Oven Charred Vegetables

Just in case you are still trying to use up your garden tomatoes and zucchini…

This is an adaptation from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s terrific book Mad Hungry.  Her recipes are perfect for feeding hungry families.  In fact, many of the favorite dishes that my family requests came from her book (go buy it, it’s awesome – and I am not being paid to say that!).  The charred edges of the onions and eggplant are so tasty.  The cooking time on this dish is long- save it for a weekend.  The good news is that the hands-on time is minimal.  Just let your oven do all the work!

  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced horizontally
  • 2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large purple eggplant, sliced into rounds
  • 1 large white onion, sliced into rings
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t. dried thyme or 1 T. fresh
  • 1/3 C. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Oil the bottom of a large heavy casserole dish.  Begin with one layer of tomatoes, then onions.  Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add a layer of eggplant.  Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the garlic and thyme over the eggplant.  Now add a layer of zucchini.  Keep repeating the layering until you have used up all your veggies.

 

Finish with a layer of tomatoes and a final drizzle of oil, salt, and pepper.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 and a half hours.  Half way through baking, use a spatula to press down on the veggies and flatten them.  The juices will rise to the top.  Return to the oven for the rest of the baking time.  Most of the juices will be evaporated by the end of 1 and a half hours.  Let the dish cool for ten to twenty minutes before cutting and serving.

 

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A Kidcentric Halloween Party

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Last year this party was a highlight of our fall season.  I’d love to repeat it, but until then I will make do with reposting it.

One of the best things for me about having kids is being able to make my own childhood fantasies come true.  As a child, it was always very important to me that things in my life were the “way they were supposed to be”.  For example, if you are having a party, there MUST be two colors of crepe paper twisted together to make streamers and taped across the room.  I had seen this in books and movies, and so decided that this is was you need for a party.  Pumpkin-shaped cookies MUST be decorated with candy corn.  There MUST be a cake that has layers with icing in the middle, just like the pictures in all the books!  In my childhood-mind this is what a party looks like.  So as an adult with access to the craft store and funds, I get to throw the parties for my kids that I wanted to have.  Not to say that I didn’t have some wonderful parties- When I turned 16 my parents dressed up like waiters and served me and my friends a fancy dinner party.  Here are some ideas for a fun and easy party, that your kids will love.  I may or may not have time to put up streamers.

Kids Halloween Party Menu

Pumpkin Spice Cookies

  • 1 box Krusteaz Sugar Cookie mix
  • 1/2 C.  canned pumpkin
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • Icing: 1 C. powdered sugar, water, 1 t. vanilla, food coloring

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.  Wrap and chill for an hour or overnight. Roll out and cut into desired shapes.  Bake at 350 on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes, or until set.  Cool before decorating.

Combine 1 C. powdered sugar with vanilla, and water a few drops at a time, until smooth. You want it spreadable and not too drippy.  If it gets too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar. Pour a little of the icing into a small bowl and color it with green food coloring.  Color the rest of the icing with orange food coloring.  Decorate the cookies with icing, then add sprinkles, candy corn, licorice, etc.

Tip: if you are having the kids decorate, give them each a cookie sheet or tray to work on, that way your sprinkles don’t end up all over the floor.

Mummies in a Blanket

This is one of those supermarket check-out women’s magazine kind of ideas that I hate, but kids love.  No matter how “foodie” we are, we all know that Little Smokies taste flipping awesome, so stop scoffing.  You know you love them.

  • 1 package of Little Smokies cocktail sausages
  • 1 roll of prepared crescent roll dough
  • Yellow mustard

Unwrap the crescent roll dough and use a pizza cutter to cut it into little strips about three inches long and 1/3 inch wide.  Wrap the smokies with the dough like a mummy, leaving a little space for a “face”.  Bake on a rimmed baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is golden.  Let them cool for a minute, then use a toothpick to dot mustard on to make the little eyes.

Pumpkin Soup – click for recipe

I know, kids might not care for this one, but the moms and dads need something to snack on too! This is butternut squash soup, but you are going to tell everyone it’s pumpkin soup because it is Halloween and everything MUST be pumpkin related!  I love serving soup at a party in these little glass cups. They are just the right size for sipping, and you don’t need a spoon.  Garnish with a slice of crispy bacon or a lemon wedge!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Finger Sandwiches (makes 12-16)

Make Four PB and J’s on white bread as you usually would.  I like to use a really red jelly for the gross out factor.  Cut the crusts off all sides with a serrated knife.  Cut each sandwich into four or five rectangles- the long way, depending on the size of your bread, and how big you want the fingers to be.  Use a butter knife to press knuckle marks into the bread at the halfway point.  Use a dab of peanut butter to stick on the peanut “fingernail” at one end.  Make these a few hours ahead and cover loosely if you want to, or they can be made right before the party.

The day before the party, make the candied apples, the pumpkin cookies, and the soup.  A great party activity is to decorate the cookies, so I leave that part to the kids and just roll, cut and bake the cookies ahead of time.

Brownie Bite Backs

My 7 year old came up with the cute name for these little iced brownies with eyes.

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1/2 C. canola oil
  • 1/2 C. cocoa powder
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Beat the eggs and sugar with a whisk until well combined.  Stir in all other ingredients.  Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and spray with cooking spray.  Drop a teaspoon of batter into each one.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.  Allow to cool.

Mix 1 C. of powdered sugar with 2 T. cocoa powder.  Add milk or almond milk a few drops at a time until smooth.  Spread icing on top of cooled brownie bites and top with an edible eye.

Here are some links to craft ideas for your party:

Pumpkin pom poms

Pumpkin Paper collage

 

 

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Freeform Apple Pie

      

This is my 500th blog post! 

 

I love to make this type of pie.  It’s great for small dinner parties and it bakes in half the time of a regular pie.  The freeform crust gives it a nice earthy, homemade look.

Serves 6

For the crust

  • 2 ¼ C flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 sticks of cold unsalted butter (minus 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • ¼ C. ice water

For the filling:

  • 5 small-medium green apples, I used Gravenstein
  • 1/4 C. dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. grated nutmeg
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2 T. butter, cut into chunks
  • sugar for sprinkling

In the food processor, pulse together the flour and salt.  Add the butter in small chunks and the oil and pulse until it looks like crumbs with some pea sized lumps of butter.  With the machine running, add most of the water and check the dough by pinching it with your fingers.  If it is still crumbly, add a little more water.  If it holds together well, wrap it in plastic and chill it for at least two hours.  This is enough dough for a two crust pie so you could make two freeform pies or freeze half of the dough for another use.

Peel the apples and slice them thinly.  Place the apple slices in a large bowl with the brown sugar, flour, salt and spices and toss to coat.  Roll half of the dough into a rough circle, about 12 inches wide.  Place the dough circle onto the center of a baking sheet.  Pour the apple mixture onto the dough, keeping most of the apples in the center of the circle.  Fold the edges of the dough up and over the apples leaving the center open.  Dot the top with butter.  Sprinkle a little sugar over the crust to give it some sparkle and texture.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes or until the juices are bubbling and bursting slowly.  If the juices are bubbling rapidly the pie isn’t quite finished.  A slow bursting bubble indicates that the juices and the sugar have cooked enough to form a sort of thick syrup.  In other words, your pie won’t ooze all over when you cut into it.

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Curry Coconut Kabocha Squash Soup

This is a great soup to make at this time of year.  The squash is in season, the weather is starting to cool, and you might be just starting to feel like making something cozy.  Sometimes called a Japanese Pumpkin, this squash is squat and medium-to-small sized with a dull green color.  If you have had a pumpkin curry in a Thai restaurant, it was probably a Kabocha.

The flesh is bright orange and cooks beautifully.  This is an easy, vegan soup that is so creamy and rich you will be amazed that it is dairy free!

  • 1 Kabocha Squash
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 C. red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 C. vegetable broth, I used Better Than Bullion
  • 1 1/2 t. curry powder
  • 1/8 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. cardamom
  • 1 can Thai coconut milk (not reduced fat)
  • lemon wedges for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the squash in half through the equator and scoop out the seeds.  Drizzle the cut sides with olive oil and place them cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for 1 hour, or until very soft.  Let it cool a bit and then scoop out the flesh into a bowl and set aside.  Heat a soup pot or Dutch oven to medium heat with the olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, and potato and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let the veggies sweat for ten minutes.  Add the vegetable broth, curry powder, cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cook until the veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the roasted squash.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until very smooth.  Stir in the coconut milk.  If the soup is too thick, add another 1/2 C.-1C. of hot vegetable broth.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

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Tomato Tart

The women in my family have been making a wonderful tomato tart for as long as I can remember.  It has a biscuit crust, a fragrant tomato-basil filling, and a creamy, tangy cheesy topping.  This is my updated version which takes much less time and tastes just as great.

  • 1 rectangle of prepared puff pastry, defrosted (I used Pepperidge Farm)
  • 5-6 medium tomatoes, I used San Marzanos
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 C. grated Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 C. grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 1 T. minced fresh basil

Defrost the puff pastry on the countertop and roll it so it’s a little thinner and larger.  Lay it on a rimmed baking sheet.  Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange them in the center of the puff pastry sheet.  Place the basil leaves in between the tomatoes at regular intervals.  Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.

  

In a bowl, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise, and minced basil.  Spread the cheese mixture over the top of the tomatoes.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and beginning to bubble, and the pastry is golden brown.  Let cool for about ten minutes before cutting.

  

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Italian Seafood Stew or Frutti Di Mare

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We are so happy to welcome Portland Fish Market to our neighborhood! I’ve been in several times over the last few weeks and I am so thrilled with the quality and variety.  The clams! So so good.  You MUST have lots of crusty bread for soaking up the buttery, garlicky broth.

  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced thinly
  • 4 small tomatoes, chopped- about 1 1/2 C.
  • 1/2-1 t. red pepper flakes. (buy some new, please ditch that 2 year old bottle)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 C. fish stock or light chicken stock, low sodium
  • 2 C. white wine
  • 1/2 lb. salmon or other dense fish such as halibut or sturgeon, cut into large bite sized pieces
  • 1/2 lb. large shrimp, tail on, peeled and deveined
  • 2 lb. clams
  • 1 lb. mussels
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pesto and parsley for garnish, optional
  • 2 C. small pasta, such as ditalini or mini shells, cooked and drained
  • crusty bread for serving

If it’s not cooked already, start by cooking the pasta according to the package directions, draining it and setting it aside. Heat the butter and oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and cook for about three minutes.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Cook until the tomatoes give off their juice and everything is nice and bubbly and sizzling.  Pour in the stock and wine and bring to a simmer. Gently drop the fish into the simmering liquid and cover.  After two minutes, add the clams and mussels, and cover.  After about three minutes, add the shrimp and cover.  The shrimp will take only a minute or two to turn from gray to pink.  To serve, divide the cooked pasta among 4-6 serving bowls.  Distribute the fish and shellfish among the bowls, and ladle lots of the broth over the top. Top with a little dollop of pesto or some fresh, chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

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Quick Beef and Summer Vegetable Stir Fry

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Back to School time means quick weeknight dinners.  This stir fry goes from fridge to table in about 15 minutes, and uses up all those farmer’s market purchases or, if you are a better gardener than me, your garden harvest.

  • 1/2 lb. beef (or chicken or pork) cut into small strips, use an inexpensive cut for better flavor
  • 1/8 C. soy sauce
  • 2 t. sesame oil
  • 1/4 mirin, Japanese sweet cooking wine ( I find it in the International Aisle at Safeway)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 T. freshly grated ginger
  • 2 t. cornstarch
  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 small eggplant, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 medium zuchini, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 C. red cabbage, sliced thinly
  • salt and pepper

Toss the beef strips with the soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, garlic, ginger, and cornstarch together in a bowl until coated and the cornstarch is dissolved. Let the mixture marinate on the counter for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, prep the veggies.  Heat the canola oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add the onions. Stir fry for about two minutes, or until you start to get a few charred spots. The key to a good stir fry is high heat and fast cooking.  Add the rest of the veggies to the pan and continue to stir fry for another two to three minutes. If the veggies are starting to burn, reduce the heat a bit, but not too much- you want frying , not steaming. Add the meat with all of it’s marinade and stir fry until the meat is just cooked, about two minutes, stirring constantly.  The veggies should be coated with the sauce.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if you like, or a bit more soy sauce and a splash of mirin.  Serve with rice or noodles.  I buy frozen rice at Trader Joes that heats up in the microwave- it’s a huge time saver and it’s nice and fluffy.

 

 

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