Between stress at work and the holiday business, I’ve had a little trouble with inspiration for creative meals and post topics for this week. (On a side note, the ‘business’ in that sentence was intended to convey that things were busy. I started to type it out and then went, ‘Wait a minute? How do you spell business then?’ (Business as in where you work). So I looked it up. My desired use is apparently obsolete. How rude! I don’t want to have to use ‘busy-being’ or something cutesy sounding like that in my sentences. I want to use business! Well then, there was holiday bus-i-ness!) A few weeks ago I signed up for Plinky, which sends you questions that are supposed to spark your creativity and help you get past writer’s block. At first I was thinking that pretty much none of them were in any way relevant to my food blog, but after a while I decided that actually, it might be kind of fun to use a few of them, modified as necessary for food, in a post. Whether or not anyone else finds this fun or interesting, remains to be seen. So here we have it – some Plinky questions, and my answers:

Q. What drives you crazy?

A. The answer to this one came to me nearly instantly, as it’s been bothering me for over a year now. After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I started looking at the stickers on produce (or the signs next to it), to see where it originated. When it’s available, I buy produce from Colorado. When I have to, I buy produce from California, and failing that, I will by produce from Mexico or Canada (obviously bananas and other tropical items are only available from Latin America, so I always give in on that). But over the past year, I’ve been astounded and horrified that the bell peppers in grocery stores almost all come from Holland. Something around 4800 miles away, as the crow flies! And I’m pretty sure it’s not crows transporting these guys over the pond – it’s petroleum based, whatever method it is. I know that peppers can be grown domestically, as I bought them all season from 2R’s Farm at the Boulder Farmers’ Market. So what gives with the Dutch bell peppers in grocery stores? Really? Seriously?

Q. What are the top five websites you’d hate to live without?

A. Well, technically it’s a search engine, not a website, but my first choice is, without a question, Google. I look up a huge amount of cooking information on Google. I search for how to choose, store, and prepare vegetables, cooking techniques, recipes, ingredient substitutions, spice combinations, you name it. I also use Wikipedia more than I would have thought. It has some surprisingly thorough information on vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs. More often than not, when I search for a recipe and find one I like, it turns out to be on Allrecipes.com. Besides being a huge repository of recipes, it has some great search functionalities. You can enter ingredients you want in recipes, as well as ingredients you don’t want. There are advanced search options which let you filter to show just the course you want, as well as specify special dietary considerations such as low-fat, vegetarian, gluten free, and many more. There is even a filter you can use for preparation time. Next would probably be OpenTable. I always prefer to make dinner reservations online vs. calling – I just find it more low-key with more immediate results. And the really nice thing is after you book enough reservations, you get a dining check you can use at any restaurant on OpenTable. (Granted it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we spend dining out, but hey – free money is free money). And last, but not least, would be Zagat. You can’t trust Zagat blindly, since the reviews are largely user provided, and in smaller towns the highest ranking restaurants will be your Olive Garden or your Applebee’s. But in larger, more cosmopolitan cities, where there’s a bigger dining scene, the results are fairly reliable. When we go to a city on vacation, my routine is to do a search on Zagat for restaurants in the neighborhoods we’ll be in (or can get to via the subway), which have a food rating of 24 or above (out of 30 – I think I’ve only seen one 29 in my searches). Then I use the link on Zagat to the restaurants’ websites, and check out the menus. This method has worked remarkably well for us, and I’ve found some pretty great places.

Q. Make a list of movies you believe everyone should see at least once.

I’ve got several food-themed or food-centric movies that I highly recommend. First and foremost is Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. This is a wonderful Taiwanese film by Ang Lee about a chef and his three adult daughters. Gradually each daughter becomes involved with a love interest and leaves home. Meanwhile the chef is dealing with his loneliness as a widower, as well as the loss of his sense of taste. The truly beautiful part of this film is the gorgeous, elaborate, and mouth watering banquet he cooks for the family each weekend. I was completely fascinated by how gorgeous the food was (and very hungry after seeing it). An American remake of the film, Tortilla Soup features a Mexican-American family, many parallel plot themes, and food that is different, but just as visually compelling as that of Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. What’s Cooking is a very engaging film about four families celebrating Thanksgiving in LA. The Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish, and African American families have unique cultural roots, but the tensions around each table, as well as the eventual resolution, reveal more similarities than differences. And it’s Thanksgiving – so there are wonderful spreads of food that are enchanting to look at. Of course any food movie list must include something with chocolate, and indeed my list features Chocolat, the mystical, sensual, and gorgeous film based on the book by Joanne Harris. It’s got a wonderful story, and who doesn’t like looking at a huge array of chocolates!

Q. Are there any reality TV shows you’d try out for?

A. Ha! There aren’t any I’m remotely qualified for. (Hopefully that goes for ‘Worst Cook in America’ as well as all the shows with actual chefs.) At any rate, that answer works for all non-food related versions as well. I’m a bit of a planner, so the last thing I would need is people filming me in real-time!


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It’s that post-Thanksgiving leftover time of the year, when turkey is perhaps more abundant in your kitchen than you’d really like it to be. As expected, we had some spare turkey, as well as an open can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (which is smoked jalapeños in a spicy, vinegary, tomato sauce). Granted, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce is probably not the most common Thanksgiving leftover. But it always is for us, because Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes replaced regular mashed potatoes in our families’ Thanksgiving dinners years ago. I use an outstanding recipe from Cooking Light, which uses sweet potatoes (not yams), chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and cinnamon for a wonderful alternative to regular mashed potatoes or marshmallow-topped yams.

So, back to Thanksgiving leftovers. I wanted to do something more creative and unusual than the standard turkey sandwiches or the much-maligned turkey soup or turkey casserole. I happened to have some fingerling potatoes for which I had no specific plans, as well as a few shallots I needed to use up. So I thought I’d try making some kind of smoky hash with turkey, potatoes, and adobo sauce. I was really pleased with the results, but my husband and I agreed that I made it just ever so slightly too spicy (or more like two times too spicy if I’m being honest). I’ve noticed some rather large variations in heat even in different cans of the same brand, let alone between brands. So be sure to taste it after adding half of the adobo sauce to make sure it’s not already hot enough before you add the rest.

Although I used fingerling potatoes you could use new potatoes or even russet if you wanted. If you don’t have Mexican oregano you can use Mediterranean oregano, but it’s not quite as strong, so you might want to use a bit more in that case. You could easily use a yellow or white onion in place of shallots as well.

Turkey and Potatoes with with Adobo Sauce Ingredients

Ingredients for Leftover Turkey with Potatoes, Paprika, and Adobo Sauce 

Leftover Turkey with Potatoes, Paprika, and Adobo Sauce
serves 2-3

6-8 oz turkey (dark and/or light meat), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
10 oz potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
red, orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
3-6 shallots or 1/2 small onion, chopped
3-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp smoked olive oil
1/2 c chicken stock
1-2 T adobo sauce (you can add a minced chile too, if you really like it hot)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Mexican oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the potatoes, drain, and set aside. (I steamed them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes. You could also cook them in boiling water for about the same amount of time).  Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then sauté the pepper and shallots for several minutes, until fairly tender. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock, and then the turkey, potatoes, 1 Tablespoon of the adobo sauce (just the sauce, not the chiles unless you really want to crank the heat up), the paprika, and oregano. Stir well, then taste, adding salt and pepper to your liking. Add more adobo sauce if you want more spice. Turn the heat up to medium high, and cook, stirring, until the broth reduces, becoming more of a coating than a sauce.

Leftover Turkey with Potatoes, Paprika, and Adobo Sauce

Leftover Turkey with Potatoes, Paprika, and Adobo Sauce

I didn’t make it to the Boulder Farmers’ Market every Saturday this season, but I made 18 visits starting in June, as part of my attempt to eat more local foods. I was never really a regular or serious Farmers’ Market customer in previous years. My husband and I would go once a year, and stop by if we happened to be downtown while it was going on, but that’s about it. I’m so glad that I started going regularly. I feel like I got to know more about many of the local farms, farmers, and what crops are grown locally, as well as discovering a few local products I wasn’t familiar with.

Perhaps the most fun aspect was seeing the progression of crops during the season. I’m re-reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and with perfect timing, have gotten to the chapter where she describes the conceptual vegetannual. The vegetannual (which would be a really handy plant to grow in your garden, by the way), represents the evolution of crop types during the growing season. The season evolves as a plant does, first sprouting shoots and leaves, then flowering, then growing small fruits (or vegetables as the case may be), which progress to larger, more colorful versions, and then finally to hard-shelled produce. And as I looked back at the pictures of what I brought home from the market each week, I could see the progression of color from green to more and more vibrant colors, and then finally to fallish colors. I didn’t necessarily buy the best representatives of each stage (I’m missing good examples of the ‘flowery’ vegetables, like cauliflower and broccoli), but in general, I could see the pattern. My purchases for the season went from leafy/shooty garlic scapes, and greens, to chard and kale, to more vibrant and diversely colored eggplant, green and yellow wax beans, sunburst squash, red, yellow and orange bell peppers and heirloom tomatoes, and then to more fall-colored, hard-shelled pumpkins and winter squash. (Granted the hot-house grown tomatoes kind of threw things out of whack in the early months, but hey – tomatoes!).

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Boulder Farmers' Market

Over the course of the season, there were multiple stands I visited every week. 2R’s Farm kept me well supplied with early tomatoes, purple potatoes, and red, orange, and yellow bell peppers. I loved Far Out Gardens’ herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and wild arugula. From Red Wagon Organic Farm, I bought a huge amount of beets, greens, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Munson Farms was my corn supplier (and I got most of my pumpkins from their stand at 75th and Valmont). Discovering the variety of garlic at Wee Bee Farms started a new obsession with garlic. After attending a farm dinner at Aspen Moon Farms, I started visiting them for hot peppers, onions, and winter squash. Hazel Dell provided wonderful mushrooms, and I discovered a couple of varieties I hadn’t eaten before. I also made frequent stops at Cure Organic Farm, Isabelle Farm, Black Cat Farm, Growing Gardens, and Oxford Gardens. On the non-produce front, I replenished my supply of cinnamon-cayenne almonds as needed at Olomomo, tried many varieties of pasta from Pappardelle’s, and regularly procured a six-pack of mini cupcakes from Street Fare.

What a great season of local food! Thank you to everyone associated with the Boulder Farmers’ Market for a great year, and I look forward to the 2012 season!

Continuing on with my quest to try new items from the bulk section of the Boulder Whole Foods, my latest purchase was farro. An ancient grain, also called emmer wheat, farro is another low-yield grain (like black barley, which I first tried a couple of weeks ago). Farro is the Italian name for the grain, Italy being the region where most farro is grown these days. There is some dispute over what farro actually is — apparently there are three kinds of grain which are referred to as farro in Italy, but emmer is the most frequently grown.

I had heard of farro, but had no idea what made it different from any other kind of grain. True to my usual purchasing habits, I neglected to write down any details from the bulk bin, so when I researched how to cook it, I wasn’t sure if I had the pearled or non-pearled variety. (Pearled grain has the outer bran removed). So just in case it wasn’t the pearled type, I soaked it overnight before using it. Then I cooked it in stock the way you would any other grain. It turned out to have a lighter taste than other grains I’ve eaten. A cleaner flavor, maybe? Not nutty like some are. Overall, it was quite tasty. And it turns out to be fairly high in protein, as well as low in gluten.

I had some shallots, cinnamon cap and oyster mushrooms, bell pepper, and garlic, which I knew would go well with the farro. I decided to also throw in a parsnip, just for a little taste contrast. I wanted a sort of rich, smoky taste, so I ended up using Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, sage, and thyme for seasoning. Once I was ready to serve it, I felt it still lacked some richness and dimension. So in a move that I have seen cause the judges on Chopped to physically cringe and simultaneously utter ‘no, no, no!’, I added some truffle oil. Their issue with truffle oil hinges on the fact that most truffle oil is not made from truffles. It’s basically an organic aroma which is present in real truffles, infused in olive or grapeseed oil. The resulting taste is less complex than a real truffle, and therefore disdained by many epicureans. But we had some on hand, I added it, and you know what? It finished the dish off perfectly. So I know it’s not real, honest, complex-tasting truffle. But it worked quite well for what I was making. (There are some lovely advantages to being an amateur cook!).

Farro Ingredients.

Ingredients

Farro with Mushrooms, Shallots, Pepper and Parsnip
serves 3-4

1 cup farro
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 parsnip, diced
8-10 shallots, finely chopped
1 lb fresh mushrooms (I used oyster and cinnamon cap)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp avocado or canola oil
1 tsp olive oil
1-2 tsp truffle oil (yes, Chopped judges – truffle oil!)
1-2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
sage to taste
thyme to taste
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Soak the farro overnight in water (unless it’s pearled, then you can skip this step). Drain and rinse. Combine with 2+1/2 cups stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 15-30 minutes, until tender. Drain if necessary and set aside.

Cut any large mushroom clumps into smaller ones so that all the mushrooms are basically the same size. Heat the avocado oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, cook the mushrooms just a few minutes, stopping before they become juicy. Remove them from the pan, and set them aside.

Heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium heat, and sauté the shallots and pepper for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and parsnips, and continue to cook until somewhat tender, about 4-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to about medium low, and add several tablespoons of stock. Add the Mexican oregano, smoked paprika, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Taste as you add it, and adjust to your liking. Continue cooking, and once the stock is mostly absorbed, add the farro, mushrooms, and another tablespoon of stock, and cook until everything is heated through. Stir in a teaspoon of truffle oil, taste, and add more truffle oil if desired.

 Farro, Mushrooms, Shallots, Pepper, and Parsnip

Farro, Mushrooms, Shallots, Pepper, and Parsnip

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt

November 11, 2011

I wasn’t entirely sure what to call this. Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt? Ice Milk? It’s not ice cream, because it has no cream, and is less than 10% milkfat. Then the somewhat dubious term ‘Frozen Dairy Dessert’ popped into my head. That just has a bad connotation, doesn’t it? I’m not even entirely sure why it does, but what kind of dairy are we talking about that doesn’t fall into the cream, milk, or yogurt category? Anyhow, this is basically 55% frozen yogurt, 45% ice milk. But whatever. It tastes wonderful.

I’ve been attempting to make frozen yogurt/ice milk or sherbet since this summer when there was an article on ice cream in Saveur. I read the short feature about making ice cream without an ice cream maker (or at least with a with cheaper one), then made a few failed attempts. There was the flavorless cantaloupe that I tried to make watermelon-cantaloupe sherbet out of. Then there was the subsequent attempt at using agar for thickening the sherbet, which resulted in a gummy, nasty tasting watermelon-cantaloupe substance. And more recently there was the pumpkin soup I made that turned out to be a bit too sweet (and clovey), which I turned into ice milk. Now that actually wasn’t too bad, but it was overpowered by cloves. (And even though you couldn’t taste it that much, it did have chicken broth in it. That’s just not really a dessert type flavor, you know?) But this latest attempt made up for the others.

Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin

Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin

I bought a second pumpkin from Red Wagon Organic Farm at the Boulder Farmers’ Market last weekend to roast and make more pumpkin puree. This one was a ‘Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin’ (which turns out to be an heirloom introduced in 1893). It wasn’t at all as sweet as the one I used for my first batch of pumpkin puree, so I was a bit concerned about how it would work for something desserty, but then I reminded myself that pumpkin out of a can doesn’t have much sweetness to it, either.

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt Ingredients

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt Ingredients (well, most of them)

I bought some 2% milkfat Greek yogurt for this, and I knew I had evaporated milk at home. So I combined the pumpkin, yogurt, the fat-free evaporated milk I had left, agave, and the spices you’d use in pumpkin pie. I added a little regular skim milk to thin it out a bit, and then put it in the freezer overnight.

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt After Initial Freezing

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt After Initial Freezing

The next day I let it thaw just enough that I could scoop it out and put it in the food processor. It needed to be thinned down (and ‘dairied up’) a bit more, so I added some more skim milk. I had hoped to use some more evaporated milk, since we had an additional can in the pantry, but it wasn’t stamped with a date, and frankly didn’t seem like it could still claim membership in the dairy family when I opened it and took a whiff. (Okay, it really wasn’t that bad, but I wasn’t going to risk wasting my pumpkin puree). So I grabbed the container of maple flavored yogurt I had bought for lunch this week, and dumped it in. Good call! I processed it and processed it (and processed it) to break up the crystals, and then kept going a bit more, which resulted in a really nice whipped texture. I think this is the best time to serve it – just give it a quick chill in the freezer to set up a bit more, but not enough time to form crystals again. It still tastes great the next day, but it would be good to process it again to break the crystals up.

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt

The really nice thing about this frozen yogurt (besides the pumpkin pie taste) is that it’s quite low in calories and fat. It made about 12 1/2 cup servings, at only about 70 calories and 0.5 gram of fat. (It really helps that nearly half of the volume is vegetable!) But you could really use any combination of yogurt and milk that you want. You can use some cream or full-fat yogurt if you want to make it richer, or you could use more milk if you wanted it less dense.

Pumpkin Pie Frozen Yogurt
Makes about 12 1/2 cup servings

Starting Ingredients
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 15-oz can)
7 oz plain Greek yogurt (2% fat)
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup skim milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup agave (to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1+1/2 to 2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-3 sprinkles of ground cloves
1 sprinkle ground nutmeg

Added Ingredients
6 oz  low-fat maple flavored yogurt (or vanilla, or plain)
1/4 cup skim milk

Combine all of the starting ingredients well. Transfer to a stainless steel container, and cover tightly (I just used aluminum foil). Freeze overnight.

The next day, take the container out of the freezer, and let thaw just until you can scoop it out and put it in a food processor. (You don’t want to let it melt, just get to the point where you can pry it out of the container). Add the yogurt and additional milk listed under ‘Added Ingredients’, and process for several minutes (I may have done 8?), stopping to push any hard chunks down with a spatula as necessary. Once all the hard, icy parts are incorporated, keep processing until the mixture increases in volume a bit, and is very smooth and whipped.

Ideally you want to serve it immediately. If you store it in the freezer again, either re-process it or be prepared to enjoy a bit of a crystallized texture.

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