Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberries are everywhere during this time of year. I’m always so happy to see the first fresh ones popping up in the grocery stores and farmers markets right before Thanksgiving and so sad to see them going away shortly after Christmastime. So during that period I tend to perhaps overdo it a bit on the cranberries. Muffins, bread, salad, pork loin, you name it, it will probably get some cranberries thrown in there somewhere.

This recipe is so easy and doesn’t have any weird ingredients, or very many ingredients at all, in fact. I love it because the bars are just slightly sweet, more of a shortbread sort of taste, and then you get a burst of tangy cranberry in every bite, and it is just heavenly. I’ve made these at least four times so far this season and every time I make them I wish there were more. With so many overly sweet and rich desserts during the holidays these were a refreshing change. We even ate them for breakfast.

I don’t know about you, but a couple of bags of berries will be finding their way into my freezer so I can be enjoying these long after cranberry season is over.

Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberry Cake Bars

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

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Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

You may be sick of turkey. Thanksgiving wasn’t that long ago and let’s face it: most of us overdose on the bird, and then the leftovers, and then we don’t want it for another year until it’s time to gorge again while giving thanks.

I, on the other hand, take advantage of the turkey sales at Thanksgiving time so I can have turkey the rest of the year too, because I like it and it’s so versatile to use in lots of recipes. This year I was also given the gift of a smoked turkey by my uncle and that stuff is just heavenly. Since my freezer was apparently designed by Keebler elves and won’t hold one frozen turkey, let alone two, these two feathered friends were instantly shredded and put into freezer bags and packed nicely into my tiny freezer, ready to use for whatever strikes my fancy. If you don’t happen to have a cache of frozen turkey at your disposal, simply purchase some cooked turkey from your deli or roast a small turkey breast or leg for this recipe. Or substitute other meat or veggies if you’d like, it’s your dinner after all. And quiche is a great way to use up whatever leftovers you may have lying around. Chicken would work great in this as well.

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

Turkey and Mushroom Quiche

1 pie crust (homemade or premade – I like the Pillsbury ready-to-use, refrigerated crust)
1 cup cooked smoked turkey, chopped or shredded
1 cup mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced
1/4 tsp. dry Italian seasoning
Salt & pepper
5 eggs
1 3/4 cup half n half
4 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 425˚.

In a skillet, head a drizzle of oil or butter in the pan and add the leek, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté 2-3 minutes. Add Italian seasoning. Cook a minute or so more until veggies are soft and then remove from heat.

In a bowl, beat 5 eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper and the half n half. Set aside.

Unroll dough and press into a 9 inch pie pan. I like to dust the bottom of the crust with a bit of flour so it doesn’t stick. Crimp edges. Put turkey in the bottom of the crust. Top with veggie mixture. Place dollops of goat cheese all around. Pour egg mixture over the top.

Carefully place in the oven. Cook at 425˚ for 15 minutes. Turn temperature down to 375˚ and cook another 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Slice into wedges and serve. Yummy hot or cold.

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CSA Week 18: Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

Last week I picked up my last CSA box of the season. I will miss them! The best (and sometimes the most challenging) thing about these weekly farm boxes has been getting some unusual things that I would not normally buy. Like these baby beets with their greens. Baby beets? Greens? What the heck do I do with those? Luckily my farmer is great at offering suggestions for some of the more seldom seen ingredients. She suggested I cook them more like hardy greens such as rainbow chard, which is exactly what I did. I sliced the little beets, chopped the greens and stems and gave them a nice sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil. If you can’t find baby beets, you can use the regular ones. Try to find them with some fresh looking greens, chop them up and sauté along with the beets. Or if you’re not a beet fan, substitute some rainbow chard instead.

One of the things I love best with greens is polenta. It soaks up all the nice juices and adds a richness that balances the greens so nicely. I topped mine with some feta and olives and a few shakes of date balsamic. This stuff is wonderful. If you can’t find date balsamic (I bought mine at ilovedatelady.com), just use any balsamic glaze instead. The little touch of sweetness at the end is just lovely.

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Creamy Polenta with Baby Beets & Greens

Baby Beets and Greens with Creamy Polenta

One bunch baby beets with greens
3 tbsp. butter, divided
1 tsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup polenta
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives (green Italian olives)
Feta cheese
Balsamic glaze

In a medium saucepan, heat three cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil. Add the polenta and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and polenta is tender. Stir in 2 tbsp. butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix until butter is melted and polenta is creamy.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt one tbsp. of butter with the teaspoon of olive oil. Chop beets and their greens and add to the skillet. Sauté, stirring occasionally until beets are tender, about 5-7 minutes. If you like them a little softer, let them go a couple more minutes.

Start with a scoop of creamy polenta. Top with beets and greens, olives and a few crumbles of feta. Drizzle with balsamic and finish with a bit of sea salt if desired.

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Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Man, there are days when I am the laziest cook. Those are the days when we either A) Eat out, B) Make a sandwich or eat leftovers, or C) Make something like this where you plop everything on one pan, cook for 10 minutes and eat! While I would love to say I choose C every time, I think we all know that my pants would be on fire. However, I will say with complete honesty that when I do choose C, I am happiest with the results. This dish is not only fast and easy to make, but healthy and delicious as well. The trifecta for the lazy cook who still likes decent food.

This is a quick, quick, quick Asian-inspired fish dish. You can use any green vegetable that catches your fancy, but the baby bok choy and shiitake mixture goes very nicely with this and keeps with the Asian flavor profile, especially if you hit it with a dash of soy sauce at the end.

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Sweet Miso Salmon with Baby Bok Choy

Salmon or Steelhead fillet
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. miso paste
1 tsp. soy sauce

Baby bok choy
Shiitake mushrooms
Olive oil

Turn on your oven to broil. Line a baking sheet with foil. In a small bowl mix brown sugar, miso paste and soy sauce. Lay your fish fillet on one end of the foil and pour sauce all over the top. Smear around to cover the entire surface.

On the other end of the pan spread out the baby bok choy and scatter with the shiitake mushrooms. Drizzle veggies with a bit of olive oil.

Put the pan in the oven. Broil for 8 minutes. Check the doneness of your fish by sticking a fork in about an inch from the edge and pulling away a bit. Does the fish flake off? When you pull the fork back is the fish still red in the middle? When fish is done it will flake easily and the color will be a light to medium pink in the middle instead of red. Stir around your veggies (if they look done already you can remove them). Your fish may need a couple more minutes, depending on the size of your fillet. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Remove and serve immediately. Season the veggies with a dash of soy sauce.

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Roasted Veggie Salsa

Salsa is my favorite condiment. It goes way beyond chips for me. It goes in omelets and frittatas, it goes in salads, it lands on top of chicken and fried potatoes. It gets eggs poached in it like this. I almost always have a batch of it in my fridge. You never know when you’ll need some.

It may be the first week of fall, but the weather is still nice and farmer’s market (at least here in Oregon) still has beautiful tomatoes. All of the ingredients for this showed up in one of my weekly farm boxes and on the grill and into the fridge it went immediately. This is a great way to use up ripe tomatoes if you have a bunch. After you turn them into salsa they last for weeks. If you don’t happen to have fresh tomatoes, or if you read this in the middle of winter when there are no good ones available, just use a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead. It works like a charm, and best of all, you can always have one hiding in your pantry for when the salsa monster rears its head.

This recipe is very similar to my normal, un-roasted veggie version, but kissing those veggies with a little heat and getting that char flavor in there does add more depth and oomph. Take the extra few minutes and give it a shot!

I need more chip to dip.

I need more chip to dip.

Roasted Veggie Salsa

1/3 – 1/2 red onion, cut in big wedges
1 jalapeno (or less if you don’t like it spicy)
4-5 tomatillos, peel husks and wash
3-4 tomatoes (or you can use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes)
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
A handful of fresh cilantro (1/3-1/2 cup or so)
1-2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Veggies on the grill pan. You could also do them on an actual grill, or under the broiler.

Heat a grill pan (or grill, or broiler) and coat with cooking spray. Lay out all your vegetables. Let them grill until they are starting to turn black. Turn once or twice to cook on other sides. Your onion may stay in a wedge or it might fall apart. It will be fine either way. Put everything in a blender. Add seasonings, lime juice and cilantro. Blend until everything is chopped and combined. If you prefer a coarser salsa, pulse in a food processor instead of using the blender.

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Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

The potluck is big in my family. At every family gathering there is a tasty spread, sometimes more varied than others. There was the year of six potato salads. All very similar since we all use my grandma’s recipe with our own little twists. But that’s another story. While I love potato salad, I usually opt to bring something for potlucks that is a little more temperature friendly. Call me paranoid, but mayonnaise-based food sitting out in the sun or at room temperature for hours makes me nervous.

This pasta salad is the answer to all of your potluck questions (or what to eat for your midnight snack questions). It tastes great hot cold or in between. It can be made ahead. As the veggies and noodles marinate in the beautiful vinaigrette, they just improve with time. And you get to use up all the extra veggies in your fridge. There is no downside here. Make this. Make it today. Don’t wait for the next potluck. You will love having this in your fridge.

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

Marinated Veggie Pasta Salad

1 or 2 summer squash or zucchini, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup sliced red onion
1/2 cup olives, halved
1 tbsp. capers
1-2 banana peppers or sweet peppers, sliced or diced
2 tbsp. pesto
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 package rotini

In a large bowl combine pesto, olive oil, red wine vinegar and capers. Add salt & pepper to taste. Add all veggies, stir to coat and let sit for at least an hour.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

The veggies. Marinate at least an hour for the most flavor.

Cook pasta until al dente. Rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Add to bowl with veggies and cheese, toss to combine. Check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Eat!

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Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

As you can see I’ve lost track of what CSA week I’m on. I’m still getting boxes and barely keeping up with using it all (but doing pretty well!). Overall I’ve been really happy with the box contents, especially the recent addition of melon, pears and apples! The only problem with pears is they ripen quickly after they are picked so we had a few heading over the hill before we had a chance to eat them. To solve that problem, I made a triple batch of this bread, which I turned into two loaves and a dozen muffins. Although I liked the loaves, the muffins went like hotcakes so I will probably make more of those next time. Hotcakes? Hmmm… yes.

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread

Pear and Poppy Seed Bread
(slightly adapted from Cooking Light)

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped peeled ripe pear
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in pear; make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk and next 5 ingredients (buttermilk through egg) in a bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

For muffins, spray a muffin pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack or serve warm.

Breakfast of champions.

Breakfast of champions.

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I Pickled Some Beets and Made Many Salads

Many beets came my way this month. I’m not complaining. I’m a fan of the humble beet, although I know there are many who don’t agree. To use a number of these all at once, and to spare the beet haters in my household from having to eat them, I decided to pickle some.

I have not really ventured into the canning realm, so for me, a quick-pickle was the perfect solution. This was a really simple preparation and made a small batch (although it’s easy to double or triple as needed). Plus the added benefit – they are ready to eat in just a few days!

These two salads are pretty typical in my house. I like sweet and sour and salty together and for me, a salad is only dinner if it is not boring. These are far from that. You can make either with simple roasted beets (or even raw ones sliced thinly) but I really enjoy the pickled beets for some extra zip. They pair well with the sweet pears and salty feta for a very satisfying and balanced bite. Since these are pretty strong flavors on their own, opt for a simple dressing of oil and vinegar to bring out the flavor of the ingredients.

Pickled Beets
(adapted slightly from Alton Brown’s recipe)

2 pounds beets, scrubbed
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup water
1 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt

On a large piece of foil, put beets in the center. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, drizzle with olive oil and wrap up. Bake at 400˚ for 40 minutes until tender. Remove from oven, let cool, peel and dice or slice. Fill mason jars (I filled two with the beets I had).

In a saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Pour liquid over beets in jars. Put lids on and put in the fridge. Let them pickle for 3-7 days before eating. They will last about a month in the fridge.

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Beet, Pear and Feta Salad

Mixed salad greens
1 fresh pear
1/2 cup pickled or roasted beets
1-2 oz. feta or goat cheese
2 tbsp. walnuts, toasted
Drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Layer ingredients on a plate, drizzle with oil and vinegar, sprinkle with salt and pepper and dig in!

Or change it up ever so slightly for a more hearty dinner version:

Fall salad with mushrooms, beets and pears.

Fall salad with mushrooms, beets and pears.

Fall Salad with Mushrooms, Beets and Pears

Mixed salad greens
1 fresh pear
1/2 cup pickled or roasted beets
1-2 oz. feta or goat cheese
1/2 cup mushrooms (I used shiitake mushrooms but any kind will work)
A few green or black olives
Drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper.

In a small sauté pan, cook the mushrooms in just a tiny bit of olive oil until slightly softened and warm. Layer the other ingredients on a plate. Top with mushrooms. Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Yum.

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CSA Week 9-12 – Thai Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Eggplant. My heart lifts at the pretty sight of them in my CSA box because I think they are beautiful. But then it plummets when I remember that I don’t like them very much, and that even so, I love them compared to the rest of my household. But, part of the challenge with these weekly farm boxes is getting creative and finding recipes that we like despite ingredients that, sometimes, are not our favorites.

So. I decided to use recipes we like as a launching point and just work in some eggplant. Some made their way into Freaking Awesome Quinoa Burgers (largely unnoticed by the masses), and I made a huge pan of Eggplant Parmesan, since that has been our one true eggplant recipe success thus far. Although others ate some without complaint, I’ll admit to eating the majority of that pan by myself over the course of several days. Still my favorite eggplant recipe, and it’s a good one.

While wracking my brain for something new and exciting to do with eggplant, I remembered a Thai cooking class I took a while back where we made green curry with eggplant. We all love Thai food so I thought that would be the perfect thing to try. The homemade green curry paste is the star of this dish and just about anything you throw in with it is going to be delicious, even the dreaded aubergine. The other great thing about this recipe is that it is delicious with or without the eggplant. If you absolutely don’t like it, just leave it out and double up on the mushrooms instead. Personally, I think they both have a similar texture when cooked, and they both really absorb the flavor of the sauce, so I liked it just fine with the eggplant. I also threw in some shrimp just for the heck of it. This was a winner (although yes, I found a few eggplant chunks left at the bottom of Claire’s bowl. I’ll keep working on it).

Thanks to my most recent box, I already have another one of these suckers to cook.  Any ideas?

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms

Green Curry with Shrimp, Eggplant and Mushrooms
(Slightly adapted from Hipcooks)

Curry Paste:
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1/2 thumb-sized piece galangal (or sub ginger), peeled and chopped
2 tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass
3 lime leaves, stems removed
1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems, reserve both parts
2 small shallots (or 1/2 red onion)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. shrimp paste (or sub fish sauce)
1 thumb-sized piece fresh turmeric (or 1 tsp. dried)
5-6 thai green chiles (or more or less to taste)
1 large bunch Thai basil, stems removed
Juice from 1/2 lime
3-6 tbsp. fish sauce
2-4 tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (or chicken, or just leave out the meat)
2 Thai or Japanese eggplants (I used Thai eggplants, but any kind will work, although I think the texture of the smaller ones are nice), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups mushrooms, sliced or quartered
1 can coconut milk
Additional lime juice, brown sugar, or fish sauce to taste

Homemade green curry paste is where it's at.

Homemade green curry paste is where it’s at.

Make the curry paste: Toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and peppercorns. I do this in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant. Grind the spices in a food processor or spice grinder. Add the galangal, lemongrass, 2 lime leaves, cilantro stems, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, turmeric, chilies, and most of the Thai basil, reserving some for garnish. Puree until smooth. Add the lime juice and 3 tbsp. of fish sauce to start. You may need to add a tablespoon or two or grapeseed oil to encourage a smooth paste. Taste and adjust the flavorings as needed – more salt from the fish sauce, more sour from the lime, more spice from the chilies. This will make enough paste for this and probably at least one other meal (it freezes great).

Shrimp and veggies. Obviously feel free to mix this up if you don't like these ingredients. Really, you can use just about any combo of meat and/or vegetables you like.

Shrimp and veggies. Obviously feel free to mix this up if you don’t like these ingredients. Really, you can use just about any combo of meat and/or vegetables you like.

Add a bit of olive oil or grapeseed oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp, eggplant and mushrooms. Stir fry until shrimp start to turn pink. Add one can of coconut milk, bring to a boil, then lower heat. Stir in the green curry paste, a little at a time, until you’ve reached your desired color and taste. Simmer until veggies are soft. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of sugar, lime or fish sauce to adjust the sweet, sour and salty levels to your taste. Just before serving, garnish with reserved cilantro and Thai basil, and a finely sliced lime leaf, if desired.

Serve with rice to soak up that lovely sauce.

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CSA Week 8: Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

Week eight brought many goodies, including corn, zucchini, summer squash, green beans (including a weird flat variety that was a little fuzzy), tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, potatoes, eggplant, and lemon cucumbers.

In addition to this I still have a ton of cucumbers and beets from the previous week. In a stroke of serendipity, as I was pondering this dilemma, I came across this recipe from Skinny Taste. I used it more for inspiration than anything else, but it was a great idea, with a little Greek flair, and it gave me a reason to pull out my seldom-used spiralizer.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

My spiralizer. A strange little contraption that is pretty simple. Stick the veggie on the little peg, crank the handle and end up with curly veggie ribbons.

A spiralizer is a fun little machine that turns veggies into curly little ribbons. If you don’t have one, this recipe works just fine if you just dice the veggies or cut into julienne strips instead. I enjoy using this thing, although looking at Gina’s photos made me think perhaps I should have bought the kind she has instead. Mine is not bad, but it works much better on firmer veggies. My beets made perfect little ribbons, but since my cucumbers were a week old, they were a little soft, so I struggled a bit getting good spirals, but in the end it worked fine.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized salad, before mixing.

Spiralized Cucumber and Beet Salad

2-3 cucumbers
2-3 beets
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup kalamata olives, halved
Juice of half a big lemon or a whole small one
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
Pinch of dry or fresh oregano
1/2 cup feta cheese

Trip ends from cucumbers and beets and spiralize, dice or julienne. I peeled the beets but not the cucumbers. Add to salad bowl. Keep in mind that once you mix this all together it will all turn pink because of the beets so for a pretty presentation, you can keep the elements separate in the bowl and then mix right before serving.

Add tomatoes and olives. Squeeze lemon juice and drizzle olive oil over the veggies. Add seasonings and give it all a quick toss. Top with feta if desired.

And now it's all pink! But delicious!

And now it’s all pink! But delicious!

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