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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ricotta Pie

Tonight's dinner was born from left-overs, but it is something that can definitely be made from scratch. It was also my first successful attempt at pie crust - the last few times were a hot mess. For the same reason that my brain shuts off when I drive into Lewiston, I cannot make pie crust. The difficulty comes not with the mixing of ingredients - I've watched my mom perfect it for 30 years - but with the actual rolling of the dough. It always sticks. No matter what. I received a marble rolling pin as a wedding gift, and that seemed to help tremendously. I still have some quirks to work out, but I know I'm on my way to making pastries by Christmas!

As for this pie, it's rich and full of ricotta cheese, eggs, and lovely vegetables I know my kids will eat. I even snuck a bit of squash in there. They both protest against squash, but they eat it more times than they would care to know. I'm convinced that when they are adults they'll suddenly, and without cause, have a strong desire to eat all things squashy. Then, I will sit back and smile.

Ricotta Pie
3 eggs
1 1/2 C ricotta cheese
1/2 C cottage cheese
3 T fresh chives,
2 C fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3C  mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 C squash, cooked and mashed with butter
2 T oil
1T butter
salt and pepper

Pie Crust
1/2 C shortening
1 1/2 C flour
1 t salt
1/2 C cold water (I put mine in the freezer for about 20 minutes)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Make pie crust by mixing the shortening, flour and salt together with a fork until crumbly. Slowly add just enough water in to make the dough stick together. You may not use the whole 1/2 cup. Roll out until about 1 inch bigger than you need for your pie plate. Fold gently in half, lift into plate, unfold and press into place. I take a sharp knife and cut the excess off and save it for cinnamon pinwheels. Using a fork, press the edges of the crust firmly into the top of the pie plate. Set aside.

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat and add oil and butter to it. Toss in onions, garlic and mushrooms and saute about 5 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and onions translucent. Add in spinach and toss with onion and mushrooms until wilted, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. Remove from heat and add in squash, salt and pepper, mixing it all together well. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add in ricotta, chives, and cottage cheese. Mix together thoroughly.

To put pie together, dump vegetable mixture into pie crust and spread evenly across the bottom. Poor egg and cheese mixture over and let sit for 2 minutes. Place in oven and bake 50mins to an 1hour, making sure crust doesn't burn. Use a toothpick in the center of the pie to make sure it's done. If any egg mixture comes out on toothpick, place back in oven for 5 minute intervals until cooked through. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

You can serve with a salad and toast, sauteed vegetables, or home-fries.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fish Curry

My body was craving curry last night....I mean craving it. I wanted my house to fill with that succulent smell, my fingers to turn yellow from the powder, and the heavy notes to linger in my nose all night. As I sit here eating it for breakfast the next day, I realize just how scrumptious it was, and I how I absolutely must include it on here. If not for all of you, at least for my memory. Curry has a special place in my heart because when I was pregnant with my oldest son it was all I craved (well, that and olives), so we ate it 5 times a week. I'm surprised he didn't come out the color of Tumeric.

The great thing about curry is it can become a hodge-podge of ingredients from the fridge. This is what I had on hand, but you could add peas, green beans, squash, zucchini, chicken, pork...the list is endless. Like I said, it was so yummy that I stirred an egg into the left-overs, toasted a giant slice of buttermilk bread, and am enjoying it all over again for breakfast.

Fish Curry
1 lb fish, cut into bite sized chunks (any type of white fish works best)
1 large potato, diced
1/2 C mushrooms, chopped (I used Chicken of the Woods, but any firm mushroom would work)
1/2 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 heads tat soi, chopped (leaves and stems separated)**
14 oz coconut milk
3 T curry powder*
1 1/2 t chili powder
Water, as needed
2 T safflower oil
1T butter

*This all depends on the strength of your curry powder. Mine had been sitting on the shelf for quite some time so I knew it would be weak. I could have used more, but with kids I didn't want it to be too strong. Adapt your recipe depending on the freshness of your curry powder and who is eating it.

**Tat soi is a chinese green that wilts up fast, alot like bok choy. You can use any green to replace it.

1. Heat safflower oil and butter in large pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms, garlic and green peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add potatoes, curry powder and chili powder. Cook 1 minute.

3. Add about 1/2 C water, just until veggies are wet. Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.

4. Stir in coconut milk to veggies and bring to a simmer.

5. Add fish chunks and stir gently. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

6. Stir in chopped tat soi stems and cover again. Cook 2 more minutes.

7. Remove from heat and add tat soi leaves and stir gently. Cover and let sit 2 minutes.

8. Serve over brown rice with a side of Indian flatbread - naan - or some pita bread, to sop up any juices.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New England Fall Casserole

I love fall in Maine. Partly for the lovely colors of gold, red, and brown. Partly for the wet, foggy days that make me want to stay inside and drink tea. But mostly for the food. Those who know me, know full well that Thanksgiving is my favorite day of the year. I love spending 2 days in the kitchen. I love the fall decorations of gourds, leaves, and hand-print turkeys. I love sitting down on Thanksgiving day with my loved ones and sharing in the bounty of the harvest. My love for this holiday has nothing to do with the myth of a Pilgrim/Indian meal, all lovey-dovey and respectful. It has nothing to do with the turkey, even, because when I spent 7 years as a vegetarian I never missed the bird on my dinner plate. It has everything to do with the warm veggies, salty gravy and hearty breads. And being thankful for the ability to eat good foods with the ones I love. It's that last bit of relaxation and gratitude for life before the hectic craziness of Christmas and New Years.

In the spirit of fall and its glorious root vegetables, I decided to spend the afternoon in my kitchen cooking a casserole. A quick poke through my fridge and vegetable basket and I was elbow deep in beets, potatoes, red cabbage, garlic and onions. I also recently purchased a large local pork chop from Caldwell Farms that I would toss into the mix. Simmered for an hour (give or take) in a nice bath of homemade chicken stock from the day before, my house filled with the glorious smell of roasting root vegetables. I served this up with a side of cornbread for a filling, warm and hearty fall meal. New England style.

This is one of those wonderful fix it and forget it meals for those with crock pots. Simply add all the ingredients to the pot, place on low, and go to work, on a fall hike, or curl up with a good book for the day. By dinner time it should be perfectly cooked and ready to enjoy. If you like gravy on your bread or biscuits, use some of the juices from cooking and whip up your favorite gravy recipe.

Fall Casserole
8 small beets (about 1 cups worth), sliced into half moons*
6 medium potatoes (about 2 cups worth), washed and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, sliced into thin wafers
1 small red cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 lb pork, cubed
4 C stock
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper

*Leave skin on beets if they are baby beets, it will be tender and edible. If they are larger beets, with a tougher skin, peel first.

Preheat oven to 350. Add all ingredients, except pork, to a large casserole dish and stir thoroughly to incorporate flavors. Cover tightly and bake for 1 hour, add pork, then bake another 30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and pork is cooked. Serve piping hot with cornbread or biscuits.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tricky Mac 'n Cheese

I am blessed with kids who love veggies. They request kale and potato soup, they devour spinach quinoa pilaf, and they munch fresh salads all summer long. BUT, that doesn't stop me from wanting to trick them every once in a while. Tonight's meal was one of those times. My oldest requested I make my homemade mac 'n cheese. Easy enough. But what about all those veggies sitting around in my fridge. I could throw in spinach, or mushrooms, but my kids are die-hard straight forward mac 'n cheese eaters. They want pasta and cheese. Period. So in order to get a veggie mac 'n cheese, I had to be tricky. I got a 1/2 head of cauliflower out of the fridge and steamed the crap out of it, until it was soft and mushy. Perfection. Mixed with a cheese sauce and tossed with pasta, I was able to successfully trick my children...Sometimes I live for these moments.

Mac 'n Cauli-Cheese
1/2 head cauliflower, steamed and mashed
6 C cooked pasta
2 C shredded cheddar cheese
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 C milk
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Toss cooked pasta with cauliflower once it's mashed and set aside. In saucepan over medium heat melt butter then add flour in and whisk for a few minutes until smooth and tan. Slowly add in milk and turn up to high heat and whisk continually until it starts to boil, then continue to whisk for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add cheese, salt and pepper and stir. Toss gently with pasta and bake for 35 minutes.

Serve with a spinach & apple salad and enjoy!