You may have noticed that I haven’t written a post since winter time. Life has been crazy for the past several months and unfortunately, until a few weeks ago, cooking has been on the back burner. The most exciting thing that has happened in our lives is that my husband and I purchased our first home! I’ve been painting, fixing, and decorating like a mad woman, but we are finally settled in.
I thought today that I’d give a little tour of the new kitchen. The kitchen and I are still getting used to each other. It is by no means my dream kitchen, but it has a lot of charm and I am growing to love cooking in it more every day. This is our first house. The dream kitchen can wait.
When we first moved in, the kitchen was two shades of pink, divided by chair rail. My first act as a new home owner was to rip out the chair rail and paint the whole thing teal(my favorite color, which by the way, looks much more green in person than it does in these pictures). Along the way, I’ve added a few new things like shelving and a magnetic knife strip, which I love. The bones of the kitchen are wonderful. Our house was built in 1937 and still has the original cabinets. They are gorgeous and provide tons of storage space!
The kitchen is galley style, but a very wide galley. Plenty of room to move around and for multiple people to cook in at once. I’ve got a big pot of chicken stock going on the stove right now. The house smells amazing!
Who doesn’t love a good built-in?
The original cabinets include spice drawers and a flour bin. Clearly my organization still leaves something to be desired…don’t judge me.
Huge sage and mint “bushes” in our back yard.
We moved in mid-June, so I got things planted pretty late. The garden seems happy though. My tomato plants are mammoth, which I chalk up to good compost dirt and all the heat. I have had tons of beautiful peppers and eggplants as well. The mums, on the other hand, aren’t quite as happy.
This is the first time I have had my own garden and thus my first time canning my own food. My aunt gave me her old pressure canner, which was a bit intimidating, but after using it a couple times I can’t imagine canning any other way. So far, I’ve done tomato sauce, escabeche, and three kinds of jam. I’m going to try raw packing green beans after I hit the farmer’s market this weekend.
So there you have it, the new kitchen. As far as the future of Elise’s Kitchen, expect a recipe here and there. Right now I’m just enjoying my new home, exploring our beautiful neighborhood, and cooking for me.
This tart was inspired by a fudge pie my mom used to make when I was growing up in Nashville, TN. She got the recipe from a friend named Judy, who was the closest thing to Paula Deen in our family’s social circle. The woman could do wonders with a stick of butter. She made cheesy apples with Velveeta that were to die for. I’ll have to share that recipe another time.
I’ve been wanting to experiment with a sweet potato crust for a while now and decided to use the fudge pie filling from Judy’s recipe as jumping off point. I cut back on some of the sugar and added some crystallized ginger to spice things up a bit. I also have a savory pie in the works that will use the sweet potato crust as well. This tart would make a great dessert for a certain commercial love holiday that is coming up in the near future.
Makes one 9″ tart
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.
In a food processor, pulse together all of the crust ingredients until they start to form into a loose dough. Turn the dough out onto the counter and finish bringing it together with your hands. Please be careful not to over work the dough, or it will become tough and chewy. Form the dough into a round and cover it tightly in plastic wrap. Let the dough chill in the fridge for about 15 minutes, while you put the filling together.
In a bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and whisk them together until smooth. The batter should be fairly runny.
Once the dough has chilled, roll it out into roughly an 11″ round. The dough should be between a 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick. Carefully lay the dough into a buttered pie dish or tart pan. Dock the dough with a fork to ensure it doesn’t bubble. Cover the crust with a sheet of parchment or wax paper and then use pie weights or beans to weigh down the center. Put the crust in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven and pour in the filling. Return the pan to the oven and turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Let it bake for another 35 to 40 minutes. Once it is done baking, let it cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle the top with more crystallized ginger to garnish.
If you are like me, when you get stressed, you crave crunchy foods. Nothing is quite as satisfying as crashing on the couch with a bag of potato chips…until, of course, you reach the bottom of said bag, you feel that slow lurch in your stomach, and your whole body starts screaming, “Why?! For the love of all things holy, find a treadmill!” Actually, that’s the censored version of what my body says to me.
My husband and I are crunchy food addicts. I felt like I needed to find us an alternative treat that would produce stress busting endorphins, provide satisfactory crunch factor, but wouldn’t break the caloric bank for the day. This recipe is loosely based on a chocolate nut mix recipe found in The Flat Belly Diet Cookbook. I added some spices to change up the flavor and some fat free pretzels for extra crunch and a little saltiness.
Nuts are not a super low calorie food, but they are full of healthy fats and protein and are important to a balanced diet. To keep the calorie total of my snack bags low, I divided them up into 1.5 ounce portions, using a food scale. If you don’t have a scale, put two small handfuls in each bag. Nuts are very filling, and 1.5 ounces makes for a very hearty snack. Using completely unfounded “Elise Science”, I would say that each bag is somewhere between 150 to 200 calories.
This recipe can be easily cut in half or doubled.
Stress-Busting Chocolate Snack Mix
Makes 18 to 20 1.5 ounce snack bags
*Other possible add-ins: chili powder, coconut flakes, dark chocolate chunks, chia seeds, crystallized ginger, orange zest, Kashi cereal, oats.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the nuts and pretzels with the oil.
In a small bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients, then add them to the nuts mixture and toss until everything is evenly coated.
Spread the mixture out between two parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
Allow the nuts to cool for about an hour before portioning them out into snack sized plastic bags. If you don’t have a scale, put two small handfuls in each bag.
Store any bags that you don’t plan on eating within the week in the freezer, and take them out a few hours before you are ready to eat them. I actually think they taste good right out of the freezer as well.
Yesterday, I wrote about my friend who recently discovered she has a wheat intolerance. This is another recipe I made for her. If you have never tried a black bean brownie, do not be afraid. When made correctly, YOU CAN’T TASTE THE BEANS. The brownies are a delicious alternative chocolate treat for those with dietary concerns. They contain no flour and are packed with protein and fiber. In fact, they make for a great breakfast on the go. I repeat, YOU CAN’T TASTE THE BEANS.
While black beans are traditionally used in a bean brownie, consider trying any other beans as well. Garbanzo beans and kidney beans also work very well in this type of recipe.
It is important to let these cool down all the way before you eat them. They are pretty gross when they are warm. They really need to cool down to achieve the proper texture. I might even suggest refrigerating them overnight.
Spicy Black Bean Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and run until smooth. Pour batter into a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes. Let brownies cool for at least 2 hours before serving.
This recipe was born thanks to a friend of mine, who told me this week that she was recently diagnosed as wheat intolerant. She has since been amazed to discover just how many of the foods she loves have wheat in them. One of her biggest disappointments came when she learned that cornbread contains wheat flour. After talking to her for a few more minutes, I was left with one thought…challenge accepted.
I started out with a recipe from James Beard’s Beard on Bread cookbook, but found it to be too salty and too greasy. My adaptation replaces the butter with yogurt, cuts the salt in half, and has a bit of honey to enhance the corn flavor. The bread went very well with a Mexican inspired shrimp, chorizo, and rice dish I made for dinner.
Flourless Chili Cornbread
Serves 8 to 10
*Variation: Omit chilis and cheese and add 1/4 cup honey and zest of one orange.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and stir until smooth. Pour into a well buttered baking dish or a hot cast iron skillet. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool 20 minutes before serving.
This recipe was yesterday’s rainy day baking project. I love chilling at home, listening to the rain fall, and concocting something sweet and comforting to put in the oven. These scones are packed with the essential flavors of Fall and make a great afternoon treat on those days when you just want to curl up with a book and a warm cup of tea. Dig.
Pumpkin Pecan Scone with Maple Icing
Makes 8 Scones
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, and salt.
Cut butter up into small pieces and incorporate it into the flour mixture with your hands until a coarse dough begins to form.
Add in the maple syrup and pumpkin and continue to work the dough until it is fairly smooth. If the dough feels a little sticky add up to 1/2 cups more flour.
Add most of the pecans to the bowl, setting a handful aside to top the scones, and knead them into dough.
Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet and form it into a large disc. With a knife or bench scraper, cut the disc into eight wedges. Spread the wedges out on the baking sheet and bake them in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes.
While the scones are baking, put together the icing. In a small bowl combine all of the icing ingredients and whisk together until smooth.
When the scones are done, cool them for about 15 minutes before drizzling the icing on top. Finish the scones off by sprinkling tops with rest of the pecans.
I don’t think anything says Fall to me more than a creamy squash soup…except maybe all those leaves on the ground. As I mentioned in my last post, I got a great deal on a basket of six squashes at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago. I used the first butternut today to make this delicious and crazy simple soup. This stuff is liquid gold comfort food. Usually when I make it I toast up some pepitas to sprinkle on top, but it occurred to me that instead of throwing away the seeds from the squash, I could roast those and use them instead! I’m going to consider that my mini-moment of genius for the day.
Curried Butternut Soup
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Peel, core, and cube the squash. Separate the squash seeds from the guts and wash off any slime. Dry the seeds and spread them in a small baking dish. Toss them with salt and a little oil. Roast the seeds in the oven while you make the soup. Check on them occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.
Add a tablespoon or so of oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the fenugreek seeds if using and toast them in the oil for a minute to release the flavor. Throw in the squash, curry powder, and a pinch of salt. Stir everything together and cook for a few minutes more, so that the squash begins to caramelize a little.
Pour in vegetable stock(recipe follows*) until it just covers up the squash. Put a lid on the pot and turn down the heat a bit. Cook until the squash in tender.
When squash is cooked, take the soup off of the heat. Blend the soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender, in batches, until it is smooth. Stir in the coconut milk and fresh herbs.
Serve the soup with an extra drizzle of coconut milk, a squeeze of lime juice, and a pinch of toasted squash seeds on top.
*How to make homemade vegetable stock(my way):
Add all ingredients to a large pot and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil, cover it, and turn down the heat. Let the stock cook for about one hour. When it’s done, strain out the vegetables and reserve the liquid. I like to freeze my extra stock in ice cube trays, so that I can easily use it as needed.
In the Summer and Fall, I shop at the local farmer’s markets and roadside farm stands as much as possible. I plan my meals around the locally grown, seasonal produce and am always delighted to see what new things arrive as the months progress. Not only is the food more fresh than what is available in the super market, but it is usually more affordable as well. This week I hit up the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market and what you see above is a small portion of what I bought to last me for the next few weeks. Along with what is pictured, I got an excellent deal on some squash. For $3.00 I got a basket of six squashes, three butternut and three acorn. Definitely the deal of the day.
On Monday, I started making use of my vegetable bounty and went meat free for the day. I thought I would share with you some of what I made.
I threw together some lunch and started prepping dinner at the same time, roasting up tomatoes with garlic in one pan and eggplant, cauliflower, carrots and brussel sprouts in another pan. I tossed everything together with oil, salt, and pepper. They went in a 375 degree oven for about a half an hour. I took some of the tomatoes and eggplant and stacked them on sprouted grain bread with spinach and a bit of cheese. I put it on my George Foreman grill to make this Roasted Vegetable Panini.
I saved the rest of my roasted veggies to make this lasagna. I started by making my sauce. In a food processor, I combined about a cup of the roasted tomatoes and garlic with equal amounts of raw tomatoes, half an apple(for sweetness), a handful of spinach, half an onion, some basil, and salt to taste. I pulsed the mixture down until it was fairly smooth.
I built the lasagna by layering my roasted cauliflower, eggplant, brussel sprouts, and carrots with my sauce and some fresh mozzarella, in between no-bake whole wheat lasagna noodles. I covered it with tented aluminum foil and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.
I figured I should make something fresh and light to go with the lasagna, so I made this raw beet salad. I cut 4 beets and a granny smith apple into match sticks and tossed them together with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of canola oil, and a handful of chopped mint. This salad was the star of the show and will be making a repeat performance on my table again very soon!
I still have a lot of produce left to use, including all those squashes, and my brain is overflowing with ideas for how to use it all. I can’t wait to share some of them with you!
Words can’t express the joy I feel when I’m roaming through the produce section and see the first fresh figs of the year lining the shelves. Out of all the Fall foods, I love figs the most. Aside from eating them wrapped in a slice of prosciutto, my favorite way to eat them is in tart form. Usually the tart I make has mascarpone and almond paste as a base. I thought this time I might try something new and made what I would consider more of a breakfast type tart, using ricotta and eggs instead. The result was delicious, but make no mistake, this is not the kind of thing you would serve for dessert. It would be wonderful on a brunch buffet or for breakfast with friends. It would also be a great addition to an Autumn bridal or baby shower.
To make crust, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn dough out on to the counter and form it into a disc. Cover the disc in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge while you make the filling.
Add ricotta, eggs, honey, 1/4 cup marmalade, vanilla, ginger, and salt to a bowl and whisk together until fairly smooth. Try not to over mix it or it will become too liquid-y.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll the dough out into a large circle that will fit into your tart pan. When the dough is rolled out, carefully lay it over the tart pan and the press it down into the sides and corners. If you don’t press the dough in well, it will shrink down the sides during the baking process. Trim off any excess dough and dock the bottom with a fork.
Pour the ricotta mixture into the tart pan and spread it out evenly. Arrange the sliced figs nicely on top of the ricotta. Melt the other half of the marmalade in the microwave for 30 seconds and then brush it on top of the tart.
Put the tart in the oven and bake it for 40 minutes. When the tart is done, let it cool for at least 30 minutes before removing it from the pan. Slice the tart and serve it up, maybe with a nice cup of tea or along side a bowl of squash soup.
You could eat this…
‘That’ is a Hot Pocket. A Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket to be more specific. This poster, designed by Justin Perricone, deconstructs the hard to read and often biblically long ingredients list found on most food packaging and puts it back together in a way that really makes its point. There are way too many ingredients in the packaged, processed foods that people are reaching for in the super market. I am so sick of picking up boxes off the shelf, only to return them moments later because the ingredients list is longer than the line at a newly opened Crispy Creme. My general rule of thumb when I shop is, if I can’t pronounce it, I probably shouldn’t be eating it.
I miss whole foods. Look at that poster. See where it says, “Imitation Mozzarella Cheese”. Why?! I want real cheese, damn it. There is part-skin mozzarella listed in tiny letters in the corner, but why can’t I have all mozzarella and why is there more of the fake stuff than the real stuff? How about, “Artificial Butter Flavor”. There is already a ton of butter in a Hot Pocket. Why do we need butter flavoring as well? Does it really affect the taste so much? What really baffles me is the amount of salt that all of these freezer foods contain. Why? What’s the point? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it tastes good. There is so much salt, that it goes way beyond flavor enhancement. The salt becomes the flavor, you can’t even taste the ham and cheese in the ham and cheese. I haven’t even started on what it has done to our health, but I don’t think I need to go there.
Okay, enough ranting. This recipe takes a little time to put together, but is still very simple. While it isn’t inherently a convenience food, if you make a double batch, you could freeze half of them and have dinner or an on-the-go snack for later. You can freeze them before baking and then put them in the oven for about 50 minutes when you are ready to eat them. You can also freeze or refrigerate them after baking and then pop them in the microwave for a few minutes, just like a Hot Pocket.
Makes 4 or 5 Pies
To make the pie dough, combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse them together until a dough ball forms. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead together a couple of times. Form the dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Store the dough in the fridge for at least ten minutes or while you make the filling.
Cut the beef into bite-sized cubes and then dredge the cubes in flour that is seasoned with salt and pepper. Shake off the excess flour. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add beef to the pan and cook it until it is nice and brown. It’s okay if some bits stick to the bottom of the pan. When the meat is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside.
Add the diced onion and a tiny bit of salt to the pan. Cook the onions until they are translucent and then add the meat back to the pan, along with the broccoli. Cook for a minute more, then pour in a cup of water(or beef stock) to deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up all of the brown bits on the bottom. Continue cooking until the liquid has turned into a thick sauce. Take the pan off of the heat and stir in the cheese.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out so that is roughly 1/8 inch thick. Using a dessert plate as a template, cut 7 inch rounds out of the dough. You will have to roll the dough out several times to make all the rounds.
Scoop some of the filling onto one half of each round. Fold over the other half so that it totally covers the filling, creating a half moon shape. Press the edges of the dough down with a fork to seal in the filling. Cut some slits in the top of the dough to allow steam to escape while baking. If you like, you can brush the tops with a mixture of one egg and a tablespoon of water.
Bake the pies for 40 to 45 minutes. Allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. These are a great meal to make on the weekends and then pack for lunch during the week.