The holidays, to me, are about family. So this week during all the stress of trying to cook as much as you can ahead of time for Thanksgiving, I have decided to share with you three very important and delicious family recipes.
I’m starting with my grandma’s spinach pie recipe. My Grandma is a very interesting character. She is a four and a half foot tall, headstrong, German /Swedish spitfire. Half of a foot of her height is made up of her hairstyle, and has been that way ever since I can remember. My friends and I lovingly nicknamed her Midge, which is a lot more endearing than calling your Grandmother a midget, in my opinion.
My Grandmother always had this way of making you eat what she wanted you to eat, even if you seriously had no desire to do so. Every year for New Years Eve, when we were younger, we would go over to her house and be forced to take part in the Swedish tradition of eating pickled herring and red potatoes in order to have a good new year.
As a child, the last thing in the world you want to eat is smelly, unbreaded fish. My Grandmother somehow had this way, (call it “grandmother guilt”) of making my two brothers and me to eat a piece of that herring every year.
Another ingredient she happened to make enticing to us was spinach. My Grandmother was a single mother and worked a full-time job. She needed quick and healthy meals, so the spinach pie was born. This spinach pie has so much cheesy goodness going on in it that, as a child who was indifferent about vegetables, I never even thought twice about all the green stuff in this pie.
As an adult, I can look back and think about how gross the herring was or how my Grandma managed to introduce me to my first taste of spanakopita (minus the phyllo) before I even knew what Greek cuisine was. But both of those thoughts are overshadowed by the memories of everybody being together and I think that is why this simple dish holds so much importance to me.
1, 10oz Container of Frozen Chopped Spinach
1 Cup Cottage Cheese
2 Eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon of Salt
¼ teaspoon of Pepper
3 tablespoons of Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tablespoon of Unsalted Butter
Place the defrosted spinach into a dish towel or cheesecloth and drain all of the liquid out of it by squeezing the spinach into a ball. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, cottage cheese, eggs, and seasonings.
Spoon the mixture into a 9 inch glass pie pan. Sprinkle the grated parmesan cheese on top and dot with the tablespoon of unsalted butter.
Cook the pie in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until the top is lightly browned and a bit crunchy.
Enjoy a slice of this pie with your Thanksgiving or as an accompaniment to any meal during the week.
I never knew sourdough was such hard work. Ever since I won a sourdough starter giveaway, I have been playing mad scientist in my kitchen every night. Before I go to bed I have to feed my living sourdough culture to make sure it doesn’t die. The crazy thing is how fast and how much this “thing” eats and grows; my own little Frankenstein.
Most of you know how bad I am at baking. I somehow am guaranteed to mess something up in terms of measuring or just by not following the instructions in the right order. Any time I am faced with a baking task I get really nervous.
Having this “sourdough baby” has made me inspired to try baking more often. Plus, two other bloggers, Salty Seattle and Pinch My Salt, have started a sourdough movement called Doughvember, for those of us who cannot grow beards for Movember, and I really wanted to be a part of that. Plus who doesn’t love a good sourdough, right?
I am not going to lie; there have been major fails and spills along the way, but I finally got one to work and from then I have been a baking machine!
My nerves have been calmed through a lot of trial and error and also from this nerdy ritual my husband and I made up as a joke that kind of stuck.
You know how Notre Dame Football has a “Play Like a Champion Today” sign in their locker room? Well, if you didn’t, they do. The players hit the sign on their way out to the game to inspire them. My husband and I joked that when I get nervous about baking I should jump up and hit the little overhang in the hallway into the kitchen and imagine it says “Cook Like a Champion Today” right there. Yes, this is what we do in our spare time. We are both huge nerds, I know.
I feel like this is a good message for all of us before the big cooking holiday comes up next week. If you are scared about bringing a mess of a dish to your family Thanksgiving gathering, just remember two things:
1. Cook like a champion today! All you can do is give it your best shot.
2. Holidays are about being together and your family has to love you regardless of how your dish turns out… Unless the dish is headed to the in-laws, then just trash the mess and bring a bottle of wine instead!
At least you tried.
Ingredients (makes 7 pretzels)
1 Cup Sourdough Starter
1 Cup of Warm Water
3 Cups of Flour
1 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of baking soda
4 quarts of boiling water
1 Egg White
Coarse Sea Salt
Mix the flours and salt together using a whisk in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle of the dry mixture. Then add in the starter, water, and oil. Knead for about 7 minutes until smooth. Shape the batter into a ball and place it in a warm area to rise for about two hours. When the dough ahs almost doubled in size, punch the batter down and knead it for another five minutes. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into a 7” x 12” rectangle. Cut off 7, 1” wide strips of dough. Roll them into snake-like shapes. Let the dough rise for another thirty minutes.
Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot. While the water comes up to temperature, form the pretzel shape with each piece of dough. When the water is at a rolling boil, add each pretzel one at a time the boiling water. When the pretzel rises to the top remove it from the water and place it on a wire rack to cool. Immediately after the pretzel is placed on the rack, brush it with egg white and dust it in coarse sea salt. Continue this process until all seven pretzels have been boiled.
Place pretzels on a baking sheet and place them in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes to complete the cooking process.
I know it is complex, but if I can do it, so can you! In the end, as your reward, you get to enjoy my favorite happy hour food with a cold beer. What’s better than that?
By now, you all have come to know that I have a dog. His name is Weezer and he is a pug. Having a dog is great. This is coming from the person who, when she brought her crying, scared, and shivering puppy home, thought, “I made a big mistake,” when said puppy would not stop crying and shivering.
It was taxing training him, and in all honesty, he probably could still use a little more training. It made me very thankful that my parents only let us have small rodents and rabbits growing up. On cold snowy days, walking Weezer is the last thing I want to do. I can’t even imagine how 7 year old me would react to the thought of having to walk a dog at 5am in the freezing cold.
Most recently, Weezer has become a bad influence around our household. We like to refer to him as “the lazifier.” In his mind, he would love to be curled up on the couch with you and a blanket for eternity. Believe me; it is hard enough getting out of bed on a normal cold day. Add a sleeping puppy, with his head affectionately resting on your shoulder to the mix, and you are likely to sleep in just a little bit longer.
Weezer is not by any means a lap dog, even though most times that is where he would prefer to rest. He can run after a squirrel like no other, wrestle with the big dogs, and fart and snore with the best of them. In fact one time he even killed a squirrel.*
*This may or may not be true. I take my eyes off of him for one second and he is standing over a dying squirrel in my parents’ backyard. In all honesty, the squirrel probably fell out of a tree and had a heart attack, but I have to give the little guy some kind of kudos.
In Weezer’s mind there is only one amount of time he thinks in, and that is forever. He thinks you are going to cuddle with him forever, he thinks you are going to scratch his butt forever, he thinks that when you leave you will be gone forever and is pleasantly surprised every time you return. He is like that hopeful best friend you had in grade school that gave you half of a heart necklace that when you put the two halves together says friends forever, except he thinks like this every day!
This thinking is totally cute and endearing, except when you wake in a panic after resting your eyes for a moment on the couch with “the lazifier” and realize it’s now 90 minutes later, and all the stuff you were supposed to get done but didn’t because it was just so warm and comfortable snuggling on the couch.
“You got me again, Lazifier!” (Shaking my fist in rage.)
4 Cups Hot water
4oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms
2 Thick Slices of Pancetta, cut into small cubes
¾ Cup Onion, diced
1 Clove of Garlic, grated
1 pint Shitake Mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
1 pint Baby Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into thirds
1 Cup White Wine
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1 teaspoon of Fresh Rosemary, chopped
½ Cup Pearl Barley
¾ Cup Whole Milk
1 teaspoon of Fresh Parsley, chopped
Combine the dry porcini mushrooms and hot water in a large bowl. Let the mushrooms sit in the hot water until the water becomes dark brown and the mushrooms have absorbed some of the moisture. Put the bowl to the side, you won’t need it until later.
Heat a large stock pot over medium heat for about three minutes then add the small cubes of pancetta. Cook pancetta until dark and crispy, about 6-7 minutes over medium/high heat. Then add the onion. Cook onion until translucent, about four minutes over medium heat. Than add your grated garlic and reduce the heat to medium low.
Add in the shitake and baby Portobello mushrooms. Cook mushrooms for seven minutes over medium/high heat until they have released all their moisture and start to brown. Then add the white wine and turn the heat to high. Simmer wine for ten minutes until all the alcohol cooks out. Then add the reconstituted porcini mushrooms and mushroom stock, along with the chicken stock, salt, pepper, and rosemary to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil.
Then add the cup of barley to the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook the soup for 40 minutes, until the barley is tender. Once the barley is cooked, add the whole milk and parsley. Simmer soup for five more minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about ten minutes before serving.
This is a perfect cold weather snuggling recipe. It is easy and will make you feel like you accomplished a complex meal in no time and still allow you plenty of couch time with whomever or whatever you consider to be “the lazifier” in your house.
I am becoming a mixture of Larry David and my 60 year old father. How so, you ask?
Well, this morning around 6:30am our upstairs neighbor and his 4 year old child decided to run laps around their apartment wearing construction boots. Not really, but that is what it sounded like to the person in the room directly below them.
I lay in bed glaring at the ceiling and ruing the day I did not have a tennis ball to throw at the ceiling or a broom to poke the ceiling, to let them know they are being quite loud.
It’s not like they were playing or even laughing. I could have been a little more understanding if they were enjoying some bonding time or something. But what I imagined in my head was them just stomping around in heavy boots just for the heck of it.
I know what some of you are thinking, “Oh when you are a parent, you will understand, it will be different.” All I know is that (God willing) when I am a parent, that crap will not fly in this house. It is 6:30am and you have neighbors kid! Come on!
I have noticed other Grumpy Old Men qualities seeping into my life as well. I like to say hello to people passing on the sidewalk while I am out walking my dog. It is common courtesy to exchange pleasantries while you cross paths. I hate when you say “Hello” or “Good Morning” and the other person just ignores you! I also like when said passerbys stay on the right side of the sidewalk. This is America; we drive on the right side of the road and should therefore stick to the same policy while walking on the sidewalk.
My taste is also being affected by this phenomenon. I am to the point in life where I like what I like and I don’t need to be convinced otherwise or have people give their two cents about the dish I have ordered. Don’t get me wrong, I will always try new things and am totally open to new food suggestions (let’s be honest there really isn’t a food I don’t like). The thing is, if you don’t like what I’m eating, I don’t need to hear a laundry list of reasons why it is the grossest thing in the world to you.
The above paragraph is going to make my old curmudgeon father so happy because for years, he has ordered the same seafood pasta at our family’s favorite Italian restaurant. And when we were little to see that giant plate of mussels, shrimp, and baby squid coming towards the table was our cue to start the whines of disgust. But, he kept ordering it, because to him, it was the best plate of pasta and, honestly, he didn’t care what three little children thought was gross at the time. We would turn our noses up to his food and tell him how disgusting it was incessantly, but you knew it was time to stop when he would do his signature “I have had enough” head tilt and close his eyes. We then stopped our taunts and went back to eating our plain spaghetti marinara.
Oh, how times have changed. Now, when we are out to dinner as a family and that plate of seafood arrives we all clamor to get a mussel before my dad eats them all. Either my father is the most patient man alive or he knew that eventually we would stop being so frickin’ annoying and our tastes would mature.
So until the lovely little boy that lives above me grows up or moves out I will keep the broom out of the bedroom and leave the tennis balls with the dog and try my best to have a little patience, and eat my little-kid-gross-out stew!
Ingredients (feeds 4-5)
1 (28oz) Can of Plum Tomatoes
1 Cup of Coconut Milk
1 tablespoon of Salt
1 tablespoon of Pepper
1 teaspoon of Curry Powder
½ teaspoon Coriander
1 teaspoon Turmeric
½ teaspoon of Cumin
¼ teaspoon Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
¾ Cup Onion, diced
2 Red Jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
2 Cloves of Garlic, grated
1 Cup Low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2 Pieces of Tilapia
1 ½ lbs. of Scallops
1 lb. Shrimp, peeled and de-veined with the tails on
2 tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Combine the can of tomatoes, coconut milk, salt, pepper, curry powder, cayenne, coriander, turmeric, cumin, and cinnamon in a blender or large food processor. Puree the mixture until it becomes smooth.
Heat the olive oil over low in a large stock pot. Add the onions and red jalapenos to the warm olive oil. Cook until the onions become translucent. Stir in the grated garlic to make sure it is evenly distributed. Cook for two minutes then add the chicken stock. After the mixture of stock, garlic, onions, and peppers comes to a simmer, add the coconut curry tomato sauce to the pot.
Cut the tilapia into bite size pieces. Add the tilapia and scallops to the pot. Cover with the lid and cook the mixture over medium/low heat for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes of cooking, add the shrimp to the pot. Cover the pot and cook for five more minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and add in the fresh chopped cilantro. Let the stew cool for about ten minutes before serving. The stew is great alone, with a crusty piece of bread, on top of rice, or even on top of some noodles.
I kid you not, while I was cooking then eating this beautiful stew, my upstairs neighbor (who for some reason was home today) was walking around above me all day long! It is like he was following me or he knew I was writing about him and his child. Or else there is a ghost…
I have a problem. I have obsessive tendencies when it comes to the ingredients I use in cooking (I most likely have these tendencies in my day to day life as well, but you guys probably aren’t the people I should be talking to about that).
For a very long time I was obsessed with using fresh basil in everything. In fact that was the only fresh herb I ever used. Now, I have moved on to thyme. I cannot get enough of those little, melt-into-any-dish leaves.
One week it’s cheese, the next week bacon is in everything, and now I am in the midst of a soup obsession.
I am sure you have probably already noticed this; I mean, you are all smart people. So, why point it out then?
Have I lost my mind? That might possibly be true. (once again, I’ll save that for a more qualified audience). Maybe this site should be called Cooking with Crazy. But honestly speaking, I know there are a lot of people out there just like me who, from the second they wake up, think, “What am I going to make for dinner?” or “What am I going to eat for lunch?”
Is it rational to obsess over parsnips? Not really. They are just another root vegetable. However, when I was out to dinner with friends a month or so ago and ate a parsnip puree, I became so obsessed with the complex and comforting flavors and consistency of this plain old root, that I had to recreate it.
For weeks it has been parsnip puree with everything, and then my thoughts moved to wondering about what other root vegetables I had been neglecting all my life? This is the thinking that eventually led me to this recipe and to the conclusion that I might just obsess over these things because, through careful thought, practice, and distillation, if I keep the obsession evolving maybe I can come up with an even better recipe than the one I made before.
Or else I’m just bat shit crazy like everybody else in this world.
1 tablespoon of Olive Oil
1 Leek, roughly chopped
4 Large Russet Potatoes, skin removed and cubed
4 Large Turnips, skin removed and cubed (should equal about 4 cups)
4 Cups of Low Sodium Vegetable Stock
2 Cups of Water
1 tablespoon of Salt
1 tablespoon of Pepper
1 Dry Bay Leaf
2 tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
1 Cup of Whole Milk
1 tablespoon of Tarragon, chopped
1 teaspoon of Parsley, chopped
Start off by cutting the leek length-wise. Rinse it under cool running water to remove all sand and grit. Roughly chop each leek. You only want to use the white and light green portions of the leek. In a large stock pot, over medium/low heat, cook the leek in the olive oil for five minutes. Add in the cubed turnips, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Then add in the water and stock.
Bring to a boil then add in the bay leaf. Boil over high heat for thirty five minutes. Remove from the heat when the potatoes and turnips are fork tender. Take out the bay leaf. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Pour the whole milk into the pot. Add the chopped tarragon and parsley. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, wait until the mixture cools and spoon it into a blender, blend until smooth. It might take a few batches depending on what kind of blender or food processor you have.
Whether you want to keep it vegetarian…
With a dash of green…
Or if you need to entice your significant other, the carnivore…
With a little bit of bacon and cheese…
Either way you dish it turnips and potatoes are worth the obsession.