Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving Countdown: Appetizer, Cranberries, Sides & Dessert

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Hopefully you’ve already ordered your local, free-range, and/or Heritage-breed turkey, but now what?

cranberry baked brie

cranberry baked brie

My strategy for cooking Thanksgiving dinner with a toddler underfoot is to prepare one simple but impressive appetizer. My favorite cranberry baked brie is sure to get your family and guests oohing and aahing while they wait for dinner, just in case it takes a little longer than planned to make it onto the table…

Here are a few other favorites from the Foodie Tot family over the years:

organic maple spiced cranberry sauce

organic maple spiced cranberry sauce

Organic Maple Spiced Cranberry Sauce (and a post about organic cranberries)

green bean almondine
green bean almondine

Green Bean Almondine with Blue Cheese — a green bean casserole alternative

pumpkin pie from scratch
pumpkin pie from scratch

Pumpkin Pie … from a pumpkin!

I’m pondering a new chocolate dessert this year, courtesy of Nigella. What new recipe are you trying this year? Please share!

Pear Ricotta Sausage Pizza (and Curious Chef product review)

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

I’ve written a lot about apples this fall, but I’d be remiss not to mention that other star of late autumn fruit stands: the pear. From crisp Asian pears, perfect for salads, to sweet Bartlett pears, poached for dessert, and the boy’s favorite, toddler-hand-sized Seckels, we’d be hard pressed to take sides in a pear-apple face-off. We always enjoy the samples offered by Papa’s Orchard at the West End Alexandria farmers market, and the boy has been known to devour a Seckel (or two) before finishing our stroll through the market.

These sweet and savory pizzas also feature two other of my local farmers market favorites, grassfed lamb sausage from Valentine’s Country Meats and fresh ricotta from Keswick Creamery. The pizza crust was made from frozen dough I picked up from the Italian Store for pizza-making emergencies. Of course you could make your own, if you prefer. There are few better ways to get kids into the kitchen than with make-your-own-pizza night. Thanks to the kid-sized tools from Curious Chef (see below), the boy was able to help with rolling out the dough, slicing the pears, and of course, decorating the pies.

Recipe: Pear Ricotta Sausage Pizza

Ingredients:

  • pizza crust for 2 pizzas
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound lamb sausage
  • 8 ounces fresh ricotta
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet pears, thinly sliced
  • several fresh basil leaves, shredded
  • sea salt and black pepper

Instructions: In a skillet, crumble the sausage and cook over medium heat until browned. Drain excess drippings and set aside. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out pizza crusts and place on baking sheet or pizza peel, if you have one. Spread several tablespoons of ricotta over the crusts, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, each. (If your ricotta is particularly moist, use less oil.) Spread pears and onions around, sprinkle with basil, salt and pepper, and scatter sausage over the top. Drop a few more spoonfuls of ricotta over the pears. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is lightly browned. Makes 2 pizzas. Enjoy!

curious chef pizza kitCurious Chef Product Review: We received the Curious Chef pizza kit to try out, as seen in the photos above. The boy was beyond trilled to have “my very own!” knife and rolling pin. The knife is made of sturdy plastic that actually can cut through an apple or pear, without fear of slicing off finger tips. Ever since our pizza making fun, when he sees me slicing something he gets out his own knife from his kitchen drawer and demands to help. The easy-grip handles make the tools perfect for small hands, and it’s nice to be able to set him up with his own cutting board and knife to keep him busy while I’m prepping the rest of the meal. Needless to say, Curious Chef gets a big thumbs up from the Foodie Tot. (My only complaint is that the white plastic isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it’s more kid-appropriate than stocking up on fancier, and more breakable, items from somewhere like Williams-Sonoma.) View the full product line (and safety information) at CuriousChef.com.

*Disclaimer: all reviews are the opinion solely of myself and my son, and are not financially compensated in any way.*

Meatless Monday Meal Planning

Monday, November 9th, 2009

The nice thing about Meatless Monday falling on a Monday is that it’s good incentive to eat something lighter after the heavy foods typically eaten on a weekend. Particularly a weekend such as ours, with two toddler birthday parties = pizza for lunch and dinner and way too much birthday cake. In the summer I often have a smoothie for lunch on Mondays just to detox from all the carbs I seem to stockpile on the weekends. And if the weekend was too busy for shopping, well, what better excuse to raid the pantry and clear out some pasta or grains, canned beans, and any of last week’s vegetables still languishing in the crisper.

It also helps to have a ready list of fall-back recipes, as the last thing I want to do on a Monday evening is scramble to come up with something new to cook. So I scanned through the FoodieTots archive for a list of meatless — or easily adapted — recipes:

What meatless recipe have you enjoyed lately?

Visit Meatless Monday’s website for more menu suggestions, and to take the Meatless Monday pledge!

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Order Your Local Turkey Today!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

@ South Mountain Creamery

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s time to pre-order your local turkey! If you read a lot of food magazines (or blogs) to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about brining the turkey in recent years. Soaking the bird in a saltwater is supposed to add succulence to the meat. But here’s a secret: turkeys are naturally juicy. Conventional turkeys, like conventional chickens and other animals, are raised in confined quarters where they are stuffed full of grain (often genetically-modified, aka GMO) and antibiotics to grow rapidly. Turkeys who eat a natural diet of bugs, grubs and grasses will naturally produce meat that is juicier and more flavorful. And, birds who roam in fresh air lead happier, healthier lives.

What is a Heritage turkey? Today, 99% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are the “Broadbreasted White” variety, which have been bred specifically to produce unnaturally large breasts. The breasts are so large, in fact, that these turkeys are unable to reproduce naturally! (Source: Sustainable Table/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

Sustainable turkey farmers raise various traditional species of turkeys, Heritage breeds such as Narrangassett or Bourbon Red, to protect the genetic diversity and provide tastier options for your Thanksgiving table. Heritage birds take longer to reach market size — 24 to 30 weeks compared to 18 for supermarket turkeys — which is one reason why they more expensive. (Source: Heritage Turkey Foundation) The article on Sustainable Table has a more detailed explanation of the difference between heritage, organic and sustainable birds and questions to ask your farmers.

Wondering how to find a local, organic, free-range bird for your holiday meal? Here in the DC Metro area, organic turkeys are harder to find, but several local farmers and butchers provide heritage and/or free-range turkeys. Organic birds will be the most expensive, but they are fed only organic feed, not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and required to have access to the outdoors. Ask your farmer or butcher what their free-range turkeys are fed. Organic grain feed is less important if they are truly free-range, as turkeys prefer to eat bugs and grasses anyway. Where “all-natural” is used below, it means turkeys are not treated or fed with any antibiotics, steroids or hormones.

EcoFriendly Foods (Moneta, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage and hybrid breeds, 12-20lbs.
price: n/a
order: order at Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle markets, $40 deposit required.

Fields of Athenry (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage, 15-35lbs.
price: $7.25/lb.
order: download order form online and send $40 deposit; pick-up at farm only; likely to sell out early.

Let’s Meat on the Avenue (Alexandria, VA)
type: Amish-raised from Pennsylvania and Minnesota; organic from Fauquier County VA; all free-range, all-natural, fresh
price: $3.95/lb. for Amish turkeys
order: call 703-836-6328 or stop by the shop; orders will be accepted until about a week prior to Thanksgiving (or until sold out)

MOM’s Organic Market (VA and MD)
type: all-natural, free-range from Maple Lawn Farm (Fulton, MD) and Eberly’s Organic
price: $1.99/lb. Maple Lawn, $3.49/lb. Eberly Organic
order: call or visit store (locations in Alexandria, College Park, Columbia, Frederick and Rockville)

Smith Meadows Farm (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range turkeys, 10-12lbs. or 13-14lbs., frozen
price: $4.25/lb.
order: Place a $10 deposit at their markets, pick-up on Saturday 11/21 or Sunday 11/22 at the market where you place your order. Orders will be accepted until about mid-November. You can also call 877-955-4389 to place your order by phone.
markets: Arlington Courthouse, Del Ray, Falls Church and Chevy Chase on Saturdays; Takoma Park and Dupont Circle on Sundays

South Mountain Creamery / Hillside Farm (Thurmont, MD)
type: free-range, fresh
price: about $2.50/lb.
order: existing South Mountain delivery customers must reserve a turkey by Saturday, November 7; they will be delivered with your regular delivery the week prior to Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to cook, The Butcher’s Block in Alexandria will have ready-to-go Thanksgiving meals available; visit the website for details.

To find a local, Heritage turkey in your area, search the listings at Local Harvest — or ask your favorite meat vendor at the farmers market!

Shared with Real Food Wednesday — visit the round-up @ Cheeseslave for more Real Food inspiration.

Meatless Monday: Creamy Lima Beans

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

I can’t say I have a particular affinity for lima beans, but I’ve never feared them the way so many people (my mother included) do. Call it more a casual indifference. But when I saw the pretty little pale-green beans, pre-shelled, in a basket at Alexandria’s West End market recently, I couldn’t resist. This simple preparation brought out the beans’ natural creaminess without obscuring their mild flavor. Next time, I might use more garlic instead of onion, but otherwise it was pretty good. And, the husband didn’t hate them, so I’ll count that in the Meatless Monday win column. (The boy is adamant about eating his green veggies frozen at the moment, so he opted for frozen string beans instead.) I also made a stir-fry of squash and peppers from our CSA and served both over basmati rice, making for a pretty hearty fall supper.

Recipe: Creamy Lima Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint lima beans, shelled
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper

Instructions: Place lima beans, onion, garlic and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with water to about an inch over the beans. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil gently for 15-20 minutes, until beans are fork tender. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Melt butter in the saucepan and return beans (remove bay leaf) to the pan, stirring to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.