Tuesday, December 31, 2013

happy new year!

2014 has already arrived in some parts of the world, and will be here at my home on the West Coast very soon. It's amazing for me to look back and think about all of the things that happened in 2013. Unfortunately, keeping up with my posts here was not one of them. Much cooking happened, but the time I would have spent blogging about said cooking was mostly usurped by life. Mainly, a recently-turned-one-year-old life named Avery (the pic of him above was taken this morning). I can't think of a better reason to spend less time in front of the computer. 

That said, Christmas brought with it some inspiration that will hopefully be lasting and mean I will make the effort to carve out some time for Cole's Kitch again. One source of inspiration is the sparkling new camera from hubby (thank you thank you thank you!) that will hopefully manifest as improved pics of my culinary adventures. Others come in the forms of cookbooks, magazine subscriptions, and new fun kitchen tools, like the one pictured below that was used for the first time at breakfast this morning (in case it's unclear, that bunny on the right is a hard boiled egg!).

The kiddies are going to love these Japanese egg molds.

Yes, kiddies.

As in plural.

Next year at this time, we'll be a family of four!

Wishing a very happy new year to you and yours!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

easy meat lasagna

As I was making lasagna last week, I thought... nearly-8-month-old Avery could eat some of this. I haven't introduced wheat yet and I like to put eggs in my lasagna (which, from what I've read, are a no-no until after the first year), so I decided to take some of the pre-lasagna components and blend them into a tasty dinner for the little one. Here's what I did:

Easy Meat Lasagna (+ baby's first beef!)
Serves 8-10

olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
fresh or dried oregano
1.5 pounds lean ground beef
16 oz. whole milk ricotta
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. white pepper
3 c. fresh mozzarella, grated
1/3 c. parmesan, grated
3 c. marinara sauce
12 no-cook lasagna noodles
fresh basil, chopped, to top

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook until softened, a few minutes. Add oregano (we have an oregano plant that is out of control, so I went a little crazy here and used the leaves from 4 dried sprigs - probably about 2 Tbsp.). Stir. Add beef, breaking up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.

If you're cooking for baby: Put a couple spoonfuls of the ricotta into a food processor. Once the meat is totally cooked, add a couple spoonfuls of the meat and onion mixture to the processor bowl. Add a spoonful or two of marinara and process until desired consistency. This created Avery's first encounter with beef. He devoured it.

Mix the remaining ricotta (or all of the ricotta, if you're only cooking for adults) with eggs, white pepper, and half of the parmesan together in a bowl.

Spread a couple spoonfuls of marinara in the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish. Arrange a single layer of noodles. Top with more sauce, beef mixture, ricotta mixture, and a sprinkling of mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles and repeat. On your last set of noodles, top with the remaining marinara and cheese. Sprinkle remaining parmesan and basil on top.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 10-15 minutes.

The piece pictured at the top of this post was topped with the first ripe tomato from our garden!

Friday, August 16, 2013

squash, kale, and black bean baked burritos

Baby Avery's second meal with kale coincided with his first encounter with butternut squash. On this night, the grown ups enjoyed roasted butternut squash, kale, and black bean baked burritos, while Avery's meal consisted of pureed squash, kale, and black beans (pictured above). All were satisfied!

Squash, Kale, and Black Bean Baked Burritos
Serves 4 plus baby

olive oil
1 medium butternut squash
1 big bunch curly kale, de-stemmed and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. monterey jack cheese, grated
4 whole wheat tortillas
1 c. of your favorite salsa

Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Brush with olive oil and place cut-side down in glass baking dish. Roast in 400-degree oven until soft, about 60 minutes.

Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened and beginning to color. Add kale. Cover and allow to steam for about 2 minutes, until bright green and starting to cook down. Uncover and add cumin and oregano, stirring well to coat.

For the baby: Scoop a couple spoonfuls of the roasted butternut squash and put into the bowl of a food processor. Add a scoop of the kale mixture and a spoonful or two of black beans. Process to desired consistency, adding a bit of water if needed.

For the grown ups: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Divide remaining butternut squash, kale, and black beans among the 4 tortillas. Top with cheese (reserving about 1/4 cup) and roll into 4 burritos. Place burritos in glass baking dish. Spoon salsa over the top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, 10-15 minutes.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

kale! (and cannellini)

My love of kale is well-documented. Given that, it's perhaps strange that I've waited this long to introduce the cruciferous green to the little one. That was remedied last night.

I had been thinking earlier in the week about combining kale with garbanzo beans for Avery. But then an even better bean entered my head: cannellini. Specifically, I thought of kale and cannellini crostini - a lovely appetizer with kale that is one of my favorite recipes. On Monday night, the grown ups in the house enjoyed these for dinner along side a big salad. Last night, Avery tried the pureed version of the topping from his carseat perch in the busy french bistro where Randy and I dined. He devoured it.

The kale and cannellini crostini recipe can be found here. Knowing that I was going to sequester some of the topping for Avery, I omitted the red pepper flakes entirely and seasoned the assembled crostini with salt and pepper (rather than the topping) to avoid spicing or salting up Avery's meal. I opted for low sodium vegetable stock. No pecorino for the little one, either.

Puree the topping (adding a little more stock if needed for desired consistency) and viola! Who knew that a tasty appetizer could double as baby-meal?!?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

a new chapter: cooking for baby (and us)

I can hardly believe that Avery is 6 months old already. It seems to have happened in the blink of an eye, and yet we've been through so much together since he arrived. One of the latest adventures in babydom has been the introduction of solid food. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time, excited to see his reaction at each new taste.

It has been a very fun adventure so far. I've been making the food (hubby gifted a fun contraption that both steams and purees the food; we've also been mashing what can be mashed and finding lots of great uses for the immersion blender on things that have been stewed on the stovetop or roasted in the oven). Over the past few weeks, Avery has enjoyed a range of veggies and fruits: yams, peas, carrots, green beans, avocado, banana, apples, pears, watermelon and mango. More recently, we've started combining single foods into medleys and also incorporated yogurt (pictured above!) and oatmeal.

Avery is a great eater. The avocado and green beans (individually) that didn't go so well the first time around turned out to be more a function of his mood than his taste, with subsequent trials being successful endeavors. We've been warned not to get too excited about Avery's accepting palate (some say that infants this age mostly eat everything and that it's when they get a little older that it becomes challenging), but I am hopeful that the varied diet I ate while pregnant and now eat while breastfeeding plus an early emphasis for Avery on fresh, organic fruits, veggies, and whole grains (plus the necessary dairy and, soon, meats) will help Avery keep his already emerging love of real food through childhood and beyond.

It occurred to me that a fun way to resurrect this blog (which has been dormant since March...my longest break from it since inception) would be through a slight change in focus: cooking for baby and us. The idea is that variations of the main dish will be able to feed the whole family (6-month-old inclusive).

I'm excited for the day that Avery will be able to routinely eat what we eat. In the meantime, I'll be cooking for us with him in mind, making meals and using components for baby. These are the recipes I'll share with you here. Fret not if you aren't feeding a baby currently, I'll make sure the main dishes are tasty enough to stand on their own. First up: peaches. Enjoy!

For us: cornmeal peach cobbler
For baby: roasted peaches

For filling:
10 ripe peaches (reserve 1-2 for baby)*
2/3 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
the juice of half a lemon
*A good-sized peach will result in about 4 ounces of food for baby.

For dough:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. fine ground cornmeal
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter, sliced
1 c. buttermilk**
**I rarely have buttermilk on hand, this case being no exception. Instead, I used a cup of milk whisked together with the juice of half a lemon, a trick learned from hubby.

Note: I don't mind my peaches with skin on them, but baby does, so I peeled the peaches for baby but not the ones for the cobbler. If the skin bothers you, go ahead and peel them all.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice all peaches except the 1 or 2 for baby and put into a large baking dish (I used an 11x13 glass dish). Meanwhile, heat a pot of water to boiling on the stovetop. Cut through the skin of the peaches for baby, making an 'x' on one end. Put in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, allow to cool enough to be handled, and peel. Slice the peeled peaches and place in a small baking dish. Add a dash of cinnamon (optional) and set aside.

To the cobbler peaches in the large baking dish, add brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, a couple dashes cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Mix well.

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients for the cobbler dough. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in milk. Spoon the dough onto the prepared cobbler peaches in the large baking dish (none for baby!).

Place both the large and small baking dishes in the hot oven. Remove the small baking dish after 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor or using an immersion blender (for older babies, you may even be able to mash directly without the need for electronics). The cobbler will cook for another 5-10 minutes, until golden on top.

We enjoyed our cobbler with friends and family and a big scoop of Milwaukee frozen custard. Baby enjoyed his roasted peaches with a big spoonful of organic whole milk yogurt.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

happy birthday, Randy!

Just a quick post today to wish my love the happiest of birthdays today and share some of the recipes we've enjoyed in the past week. A surprise evening with friends last Saturday included the following tasty treats:
The empanadas take some work, but I feel like you can taste the hands-on goodness in the final product. The steak was incredible (didn't even need the chimichurri sauce, as Paul said, though it did provide some good tanginess and nice bright color). The cheesecake was also fantastic - the trick comes with the caramelization of the sugar and creates amazingly creamy, rich chocolate wonderfulness. It will definitely be my go-to cheesecake going forward.

Ok, off to make some more treats now: Saturday was pre-birthday celebration. Today's the real deal.

Happy birthday, my love!

(And if you're interested in where baby hangs out while I cook, scroll all the way down.)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

birthday meringues

Made by my lovely husband to celebrate the day today (just one part of the amazing smelling feast he's currently pulling together in the kitchen). I don't think I'm allowed to see the recipe (they are his special treat), but I think you can find some related tips here

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

mmm... hamburgers!

I could call my kitchen long abandoned, except that wouldn't be quite right. My blog, on the other hand, has been downright ignored over the past few months; it's crazy to think pumpkin seeds were "in season" the last time I wrote here. So much has happened since then. And there has been cooking - in a number of kitchens... one in Milwaukee, where our anticipated short Christmas trip turned into a 6-week adventure after the early (and amazing) arrival of our son... two kitchens in the city of San Francisco - one in a temporary place, and the current one that I think (hope) is going to stick a bit longer than the last few have.

Given the new baby, new house, and new city (everything old is new again, right?), I thought it only fitting that my first post from the new kitch be something new, something I haven't made previously. I don't generally cook a lot of meat. Perhaps the stint in the midwest inspired me. On the menu in this post: burgers. The first time I've ever made burgers. They were really good burgers. So good, in fact, that I think Randy has convinced me to make them again this week for our out of town visitors. Here's what I did:

Adapted from this Food Network recipe
Makes 4

8 slices good quality bacon
16 oz. grass fed ground beef
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried onion
2 tsp. worcestershire powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 hamburger buns, split
4 slices sharp cheddar
4 slices tomatoes
romain lettuce leaves
BBQ sauce

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp, turning halfway through cooking. Remove from pan to a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve your pan of bacon fat; this is where you're going to cook your burgers.

Meanwhile, spread ground beef out on a piece of parchment paper. Season generously with salt, pepper, and other spices. Divide into 4 portions. Using hands, form each into a ball-shape by gently tossing from one hand to the other. Form each portion into a patty about 3 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.

While your bacon pan is still hot (or if it has cooled, heat it over med-low for five minutes), raise heat to high and add patties and cook, turning once, until well-browned, about two minutes per side. Transfer patties to a foil-lined baking sheet and put in the preheated oven. 11 minutes yielded perfectly medium burgers for me (original recipe says 8-9 minutes for medium rare, 10-11 for medium, and 13-15 for well done). For the last 5 minutes of cooking, I topped the burgers with cheese and also toasted the buns.

Spread toasted buns with mayo and BBQ sauce. Top with cheesy burger, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Enjoy your tasty burger.

You'll note that no burger pic accompanied this post. I actually wasn't anticipating the burgers would be good enough to blog about, so didn't take any pics. Randy snapped a couple, but none that I want to post.* Not to fret: I won't let you go with no photos at all. Because it's impossible (for me at least) to write my first post-baby cole's kitch post and not include a pic of said baby (who really is the cutest little guy on the planet), I'll leave you with this:
*Update: I found a half decent one, so now you get a picture of the burger and one of the baby!

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