the smitten kitchen cookbook: a review

by Jeanne

I think I’m in love.

Ok.

It’s probably not love.

Because I don’t know Deb Perelman.

But it’s definitely a pretty serious girl-crush.

Deb is the creator/blogger-extraordinaire at the Smitten Kitchen blog.

And she’s wonderful.

Her recipes are easy to follow and super tasty (which apparently has something to do with her obsessive compulsiveness … and I now think that’s a great trait).

Her photos make me hungry.

She’s even a talented writer.

Basically, she’s the whole package.

And now she’s published her first cookbook.

So of course I rushed out and ordered a copy the moment I found out it was available. It’s become my late-night companion. I’m reading it like a novel. Seriously. Tucked in bed after the kids go to sleep. When I wake at 3 a.m. Sneaking peaks during the day if I get five minutes by myself. It’s accomplished exactly what I think a good cookbook should do: it’s got me dreaming of ways to incorporate her food into our lives.

The thing is, though, Deb is not totally on board with some of our dietary choices. She uses refined sugar and table salt and white flour. She’s not worried about soaking her grains or avoiding vegetable oil or soy. But every page has a dish that looks more delicious than the last. It’s just going to require a little figuring to adapt them.

And I’m very excited to try.

Like, for example, her Gingerbread Spice Dutch Baby, which is basically an incredibly decadent German Pancake, baked in a cast iron pan.

I want this dang pancake. But I’m also learning more and more about how important it is to soak one’s grains before cooking/eating them. So I’m taking a chance. I’ve got one third cup of organic unbleached flour “soaking” in two
tablespoons of our sourdough start and 2 tablespoons of water … covered with a clean dish towel, just waiting for baking!

If it works, you can bet I’ll be trying her peach sour cream pancakes … and her big breakfast latkes … and pretty much any other recipe in this delightfully gorgeous book. I might have to order a few more copies for gifts. I can think of a few people who might enjoy the adventure…

UDATE:  IT WORKS!!!  sourdough dutch baby (minus the molasses and brown sugar … with maple syrup instead of white sugar) … AMAZING!!  And we ate it so fast, I didn’t get to snap a photo!!  Next time.  For sure.

PS – Don’t forget to sign up to win the WORLD MARKET GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY!  Registration closes at 10 pm PST tonight.  Winner will be chosen at random and announced TOMORROW on the blog!

let’s talk turkey (part 2 of 3)

Jeanne here.

With some very personal information.

It’s an intimate truth in our house.

It’s about Thanksgiving.

And it’s one of the reasons I feel so darn lucky to have married the Cowboy.

You see …

That one day a year when many a wife and mother stresses about the turkey.

Wet brine?

Dry brine?

No brine?

Fry?

Slow roast?

Fast roast?

In a bag?

Tented?

Bare?

Stuffed?

Not stuffed?

My blood pressure just spiked.

(Inhale … Exhale … Inhale … Exhale … Ahhhhhh.)

Okay.

I’m better.

Really better.

And not just because I have all the answers.

But because my secret about Thanksgiving is that I don’t actually have that stress.  Because for the past four years, I haven’t made the turkey.

Somehow, that job landed in the Cowboy’s lap. (Do you think it’s because I was eating a vegetarian diet when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving?  Probably.)

And the good news …he’s really good at it!

He wet brines.

Last year he used this recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

This year, we’re trying this one which we both heard on The Splendid Table program on NPR with Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

Both brines have brown sugar, apple cider and salt and pepper.  The main difference between the two brines is that LRK’s brine has ancho chiles, cloves, basil and a ton of garlic.  PW’s has oranges, rosemary, bay leaves.  It’s just seems a little more mild.  I’m curious to see how the new recipe changes the experience.  I’m going to see if I can talk the Cowboy into using maple syrup instead of brown sugar … just because it seems silly to use a refined sugar when maple syrup exists in our world.

The thing about brining (wet or dry) … both will get you a juicy and delicious bird.  But the important thing is to do something.  That turkey is in the oven a long long time, and without a little help, that organic, free range bird you spent some serious cash to bring home might whither in the pan.  And that would be sad.

Here’s a great article from the NY Times about the science of brining … if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂

Apparently we fast roast our turkey (which basically means 10 minutes per pound in a 450 degree oven) because  it makes for a very crispy and golden skin).

I don’t remember if he tents.

And I’m going to talk to him about stuffing, because I think he does stuff, but I heard an interview with Alton Brown earlier today during which he talked about how stuffing will taste better if it’s cooked in the bird, but cooking stuffing in the bird dries out the turkey!

So NO STUFFING!

 At least … no stuffing in the bird.

Let’s call it dressing and cook it in it’s own vessel.

Okay … so if I get quizzed, or somehow end up being the one to make the turkey, this is what I would do:

Brine (wet … with maple syrup instead of sugar)

Fast roast (10 minutes per pound in 450 degree oven)

Tent it (for some of the time … pull the tent off for the last 45 minutes) – I just made that up, but it works for chickens and lasagne, right?  I think it would work.

And NO STUFFING!  Try dressing instead.

Q: What are the answers to your quiz?

hoola hoops aka road trip weapons for success

I don’t know about you, but I loved Abby’s post with tips on traveling with kids.

You see, the littles and I are on a road trip right now driving from Montana to California for a two-week visit with Grammi and PopPop. So I followed a lot of her advice. I made homemade treats (like popcorn and soaked oatmeal bars), I packed a lot of organic fruit (pre-washed in apple cider vinegar), kombucha for everyone, and I packed a personal bag for each of the kiddos with a select group of toys and activities (coloring book and a few favorite dolls for imagination play for our little girl …board books and a plushy for the little guy).

But I also packed a secret weapon.

Our friend Lieana told me this story about a trip she took with her three kids from Montana to San Jose. She brought jump ropes with her and at every stop they made (to fill up or for a rest) they “competed” …how many jumps before we’re back in the car.

Genius!

A great release of pent-up energy from sitting in the car. A wonderful way to get endorphins pumping. And just plain fun!

But jumping rope is a tad advanced for a three year old and a one year old.

So I needed to find a way to adapt her idea.

And I think I nailed it.

Hoola hoops.

Three of them.

One adult size ($7.99 at Target) and two little ones ($5.99 each).

The best $19.97 I’ve spent in a long time.

At every gas station there seemed to be a small plot of grass …just big enough to plop the hoops down and start jumping. Lined up in a row, they make a great obstacle course. If mom holds them they become a tunnel. Raise them a few inches off the ground and it’s all of a sudden fun to see how high you can go and keep climbing through. It also seemed to be a fun game to play keep away from little brother.

So fun.

My camera stayed packed for most of this trip, but I wish I had taken pictures.

But alas, it was enough to just change a diaper, take one to the potty, eat a snack and hoop for 15 minutes and then hop back into the car without incident.  (UPDATE: my potty trained princess didn’t have even ONE accident on this trip. Amazing.)

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cheesy nutmeggy macaroni with cauliflower

We’ve had snow on the ground for the past few days.

Not a lot.  But it’s noticeable on the edges.

And the temperature has barely been above 35 degrees.

It’s the first turn to real Fall … a big bold hint that Winter’s just around the corner … and that gets me hankering for food that’s warm and cozy and nutmeggy and cheesy … good and good for you.

Now this is not a low carb, gluten free dinner option.

And I haven’t figured out a version of this recipe with soaked flour or homemade pasta. (Apparently, soaking your grains, seeds, legumes and nuts in traditional cooking method can break down the phytates and make the minerals and nutrients easier to absorb.)  I’m working on it.

But in the meantime, the ingredients are whole real foods.  It’s good.  It’s good for you (unless you’re lactose intolerant or have an allergy to gluten).

The Cowboy likes this mac and cheese.

The littles in our house like this mac and cheese.

And even though I didn’t take a photo of them (I have to get better about taking more photos … seriously … a lesson I need to learn from Miss Abby), the twin 2-year-olds who were here for dinner like this mac and cheese.

They like it even though it’s not bright yellow, nor made with skinny little elbows.

They like it even though it’s got ”grown up” cheeses in it, like Asiago and Gruyere.

And they even like it with cauliflower (which maybe you could switch out with squash … I’m thinking this would be delicious with squash and I’m going to have to try that sooner rather than later).

So for now, here’s my tried and true mac and cheese and cauliflower extravaganza … it’s cheesy, nutmeggy, buttery and veggie-filled cold-weather-warm food.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups pasta (cooked)
  • 2 cups cauliflower (steamed and chopped into bite-size pieces)
  • 6 Tbls. butter
  • bread flour (I need to figure out the ratio if I were to use soaked flour … I’ll work on it)
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (you don’t need to use heavy cream … but I love the richness it adds to the béchamel sauce)
  • 3 ½ cups grated cheese (1 part Asiago, 1 part Gruyere, 2 parts Cheddar)
  • Sea Salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (we use Sourdough)
  • 1 Tbls. chopped fresh Thyme (or Rosemary or Sage or Marjoram or any other herb you enjoy)

TOOLS:

  • 2 ¾ quart casserole dish
  • small saucepan (for milk)
  • large saucepan (for pasta and cauliflower)
  • strainer (for pasta and cauliflower)
  • small bowl (for breadcrumb mixture)

Cook the pasta.

Steam the cauliflower and set aside to cool.  (To steam the cauliflower: put about an inch of water in your saucepan, add the cauliflower, bring water to a boil.  Stir and steam for a few minutes until the cauliflower is easy to pierce with a fork.  Strain and set aside.  I don’t add salt to the cauliflower at this point because there’s enough flavor in the mac and cheese and béchamel sauce that it just doesn’t need the extra here)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On low-medium, heat the milk and heavy cream in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in your casserole dish (be sure to sue potholders!)  Slowly whisk in the flour for 1-2 minutes.  It will be a luscious creamy color, and you’ll have cooked out the “raw” flavor of the flour.

Keep whisking as you add the hot milk and bring to a boil.  It’s going to get nice and thick and smooth.  Remove your casserole from the heat (again USE POTHOLDERS!  That dish is HOT!)

Stir in the nutmeg.

Fold in your cheese.

Then the pasta.

Then the cauliflower.

Add a pinch of sea salt if you think you need it (If I use salted butter, I skip this step.  If I use unsalted butter, I add about 1 ½ tsp. of sea salt)

In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, thyme, a pinch of sea salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the top of the casserole with the breadcrumb mixture.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and the top is nice and evenly browned.

Hmmmmm … I need to check if there are leftovers.