Sunday, November 28, 2010

Holiday Specials 1: Artichokes

You know it's a holiday when the Sambuca comes out.  And I don't mean my kitty.

Also known as Sambuca.

Besides sambuca, there's a couple other "specials" that only appear around the holidays in our house.

It's not particularly artichoke season; I think we mainly eat them around the holidays because they're expen$ive, but we allow those kinds of splurges for the holidays.

I'm not sure what the feeling out there about artichokes is, but let me tell you, if you roast any vegetable with garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese, it's going to be delicious.  So in case you're interested, here's how to make them, on location at Grandma's house.

You have to start by cleaning them and snipping the prickly edges (artichokes are a type of thistle).  Then boil them for about an hour to soften them up (it might take less time with fewer artichokes, but we made eleven...)

While they're boiling, thinly slice your garlic (we used three cloves for our large batch), and your parmesan not as thin-- and try not to eat it all as you go...

Then line them up in your pan and stuff them.  You only want a piece or two of garlic for each 'choke, but be liberal with the cheese... who doesn't love them some melty parmesan!  Also, put a couple ladle-fulls of the boiling water at the bottom to keep them moist as they bake.

Grandma demonstrates the stuffing.

Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle your salt and pepper, and then bake in the oven at 350 until the edges are dark and the cheese has melted.


In case you're a super novice: to eat them, pull off the leaves and eat the tender ends (as well as the fillings) until you're down to the heart. Then scrape off the pricklies and eat the juicy base.

** Dedicated to my Dad, who is a computer MacGuyver. <3

Monday, November 22, 2010

This One is for Grannies

One of the things I love about cooking, is that most of my favorite recipes are my favorite because of the people they remind me of.

My great grandmother passed away when I was only six, but even so I still remember so much about her, and miss her. ("Dan-ee-ellllle.")

There are many things that remind me of her: one of them is baked apples.  I remember her kitchen, and the warmth, and the smell, and how the apples looked a little ugly, but tasted so sweet and smooshy and good.

So last night, after a freeeeezing weekend of horrible eating (but still craving warm dessert), and missing my family, I decided a baked apple would be healthier way to warmth and comfort than a batch of cookies.

I cored my apple, being careful not to cut all the way through, then filled the insides with old-fashioned goodness: a scoop of butter, another scoop of brown sugar, some cinnamon sprinkles, and dried date pieces.  (I said it was healthier, not healthy.)

Then in the oven it went at 400 for about 10-15 minutes.

I took the apple out when it got juicy and melty looking, and then scooped on some Skinny Cow ice cream for a cheater's pie a-la mode.

It's a good way to use up some old apples that need using up.  And, to remind of you of being six years old and barely seeing over your great grandmother's kitchen table at the wrinkly baked apples above.

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Market Facts

1. Chocolate can cure most ailments.*  Some days just require more than others.

*This goes in particular for chocolate purchased after you've been to a wine tasting, since it's probably of much higher quality than you would normally pay for... or buy three bars of...

This has less to do with the market, and more to do with eating my feelings, which leads us to the next fact:

2. Always make a list before shopping at the farmers market, and then stick with it.  You can't stick with a list if you didn't make one in the first place, and then you might come home with really expensive pesto.

* At least it lasts 6 weeks (or can be frozen) so I have time to savor it.

3. Expensive bread goes really well with expensive pesto, but bread is always worth the money.

Kalamata olive bread... I know...

4. The Schenectady Greenmarket is the only farmers market that I know of in the area open on Sunday, so if you were busy on Saturday, you can still get your fresh foods!

Like tarts.

or baklava yessss.

Candles made of honey (or just honey)

and... er... pot soap?  Sold to you in a man in dreads, no less. Love it.

5. Stick to foods in season, even at the farmers market.  Right now that would be root vegetables like carrots, onions, and turnips, as well as squashes of all shapes and sizes...

Not things like tomatoes and lettuce (they didn't look great, anyway).  If it's not in season, that means it's either been sitting around for a while (like the tomatoes) or being grown in a heated green house, which wastes energy.  And it won't taste as good either way.  I broke the rule and bought a tomato, and it was disappointing :(

Anyway, check out the Schenectady Greenmarket on Sundays until 2PM.  It's now located inside Proctor's for the winter.

And now, a word from our market sponsors:

Ha! You know you laughed.  It's supposedly a local nut company, but I didn't see any nuts... You just never know what you'll run into in Schenectady.  Enjoy.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Baby, it's coooold outside, so let's turn on the oven!

After driving home in the snow, some yummy roasted goodness sounded perfect.  I had farmers market potatoes, split chicken breasts, aaaand a new veggie... brussel sprouts!!

I've never had them before, and you may be nay-ing them right now, but I went with my theory that if you pour olive oil, salt and pepper on anything and then roast it, it's usually delicious.

So that's what I did.  I chopped up my veggies....

...and mixed them in a pan with a breast of chicken.  All were drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, sage and thyme (sea salt and herbs from the co-op... a great place to get inexpensive spices and herbs).

Then into the oven it goes at 375 degrees for about half an hour.  Stir up your veggies a couple times so they don't burn.

Then enjoy :)

Hopefully that warms you up!  One pan meals are pretty easy.  The potatoes were all buttery, and the chicken was a little crispy.  And the verdict is.... sprouts are pretty good roasted!  The ones at the bottom were all salty and caramelized with the onions.  Told you: salt, olive oil and high heat can make anything tasty.

Now...... dessert?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stuffed II

This post is dedicated to Sarah, who will get much enjoyment out of the title, and to Erin, who continues to not only eat my concoctions, but then feeds them to people she knows, too.

I can't let pumpkins get all the attention.  Not when there's small, delicious acorn squash!

I mean, these guys are a bit hard to handle.

Besides too cute to eat.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe from originally, probably, but it's over a year old for me, and I now make it from my head, so I'm claiming it.

Here's what you need:
An acorn squash
a few tablespoons of brown sugar
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stick, diced
1 small apple, diced
1 tablespoon diced onion
1 egg
1 link of sausage (I used Bilinski's chicken sausages)

First, set your oven to HOT.  (i.e. 450-500 degrees)

Carefully cut your acorn squash in half, put it open-side down on a greased pan and bake for about 15 minutes until it's starting to get soft (see if you can squish it a little with your tongs).  Save those seeds! You can roast them just like pumpkin ones, yumm.

While it's roasting, chop up your veggies...

...and mix them in a bowl with the bread crumbs, brown sugar, and parmesan cheese.  Break in the egg to stick it all together. Cook/warm up your sausage, chop it up in little bits, and stir that in too.

Your stuffing will look kinda like this:
Not quite delicious yet... but it will be, trust me.

Take out your squash, turn it over, and..... stuff!!  You'll probably have a little extra stuffing, which you can just pile in the pan to cook up by itself... you'll probably want it.  I also threw in a little extra brown sugar and a spoonful of butter at the bottom of the squash, you know, for good measure.

Bake for about another 20 minutes until the egg in the stuffing is cooked through and it looks all brown and roasty on top.  Then serve those cute little squash bowls to your guests!  They'll love 'em!


Thanksgiving Countdown: 20 days

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Upstate Halloween

This Halloween was extra special because I got to spend it with my dear friend Marisa (aka City Mouse), who decided to escape the Big Apple for some upstate shenanigans.  Yay!

Our weekend started Friday night with chai tea from the Illium and home-made stuffed peppers, and ended with zombies and too many beer samplers from the Pump Station.  With a few pit-stops in between, of course.

I won't lie: I was extremely worried that Marisa was going to bored out of her mind all weekend.  What could I show her that she didn't already have in NYC??

Her visit ended up being amazing, of course (old friends, new friends, food, sleepovers, and beer can't be bad).  And her enthusiasm helped me "rediscover" what I do love about living up here...

"It smells like my childhood."

"So good!"

"I had these white carrots in New York..."

"I can't believe these amazing colors.... made by Nature!"

"It's not what I imagined."

There's nothing like seeing your own city through fresh touristy eyes.  There are so many things to enjoy about Upstate NY... from our fall-scents to our colorful scenery, our fresh produce to our friendly people ("Everyone here is so friendly!").

Hope you also had a happy Halloween :)

Our itinerary, in case you were wondering:
1. Troy Night Out-- chai at Illium Cafe
2. My stuffed peppers made with Yummy Peppers from Gade Farm, and quinoa instead of spelt (which I liked better)
3. Saratoga Farmers Market, shopping, and carrot soup lunch at Saratoga Coffee Traders
4. Lebanese cuisine from The Phoenician
5. Albany Aqua Ducks Haunted Trolley Ride (thanks, AOA!)
6. beer samplers and spinach dip at the Pump Station (make sure you go to the bathroom before you leave...)