I've always loved earthy, homey comfort foods. As much as the sunshine of summer makes me happy, come August, I'm longing for a good braised anything, even though I know it will make John look at me funny when I serve him pot roast in the 95 degree heat. I think of my admiration of root vegetables being tightly linked to this - substantial, meaty turnips and rutabega, jerusalem artichokes, I love them all.
So, kind of funny in the midst of all of this that I had never tried beets until the last year. Okay, so, yes, I guess I had tried beets, if you count the slightly scary pickled version canned on the grocer's shelf - don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of picking in general, but... no. So you can imagine my surprise upon ordering a lovely salad with roasted beets to learn that they were delicious (you might wonder why I ordered it if I didn't think I liked beets; clearly my love for goat cheese exceeds my imagined distaste for beets). Since then, if there's a beet on a menu, I order it; if there's a beet on John's plate, I quickly distract him so I can eat it. And if I have an evening with more than 20 minutes to get dinner on the table, you will quite often see beets there.
The cooking method for beets is pretty straightforward - you can boil them or you can roast them. You can cut them up before cooking to cut the time, but I'll warn you that I was not a fan of this method as it left the outer edges a bit drier than I like. As I experimented with my beets, I was thrilled to realize just how great the greens are as an accompaniment - I love that I'm able to use nearly all of the vegetable, and it makes a simple, cheap all-in-one side dish. And the sharpness and crunch of the greens is a perfect foil to the sweet creaminess of the beets. I top all of this with a sprinkle of goat cheese and... heaven.
Wow, it's been a long time - I have to apologize for my long silence. We were hit pretty hard by a series of winter sicknesses, killer DC snowstorms, and a long vacation (okay, the last one wasn't very painful). Even though I haven't been writing much, I've certainly been cooking, and I have a long backlog of recipes to share with you. What better way to kick that off than with my first Daring Cooks challenge?
The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.
I was very excited to see risotto for my first challenge; this is one of my favorite dishes, but I've not done taken the time to experiment with flavors as much as I'd like. The challenge required making your own chicken stock (great news - I now have a freezer full of leftover stock) and specified the risotto base, but we were free to choose our own flavors.
I opened this choice up to John, and he asked for mushrooms. I used the shredded chicken from making the stock and a mix of risotto and cremini mushrooms, and let me tell you, it was awesome. I sauteed the mushrooms in butter, then used the same pot to make the risotto. This created a nice, deep mushroom flavor without overcooking the mushrooms. The only thing I would change next time is that I felt the dish could use an herb flavor, but I couldn't figure out what herb I would like to add - maybe some thyme? Let me know if you have ideas on what would work well with these flavors!
For my 28th birthday, John took me for a Classical French cuisine course at the Culinary Institute of America. We spent a wonderful weekend in beautiful Hyde Park, visited the Roosevelt Presidential Library and ate a LOT.
As if the trip wasn't a completely amazing gift on its own, he also gave me the cookbook Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, and this was the first dish I made from it. The picture completely drew me in - soft mushroom filling, wrapped in crisply breaded chicken paillards, topped with a delicate, creamy sauce. And you know what? These roulades completely lived up to my expectations.
While this certainly isn't a quick meal to throw together on a weeknight, it's also not an hours-in-the-kitchen dish, and it's well worth the extra time. It comes together in three basic steps - making the stuffing, preparing the roulades, and making the sauce. And it is so worth it - crispy and warm outside, salty and savory inside, topped with a silky cream sauce.
Keep reading for the recipe - trust me, you want to make this!
My kids have always been big breakfast eaters (hm, I wonder where they get that from...). And I've always been proud to serve them a breakfast home cooked with love every morning. But I went back to work about six months ago after two and a half years as a stay at home mom and that really has stressed my morning routine. The boys and I used to laze around in bed until 8 every morning, then gradually make our way downstairs for breakfast. Now all three of us have to be out of the house by 7:45 to get them to school and me to work in the DC traffic. I know, I know, lots of people have to do this, but it really sucks.
I was pretty emotional about going back to work and leaving the kids, so I promised myself that I would somehow find a way to continue giving the boys home cooked breakfasts. I started by just trying to cook reallyreallyreally fast in the mornings. I usually managed to get something on the table, but it was... stressful, to say the least, and left me with a sink full of dishes to deal with after work, right as I was starting to stress about how I was going to get dinner on the table in -45 minutes (which is a whole other story).
Pretty quickly, I realized that I could de-stress my mornings a lot by cooking huge batches of breakfast on the weekends and freezing them to toast up on weekdays. This works great for waffles and even french toast, but my kids' favorite is Sully pancakes. We call them this because the recipe is based on the one in the The Magic Kitchen Cookbook, that features Sully from Monsters, Inc.
Now, I have to stop for a minute to talk about this cookbook. The kids got it for me for Mother's Day last year (thoughtful, aren't they?), and we use this thing a lot. I love cooking with the kids, but it requires a certain ability to let go of precision that I, well, struggle with. These recipes are pretty much all from scratch, focus on healthy eating, and have stood up to J's... liberal interpretation, and are actually pretty delicious! Also, the recipe portions are relatively small, which is nice for a family with small kids.
So, yes, I love this cookbook, and my kids love these pancakes. They ask for Sully pancakes almost every morning, and I love having a little help making them. J and I made a double batch this morning, and had enough for all four of us for breakfast and two mornings all set in the freezer.
The original recipe is for "Not Too Scary Berry Pancakes," but I have made them with any kind of berries, with bananas, chocolate chips, bananas AND chocolate chips (God, so good), and just plain pancakes. Recipe follows...