Archive for February, 2011

pan-fried onion dip

No pictures this time guys – sorry.

This is probably old news to most of you, but the USDA recently came out with their updated dietary guidelines,  (outlined and analyzed in Mark Bittman’s recent column). The updated guidelines advise Americans to  consume less salt and less food in general, particularly processed food.

Shortly after this event, I eschewed everything they outlined and made this appetizer for a Super Bowl Party I attended. Full of mayo, cream cheese, and sour cream and consumed with salty potato chips – it was fantastic. While I’m all for Americans eating more healthfully, this is an example of where preparing your own “junk” food is still going to be better for you than buying junk food full of additives and stuff you’ve never heard of.

This pan-fried onion dip is simple and flavorful. Really delicious, frankly, if you are into creamy dips and chips.I did cut down on the amount of butter and oil used, and I also used low-fat sour cream, light cream cheese, and mayo made with olive oil.

Adapted from Pan-Fried Onion Dip, from Ina Garten

2 large yellow onions

2 T. unsalted butter

2 T. vegetable oil

1/4 t. ground cayenne pepper – don’t be afraid of the dip being too spicy. This step is really important for ensuring a balanced, not-too-sweet flavor

1 t. salt

1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (half of a standard package)

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

I sliced the onions as the recipe suggested, but it made for a messy dip. If I make this again, I’m going to chop the onions rather than slice.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. You could also place the ingredients in a bowl and just mix using a hand mixer. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

This is best made a couple of hours before serving so the flavors can meld.

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savory palmiers

So – this is a rather belated post. I originally made these savory palmiers for my birthday almost four months ago(!!).

Not only are these little pastries delicious, but they are also pretty easy to whip up and they make an excellent appetizer or party food. Really – I’m not posting this cooking endeavor late, I’m posting it just in time for your Oscar party-planning.

I’d imagine you can change the recipe to suit your own taste, but the combination of pesto, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese is the perfect mix of salty and tart, all wrapped up in flaky, buttery goodness. Never fear if you have not used puff pastry before – I had not prior to this. Just make sure it is really, really cold when you start. And when you slice these things, make sure to use a sharp knife and slice them very thinly. They puff up in the oven.

Ina Garten is the person to thank for this easy, delicious, perfect-for-entertaining recipe. I would expect nothing less from her.

Savory Palmiers,  from Ina Garten

1 package puff pastry, defrosted

1/4 cup prepared pesto, store bought or homemade (I used Lotsa Pasta pesto)

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped sundried tomatoes in oil, drained

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (to toast them, place in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toss occasionally and watch closely so they don’t burn)

Lightly flour a board (or very clean counter top) and carefully unfold one sheet of puff pastry. Roll the pastry lightly with a rolling pin  until it’s 9 1/2 by 11 1/2-inches (I actually measured using a ruler, you can do this, or estimate).

Make sure all of your filling ingredients are nearby.

Spread the sheet of puff pastry with half the pesto, then sprinkle with half the goat cheese, half the sundried tomatoes, and half the pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Working from the short ends, fold each end halfway to the center.

Then fold each side again towards the center until the folded edges almost touch.

Fold one side over the other and press lightly. (Not pictured)

Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the entire instructions for the second sheet of puff pastry using the remaining ingredients. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut the prepared rolls of puff pastry in 1/4 inch thick slices and place them face up 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 14 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. They were also good at room temperature several hours after the party started.

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a year in posts

Dear readers, today marks the one-year anniversary of thyme and reason. What started as an experiment with bad pictures and 4 loyal readers (a.k.a, the members of my immediate family, one of whom was probably not too loyal, ahem, Michael…) has turned into a blog with at least four times the original number of loyal readers and slightly better pictures.

The year included trips to Vancouver (where  I took the above picture), eastern Kentucky, Iowa, and Chicago, a new relationship (with the cheese-grater extraordinaire), and the gift of a new food processor. It included some very popular posts, some tweets from my favorite cookbook author (Mollie Katzen), at least one kitchen disaster, and some cries for more meat from my sister.

Instead of posting any new recipes, I’m going to link to some of the more popular recipes in the last year.

Here are the most popular posts:

small batch of chocolate chip cookies

curried lentil soup with potatoes

black bean burgers

thai vegetable curry

chicken “riggies”

and the least popular:


chicken curry

and my personal favorites:

split pea soup

late summer plum cake

southwest potatoes

and one kitchen disaster (at least the one that i  made public…)


It has been a fun experiment – one I will continue for at least a little while longer. Thanks for checking in and sticking with me through this project.


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peanut stew with mushrooms and tofu

I have a new-found love for peanut butter and have been craving it a lot this winter. I usually eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, but recently, I’ve made peanut butter fudge brownies, eyed a recipe for peanut curry soup, and made this stew.

I wasn’t sure how this stew would turn out, especially since I ran out of peanut butter while making this and used about half as much as the recipe called for. It was great – though I was hoping for a stronger peanutty taste which might have been achieved had I planned better.

Mushroom, Peanut, Tofu Stew with Greens, from Moosewood Cooking for Health

Serves at least 6, reheats well for leftovers

1 T. vegetable oil

2 c. chopped onions (about 1 large)

1 1/2 c. chopped celery

1 t. salt

4 c. sliced mushrooms (cremini or white)

2 T. grated, peeled ginger root

1 28-can diced tomatoes

3 c. water

1 cake of firm tofu, diced (12 – 16 oz.)

3 c. chopped collards or kale

1/2 c. peanut butter

1/4 to 1/2 c. chopped cilantro

In a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and salt. Cover and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and ginger. Cover again and cook for 10 minutes, stir every so often.

Add the tomatoes, water, and tofu. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the greens, cover, and cook, stirring now and then, until the greens are tender, about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, add the peanut butter to a small bowl. Add about 2 cups of hot broth to the bowl with the peanut butter and stir until smooth. When the greens are tender, stir the peanut butter and cilantro into the soup. Add more salt to taste if needed.


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simple stove-top mac and cheese

So the Super Bowl is this weekend. I don’t care much for football, but I do care for an excuse to eat salty, fatty, football food. I will be making a couple such dishes  and thinking about my brother, who LOVES the Packers. This macaroni and cheese isn’t even close to being a dish worthy of the Super Bowl, but it is simplified comfort food that tastes great. Maybe one of these days I’ll get my act together and start posting special-event-worthy cooking adventures PRIOR to the celebration in question rather than after. Oh well. Watch out for the things I made for Super Bowl sometime next month… maybe sooner.

When I was sick last fall and nothing really sounded good to eat – I was craving macaroni and cheese. My favorite macaroni and cheese dishes, which I have outlined here before, are baked dishes of melty, rich cheese. They also tend to require a lot of grating, boiling, mixing, and baking. After on-line searching, I found this recipe for a simple stove-top macaroni and cheese. It didn’t even require a trip to the grocery store. I had cheese, noodles, milk, nutmeg, and dry mustard on hand already.

This method involves cooking the dry noodles slowly in simmering milk with some spices. The milk thickens and the spices create a rich, concentrated flavor, even before adding the cheese. I imagine you could add significantly less cheese to the recipe and it would still turn out well.

One thing to note – the recipe calls for a full teaspoon of salt. This was way too salty the first time I’ve made it. I’ve since made it two more times using about half as much salt and it has been much better.

Here’s my adaptation for this life-changing recipe for simple mac and cheese, from “White on Rice Couple“:

serves 3 to 4 (or two if you are really hungry and don’t care about portion size)

2 c. whole wheat noodles, like penne, macaroni, or shells

2 c. low fat milk – may need a bit more at the end of cooking

1 or 2 t. butter (optional)

1/2 t. mustard powder

1/2 to 3/4 t. salt (start with less, then add more later if needed)

a dash of nutmeg

a dash of cayenne (optional)

1 c. grated cheese in any combination (most recently, I used half Gruyere and half Cheddar, I’ve also used all Cheddar and a little bit of blue cheese – use whatever you have on hand or what you like, but make sure to use a good melting cheese – like fontina, Gruyere, cheddar, or mozzarella in larger quantities than a harder cheese, like Parmesan or Asiago),

Rinse the raw pasta under cold water quickly and let drain.

In a medium saucepan, combine the noodles, milk, salt, butter and cayenne (if using), mustard powder, and nutmeg

Slowly bring the milk and pasta mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Stir frequently as you let the pasta come to a simmer. Keep a close eye on the pasta mixture because the milk can bubble over quickly. Also, make sure you stir pretty regularly so the pasta doesn’t clump together.

Once the pasta and milk starts to simmer, turn the heat down to low. Slowly cook the macaroni in the milk and keep stirring every so often so the noodles absorb the milk. You don’t want to have undercooked pasta and no more milk because it evaporated too quickly.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the milk has fully absorbed and the noodles are cooked. If the noodles aren’t cooked but there is no more milk, add a little more milk and cook for at least 5 more minutes.

When the noodles are done and the milk has evaporated, stir in the cheese. Turn off the heat and cover for five minutes allowing all the flavors to meld, and the pasta to absorb any milk that is left.

Taste again and make sure it is salty enough. Add some pepper and enjoy!

Serve immediately.

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I’ve written before how much I prefer savory breakfasts with eggs to sweet ones, like pastries and pancakes. I tend to just get hungry again a couple hours after eating pancakes instead of protein-packed eggs.

This recipe, while a baked good, first appealed to me because it is full of good protein, blueberries, and whole grains. It sounded like a filling, tasty breakfast bread. And it is.

I did have some trouble with the printed baking time. Usually I have to cut down on suggested baking times because my oven runs hotter than posted temperatures. However I had to bake this bread about twice as long as the recipe calls for. I’ll put in the original suggested cook time, but be sure to test the bread with a toothpick and plan to cook it a little longer than planned.

“Blueberry and Almond Quick Bread” from Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

Serves 8

1/4 c. vegetable or olive oil

1/4 c. packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/4 t. almond extract

1 c. mashed ripe banana or 1 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. coarsely ground rolled oats

1/4 c. ground flaxseeds

1 t. baking powder

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. coarsely ground almonds

1 c. fresh or frozen blueberries (or 1/2 c. dried)

Preheat the oven to 365 degrees. Oil an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a bowl, by hand, whisk the oil and brown sugar until well blended. Add 1 egg and beat well. Beat in the second egg and add almond extract. Stir in mashed banana or applesauce.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, oats, and ground flaxseeds. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well.

Add the dry ingredients to the egg and oil mixture. Stir until combined. Stir in the almonds and blueberries. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes (may take longer), or until a toothpick or knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before serving.

This will keep for a couple of days at room temperature and longer in the refrigerator.


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