I used a quiche dish) with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat eggs with a fork. Mix in vegetables, salt and pepper, and any fresh or dried herbs of your choice.

Pour into pan and place in oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden on top and the eggs are set.

That's it. No muss, no fuss. I love to use bits of leftover meat, though I have been known to fry up some bacon specifically for this recipe. My favorite way to serve it is with a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers and a slice of toasted bread.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is it Only Me?

Is it only me, or does anyone else have to make the regular decision of "to blog" or "to read blogs"??? Today, I had about 30 minutes to spare. I could either choose one of my pictures and recipes to blog about, or I could read the 99 blog entries waiting for me in Google Reader.

In case your wondering, I chose to read the 99 blog entries, and post this quick entry about my dilemma.

There are only so many hours in the day. And apparently I don't have enough of them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Black-Eyed Peas - My Legume Love Affair


My husband snorted with laughter when he saw me copying down information for "My Legume Love Affair", but hey, this is the year I vowed to eat more beans. And if I vow to eat more beans, then he eats more beans, that's just the way it is. So, this food blogging even is perfect!


I have to admit that most beans taste somewhat the same to me. I think if I was blindfolded and given a spoonful of kidney, pinto, great northern, or navy beans, I would be hard-pressed to distinguish between them, especially if they were cooked similarly. But not black-eyed peas, they have their own unique and completely identifiable flavor. I love it. It has such an earthy goodness to it.


My favorite recipe comes from Emeril for Hoppin John. This is a traditional New Years food for Southerners, but it is so good, you'll want to eat it way more often than that!

Hoppin' John

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.


This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo

From inside dust jacket (because I couldn't say it like this if you paid me a million bucks): Bridge of Sighs is classic Russo, coursing with small-town rhythms and the claims of family, yet it is brilliantly enlarged by an expatriate whose motivations and experiences - often contrary, sometimes not - prove every bit as mesmerizing as they resonate through these richly different lives. Here is a town, as well as a world defined by magnificent and nearly devastating contradictions.

Sounds good, doesn't it?

It's rare when I can say that I truly wish a novel would never end,especially when that novel is 528 pages long! But I can honestly say that about Bridge of Sighs. Russo is a mastermind at picking you up and depositing you in a small town, filled with all the charming and not-so-charming characters you would expect to find in one. When I read his books, I feel like I am there, like I know these people. When I finished his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Empire Falls, I told my husband, I was almost wondering what was going to happen to the characters next. It's the same with this book, I wonder about the children, how would they grow up, what would happen to the main character as he aged more. I know that some people reviewed that it was long and somewhat drawn-out, but those that loved it said the same thing I did..wonderful storytelling and characters you care about.

Plus, I get to cross this off my Notable Books Challenge and the Chunkster Challenge!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Fennel Crusted Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes and Pears


Yes, I know I eat a lot of pork. Hey, it's the other white meat. Really, I love pork. The ultimate pork, or course, being bacon. But since I can't eat bacon every day (and boy wouldn't that be wonderful), I make due with lean cuts of pork such as loin and tenderloin. Last week Peter, of Kalofagas Pursuit of Delicious Foods, offered this recipe for pork loin crusted in fennel for Weekend Herb Blogging. This week, I am showcasing a different version from Real Simple magazine.


This recipe is available at the website here. I didn't realize that Real Simple put their recipes out on the website. That is good to know, since I really have enjoyed the recipes from their magazine. This one I had torn out of the October 2007 issue and placed in my "to try" folder.


Fennel Crusted Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes and Pears
Serves 4

1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
2 pounds boneless pork loin
2 red onions, quartered
1 pound small white potatoes, quartered
3 firm pears (such as Bartlett), cored and quartered

Heat oven to 400° F.

Using the bottom of a heavy pan, crush the fennel seeds.

In a small bowl, mix the seeds, the garlic, 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Rub the mixture over the pork, then place the pork in a large roasting pan.

In a bowl, mix the onions, potatoes, pears, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining oil. Scatter around the pork and roast until cooked through, about 70 minutes (internal temperature 160° F). Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with the roasted produce.

Yield: Makes 4 servings


This was really good. The aroma of the fennel was amazing and had my family checking in at the kitchen about every 15 minutes. Not only did it taste good, it was really pretty to look at, and would make a great company dish, because once you put it in the oven, you can forget about it. Served with a salad and bread it makes a great complete meal. My time was a little longer, since my loin was bigger, so I would recommend using a thermometer to make sure your pork gets to the right temperature.


This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Rinku at Cooking in Westchester.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snow Day! Snow Day!


Yep, don't laugh! We had a snow day today! No school!


Those of you who get any kind of snow regularly are probably laughing at my pictures. But here in East Tennessee, this amount of snow will call off school. When I first moved here from Missouri, I couldn't believe it, when they cancelled school, with what looked to me to be a mere dusting.


It's the mountains. Even a little bit of snow and slush can freeze on the mountain roads and cause slick spots. It's not safe to take the children on school buses on possibly slippery roads.


As a teacher, I appreciate this concern. Thank goodness for the mountains. I live in the valley, where it didn't amount to much, but I get a free day.


So, what did I do. Well, I baked, of course. Cookies and bread. And I took pictures of our snow.

The best part of this was that they decided last night. Usually I have to get up at 5:45 am, drag myself downstairs to the tv, and wait for the report. But they decided by 10:00pm! So, I was able to snuggle down into bed, turn off my morning alarm, and read a few extra chapters in my book. I love snow days!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thai Chicken Soup - Slow Cooker


In the winter, soup is definitely my favorite food. One-because it is so comforting, and two-because it is basically a one pot meal. Luckily my favorite winter time appliance, the slow cooker, and soups go hand-in-hand. So, when I found a recipe for Thai Chicken Soup at JustSlowCooking, I knew that I had to try it.

Thai Chicken Soup
adapted from recipe at WWW.JustSlowCooking.com

6 thighs or legs, or combination of both
2 cans (16 ounces each) chicken broth
8 carrots, diagonally sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 piece (2 inches) ginger root, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks lemon grass, cut into 1-inch pieces, or 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can (15 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cans (4 ounces each) straw or button mushrooms, drained
1-2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste
fresh lime wedges
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Combine chicken, broth, carrots, onion, ginger root, garlic, lemon grass and crushed red pepper in a slow cooker. Cover; cook on low-heat setting 6-7 hours or high-heat setting 3 to 3 1/2 hours. If necessary, skim off fat.

Remove chicken. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken and return to pot.

Stir in coconut milk, bell pepper, mushrooms, curry paste and cilantro. Cover; let stand 5-10 minutes. Discard lemon grass. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle peanuts over each serving and serve with fresh lime wedges.


This was very good. I changed it a little from the original recipe. I substituted chicken thighs for the boneless breasts called for. I find dark meat more flavorful for soups, and I feel the bones impart a richness to the stock. I also added the curry paste because I felt it needed some heat and little more depth. And for serving, I suggest adding lime wedges. A fresh squeeze of the limes right before serving really brightens the soup. Also, mine cooked for about 10 hours on low, and then was kept warm for 2 hours because that's how long I'm gone on a school day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Chunkster Challenge 2008


Okay, I am entering another book challenge. The way I look at it is this, I'm going to be reading the books anyway, I might as well get some sort of extra satisfaction by scratching them off of a specific list. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I love lists. There are few things more satisfying to me than scratching something off a list. Sometimes even if I've all ready completed something, I write it on my list, just so that I can immediately scratch it out. If you look over at the left sidebar, you'll see the notable books challenge. See the scratched off book? Imagine my glee when I learned out to scratch out words on the computer.

So, anyway this new challenge is the Chunkster Challenge. A chunkster is any book over 450 pages. All you have to do for this challenge is read 4 of them. The beauty of this is that 2 of my notable books will also fit the bill for this challenge. That means when I finish them, I will be able to scratch them off of two lists. Oh, the joy.

My list:

Tree of Smoke: A Novel by Dennis Johnson
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo
Vanity Fair (Penguin Classics)by William Thackery
Night and Dayby Virginia Woolf

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pork Chops with Whiskey Sauce


Every once in awhile, I make the perfect meal. The meal where all of the flavors go together perfectly and it is exactly what I want to eat at that moment. It doesn't happen very often, I believe that my last perfectly coordinated meal was chicken with gremolata, which occurred on July 27, 2007. Maybe I am destined to create the perfect meal twice a year. Now, don't get me wrong, I've had some tasty meals between July and now, but anytime I can put together a protein and 2 sides and have it all mesh perfectly, I am proud of myself.


I know that tonight's meal may not look all that attractive. It's hard to make varying shades of tan, brown, and beige look attractive. And I know my sour cream sauce separated a bit, but it doesn't matter. This was all so good! The menu was One-Pan Whiskey-Flavored Pork Chops, cabbage slow braised with apples, and mashed potatoes to smother in all that whiskey sauce goodness. The pork chop recipe came from Cooking Light, the cabbage was ala Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food, and the mashed potatoes, thank goodness, just came from my head, because I can do some things without a book.

One-Pan Whiskey-Flavored Pork Chops
from Cooking Light January 2001

2/3 cup fat-free sour cream
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
1/2 cup whiskey

Preheat oven to 300°.
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl.

Sprinkle pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; sauté 5 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove pork from pan. Add onion and mushrooms to pan; sauté for 3 minutes. Carefully add whiskey to pan; cook for 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir sour cream mixture into pan. Return pork to pan; spoon sauce over pork.

Wrap handle of skillet with foil. Cover and bake at 300° for 1 hour. Serve immediately.

4 servings (serving size: 1 pork chop and about 1/3 cup sauce)

You know what this reminded me of?? If you are old enough, you might remember the crock pot recipe that used pork chops and cream of mushroom soup. This was like that, only much, much, much better. You could pick up a hint of something special in the sauce, but I don't think you would be able to identify it as whiskey, if you didn't know. One change I made, I did not bake it for an hour. First of all, I forgot to start it early enough and second of all, I didn't really think it needed an hour. And it didn't, I baked it for about 30 minutes and it was cooked perfectly.


The pork chop recipe really stole the show, but the cabbage made quite a nice showing for itself. Basically you slowly braise the cabbage in butter with some chopped apples (and a few cloves). Right before serving you stir in a few tablespoons of apricot preserves and a little cider vinegar. The apples pretty much dissolve and the cabbage becomes soft and sweet. And the mashed potatoes were perfectly lumpy, just how I like them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

WHB - Savory Herb Black Pepper and Parmesan Shortbreads


I read a lot of food blogs. A lot. I leave lots of comments on food blogs, especially when I see something that I want to try. I star it in Google Reader. But then when it comes time to plan my menus, I sit at my dining room table with my cookbooks, unfortunately I am not sitting down at my computer with my starred and bookmarked items. So, I rarely remember the delicious sounding recipes that I want to try. Except every once in awhile, when all of the planets align perfectly, I happen to remember a starred recipe that would be perfect for an event or occasion. This happened over the holidays. I was invited to a Christmas open house and needed to bring an appetizer. For the past 2 years, I have brought a bean dip, with pita chips to the party. I wanted to try something different this time, and fortunately, the very same week of the party, Patricia, from Technicolor Kitchens, posted this recipe. Which as I reread her original post, I see that she got it from Bake and Shake, who apparently adapted it from an Ina Garten recipe. Now, it is my recipe. Because I am going to be making this a lot. I will take it to parties. I will make them on Saturdays, just because.

Savory herb, black pepper and parmesan shortbread

1/2 cup (113g/1 stick) salted butter, softened – I used unsalted
1/4 (heaping) cup (35g) ground parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon freshly cracked/ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil (or use the dried herb you like the most)
1 1/4 cups (175g) all purpose flour

Line a light-colored baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the butter, salt, parmesan, black pepper and basil until creamy and speckled. Slowly add the flour, and mix until dough holds together when pinched. If dough is still too crumbly, add up to 1 tablespoon of ice water. Turn out onto a floured counter top, roll into a ball and then into an elongated log, around 30 to 35cm (12 to 14 in) long, depending on how large you want your crackers. Try to make sure the log is an even length, and wrap in tinfoil or plastic and freeze for at least half an hour, or longer if you don't want to serve them today. If you do, preheat your oven to 175ºC/350ºF.

Remove from the freezer, and slice into rounds: the original recipe (by Ina Garten) yields nearly 36, Patricia got 35, and I forgot to count mine! Arrange in rows on the baking sheet, with at least a little space between them - they won't spread like normal cookies or biscuits. Bake for 15-25 minutes, checking after 15, until golden brown around the edges and smelling delicious (so true!! The smell is intoxicating).
Remove and cool completely, or serve slightly warm.

Makes 35-36


These are so good. Seriously good. I could easily have eaten the whole bowl myself. At the party, I happened to be standing by the food table (um, yes, I just happened to be standing there, it's not like I spend most of the night at the food table, I do occasionally wander away to refill my wine glass), when someone asked me if I knew what those "crackers" were. I said yes, that I had made them and that she should try one. She stared at me and said "you made them"..."you made crackers". I kind of understood her confusion, who makes crackers??? You go to the store and buy them, that's how you get crackers. I assured her again that I made them. I wondered away (how does my wine glass keep getting emptied so quickly) and forgot about her. About an hour or so later, she comes rushing up to me, exclaiming that they were fantastic, the best crackers that she had ever eaten. Of course, by then she'd had a little bit more wine, and was quite cheerful, but I do believe that her exuberance was warranted, these are fantastic crackers.


This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Vani at Batasari.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Fruit and Nut Granola


In addition to bread (or rolls), the other thing that I make every week is granola. Cereal, and especially granola, always seems so overpriced at the grocery store. I tried several recipes until I finally settled on one from Cooking Light. This recipe is very forgiving. I frequently substitute ingredients, choosing whichever dried fruit that I have on hand. I sometimes substitute wheat or oat bran for the the wheat germ, and I use a nut oil in place of the vegetable oil. I also don't use the sesame seeds, I don't know why other than sesame seeds sounded strange in granola. What I really like is the combination of honey and orange juice as the liquid, with very little oil. Most granola recipes call for anywhere from 1/4 to 2/3 cup of oil. I've found that if you heat the honey for about 30-45 seconds in the microwave, it pours and mixes better with the dry ingredients.


Fruit-and-Nut Granola
from Cooking Light March 2001

4 cups regular oats
1/2 cup toasted or honey-crunch wheat germ
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 cup sunflower seed kernels
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1 cup chopped dried mixed fruit
1 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the honey and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook 4 minutes or until warm. Add the oil and vanilla; stir with a whisk. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture, and toss well.

Spread oat mixture onto a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes; stir. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until crisp. Cool in pan. Place oat mixture in a large bowl; stir in dried fruits.

Yield: 8 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)


Like I said, this is my favorite granola recipe. I always keep the ratio of oats to liquid the same, but experiment with everything else. Also, I don't stir it, the outside edges of the pan get a little browner than the middle, but it's no big deal, and I like just placing it in the oven and forgetting about it for 25 minutes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I have finished my first book for the Notable Books Challenge. This book was listed as a Publishers Weekly Best Book. The main character of the book is Judas Coyne, an aging death-metal rock star. He collects unusual and macabre items, such as a cookbook for cannibals, a used hangman's noose, and even a snuff film. So, when he reads an ad on the internet for someone selling their stepfather's ghost, he can't help himself. For $1000, he purchases the dead man's suit, which arrives in a black heart-shaped box. Suddenly the suit's previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door...seated in Jude's restored vintage Mustang...standing outside his window...staring out from his widescreen TV. The ghost sits waiting, with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from his fingers.

I loved this book. I started reading it and really hated to put it down. Luckily I started reading it while I was on vacation, so that I could return every hour or so to read just a few more pages. This was not just your typical scary book, as Neil Gaiman said on the back cover review "A genuinely scary novel filled with people you care about." The characters are fully developed and complex. The book is jam packed with events, I remember about half way through it, thinking that most books would have ended at that point, what more could he do for the second half of the book. But he kept taking it in twists and turns that I never grew tired of, it never dragged. A really good read and an excellent debut horror novel for Joe Hill. I look forward to reading more of him in the future.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage Brown Butter


Yay! A weekend herb blogging without cilantro! I actually used another herb. I'm so glad I did, because with the below freezing weather that we've had recently, this was probably the last use of my fresh sage. I haven't ventured out to check my herb garden yet, but I'm sure it's looking pretty bleak.


I picked up a bunch of squash around Halloween, when my grocery store was selling it for .77 cents a pound. I read that you could store it in a cool dark place and that it would stay good for a couple of months, or maybe even last through the winter. So, I bought several varieties and stored them in our garage, where they seem to be holding up quite nicely.

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks Off The Shelf: Cooking From the Pantry by Donna Hay. I've seen lots of similar recipes using a sage brown butter sauce over pumpkin ravioli. But I've never made ravioli (though I want to try), and this one sounded simple and very easy.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sage Brown Butter
(adapted from Donna Hay's Off the Shelf, Cooking From the Pantry)

2 lb pumpkin, peeled and diced (I used butternut squash)
olive oil
14oz pappardelle or fettuccine (I used wide egg noodles)
2 1/2 oz butter
3 tablespoons whole sage leaves
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Toss the squash on a cookie sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. The recipe states to roast for 30 minutes, I think that 45 would have been better, or maybe up the temperature of the oven a bit. My squash didn't get as browned on the edges as I would have liked, though it was tender.

Cook the pasta, according to directions. While, the pasta is cooking, place the butter and sage leaves in a small saucepan over low to medium heat and simmer until the butter turns a lovely golden brown color (and your kitchen starts smelling fabulous). The sage leaves will get nice and crispy.

Drain the pasta and place in bowls, top with the squash and the cheese. Spoon over the flavorful brown butter sauce. Dig in.


This was so good! It was very rich tasting with the sweet heaviness of the squash and the toasted flavor of the butter. It was probably one of the most fulfilling vegetarian dishes that I've eaten. Usually when I eat vegetarian, I start thinking about how good a nice chunk of ham would be in it, or some bacon, or whatever. But this was delicious on it's own. It really makes me want to try some of the pumpkin ravioli recipes now!


This is my entry for the first weekend herb blogging of the year, hosted by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. Be sure and check it on Monday, when she posts a recap of all the entries.