Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Tofu and Bok Choy

This is one of our absolute favorite vegetarian meals. The main stir-fry only takes about 10 minutes. It's pictured below with my favorite kitchen accessory ever...Lily Bird.

1/2 pound firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 head of bok choy (about 3/4 pound), leaves and stalks sliced crosswise 1 inch thick
9 ounces bean sprouts
1 teaspoon crushed or grated vegetable bouillon cube
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Wrap the tofu in paper towels and drain in a strainer set over a bowl for 30 minutes. Slice.
2. In a skillet, toast the sesame seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, 1 minute. Let cool, then grind to a coarse powder.
3. In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil. Add the tofu and stir-fry over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
4. In the same skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the bok choy and stir-fry over moderately high heat until tender, 5 minutes.
5. Add the bean sprouts and stir-fry until heated through.
6. Stir in the tofu and season with the bouillon cube, salt and pepper.
7. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dessert Snapshot - Flip-Over Apple Cake

This is another wonderful recipe from Dishing Up Vermont. Recently, I have been reading a lot about the history of the apple. With apples on my mind, and a desire to make something warm, I embarked on an apple cake. I modified the recipe by using some brown sugar in place of white sugar. I wish that I would have substituted more but am recording the recipe as I made it. This cake is so terribly simple that, while it baked, I whipped up some ginger spiced pecans and molasses whipped cream to finish the cake with. David thought it was so good, he was unapologetic about seconds.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the baking pan
4 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 tbs ground cinnamon
1 cup white sugar
1 tbs brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease the bottom and sides of a cake pan.
2. Melt the butter over a medium flame. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
3. Toss the apples with the cinnamon and brown sugar.
4. Place the apples in overlapping, concentric circles on the bottom of the cake pan. Make a second layer as necessary.
4. Sift the white sugar and the flour into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the egg and melted butter just until combined. Fold in the walnuts and continue to mix until smooth.
5. Pour batter evenly over apples.
6. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
7. Let cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for 15 minutes.
8. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate.
7. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or other toppings as you desire.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Lasagna

We’ve spent the past year or so watching the Sopranos from beginning to end. We’ve made it all the way to season six without succumbing to our Italian food fantasies. Come Sunday, all I was able to think about was an episode from an earlier season in which Tony is looking around for lasagna with that “sweet sausage I love so much”. With that, I searched for a lasagna recipe and then headed out to buy all the ingredients.

This was no ordinary lasagna, made apparent by the constant trail of drool Monkey left on my foot. He watched every move I made, had interest in everything being chopped and layered, sautéed and spread. Mind you, Monkey is not an ordinary dog interested in ordinary things like Human Food. He once spent 13 hours sucking on a single French fry during a car trip. At the end of the trip, we found that he eventually discarded the fry and never even touched the slices of salami and the pecan sandie that my father had tried to tempt Monkey with unbeknownst to us. My dad thinks that Monkey doesn’t show interest in Human Food because of how we raised him. That has something to do with it, but what kind of dog won’t even eat a slice of salami?

So, anyway, here was my dog that has Human Food anorexia leaving a long, pleading trail of drool in hopes that I would give in and just feed the entire pan to him. I should have known from his reaction that we were in for a good meal. Just how good? Do you remember Garfield’s obsession with lasagna and how he would hoover the entire plate? Yeah, that was me.


1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
¾ lb extra lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, pressed
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
12 ounces tomato paste
16 ounces tomato sauce
½ cup water
2 tbs sugar
¼ cup dried basil leaves
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tbs kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
4 tbs Italian (flat-leaf) pasley, chopped
1 box lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
¾ lb mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. In a 5 quart pot, cook sausage, beef, onion, and garlic over a medium flame until browned.
2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water.
3. Add sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and ½ of the parsley. Simmer, covered, for 1.5 hours stirring occasionally.
4. Cook lasagna noodles according to directions. Drain and cool with a cold water rinse.
5. Combine ricotta cheese, egg, remaining parsley, and ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl. Set aside.
6. Preheat oven to 375 F.
7. Spread 2 cups sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Place a layer of noodles over the top. Spread with one half of the ricotta mixture. Top with 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Spread 1 ½ cups of sauce over the mozzarella and sprinkle with ¼ of the parmesan cheese. Repeat until you are out of noodles, ending with a topping of meat sauce and parmesan.
8. Cover with greased aluminum foil and cook for 25 minutes. Remove foil and cook for an additional 25 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - Root Vegetable Chowder with Smoked Cheddar

Mike and Kristin sent us a new cookbook book filled with recipes from their home state of Vermont. It’s filled with tasty items but as soon as I saw this recipe, I knew that it would be the first one made. I reserved it for a very cold day and was presented with the opportunity to make it yesterday. While the wind howled, the temperatures hovered around 10, and snow piled up, we filled our bellies with a hearty, in-season soup to get us through the cold winter night.


½ lb bacon strips
12 thyme stems
6 rosemary stems
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 small turnips, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
½ lb fingerling potatoes, sliced
1 ¼ cup flour
3 quarts vegetable stock, heated
8 ounces smoked cheddar, shredded
1 cup cream
Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste


1. In a large pot over a medium-high flame, cook the bacon until crisp.
2. Tie fresh herbs together with kitchen twine (or placed dried ones in a piece of cheesecloth, wrapped up and tied with twine).
3. Reduce the flame under the bacon to medium and add the butter, onions, parsnips, turnips, carrots, potatoes, and herbs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add the flour and cook for another 5 minutes over a medium-low flame.
5. Slowly stir in the vegetable stock and bring the chowder to a simmer over a medium flame. Whisk frequently. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
6. Remove herbs and discard.
7. Slowly stir in the cheese and whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dinner Snapshot - New Year's Day Black-Eyed Pea Soup

New Year's Day always calls for black-eyed peas. It's our way to wish for good luck throughout the upcoming year and also happens to be a good excuse to use vegetables that are looking a bit sad. This time, however, all the vegetables in our refrigerator looked like they had gone through a terrible vegetable massacre. This is, no doubt, due to us succumbing to a week and a half of eating pretty much nothing but junk food. Anyway, onto the recipe.

Black Eyed Peas -roughly a 1/2 lb
3 carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
3 red potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced into rounds
1 large onion, medium chop
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
6 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1. Throw everything into a crock pot and stir. Make sure that the peas are covered with stock.
2. Cook on high for 6 hours or until peas are soft but mixture isn't mushy.
3. Serve. It's that easy.
David says that the ingredients for this recipe should say nothing more than "pure yumminess". I thought that was a bit hard to interpret.