Archive for February, 2011

The Brussels Sprout

Brussels Sprouts… they’ve gotten a bad rap, eh?  Images of small children running screaming from the dinner table… Opie Taylor saying “Ahhh, gee” to Aunt Bea when he finds out what’s for dinner.  Brussels sprouts.  What’s the deal?  I don’t know.  I’ve never in my whole life eaten a brussels sprout.  Not until last week that is.

We spent the weekend in Minneapolis visiting Jeff’s family.  His sister and brother-in-law treated us to a homemade Valentines Day dinner, complete with brussels sprouts.  I thought they were pretty good!  And so cute too.  It’s like a little mini cabbage, bite size!  I had watched Julie make them and decided I should give it a try at home.  It didn’t seem too hard.

Here’s what I did:

  • 6-8 brussels sprouts, rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1-2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  1. Cut the ends off the brussels sprouts and cut in half length wise.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Once oil is hot, place sprout halves face down.  Add garlic.
  3. Let the sprouts cook for several minutes, until bottoms are browned.  Remove from heat and toss in Balsamic vinegar.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. I may have done well to get the exact recipe/ instructions from Julie because mine didn’t turn out exactly like hers.  There may be a couple reasons for this.  One, I don’t think she used olive oil (maybe grape seed oil?)Two, I may have had my heat up too high.
  2. Let the sprouts sit for a few minutes after cooking.  I had tried one right out of the pan and it was a bit too crunchy (disappointing), but after sitting for a few minutes while we ate our meal, they softened up a bit.
  3. Salt was a good addition.

The Result

I’m going to give this one another try.  I didn’t totally bomb it and they turned out ok in the end.  I may need a few tips from Julie next time.  AND since I still have half a package of brussels sprouts left over, who knows, you may be getting another sprout recipe next week!  Stay tuned for more from this under appreciated veggie!

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Crunchy Green Beans

For this week’s vegetable, I decided to tackle green beans.  Growing up I remember eating lots of canned green beans (ehhh) both at home and at the school cafeteria.  We also had a garden and I remember fresh green beans too, but not as much as the canned kind.  Most recently, my green bean experience has been of the frozen variety.  I would make these a lot for Ava when she first started eating solids.  I’d steam them up and then puree them.  Not much skill involved with that.  She seemed to like them fine that way, but has been too excited about them now that they aren’t pureed.  (I can’t say I’m too excited about them either.)

I found my solution on allrecipes.com this week.  I liked this recipe because I had everything on hand already and I had some celery that needed using up before it totally went off the deep end into un-editable status.  Take a look:

I should have taken a picture of my green beans, they were much prettier than these.

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups diced celery
  • 1 1/3 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  1. Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until crisp-tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute celery and mushrooms in oil until tender. Combine cornstarch, cold water and soy sauce until smooth; stir into celery mixture. Stir in bouillon. bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Drain beans and add to the celery mixture. Stir in almonds.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. First off, I used fresh green beans.  I didn’t boil my beans, I decided to steam them, mainly to retain most of their nutritional properties.  Steaming is tricky business.  I, unfortunately, steamed mine for too long so they weren’t exactly the “crunchy” beans the title of the recipe was going for. Boo.
  2. Instead of using beef bullion cubes, I used beef stock.  I substituted 1/2 cup broth and 1/2 cup water.
  3. I was a bit nervous about making what seemed like a gravy for my beans, but it turned out great!  Not gravy like at all.

The Result

Aside from my steaming abilities, these beans turned out great!  They seemed so fancy!  Wow.  And they tasted delicious too, which is what we are aiming for here anyway.  I loved the mushrooms and the crunchiness of the nuts and celery.  It make it exciting to eat them.  I will say they were a bit labor intensive, which is a negative, but I will be making these again soon!

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Acorn Squash with Apples

This week I decided to tackle a squash… an acorn squash to be exact.  OK people, it’s no secret that the only reason I’m tackling vegetables is because I know they are good for me.  If they were already delicious without any help, I wouldn’t be on this quest to spice them up a bit.  Such is the case with squash.  I just can’t get excited about squash.  Even the name… squash… it doesn’t help the situation much in my mind.  Since the main reason I’m attempting squash this week is for the nutritional value, I thought I’d look up a few facts about the acorn squash to get myself pumped up.  Here’s what I found out:

According to eHow.com (which I’m not claiming has any authority on squash what-so-ever) the acorn squash “is a delicious vegetable that is frequently incorporated into meals, especially at dinner.” Perfect.  Exactly what I’m looking for.  “The acorn squash is a winter squash…” Interesting, considering I had to go to two stores to find them.  I had figured the acorn squash would be easily accessed… unless there was a run on acorn squash this week and I didn’t know about it…  “One cup of acorn squash (cut into cubes, approximately 205 grams) contains 115 calories. None of those calories come from fat, as acorn squash is a fat-free food.” Bonus!  Fat-free!  We can all use a little help reducing fat whenever possible.  “Squash contains only trace amounts of sugar and 9 grams of dietary fiber.  Acorn squash contains 18% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A, 37% of vitamin C, 9% of calcium and 11% of iron.” It said more than that, but I’m realizing this may be getting boring, so we’ll move on.  Packed full of nutrients, that’s all we need to know.

I found a interesting sounding recipe involving acorn squash.  It got rave reviews from everyone on allrecipes.com.  Click HERE to see the online recipe.

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 apples, cored and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. To easily peel the acorn squash without losing a lot of vegetable, gently drop the squash in a large pot of boiling water, and boil for 15 minutes. Pour off the boiling water and fill with cold water and let sit 5 minutes to cool. When cool enough to handle, use a knife to slice off the peel on the ridges and use a teaspoon to dig out the peel in the valleys. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds and stem. Then slice the halves into sections and finally cut into 1 inch chunks.
  2. Place the squash chunks into a baking dish along with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter.  Sprinkle the brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nuts over the top. Add 1/4 cup water to the dish.
  3. Bake at 350 degree for 55 min.

***The original recipe called for microwaving the squash and apples.  I’m not a fan of microwave cooked food, but it would be faster.  Here are the instructions for that:

  1. Place the squash chunks into a large microwave-safe bowl along with the apples. Dot with pieces of butter. Sprinkle the brown sugar, walnuts, salt and cinnamon over the top. Cover with plastic wrap, and poke a few holes in it for ventilation.
  2. Cook in the microwave for 7 1/2 minutes on full power. Remove, uncover, and stir. Return to the microwave, and cook for another 7 1/2 minutes on full power, until tender. Serve hot.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. The instructions for easily peeling the squash really do work!  I actually used a spoon to peel the whole thing once it was done boiling.  This may be the key to squash peeling I was looking for a couple weeks ago!
  2. I cubed my apples instead of slicing… I’m not sure if that made a difference.
  3. I was in a hurry when I made this recipe so my squash only baked for about 40 minutes.  Jeff said that it probably should have baked longer.  Just an FYI.
  4. Lots of people suggested adding nutmeg.  Next time, I will do that, as well as adding more cinnamon and nuts.

The Result

The Acorn Squash with Apples got mixed reviews at our dinner table.  Upon removing them from the oven, they smelled delicious.  Ava LOVED them!  Wow!  The kid had three helpings.  It was amazing.  AND I had mostly served her squash, not apples.  I have to admit I was shocked.  Jeff thought they were good too, but he’s not the one we’re trying to win over here.  When I tasted the final product, I was slightly disappointed.  I think I was hoping they would have turned out sweeter without me having to add a lot more sugar.  No such luck.  It was still squash.  More nuts may have helped, more brown sugar would have REALLY helped, but that may defeat the purpose of eating squash.

All in all, I’ll probably try this again, it wasn’t a complete fail and perhaps my taste buds just have to get used to squash anyway.

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Roasted Vegetables

I have to admit that this vegetable challenge is a bit intimidating for me.  I realized this week that my vegetable knowledge is

These are my ACTUAL veggies! Aren't they pretty?!? No internet pic this time!

quite minimal.  I know how to tell when meat is done, when a casserole is finished cooking or when pasta is ready to be drained, but vegetables are a whole new ball game for me.  If you under cook them, not good.  If you over cook them, not good!  They are so finicky!

So for my first voyage into the world of vegetables, I decided to try roasting them.  Lots of people had told me roasted vegetables were quite delicious and easy so I wanted to give it a try myself.  Knowing nothing about the art of roasting vegetables, I did quite a few Google searches.  As you can imagine, all of them said something different.  Below are a few of the best (meaning: least complicated) links that I found:

OVEN ROASTED VEGGIES – cooks.com

HOW TO ROAST VEGETABLES – ehow.com

HOW TO ROAST VEGGIES – 1greengeneration.com

I didn’t follow any of these recipes exactly, for a couple reasons.  1.) I was baking meatloaf at the same time I would be roasting so my oven temp was dicatated by the meatloaf.  2.) I had already bought the veggies that I wanted to have with the meal so that played into my stategy as well.

Here’s my refined recipe for Roasting Vegetables

  • 5-6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 5-7 mushrooms, medium sized; cut in quarters
  • 4 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • basil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine the chopped potatoes and half the olive oil and 2 garlic cloves, minced.  All salt, pepper and basil.  Toss to coat evenly.  Transfer potatoes to a baking sheet (I used a broiler pan).
  3. Repeat with the mushrooms and asparagus, but reserve them in the bowl
  4. Place potatoes in the oven for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Add remaining vegetables to pan.  Continue roasting for another 20 minutes, until aparagus and potatoes are tender.

Tips I Learned Along The Way

  1. Somewhere along the way, I had read that different vegetables cook at different speeds.  This was a very helpful piece of information!  After I thought about it, of course potatoes would take longer than mushrooms!  But I’m glad someone had the forethought to point that out to me!  That was a VERY strategic piece of information for me to know!  So when you go about roasting, be sure to think through what you are roasting.  One article noted that one could toss everything together and then remove different veggies along the way as they came to completion, but that sounded too complicated for me.
  2. Another thing I learned is that you can basically roast ANYTHING!  I was surprised to see radishes and carrots in lots of recipes… I wouldn’t have thought to roast such things, but apparently you can!
  3. It seems as though the temps for roasting vary between 350 to 450 degrees.  I’m glad mine worked out ok roasting along side my meat loaf.

The Result

When Jeff came home and saw the roasted veggies as they came out of the oven, I’m pretty sure he fell in love with me all over again at that very moment!  I will say, I was pretty impressed myself.  They were delicious!! I couldn’t believe they turned out so well, and on my first attempt too.  I was a bit skeptical that the leftovers wouldn’t be that good, but I was wrong; reheated roasted vegetables are pretty delicious as well.  I would call this first attempt a major success!

 

 

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