Flank Steak and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry

By Katherine

Over the past few months, I got into a terrible pattern of not planning ahead for weeknight dinners. Too often, I was starting to think about what's for dinner at 6 pm as I was leaving the office--which would usually result in a meal that was either disappointing, very late, or expensive (Thai take-out, I'm looking at you). It also meant going to the grocery store way too often. I decided I can do much better, and I've been trying to turn over a new menu-planning leaf.  This means setting aside some time on Sundays to plan meals for the week, create a master shopping list, and brave the Sunday crowds at our local Whole Foods.  It definitely takes some effort, but I think it is already paying off in better meals and reduced stress during the week.  I'm about 2 weeks into this new regimen--we'll see if I can keep it up!

This new plan has allowed me to explore some new recipes, which has been fun. I'm still trying to keep it simple and relatively quick, though, and stir-frying is a great option for those concerns.  Stir-fries are flexible, since you can use whatever vegetables and proteins you have lying around or look good at the supermarket, and they cook fast. I also love that if you add some steamed brown rice, you have a whole meal, ready to go. The key to this recipe, and stir-frying generally, is to prep everything in advance, since once you start cooking, everything will go very quickly.  

Flank Steak and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 2-4, depending on appetite

3 tablespoons oyster sauce

3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound brussels sprouts, halved if small, quartered if large

1/2 pound flank steak, thinly sliced against the grain

Kosher salt

4 scallions, sliced (keep green tops separate from white and light green parts)

3 garlic cloves, sliced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated or chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 jalapeño, sliced into rings (seeds and all)

Steamed brown rice for serving

Measure 1/4 cup water in a measuring cup. Add oyster sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and cornstarch and whisk together. Set sauce aside. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 4 minutes. Cover the pan and cook until the sprouts are still crisp but cooked through, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the sprouts to a plate or bowl and set aside.

Season the steak with salt. Increase the heat to high, add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the skillet, and turn on the exhaust fan over your stove to avoid any unpleasant smoke alarm interruptions. When the oil is just starting to smoke, add the steak in a single layer and cook until nicely browned, about 3 minutes, then flip to quickly cook the other side, about 30 seconds more. Add the steak to the reserved brussels sprouts.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the same skillet. Add the scallion whites/light greens, garlic, and ginger and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, adjusting the heat as needed to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are starting to soften, about 5 minutes, then add the carrots and jalapeño and cook about 2 minutes more, until the carrots are also slightly softened.

Return the brussels sprouts and steak to skillet and add the sauce. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve with steamed rice and garnish with scallion greens.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

By Katherine

Here's another favorite from the Cary Hart archives: chocolate chip banana bread.  It's probably closer to the cake end of the spectrum, but I like to call it bread so it remains an acceptable breakfast food. Our mom made this regularly throughout our childhoods, and I even received a few of these as care packages while away at college (and beyond).  As bananas turn overripe, I toss them in the freezer so I always have some on hand to make this. Just let them thaw on the counter as you're letting the butter come up to room temperature, and you'll be good to go. 

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 1/2 ripe bananas, mashed to make 1 cup

1/4 cup yogurt or buttermilk (or milk with a few drops of vinegar added)

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 to 1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an angel food cake pan. Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs.  In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the batter in thirds, alternating with the banana mixture.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Pour into the prepared pan and back for 40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (expect some melty chocolate smears, though). 

Cous Cous Salad with Peanut Dressing

by Laura

Even though I didn't have a good excuse like an amazing New Zealand vacation, I too have been overindulging lately, so wanted to make a big batch of something relatively healthy that I could take to work for lunch. This is a very filling salad, packed with veggies and whole grains and it also is very tasty if I do say so myself. And the variations are endless! Looking for something gluten free? Sub quinoa for cous cous! Feeding a vegan? Swap out agave for the honey in the dressing. Want more protein? Go crazy and add chicken. And unlike most salads, this one can sit in its dressing for days and doesn't get soggy!

Cous Cous Salad with Peanut Dressing

adapted from Ambitious Kitchen

Ingredients:

For the Salad

3 cups cole slaw mix (purple and green cabbage, shredded carrots)

1 red bell pepper, seeds and core removed, sliced

1 cup whole wheat cous cous (quinoa or rice would work well, too)

2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced (or 1/4 cup chopped red onion)

3/4 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped

For the dressing:

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tsp. finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp olive oil

Sriracha or other hot sauce to taste

water to thin as necessary

Before chopping up all of the veggies, cook cous cous to package instructions and allow to cool. Meanwhile, combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Place peanut butter and honey in microwave safe bowl and heat for about 20 seconds. Add the remainder of the dressing ingredients and whisk until combined. Add water or other ingredients until dressing is at the desired flavor and consistency. Add half of the dressing to the cous cous then combine cous cous and salad and top with the rest of the dressing.


Post-Vacation Detox Salad

By Katherine

Sean and I just got back from an incredible two and half weeks in New Zealand. The scenery was stunning, the people were unbelievably friendly, and the food and wine were both plentiful and delicious.  We may have overindulged, just a bit. 

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Upon our return, we both decided that we needed to try to undo a little of the damage done while we were gone and have a little health detox of sorts.  For us, this means cutting down on alcohol and increasing our salad and vegetable intake.  Luckily, I was inspired by an amazing salad I had in Christchurch and decided to try to recreate it at home, with a few modifications.  The inspiration was the spiced lamb salad at Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn in Christchurch (if you ever find yourself in Christchurch, definitely go here - great beer, food, and atmosphere).  It was a mediterranean-style salad, with roasted zucchini and eggplant, feta, olives, tomatoes, and a mint-yogurt dressing, topped with slices of grilled lamb and a spicy red sauce.  My re-creation at home omitted the lamb and the tomatoes (to keep it vegetarian, and because I forgot them, respectively) and added toasted pine nuts for a little crunch. I think it turned out pretty great - it was delicious but still felt healthy.  Putting roasted vegetables on salads is one of my new favorite tricks - it makes the salad feel more substantial, but it's still healthy since it's vegetables. This mint-yogurt dressing is also yummy, low-fat, and could be used for all sorts of things (sauce for grilled meat, dip for veggies, etc.) 

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Post-Vacation Detox Salad

2 small to medium zucchini, sliced

1 medium eggplant, cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and pepper

5 oz. mesclun or other salad greens

1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced 

1/4 cup Kalamata olives 

1/4 cup English cucumber, thinly sliced

3 radishes, thinly sliced

2 oz. feta cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts

Mint-Yogurt Dressing:

1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

Juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the zucchini and eggplant with the olive oil, season to taste with salt and pepper, and roast for approximately 25 minutes (you want some color on the veggies for flavor).  While the vegetables are roasting, make the dressing by whisking the yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and mint together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside (you want the flavors to have a little time to meld together).  Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over low heat until golden brown, stirring or shaking frequently (about 3-5 minutes). Don't walk away and forget about them, which will result in tragically burned pine nuts. (You could also toast them in the oven while the vegetables are roasting; just be sure to check them frequently.)  Once the zucchini and eggplant are done, remove them from the oven and allow to cool for about five minutes. In a large salad bowl, layer the remaining salad ingredients, topping with the roasted vegetables and pine nuts.  Toss everything with the mint-yogurt dressing and serve with hot sauce on the side for those who might like some spice. 

 

Lime Pudding Cakes

by Elissa

Are you looking for a dessert that tastes like spring? Something that is satisfying but not too heavy? I have got the recipe for you, and it's great for entertaining because you can make it a day or two in advance.

This recipe comes from The Hay Day Country Market Cookbook, which I received as a gift 15 years ago.  Although the book is not new or famous, I go back to it several times a year for delicious recipes that are simultaneously classic and unique. One of my tried-and-true favorites is their recipe for key lime pudding cakes, although I usually end up substituting regular limes for the key limes. The recipe is kind of crazy because you start with a uniform batter, but as it bakes it separates into a delicate cake atop a layer of smooth pudding. It really is like a magic trick.

Folding whipped egg whites

Folding whipped egg whites

The key to the magic is the whipped egg whites that you fold into the batter. As the puddings bake, the egg whites and flour rise to the top, creating the cake layer and leaving behind something that tastes like lime curd.

Here's the cake

Here's the cake

And here is the pudding layer

And here is the pudding layer

It's a great recipe to have in your arsenal. If you add a full 2/3 cup of lime juice the cakes will have a real bite to them; if you think you'd prefer something a little milder I'd recommend trying 1/2 cup of lime juice. And I bet these would be amazing with Meyer lemons.

(Key) Lime Pudding Cakes

3 Tbs unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs, separated

6 Tb. flour

pinch of alt

2 cups whole milk

2/3 cup fresh lime or key lime juice

Preheat the oven to 325.  Grease 8 ramekins and have a roasting pan and kettle of hot water ready (they need to cook in a water bath). Cream the butter and sugar together (it will be very crumbly). Add in the yolks one at a time, beating until smooth.  Add the flour and salt and then the milk, stirring until smooth. Stir in the lime juice and set aside. Bring the kettle of water to a boil while you whip the egg whites until they are firm but not totally dry.  Fold the whites into the batter. Divide the batter into the prepared ramekins and arrange them in a roasting pan; pour the boiling water in to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until tops are very lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove from the water bath and allow to cool. You can serve them warm, at room temperature, or you can cover and chill them for up to 3 days.

Crispy Carnitas for a Crowd

by Laura

Although I love Mexican food with all my heart, I have never been a huge carnitas fan. When I've had carnitas at restaurants, the most noticeable flavor has been fat and the texture is mushy. I was reintroduced to carnitas last Labor Day when some friends made the most amazing, crispy, flavorful carnitas, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. So, I decided to make them for a Super Bowl party and had to share the recipe here.

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A few benefits of this recipe from Smitten Kitchen:

  • Great for a crowd - I quintupled it (is that how you say times five??) 
  • Pork butt is a very inexpensive cut of meat. I got 15 pounds at Costco for $30
  • You need 6 basic ingredients
  • It is easy. You just need time
  • You can make it into tacos, sandwiches or make a "very healthy" salad!
Served with broccoli slaw with cilantro dressing on tortillas

Served with broccoli slaw with cilantro dressing on tortillas

Yes, I said 15 lbs!

Yes, I said 15 lbs!

Grab a drink. You'll be here a while.

Grab a drink. You'll be here a while.

Two Delicious Soups

by Elissa

It's been a pretty cold winter in DC so far; we've had more snow than usual and several days where the temperature barely made it into the teens. We've been eating a lot of soup to keep warm, and I wanted to share a couple of our favorites.

Sausage, lentil, and chard soup

Sausage, lentil, and chard soup

First up is a lentil soup recipe that I make at least once a month in the colder months. It comes from Secrets of the Best Chefs by Adam Roberts.  It's got lots of flavor from Italian sausage (two links is plenty), crushed tomatoes, and a finishing touch of sizzling garlic oil.  It might be my favorite wintertime one-pot meal, and sometimes the children even eat the Swiss chard. Add some bread (or, in Hart family style, some buttered toast) and you have a perfect winter meal.

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The second soup is a newer discovery: Joanne Chang's recipe for hot and sour soup (via Food52).  The recipe uses pretty basic ingredients to create a soup that is hearty but that also has some zing. I reduced the rice vinegar to half a cup and went easy on the Sriracha to make it more kid-friendly--Josh and I added extra Sriracha at the table to our bowls. I thought this recipe was perfect, and Lane requested seconds after expressing some initial skepticism. But next time I make it Josh has requested that I hold the tofu for his serving. I guess you can't win them all.

Teriyaki Salmon

by Laura

As I have written before, I am intimidated by seafood. I've eased my way in, starting with shrimp (but they have legs so they don't really count). I keep reading how salmon is really great for you so decided I should try to weave it into my repertoire. One of the reasons I have been hesitant to cook seafood is that I think, more than other meats, fish needs to be of a very high quality or you are in trouble. I bought this salmon at CostCo and it tasted great (and I have 6 more servings in the freezer).

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Teriyaki Salmon

adapted from Self via Epicurious

Ingredients

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1.25 lbs salmon cut into 4 filets

1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tsp minced or grated fresh ginger root (I love ginger but if you aren't a fan, you might want to reduce this to 2)

2 tsp sesame oil

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine all marinade ingredients and whisk well. Place salmon on an oven safe baking dish and cover with about half of the marinade. Let sit for 15-30 minutes.  Bake until salmon is cooked through - about 15 minutes for mine (but they were thick so check after 10). Use extra sauce to top rice and vegetables.

Served with over rice with roasted brussels sprouts and mushrooms as suggested by Self

Served with over rice with roasted brussels sprouts and mushrooms as suggested by Self


La Super-Rica Taqueria

By Katherine

Although Laura, Elissa, and I did most of our growing-up in Sacramento, we also spent a significant portion of our formative years in Santa Barbara.  I have two main food memories from our early years in Santa Barbara:  McConnell's Ice Cream and La Super-Rica Taqueria.  Luckily, both are still around and thriving, which means that I can satisfy my hunger and nostalgia at the same time.  Last weekend, Sean and I decided to take advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and take a road trip to Santa Barbara. The Super-Rica was a must-visit destination while we were there. 

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The Super-Rica has been in the same corner location on Milpas Street since 1980. It is a humble white building with bright turquoise trim, and you can also recognize it by the near-constant line out the door.  The Super-Rica became famous in the 90s because Julia Child (who had retired to nearby Montecito) went on record saying it was one of her favorite places to eat.  My tip for beating the line is to arrive just before opening at 11am. 

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After waiting your turn, you order at a window that peeks into the kitchen.  There is always a woman making fresh tortillas front and center, and man, those tortillas are good.  The menu is written on a chalkboard to the right of the window, and don't miss the daily specials on a second board, just above where you order.  The menu includes tacos, quesadillas, and a few other specialties with various combinations of meats, cheese, and vegetables.  The restaurants is cash-only, and I always seem to end up over-ordering, both because everything looks so delicious, and because I definitely don't want to wait in line again if I want seconds.  

A view into the tiny kitchen

A view into the tiny kitchen

The patio seating area

The patio seating area

This trip, I had to order all of my favorites on the menu, starting with No. 16, the Super-Rica Especial: roasted pasilla peppers, marinated pork, and melted cheese over those homemade tortillas.  (Actually, Sean and I had to order two of those in order to avoid creating any marital strife).  No. 6, the rajas taco, is also a must-order, in my opinion.  It combines sauteed pasilla chiles, onions, herbs, cheese, which meld together into a sum greater than its parts. Rounding out our lunch menu on this trip was a chorizo quesadilla and a chile relleno in cream sauce (off the daily specials board).  It may be because I grew up eating them (I think Super-Rica quesadillas might actually be the reason Laura, Elissa, and I are so tall), but I think the quesadillas are very special here - they really highlight those delicious tortillas and you always get a little crispy cheese around the edges where it oozed out onto the grill. 

From left to right: Chile relleno, Super-Rica Especial, rajas taco, chorizo quesadilla (and the second Especial in the back)

From left to right: Chile relleno, Super-Rica Especial, rajas taco, chorizo quesadilla (and the second Especial in the back)

I am equal parts proud and ashamed to say that Sean and I polished off this whole table of food, and it was worth the food coma that followed.  It's very difficult to pick a favorite among these all-stars, but on this day, the rajas taco was the winner in my book. The chiles, onions, and cheese melt together into a smooth, rich concoction that is somehow both sweet and savory at the same time.  Adding a little of the green hot sauce on top gave it just the right kick.

Sean and I each also ordered an agua fresca de sandia (watermelon drink), which was a very refreshing accompaniment to all this food. The drink had lots of chunks of fresh watermelon, which made it impossible to drink with a straw, but left you with no doubt that it was made with actual watermelon. 

If you look closely, you can see the watermelon chunks

If you look closely, you can see the watermelon chunks

If you find yourself in Santa Barbara, I highly recommend a stop at La Super-Rica. Come with an empty stomach, a little patience, and cash in your wallet and you will be rewarded with some delicious, comforting food. 

La Super-Rica Taqueria

622 North Milpas Street

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

805-963-4940

Chicken Parmesan

by Laura

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If you have ever caught an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network....well, just don't. In fact, her blog kind of bothers me too but she does have some great recipes and instructive photos. So, I'm sorry, Ree, for the mean thoughts I've had about you while taking advantage of your hard work in the kitchen. Most recently, with this recipe for Chicken Parmigiana.

The only things I changed were that I added some thyme to the flour mixture that you dredge the chicken in and I put it under the broiler for about 5 minutes at the end to get a crispier parmesan crust. Oh and I only had 28 oz. crushed tomato and it was still delicious! So I will continue to visit Pioneer Woman and encourage you to do the same. However, if I ever come up with an obnoxious nickname for John like the Marlboro Man, please stage an intervention!

I had to cook my chicken in batches.

I had to cook my chicken in batches.

I used a zinfandel for the wine to deglaze the pan (this is also a good one for drinking along the way!)

I used a zinfandel for the wine to deglaze the pan (this is also a good one for drinking along the way!)

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Served with whole wheat pasta and spinach sautéed in olive oil with some onions, lemon juice, pine nuts and feta cheese

Served with whole wheat pasta and spinach sautéed in olive oil with some onions, lemon juice, pine nuts and feta cheese

Delicious Fried Things

by Elissa

Although January typically involves trying to figure out how to get more kale and quinoa into one's diet, I wanted to share some fried indulgences that I enjoyed toward the end of last year. Usually it's only a week or two into January that I'm ready to enjoy something crispy!

Doughnuts from GBD

Doughnuts from GBD

Way back in November I huffed and puffed my way through the Veterans Day 10K here in DC.  The whole family agreed that doughnuts would be an appropriate reward for my efforts, so I stopped by GBD in Dupont Circle on my way home from the race. The name stands for "golden brown delicious" and they specialize in doughnuts and fried chicken. The flavors on offer range from basics like vanilla to more exotic options like grapefruit campari and tres leches.  I think my favorite of this batch was the nutella doughnut (lower center), but they were all pretty fantastic. Not pictured (but equally delicious): mini-sweet potato biscuits with a chunk of fried chicken and spicy honey.

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I have written about my fondness for Taylor Gourmet's sandwiches, but they also make a mean arancini.  Arancini are fried risotto balls filled with melty mozzarella cheese.  My only hesitation about ordering them in the past has been that the arancini by themselves are not enough for lunch, but adding them to a sandwich is a huge amount of food. I recently discovered, however, that Taylor makes a good cup of soup, and an order of arancini plus a soup is a good amount of food for lunch.  I like to add a sprinkle of salt and I recommend asking for an extra container of marinara sauce to accompany them.

Finally, during Hanukkah I decided to try my hand at making latkes.  I have always been a latke lover and decided not to let the fact that we don't celebrate Hanukkah stop me from enjoying some fried potato pancakes. I started with a Cook's Illustrated recipe, but decided to try to omit a couple of the more labor-intensive steps.  The results were exceptional, if I do say so myself, and one of my resolutions for the new year is to make these a few more times.

Homemade latkes with sour cream and applesauce

Homemade latkes with sour cream and applesauce

Shiksa Latkes (adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

2 pounds russet potatoes

1/2 large yellow onion

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons flour

salt and pepper

canola oil for frying

applesauce and sour cream for serving

Preheat oven to 200 degrees and put a baking sheet with a rack inside it in the oven.  Peel the potatoes and grate them along with the onion (a food processor with a grating blade makes this step go much more quickly). Put half of the grated potato mixture into a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as possible.  Repeat with the other half and transfer to a bowl.  Mix in 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ground pepper to taste, the two eggs, and two tablespoons flour.  Now it's time to fry! Put 1/4 inch of canola oil in a large frying pan or two and turn the heat to medium-high (it will go faster if you have two pans going at once). If you have a hood over your stove turn it on--this will help keep your house from smelling like latkes for days.  When the oil is shimmering, put 1/4 cupfuls of the grated potatoes into the pan (the oil should begin boiling vigorously).  Leave them alone for 3-4 minutes, until the bottoms are nicely browned. Flip and cook for another 2-4 minutes, until browned all over.  Drain on a paper-towel lined plate and transfer to the oven to keep warm. Serve with sour cream and applesauce.  They would also make an excellent brunch with over-easy eggs and hot sauce, I bet.  

 

New Year's Strata

By Katherine

I think it's important to greet a new year with a delicious breakfast. In the past few years, strata has become my favorite special breakfast/brunch dish, and it has now become a New Year's morning tradition for me.  If you're not familiar with strata, it is a layered casserole of bread, cheese, eggs, and vegetables or meat.  I like to think of it as a savory bread pudding.  Strata is an excellent dish for entertaining, because it can easily feed a crowd and you do all the prep the night before.  In the morning, you just pop it in the oven and wait for the magic to happen. This year, I was making strata for just Sean and me, so I made a smaller recipe, but we still have leftovers, which are great for lunch or dinner along with a green salad. Strata recipes are generally very flexible, and you can add whatever combinations of cheeses, vegetables, or meat you have on hand.  This time I decided to serve bacon on the side, but you can add cooked, crumbled bacon to your veggie mixture. You can also use whatever type of bread you have lying around, and I've successfully used whole wheat/multigrain loaves as well as a baguette-style gluten-free bread.  

The finished strata

The finished strata

Spinach and Mushroom Strata

Adapted from Gourmet

Serves 4

6 oz. frozen spinach, thawed

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

4 cups cubed (1 inch) crusty bread (day old works best)

3 oz. gruyere, grated

1 oz. parmesan, grated

1 1/2 cups milk

5 eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the thawed spinach and set aside.  Use 1/2 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 2-quart casserole or gratin dish.  (A square glass or metal baking dish will also work.) 

Sautee the onion in the remaining butter over moderate heat until it is starting to get soft, about 4 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are soft and have released their liquid.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, then add spinach and cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat. 

In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the vegetable mixture and the shredded cheese.  (For a true strata, you would alternate layers of bread, vegetables, and cheese, but I am lazy and think the finished product doesn't suffer from being all mixed up.)  I like to reserve a bit of the cheese for sprinkling on top of the strata.  Transfer the bread mixture to the casserole dish and top with the reserved cheese. 

Whisk together the milk, eggs, and mustard in a medium bowl and season as desired with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture evenly over the strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight. 

In the morning, preheat oven to 350.  Allow the strata to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to baking.  Bake the strata until golden brown and cooked through, about 45-60 minutes.  Your cooking time will depend on the depth of your baking dish - the one I use is quite deep, and my strata always pushes the upper limit of the baking time.  You want the liquid to be absorbed and the center of the strata to be "set," but still moist. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Cranberry Pudding

By Katherine

Today is our grandmother, Ruth Hart's 102nd birthday. Can you believe it?!  She is a truly amazing lady, and in honor of her special day, I am blogging about her signature dessert, cranberry pudding. The name is a little misleading, since it's more of a cake than the custardy stuff we normally think of as pudding. The cake is a bit tart because of the fresh cranberries, but that tartness is more than offset by the sweet, buttery sauce you pour over the cake at the table.  When Grammy would make this for us growing up, Laura, Elissa, and I would have little portions of pudding absolutely doused in puddles of the sauce.  Happy birthday Grammy!

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Cranberry Pudding

For the cake:

2 cups flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. melted butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups raw cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8x8-inch baking pan. Mix the flour with the baking powder and salt, and then add the remaining ingredients in the order given.  Pour batter into the pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out dry. 

For the Sauce:

1 cup sugar

1/2 butter

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup whole milk

Heat sauce ingredients in a saucepan until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.  Pour the warm sauce over individual servings of cake.

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Soft Pumpkin Cookies

By Katherine

We're on a bit of a pumpkin kick here at Harts in the Kitchen, with Elissa's yummy pumpkin cupcakes and my previous post on stuffed pumpkin.  But 'tis the season, so I'm going to add another pumpkin recipe to the mix:  soft pumpkin cookies.  My best and oldest friend, Sierra, gave me this recipe a few years ago, and it has become a holiday tradition for me.  They are pillowy and soft, with the warm spices that go so well with colder weather, and the best part is undoubtedly the brown butter glaze that is drizzled on top. 

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Soft Pumpkin Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla.  Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and then add them to the pumpkin mixture.  Drop by tablespoonful onto cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes.  Yield: 3 dozen. Once cooled, drizzle with brown butter glaze. 

Brown Butter Glaze

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups powdered sugar

Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  When the butter foams, start whisking. Don't walk away from the stove at this point, as the butter can burn easily!  Whisk until you see lightly browned specks at the bottom of the pan and the butter begins to smell nutty.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla.  Beat in 2 tablespoons of hot water until the mixture is smooth and of the desired consistency (drizzle-able but not runny).  (You can repeat with more tablespoons of water as necessary - the glaze thickens very quickly - but use as little water as possible because too much will result in runny, watered-down glaze.) Work as quickly as you can to drizzle the glaze over the cookies before the glaze becomes too thick and unworkable (an extra set of hands are great if you've got a helper available). 

Amazing Pumpkin Cupcakes

by Elissa

This is not exactly a unique attribute, but I love cupcakes--both eating them and making them. I've made cupcakes for weddings, holiday parties, and more birthdays than I can count. I have several tried and true recipes that never fail me, but I'm always on the lookout for new recipes.

I recently had the honor of baking cupcakes for a friend's daughter's first birthday party. The birthday girl loves pumpkin bread, so I decided to attempt pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. After looking around some, I decided to adapt this recipe from Annie's Eats. I fiddled with the spices, reduced the leavening, and added some whole grain flour, and I couldn't believe how good the results were. 

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The cake was moist, light, and nicely spiced. Cream cheese frosting is always a crowd-pleaser, and I used a star tip to make the dollops of frosting a little cuter.

Star tip

Star tip

I've always shied away from any complicated decorating techniques--my artistic skills leave a great deal to be desired. But this technique is so easy it really does not require any special skill. The star tip is perfect for mini-cupcakes, as one little star perfectly fills the top of each mini. For the full-sized cupcakes I did three stars on top of each cake.  Believe it or not, once you get into a rhythm it actually is faster to frost cupcakes with the star tip than to use a knife to spread.

Tray of cupcakes ready for transport

Tray of cupcakes ready for transport

These are perfect cupcakes for any occasion in fall or winter, and they are quite easy to make--the batter comes together really quickly.

Pumpkin Cupcakes (makes 2 dozen full-sized cupcakes or at least 4 dozen minis)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 heaping tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

heaping 1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 /2 tsp. salt

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree

1 cup sugar

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup canola  oil

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake pan with liners. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, oil and pumpkin. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, then gently fold in the dry ingredients. Fill the cupcake wells about 2/3 of the way full. Bake until cooked through, 16-20 minutes.

Cream cheese frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups confectioners sugar

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla extract and gradually add the confectioners sugar. I usually start tasting after I've added 2 cups and stop when it tastes sweet enough--usually between two and three cups. To make star shapes, put a star tip into a piping bag or a gallon ziplock bag. Fill the bag  with the frosting and dollop away!

Turkey for Beginners

by Laura

I am 31 years old and still think I am not grown up enough to cook a turkey. Well, it turns out, I can do it! And so can you!

I followed Ina Garten's recipe pretty closely but made a few modifications due to laziness and paranoia (I blame my dad who repeatedly asked what the back up plan was once he learned I was in charge of the turkey).

Ingredients

Get dirty! Butter under the skin helps keep it moist.

Get dirty! Butter under the skin helps keep it moist.

1 fresh turkey! (ours was about 12 lbs)

1 stick butter (room temperature)

1 sprig fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 lemons (1 zested and juiced; the other cut into quarters) 

Half an onion

1 head garlic halved (skin on is ok!)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Take the room temperature butter and use a fork to mash in chopped thyme, rosemary, lemon zest and lemon juice.

Remove the giblets and neck (!!! gross but the one we had was packaged nicely and not too traumatic to remove). Tie up the legs and tuck the wings under the body so there are no parts too far from the body.

Rinse the bird inside and out with water and pat dry. Salt and pepper the outside of the skin liberally. 

On her way to the oven

On her way to the oven

Lift up the skin and slip your hand between the bird and the skin, making space so you can stuff the butter in there next. Use your hands to get the butter mixture underneath the skin (I think this really helps keep it from drying out as it cooks). You can kind of smooth out the butter from the outside so it gets all over the bird (watch the video on the link above for a good visual). Spread the rest on the outside of the skin, reserving about one tablespoon of the butter mixture to braise the turkey throughout the cooking.

Stuff the quartered lemon, onion, garlic and any extra thyme and rosemary sprigs you have laying around inside the body cavity of the turkey.

Prepare a large roasting pan with just enough water to cover the bottom. Transfer the turkey to the pan and roast at 350 degrees for 2.5 hours, brushing with butter throughout if it ever looks like it is getting too dry on top. You can also place a piece of foil on top if it starts to look too brown.

Test the temperature and make sure it gets to 165 before you take it out. Let it rest for about 20 minutes before carving. 

Beware: it looked like this a full hour before it was ready

Beware: it looked like this a full hour before it was ready

The final product!

The final product!

Waffles of Insane Greatness

by Elissa

Before having kids, I did not often cook big breakfasts. Josh is not a morning person, and it always seemed like a lot of trouble for just two people. But now that we've added two early risers to the family, I regularly make pancakes and waffles on the weekends.

When I'm not feeling decadent enough for a batch of Belgian Sugar Waffles (or if I haven't planned ahead enough to make a batch of batter the night before), this is my favorite waffle recipe. I first read about it at Orangette, and both her description of the waffle and the name itself made me eager to try it out.

 

Four examples of insane greatness

Four examples of insane greatness

The results are impressive: light, crispy waffles with a tender interior. I like to add some whole grain flour and flaxseed meal to make me feel a little better about the fact that the kids view them as syrup vehicles. I'm happy to report that the healthier version is no less delicious!

Waffles of Insane Greatness (adapted from Food52)

The recipe recommends letting the batter rest for 30 minutes before cooking. I've made it both with and without the resting time, and the results are better with the rest (the waffles are crispier and seem to have a better texture). But if you have hungry masses clamoring for waffles, you can start cooking right away. My strategy usually involves bribing the children with television while the batter rests.

1 cup all-purpose flour 

1/2 cup barley or other whole grain flour

1/4 cup flaxseed meal

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups  buttermilk

2/3 cup canola oil

2 eggs

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a smaller bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, and stir until combined. Let batter rest for 30 minutes, then pour into your waffle maker. Serve with butter and real maple syrup (if you use fake syrup, Cary Hart will have something to say about it).

Stuffed Pumpkin

By Katherine

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I'm going to share with you one of my favorite discoveries of the last couple of years:  stuffed pumpkin.  The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan and can be found here or here (I like looking at multiple sources because I love reading all the comments and suggestions).  The recipe is very flexible, but here are the basics:  take a sugar pie or other eating pumpkin, fill it with cubed bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs, then moisten the mixture with heavy cream, and bake for several hours until the pumpkin is soft and the stuffing is bubbling.  To serve, you scoop some of the soft pumpkin flesh out along with the cheesy stuffing filling, and it all gets mixed together deliciously on your plate.  We've used a variety of breads (including whole-grain and gluten-free), all with good results, and we've swapped crumbled sausage for the bacon, which is also quite tasty. It's a recipe that's begging for experimentation - you could omit meat and make this a beautiful vegetarian main course, and I'm curious to try rice or another grain instead of the bread (but that might require a bit of tinkering/trial and error).  The recipe says it serves 2-4, but we've stretched it to serve 8-10 as part of a larger Thanksgiving spread.  I hope you'll give it a try (and invite me over if you do)!

Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Is it Thanksgiving yet?

Kale, Butternut Squash and Sausage Soup

by Laura

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Even though it is still hovering in the 70s here in Southern California, I've been craving winter comfort foods and soup. I randomly had the main ingredients for this in my fridge and they actually go quite well together. This soup is hearty enough to be a meal on its own or a nice complement to a salad and grilled cheese (as pictured). The sausage takes care of most of the seasoning and it freezes and reheats well as lunch!

 

Ingredients

Butternut squash

Butternut squash

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small butternut squash

4 cups kale, torn into small pieces

1 onion, chopped in small pieces

1/2 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed (pork sausage works as well!)

4 cups chicken broth (can increase to make it more soupy)

1 tsp Italian seasoning

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Preheat oven to 375. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt on the surface. Roast for 45 minutes. (You could skip this step and just cook the squash longer in the soup.) Peel and cut squash into 1 inch pieces. Heat oil over medium heat in large soup pot and add onions. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sausage and break up using the spoon. Cook, still stirring frequently, for another 10-12 minutes until the sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the squash, kale, broth and Italian seasoning and cook another 15 minutes or so. Taste, add salt and pepper to taste.

Carrot Orange Soup

By Katherine

Yesterday, I woke up with the tickle of an early-stage sore throat, and all I wanted to eat was warm, comforting things.  I became fixated on one of my ultimate comfort foods:  carrot orange soup.  The recipe comes from the Silver Palate cookbook, which was a staple in our household growing up, and I still grab it for tried-and-true recipes (Chicken Marbella, anyone?).  Anyhow, our mom made this carrot orange soup for us on a regular basis, and when Elissa, Laura, and I were all living in Washington, DC in the early 2000s, carrot orange soup was often on the menu for our weekly sister dinners.  It is dead simple to make, with ingredients that are readily available all year long.  Add some buttered toast and a green salad, and you have a lovely supper. 

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Carrot Orange Soup

Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook via Cary Hart

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)

12 large carrots (or 2 cups baby carrots), chopped

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1 cup orange juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Melt the butter in a soup pot.  Add the onions, cover and cook over low heat until soft, about 25 minutes.  Add the carrots and broth; bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots are tender, 25 to 45 minutes (the smaller you chop the carrots, the sooner it will be ready).  Puree using an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a food processor or blender.  Add the orange juice and simmer until heated through. 

Veggie friends: this can be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken. You could even make it vegan by using olive oil instead of butter, but I think there is something magical about the base of onions slow-cooked in butter. 

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