Tag Archives: Baked

Sea Salt Fennel Chips

Fritz and I did a ridiculous amount of shopping today.  Something about cool weather just makes me want to spend all of our money as fast as humanly possible–combine that with the fact that we redeemed some points from our credit cards that we forgot about (thanks Cait and Jeff for the reminder!) for $250, and it was a done deal. 

It was only through sheer willpower that I didn’t go adopt a fluffy orange kitten.  Next year, Lauren.  Next year.  Maybe as a graduation present?

Since we are good kids, most of the points money will go towards our new iPhones and phone plans, but I did get an amazingly cute dress from Gap for $12, some clothes for Fritz, and the making for a DIY project (a light over our kitchen table).

If that wasn’t enough, my BFF’s mom called to say she was cleaning out her DVD collection, and she just handed us tons of DVDs to look through and claim for our own–it was like Christmas in September!  Thanks, Liz!

Clearly, not much cooking happened today…but I did find a few minutes to make fennel chips.

Sea Salt Fennel Chips

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1-2 t olive oil
  • sprinkle of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Trim the stalks off the fennel (you can save or toss, I don’t care!), and cut off the ends.  Divide each bulb in half, then peel the leaves from the core.  Toss them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

When baking chips from veggies, it’s best to be conservative with the salt.  The leaves shrink as they dessicate, and the salt taste can quickly become overpowering if you were too heavy-handed.

Remember, you can always add salt, but you can’t taketh away.

Bake on the middle rack, stirring them occasionally, until dry.  You will probably have to remove the smaller leaves before the thickest ones are done, otherwise they will burn.  It should take about 20 minutes to a half an hour.

I actually couldn’t resist tasting them as I checked on them, and didn’t finish baking them because they were just so good as is.  With some moisture still in the middle of the big ones, they tasted kind of like fennel fries rather than chips.

Delicious either way.

Baked veggie chips are also great with kale or chard–see here for the recipe.

Baking the chips was a really great way to make the strong anise taste of fennel a lot more mild.  You could still taste it, but it wasn’t overwhelming.

And yesterday I went apple picking with Fritz and some really lovely ladies:

We ate apple cider donuts, apple cider, and of course, tasted about a million apples on the orchard.  I plan on making apple butter using what we picked, but since I’ve never made it before I want need to find a recipe I like that doesn’t add pounds of sugar.  Any suggestions?

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Filed under Snacks

White Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies

We’ve got a lot of zucchini around these parts.  Your standard green zucchini and the special golden variety–lots of ’em.  Since Fritz and Eber (his sister) are hangin’ around this weekend, and both are notorious chocoholics, I decided to make them a special vegetable delectable treat.

White chocolate chip zucchini brownies.

They are fudgy, chocolatey, and incredibly moist, studded with walnuts and white chocolate chips.  You also can’t see the zucchini at all.  It’s a beautiful thing.

White Chocolate Chip Zucchini Brownies (adapted from Skinny Chef) Printable Recipe Card

  • 1 egg
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 2 C shredded zucchini (leave the skin on and use the small holes of the grater)
  • 1/2 C walnuts
  • 1 C white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and oil a square brownie pan. 

Combine the egg, oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon) and mix until blended.  Fold in the zucchini, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Pour the batter into a baking pan and bake on the middle rack until cooked through, 30-45 minutes.  The brownies were still a bit fudgy when I took them out of the oven,leaving some wet crumbs on an inserted toothpick.  Not only is that okay, it’s the best.  Do it. 

I was shocked at how high the batter rose.  I was afraid they would be too much like cake, but with the zucchini, they were super moist and dense.  Total brownie delight.

Plus, I got to use up two (smallish) zucchini to make the magic happen.

By the way, I just ate one that I microwaved for 10 seconds (I stored them in the fridge), and they definitely got even better over the last few hours. 

They’d be amazing with a little ice cream.

Thought I’d also show you the gorgeous green monster I made this morning: basically the classic green monster, but with the addition of a beet.

Magenta monster?

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Filed under Desserts

Cheesy Peasy Couscous

Today was just one of those days.  One of those days when you feel a headache starting off as soon as you wake up, when class seems to take twice as long as normal, when the erratic driver in front of you on the drive home makes you want to cry rather than laugh, when you come home needing a simple and quick comfort food.

Just one of those days.

I needed the ultimate comfort food–one that contains the dairy trifecta: milk, cheese, and butter.  And because dairy does not equal “unhealthy”, you can use all three of those in some delicious moderation and eat comfort food that can still make you feel good.  ‘Cause on days like these, guilt is the last thing you need on your plate.

Cheesy Peasy Couscous (Printable Recipe Card)

  • 1 T butter
  • 1 1/2 C broth (I used one chicken bouillon cube and 1 1/2 C water)
  • 1 C frozen peas, defrosted and drained
  • 1 1/2 C dry couscous
  • 2 T whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 C skim milk
  • 1/2 C Gruyère cheese (or other cheese)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 t smoked paprika

Preheat the broiler.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the peas and the broth (or bouillon and water). 

Bring the whole mixture to a boil and take off the heat.  Pour in the dried couscous and cover with a lid or plate, and let it sit for fifteen minutes until it absorbs all the broth and gets nice and fluffy.  Place the couscous into a casserole dish and get ready for the cheesy magic.

While you are waiting, make the cheese sauce.  In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the flour, milk, and cheese until a nice, smooth, thick sauce forms–it should only take a few minutes.  Pour the sauce over the couscous mixture and mix it in.

Lookin’ good!  Add a bit of salt and shake the smoked paprika over the top.  Smooth the mixture out, and place under the broiler until a nice golden brown crust forms, about 5-10 minutes.

That’s it!  Salt and pepper your serving to taste and eat right away.  It’s kind of like a cross between mac and cheese and a casserole.  I bet this would be even better with pearled couscous, ’cause it’d be even closer in texture to standard macaroni. 

Fritz walked in as I was taking pictures of the finished product, and he was super excited to see this–he grew up with a lot more casserole-type dishes than I did, and he loves seein’ them come out of the oven.  Spoon it all into a big dish, and let that comfort just roll over ya.

It’s okay if you want to add a little extra smoked paprika.  I’m going to need to join Smoked Paprika Anonymous if things keep heading in this direction.

I also did a little work in the garden a few days ago and harvested a bunch of lavender.  Since it seemed like a waste to hang them up to dry in the closet (far away from my eyes and nose), I put a few stems each into a bunch of glass jars and let them dry as a centerpiece for the table.  They looked beautiful, smelled great, and only took a few days to dry.  Now I just have to figure out what I want to make with them–lavender eye pillows? Lavender salt?  Lavender ice cream? 

So many ideas, so little time!

Have you ever made anything with dried lavender?  Any ideas for me?

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Filed under Entrees

Fennel Gratin

Things are a bit lazy around these parts:

We had a nice long gym session this morning (I did what felt like at least 3,326,359,644 split squats–my quads have never burned so much in my life), ran a bunch of errands, and come home just in time for lunch.  I was leafing through some cookbooks yesterday and found something that looked really promising–fennel gratin.

After hearing a lot about fennel, I bought a giant bulb a few months ago and tried grilling it–and I wasn’t a huge fan.  Just that weird licorice taste I don’t like that much.  Needless to say, when I received three little bulbs in my CSA box this week, I got a little nervous.  So what’s a girl to do with a vegetable she’s not too sure about?

Cover it in cheese.

Fennel Gratin (from Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust A Skinny Cook–serves 4)

  • 2 medium or 3 small bulbs fennel, cut into thin wedges (I also used the stalks, sliced into small circles)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 C shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1-2 T grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Wash the fennel and slice it into wedges by cutting the bulbs in half lengthwise, then into wedges from there.  I also sliced the stalks at this point.  Place into a baking dish (I used a 9″ pie pan) and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Cover with foil and place into the oven until the fennel is softened, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove the foil and roast for another 15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.

Remove the dish from the oven and preheat the broiler.  Sprinkle the top with cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is bubbling and golden, about 3-5 minutes.

Oh gosh, this smelled so good.  The scary fennel taste went from straight-up black licorice (ew) to a slightly oniony, sweet and nutty flavor.

I was so wrong about fennel.  Fritz and I ate this entire dish for lunch (it’s okay–only 110 calories per serving, ya know), and I could have gone for more.  This is the perfect side dish for any fancy dinner (hello, Thanksgiving!).

The best part was obviously the cheese, but I am pleasantly surprised to be able to tell you that I have been converted over to fennelism.  You should try it!

Fritz also managed to capture this handsome guy perched out on our deck.  We have a nice blue jay couple that hangs out in our backyard, accompanied by the duck couple that frequents our pond.  Guess the animals can just tell that love is in the air around here.

And on another exciting note, by popular request, I’m trying out a new feature: printable recipe cards.  I’m putting it here for now, but in the future they’ll be located by the recipe title.  Let me know if they work, and what you’d like to see changed about them!

 Fennel Gratin Printable Recipe Card

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Filed under Side Dishes

Our CSA Box, and Crispy Chard Chips

After months of excited anticipation (I know, I’m such a dork), we finally got our first (and second) CSA box!

Because Fritz and I are idiots, when I was out-of-town last week, I forgot to call and remind him to pick up our first box.  Major bummer–but part of the fun of buying from a small farmer is that you can call them and figure out a solution to your own stupid mistakes.  Maggie, the farmer’s wife, offered to give us a few veggies that we missed last week so we wouldn’t feel like we wasted a week’s worth of money.  Isn’t that nice?  Not to mention that the box we forgot to pick up got donated to someone else who needed it (you’re welcome!).

So this is really about a week and a half worth of veggies:

And yes, they are as vibrant and green and delicious as they look.

Here’s the issue, though.  Now I have an entire tableful of greens–and I refuse to waste any of them!  You’ll be seeing a lot of greens-based recipes this year.  Between the green monsters (they use up a lot of greens, really fast) and salads, I’m not too worried about getting through them.  I also blanched and froze the beet greens, and I have some other fun things planned for the next few days.

Fritz is out-of-town for the weekend with his dad, though (and he took my camera!), so that is going to make cooking, blogging, and eating those greens a lot more difficult.

Our first recipe?  Crispy chard chips.

Crispy Chard Chips

  • 1 bunch chard (or kale, or any hearty green)
  • 1-2 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Rinse the chard leaves and tear them into pieces–they can be as large or small as you want–I went pretty large.  Drizzle two cookie sheets with the olive oil and divide the chard pieces between them.  Using your hands, toss the leaves with the olive oil until they are evenly coated.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (and other spices if you want–garlic salt, paprika, chili powder…go crazy!).

Place on a middle rack in the oven and bake until dry and crispy, about 20 minutes.  Once they are cool, they shouldn’t stick to the bottom of the pan (thanks to the olive oil) but they may need to be gently loosened to remove them.  You can store these in a Tupperware container or plastic baggies, but trust me, they’ll go pretty quickly.

The crunchy, salty satisfaction of potato chips with all the health benefits of leafy greens.

I took these to school for a snack during my long days of lectures.  It was so nice to have a snack that feels like potato chips, since I try not to eat them but I really, really love them.

Really, really, really love them.

So far, the CSA has been a success–but I’ll update you again next week.  Hope you get a few minutes today to enjoy the weather (if you live near me) or just have some time for yourself.  Au revoir!

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Filed under Snacks, Vegetarian

Happy Easter! Baked Ham

Happy Easter!

Hopefully you scored one of these this morning:

That’s right–my parents still give me an Easter basket.  I actually got it yesterday, and to my everlasting joy and surprise my “basket” was actually a colander that I admired earlier in the week.  How parents manage to do those things, I’ll never know.

Well, hopefully I’ll know someday.  But I have a few years to study their talents before I have to worry about it.

My Easter basket got put to use immediately–and it’s even cuter holding grapes than fake grass and eggs.

To continue the Easter celebration, I decided to make a traditional baked ham.  Nothing like the smell of baking ham with maple. cloves, and orange to celebrate what feels like the first real day of spring (it was sunny and warm outside all day!).

I learned two things today–1) buy a shank cut of ham, it’s easier to cut later and 2) “water added” ham contains less water (ie. more flavor) than a “water and ham product”.

Easter Baked Ham

  • 1 ready-to-cook ham (between 6-10 pounds)–it can be smoked or not, and spiral cut or not–your choice

The Glaze

  • 1/8 C brown sugar
  • 1/8 C maple syrup
  • 1/4 t ground cloves
  • zest and juice of a small orange (I used a mandarin orange)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Place the ham flat side down (or fat side up) in a baking dish and add 1/4 C water to the bottom of the pan.  Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven on the middle to low rack.

Bake until the ham reaches 100 degrees in the middle (about 20 minutes per pound).  While it’s baking, put together the glaze by mixing the above ingredients.

Once the ham is ready, remove from the oven and turn up the heat to 350 degrees.  Cut off the skin (if there is any) and score the fat underneath in a diamond pattern.  Spread the glaze over the top and return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the ham.  Every ten minutes, baste the ham again with the glaze.

Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let the ham rest for about 20 minutes, until the internal temperature is at least 160 degrees.

Serve right away!  We ate it with roasted asparagus and curried millet.  Quite a feast(er) dinner.

The orange is really perfect in this recipe–not too strong and not unnoticeable.  We also have enough ham to last us about 200 years (most of it is now in the freezer).

In the 10 minutes it took to write this post, the weather went from bright and sunny to dark and ominous–looks like it might storm!  Perfect timing since we want to see Water for Elephants tonight. 

What did you have for Easter dinner?

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Vietnamese Spring (Is Near!) Rolls

Wow.  If 54 degrees and sunny isn’t enough to remind me that spring is almost here, than I don’t know what is.  Days like today make it possible for me to trudge through those last few gray, rainy, slushy months without despairing.  Plus, I love being able to crack the windows just a bit so I can breathe in some fresh air throughout the day.

And my recipe for today is spring rolls!  Is that perfect or what?  Fritz and I made these little gems together as part of our Valentine’s day dinner, and I’m so excited to share the recipe.  It’s not nearly as complex as I thought, and by baking them instead of deep-frying, they are good for you as well as delicious.  Perfection.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid) 

  •  1/2 lb ground pork
  • 4 oz peeled shrimp, finely chopped (about 3/4 C)
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 C shredded carrot
  • 1 oz cellophane noodles (a little over 1/2 C)
  • 1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 T Vietnamese fish sauce
  • spring roll wrappers (we used about 20)

Before starting, take out 1 oz of the cellophane noodles and soak them in warm water for about 20 minutes.  When they’re ready, drain them and cut into 1″ lengths with scissors.

Fritz and I ran out to the grocery store to get all the ingredients, and when we looked at the meat prices, there was a sale on pork chops and not on ground pork.  So what’s a girl to do?

Luckily, this particular girl has parents who recently bought her the meat grinder attachment for her KitchenAid for no reason other than that they love her (I probably would have bought pork chops to grind even if they were more expensive just to try the thing out)!  It’s just an added benefit that it was cheaper and I got to cut off the extra fat and have truly lean ground pork.

Fritz made me promise not to post a picture of the meat grinder in action, because it looks really gross (think: the demon barber of Fleet Street).  It literally took three minutes to set up, grind the meat, and take it back apart.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  Combine the ground pork, shrimp, onion, garlic, shallots, carrot, noodles, pepper, and fish sauce into a bowl and mix.

Now it’s time to set up your rolling station.

You need a dish that can fit the spring roll wrappers, filled with an inch or two of warm water.  Lay a damp dish towel flat on the table, and cover a baking sheet with another damp towel.  You’ll roll the wrappers on the first towel.  The wrappers are very fragile when wet, so you have to move carefully and cover the finished rolls with the second towel while you make more.

With dry hands (you don’t want the others to start sticking together), pick up a spring roll wrapper and hold it under the water until it softens, a few seconds.  Gently lay the wrapper on the damp towel, and spoon a generous tablespoonful of filling in a 2″ line on the side closest you.  Fold the closest edge over the filling, then the right and left sides, and roll it up tightly.

Place seam-side down on a baking sheet and cover with the damp towel.  Repeat until you run out of filling.

Preheat the oven to 350, and bake on the middle rack for 30 minutes, until browned.  Flip over about halfway through.

Arrange these beauties on a plate, and try not to dive in immediately.  If you have some leftover sauces from the last time you had Chinese take-out. this might be a good time to use ’em.

I love cooking on the weekend, because you get beautiful daylight-colored photos…not to mention there’s no rush to get dinner on the table because you just had school and now you have to get to the gym or go grocery shopping or–yes.  Weekend cooking is the best.

Have a beautiful day!  I hope this warm air inspires you as much as it does me.

As a side note, my lovely friend Breanna is running NYC’s Half-Marathon on a Team for Kids fighting childhood obesity.  It’s coming up soon, and if you have any spare cash lying around, she could use the fundraising help.  I am very passionate about this cause myself and whole-heartedly encourage you to donate if you can.  Every dollar helps! Click here to donate on her page.

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Filed under Appetizers