March 13, 2015

spring session: chicken, mushroom, spinach lasagne with fontina cheese

Love this chicken, mushroom, spinach lasagne with fontina cheese.  It is not a light dish, but with a salad on the side, is a really nice EARLY spring supper.

You can make it in the morning or the day before and then keep it in the fridge until you are ready for it.  Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes and dinner is ready.

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November 14, 2014

fall session: chicken pot pie

Chicken Pot Pie.  Yum.  Flaky crust, chunks of white chicken breast, so good.

We roasted chicken breast in the oven...

Then, thanks to guest pastry chef, Mary Kay, we made our own pastry top.

I will be honest, this is not the fastest dinner you will ever make but it is comfort food at its best.

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November 07, 2014

fall session: classic beef stew

Sauteeing beef chuck meat in olive oil at high temperatures is a smell that lingers on your clothes.  But the smell of beef stew braising in the oven with rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, red wine...that is a smell you could bottle and spray on a winter day to evoke cozy family snuggling over a fire, beef stew in their bowls.

Ok, enough corny imaginings.

I always used to make beef bourguignon for my classic beef stew.  A delicious, traditional, french braise.  The problem was that the french like to cook stews (coq au vin, osso bucco, boeuf bourguignon, lamb stew) with vegetables in the braise that then get strained out and new vegetables, non mushy, perfectly cooked, get added in.  That is all fine and great if you have a lot of time and don't mind arthritic hands from fishing out every little last morcel of beef stew so it does not get strained and thrown away.  BUT, this recipe, has the meat cooking with diced celery, onions, garlic and fennel that just melt into the sauce and don't need to be strained out.  Then, about half way through the cooking, you add in your dice of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas (or whatever root vegetables you have on hand).  Still a delicious beef stew, with a lot less work.

I use beef chuck for my meat.  I look for the cheapest per pound price, either in bulk slabs that I cut up into stew size, or pre-cut meat.  You just want to make sure they are all the same size so they cook in the same amount of time.  For this week's class, the best meat deal was pre-cute beef stew from Costco, $5.88 a lb.  If you figure 1lb makes 2 servings, basically $3.00 a person, you are looking at a reasonable dish, even adding in the cost for the other ingredients.

Happy Braising.

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October 31, 2014

fall session: beans, white bean and escarole soup

Today in family table cooking we made beans.  A lot of them.  A lot of different ways.  I cooked pinto beans 3 ways: in the crock pot, over night for 7 hours on low; in the pressure cooker for 3 minutes after coming to full pressure (then letting natural release happen for 15 minutes after); and in a plain old pot, for about 1 1/2 hours at a simmer.  Conclusion: pick the method that fits with your personality.  Planning ahead and cooking in a crock pot is not for everyone, more for advanced thinking people.  Using the slightly scary pressure cooker is also not for everyone, you have to follow timing and directions very precisely and have to trust the times as you can't look and stir.  Maybe the good old fashioned pot cooking is a happy medium, although you have to be home for the time it cooks to test bean doneness.

We also made bean burgers.  You can make them with any type of bean, add any type of herbs, but here is the  basic recipe to launch from:

1 1/2 C cooked beans of choice
1 1/2 egg
1/2 C chopped herb of choice
1/4 C grated cheese of choice (parmesan, gryuere, combo of two)
2 tsp. dijon mustard
salt, pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
3/4 C breadcrumbs, mix of fine and panko
panko breadcrumbs for dusting patties with

Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork.  Add in egg, herb, cheese, salt, pepper and lemon squeeze, mix.  Add bread crumbs and test for consistency, adding more breadcrumbs or lemon juice to make it drier or wetter.  Shape into patties, dip into a bowl of panko to coat.  Put in fridge until ready to saute or put in the freezer if you are planning to eat them later.  When ready to cook, heat up a couple of Tbl olive oil, get the pan and oil hot, add in the cakes and brown on both sides.  Remove to a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes at 325.  Serve on a bed of greens with a squeeze of lemon and mashed avocado relish.

I had a very hard time choosing the recipes and the bean types, there are so many good ones around.  I am going to attach a lot of links to some great recipes, so anyone wanting to have a bean bonanza can have fun.

Herbed White Bean and Sausage Stew

Giant Lima Beans with Stewed Tomatoes and Oregano Pesto

Giant Lemon Fennel Beans

Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans

Porotos Granados
(yummy Chilean bean soup with winter squash, green beans, corn and smoked paprika)

Enjoy this recipe for White Bean and Escarole Soup

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October 24, 2014

fall session: quiche

I love a flaky quiche, homemade crust with oozing cheesy insides and tasty fillings.  I have a recipe I adapted from the smitten kitchen blog, which she in turn adapted from Julia Child and Marth Stewart.  The dough is all made in the food processor so that really cuts down on the time and mess.
The fillings can be so varied, they can use leftovers, they can be mixed and matched.  Some of my favorites are: sauteed leeks with fontina cheese, crispy bacon and caramelized onions with gruyere cheese, blanched broccoli with cheddar, roasted mushrooms with tarragon and chevre, oven roasted cauliflower with smoked can really put your cooking creativity to work.

The two lovely Y.O.U. cooks, Amanda and Ellen, showing off their knife skills:

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October 17, 2014

fall session: pot roast with honey roasted root vegetables

A rutabaga:

A cross between a turnip and cabbage.  The farmer's market is brimming with them and I found a recipe for making farm fresh rutabagas and multi-colored carrots meld into a pot roast with chuck roast.  Cook in the crock pot for 5-6 hours on high, perfuming the whole house.

Serve with a wheatberry salad and you have dinner.

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October 10, 2014

fall session: coq au vin

Coq au Vin is not as complicated as people anticipate. I think it is just the fancy name that throws them: "Coq au Vin". No one says "old chicken in wine", who really would want to eat old chicken in wine? Yet the name "Coq au Vin" evokes parisian bistros, waiters with long aprons, beaujolais nouveau and chocolate mousse (or it does to me).

Coq au Vin is perfect served for a fall dinner with buttered egg noodles, a simple green salad and crusty bread to lap up the sauces.  And, like all braises, make extra as it even tastier the day after.  Bon appetit.

The Green City Farmer's market was the perfect place to buy the lovely cippolini onions, the multi-colored carrots, the fresh grown celery and garlic and all the lovely wild and button mushrooms.

This was slab bacon from Fresh Farms in Morton Grove.  It was fantastic.  It added a smoky flavor and was so tender.

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