Broccoli Salad

Potlucks are funny. You never know what you’re gonna get, which I guess is the point. There is a garbage disposal service in our area called “Potluck Pickup.” At my old church, which had lots of older ladies, the potlucks were divine. At my current church, which is mostly 20 & 30 somethings, chips and dip and potato salad from the deli are more common.

DH was invited to a party tonight, and he asked me to make the pumpkin bread from the other night. I will oblige, but I’ll also be taking this opportunity to make Simply in Season’s Broccoli Salad. There are a million versions of this out there, but I have never actually made it.

In a large bobroccsaladwl, mix 3 C broccoli florets, 1 C raisins, 10 slices cooked & crumbled bacon (ok, I cheated and used the option of 1/2 C bacon bits, sometimes ya gotta take shortcuts to keep your sanity), 1/2 C diced red onion, 1/2 C raw sunflower seeds, and 1/2 C cheese (the book says optional but who in the world turns down CHEESE?!?!).

In a small bowl, combine 2 T sugar and 1 T apple cider vinegar and dissolve; stir in 3/4 C plain yogurt or mayonnaise until well blended (I used lowfat yogurt). Pour over the broccoli and stir together.

The verdict: I’ll admit the photo looks like someone vomited bacon bits and broccoli. But the salad was as good as any version I’ve had over my many years of having broccoli salad at potlucks. For some reason it was a bit hidden at the food table. Not many people took it, so I was worried that maybe it wasn’t good. As we were leaving, someone noticed it and said “oh no, I didn’t even see that! And that looks great! Much better than the store bought salad crap!” So that made me feel better.

And when we got home, DH helped himself to a nice big bowl of it. Which made me wonder if he had placed it on an inconspicuous part of the buffet table on purpose. Ha!

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Poultry Pasta Primavera

pastaprimaveraI can tell that autumn is near; this week’s CSA pickup was not as hefty. They had picked all the eggplant and peppers after the frost, so we got lots of minis. It’s funny, but I’m almost glad that there are only 3 more weeks of pickups. Then we can have our refrigerator back. No more eggplants and long lost summer squash hiding behind the milk.

Tonight’s recipe allowed me to use up the rest of the broccoli in my refrigerator, and a few more carrots.

It began by boiling angel hair pasta (8 oz), 2 C of broccoli florets, 1 C of julienned carrots, 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I used green but red would have added more color, especially since I also used a white carrot); 1 sweet onion. All for 5 minutes. Drain, then return to pot.

In a large fry pan, saute’ in a little oil 1 clove minced garlic, 1 t dried parsley (or 1 T fresh like I did), and 1/2 t each of dried basil and oregano. Then, add 2 T flour and 1 C milk–slowly, stir until thickened.

Add 1 C chopped chicken, turkey or rabbit (I used a can of chicken); heat through.

Then add 1/2 C yogurt cheese (you can make this yourself by draining plain yogurt in cheesecloth for 1 or so hours. I actually used some ricotta that I had leftover) and 1/4 C freshly grated parmesan, and heat until melty and yummy but not boiling.

The verdict: OK so the pictures aren’t particularly flattering, but believe me this was very tasty. DH and I couldn’t believe it is only 300 calories per serving (this makes 4 servings). Very rich.

Butternut Harvest Stew

butternutstewFor my second soup attempt of the day, I chose Butternut Harvest Stew from the autumn section of Simply in Season. It begins easy enough, melt 2 T butter and saute 1 medium onion, chopped and 2 cloves of minced garlic along with 1.5 lb of cubed pork until the meat is no longer pink. I bought the pork at Byron Center Meats this morning, and was really impressed with the customer service. I asked if they had cubed pork by any chance and they said to use chop suey pork. I ended up getting 2 lbs since it came in 1 lb packages, so the calorie count below is a bit higher than if you were to just use the 1.5 pounds.

So after the meat is brown, drain the fat and add 3 C chicken broth (I really should make my own one of these days, but dang it, Swanson is just so convenient), 3/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp rosemary and sage, and a bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Here is where the “fun” begins. Chop two apples. Then peel a butternut squash. That’s right, peel and chop a butternut squash. I had no idea how to do this and kind of approached it as if I were peeling a pineapple. Believe me, it took all of the 20 minutes to get that bad boy peeled. So then you add the apple and squash to the stew and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. When I put it in, I was thinking, is Ruthie from Kentucky on crack? There is no way this squash is going to ever get tender. I’m going to be eating my dinner at midnight.

So I checked it 20 minutes later, I was right – apples and squash are still rock hard. So I crank up the heat and cover it and add a little more broth. Boiled for about 20 more minutes. The squash was still firm (but no longer rock hard) and the other stuff was getting a bit mushy so I called it a day.

The verdict: DH and I decided that apple is DELICIOUS with pork. We really liked this stew, although it smelled like it had more flavor than it had. Still, it tasted great. And a very full bowl is only 550 calories. Will definitely make this again. We served this with Black Star Pinot Noir. Not sure if red wine goes with pork but it was a perfect pairing.

Edit: Just looked on the Black Star website, and they suggest roast pork and herbs as pairing for this wine. Score!

Velvety Vegetable Soup

Today I decided to try out my new kitchen appliance: an immersion blender. The weather was perfect for it: cool, rainy, and overcast. The recipe? Velvety Vegetable Soup from Simply in Season. It’s from the spring section, which is interesting because I noticed that the vegetables are similar in the spring and autumn, at least the green ones.

vegsoupBecause I only had one leek, this was definitely an exercise in adaptation/substitution. Instead of using 4 cups of diced leeks, I used one leek, 1 bunch of green onions, and two fennel bulbs. I did have the 1 medium onion (chopped) and 1 cup of celery (although I used a lot of tops, not so much the stalk). Sauteed this in a few tablespoons of oil for 15 minutes.

Then, I added 2 t tarragon, 1 t thyme, 1 t salt, and a dash of pepper; 4 C chicken broth, and 3 C diced potatoes. You are supposed to cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, which the recipe says is 15 minutes but mine must have been stubborn because it was more than 20.

Finally, add 1 bunch of chopped spinach and simmer another 5 minutes. Now it’s time to have fun with the immersion blender (or you can use a regular blender).  As a finishing touch you can add 1/2 C milk.

This makes 4 servings, at about 259 calories per serving.

The verdict: The smell when you’re making it is heavenly. Even Troy thought so. Believe it or not, it tasted even better. I think I should have used actual celery instead of the tops because the celery flavor was a wee bit overpowering, but I could still taste a hint of fennel which was awesome.  Oh, and the Cuisinart immersion blender was a DREAM! I should have bought one of those a long time ago.

Chicken Cacciatore

There’s nothing like coming home from a hard day’s work, opening the door, and smelling the aroma of dinner ready and waiting. Yes, it’s that time of year to haul out a working woman’s best friend: the crock pot.

chcacciatoreFor this recipe, adapted from Simply in Season, I started with a 4 lb whole chicken from “our” farm where we have our herdshare. It’s a free range, organic chicken, so a crock pot is usually the best option since those free range chickens can be a bit tough – must be from all that running around out in the yard!

Over top of the chicken, I added 4 C or so of chopped tomatoes, a chopped green pepper, 2 sliced onions, some minced garlic, a bay leaf, a dash of salt and pepper, and a larger dash of oregano and basil and 1/4 C white wine. I couldn’t really taste the wine, maybe because I used a gewurtztraminer and not a chardonnay. Anyhoo, mushrooms would also be a good addition.

I served this over egg noodles, and DH added fresh grated parmesan, which was a nice addition. Overall this was a great recipe, and went really well with Robinette’s Harbor Demi-sec wine.

Berry Muffins

Another great recipe from Simply in Season. This is extremely versatile!

The basic recipe is as follows:

Dry ingredients: 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats (alternatively you can skip the rolled oats and instead add berrymuffins 0021/2 C additional wheat flour and 1/2 C raw wheat germ. OR use an additional 3/4 C whole wheat flour and 1/4 C flax seed meal), 1 T baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon (optional).

Wet ingredients: 1 egg, 1 C milk, 1/4 C oil, 1/4 C honey.

The star: 1 1/2 C blueberries or any kind of berries, fresh or frozen, or go crazy and substitute an equal amount of shredded summer squash.

Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar and  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

The Review: DH was taken off guard by the whole wheat flour, and said it could have used some sugar sprinkled on top. I did sprinkle some, but will do more (or maybe use a bigger sugar?) next time. He still ate a few though. I thought it was good, not too sweet but kind of wholesome. The oats and raw local honey came through. Almost makes you not feel guilty for eating sweets.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

Ah, the blueberry. Full of antioxidants. Grown right here in Michigan! In fact, Michigan leads the nation in blueberry production, producing 32 percent of the blueberries eaten in the U.S. In 1998, the state produced 49 million pounds of the small, round berry. Check out http://www.michiganblueberries.com for more fun blueberry facts.

I purchased some blueberries from the Farmer’s Market, and it was a tough decision. Blueberry muffins or coffee cake? Blueberry bread? So many recipes, so little time.

I decided to go with the Blueberry Coffee Cake today.  I’m not sure when I bought The Joy of Cooking, but it was very educational for me when I was a young newlywed (the first time) a DECADE ago. Wow, am I that old? And have I really owned that book for 10 years and haven’t still read it all? There are so many great tips in there. One that has made a difference in baking quick breads and muffins is to mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet ingredients, and to CAREFULLY mix the two together. Maybe everyone else already knows this, but I thought I’d share anyway 🙂

So, the recipe from Simply in Season is as follows:

Dry ingredients: 1 C flour, 1/2 C whole wheat flour, 1/2 C sugar (considered using Stevia for baking, butbbcoffeecake I figure I only live once), 1 T baking powder, 1 t ground cinnamon, 1/2 t salt. Mix, then gently fold in 1 1/2 C blueberries and 1 tsp lemon zest (optional, but I used it. I love zesting lemons. Yes, I’m a nerd.)

Wet ingredients: 1 egg, 1/2 C milk, 1/4 C melted butter or oil (I used Promise Light. One of these days I’ll get around to making my own butter . . . ) Whisk together, add to flour mixture. Batter will be stiff.  8×8 pan works great.

Topping: 1/3 C sugar, 1/3 C whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup walnuts or other nuts (I omitted this because the husband HATES walnuts), 2T butter, 1 tsp cinnamon (optional, but I included this. I love cinnamon). Mix until crumbly and sprinkle over top.

Bake at 425 until light golden brown, about 20-35 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, try with warm milk poured on top. I didn’t do this but it sounds good!

The review: awesome! DH said it only needs a side of ice cream. I thought the lemon zest added a nice touch. Glad I had some leftover lemons in my frig. This is very moist for a coffee cake – not dry at all.

A note about the pics: Yes,I know they are overexposed. My favorite photo editing software crashed with my laptop 😦 Hope to get it fixed soon.