Open Up Your Mouth and Feed It

African Sweet Potato Stew w/ Red Beans. Yum.

One of the things we treasure in our house is the crock pot. It is as versatile a piece of cooking machinery as you could ever hope for. When we first got it, we made a lot of very exquisite dishes that tasted out of this world, but took a long time. The first thing we made when we got the crock pot was Stephanie’s Coq Au Vin, which turned out delicious to the tenth power, but also required a LOT of time, including prep the night before and a good amount of work the next day. Not exactly what we intended, given our limited time, but the meal took us right back to France! It was THAT good! While we still do the long prep meals occasionally, the crock pot really shines for us when we need to throw together a quick meal that doesn’t take a long time to make, but tastes like it does take a long time to make. I love my italics. Simple stuff, you know? For example, Steph threw a pork tenderloin and a bottle of TJ’s BBQ sauce in the cooker one day. Literally 1 minute of work – and the pulled pork tasted awesome!

Anyway, last night we trotted out this delight, called African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans. This recipe comes from the Cooking Light cookbook, aptly titled, “Cooking Light Slow Cooker.” The combination of sweet potato, spices and peanut butter made this dish really stand out for me. It’s one of a few Cooking Light recipes that actually taste quite rich. It’s easy to make and really really good. Have at it:

  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1.5 cups chopped onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups peeled sweet potatos, chopped into one inch cubes
  • 1.5 cups cooked red beans
  • 1.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 can diced tomato (drained)
  • 1 4.5 ounce can diced green chiles, drained
  • 3 tb creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tb chopped dry roast peanuts
  • lime wedges

1. Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add onion and garlic, cook 5 mins

2. Place onion mixture, sweet potato and next 10 ingredients in the crock pot, cover, cook low for 8 hours

3. Spoon 1 cup of the finished broth into a bowl, add the peanut butter, whisk, add back into crock pot, stir.

4. Ladle into individual bowls, add a lime wedge and sprinkle peanuts.

5. Enjoy.

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Awesome Awesome Cranberry Sauce

Don’t buy the canned shit. Make your own! Try this really tasty cranberry sauce recipe for the holidays (Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, whatever). You will be glad you did. Takes literally 10 minutes to assemble and maybe 15-20 to sit in the pot. The food goes in the pot, not you.

  • 4 Naval Oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped apple
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a pot. Boil. Reduce and simmer for 10-15 mins or until cranberries start to pop. That’s it. You will love it! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Brot Brot Boogie

The Real Deal
The Real Deal

In Berlin, Massachusetts, about 30 miles due west of Boston, there’s a little farm nestled in between innocuous residential streets. We discovered Balance Rock Farm when they started setting up shop at the Maynard Farmers Market about five years ago and this past summer, in our initiative to increase eating more locally and more responsibly, we purchased nearly all of our meat, eggs, butter and cheese there. It was a good choice! Because everything they produce tastes fresher than what we buy in the supermarket.

Unfortunately, during the winter months, their offerings are slightly more lean and we have to drive over to Berlin to grab stuff from them instead of just walking down to the farmers market. Sometime in December, I’ll get the call from them that our chickens are ready. Back in September, I signed up to take six of them. Not live chickens – I’m not really ready for that – but six freshly killed chickens that we’ll freeze and will take us through the winter. So I am looking for good whole chicken recipes if you’ve got ’em. Send it on over!

In the meantime, I’m still trying to figure out and get on board with something that will turn this company (and others like it) on its head the same way Google turned search on its head…….someone’s going to do it. Just a matter of when.

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How Calming And Balming The Effect Of The Air

While sometimes it is hard to believe that it is already September 7, part of me isn’t surprised, given we pretty much missed a month a summer this year due to June’s rainfall, where it rained 21 out of 30 days.  So summer felt shorter. As we head out of summer vegetable season and into my favorite season of all, fall, I look forward to the various squashes, pumpkins and other stuff that the fall harvest has to offer. I think Steph and I have been pretty pleased with our ratio of local eating this summer. Tonight, in fact, we’ll do a pizza that has local tomatoes, local mozzerella and my own basil. Yesterday Steph spent many hours turning a trillion local tomatoes into frozen packets of sauce that we’ll use long after tomato season is over. This was the start:

Bounty!
Bounty!

Last week we took the kids blueberry picking for the first time. They loved it. It was cute to see how INTO it they were, too. As all you parents know well, finding activities to keep little kids busy is partly the core of what we do every day. You parents on the west coast have it way easier than us because you can take them outside year round! Damn you! Anyway, picking blueberries isn’t just another activity in a line of activities for me. It’s a way to show our kids where food comes from. I think, possibly, too many of us lose sight of that when the only place food is seen is when it is neatly arranged on a supermarket shelf. I will sometimes play a game with the boys and ask them where a lot of different foods come from (the ground, trees, etc) and they love to play along. They also really enjoy going over to my tomato plants and determining which ones are red enough to pick. They also point out every single time that the bunny ate my eggplant. Damn bunny!

Anyway, I hope our subtle games and reminders lead to a lifetime of appreciation of food for them. Not just appreciation of the taste, but appreciation and understanding of the source and the work it takes to make it from the ground to the plate. So far, I think we’re off to a good start.

One of the funny things about blueberry picking is that you always end up with a mountain of them. They end up in our cereal, in our muffins (Steph makes very good ones!) and pretty much whatever else we can put them into. I remembered back to a trip I took up to Camden, ME about 12 years ago. We went out to lunch and I had blueberry soup as an appetizer and always wanted to try to make it. So last week I gave it a shot as an app before dinner one night. The result was quite yummy and Steph and I both agreed it was probably better off as a brunch option, but still, quite good. Picture and recipe are below.

Blueberry Soup
Blueberry Soup

Recipe, verbatim from the Epicurious website:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 orange (or 1/4 cup store-bought orange juice)
  • 1 cup fruity white wine (or white grape juice)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (or frozen ones, thawed, with their juice)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt

1. In a deep saucepan, bring the sugar, orange juice, wine or grape juice, and 1 cup water to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring.

2. Add the berries and cook 1 minute more.

3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

4. Purée the mixture, strain it through a fine sieve, and chill. Pour it into bowls and swirl in the yogurt just before serving.

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Too Much Pork For Just One Fork

Pork. Food of Champions.
Pork. Food of Champions.

Over the weekend I ventured into the magical land of pork tenderloin again, a place where there are always rainbows, sunshine, peace, quiet and nice cold beer. I usually dress up the pork with an Asian wet rub/marinade, but I thought I’d change it up this time and go dry rub. So I referred to our house bible, the Cook’s Illustrated 1,021 page “New Best Recipes” and went with the Basic Spice Rub:

  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder (reduced down to 1/4 tablespoon for my wimpy mouth)
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 Teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 Teaspoons of brown sugar (be generous with it)

So I got the skin off the terderloin (ick) and soaked that baby overnight in water with 1/4 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar, then patted it dry and applied the dry rub and put it back in the fridge for a couple of hours. During the kids nap on Sunday, I decided the pork with the dry rub wouldn’t be enough, so I got the materials I needed for a Black Bean/Mango Salsa as well (of course, per the house bible). I must tell you, the salsa made the meal. It came out awesome! If you’re doing a dry rub, any of the salsa’s in the house bible will work, but this one was spectacular!

  • 1/2 cup of cooked black beans
  • 1 medium mango, peeled, putted and cut into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1/4 of a red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/4 of a green bell pepper, diced small
  • 1/4 medium red onion, diced small
  • 6 tablespoons of pineapple juice (I subbed OJ)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • dress with salt & pepper

You just mix it all together and let it sit in the fridge for 2-4 hours before eating it. Grill the pork until it gets to 170 degrees on the thermometor. You pile that salsa on top of the pork, make yourself whatever sides you want (we had rice pilaf and roasted green beans) and you have yourself a masterpiece. Rock it.

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