Archive for February, 2010

Oatmeal, chocolate chip cookies are by far my favorite. Although I love them, I rarely bake cookies for several reasons: 1) Baking is not my favorite thing. I always make a mess and end up with flour everywhere, and it is sooooo exact. It allows for little improvisation. 2) I don’t need three dozen cookies sitting around my apartment for just me to consume. 3) I don’t like using electric mixers and actively seek out recipes that do not require them.

Despite the fact that baking is not my favorite past-time, I do enjoy doing it every now and then -birthdays give me a good excuse to do this.  And one of my coworkers had a birthday this week.

I did some searching on-line for cookies and found this recipe. It sounded a little more unusual than the typical oatmeal, chocolate chip cookie recipe, and also sounded great. I pulled out my dusty electric mixer (thanks Mom!) and got baking.

I made little changes to the original recipe found here, except for the following:

decreased brown sugar from 1 c. to 3/4 c.

decreased white sugar from 3/4 c. to 1/2 c.

used less orange zest than called for – I just eye-balled it.

Once everything was combined – it was really hard to stir and I’m concerned I did not incorporate the orange zest as thoroughly as necessary to ensure some cookies did not taste too orange-y…

These cookies turned out great. The different spices created a deep flavor more distinct than ordinary oatmeal cookies. They were crispy on the outside and slightly chewy on the inside. I brought half into work – and they were gone by 2:30. I brought some more to my book club that evening. I’m certainly glad to not have 3 dozen cookies sitting around here now.  And not a single cookie that I had tasted too orange-y.

Note to self: Really, buy that baking rack.

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Mark Bittman can do no wrong.  He’s the New York Times food guy and author of several cookbooks, including Food Matters. It is a book that does not contain many recipes by cookbook standards (especially when compared to Bittman’s hefty How to Cook Everything), but for each recipe, Bittman provides variations of the original, allowing the home cook to tailor the recipe to his or her personal tastes.

If you feel the need to add more vegetables to your diet, and want a one-pot, fool-proof dinner, this one is a winner. This is not the first time I made this dish – but it is the first time I loved it. I used turnips before, did not use garlic (the original recipe does not say to) and probably did not use enough salt and pepper. Tonight though… well tonight I used rutabagas instead of turnips, added garlic, and made sure to use plenty of salt and pepper.

Here’s what I did, which is adapted from Mark Bittman’s “Braised Vegetables with Prosciutto, Bacon, or Ham” from Food Matters:

2 T. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

red pepper flakes

1/4 lb. capicola ham (you could easily leave this out for a vegetarian meal… just add extra salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if you like)

a few sprigs of thyme

2 lbs. veggies – I used 1 lb. or so of baby carrots (slightly passed their prime); 1/2 lb. or so of brussels sprouts; and 1/2 lb. or so of rutabaga (one large)

2 c. liquid – I used 1 c. red wine and 1 c. vegetable stock

Put 1 T. olive oil in large pot. Over medium heat, add onion, ham, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and saute for five minutes, or until onions begin to color. Add thyme sprigs and garlic, turn the heat down a bit, and cook for another five minutes or so. Remove everything with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Meanwhile, trim and peel rutabaga and trim brussels sprouts. Cut rutabaga into large chunks. Carrots are prepped if you use baby carrots.

Return pot to medium heat and add another 1 T. of oil. When it is hot, add vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize and turn a little brown.Return the ham and onion mixture to the pot. Add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the mixture bubble gently, cover, and cook until vegetables are as done as you like them. I let them go for about 35 minutes. The rutabaga took longer than the carrots and sprouts.

I served this over bulgur, but it would be equally good over pasta or another grain (as Bittman suggests).

The vegetables were tender and flavorful with red pepper flakes, wine, thyme, and ham. If you have never tried rutabagas, they taste like a cross between turnips and sweet potatoes… maybe?

Try them. They are good and in season now.

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chicken “riggies”

Rachel Ray really doesn’t bother me as much as she does some people. Sure, her cutesy sayings and incessant chatter can be annoying; but, I do believe that she has given many busy, at-home cooks the confidence and skills to cook for their families.

I just hope no one actually believes it will take them only 30 minutes to make the meal, or that it is as healthy as the bubbly host claims.

Like the bread below, I’ve been wanting to make this dish since I saw RaRay do it on tv over a year ago. I like pasta, and creamy-tomato-y sauces, and spicy food, and sauteed greens. It sounded like a win all-around. I also baked the bread to serve with the wilted greens.

After cutting the recipe in half and making some other adjustments, I ended up with enough food to feed probably 4 people. The results were good, not exceptionally delicious or as complex as I had hoped, but it was tomato-y, spicy, and satisfying. It also took me about an hour to complete.

Here’s the recipe I used, with some adjustments from Ms. Ray’s original:

I cut the recipe in half and just used two chicken breasts. The original recipe was supposed to serve 4 people. It could have served 8 easily, which takes me back to what I said about her meals not being healthy. They usually contain a lot of olive oil (or EVOO), cream, cheese, and the portions are HUGE. Not that there is anything wrong with oil, cheese, cream, and large portions… most people just can’t make a habit of regularly eating all of these things  if they want to fit into their jeans. For my vegetarian friends – the chicken could be omitted easily.

The grocery store only had pickled sweet peppers, so I added red pepper flakes with the garlic and onions.

Used fat-free half and half instead of the heavy cream.

Just realized I forgot to add basil. That might have helped increase the complexity of the dish – a little more salt would have helped too…

Because I could not find escarole, I used kale, which I love.

I also used vegetable broth because  I had it.

The no-knead bread makes excellent toast and tasted great with the kale.

I think this made for a good winter dinner – definitely one I would make again with some adjustments mentioned above.

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bread – take I

While many people do it all the time, I’ve never really made bread before today. I’ve attempted pizza dough, but it has always turned out tough.

This easy, no-knead bread first featured in the New York Times a couple of years ago has been on my theoretical “I’d like to cook” list for a while. I was going to make a dish this week that uses “crusty bread” and for some reason, I was suddenly moved to bake my own bread. Thus I turned to this no-knead recipe:

Almost No-Work Whole Grain Bread

from Food Matters, by Mark Bittman

3 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 t. instant yeast (for quick rise version, use 1 1/2 t. yeast, this is what I used)

2 t. salt

2 T. olive or vegetable oil

cornmeal for dusting

1. combine flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 c. water and stir until blended. I had to add a little more water here so it was wet and sticky, but not liquid. Cover the bowl and let rest in a warm-ish area for 12 to 24 hours. Mine sat for 6 hours… (using the quicker rise method)

2. Use oil to grease the loaf pan. Brush the top with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal if you feel like it. I felt like it. Cover with a towel and let sit for another hour or two until doubled.

3. Bake the bread at 350 degrees until deep golden and “hollow-sounding when tapped”… about 45 minutes. Turn onto rack and let cool.

Note to self: buy baking rack.

It could have baked for about 5 minutes longer – but I’d classify this attempt at bread a success.

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Dear reader:

Welcome to my first attempt at a blog, Thyme and Reason.

As I find my voice and work on content and blog appearance, I welcome any kind of advice, ideas,  and/ or constructive criticism.

Thanks for your patience as I get this up and running.


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