Archive for November, 2010

November 29, 2010

What’s Up With All The Baking?

asked my darling daughter yesterday afternoon.  It must be the holiday season that is upon us, I replied.   Or at least, that’s what I was thinking.  I think it is more likely that I actually said, umh hmh, and thought that the cold weather is finally here, and baking goes with cold weather.  But she is right – we have been baking every day since Thanksgiving.  We began the long weekend preparing pumpkin muffins with crystallized ginger, and two apple-currant-walnut pies.  Friday, we made a pumpkin pie.  Saturday, I made a loaf of that delicious Bittman bread.  And on Sunday, we had popovers for breakfast, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for a snack, and blueberry crisp for dessert after dinner.  As we move into a normal work/school week, I know that the baking can’t continue at the same clip, but I will note that on my menu plan for the week, both banana bread and pumpkin pike make appearances.

For those of you longing for some blueberry goodness – and a little taste of summer – blueberry crisp recipe is below.  Just follow this link:

read more »

November 25, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins with Crystallized Ginger

After we got married, my husband and I hosted Thanksgiving in our apartment in Chicago.  We were in graduate school, and traveling home wasn’t in the cards. But we wanted the opportunity to make our own Thanksgiving traditions, and I dove into the newspaper and magazines and cookbooks to find ideas for our meal.  One of the recipes had a mysterious ingredient, crystallized ginger, and that was the deciding factor.  We added it to our menu, found crystallized ginger, and it has remained a central part of all Thanksgivings, no matter where we are celebrating the holiday. They are our Thanksgiving morning meal, and much anticipation awaits their annual preparation.  And then, restraint has to be exhibited so that there is enough room for dinner!

read more »

November 24, 2010

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, Are You Ready?

I will make pumpkin muffins to start the day, and begin the sausage-sage stuffing as they bake.  Plan to blog about them — so check back tomorrow.

Then Rob will make pies.

And then, brussel sprouts.

Then off to the multi-family Thanksgiving event.

Friday is our day to make our family turkey.

I think it’s going to be a wonderful day.

Here’s wishing a happy day to each and everyone of you.

November 18, 2010

Dinner Reports Before Blogs

Loved this article here from The New Yorker — especially because I’m currently reading 97 Orchard – a history of what folks ate in the late 19th century.

The author asks what could we do with daily records of what people ate — my answer is “write history”!

November 11, 2010

Foodies Need Herbs and Spices

As we move into the winter season here in NoVA, and the season of giving thanks, I want to trumpet my thanks to the Man of the House who loves his herb gardens.  As any foodie knows, herbs and spices can cost a pretty penny at the store or market, but they are central components to any meal.  Given the Man’s passion for herbs, and belief that grass really has no purpose, large areas of our front yard are full of herbs.  And while I have been known to register some concern at the rapid decrease in the amount of grass upon which the children can play, I have come over to his side on this matter.  The herb garden is beautiful in all seasons, and practical as well.  In fact, when he asked me to assist him in an inventory of the gardens last spring –I the scribe, he the identifier — we recorded more than 50 different varieties of herbs growing – both evergreen and annual.  Even he was surprised at the count.  Rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage are perennial favorites.  Basil, cilantro, and mint are regulars in the summer garden. 

And now as frost is on the horizon, it is remarkable to note just how many of these herbs are hardy and keep on producing.  Just this week, he harvested a second crop of orange mint, currently being dried, that will be regularly used throughout the winter. 

Orange mint has a unique and wonderful smell and flavor that we use in soups, and stews, and omelets, and really anything else that we think might benefit from a little bit of extra “oomph.”  A whiff of the mint as you open the jar makes you smile.

The one indoor herb that we have kept is a bay tree, that although it suffered a setback when we were on vacation two summers ago, it quickly revived and is now thriving.  Fresh bay leaves add an entirely different level of flavor than dried to all those slow-cooking tummy-filling winter meals.

And in the garden today, we have sage leaves for the sausage-sage stuffing that will be prepared the week after next,

and rosemary for the turkey,

and thyme and oregano for the turkey soup are hiding under the fallen leaves,

and cilantro and mustard leaves continue to grow – we’re hoping no hard frost for at least another two weeks or so!

The garden continues to be bountiful, and there is nothing like the scent of rosemary to greet you as you brush past it as you walk up the front steps. 

So if you are considering putting in a hardy herb garden, and you live in a climate that will support it, give it a shot.  It will make you smile in every season, and you can watch as neighbors, both young and old, walk by and wonder.

November 6, 2010

Friday Night Steak, Served with Simple Sides

Steak.  When I try to buy steak at the grocery store, I never know which cut to buy.  Sure I know that Strip steak is good, and that more fat makes for a tastier cut, but beyond that, I’m pretty hopeless.  Just ask the man of the house.  But the benefit of buying meat directly from a butcher means that you can ask questions (and read relevant FB posts).  So when Bruce Saunders, the Butcher at Westover Market and co-owner of EcoFriendly Foods said he had hangar steaks at the shop on Friday afternoon, and that they were delicious, I was there.  The pasture-raised, grain-finished,dry-aged beef came from Roseda Farm in Maryland (I didn’t realize how important each of those steps were…).

You can see the beauty in the beef immediately,


All that was required was butter from the farmer’s market, and a well-seasoned cast iron pan.


To accompany such a beautiful and simply prepared steak, we needed some sides.  We had some cheddar cauliflower gratin from the night before, and some purple bok choy in the fridge from our trip to the farmer’s market last Saturday.  So we chopped and sauteed the bok choy in sesame oil with fresh garlic and fresh ginger, and warmed up the cauliflower gratin, and savored every mouthful.

Garlicky Gingery Purple Bok Choy


1. Slice tops off of the bok choy.

2. Soak both tops and bottoms to remove grit.

3. Chop the stalks into bite-size pieces.

4. Thinly slice the really purple leaves.

5. Thinly slice, then chop 3 gloves of garlic, and 1/2 of a small head of ginger.

6. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in good sized pan over medium high heat.

7. Add garlic and ginger, let sautee until the aromas start to release.

8. Add the stems, cook until bright green, with periodic stirring.

9. Add the leaves.  Let steam without disturbing for about 2 minutes.

10. Sautee until the leaves are cooked.

11. Serve and enjoy the purpleness.

Cheddar Cauliflower Gratin


The color of this cauliflower is incredible.  Really incredible. And the flavor is definitely not vanilla.

This is my concoction based upon reading several different blog entries, and seeing what I had in my fridge.

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2.  Break cauliflower into bite sized florets.
  3.  Sautee/pan roast florets in a scant amount of olive oil.
  4. Pour 1/4 cup of milk, mixed with 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used a mix of fontina and parmesan).
  5. Top with 1 cup bread crumbs.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil.
  7. Bake, covered, for about 25 minutes, or until florets are al dente (I know that’s a pasta term, but you get the idea, I hope).


Simple and Super. We all went to bed satisfied.  And the Picky Eater exclaimed with joy as she devoured the steak (of which she is not normally a fan) – Mom, this is the best steak EVER!!!


November 2, 2010

Fantastic Fall Colors

at the farmer’s market this past weekend, that really put us all in the mood for the brisk turn that the first of November brought to Northern Virginia.

The most amazing colors of the day had to be the “cheddar cauliflower” and the purple bok choy (okay, that’s not really it’s name — I just can’t remember it!).  But the carrots are amazingly orange, and delicious, and the fresh ginger is something I’ve never ever seen before.  And since we use it all the time it’s golden. Speaking of golden – the Bartlett pears that are featured on top of the fruit bowl were all eaten within two hours of being brought into the house.  I am amazed at the rate at which fruit is consumed in our household.

So to add to the abundance of vegetables, fruits, and seasonings in our basket, we also needed additional foundational foods – bread, bologna, ham, eggs, mushrooms …

Each of these beautifully colored and flavored foods will guarantee an amazing week of eating.

So far – here’s where they’ve been featured:

Saturday: Mushroom Omelets, Toasted Bread, Pears; Bologna Sandwiches on Bread

Sunday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup – onions, carrots, carrot tops, celery (from CSA), peppers (from last farmer’s market trip); Tomato, Apple, Cilantro salad

Monday: Lentils and Rice were featured, with a crisp garlic/ginger crunchy topping; favorite Sauteed Green Beans (sesame oil is the key); followed by Apple Pie

Tonight we’ll have pasta with the country ham and garlic, served with a wonderful green salad (that will include the mixed greens and arugula we got on Saturday).

Tomorrow it’s the man of the house’s birthday – so all bets are off!

Then, the remainder of the week, we’ll need to prepare the bok choy, and the beautiful cauliflower, maybe make some zucchini bread…I’m not sure yet…but we’ll keep you posted.

Stay warm all, and here’s hoping your eating is as colorful as ours!

%d bloggers like this: