Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Preview

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I scheduled, organized, and planned out my cooking and now have a few hours to spare before the guests come over. Here's a preview of some of our dishes! The menu is an assortment of family favorites, new recipes, and my favorites! A full post will come later - after the food coma has passed. For now, here are some pictures to get you in the mood for Thanksgiving.

First up, appetizers. Spinach balls (with fresh spinach) and Beet-pickled deviled eggs:

Next up - sides! My grandmother's famous dressing, roasted maple-ginger veggies, brown sugar baked sweet potatoes and acorn squash, and jellied cranberry sauce with fuji apple.


And last, but not least, dessert! Homemade pecan pie and a pumpkin pie (made with red kuri squash).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hearty Vegetable Tomato Sauce and Meatballs

We were at a housewarming party recently and were talking with some friends about easy weeknight dinners and recipes that we make a lot. They had some great ideas - Greek inspired tacos, avocado boats - but one idea had me thinking about it the whole way home. Good old spaghetti and meatballs. It is such a comfort food. With our recent trend toward recipes good for leftovers, this definitely filled the bill. And since the slowcooker is still on the counter, I decided to to put it to work again.

Instead of a boring tomato, garlic, and basil sauce, I wanted to make something that packed a nice veggie punch. A trip to the store yielded some nice nutritionally rich ingredients.

Before throwing everything into the pot, the ingredients got a little pre-cooking. First in the saute pan - diced baby bella mushrooms. Next the onions and carrots. Finally, minced garlic and spinach.

After the veggies were sweated and softened it was time to go in the slowcooker. I used a few cans of diced tomatoes with no salt added. I'm not a fan of the off-season tomatoes at the grocery store, the canned tomatoes are a tastier option. The sauce got off to a simmer and then it was time to get to work on the meatballs.

My grandmother makes a mean meatball - so I stick with her method when making mine. They get thrown into the sauce and soak up the flavors of the sauce.

Hearty Veggie Tomato Sauce and Meatballs
1 bag of spinach leaves
1 medium yellow onion, diced
About 1 cup carrots, diced
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) - Drained
2 cans diced tomatoes (no salt added) - Not drained
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper

Turn on the slow cooker to the highest setting (mine is 4 hours - high)
Add tomatoes
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat
Add chopped mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add to slowcooker
Add more oil if necessary, and then saute onions and carrots for about 5 minutes, then add to slowcooker
Cook the minced garlic for a minute, then add spinach to the pan, cooking until just wilted
Add spinach to the slowcooker
Cover with lid and let simmer

1 pound ground sirloin
About a cup of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper

Mix all ingredients by hand until just combined - do not over mix
Form into 1 inch balls
Add to sauce
When last meatball has been added to the sauce, cook for 1.5 - 2 hours until cooked through

I left the sauce chunky - but if you wanted a smoother consistency you could use an immersion blender to blend it. For the first night, we had the sauce and meatballs the traditional way - over whole wheat spaghetti noodles. On the side - whole wheat garlic bread.

For the second night, I planned to make meatball subs with the rest of the whole wheat bread. What I didn't realize is that the hubby had packed all the remaining meatballs for my lunch that day. So we had delicious veggie sauce subs with melted provolone cheese. Still hearty and tasty - just missing a little protein.

Anyway you want to serve it - this is a great way to add some veggies to your diet and have a great comforting meal!

Stay tuned for some more fall favorites like beef stew and roasted root vegetables. Leave a note about your favorite hearty dish or favorite comfort food!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds: Simple Potato Leek Soup

While my squash pie was baking away in the oven, I took my other farmer's market finds and whipped them up into a simple and delicious soup. The change of the seasons means new veggies to buy at the market. Inspired by Mike I.'s apparent poor cooking of leeks on Top Chef, I decided to pick some up and give them a try. I think I have succeeded in buying a new to me veggie or fruit each week at the market this season!

When I cut them open, I loved the way the layers looked. I also picked up some potatoes and decided to make a potato leek soup. Lately we've been trying to cook dairy-free (well, lactose-free) here at the Good Cook Doris kitchen. This soup was delicious and creamy with only seven ingredients! You won't even miss the cream.

Simple Potato Leek Soup
2 leeks, cleaned and cut into 1 inch pieces
About 2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups of water
1 14-oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth
Salt and pepper
Dash of poultry seasoning (marjoram, sage, thyme)

Melt the butter in a medium soup pot over low heat
Add leeks, cover and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, making sure not to brown the leeks
Add water, broth, and potatoes
Simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender
Puree with an immersion blender (or food processor)
Season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cutting board, knife, soup pot, immersion blender, serving bowl and ladle

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Local Squash - Tasty Pie

It's the season for pie. Every cooking blog I read is either featuring pie, holiday cookies, or cakes, and they all involve pumpkin! Two of my other foodie friends have also posted their attempts at a flaky pie crust. All these delicious posts got me thinking about trying my hand at baking a homemade pie.

I haven't been baking as much as I used to, since I've been busy doing homework after dinner is over. My usual baked goods are quickbreads (banana, zucchini), cookies, and a few tasty apple cakes. I can't remember any time that I made my own pie crust from scratch. So this was an adventure! Next time I'll need to be a little more precise in my measuring techniques - it all worked out fine - but could look prettier. It tasted great!

Back in October, I made a maple kabocha squash puree that I thought would be great as a pie filling. At the farmer's market, I picked up some red kuri squash at the Atlas Farms booth. I don't like overly sweet desserts, so this filling might be a little savory for those of you with a severe sweet tooth. I also didn't make a traditional custard-like squash pie filling (like a pumpkin pie). Next time I'll add in an egg and some liquid so that the filling stays together a little more. I forgot to write down the measurements for the spices - adjust as you see fit! If your local farmers don't have red kuri squash you could also use kabocha, butternut, or the smaller pumpkins.

Maple Red Kuri Squash Filling
2 small red kuri squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tbsp. kosher salt
Water for cooking
1/3 cup (appx.) maple syrup
3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (a little less) nutmeg
A dash of ground cloves

Place squash cubes in a medium-large stockpot
Add about two inches of water (the squash won't be covered)
Sprinkle the salt across the top
Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to low
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until squash is fork tender
Drain and place squash into a mixing bowl
Puree with an immersion blender until smooth
Mix in butter, maple syrup, and the spices
Chill until ready to bake the pie

Delicious Flaky Pie Crust
I won't re-type this pie crust recipe, I'll point you to the blogs where I read about this great recipe. You can visit Delicious Dishings or Playing House for the link to the recipe. I will say that the secret to this flaky crust is chilled ingredients - especially the ice cold vodka. I used what I had in the freezer - guess I should call this Absolut Squash pie. You can't taste anything but the flaky deliciousness after baking. There is a reason that people go to culinary school to learn how to make pastries! I had a blast making this, but I definitely do not have the pastry patience!

A few notes on my pie crust preparation. First, after all this cooking I still don't have a large food processor. This means that I either process in small batches or I turn to my immersion blender. For this recipe, I'm sure that my immersion blender method affected my dough mixing success. It still came out great, but it was a little unwieldy to work with.

Second, I have a great rolling pin but nowhere to roll out the dough. I improvised and taped down a huge sheet of wax paper to my countertop. Next time - a silicone mat! Thankfully I had two balls of dough to work with (the recipe is for a double crust pie). The first didn't roll out very nicely, so I turned it into lattice strips for the top. The pastry gods were looking out for me - the second ball of dough rolled out much nicer.

I spent about ten minutes looking at the rolled-out dough and trying to figure out how to get it into my pie plate. I know that a lot of cookbooks advise folding the dough into quarters and then unfolding into the pie plate. My dough was a little wet so that was not an option. I ended up untaping the wax paper and flipping the dough into the pie plate. Did the trick!

Third, a rustic looking pie tastes just as delicious as a perfectly precise presentation. I probably should have prebaked my crust for extra flakiness, but my pastry patience was running thin. I scooped in my chilled squash filling and laid my free form lattice strips on the top. I brushed the top with some egg white wash and sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top.

Then, into the oven to cook. After about 30-35 minutes the outside was starting to get a little dark, but the bottom wasn't quite done. I made some aluminum foil 'crust protectors' so it wouldn't burn and continued to cook until I thought the bottom was done (another 15-20 minutes).

This pie was the perfect level of sweetness for me. Delicious, flaky crust. Smooth, maple squash goodness. I had a hard time not eating the whole pie by myself, especially since I was home alone. I'm sure my co-workers are glad I controlled myself! This pie crust will be making another appearance for holiday baking. I'm calling my grandma to get the recipe for her pecan pie filling to add to this crust.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slow Cooker Delights - Take 2

My new friend Cara has a great blog and always has interesting (and healthy!) recipes. I remembered reading about some of her slow cooker meals and decided to peruse her site ( for some recipes. Since I already had the slow cooker out on the counter from the brisket, I wanted to use it again!

I stumbled upon her recipe for Crockpot Coconut Peanut Curry Chicken. This combines some of my favorite flavors: cilantro, lime, peanut, etc. I'll let you check out the recipe on her I made a few edits for my version. I used the full crockpot to make sure there were plenty of leftovers for the week. I used 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts and approximately doubled the amounts of the other ingredients. Also, I substituted in natural chunky peanut butter (Cara uses a fancy PB2 that you can read about on her site).

To start, I assembled the spices, minced ginger, and diced jalapenos for the sauce.

Next up was adding the chicken and liquid ingredients. Then setting the slow cooker for 6 hours on low. I think I ended up taking it out after 5 hours, because the chicken was cooked all the way through and I planned to reheat the dish before eating it. The chicken was practically falling apart after cooking - nice and moist. Here's a look at it after cooking:

When we were ready to eat this for dinner, there was just a little more preparation to do. I took out my trusty green cutting board and knife to chop up the cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges to finish off the dish.

I took a shortcut on the rice and microwaved one of those :90 rice packets. To make a little fancier, I bought the basmati rice version. There are two generous servings in each pack - no mess to clean up!

This was a dish that will get added to our repeat recipe list. The flavors work well together and it reheated very well for a few days of lunches. Thanks Cara!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Slow Cooked Goodness

When we got married (four years ago already!), I (we) registered for all the fun kitchen gadgets and appliances that are absolutely necessary for cooking. I use a lot of dishes, plates, and utensils in the kitchen but don't always use the fancy electrics that we own. No more! I've pulled out the slow-cooker and decided to put it to work.

My first thought about using the slow-cooker was that most recipes call for 6-8 hour cooking times. I'm often gone for 10-12 hours during the day, so this doesn't really work out very well. Then it dawned on me - I could cook while we sleep. I can prep the food after dinner and homework and then turn on the slow-cooker overnight. So I searched Epicurious for a slow-cooker brisket recipe and got to work!

This recipe is definitely a keeper. There were a few things I didn't think about before cooking. 1 - All night we dreamed of brisket. The smell of roasting onions permeated the house. 2 - The slow cooker lid doesn't seal perfectly and we woke up to a stream of brisket sauce down the counter. Besides that - it was great!

Here's the ingredient list for the sauce (my first time using the iPhone in the kitchen - a little messy). You can find the full recipe at the Epicurious website:

The recipe did involve a little prep work - not strictly a dump and cook recipe. First is browning the onions. Second is searing the brisket to get a nice brown crust. Then, cut potatoes into 1/4 inch slices and line the bottom of the slow-cooker. Next time I will halve the number of potatoes as they took up too much room. Then I followed the recipe and put the slow cooker to work while we slept. The brisket was fall apart tender, the potatoes had a great meaty flavor, and the veggies cooked down into a tasty sauce. For two of us we had enough for a few days of lunches and dinners. Stay tuned for more slow-cooker treats!


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