November, 2006

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Mystery Beans III
Nov 28th, 2006



Thanksgiving has come and gone and there was much cooking in our humble abode, but I'm going to have to recover a bit more from my turkey coma before recounting any of the lessons learned. So, for those of you who are as sick of turkey at this point as I am, here is the latest installment in my ever popular Mystery Beans series. (That is, they are popular with me, who knows how you all feel about them.)

A while back I received a pound of fresh cranberry beans, also known as borlotti beans, in the same produce box as a sack of whole grain Emmer Farro, a chewy heirloom grain. A quick web search showed that these two items are often cooked together in a soup - huzzah! So I cobbled together two recipes from Italian Cooking & Living and Epicurious into a pureed bean soup with chewy farro.

The beautiful cranberry beans turn a distressingly muddy brown when cooked, giving this dish a decidedly rustic look, but the taste is full-bodied, homey, and delicious.

If you don't happen to have both cranberry beans and farro just hanging about the house, I think white beans and barley would make a nice substitute.


Farro & Cranberry Bean Soup
serves 4

7 ounces farro
1 pound shelled fresh cranberry beans
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
salt
nutmeg
cinnamon
cloves
black pepper
water as needed


Rinse the farro and soak it overnight in cold water to cover. Drain. Place the beans in a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot, then cook onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and thyme, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves, and cook over moderate heat for 20 minutes.

Discard thyme sprigs, then blend the cooked beans and onion mixture to a smooth puree in a food processor or blender. Reserve any cooking liquid you don't use in processing the soup.

Return soup to pot and bring to a boil. Add the farro, reserved bean cooking liquid, and as much water as necessary to create a souplike consistency. Bring to a boil and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the farro is cooked through. Add more water if necessary if the soup becomes too thick. Adjust the salt and serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with freshly ground black pepper.

-adapted from Italian Cooking & Living and Epicurious.com
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Sweet Potato Muffins
Nov 14th, 2006



Well this isn't a great picture, but it is a great recipe. I got it from my officemate who is a fabulous baker (her pie crusts are to die for - she uses all butter, I asked). My kids love these muffins, and since the recipe contains one whole sweet potato, I've convinced myself they're healthy. Don't burst my bubble.

Besides delivering all those fabulously nutritious vitamins and minerals (hush now, don't think I can't see you snickering there in the back), I believe it is the sweet potato that makes these muffins so light and fluffy. They're golden orange, sweet, perfectly spiced, and they go quick so you'll definitely want to make a double batch.


Sweet Potato Muffins

1 sweet potato (about ½ lb)
1 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¾ stick unsalted butter, softened (6 Tbl)
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup milk
¾ cup maple syrup


Boil sweet potato until soft. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Purée in food processor or mash with a fork until smooth. (You should have about ¾ cup purée.) Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350º. Generously grease a 12 cup muffin tin with unsalted butter or line with paper baking cups.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger in a large bowl.

Beat butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 1 minute on medium speed and 3 minutes on high. Add eggs and mix until well blended. Then beat in milk, maple syrup, and reserved sweet potato purée. Mix thoroughly.

Make a well in center of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid mixture into the well. Stir until ingredients are incorporated. Do not overmix.

Fill muffin cups ¾ full with batter and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

-from Mary Grassley
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Foil the Spammers
Nov 14th, 2006

Alright, the constant barrage of comment spam has gotten to me, and I've had to close comments on older posts. You can still view all existing comments but you may only add comments to posts that are less than two weeks old.

The only people who wanted to comment on old posts anyway seemed to have a bizarre fixation on the state of my er*ctions. And my stock portfolio, what the housewives next door are up to, my hairline or lack thereof...


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Apple Cake
Nov 1st, 2006



So I imagine you can tell I've been busy. Busy, busy, busy. The blog has suffered, but this too shall pass - I'm sure I'll be back here blathering on in no time.

Last month Jim's parents were in town and we all spent a few days at a cabin out of the city. We had a day of sunshine, which was nice, but what I really wanted was to sit around the fire and listen to the rain on the roof. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest weather gods are always happy to oblige that particular request, and a storm moved in on the second day.

Once the scene was appropriately autumnal my desire to bake, never too far under the surface, surged to the fore. Luckily the cabin was equipped with a few random cookbooks, including a self-published collection of recipes in a white three ring binder called "Nanna's Cookbook." There was a brief explanation of how the cookbook came to be, but it was written to family members who would presumably know who "Nanna" was and where she came from. To a reader just randomly stumbling on the volume, it remained inpenetrable, yet also very clear - here were the collected recipes from a lifetime of putting dinner on the table and entertaining friends and family. Whoever Nanna is or was, she definitely liked to bake, and the desserts category spanned hundreds of recipes.

We had stopped at a fruit stand on the way to the cabin and bought a box of apples, so something involving apples seemed appropriate. And since the kitchen was not spectacularly well-equipped it would need to be simple - and sweet, as Jim's dad has a sweet tooth that was not being satisfied by the unsatisfactory storebought cookies we had around. This Raw Apple Cake fit the bill - simple, appley, and sweet. Oh boy is it sweet - the recipe includes equivalent amounts of sugar and flour, but not much oil, because the sugar seems to almost caramelize creating a moist cake with hints of butterscotch.

I've made the cake twice now - first using pecans and the second time adding in some chopped hazelnuts when my pecans ran low. Both were good, and the cake bakes up so easily and quickly it's a good last minute item if you have people coming over unexpectedly, or you have an early meeting at work with disgruntled co-workers that need a bit of soothing. My co-workers soothed themselves quite enthusiastically with this cake, and the resulting sugar high made the meeting much easier to get through.

So thank you Nanna, whoever you are, your little book of recipes was the perfect way to while away a blustery rainy day beside the fire.


Nanna's Apple Cake

4 cups finely chopped apple
2 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups nuts
2 tsp vanilla


Grease and flour a 9 x 13" baking pan. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix apples with the sugar and cinnamon. Sift the flour with the baking soda and salt over the chopped apples. Add eggs, oil, nuts, and vanilla and stir until well mixed. Pour into pan and bake for 45 - 60 minutes.

While hot, spread soft butter on top and sprinkle with sugar.

-Nanna's Cookbook
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