Sunday, December 27, 2009

Of lamb and leftovers

For Christmas dinner this year we had leg of lamb. But this wasn't just any leg of lamb. This wasn't bought at the store, or even at the butcher or even at the farmer's market. This was one of the legs from the lamb that my sister-in-law and I were splitting that we bought from a farmer on Washington Island,WI where our in-laws live. I've seen the pastures this little lamb grazed on. It was one lucky lamb. Until we ate it. But it was darn good. I still have a freezer full of lamb to look for recipes for, but here's what we've done so far.

For christmas dinner we followed my grandmother's tried and true recipe. Nothing could be tastier or easier.

Roast leg of lamb
1 leg of lamb (ours was about 9 lbs)
15 garlic cloves, sliced into thick slices (more or less to taste)
1/2 a lemon, juiced
Worcestershire sauce
powdered ginger
kosher salt

  1. Preheat over to 350. Place meat in a large roasting pan, preferably on a roasting rack.
  2. Trim extra fat from the leg of lamb. Cut slits in it and stick the garlic slices in the slits.
  3. pour the lemon juice over the meat. Liberally sprinkle with worcestershire sauce, powdered ginger, pepper and extra liberally with salt.
  4. Bake until thermometer reads around 160F, approximately 3.5 hours.
We served ours with caramelized brussel sprouts (garlic, onion and bacon), peas, potatoes (lots of butter), cranberry sauce (sweet and spicy, with lots of horseradish), mint jelly, and light wheat bread shaped into a wreath. Dessert was pecan pie from the Best Recipes cookbook.

This meal fed us for two nights, amazingly. Tonight, Andy made stew from the last of the meat on the bone. After much thought and a bit of recipe research here's what he came up with. It was delicious.

Moroccan lamb stew with lentils and winter squash (from left-over leg of lamb)
Left-over leg of lamb (bone with plenty of meat remnants left on it)
carrots, cliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and chped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 c. red wine
1 onion, sliced
1/2 c. lentils
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/4 tsp.ground cinnamon
Salt, to taste

  1. Make lamb stock by placing leg of lamb into a large pot and covering in water (6 quarts or so) and bring it to a boil, then simmering for one hour. YOu should have extra to freeze or use for another meal
  2. strain the stock through a colander, seperating out the meat for the stew, setting aside the broth and throwing away the bones and fatty pieces.
  3. In a separate large, heavy bottomed pot saute the carrot, onion, garlic and squash. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the wine. Add the spices and the lentils and bring to a high simmer.
  4. Using kitchen shears, cut the meat off the bone to get 2-3 cups, if you can.
  5. Add the meat and 6-7 cups of the broth you made.
  6. Cook for 20-30 minutes until all the vegtables and lentils are tender, but not mushy.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta

This was an improvised pasta dish which turned out really well. I especially liked the roasted broccoli which gave the whole dish added flavor. The olives and pine nuts were a lucky last minute addition found in the back of the fridge, but ended up being the perfect compliment.

Pasta with Roasted Broccoli, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Feta
1 lb bow tie pasta
1 bunch broccoli, split into bite size pieces
Olive oil
1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes, sliced
1/2 c. hot broth or water
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz. feta cheese
1 handful fruity green olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
1/4 c. pine nuts, toasted (optional)
salt (kosher, if you have it)
Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. and set a pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Put the broccoli on a lipped cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Place in preheated oven for about 25 minutes, stirring half way through, until broccoli is tender and slightly charred.
  3. Once the water boiling, add 1 Tbsp. of salt and add the pasta. Cook until al dente.
  4. place sliced tomatoes in hot liquid for 10 minutes to rehydrate slightly, save liquid to be added to pasta.
  5. When pasta is cooked, drain and leave in a colander while you saute the garlic and 1 Tbsp of olive oil in the pasta pot for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  6. Add tomatoes and liquid, broccoli, pasta, olives, pine nuts and feta. cover for a minute or two to let the cheese melt a bit. Mix and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Monday, November 30, 2009

This Week's Meal Plan

Monday and Tuesday: Moroccan-style stuffed squash
Wednesday: Pasta with broccoli, sun dried tomatoes and feta
Friday: Pizza (using whatever dough from the Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day is currently in the fridge)
Weekend: Going out!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pasta with Sweet Potato, Chickpeas and Feta

This is the kind of dish that pleases me at several levels. It has lots of flavor, is kid friendly, inexpensive and seasonally appropriate. And it's pretty. But you can't see that because everyone was so hungry that we ate everything before I could get a picture.

Pasta with sweet potato, chickpeas and feta
1 lb pasta (I like bigger shapes for this, like rotini or penne)
1-2 T. butter or olive oil, or a combination
1 large sweet potato, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

  1. Heat water to a boil. Salt generously and add pasta
  2. Melt butter/oil in pan. Saute onion and sweet potato until caramelized a bit and potato is just soft all the way through (8-10 minutes). I put the lid on the pan for part of the early cooking, then take it off for the last few minutes.
  3. Add garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds)
  4. Add chickpeas and cook until heated through.
  5. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 c up cooking water.
  6. Mix pasta with vegetable mix, add feta and as much of the hot pasta water as you need to make it all creamy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pork roast: three ways

One morning last week, I was running out the door and remembered at the last minute to toss the pork roast into the crock pot. In my coat and hat, with the baby in one arm, I grabbed the pork roast from the fridge, unwrapped it, flicked some salt and pepper on, hit the switch and left for the day. Two minute meal prep is the best. We had dinner for three nights from that 2 minutes of prep work.

Night one: barbecue pork sandwiches
Night two: pork burritos
Night three: provencal pork stew

Here are the recipes:

Barbecue Pork Sandwiches
Pork butt or shoulder roast
1 bottle of barbecue sauce
Hamburger buns or hard rolls

  1. Place pork in a crock pot. Lightly salt and pepper and cook for 8 hours on low
  2. Take a portion of roast pork and break it apart with a fork. Mix in sauce to taste.
  3. Serve on bun/roll with more sauce if desired.
This meal goes particularly well with a simple coleslaw.

Pork Burritos
left-over pork roast
tortilla shells
rice (cooked)
shredded cheese
red onions
sour cream
whatever else you like on your burritos

  1. Heat tortillas either individually over open gas flame (use tongs...your fingers will thank you) or wrap several tortillas in tin foil and heat for 15 minutes in the over at 300F.
  2. have each person determine their topping preference.

Provencal Pork Stew
left-over pork roast
1-2 large cans whole tomatoes
1 can white beans, drained (or cook your own ahead of time)
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small onion, diced
chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, pressed in garlic press or crushed and finely minced
wine (preferably a dry white, but red wine works too)
herbs d'Provence
Salt and pepper

  1. Saute the onion, carrots and celery until onions become slightly translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant, then add the wine. You could also replace wine with broth, if you prefer.
  2. Crush the tomatoes lightly with your hands or the back of a spoon as you add them to the other sautéed vegetables. Add beans and 1 tsp. herbs d'provence or to taste. Cook until slightly thickened but carrots and celery are still slightly crisp, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and add pork and heat through.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Winter squash and swiss chard lasagna

1 largish winter squash (app. 3 lbs) cut in half and seeds scooped out
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 tsp. each red pepper flakes and nutmeg
1 bunch swiss chard chopped, stems and leaves separated
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp.flour
2 c. milk, heated in microwave for 2 minutes
1 box no boil lasagna noodles
4 large garlic cloves, chopped finely or crushed through garlic press
shredded Italian blend cheese (or combination of mozzerella and parmesean
olive oil

  1. Roast for 1 hour (or until soft) squash at 375 degrees. Place cut side, rubbed with olive oil, on a rimmed cookie sheet.
  2. When squash is done, let cool then peel skin off. Puree in food processor.
  3. Make a bechemel sauce by melting butter, whisking in flour and cooking until light gold color. While whisking, poor in hot milk slowly and cook over med-low heat until slightly thickened. Set aside.
  4. Mix squash puree, ricotta, salt
  5. Saute chard stems with garlic and a bit of olive oil until softened. Add chopped chard leaves and saute until wilted. Add to ricotta mixture.
  6. Start your layers in a buttered 9x13 pan: Bechemel sauce, noodles, squash-ricotta-chard mix. I usually get 2-3 layers of each. Top with cheese. Cover with tin foil.
  7. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for additional 10 minutes.

This week's meal plan

Sunday: Spaghetti and meatballs
Monday:Roasted vegetable curry from Moosewood's Simple Suppers cookbook
Tuesday: Roast chicken with potatoes and cherry tomatoes
Wednesday: Winter squash and swiss chard lasagna
Thursday: Burritos
Friday: Pasta with vegetables from our CSA box
Saturday: Fish with cous cous and CSA box vegtables

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This week's meal plan

Sunday: Pan-fried chicken breasts, sauteed spinach, cous cous, and tomato-basil-feta salad
Monday: Winter squash soup, green salad and bread
Tuesday: Omelettes and green salad
Wednesday: Baked kielbasa and sauerkraut with homemade pretzels
Thursday: Pasta with vegetables from our CSA box
Friday: Pizza with roasted vegetables from our CSA box
Saturday: Lasagna with swiss chard (from Ready When You Are by Martha Rose Shulman)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Breaking bread

Front loaf shaped by me, rear loaf by 3-year old O-man

In the last couple years raising young children and baking bread have become my primary spiritual practices. While I have several bread and baking cookbooks, when I found Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, I had found my spiritual guide. I'm a convert. I proselytize at any opportunity. Seriously, if I was getting a cut of this book's sales I might even be able to keep myself in flour for a while.

The basic premise of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is that you make a large batch of high moisture dough, let it rise once then store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, taking out portions of the dough to shape, rise and bake whenever you need a loaf.

Here's the thing about this book that make it an exceptional resource for family cooks:
  1. The work is really quite minimal and the actual shaping and baking part is so easy that it really does only take a few minutes so it can be done anytime.
  2. having dough around means that you can almost always whip up something for, calzones, soup or salad with bread, sandwiches, bacon and eggs in toast, pasta with toasted breadcrumbs, I could go on and on.
  3. It's a lot cheaper to bake bread than to buy it at the store, plus, this way you aren't eating all those preservatives
  4. Kids love fresh bread. Who am I kidding...EVERYONE loves fresh bread.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Three foods from scratch that always seem like magic

There are three things that I cook regularly at our house that some how have managed to consistantly seem like magic to me. I know it's just a bit of science and smidge of planning, but still I feel like amazed that it actually works every time:

1. bread
2. yogurt
3. dried beans

I am also find myself amazed at how much it costs to buy these things in the store and how lousy they taste compared to my homemade versions. So, if you are attempting to cook from scratch this is where I'd start. Every loaf you take out of the oven will leave you feeling better about the world, every batch of yogurt will make you feel brilliant and every batch of beans you cook up will feel like you won the lottery. Okay, maybe that's taking it too far. At the least though, it'll make you feel like you won a game of cards.

For the next three posts, I'll cover how to start making these three things from scratch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What are we having for dinner tonight?

About 5 times a day, my two and a half year old asks me this question: "what are we having for dinner tonight?" I know this is the age old, 5 o'clock dilemma for most families, but in our house it is genuine curiosity about the food we're going to be preparing, eating and enjoying together. Cooking and eating is as central to our families existence as it has been for the entirety of human existence, but in the face of modern food culture--fast, cheap and out-of-control--it can be a struggle to eat well, stay relaxed, enjoy what's on the table and to know what you are actually eating.

So, this blog is my effort to explore how families can cook their food from scratch so that they can enjoy their food and enjoy each other.