Category Archives: Recipes

Thanks for reading!

It’s time for me to admit that this blog has gone fallow. While I still enjoy cooking and learning new techniques, I no longer feel the need to document my endeavors in the kitchen. I’ll leave all the old recipes up for some time, but comments have been turned off so I don’t have to deal with the spam.

If you like my writing, please visit my main blog at shannonturlington.com. I also post frequently on Google+, so circle me!

I’ll leave you with the 3 most important things I learned during my cooking odyssey:

  1. Plan ahead, but remain flexible. Plan out the main entrees for the week, but not the side dishes, to take advantage of fresh, seasonal and cheap produce in the grocery store or farmers market. Leave one night free for leftovers, impulses and inspiration.
  2. Prepare ahead as much as possible. Prep fresh fruits and vegetables to always have something healthy ready to eat when you’re hungry. Despite what some blogs say, it’s not necessary to prepare everything from scratch. It’s okay to buy prepped fruits and veggies if it means eating better as a result.
  3. Taste as you go, and add salt and acid. Seriously, if a dish tastes flat, a little salt and some vinegar or lemon juice works like magic to brighten and enhance flavors. I keep a bottle of sherry vinegar by the stove now.

Thanks for reading this blog over the years.

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Blog Neglect and Corn Chowder

I certainly have been neglecting this blog, haven’t I? I started this blog many years ago, when I had a lot of extra time on my hands, I wanted to learn blogging, and I wanted to become a better cook. Keeping up the blog helped achieve those goals. Researching cooking techniques and writing down recipes reinforced them in my head, so that now I can do a lot of cooking without consulting a book or a recipe. I also feel more confident in the kitchen and more inclined to experiment or go off the recipe. But that kind of cooking isn’t very bloggable, especially since I’m not one to take a lot of photos of my food.

(Speaking of photos, my husband has taken up photography as a hobby. If he wanted to do some food photography, I would happily showcase his work on this blog.)

Let’s take last night’s dinner, for instance. It was cold and drizzly, and I wanted to make corn chowder. The first recipe I consulted sounded good, but it called for a pre-baked potato. I didn’t have any on hand, and I certainly wasn’t going to bake a potato for an hour just to put it in a soup. But I marked the recipe as something to try when I had leftover baked potatoes, and I also took note of some of the additions it suggested.

The second recipe was in Joy of Cooking. It was much simpler, but I didn’t care for the idea of a soup with a milk base. I’m trying to reduce my dairy intake these days. Still, it was a good base to build on. Here’s what I did.

I fried 3 strips of bacon until crispy and put them on paper towels to drain. I put a spoonful of the bacon grease into my soup pot, along with about half an onion, diced, and 2 celery stalks, sliced. I let them cook a little while over medium-low until they had gotten tender. Then I added 1 baking potato, peeled and diced, about 1 cup of frozen corn kernels, and about 2½ cups chicken stock. I use the word about because I didn’t measure; I just added things to the pot until I had what looked like a good amount of soup. I seasoned the soup with a healthy amount of Southwest seasoning mix (Penzey’s). I brought it to a boil, covered it, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes were cooked. Using a stick blender, I pureed the soup to thicken it up, but I left it relatively chunky.

To serve, I let each person add what they wanted: crumbled bacon; dollop of sour cream; and grated cheddar-jack cheese. It served 3 people with some left over. I thought it was pretty tasty, but when and if I make it again, I doubt I’ll make it the exact same way.

As a matter of fact, this basic formula would work for any potato-based soup. Instead of corn, you could add leeks, tomatoes, carrots, greens, peas–almost any vegetable you like, really. You could vary the seasoning and garnishes as you wish.

After you get experience and confidence cooking, recipes start to seem superfluous–at least for everyday cooking. I’ll still follow a recipe religiously when I’m trying a new and challenging dish. But when I’m trying to get dinner on the table, I tend to follow my instincts and build a dish as a cook, based on the ingredients I’ve got around and how much work I feel like doing.

How do you cook? Do you follow recipes to the letter, or do you improvise as you go along?

Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup — Foster’s Market

I seem to make this Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup once a year, around the holidays when leftover turkey is abundant. The recipe is from the Foster’s Market Cookbook, but fortunately, it is also online.

I start by cutting all the leftover meat off the turkey bone. I put the bone in a big pot, cover it with water, and add roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery (don’t bother to peel). Throw in a bay leaf and few whole peppercorns. I simmer this for a couple of hours, then drain and discard the solids. This homemade stock doesn’t take much effort and definitely results in a richer, more satisfying soup.

I like this recipe because it is very adaptable, and thus is a great way to make use of any leftovers hanging around. I omitted the pasta and parsnips this time, but I added a peeled, diced potato and, in the last few minutes, some leftover green beans. Watch the cooking times in the recipe: I think they’re a bit too long, especially at the beginning. I was able to shorten the time for softening the vegetables without any noticeable issues. This recipe will yield plenty of leftovers, suitable for freezing.

This soup is tasty and, after the indulgences of the holidays, very healthy. You can also make it with leftover roast chicken. Here is a link to the recipe on the Foster’s Market website. Enjoy!

Menu Planning for November

I’ve recently started planning out a whole month of menus at a time. It somehow seems easier to sit down and figure out a month’s worth of menus all at once, rather than turn it into a weekly chore to be done just before grocery shopping or a daily scramble to figure out what’s for dinner that night. Doing a month at a time forces me to sit down, take my time, and think about our home-cooked meals in a more holistic way.

For instance, this month leads up to the Season of Eating, aka the holidays. Before Thanksgiving, I always like to eat leaner and as healthfully as possible to try to counteract the inevitable excess that’s coming. I also want to focus on meals I can prepare quickly, that are heavy on the vegetables and low on the carbs, and that my family will find tasty, of course.

I decided to pick one of my cookbooks and cook most of the meals out of it for the month. This simplifies things — I always find it easier to consult just one book rather than several when I’m making dinner — and it enables me to really give the cookbook a workout and figure out if it’s one I want taking up limited space on my bookshelf. This month, I chose Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater. In the past, I’ve mostly only made snacks and quick lunches from this cookbook, so it should be interesting to see what it offers for dinner.

In the book, he recommends accompanying each meal with a green salad and following it with fruit for dessert, plus cheese if the supper was a particularly light one. So many times, it seems, the simple and easy solution also is the healthiest and tastiest.

Broccoli Soup with Leeks and Thyme from Bon Appétit

I am not finding the time to post new recipes, as I hoped, but I can review some online recipes I discover. With millions of recipes to choose from, maybe this will help you decide what to make for dinner.

I had my doubts about this recipe for Broccoli Soup with Leeks and Thyme from Bon Appétit. It seemed very simple and like it might not be very filling. However, it turned out to have a really creamy texture–amazing because there is no cream or other thickener, like potatoes or flour, in the soup. The flavor is very simple but clean and refreshing. I would recommend using a very good quality chicken broth, or homemade stock, so that the soup has plenty of body, and puree it very well to achieve the creamy texture. You’ll end up with a healthy, light dinner entree.

This soup cannot carry a meal by itself. I served it with open-faced cheese toasts, broiled with cheddar and a little bacon, to give the meal more heft. I reheated leftovers for lunch the next day, adding cooked rice and crumbled bacon to the pot to make a heartier version of the soup.

Healthy, Meet Delicious

I really enjoyed this new monthly column by Mark Bittman in the New York Times Dining section: Healthy, Meet Delicious. Bittman’s philosophy of eating vegan before 6pm and having what he likes for dinner seems like an easy way to eat more healthfully and make sure you get your vegetables in. I have been trying something similar, although I allow myself yogurt and occasionally eggs. But I like this method because I don’t feel deprived and because it is an easy lifestyle change to adopt.

I tried Bittman’s recipe for chopped salad last week and I liked it a lot. If you shred a lot of cabbage and carrots at one time, they will keep for a while undressed and can then easily be incorporated into chopped salad, coleslaw, other salads, stir-fries and so on. I have found that the easiest way to prompt myself to eat more vegetables is to have them prepped and ready for when I get hungry, so I don’t default to an easier and less healthy option at lunchtime.

The smoothie recipe also looks good, and is very similar to one I make often, especially during the summer months.

Review of The Drunken Botanist

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

The Drunken Botanist CoverAround the world, there is not a tree, shrub or wildflower that hasn’t been brewed or bottled, according to The Drunken Botanist, a fascinating look at the relationships between plants and alcohol. Amy Stewart explores history, horticulture, trivia, tips for growing your own and, of course, recipes.

Humankind’s relationship with alcohol is a long one. If it grows, we’ve tried to ferment, distill or brew it. There are so many fun facts in this book, found on every page. How to drink absinthe, a particularly literary liqueur. The role bugs play in making booze. Why beer bottles are brown. How to make alcohol from bananas, sweet potatoes and even parsnips. I’m an avid wine drinker, and now I want to try aromatized wines; before this book, I didn’t even know what those were, but they sure sound delicious.

The Drunken Botanist is a pleasure to leaf through, preferably with a drink close at hand. It reminds me of an old-fashioned reference manual, with its charming black-and-white sketches and cocktail recipe “cards.” This book should appeal to all kinds of hobbyists: nature lovers, gardeners, brewers, cooks, mixologists and anyone who enjoys a tipple from time to time.

Note: I received a free advance review copy of this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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