Happy New Year with Roasted Vegetables

asparagus

Today, I want to talk about vegetables. I don’t want to talk about dieting and vegetables.  I just want to talk vegetables. Although vegetables ARE very good for your overall diet and health.

During the holidays, I don’t think about how all the tomatoes in the grocery store taste terrible.  How we will not see fresh corn on the cob for MONTHS!!  I just focus on feeding the family and making our special holiday treats.

But now, we are in that long stretch of what could be called…..boring vegetables. Yes, it’s a long time until gardens are planted and even longer until they are harvested.  We have to make due with what we can find in the grocery store and the farmers market. And although we can find some of our summer favorites flown in from places from the southern hemisphere, I usually want to eat local vegetables.

The above picture was taken on Christmas Eve, part of our traditional dinner buffet–food favorites of our family. Asparagus is a spring vegetable, but I bought the bunch for our special Christmas Eve meal.  These asparagus were roasted.

On the regular days in January, February and March, I buy the usual vegetables that are not costly or special:  potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, garlic, beets, turnips.

If you cook these vegetables they way most people do, ie, boiling or steaming, they will quickly become boring, and you might give up serving your family fresh veggies.

But, all of these vegetables can be roasted in the oven, which brings out a sweeter, sometimes nuttier flavor of the veggie.

Here is a picture of sliced carrots and parsnips, almost ready for the oven. If you haven’t tried parsnips, they look like a white carrot and taste sweet.

IMG_1725

Once the vegetables are washed, peeled (if you want to) and sliced, place in a pan (this one is a stoneware pan, but any metal or glass pan will do), drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  You can also add herbs to your veggies (We love rosemary mixed in with red skinned potatoes). Toss the veggies with a spoon and put in the oven at 400 degrees.  Cook about 30 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft when pierced with a knife.

In the picture below, you can see carrots, red pepper, potatoes, white and red onions in the pan, roasted until some of the tips of the onion are brown and a bit burned…..yum!!!  We like them that way!  But you can roast as long or short as you like.

IMG_1689

With the cold temperatures outside, the oven will warm your home, the smells of vegetables cooking will warm your soul with the thought of feeding those you love wholesome food. And those roasted veggies will satisfy hungry people who will NOT call them “boring!”

Gourmet Hot Chocolate and Deals at the Grocery Store

Post holidays may NOT be a time you look forward to shopping at the grocery store. You have already shopped and baked and served all month long and are looking for some quiet and leftovers!

But if you have the stamina, you can score some great deals in the grocery store right now!

As I have mentioned in the past, you can usually find good deals on meat and poultry after a holiday. Just look for the “special today” sticker on many products in the meal aisle. The “use by” date is soon, but throw that meat/poultry in the freezer and you have savings for dinners this winter.

Yes, you don’t want to bake another cookie. I feel the same way. BUT, today I scored at Wegmans, finding my favorite chocolate chips at a great price. Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chocolate chips are on sale now: $1.50 per 10 oz. Package. That is a steal!! I bought several.

imagesAlong with all the baking items that Wegmans has had on sale the past couple of months (for example, flour, 5 lbs., $0.99), you could have all you need for treats for Valentines Day and beyond.

Christmas morning, while opening gifts, we indulged in a gourmet hot chocolate that reminded us of the “chocolata denso” that we loved in Italy. The recipe is from Jacques Torres, the famous Master Pastry Chef, also known as “Mr. Chocolate!”  I trusted his recipe and it did not disappoint.

IMG_4739

Hot Chocolate by Jacques Torres

2 cups whole milk (this hot chocolate is very rich.  If you like it slightly thinner, use 3 cups milk)

1/2 cup milk powder (powdered milk)

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup dark chocolate, in disks or coarsely chopped

IMG_4738

Bring milk to a simmer in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat.  Lower the heat to medium then add the chocolate, whisking vigorously until the chocolate is completely melted.  Add the milk powder and cornstarch, still whisking, until everything is dissolved and the mixture is smooth and thick.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition and Plum Bread

Last week I wrote an article for WPSU’s Local Food Journey. It came to me from memories I had while baking our Christmas Plum Bread this year.  I realized the history that went into the recipe and all the fond memories from those days.

I am reprinting it here — I hope you enjoy it.

IMG_4709

Tradition and Plum Bread

Phyllis Richman, former food critic of the Washington Post, wrote a beautiful article published in the Post in November 1992, that I keep in my files and read at this time of the year. She focused on the rituals of her family:

 

“It’s about ritual. Once upon a time, rituals grew from childhood and developed naturally throughout a lifetime. These days there is seldom time for that.

 

Repetition makes the various parts of the holiday familiar. That’s what creates the bonds: recognition, memory. The beauty of a family ritual is that even if you are not there, you can imagine what is going on. You can evoke the rhythm.., the smells, the conversations. One ‘holiday’ is linked to another.”

 

Before Halloween, I pull out all the holiday family recipes. They are scattered throughout my kitchen and office as I plan meals, create final exam care packages for my college kids, and start baking holiday food to be mailed to those who will not be with us for Christmas. Our holiday rituals are linked by many things, but especially by what we eat.

 

The recipes we use, year after year, are ones that are rituals or tradition for our family. The ones that cannot be forgotten or replaced for holiday meals and treats. They are recipes that are from family and friends and have meaning to all of us. The holidays just would not be the same without them.

 

While in college, my roommates and I would exchange recipes. I don’t know why I participated, since I rarely cooked. But I was intrigued and kept them until the day came that my interest and need to cook (marriage and children) increased.

 

Julie Christensen, my college roommate Stephanie’s mother, always had great recipes to share with us. Julie gave us a recipe for a plum bread that she made only during the Christmas holidays. It was a sweet quick bread made with jars of plum baby food! What a concept, but it worked. I made it one Christmas while home from school and my mother said it should be made every Christmas. So it has been, and I have continued the tradition with my family.

 

The only trouble was that plum baby food became “plums with apples” and then “apples with a bit of plums” until anything that resembled the baby food from the 1970′s was gone.

 

I thought plum bread was history. My mother did not let that stop her from making plum bread. She bought plums in the summer, at the height of the season, cut them up and boiled them down to make her own “plum baby food.” Only it was so much better than that jarred stuff since the plum flavor was more intense.
So now the tradition of the holidays start in the summer with plums; cooking them and freezing the sauce, waiting for December.

 

Plum Bread

Buy 3 to 4 dark purple plums in the summer. Wash and cut them in pieces, discarding the pit—you don’t need to peal the plums because the skins break down while cooking. Simmer on low, with just a bit of water (about 1 to 2 Tablespoons) to start so they don’t burn, and watch them, stirring and mashing the pulp as it breaks down. When it becomes a “sauce” (about 40 minutes), let it cool, place it in a baggie or bowl, seal and place in the freezer. This makes about 1 cup of pulp.

IMG_4705

 

When ready to make the plum bread, defrost the plum pulp.

 

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 and ½ cups sugar

2 eggs

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 cup plum pulp

1 cup walnuts, chopped

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

 

Place the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork. Set aside.

 

In a bowl, mix together with a mixer the eggs and sugar. Add the vegetable oil and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture alternately with the plum pulp until all is incorporated. Stir in the walnuts.

IMG_4706

 

Grease 2 loaf pans. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 loaf pans. Bake the loaves about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

 

Place the bread while still in the loaf pans, on a cooling rack.

 

For the glaze, mix together in a saucepan:

 

1/3 cup butter

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup evaporated milk

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

 

Let the sauce boil for 3 minutes on medium heat. Remove the bread from the loaf pans and drizzle the glaze on the bread while it is still warm.

 

This bread can be eaten immediately or wrapped and stored in the freezer for up to one month.

 

« Older Entries