Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

The wildfires have been raging all week here in San Diego – so many people have been evacuated, and now over 1500 homes have been destroyed.  It’s totally surreal, because even though the fires are happening all around, you’d hardly know it from where I live.  There’s the tell-tale haze in the air, and a faint smoky smell, but we’ve been spared much of the exposure here in Ocean Beach.  Even so, they keep saying that the air quality is really bad, so we’re encouraged to stay indoors and limit activity.  To avoid becoming too news-laden and freaked out, I took on a few kitchen projects.  My camera is still traveling, so no pictures this week.  You’ll have to trust me – this is good stuff.  It’s a little time consuming, so I’d save it for a lazy Sunday.  Or a hazy Wednesday, if you’re in SD.

Three Sisters Baked Beans (adapted from Vegetarian Times)

1 cup dried beans (I used Vaquero)
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 canned chipotle peppers
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried Mexican oregano (thanks, Mom!) 
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups peeled, diced butternut squash
15-oz. can hominy, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
4 cups winter greens (such as collards, kale, chard)

Rinse, soak and cook the beans.  Reserve the cooking liquid and add enough water to make 4 cups. 

In a large saucepan, combine 3 cups liquid, sun-dried tomatoes, chipotles and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes.  Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, and then transfer tomato-chipotle mixture to food processor and process until smooth; set aside.

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, oregano and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Add squash and cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Stir in beans, hominy, molasses, tomato-chipotle puree and remaining 1 cup liquid. Cover, transfer to oven and bake 40 minutes.

Remove bean mixture from oven and stir in vinegar. Serve hot.

I ate the dish at this point and loved it.  On the reheat, though, I added some greens and it came to a whole new level – I’d recommend their addition – I bet even stirring them in after baking the beans would wilt them enough.  Yum.  Hearty and comforting, and perfect for eating in front of the tv, watching for any good news that might appear.

An addition: I received this attachment of homeopatic remedies to fire-related symptoms in an email from my massage school. Hopefully it will come in handy for some.

For acute anxiety, fear, shock or grief:
Rescue remedy drops or spray: Take under the tongue or pour into a water bottle and sip throughout the day. See dosage information on the bottle.
Rescue remedy be used together alone or together with any of the following homeopathic remedies:
Aconite 30c/200c: for any illness that arises from fright
Ignatia 30c/200c: for acute grief or loss.
Pulsatilla: for anxiety in children (or adults) who are weepy, clingy and want to be held.
Calcarea carbonica: for undue fear of calamities or natural disasters. They cannot sleep due to the fear of losing their homes or loved ones.
Phosphorous: for anxiety in open, excitable types who want to be able to help everyone and get ill seeing the suffering of others.
Natrum Muriaticum: These types are equally as sensitive to the suffering of others, especially if they see any injustice. They are more serious or closed than Phosphorous types. This is also useful for grief, especially long-standing or silent grief, where they are not able to cry, or hide their tears behind a brave face.

For sore throats from exposure to smoke:
Echinacea and goldenseal throat spray: take as directed on the bottle
Home-made ginger tea: Cut up fresh ginger root and add to water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer. Drink throughout the day. (This will also help with mucus)
Zinc or Propolis throat lozenges

Eye irritation from smoke:
Try to use goggles when outside to protect your eyes. Use saline solution to rinse your eyes. If redness continues use Euphrasia eye drops or take homeopathic Euphrasia orally. For tearing, burning eyes that feel like you’ve been peeling onions, use Allium cepa (Especially if you also have a watery, burning nasal discharge)

General advice: Smoke exposure increases your need for Vitamin C, thus I recommend increasing your intake of Vitamin C during this time. Grapefruit seed extract can help your immune system deal with the air pollution.

Information provided by Tammara Guterman, homeopathic practitioner.

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I was so proud.  Two beautiful butternut squash (squashes?) greeted me from the garden, and the blooms further down the vine gave the promise of more to come.  And then I pruned.  I was getting so ready for my winter veggies to get going, so last weekend I started clearing.  I pulled out the saddest looking tomato plants, caught up on my weeding, then pulled out the shears.  I was so pleased with my progress, and I noticed that one of the vines of the butternut squash could be taken out (and would then encourage quicker growth of the rest of the plant), so I snipped it.  And it was the wrong vine.  I killed any chance of more squash this season.  Tragic. 

At least I’ve made the most of the two successes – the first I simply roasted with a little olive oil until the skin gave when I pressed it with my finger.  I had plans for this squash, but they flew out the window and I ended up eating the whole thing with a spoon.  I even ate most of the skin, it was so light and papery.  Hopefully that won’t kill me.

The second squash received a more elegant treatment – this stew is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone… 

Thai Tofu and Winter Squash Stew

1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp roasted peanut oil, plus extra for tofu
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave some seeds in if you like to sweat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp light brown sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 15oz can coconut milk
1 ½ lbs butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
1 10-oz package firm silken tofu, cut into ½ inch cubes and fried in peanut oil (you can use it raw if you’re so inclined, but I like a little extra hard texture in this dish)
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup raw peanuts
¼ cup chopped cilantro

Heat oil in wide soup pot. Add onion and cook over fairly high heat, stirring frequently until partially softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeno and ginger, cook 1 minute more, then add curry, sugar and soy.  Reduce heat to medium, scrape the pan, and cook for a few minutes more.  Add 3 cups water, coconut milk, squash and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Add the tofu to the stew once the squash is almost tender, then simmer till done. Taste for salt and add the lime juice.

The recipe mentions that you can garnish this dish with chopped fried peanuts and cilantro, but I was out of both of those.  It was just as delicious without them.


Last time I made this dish, I had some shiitake mushrooms and bok choy, and I threw them in during the saute.  This is one of those easily adaptable meals that can change with the contents of your fridge.  Enjoy!

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Leftovers for Days

Luckily, I’d gotten through most of my dinner feast preparation before the finger massacre, so I’m left with some lovely homemade leftovers to tide me over until I’m feeling up to cutting anything again.

First on the menu was baked beans (a new batch of Rancho Gordo beans just needed to be cooked!), and I found a great looking recipe in this month’s Cooking Light – it made 10 servings, so I cut it in half.  Unless you’ve got a huge crowd coming over, you’ll be fine with the half.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Beans

1 cup dry beans (the recipe asks for navy, but I used Flor de Junio beans)
4 bacon slices, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup diced onion
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/3 cup light molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 minced jalapeño pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper 
1 teaspoon salt

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans, reserving the liquid.  Add water to the liquid to make 4 cups.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutes or just until crisp.  Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring often. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring often. Add molasses, sugar, jalapeño, mustard, and red pepper; stir to combine. Stir in beans and the 4 cups of reserved bean liquid and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat. Cover and bake at 350° for 3 hours. Stir in remaining 1 cup water. Cover and bake an additional 1 hour or until beans are tender, but not falling apart, and liquid is almost absorbed. Remove from oven; stir in salt.

No pictures of this one to the aforementioned massacre.  You’ll just have to trust me on this one – it’s good!

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Dreaming of Fall


I suppose it’s technically fall, but it still feels like summer.  The weekend parking is still non-existent, the window stays open when we sleep, and I’m feeling the pressure to be outside, to make the most of the sunny weather.

But all I really want to do is to put on a warm fuzzy sweatshirt and slippers, curl up under a blanket with my kitty and sip on hot cocoa.  I got really excited this weekend when it seemed like the weather was cooling off, so I soaked some Rancho Gordo beans (thanks, Mom!) and got to cooking.  The chili is one of my experimental mishmash dishes, so it’s easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have lying around.  I think it’s the first chili I’ve ever made – aww.  The cornbread scones are from Cooking Light, and I’ll post about them next.

Carrie’s First Chili

For the beans:
1 1/2 cups dry beans (I used Rancho Gordo’s Oro de Tigre beans)
enough water to cover them by at least an inch

about 1 cup mirepoix (carrot, celery and onion, diced)

I’ve typically been a canned beans kind of a girl, but Rancho Gordo has brought me around.  Their dry heirloom beans are delicious and really easy to make.  I’ve been following their method for cooking the beans – you can find it here.

1 lb. steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
2-3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small can tomato paste
1 bottle dark beer
cooked beans and any extra cooking liquid from above
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat some olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Brown the steak on all sides, about 3 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft.  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and simmer about 30 minutes or until the smell is too tempting.

You’ve been warned: this stuff turned out SPICY.  It wasn’t my fault, I swear – a new era has arrived in our house, because when Chris tasted the first round, he claimed for the first time that a dish needed more spice.  I happily obliged by dropping in the cayenne pepper – you may decide to leave it out.  If yours turns out a bit too spicy, just do what we did and whip up a big batch of rice.

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Things came to a head last weekend – we had bags and bags of tomatoes and peppers, starting to lose firmness.  It was clear that drastic steps needed to be taken.  I made this sauce in a couple of steps, so I’ve written it up as such.  You’re welcome to do the marathon pasta sauce session if you’d like…

Carrie’s End of Summer Harvest Sauce

3 bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise (I had orange and red bells)
1 onion, sliced into 1-inch slices
5 cloves garlic, peeled
about 4 lbs tomatoes (give or take a pound), cored and halved

First step, roast these babies up.  I’m not afraid of tomato skins (and am a bit too lazy to peel them), so I toss everything with a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay them out on a large baking sheet or two (peppers and tomatoes should be cut-side down), and roast at 400° for 25 minutes or so.  If you’re anti-skin, peel the tomatoes before roasting.  Your nose will tell you when this mixture is perfectly smoky and soft and sweet.  Yum.  Allow this mixture to cool, then it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

1 can organic tomato paste
One large handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1/2 cup dry red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

This is where your pasta sauce preferences will come into play.  I don’t mind some larger chunks of tomato and the like in my sauce, so I just use the tomato mixture as is.  It will break down into smaller chunks as it cooks.  If you like a smoother sauce, you can puree some or all of the mixture before continuing on to the next step.  Empty your roasted tomato mixture into a large pot.  Add the tomato paste, basil, wine, salt and pepper, and simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally, tasting often for spices.


I froze a bunch of this in small containers, so we’ll have a big, flavorful shot of summer whenever we want it.

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This and bowls like it have been the impetus for me getting back in the kitchen:


It’s a little hazy, but you can see that the tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant are coming at us en masse.  Somebody better cook ’em up!  Our meal last night used up just two of our wonderfully fresh ingredients – a massive squash from a friend’s garden and a huge handful of purple bush beans.


These beauties were delicious, just sauteed in a splash of olive oil and sprinkled with salt.  They cook to green, so it’s like nature’s cooking timer.  Perfect cheat sheet.

I had this gargantuan squash that had been mocking me for days – I knew it had grown to an unreasonable size, so it wouldn’t be the best thing to eat plain.  I decided to roast it (scoop out the seeds and place cut side down on a baking sheet.  Roast at 350° until soft, about 20 minutes), stuff it with cooked rice, top with cheese and pop it back in the oven for that yummy browning.  I think I’m re-inspired.  Bring on the harvest – I can take it!


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Ah, quinoa.  I love a superfood that tastes good – I crave quinoa whenever I’ve been eating heavy meals with little nutritional value – this adaptation of Comfort Couscous brings me right back to health.  I’ve been attempting to grow quinoa in the garden this year, but haven’t had much success.  It’s a shame, because the flowers are beautiful and the grain output substantial.  Maybe the next plantings will take.

Quinoa Bake with Chard

2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 cup quinoa

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 big pinch (1-2 tsp, depending on your spice preference) red pepper flakes
1 small bunch chard, stems separated and cut into 1 inch pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Combine the water, garlic, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a rapid boil.  While that’s boiling, rinse your quinoa really well.  Unwashed quinoa can be bitter tasting because it’s coated with saponin, a naturally occuring substance that acts as a pesticide – fascinating plant!  So, put your quinoa in a bowl, cover with cold water and rub between your hands for a few seconds.  Lather, rinse, repeat two more times, just to be on the safe side.  By now your water should be boiling, so add the quinoa, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.  Let it cook for about 12 minutes, until the water has been absorbed.  Your quinoa should be translucent, with quite germ curlicues.  Remove it from the heat and let it rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.  You could stop right here (as may be your want on hot summer days), dress the quinoa with some walnuts, leftover veggies and miso dressing and enjoy a hearty bowl of grains, or you can continue on with me to cheese land.

All still here?  I thought as much.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the onion and garlic.  Sautee until translucent, then add the red pepper flakes.  I always crush up the flakes a bit in my hand before adding them, since it releases more flavor.  Add the chard stems and saute until they’re almost fully soft.  Add the leaves and a splash of water, then cover to let it all steam for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, combine the quinoa, egg and chard mixture.  Mix in 1/2 cup of cheese, and taste for salt and pepper.  Spoon into a greased square baking pan (I used 8×8, I think), cover with the remaining cheese and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the edges have started to crisp.

The end result is nutty and comforting with a little extra kick from the red pepper flakes.  The edges bring a nice crisp and toasted texture, while the middle retains that creamy quinoa feel, with the grains almost popping in your mouth.  Yum city.


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I rushed home from work in order to get started on using up our glut of produce.  I improvised a raw beet salad, popped the zucchini pie in the oven, then I went out to the garden for my new favorite pastime of caterpillar picking.  Those bums have burrowed holes in more of my green tomatoes – they’re infuriating, so I’m being vigilant and trying to smoosh them before they do any more damage.  I’ve gotten over any squeamishness I may have had at first, because after all – this is tomato war.  It’s not uncommon for a neighbor to hear faint mutterings outside their window while I curse these green wriggly bastards.

Anyway.  On to the point of my story, which is that a gathering of our neighbors started to form, Chris came home from work, and we all congregated for a nice evening.  The zucchini pie came out of the oven, the beet salad came out of the fridge, and we talked the night away.  Everyone said they enjoyed the pie, but I think it still needs some tweaking, so I won’t share that one right away.  My salad creation, however, is ready for print. 


Community Beet Salad

A note: you may want to break out the food processor for this one if you want a quick salad.  Don’t worry about rinsing it between ingredients – they’re all going to turn red anyway. 

For the salad:

2-3 large beets, peeled and grated
4-5 carrots, grated
8-10 radishes, grated
a small handful fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
1 orange, peeled, sectioned and cut into small pieces
one large handful sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

yikes – this is going to be a bit rough, as I measured nothing.  Here goes…

about 1/3 cup good olive oil
about 3 Tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar – I found this at Trader Joe’s – you could use another mild vinegar and some orange juice for the same effect
2 small cloves garlic, pressed
salt and pepper to taste

Here’s the instructions.  Toss, stir, serve.  Perfect for an evening you’d rather spend outside with lovely company.  Here’s a vague idea of the solar lights – I’ve not gotten any better at photographing them, unfortunately…


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I love long drives and the excitement of discovering what’s new in my own city.  Most of the time on these drives, my car mysteriously ends up at Ranch 99 or some other international market.  On Saturday, I ended up at three different places.  I took a long drive down University Avenue and ended up at a little Asian market, where I slowly roamed the aisles, trying to decipher the uses and tastes of some of the more interesting ingredients.  I found some amaranth leaves, and picked them up, not knowing what I’d do with them.  They luckily found their way into a dal for last night’s dinner.

I then crossed the street to find a Middle Eastern market – I was mainly drawn there by the signs advertising whole goats.  Yikes.  It was a score, though, because I found a huge bin of green coffee beans, just ripe for the roasting!

Finally, I ended up in Clairemont at Ranch 99.  I can spend hours here, just walking around, boba drink in hand.  The produce section alone provides plenty of entertainment.  This time, though, I had a mission – on a hot sticky day, nothing sounds better than fresh spring rolls.  I picked up some rice paper, rice noodles and tofu and got to work.


First I harvested some lettuce, basil and mint from the garden, fried the tofu until golden, and julienned some carrots and cucumber.  The rice noodles I picked up were a bit bigger than the ones I’ve used in the past, so they required a few minutes in boiling water.  Typically, thin rice noodles only need to be soaked in hot-from-the-tap water.  I bought a new shape of rice paper this time also – the package claimed that these were “good for restaurants”, so I figured they’d be good for me too!


You can use the still-hot rice noodle water to soak one of these papers at a time.  They only need about a minute in the hot water to become pliable enough to work with.  Be sure to lay out a damp dishtowel to lay these on, as they need to be kept moist throughout the process.  Lay your rice paper down, and fill the center with as many of these goodies as you’d like – I packed each full, a little from each bowl.  Roll them up, transfer to another damp cloth, and begin again with another sheet of rice paper in the hot water.  If the rice paper rips while rolling, simply soften another sheet and make it a double wrapper.

I served these with some storebought barbequed pork buns and (embarrassingly easy to make, but) jarred peanut satay sauce.


Delish.  And as my mother would tell you, no Asian meal is complete without a flaky, buttery, creamy fresh egg tart at the end.  This one’s for you, mom.


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I’m receiving a massage at home from my friend Tam tonight – we do trades, so after working on her earlier this week, it’s my turn!  I’m pretty darn lucky. 

We’ve been a bit lazy in our kitchen lately, eating takeout and toast, so I’m also craving a homemade meal.  I prepped this dish early so that when I’m sacked out in bliss on the massage table and Chris comes home from work, he can pop it in the oven.  I can’t think of anything better than ending a massage with a baked, cheesy, vegetable-packed dish.  It’s another one of those ultra-adaptable dinners (or side dishes if you want to find some protein) – you can change the veggie, the cheese, the herbs, the grain.  Whatever tickles your boat.  Floats your fancy?  Anyway…


Baked Couscous with Zucchini and Herbs

1 3/4 cup water or stock (divided)

3/4 cup uncooked couscous

grapeseed oil (olive works too)

about 2 cups quartered, sliced zucchini

1 bunch green onions, white and firm greens sliced

3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

2 pressed garlic cloves

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (the cheese you choose will largely determine the style of dish – you can try parmesean for a more sophisticated dish.  Cheese you choose, cheese you choose…)

1 egg, lightly beaten

salt and white pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400° if baking right away.  Bring 1 cup of the water or stock to a boil, then slowly stir in the couscous.  Turn off the heat and cover tightly.  Let it stand for 5 minutes, then fluff it with a fork.  Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add a bit of oil.  Add the squash, onions, basil, oregano and garlic and saute until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes.

Combine the couscous, squash mixture, 1/4 cup cheese, beaten egg, 3/4 cup water or stock and salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Transfer this mixture to a greased glass baking dish (I used a round 8″), and cover with the remaining cheese.  Bake at 400° for 35 minutes or until golden.  Yawn, stretch, slowly get up from the massage table, then dig in.  Now that’s relaxing. 


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