Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Favorites

Dear reader,

With 55 posts this year, 2010 turned out to be a very productive one. In addition to my blog's first birthday, my husband and I have enjoyed a year of healthy, delicious, homemade meals and snacks. I hope a few of them have made their way into your kitchen too. Some of my highlights are below.

Favorite Soup(s) This Year:
it is a tie between

Beef and Barley Soup
the hearty beef and barley soup, and

Roasted Red Pepper Soup
the creamy roasted red pepper soup. (Clickable link below each picture)

Most Repeated Recipe This Year, in my own kitchen:


empanadas, which can be filled with virtually anything and are a lot more filling than one might expect.

Favorite Dessert:

Honey Banana Bread

since I've become a fan of less intense sweetness in my desserts, this honey banana bread is still one of my most delicious memories.

What are some of your favorites from 2010? What would you like to see more of in 2011?

I hope you all have a wonderful new year!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Guest Post: Baked Craisin Scones

Today's recipe comes to us from my father-in-law, The Greg. His comments (in italics):

Scones are old Scottish biscuits. The reason I make them is they're so easy and the more impatient you are with them, the better they turn out. [The idea here is that scone dough, when overworked, becomes very dense and hard to chew once cooked.] I can get up in the morning, make them, and they come out of the oven in time for me to have while I enjoy my morning coffee.

I like this recipe because you can use any flavor of dried fruit, as long as it's in small pieces. Greg has made these with regular and blueberry-flavored Craisins with great success. You could use actual dried blueberries, or even try cutting up dried apple pieces into small chunks.

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries (Craisins), any flavor
  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) cold butter, diced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour,  sugar, baking powder, and dried cranberries.
  3. Stir butter into dry ingredients and mash with potato masher (or squish with your clean fingers!).
  4. With a fork, beat eggs into milk until well stirred. Pour this into dry ingredients and mix to incorporate. Dough should be very rough (almost shredded looking), with chunks of butter still visible.
  5. Cut dough in half. Roll each half on a floured surface to about 1/2-inch thickness. Pinch edges around your circle to avoid cracks along the edges while baking.
  6. Cut each large chunk into six triangular pieces (like a pie), or use circle-shaped cookie cutter and cut out several rounds. Prick each scone with a fork.
  7. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Party Food Ideas - 2010

While I've got a few posts about pie in the works, I know that many people are attending or hosting holiday parties this time of year. If you're like me, you're probably pulling your hair out trying to create an array of snacks that will please your guests.

Allow me to present my recommendations for your next get together.

  • For someone who's averse to processed sugars, perhaps they'd enjoy a few slices of Honey Banana Bread
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Nudo Italia

Looking for an awesome gift for a food lover? The Brown Eyed Baker turned me on to a great site called Nudo Italia, an Italian olive company that lets you adopt a tree. By adopting an olive tree from one of their many groves, you receive two packages: one in the spring with extra virgin olive oil pressed from the olives from your tree; and a second in the fall with three flavored olive oils, such as their chili-infused olive oil or lemon flavored olive oil.

What a wonderful way to support a small business and receive a gift that can be used year-round in the kitchen!

What are some of your favorite gifts for food lovers?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beef and Barley Soup

I've been craving a beef based soup lately, and several sources have reminded me of the great combination of beef and barley. I decided to give it a whirl, following Budget Bytes' recipe most closely.

The best parts about this soup: by cooking the stew meat first, everything was flavored with its drippings; because the barley's starch began to break down and thicken the soup, no thickening agent was needed to make this almost stew-like; and finally, adding the potatoes in at the end prevented them from getting too mushy. It is an all around hearty winter soup.

Ingredients (makes 5-6 servings)
  • olive oil
  • 1 lb stew meat, cut into small pieces
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 4 small stalks OR 2 large stalks celery, sliced
  • small bunch carrots, sliced
  • pinch dried thyme leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small package (about 10 oz) white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 6 cups beef stock (I used Better Than Bouillon's beef base in 6 cups water)
  • 1 cup dried barley
  • 1 lb small red potatoes, chopped into bite size pieces
  1. Heat a small amount of olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add stew meat and cook until browned. Transfer to separate bowl and set aside, leaving drippings in stockpot.
  2. Drizzle more olive oil into stockpot. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions have softened.
  3. Add celery, carrots, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook for 4-5 minutes, adding a splash of water if vegetables start to stick or burn.
  4. Add mushrooms. Continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Clear a little spot and add tomato paste. Cook until paste heats up, then gradually stir it into juices and vegetables.
  6. Add cooked meat back into stockpot, along with beef stock and barley. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover; simmer for 40 minutes.
  7. Add potatoes and simmer, covered, for another 10-15 minutes.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Changing the Way You Eat

eggs from a local farm
If you're reading a food blog, you probably have some interest in the quality of your food. On the surface, this might mean that you want to make meals that taste good. You might also consider what is nutritious for you and your family. 

Does it go deeper than that? For quite some time, I have been learning more about the food industry and how it works. I am not going to gross out anyone but I will say it was very enlightening to learn about the way animals and crops are treated to get the "best" product. 

As I mentioned in my entry on food goals for 2010, one of my goals is to find local sources for more of my food. Since reading books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver) and Eating Animals (Jonathan Safran Foer) and seeing documentaries like Food, Inc., I have been working toward becoming more of a locavore - that is, eating more locally made and locally produced foods. My list below is based on my location ( Delaware / Chenango counties, southern tier of New York state)

Some changes in my food purchases:
  • eating more locally raised meats, (through farmers' markets and Chenango Bounty's website). If not locally raised, then organic, hormone-free and antibiotic-free. (My new favorite at the grocery store is Meyer's angus beef.)
  • our yogurt at home is now Chobani greek yogurt (produced in Norwich, NY without the use of rBST-treated milk) 
  • anytime we need sour cream, we buy Friendship brand, to the delight of Dan the Man (produced in Friendship, NY, near his hometown, about three hours from us)
  • our eggs now come from a local family farm (Guilford, NY) 
  • I still make my own jams - 2010 jams are blackberry and concord grape. This year both fruits were grown locally. (I picked the blackberries myself!)

As winter sets in, it can be more difficult to find local fresh produce in New York. I hope to provide more recipes using winter produce, like potatoes, winter squashes, carrots, and apples.

Have you made any changes in your food habits, whether toward becoming more of a locavore, trying to eat more meals made at home, or purchasing less junk food?