Harvest Muffins

Time to get grating.
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Last week was as big one for the CSA harvest, plus I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of things at a farmer’s market I was passing, so it has been a busy time of cooking and eating and trying to keep up. No ordering lunch for this gal! It has been delicious though. There was a modified sweet potato shepherd’s pie made using leftover barbecue pulled pork my sister made for a family function and sent me home with. I made scallion pancakes, butternut squash parsley penne, and slightly spicy coconut chicken bok choy soup, the latter of which went really well with an ice cold lager beer home alone watching Dancing with the Stars (I’ve accepted my occasional loneliness while my husband has volunteer fire department responsibilities).

When it looked like my meals were already covered for the rest of the week, I knew I had to take precautions against food spoilage. Fortunately Melissa Clark came to my aid. Well, SHE didn’t actually COME to my side and counsel me, but how cool would it be for her make a video in my kitchen? I came across her harvest muffin recipe.

This recipe reminds me a little bit of the sourdough carrot cake recipe from August, which led me to King Arthur Flour’s “Kitchen Sink Carrot Cake” recipe. Muffins are easier, since they can be individually frozen and thawed as desired.
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Harvest Muffins
From The New York Times

1 1/8 Cups (140 grams) whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 Cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/3 Cup (70 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 small apple
, grated, and juices reserved (1/2 cup)
1/2 Cup grated carrots (or butternut squash or parsnips)
1/2 Cup grated beets (or zucchini)
1/3 Cup (55 grams) raisins
1/2 Cup (40 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut

A note on the inclusion of grams on the ingredient list above–it is a true a time saver to be able to use the kitchen scale instead of pulling out the different measuring cups and leveling them off.
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins, either mini or regular. Prepare ingredients:

I ended up using a little more than 1/2 Cup of the carrots and beets.

I ended up using a little more than 1/2 Cup of the carrots and beets.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

To a large bowl, add the grated apple and juices and grated vegetables, eggs, olive oil, honey, and brown sugar.
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Combine.

Lovely!

Lovely!


Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the raisins and coconut.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way up.

It is hard to tell what is 3/4 of the way filled. These muffins aren't huge risers, so it wasn't a problem.

It is hard to tell what is 3/4 of the way filled. These muffins aren’t huge risers, so it wasn’t a problem.


Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes for mini-muffins and about 20 to 22 minutes for regular muffins.
8 minutes in--we're halfway there!

8 minutes in–we’re halfway there!


When an inserted toothpick comes out clean, the muffins are ready to be enjoyed.
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I know you’re wondering–the answer is yes, the muffins do taste a little like beets. You get the beet flavor when you first take a bite, but then it fades into the straightforward sweet taste you would find in any zucchini, apple, or banana bread. I will be enjoying these now until Thanksgiving!

Hearty and Heart Healthy

You knew the anchovies were going to make another appearance.
It came time to use up the rest of those anchovies, and at least some of my parsley, in a somewhat traditional pasta dish. I also wanted to use up tomato sauce I had made due to the bunches of cherry tomatoes I keep harvesting from my garden–in late October no less!

I transplanted one of my outdoor parsley plants to an indoor pot in the hopes it could produce for me in the winter.  It hasn't been looking great!

I transplanted one of my outdoor parsley plants to an indoor pot in the hopes it could produce for me in the winter. It hasn’t been looking great!


It is nice when something comes together I wasn’t expecting. This salty, toothsome dish packed a flavor punch. I ended up using one of the tiny dried out chilis I had on hand, something I also grew in a planter and don’t use very much, because I thought this recipe could benefit from some extra spice. Red pepper flakes add a nice touch in tomato sauce. Since I had fewer anchovy filets available than one of the original recipes suggested, I threw in capers to fill it out.

Pasta Oreganata With Garlic, Anchovies and Tomatoes
Adapted from a combination of Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe in Bon Appetit and a New York Times recipe

1-2 Cups of chunky tomato sauce, previously made, such as Smitten Kitchen’s fresh tomato sauce
6 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained
4 Tablespoons of olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 dried chili, finely chopped (optional)
1 Tablespoon capers
1/4 Cup plain dry breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley
, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
Large pinch dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces of linguine or spaghetti
, I use whole wheat
additional chopped parsley leaves
small fresh basil leaves
(optional)

Set the oven temperature to 400°. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place breadcrumbs and herbs in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. oil over; stir until mixture resembles damp sand.
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Bake until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Set aside.
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Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Put about 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; a minute later, add garlic. Cook garlic so it bubbles gently. When it is lightly browned all over, add anchovies.
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Cook, stirring occasionally, for about a minute, until anchovies begin to fall apart. Add capers, if using.
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Add tomato sauce and chili. Adjust heat so the sauce bubbles nicely, and cook until mixture cooks down and comes together a little, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.
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Add drained pasta to skillet; toss to coat, adding reserved pasta water by 1/4-cupfuls if dry. Remove from heat; stir in basil. Drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Divide among bowls. Top each with oreganata and extra parsley.
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The Urge to Preserve

I started to feel the impending change of season press upon me.

The weather certainly wasn’t providing any hints, as I was enveloped by hot, wet, soupy air all last weekend. I did notice brown and orange leaves start to accumulate around the edges of the streets in my neighborhood. It was the obvious things: all of a sudden, Labor Day passed, beaches closed, schools started back in session, and I was reminded that, being September, we are only one month away from October, the month it first SNOWED last year.

Fortunately, it is possible to capture the lushness of summer in a tupperware container! I long to keep the excitement of my garden treasures alive. Call it the urge to preserve.

Cue the whir of the food processor.

Bunches of my healthy basil plant and flourishing parsley plants in hand, it was time to make some sauces and condiments.
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Basil Pesto
Parsley Pesto
Fromage Fort

Pesto is one of the very few “recipes” I pretty much have memorized, and/or feel comfortable adjusting by taste and feel. It all started with a recipe Matt and I received from a cooking class put on at a now-closed local Viking Cooking School location.

Basil Pesto
From Viking Cooking School’s recipe packet for a Breads and Pizzas class
Makes about 1 Cup

1 large clove garlic, or to taste, peeled
1/4 Cup pine nuts
2 ounces/approx 1/4 Cup packed Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 Cups (packed) fresh basil
1/4-1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
should be plenty

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Toast the pine nuts by putting them in a 350 degree oven for just a few minutes, watching closely and shaking the pan after the first minute or two. This can also be done in a dry cast iron or saute pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Pine nuts will continue to brown if they sit in a hot pan.
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Combine garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to make a paste.
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Add basil and pulse.
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Drizzle in olive oil gradually, ideally with the motor running, until pesto reaches desired smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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Basil doesn’t retain its green color in pesto, when exposed to the air, so the best plan is to drizzle extra olive oil on top and put plastic wrap directly on the surface before refrigerating or freezing (it still tastes fine when it darkens). Pesto is both flavor and calorie rich, so I usually only use a little at time, which I can snag from the frozen container.
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While I was at it with the processing, I needed to deal with the variety of cheese cubes I bought on a whim at Fairway. (I swear, I have gotten much better about resisting the urge to impulse buy.) Cheese is one of those things that lasts a long time, making it easy for you to forget to use before it is too late. Fortunately, you can make something called Fromage Fort, a cheese spread, to transform the old cheese into something desirable for another week or so, and even use it for entertaining.
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Fromage Fort
From Alton Brown via Food Network online

1 pound left-over cheese, (cheddar, parmesan, ricotta, provolone, fontina, mozzarella, stinky blue cheeses all work*) at room temperature
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
, softened
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
1 small clove garlic

Grate hard cheeses and cut others into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cheese, wine, butter, herbs, and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for at least 1 hour for a firmer consistency. Store in the refrigerator; consume within a week (no problem!).
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*I used 5 ounces of ricotta, 7 ounces of the miscellaneous cubes that were probably in the gouda and ricotta salata families, and 6 ounce of Wisconsin extra sharp cheddar. It was beyond delicious, especially broiled on some sourdough toast.

Parsley Almond Pesto
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 clove garlic
1 1/2 Cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
with thick stems removed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup olive oil
1/3 Cup unsalted almonds

Puree garlic and parsley with the salt in food processor. Drizzle olive oil in gradually, ideally with the machine running. Add the almonds and pulse to chop.
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This can be saved in the same way as the basil pesto. However, it keeps its bright green flavor much better in the refrigerator.

I served this with gnocchi I made from the King Arthur Flour website.
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and a recipe that served gnocchi with zucchini and tomatoes but substituted in the parsley pesto:

Recognize those tomatoes yet?

Recognize those tomatoes yet?


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I can still taste summer!

Shrimp and Grits

We’re eating healthy again! Sort of. Matt is in a weight loss competition among volunteer fire department members. So he is counting calories.  And I don’t want him to shed way more than me so I’m going to make a little more of an effort. Sadly, that means less ice cream, and more moderation.

You wouldn’t think that shrimp and grits is a low-calorie option. But I pulled this recipe out of a recent Cooking Light magazine, and supposedly one serving is less than 300 calories!  And Matt loves shrimp and grits, as a rule, so I was excited to make it for him.  The only issue was that I did have to do a bit of actual grocery shopping for it. I did have the the half-and-half hanging around, and the green onions from the farm share. Polenta makes yet another appearance. The shrimp is from a frozen 2 pound bag from Costco that hangs out in the freezer. The mushrooms I did buy fresh.

Shrimp and Grits with Mushrooms
Adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: approximately 6

  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits or cornmeal polenta
  • 1.5 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 Cup slightly packed in)
  • 5/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

  • 2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

  • 1 Cup chopped white onion
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8-ounces of presliced mushrooms (I used 4 ounces white mushrooms and 4 ounces exotic mushroom mix)

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (if you’re afraid of spice, lower the amount to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 Cup half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 Cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

  • 1/3 Cup chopped green onions

Bring 3 cups water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. While heating, make sure most ingredients are chopped, measured, and ready.
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Heat a large nonstick pan and cook bacon until crisp.  While this is cooking, you could whisk the grits/cornmeal into the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until smooth and desirable.
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Remove from heat. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and cheese. Cover to keep warm.

A note about the cheese: the original recipe said 2 ounces, about 1/2 cup. But the size of your grated Parmesan must make a huge difference, because with my trusty kitchen scale I was well over the 1/2 Cup mark on my bowl and had just passed 1 ounce.  It seemed like a lot of cheese to me, so I stopped there.  I didn’t miss the parmesan flavor too much, more so on the second day reheat, so I would say 1.5 ounces is a safe bet.
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Add white onion, garlic, and mushrooms to pan; cook 8 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown and give off liquid, stirring frequently. (At this point you could sautee a vegetable for the side, like green beans with garlic and red pepper like I did).
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Add shrimp and red pepper; cook 3 minutes.
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Combine half-and-half and flour in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. A note about the flour: you will see from my final product that the sauce is not quite as thick as I would  like. I used the original recipe, which called for 1 tablespoon of flour, but it did not really thicken up. I suspected that I should have mixed in more flour. My suspicion was proven correct based on this website at least, so I updated the website to specify 2 tablespoons.

I suppose the texture of my sauce could have been affected by the fact that I used lower-protein Better Than Bouillion Chicken Base–which, for the record, I bought because Cook’s Illustrated did a chicken stock/chicken broth test and rated this one of the top choices!
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Add broth, flour mixture, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until thickened a bit.
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Top with green onions. Serve shrimp mixture with grits and green beans.
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Another great thing: it only took about 30 minutes to make this pretty fancy-looking meal!
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A perfect complement

As you can imagine, sometimes my quest for using up food makes for an unusual diet.

For example, I started last Sunday’s dinner with a kale and fruit smoothie, followed by grilled steak with chimichurri sauce, and topped off with bacon peanut butter cookies for dessert. Yep, you read that correctly.

Of course, I can explain:  Awhile back I had preserved leftover kale by freezing it in an ice cube tray, and I still hadn’t used it up. I added frozen berries, banana, nonfat greek yogurt, and honey for my appetizer drink. I made chimichurri again because I had made cubes of leftover parsley and cilantro leaves in olive oil also saved in the freezer.
As for the cookies….well, somehow my package of bacon wasn’t being used enough. And I had come across the recipe again from Joy the Baker. I was curious. How were they? All I can say is WOW.

Let’s talk about something that makes sense together: eggs and greens.

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This is what fresh collard greens look like!

I’ll be experiencing an influx of greens in the coming weeks, so I’ll be sneaking them in wherever I can. This is a good thing, because it adds nutrition that I have probably been lacking lately.  Can we agree for a minute that bacon, in moderation, fits into a healthy lifestyle too? This is another easy and adaptable recipe.

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Baked Eggs with Southern-Style Greens and Polenta
adapted from a Whole Foods online recipe
Serves: 2

1/4 cup uncooked grits or polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon butter
2 slices bacon
1 bunch collard greens
, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 eggs

Stemming the greens is probably the most tedious part of this process. Here’s a quick hint to save time: fold the leaf in half over the stem so you only need to make one slice to remove it!
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Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange 2 large ramekins (at least 5 ounces) on a baking sheet, grease, and set aside.

I used the remains of a package of instant polenta, which requires only five minutes of stirring. If using packaged polenta, follow the package directions. All methods start with boiling the water and salt, whisking in the grains, and reducing the heat to low. If using cornmeal or grits, you’ll be stirring often for 10-15 minutes until thick and creamy.
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Remove pan from stovetop. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. This is the step where I could definitely see something like shredded cheddar cheese added, if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂

Divide grits among prepared ramekins.

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Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until just crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Roughly chop.

Pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add greens to skillet and cook, tossing often, until wilted and just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in bacon and season with salt and pepper. Arrange greens on top of grits in ramekins.
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Crack an egg into the center of each ramekin and bake until whites are almost set, 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them or you’ll be sad like me and miss out on a runny yolk! Set aside to let cool briefly then serve.

Not quite how it was supposed to turn out, with a set egg. That is what happens when you run upstairs to change your clothes toward the end of the cook time!

Not quite how it was supposed to turn out, with a set egg. That is what happens when you run upstairs to change your clothes toward the end of the cook time!

Still enjoyable.

Still enjoyable.