Friday, March 26, 2010

Farro Risotto

J has been talking for weeks about wanting to make a risotto using farro instead of the usual arborio rice.  The dish has been tasted by him, me, my mother and one of my co-workers and everyone gave it rave reviews!

The farro is nutty and earthy, and yet consistency-wise the dish comes off much lighter than the typical risotto.  The shiitake mushrooms went perfectly with the farro and this was a great way to use the Upton's Naturals Italian Sausage-Style Seitan we picked up at the co-op. 


1 1/4 cups farro
32 oz homemade chicken stock (or vegetable stock for an entirely vegetarian dish)
1 - 2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large spanish onion diced
6 oz shiitake mushrooms sliced
2 garlic cloves minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp dried herbs de provence
pinch (abt 1/2 tsp) crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 package (4 oz) Upton's Naturals Italian Style Sausage-Seitan
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
large handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper
squeeze fresh lemon

In a small sauce pan, warm the stock over low heat.

In a large pan, heat oil over medium/medium-high heat.  Add onions, salt and pepper lightly and sautee until translucent.

Add shiitake mushrooms and garlic, stirring while sauteeing for about 3 more minutes or until the mushrooms start to wilt.

Add farro and continue cooking for about 4 minutes.  Add white wine and cook until wine almost entirely evaporates.

One ladleful at a time, add the stock to the farro mixture and stir until liquid is almost absorbed.  Continue adding stock 1 ladle at a time, allowing the farro to absorb most of the liquid until the farro puffs up and breaks the husk, taste for consistency.  For this recipe we used all but almost 1 ladleful of the 32 oz.

Midway through adding the stock, add the red pepper flakes and herbs de provence.

Near the end, in a separate sautee pan, brown the italian sausage-style seitan.

When farro is desired consistency, remove from heat, stir in the cheese, parsley, 1 Tbsp butter and seitan.

Salt and pepper to taste and add a squeeze of lemon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Therapy

OK, I'm getting there.  After a frustrating Monday instead of going home and feeling sorry for myself I got home, lounged for a few minutes and then went for a run.  Outside.  In 46 degree weather. 

It felt great, it made me smile.  Halfway back on my route down Logan I really had the feeling that no matter how bad things get, at least I could always run.

Not that things are that bad, or really barely even worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things, but I think I'm getting hooked after all these years of trying.  Or it's just spring fever, but I'll take it!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wild Rice Pilaf

A lovely accompaniment to our turkey quinoa muffins!


2 carrots peeled and diced
1/2 small red onion diced
1 large celery rib diced
1-2 small cloves garlic
olive oil
1 cup wild rice
3 cups water
handful cilantro chopped
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan combine the wild rice and 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and simmer covered for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a sauce pan heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper and sautee until the vegetables are softened.

When the rice is done cooking combine the rice with the vegetables and stir in the cilantro.

Quinoa Turkey Muffins with Wild Rice Pilaf

I had seen a recipe for quinoa turkey burgers that I've been wanting to try, especially since the success of my last turkey burgers.  We decided to try making little quinoa turkey muffins to have for the week.  I had a bag of wild rice that I've been waiting to do something with, and along with some carrots, mushroom, onions and celery it made a delicious pilaf!


Makes 12 muffins
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg
1 packet dried onion soup mix
worcesteshire sauce
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375

For the quinoa:
Rinse the quinoa.

Put the quinoa and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Cover and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes

For the muffins:
In a large bowl mix the turkey with about 2/3 of the quinoa (I felt like cooked, all of the quinoa was going to be too much)

Whisk an egg and add it to the bowl with the turkey along with the packet of soup mix, a few shakes of worcestershire and some black pepper.

Scoop the mixture into the 12 muffin tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes

Friday, March 19, 2010

Breakfast Fruit Smoothies

I have never really been a fruit eater.  It's not my style.  But last summer, at the peak of blueberry season I froze a bunch to use throughout winter.  Well, it's March and I never made that mid-winter blueberry betty I was talking about and I figured I should probably use up these berries before it's blueberry season again (I have hoarding tendecies, I know).

In the interest of health and gluten-free breakfast alternatives, I have decided to explore the smoothie.

I also don't eat bananas.  They literally make me gag.  I can't do it.  But, I discovered that a frozen banana in a smoothie is definitely palatable!  I wasn't sure how it would go so I bought a single banana for this experiment.  I also bought some containers of greek yogurt to use as well.


1 frozen banana
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1 Tbsp vanilla agave

The berry proportions are approximate.  Combine it all in a blender and enjoy!


1 small container greek yogurt (I used a vanilla flavored yogurt because that's all they had that day at the co-op, in general I'm not really a big vanilla fan)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/2 cup frozen blackberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp flax seeds
Water to thin

Friday, March 12, 2010

Something to Consider

Why a Big Mac Costs Less than a Salad:

Interesting piece in the NYTimes that I pulled from the site. 

Slightly off topic, and slighty on a rant, as a society, those who can need to start making food choices based on considerations outside of cost only.  It takes a committment and, more money, but it can be done.  Change the way you eat and shop.  In my household we've made a big shift toward eating primarily locally sourced, grass-fed, free-range etc. etc. meats.  In other words, expensive meat.  And as a result we just eat less of it, just as the food pyramid and pretty much any other reasonable diet guidelines recommend.  Which doesn't make fresh fruits and vegetables less expensive.  But you know what, locally sourced (when possible) and organic, fresh produce tastes better.  It does.  And if you live in a major metropolis like Chicago you can get your hands on it without going too far out of your way.  Take a note from the Europeans, buy in small quantities and shop more frequently.  You'll get to know the people selling you your food and you'll end up with less veggies rotting in the fridge.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chickpea Stew with Spinach and Chorizo

With plans to have dinner with our good friends Kristie and Aitor on Saturday, we browsed the cookbooks for meal ideas.  With some inspiration in mind, we walked over to the co-op to see which recipe we would be able to pull off from the selection of meats and veggies they had available.  Our co-op has a great bulk section and I couldn't resist buying several cups of dried garbanzo beans.  We also found some lamb chorizo from Mint Creek Farm in Stelle, IL which specializes in grass fed lamb.  We became big fans of Mint Creek as a vendor at our farmer's market in the summer and are so happy to see them supplying meats to the co-op!

And thus, we settled on the chickpea stew with spinach and chorizo from the book, Food & Wine 2006, an Entire Year of Recipes.  Right now I'm definitely on a Food & Wine kick.  I think their recipes are simple, healthy and really delicious and am happy both to follow them verbatim as well as use them as inspiration for new dishes.

The lamb chorizo was a really interesting meat.  I found it slightly less unctious then regular chorizo, which can be a little much for me.  And I am so glad that I have started cooking with dried instead of canned beans, I can really taste the difference in the flavor. 

The dinner was wonderful.  Our hosts made a warm salad of mixed greens served tossed with a vinaigrette and topped with sauteed mushrooms and a sprinkling of roquefort cheese and walnuts.  A perfect start to the meal.  The sauteed mushrooms in the salad is a something I've come to attribute solely to eating at our friends' home and it is always delicious, why don't I ever do it in my home?!?   We enjoyed the Washington State Kung Fu Girl Reisling before dinner and with the salad.  The name might be goofy but we all really enjoy this wine!

The stew was a lovely, hearty main which we served with a Volpaia Chianti Classico which we purchased in Volpaia, Italy this past summer.  It was a special wine that really worked with the meal.

Dessert consisted of an assortment of beautiful Whole Foods pastries.

Our host Aitor is from San Sebastian (Donostia) in the Basque Country of Spain.  Finally, we are planning a trip with them to his home town this August and we began making preliminary plans!  His parents are in the center of town and we hope to stay near the old center.  Beaches, mountains, rioja, and a land with an incredible culinary history.  Not to mention a ridiculous number of Michelin Star rated restaurants in such a small area.  I have a feeling that this will be a culinary adventure like no other, capped off by going to one of two of the best restaurants in the world.  Arzak or Mugaritz, how do you decide?


2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion diced
1 1/2 tsp minced dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
One 28 ounce can chopped italian tomatoes, drained, reserving the liquid
3/4 pound lamb chorizo, sliced and cooked
1/2 lb spinach
1/2 lb arugula
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan, cover the chickpeas with a couple of inches of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, adding more water as necessary.

Drain beans, saving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a dutch oven, heat  a couple of tablespoons olive oil.  Add garlic, onion, rosemary and bay leaf and cook over medium heat until the onion is softened.

Add the drained chopped tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until sizzling.

Add the sliced chorizo, the chickpeas, the cup of reserved cooking water and the juices from the tomatoes and bring to a simmer.

Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted.

Stir in the arugula and simmer the entire stew for 10-15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

**This dish made more than enough stew for 4 adults.  Jason and I both had leftovers for lunch on Sunday and each are taking some, along with some leftover roasted cauliflower from a few days ago for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mustard and Black Peppercorn Crusted Pork Tenderloin

The cooking of meat falls to my husband.  I'll relate here as best I can what  he did!


2 - 1lb pork tenderloins, trimmed
1 - 2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
Whole grain mustards (preferably Spartan Mustard from the National Mustard Museum!)

Preheat the oven to 375

Trim the fat from the pork tenderloins.

With a mortar and pestle crush the peppercorns.

Rub the tenderloins all over with the mustard and then some of the peppercorns.

On the stove top in a pan, brown the tenderloins on all sides over medium high heat.  This helps get a nice crust on the meat.

Put tenderloins in a baking dish and roast in the oven until desired doneness.  Ours was done medium, so to about 140-145 with the meat thermometer.

Let rest and slice thinly.

Note:  one of these days I will have my husband discus the art of cooking meat perfectly.  I know it takes years of practice but he seems to have mastered the skill.  It seems to involve cooking by sense of touch just as much as anything!

Lentils with Red Wine and Herbs

I took this recipe from this month's Food & Wine.  It somes from Sophie Dahl who happens to be Roald Dahl's granddaughter. 

I have started using lentils much more frequently in my cooking over the last year.  The recipe made sense to me except for the addition of cilantro.  The lentils, red wine, parsley and spinach all melded easily in my mind but I couldn't figure out how the cilantro flavor fit.  Turns out, it was a great addition.  It completely brightened up what can be an almost muddy flavor of the lentils.  I can't wait to make this again when the herbs and greens are in season and fresh!


1 1/2 cups lentils
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion chopped finely
1 garlic clove minced
1/4 cup red wine (I used the 2005 Chateau Poitevin Medoc we then drank with the meal)
1 cup packed baby spinach
1/2 cup vegetable stock
4 cups lightly packed arugula
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
dash fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

In a sauce pan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer over medium-low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.  Drain the lentils

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet.  Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the lentils and the wine and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stock and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Add the arugula, parsely and cilantro and cook until just barely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and squeeze just a dash of lemon juice.

Roasted Carrots and Tarragon

This is a great pairing of flavors, an idea I picked up from my friend Karen.


2 large organic carrots (or as many carrots as you would like)
olive oil
dried tarragon*
salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375

Peel the carrots and slice

Top with olive oil, plenty of dried tarragon and salt and pepper

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the carrots are nicely softened and sweet.

*Note:  I grew tarragon this summer.  Once the plant was on its last legs I cut off the branches and dried them out.  I stored the tarragon in a glass jar and it has gotten me through to the spring.  Almost time for new plants!

Sunday Night Dinner 2/28/2010

After a whirlwind of a month, not to even mention just the last week, Jason and I found ourselves relieved to have a Sunday afternoon and evening together.  We split our new favorite sandwich, the Loaded Veggie Burger at Rocking Horse for lunch and then walked over to the Dill Pickle Co-op to load up on supplies for a nice, big Sunday night dinner that would provide us with leftovers for the week as well.

For the vegetable sides I made my Kale and Red Cabbage Gratin, and roasted carrots with tarragon.

We made a lentil with red wine and herb dish from this month's Food & Wine and served it with a mustard and black peppercorn crusted pork tenderloin.

All of the dishes complimented eachother perfectly and the lentils were a surprise hit!  The cilantro added a brightness I never would have imagined.  We each ate less than 3 oz of meat, but were fully satisfied with the addition of all of the vegetarian sides.

To top it off we served the meal with a 2005 Chateau Poitevin Medoc, a 50% merlot, 45% cabernet sauvignon and 5% cabernet franc blend.  We had a bottle of this wine about a year ago and were very pleased with how it had aged since then.  It's been awhile since I've had an actual Bordeaux and it paired wonderfully with the entire meal.

Donors Save Lives

I've been keeping most of the personal stuff off this blog and turning it more into a cooking/recipe share site.

However, I needed to share the good news that my dad successfully received a kidney transplant on Thursday 2/25/10!

So far, everything is looking great and discharge is planned for today.  It's been a long and emotional weekend, but a happy one.

Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers as well as the family of the donor.

If you are not already, you can sign up with the State of Illinois as a registered organ donor through Donate Life Illinois.  In addition, please make sure to let your intentions known to your friends and family.