Archive for October, 2010

October 27, 2010

Reading on the Metro Led to Dinner

…those of you in the DC Metro area know that train ride into or home from work can provide you with lots of time for rumination, and if you’re really lucky it can even lead you into inspiration for dinner, when your planning time at home has been taken over by all the other tasks vying for your attention ….

Thank goodness I remembered to put my new Eating Well in my briefcase because I had plenty of time to browse on my way home. In the back of my head, I knew that I needed to use the butternut squash and the cauliflower in the fridge, and so I was quite pleased to see the Braised Winter Vegetable Pasta in the Healthy in a Hurry section.  Our variation was not vegan, nor vegetarian, because we used chicken broth and added in some ham for seasoning, but it turned out quite tasty.  Even the older boys who proclaimed — “We don’t like cauliflower” — devoured their bowls quickly.

Our version is below:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot big enough for pasta.  Add 1 small onion diced, 1/2 cup of good ham diced, and 1 teaspoon of drided, rubbed sage.  Stir until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of dry white wine (okay I used a sweeter wine than perhaps was envisioned in the recipe, and added an extra cup of broth to cover); bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then add 8 ounces of whole-wheat pasta (we used rotini), 2 cups of bite-sized cauliflower, 2 cups bite-sized butternut squash cubes, salt and pepper to taste, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is not quite tender, about 10 minutes.  Then Eating Well recommends sitrring in 1 10-ounce bag of frozen lima beans — we didn’t have any, but we did have a box of frozen peas, so we added that to the pasta – veggie – broth mix.

Then, the steaming bowls were topped with grated Fontina cheese, and rapidly consumed by all (except the Picky Eater, of course, her pasta was plain with cheese).

October 24, 2010

Chicken and Cabbage and Apples…What Season Must It Be?

Tonight I made a complete Bittman dinner.  My brother and sister-in-law gave me Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything ages ago, and I love the way that I keep finding new recipes to make from it every time I open it up.  I knew when I woke up this morning that I was going to make the Bittman bread I posted about a couple of weeks ago.  But what to make with it…. my menu planning has been in the general rather than the specific level for the past two weeks or so, and my only constraint was that I had to cook with what was already in the house.

I began by taking out a chicken this morning, and as I was waiting for the dough to rise, I began to flip through the Bittman poultry pages.  I knew that I needed to prepare the chicken on the stove, so I was trying to decide if I wanted to sautee or fry or braise…I decided to go with something way easy — at least, something that would be easy once I cut the chicken up into pieces…

The winner was Chicken with Garlic Stew — primarily because I knew that I was going to have fresh crusty bread to serve the sweet soft garlic on.  Easy to make – with cinnamon, dried orange mint from the garden, and lots of garlic cloves – braised in a bit of oil and vegetable broth. 

After simmering for about an hour, the meat was tender and succulent.

What was missing was some color.  A quick glance in the vegetable drawer turned up a beautiful red cabbage,

and I knew that I had several apples that needed to be cooked prior to eating,

so voila!  Cabbage and Apples – again thanks to Mr. Bittman.  Sauteed in butter, then braised in a 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, it bubbled away while the chicken was simmering on the front burner, and the bread was cooling. We finished it with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of raspberry jam from the farmer’s market (the very last spoonful –  time to restock!).



All good – no need to go to the store, and I used up some produce that was leaning towards the wastebin.

October 20, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

One of the benefits of an unanticipated telework day is that you can decide to make a dish that takes several hours in the middle of the day….and you can make chocolate chip banana bread to greet the children as they walked in the door after school. 

So as I read reports, I thought about what was in the fridge (meal planning has been vague this week), and Mark Bittman came to the rescue.  I wanted to make a bean dish, and use the one bratburgur from our local butcher that needed to be cooked.  So, I spent my lunch break deciding what to do… “Red Beans and Meat” was the winner.  Not such a fancy title, but a perfect meal given that there was a marching band event that started at 6:30 pm.  What was great is that I had everything I needed…except a ham hock.  So I just made the almost vegetarian version.
While the red beans were simmering,

I browned the bratburger,

and sauteed some onions, and garlic,

added some red and yellow peppers,

and let it bubble for a while.

Then I added a can of diced tomatoes, two bay leaves from our bay plant, some orange mint dried from our garden, some allspice, and the browned bratburger.

And, then we added that to the simmering red beans and let it simmer for a couple of hours….

The kids got home, and devoured the chocolate chip banana bread,

And I made some rice in the rice cooker, and it was nearly time to leave for the Marching Band Festival, and we ate quickly, and I forgot to take a picture of the finished dinner — served with Tabasco and grated cheddar cheese!!  Yummy!

October 13, 2010

Art and Science at the Sugarloaf Craft Festival

Who’s ready to shop for Christmas?  I’m not quite ready, but a visit to the Sugarloaf Craft Festival certainly got me thinking about who needs gifts, and who might really enjoy something from the festival. Do you know someone who might need an adult-sized rocking horse?

Well that one was already sold by the time we got there on Sunday afternoon, but if you think it looks cool, you could see if The Boss Rocker will be exhibiting at the Festival when it comes back to Gaithersburg in November (19, 20, 21st).  I plan to be there again, and this time I’ll have my list in hand (planning works for meals and the holidays too!!). 

We (or perhaps I) had been wanting to visit the Sugarloaf Craft Festival for years, and when a reader of our blog offered us tickets, I accepted (friendly readers, the FTC requires that we acknowledge gifts).  I want to thank and acknowledge that gift, and now, let me share with you about our visit to the craft festival.

The Festival is a juried craft festival which holds shows in the Mid-Atlantic and New England throughout the year.  Pre-kids, we would regularly visit arts and craft festivals in the cities where we lived, but have not been regular visitors in recent years. But as the kids are older now, they are more willing partners in this sort of an event, and individual preferences lead them to unique stalls—many that we might never have considered—

The Picky Eater and I took the slow road through the jewelry stalls, considering earrings and rings and nifty necklaces.  She and her brother were fascinated to learn how the gentlemen at Symmetry Tile Works made their glazed tiles – incorporating flower stems, and sea stars, and dragon flies into their tiles, and using recycled glass to glaze the tiles.  The Picky Eater got to make her own impression in a tile, and was ready to buy enough of the completed tiles to tile her entire room.  Check out the images of their tiles on their photo gallery.

You could outfit a kitchen with pottery and wooden serving implements and cutting boards and bowls, and fill the cabinets with family-produced maple syrup (yum!!), and olive oil, and herbs, and jams…and you could even purchase a beautiful dining room table and chairs and hutch.

The boys were focused on wood and metal kitchen implements from Sharp Chef, and photos of the universe from Galactic Images (which made the Berry Hater very very happy), and, of course the Festival fare. 

How could you possibly turn down the offer of meatball-on-a-stick,

or barbeque pork sandwich with a smoothie,

or sweet potato fries?

A beautiful day filled with delicious food and impressive crafts and good company.  Works for me as a weekend event. 

Does anyone have favorite vendors that they visit at Sugarloaf?  I’d love to hear about them.

October 9, 2010

Livin’ Local Is Easy …

After dutifully fulfilling those morning sustenance requirements, we shopped.  After $70, we had bread, and, meat, and milk, and eggs, and fruits, and veggies, to supplement all that we have already in the house.  A quick swing by our local ice cream shop to purchase locally roasted coffee, and a later swing by our local beer/wine/butcher shop to purchase the North Mountain Chamboucin Shenandoah Valley wine currently being consumed…and our shopping was done. 

It is so easy to forget how lucky we are to be able to quickly and enjoyably purchase all of this wonderful local food.  Whenwe lived in Chicago, we did not shop at the farmer’s market.  And when in Southern California the market wasn’t part of our regular routine.  In Bolivia, the local markets (bread, produce, meat) were necessary and all visited as a function of need (without refrigeration in our house for part of our time there, daily shopping was required). In Massachussetts, I don’t even know where the local markets were.

But returning to Arlington meant that the farmer’s market is again a part of our weekly routine.  And now, we have many more markets, and other locations, to purchase locally produced food any day of the week.  And that is good.

Tomorrow, we plan to go to the  Sugarloaf Craft Festival, and eat more locally produced food – and see the amazing things our local artisans produce.  And, if I’m really really lucky, maybe I can convince the Family Foodie to visit the Moutoux Orchard to learn more about locally produced grains, flour, and their Winter CSA….

October 4, 2010

A Winning Farmer’s Market

Did you vote for the Falls Church Farmers’ Market in the American Farmland Trust competition to identify America’s favorite farmer’s markets?  I know that we did – although we have an ongoing debate in our house about whether to go to the  Falls Church or Arlington Courthouse Market on Saturday morning.  The kids always always want to go to Falls Church, because there are crepes.  But Courthouse has Westmoreland and the sorbet guy and the cheese guy (the Picky Eater has decided to contribute her two cents to this blog…).

But on Saturday, only the Picky Eater was awake in time to go to the market, and we knew that the Falls Church market had just won, so we decided to go to Falls Church on Saturday.


  • So, after we had our crepes, we shopped.

And we got lots and lots of vegetables.

We saw peppers, and tomatos, and pumpkins,

and flowers,

and lots of Virginia grown produce.

And we came home with about$65.oo worth of produce, fruits and vegetables,

and meat,

and bread and cider…

And, 3 days later, what remains in our pantry?

  • All of the sweet potatoes
  • Some arugula
  • A few tomatoes
  • Half a red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Half a loaf of bread
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • The broccoli stems….

It is an amazing and wonderful thing to realize that the green beans were devoured last night – and the Picky Eater kept trying to take green beans from her brothers; the cider was gone yesterday; the sweet bologna and bacon were gone before mid-day Sunday… No time to meal plan — we’ve just been busy consuming all the freshness we brought home.

October 3, 2010

I Made Bread and He Made Pie

Two declarative sentences that make it sound oh so easy.  Now, the Man of the House has been making pies with homemade pie crust for years.  He makes berry pies in the early summer, peach pies in late summer, and apple pies in fall. We all love them, and when he is busy and enters a “pie drought,” complaints are registered (especially by the eldest).  So today, he used up the last of the peaches, and a few of the apples from the market, and made a scrumptious pie. 

Not so unusual for a fall Sunday in our house.

But I made bread. 

And it was good.

And that is new! 

I regularly make banana bread, and zucchini bread, and apple bread, and biscuits — any form of bread that does not require yeast.  That is easy and fun.

But my history of making good old crusty bread with yeast is fraught with failure.  I can never get the temperature of the water right, and kneading never seems to work, and my bread never ever rises.  I have tried beer bread — which has worked okay – but its always better when others make it.

Earlier this week, however, a friend of mine on FB posted that he had used Mark Bittman’s recipe for quick yeast bread and had great success with it.  Knowing that today was relatively quiet in our household, I decided that it was my day to make real bread.

And so I did, following the directions in How to Cook Everythingwhich are below in an abbreviated form (please, please read his recipe if you want to make this – he has all kinds of helpful hints and illustrations, which are not included here).

After hand mixing 3 1/2 cups of “Better for Bread” flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast, and a scant 1 1/2 cups of water, I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes. 


Then I let it rise covered in the warm kitchen for 3 hours.  I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, and sprayed water in the oven. 


Then placed the dough – which had risen!! – on a floured baking pan – and popped it in the oven.  After 5 minutes another spritz of water.  And then 25 minutes later there was a marvelous loaf of bread. 


Wow!  It worked.

And it really wasn’t hard.

Now, if I can do it again, I may have to make this a regular part of my week!!

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