Tuesday Open Thread

It’s Tuesday! And I’ve got Thanksgiving on the brain.

I plan to hit the grocery store today in order to avoid any last-minute grocery shopping. I will be contributing macaroni and cheese, as well as a turtle pumpkin pie to our multi-family feast for about 50 people.

What will you be cooking? What are your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Looking for some good recipes, or would you like to share one?

Here are some make-ahead recipes from Giada De Laurentiis, including one that sounds particularly intriguing: red pepper cheesecake.

For the record, mashed potatoes and stuffing Rock. My. World.

Chat away!


Eat, Freeze, and Cook that (BPA-free) Pumpkin!

Editor’s Note: You can find more tips for safe and healthy eating in Katy’s new ebook, Eat Non-Toxic: a manual for busy parents by Katy Farber. It was just released and is available now at Non-Toxic Kids and is 25% off this week during the launch.-Elisa

What to do with that pumpkin goo? I’ll show you, you dirty Oncler man, you…sorry, the rhyming was just so perfect. I think I’ve read the Lorax one too many times.  

I used to think that to make pumpkin bread, you had to buy pumpkin in a can. A can chalk full of BPA. Not good!

During my CSA this fall I received copious amounts of pumpkins. Finally, one day, I knew I had to deal with them.

The only difficult thing is cutting them open. Whew! I am glad I have all of my fingers. Please be careful while doing this. First, wash the pumpkin to remove dirt and debris.  Next, you want to cut your first pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds (save these for later if you want to make toasted pumpkin seeds–yum!).  

Then place the pumpkin on a baking sheet face down in a little water (so it doesn’t stick). Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Take it out and let the pumpkin cool completely. Then scoop out the soft fleshy inside.  Place inside a bowl and use a potato masher to squish and blend the pumpkin. Or you can put it in your food processor.  If the pumpkin is very watery, you can drain it in a colander first. The Pioneer Woman has a much more detailed post about this process with pictures, which is quite entertaining, too.  

Now you are ready to either use it in a recipe, or to freeze it. If you are looking for a tasty season pumpkin recipe look no further.  

Try these oh-so-tasty pumpkin chocolate chip muffins! They are fun to make with kids. We make them without the automatic mixers since I had two enthusiastic real life mixers of my own.  

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (from Babble)

4 eggs, room temperature

1 c. vegetable oil

2 c. sugar

3 c. all-purpose flour

1 140z can pure pumpkin

2 t. baking soda

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. Kosher salt

12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

Makes about 36 muffins

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and prepare a muffin tin and set aside.
  1. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine the eggs, oil and sugar. Add the pumpkin and mix well. In a separate bowl mix the flour, soda, cinnamon and salt. With the mixer on low add this to the wet ingredients until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
  1. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until they are 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched. Enjoy!

Or you can make this lovely pumpkin bread with your fresh pumpkin. The bread freezes very well and makes a sweet gift during the holidays.

You will undoubtedly have extra, so you’ll need to freeze it. You can freeze it in biodegradable BPA free plastic bags, or better yet, use glass jars. Just remember to leave a lot of room at the top for it to expand so you won’t have broken glass to deal with. Here’s a a good post from green your way about the whole process of freezing food in glass.  

Yes! You can cook without the BPA and use every bit of those fall pumpkins.  

Editor’s Note: You can find more tips for safe and healthy eating in Katy’s new ebook, Eat Non-Toxic: a manual for busy parents by Katy Farber. It was just released and is available now at Non-Toxic Kids and is 25% off this week during the launch.-Elisa


Rest of Recipes

Okay, last post we covered a few drink recipes, and some links to seafood items and a cold salad option for those down under. Also we got salad dressings, how to do bacon in the oven and roasted veggies checked off the list. The other requests were “brunch” and “egg-free” brunch.

Here’s the links and options that I found.

Brunch with no eggs is a bit like a dinner with extra fruit and baked goods. Ham and bacon work well for the meats. If you really want to think “meat free” for brunch, then this menu from vegan chef Bryant Terry has a lot of flavor, but no eggs or meat.

I also did an egg-free search on epicurious for brunch items. Lots of biscuits and scones. Some good ones there.

If eggs are okay to be on the menu, a kind of light and unique brunch recipe I came up with is for a savory waffle with smoked salmon and salad greens and creme fraiche. You can make the waffles the day ahead, then reheat them in the toaster easily.

I think the one I have not gotten to work on yet was a bread pudding recipe. I’m kicking around a way to use a sweet bread like pumpkin or banana for the bread base, then make that into a pudding. But, time is running shorter, so look for the final version of that in January for a Valentine’s brunch item.

Happy holidays everyone!


Thanksgiving ’10 Recipe Exchange

I thought it might be fun to share what we’re making for Thanksgiving this year! And offer up recipes if anyone would like them. So here’s my menu:

Turkey with pomegranate molasses/horseradish/dijon glaze
Maple-mustard sauce
Stuffing with apples and cranberries
Maple-glazed carrots
Green beans with almonds
Parmesan baked mashed potatoes

I also have recipes for easy candied yams/sweet potatoes involving brown sugar instead of marshmallows, and a vegetarian main dish (but no vegetarians are coming after all and I decided it was too similar to the stuffing) of quinoa with apples and cranberries baked in roasted squash. I have a friend who’s bringing cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and roasted root vegetables.



I’m sure we do this every year.  Tonight, I made exactly my 5th school lunch for my daughter.  Last week, all she wanted was turkey and cheese sandwiches.  Tonight, I talked her into PB&J.


So, what the heck, lets do it again.  Every one post their easiest/favorite/cleverest lunch box ideas, and save me from myself and my itchy desire to just throw money at the problem and let her buy the crappy school lunch every day.

I can’t believe how hard it is to come up with lunch ideas that can be put in a box!!


Comfort foods

It seems like a lot of us are going through various upheavals in our lives these days. You guys have been so supportive of me, here and on Facebook with all of my crazy family drama, plus the saga of the unending roach infestation. Anyhow, when I am stressed out (and not battling evil demon roaches) I like to cook and bake some of my favorite comfort foods.

I think banana bread is comforting to me not only because it is warm and sweet and yummy but because my Great Gramma used to bake it for me. I could show up at a moment’s notice and she’d have a double wrapped banana bread waiting for me. She gave me her recipe and for years I tried to replicate her results (her banana bread was always perfect) but I have never been able to get it right. There are two reasons for this. One, by the time she gave me the recipe her memory had started to fail and I think she left something out, and two, I haven’t been baking anything for 80 years and that was how long she had been baking banana breads, and frying chicken, and making mashed potatoes! Her mashed potatoes were a work of art, somehow fluffy and creamy and mine are but a pale imitation.

A short list of my go-to comfort foods are

*Macaroni and cheese (the real stuff with white sauce, not the Kraft blue box)
*Green bean casserole (my Mom makes hers in a crockpot)
*grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup
*string cheese
*peanuts in a bottle of coca cola
*sweet tea and fried YELLOW tomatoes (Even better than green ones!)
*Fried chicken
*Daddy Soup (a concoction of my Dad’s, every vegetable in the fridge plus ox tails in a beef broth)
*refried beans
*homemade tamales
*Texas beef brisket
*fresh warm flour tortillas with butter

Well… it was supposed to be a short list.

Here is my recipe for refried beans

Sort and rinse 1 pound of pinto beans. Cover beans with water, water should be 3 inches over the beans.
Boil the beans for 30 minutes and then drain and discard water.
Cover the beans with fresh water (3 inches again) and add onion, bay leaf, garlic and olive oil if making vegetarian beans, bacon or bacon grease if not making vegetarian beans. Cook at a simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft and just splitting their skins. Taste beans and add salt to taste. Drain beans and reserve some of the cooking water, then add the beans to a hot skillet coated in either oil of your choice or lard or bacon grease (yes I use lard and sometimes bacon grease) and heat the beans, mashing by hand with a potato masher until a rough puree is formed. You may need to add some of the cooking water if the beans look too dry.

When beans are done they can be tasted again to adjust flavorings and you can add tabasco, cheese, chopped jalapeños, sprinkle with epazote or leave plain.


Summer stir-fry thread

I don’t love the heat, but I love the produce of high summer. Tonight’s dinner featured a stir-fry with local onions, carrots, kohlrabi, kale, bok choi, broccoli and Iowa-made tofu. Only the soba noodles and sauce weren’t local.

Usually I make my own stir-fry sauces. One light version is an Asian marinade from Moosewood Cooks at Home. In a small saucepan heat about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup dry sherry, the same amount of tamari or soy sauce, half that amount of rice vinegar, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, and a few slices of peeled fresh ginger. Bring to boil, stir and simmer for a minute before removing from the heat. I soak the cubed tofu in this sauce, then add it to the rest of the stir fry a couple of minutes before serving. I like to toss in a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil at the end too.

I also like to make a variation on the Spicy Peanut Sauce from Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites. This can be drizzled over almost any steamed vegetables or added to a stir-fry near the end of cooking. To make it, throw the following in a blender: about 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, 1 pressed garlic clove, a little fresh chile or dash of hot sauce, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and about 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger root. Moosewood says to throw in 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes, but I leave those out. If you have extra sauce, you can keep it for a couple of weeks in the fridge (tightly sealed).

Share your own stir-fry secrets in this thread.


Favorite Lentil recipes?

Last week, DD, DS, and I walked into a store called The Nutbox (yes, exellent name for a store!).  This is my dream place – tons of fresh nuts, dried fruits, beans, YUM.  I bought fresh almond butter, fresh ground coffee, and …..two pounds of lentils – red and brown.  I love lentil soup, and order lentils when I’m out….but I don’t have any other good recipes for lentils.

So…help me  and share your favorite lentil recipes.  For just me, I could just cook them in broth and eat them, but what about for DH and DS who are more skeptical?


Recipe Cultural Exchange

Inspired by sherishu’s cultural potluck at her kid’s school I thought we could post recipes here that are inspired by our own cultural heritage. I myself have been invited to a dinner party this month that will feature classic Southern foods and we are all to bring a recipe and a story about that food to exchange at the party. I actually think this is going to be a lot of fun.

My own cultural heritage is Southern, Texan and Mexican American. I have eaten and loved food from all of these traditions. The blending and exchange that takes place in my family is fun too. Southern pork BBQ served with tortillas and southern style hush puppies alongside pozolé.


Christmas cooking, haiku contest (updated)

UPDATE: Haiku contest results are at Bleeding Heartland.

Merry Christmas, Mother Talkers! Although we don’t celebrate the holiday, I do enjoy listening to Oy to the World, the klezmer Christmas album by the Klezmonauts (samples here). Their arrangements make the songs sound joyous, which is surprisingly rare in Christmas music. It’s Jesus’ birthday, after all.

I got a kick out of this cartoon by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune: a Christmas card from the Republicans (NOel).

For elaborate Christmas cooking, read Asinus Asinum Fricat/Patric Juillet’s amazing diary about Christmas dinner in Provence.

I’m not that ambitious in the kitchen, but the kids helped me make gingerbread yesterday. I use the recipe from the Laurel’s Kitchen cookbook: 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp salt in one bowl. 1 egg, 2/3 cup blackstrap molasses, 1/3 cup honey, 1 cup buttermilk (or kefir), 1/3 cup melted butter mixed in another bowl. Combine wet and dry ingredients, pour into greased 9 x 9 pan and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes (a few minutes less in my oven).

My husband used to request noodle kugel every Christmas, but I just made that last week for Chanukah, so tonight we’re having roast chicken instead. Here’s my noodle kugel recipe, adapted from my mother’s to include more protein and less fat and sugar.

Cook 12 ounces noodles of your choice. Egg noodles are traditional, but I often use whole wheat fusilli.

In a large bowl, combine
7-9 eggs (7 if jumbo, 9 if regular “large” eggs)
1 16-oz tub cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened yogurt (I use full-fat)
1/4 cup sugar (can be increased to 1/3 cup)
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1 apple, chopped (tart varieties are good)
1 cup raisins
2 Tbsp melted butter (more if you used low-fat or non-fat yogurt)

When noodles are cooked, drain and stir into bowl with other ingredients. Pour into 9 x 13 pan, spread out evenly, cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and bake at 350 for another 20-25 minutes. Keeps well for a day or two–can be reheated or served cold.

Following the example of an Iowa Republican blogger, I launched a haiku contest at Bleeding Heartland. (A haiku consists of “three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.”)

Let’s see what Mother Talkers can come up with.

My first shot was inspired by former Republican Governor Terry Branstad’s recent campaign moves:

Ignoring record
the MasterCard governor
throws stones from glass house.

The idea for my second haiku came from a stupid robocall the NRCC began this week against Representative Leonard Boswell (don’t ask me why they’d do political calls three days before Christmas):

For lack of ideas
or a fresh campaign message,
“Nancy Pelosi.”

What’s on your mind or cooking in your kitchen?

UPDATE: Kids came in from playing out in the snow and requested popcorn. I make it on the stove and top with melted butter. Mmmm!