Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chocolate Ganache

There are two categories of cake eaters: those who eat it for the cake and those who eat it for the frosting. I am most definitely the former. Not a frosting gal. I typically swipe most of it off before eating a slice. In fact, just leave the frosting off completely and I’ll be a happy camper.

Unless you are talking about ganache. That is a different story. Instead of the gloppy, sticky-sweet, Crisco-laden, hyper-color supermarket concoction called cake frosting, ganache is smooth, sleek, rich, flavorful, grown-up – and surprisingly easy to make.

Yes, I licked the bowl. No apologies.

I used this on a chocolate cake I made for my dad’s birthday. He’s more of an Oreo cookie guy, but since it’s hard to put candles in Oreos, he had to settle for this. I don’t think he minded one bit.

Chocolate Ganache
You should use unsalted butter, but I like a little saltiness, so I use salted butter. What can I say? I’m a salty gal. This will be enough to cover a layer cake or 24 cupcakes. If storing your ganache-covered concoction, keep it in the fridge, then take out two hours before serving. Adapted from Fine Cooking, my dear foodie mag love.

16 oz. good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips (about a bag and a half)
2 c. heavy cream (no substitutes!)
2 Tbls. butter, softened

Place chocolate chips in a large bowl. In a medium sized pot, bring cream to a boil over medium-high heat (watch it closely so it doesn’t run over!). Pour hot cream over chocolate and let sit without stirring for five minutes. With a whisk, stir with small, tight circular motion in the middle of the bowl until fully combined. Add butter and continue stirring until fully incorporated. Cover surface of ganache with plastic wrap (not over top of the bowl; set the plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture) and let sit at least 8 hours or overnight at room temperature to thicken.

When frosting the cake, put on one thin layer of ganache to seal in crumbs, refrigerate cake for 15 mins to harden, then add another layer of ganache for a picture perfect finish.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Broccoli and Venison Stir Fry

Alicia Silverstone, everyone’s favorite vegan, has a new book out called The Kind Diet, outlining the whys and hows of reducing animal products in one’s diet. Wait, I’m not making any crazy dietary conversions, just give me a second here…

I flipped through a few pages on Amazon and it looks decent. I didn’t buy it as I don’t know that I want my dietary advice coming from the Clueless chick, but whatev, it’s still a great concept that harkens back to the Pollan mantra: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Although this is definitely a meat eating household, I’m willing to bet Ms. Silverstone and I have more in common than first appears. Sure, she’s vegan and I am a former vegetarian with a love of fish, pheasant, yogurt, scrambled eggs, real chocolate, Haagen Dazs...but both Alicia and I have the same thoughts when we approach our dinner plates; namely, that factory meat is crap.

Enter broccoli and venison stir fry. You won’t find it in The Kind Diet, but I’m guessing Alicia would (somewhat) approve. I’ve made this dish twice in the past two weeks, it’s that good. You’ll need a couple new players in your pantry, though.

Black bean garlic sauce: For Bismarckians, Dan’s Supermarket carries this in the Asian section.

Asian chile sauce: Also in the Asian section, look for the rooster on the bottle; it’s cheap, lasts forever, and it’s lauded by many foodies as their fav hot sauce.


Broccoli and Venison Stir Fry
I also added mushrooms to the dish in the pic, but in the future, I'll leave out the mushrooms - which is why I'm leaving them out of this recipe.

8 oz. venison steak, thinly sliced
1 Tbls. soy sauce
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 c. black bean garlic sauce
2 Tbls. dry sherry
1 Tbls. cornstarch
2 tsp. Asian chile sauce
2 Tbls. vegetable oil
4 tsp. minced fresh ginger
2 lb. broccoli, cut into florets and stems thinly sliced
1/2 c. chopped peanuts

Combine steak, soy sauce, and garlic in a small bowl; set aside.

Combine black bean sauce, sherry, cornstarch, chile sauce, and 1/2 c. warm water in a small bowl; stir to dissolve cornstarch and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbls. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add broccoli and 1/4 cup water, cover, and steam until broccoli is just tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in black bean sauce mixture and cook until thick and bubbly, about 1 minute. Add peanuts and toss to combine. Transfer to large serving bowl.

Put skillet back on stove and add 1 Tbls. oil. When hot, add beef and its marinade. Stir fry until just browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, toss with broccoli, and serve over basmati rice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sea Salt Pretzel Caramel Ice Cream: A Tribute in Haiku

Pretzels in ice cream.
I dig deep, seeking out those
Few salty nuggets.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Adventures in Corn Bread

Just in case your husband made a massive pot of venison chili, ready and waiting for you when you walked in the door after work (the chili, not the husband *wink wink*) and you want to make jalapeño cheddar cornbread but find that you are all out of all types of flour except for rye flour (how did THAT happen?) and it’s cold and sleeting outside making a trip to the grocery store seem not so appealing so you decide to go ahead and make cornbread anyway but sub in rye for AP flour...if this happens to you, just know that the corn bread may look a little funny, but it will taste fine.

I adore cornbread and I've tried many variations, but my go-to recipe is right on the back of the Quaker cornmeal container. I always go back to this. Cut off a warm hunk straight from the oven and let a slather of butter melt in – heaven.

Here’s the recipe to peruse at your leisure - rye flour substitution completely optional.

And PS - for the record, that's my beer. Hubby drank water. I'm a bad influence.

Easy Corn Bread
Want corn muffins instead? Just pour batter into muffin tins and bake 15-20 mins.

1 and 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. corn meal
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 8" or 9" square pan. Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil, and egg, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened (don't overmix). Pour batter into pan, bake 20-25 mins or until light golden brown. Serve warm.

Jalapeño cheddar variation: Follow recipe above, reducing sugar by half. Roast 1 or 2 jalapeño peppers under broiler until blackened, turning to roast all sides. Carefully remove from broiler and place in shallow bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let sit 15 mins. Peel blackened skin off peppers. Cut open and remove seeds; discard skin and seeds. Chop roasted peppers and mix in corn bread batter with 1 to 2 cups shredded cheese.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Homemade Granola Bars

I think we all have a rotation of five or six websites that we would consider our daily reads, those sites we check while digging into a bowl of Cheerios in the morning or clicking through in the evening right after baby goes to bed – or both. What are you favorites? I love hearing about the “favorites” of others, whether it’s food, books, websites, or MST3K episodes. My dailies change on occasion, here are my top five lately:

Facebook - a time suck if there ever was one, but I’m hooked in

NPR – if I weren’t already married, I’d propose to Carrie Brownstein. She’s so cool.

NYTimes – oh no, is my liberal side peeking out? Don’t worry; a North Dakota liberal is a moderate everywhere else. After all, we own guns.

Jezebel – girl power and snarky pop culture commentary; an indulgence custom-made for me if there ever was one

In Praise of Leftovers - my favorite food blog, and I don’t just say this because Sara occasionally graces me with her presence (Hi Sara). It’s a little like my blog, but cranked up to eleven.

We’re similar in our cooking style and even lifestyle, but her recipes are more creative, her photos are great, and her writing reminds me of...hmm, maybe a spontaneous Barbara Kingsolver: calm, fluid, even poetic, yet down-to-earth and easily accessible.

Ok, now I’ve put IPOL on this pedestal, but humor me here. The best part is Sara’s positivity. I mean, check out this post. Doesn’t it just make you smile? I find myself trying to be more positive here because of her. And then maybe someone reading me has a little brighter outlook. And then it trickles down to their family, co-workers, and acquaintances. It’s scientifically proven that happiness is contagious, you know.

Speaking of happiness, I’ve wanted to make granola bars forever. Every time I buy another box of Quaker Chewys, noting the ridiculously long list of unrecognizable ingredients, I think of how I’ve been meaning to try making my own. Then IPOL posted this granola bar recipe. Yes please!

I couldn't help but compare my gorgeous little granola bars with the supermarket ones. Which would you rather?

Guess which one I picked...

Homemade Granola Bars
I made major changes from the original recipe to use what I had on hand, but it still worked great. Be sure to check out the original recipe on IPOL, but don't be afraid to improvise on this: it's a granola bar, it can take it.

1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 c. chopped peanuts
1/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
2 Tb. sesame seeds
1 c. flaked cereal, like raisin bran
1/4 c. flaked coconut
1 c. dates, coarsely chopped
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt

Lightly oil an 8″square pan.

Preheat oven to 350. Spread oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds on a large, rimmed baking sheet and toast until everything is lightly browned and fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add cereal, coconut, and dates, toss to combine.

Combine peanut butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, and salt in small saucepan. Heat over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the mixture bubbles slightly, about 5 minutes.

Immediately pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until no dry spots remain (I used my hands too, but be careful of the hot pb mixture). Transfer to the prepared pan. Lightly oil your hands and press the mixture down firmly to make an even layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Vegetable Red Thai Curry

Joe Rollino and Miep Gies both passed away this week. Don’t recognize the names? I didn’t either at first. But they have a lot in common. Both were centenarians. Both were ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Both are inspirational examples of a life well-lived.

Joe Rollino was an olde time strongman – picture a real-life Popeye lifting barbells at Coney Island. At only 5’5” and a lifelong vegetarian, he was a showman that pulled boats with his bare hands, bent quarters with his teeth, and voluntarily dove into the icy ocean in the middle of winter. At age 103, he was out for a five mile walk when he was hit by a car - a strongman to the very end.

In a culture that sees old age as a time of feebleness and illness, in a society that thinks of sickness as something that happens “to” us rather than something that we inflect on ourselves, I’m heartened to hear of someone who bucked the trend and decided to take responsibility for his own health and was committed to that right up to his last step.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Miep Gies was a quiet, humble, elderly woman, the polar opposite to Joe at first glance. However, she too was extraordinary as the woman who helped hide Anne Frank and her family during the Nazi occupation. After the raid, Miep recovered Anne’s diary and papers, holding them for safe keeping while awaiting Anne’s return, never reading the diary until Anne’s father, Otto, published it for all to read. After Anne’s diary was published, she devoted the rest of her life to educating people on the Holocaust, in hopes of preventing such massacres of humanity from ever occurring again.

(Have you seen this yet? The only known video footage of Anne Frank, peeking out the window of the Annex to watch a wedding couple pass by.)

Both Joe and Miep lived long, full, healthy lives. Both saw good times and tough times, but were resilient and active up to their very end. Both life stories pull me to do better, to be better, and to live in a full, simple way.

I can’t define what living a full life entails, but I’m guessing that sharing good, nourishing food is one of those things. In times of plenty and times of little, as long as we appreciate what we have and share generously, I see that as a great first step to living a good, full life.

Vegetable Red Thai Curry
For you Bismarckians, if you are addicted to the curry wraps at Mr. Delicious like me, then you are going to L.O.V.E. this. The sauce is exactly the same. Adapted from the stellar flexitarian article from Fine Cooking mag this month, I made this with tofu, but you could add/substitute shrimp, chicken, beef, whatever.

1 Tbls. vegetable oil
3 Tbls. red Thai curry paste
2 cups frozen peas
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 Tbls. brown sugar
1 12-oz package extra firm tofu, cubed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Juice from half a lime (1 Tbls plus)
2 Tbls. fish sauce (can substitute soy sauce for vegetarians)

Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add curry paste and cook until fragrant, 20 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in peas, onion, pepper, coconut milk, sugar, and 1 cup water. Stir to combine. Add tofu. Bring to simmer over medium heat, cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Stir in fish sauce, basil, and lime juice. Let rest off heat for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt if needed.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haystacks for Haiti (continued)

Thanks for all the great comments, ladies! Well, to summarize, Haystacks for Haiti went over well. Really well. At the end of the day, the cookies were almost gone, the donation jar was filled with bills and coins, and a quick visit with HR resulted in an extra donation from my company. Combined with donations from me and my generous co-worker that helped scheme this up, we raised (drum roll please)…


Ok, so it’s not Brangelina’s $1M donation to Doctors Without Borders, but at least it’s something. With Charity Navigator rating Partners In Health so highly, with 95% of every dollar going directly to program expenses, I have no doubt that it will be money well spent.

And if you are thinking about raising funds for Haiti or any other cause, remember one thing: people like cookies. The Girl Scouts definitely have pinpointed what wins hearts and minds…and wallets.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haystacks for Haiti

The earthquake in Haiti has shaken me. I've never been to Haiti, I don't know anyone from Haiti, but yet, but yet, I can't pull myself away. I see those pictures and I think of my baby. I think of my family. I think of compassion. I think of Dr. Farmer.

Everyone should read Mountains Beyond Mountains. It's beyond inspiring, proving that yes, one person can make a difference. Dr. Paul Farmer graduated from Harvard Medical School and instead of following the cash, he opened a clinic in Haiti. Living like a pauper, he built a tiny clinic into a thriving multi-national health organization for the world's poorest people, Partners In Health. I read that story years ago, and with the recent news, Dr. Farmer comes to my mind again.

And then I thought about mud. I remember reading an article about rising food prices, and how poor Haitians have resorted to eating "mud cookies" - essentially dirt biscuits, held together with a little oil and salt. 'People eating dirt,' I thought. 'Our world has come to this.'

So these mud cookies. And this earthquake. And this doctor. All these things came together in my mind when I decided to do something about it. I'm calling it Haystacks for Haiti.

Haystacks look kind of muddy, like the famous Haitian "mud cookies", so why not make a batch for some Haiti awareness and have a little fund-raiser? I made a double batch, about 50 cookies total. I'm taking them to work tomorrow. I'm going to put up a sign that says, 'Hey, take a cookie, and consider a donation to Haiti relief. I'll match your donation, up to $100 total.' Whatever cash I raise is going to Partners In Health and their earthquake relief fund.

I floated the idea to another co-worker of mine, just to make sure I wasn't completely crazy. He thought it was cool. In fact, he said he'd pitch in another $100 as a donation match. Now we're rolling!

So here we go. I have no doubt that the cookies will go over well tomorrow at the office, but I hope people donate. I'm guessing there will be a couple people who will take a cookie and pretend not to see the tip jar, but I think most will. Maybe $50 ($1 a cookie)? Maybe we'll meet the $200 match goal?? Stay tuned.

Hungry for Haystacks yourself? Get the recipe here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fried Northern with Homemade Coleslaw

This is a walleye house. Walleye is a mild fish, flaky, easy to clean, easy to cook, local and plentiful – why mess with perfection? However, when a fried fish craving hit and I pulled out a package of fish from the deep freeze, it was labeled as Northern. Northern? Oh yes, from the Canadian fishing trip early last summer. Ok, we’ll work with this.

Northern is actually really tasty – it’s a little meatier than walleye, thicker in texture, but both are pike, so pretty darn similar. Still, northern is eschewed by many fishermen as inedible for one reason: too many *&!^* bones.

My husband, the fish catcher/cleaner, is quite proficient with a knife. Whether it’s a moose carcass in the field or a Thanksgiving turkey at the table, he can cut it up and clean it up with expertise and grace – a very masculine grace, of course. As such, he does not tolerate bones in his fish. However, filleting out northern presented a special challenge: the Y bones, so difficult to cleanly remove from the fillet that many fishermen just don’t consider northern as worthy of the dinner plate.

There’s a trick to it, though. Before leaving for our Canadian fishing trip, we logged onto YouTube and learned how to remove the Y bones. Can you believe YouTube was only launched in 2005? What did we ever do before it? YouTube has probably cut a few points off the global productivity rate, but it can be helpful with clips like this:

"You don't want 'em floppin' around on you." Don't you love a thick Minnesota accent?

It still took a little practice to get the technique down pat, but I’m pleased to say that I didn’t hit one bone in our fried northern dinner. Good job, honey.

Fried Northern with Homemade Coleslaw
Fried fish is simply one of my favorite things and pairs perfectly with coleslaw. Adapted from Fine Cooking magazine, you can consider this recipe as another ode to cabbage.

1 lb northern pike fish fillets
Canola oil
2 eggs
¾ c cornmeal
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ large head green cabbage
1 carrot
¼ c. mayo
1 Tbls cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp celery seed

Shred cabbage and carrot in food processor. In a large bowl, mix shredded veggies with mayo, vinegar, sugar, and celery seed. Adjust seasoning to taste and set aside.

In a shallow dish, beat eggs. In separate shallow dish, mix cornmeal with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in cast iron skillet for frying, adding enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan (about ¼”).

When oil is hot, dip fish fillets in egg, then roll in cornmeal mixture and carefully place in pan, frying until crispy and golden brown (you may need to do this in a couple batches). Remove from pan to paper towels. Serve fish hot with coleslaw on the side.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shrimp Pad Thai

My vote for most underappreciated vegetable goes to the humble cabbage. It’s easy to grow, cheap and plentiful in the grocery stores, and doesn’t turn soggy right away in the fridge like, say, that $4 carton of organic lettuce mix. It’s also very versatile; cabbage is right at home in most cuisines, from Asian to Irish, Mexican to Ukrainian. It’s one vegetable that very literally feeds the masses. We should be putting it on a veggie pedestal. Gold stars and accolades for cabbage!

Ok, it helps that I happen to love cabbage. Even pickled cabbage, aka sauerkraut or kimchi. Bok choy and Napa cabbage, YES and YES please! Brussel sprouts…well, I’m still working on overcoming some childhood trauma on that one. My therapist says I’m making progress. Still, I totally understand why the French use “mon petit chou” (my little cabbage) as a term of endearment.

However, even now in the midst of cabbage season with a recession to boot, I feel like le petit chou still gets ignored, its true potential shrouded in mayo. I’m willing to bet that a majority of US cabbage consumption comes from those pre-shredded bags of coleslaw. I buy them too, but now that I think about it, $1.69 (or even 97 cents on sale) is quite a racket for a bag of shredded cabbage when you can buy a whole head for well under a dollar.

I’m not cheap. I just don’t like being ripped off. Plus, whole head cabbage still has a place in the kitchen.

On New Year’s Day, we had a couple dear friends over for pad thai. Isn’t there some rule that you have to eat Asian food on New Year’s Day? Maybe I just made that up. I like that rule, though. I bought some bean sprouts, but apparently Bismarck doesn’t have a high rotation of sprout inventory, because the ones I purchased for the dish tasted…off. I tossed them in the compost and subbed in chopped cabbage instead. Turned out great!

I don’t have a picture of the dish, as it was nearly all consumed at dinner (and basically finished off by my wandering fork before bedtime), but as our friend half-jokingly said, “I hope this makes the blog!” Stefani, consider it done.

And for the record, Ben was checking out the button...

Shrimp Pad Thai
What would I do without Epicurious? The flavors are always top-notch, I haven’t hit a bad recipe yet, and the reviews of each recipe are so helpful. Don’t skip the garnishes – they’re what make this dish so good. Tamarind is a bugger to find in Bismarck - I could only find tamarind juice at Central Market, but it still imparted the sweet/tangy flavor. I don’t own a wok, so this recipe is adapted to a large pot. If you have a wok (or prefer a vegetarian pad thai), check out the original recipe.

12 ounces dried flat rice noodles (1/4 inch wide; sometimes called pad Thai or banh pho - can't find 'em? Substitute with fettucini noodles.)
3/4 cup tamarind juice (sold in the Asian section of the supermarket in individual soda cans)
1/2 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)
1 bunch scallions (aka green onions)
1 small onion
16 oz. cooked and peeled shrimp, tails removed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 large eggs
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 cups chopped cabbage
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Lime wedges
Chopped cilantro

Prepare noodles according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, make sauce by mixing tamarind juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Cut scallions into 2-inch pieces. Halve pale green and white parts lengthwise.

Cut onion into very thin slices.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat until hot, then fry half of the thin onion slices over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 8 minutes. Remove crispy onion with slotted spoon and spread fried shallots on paper towels (pieces will crisp as they cool). Carefully pour oil into a heatproof bowl, reserving the oil. Wipe pot clean.

Lightly beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 2 tablespoons onion oil in pot over high heat until it shimmers. Add eggs and cook through. Break into chunks with spatula and transfer to a plate. Wipe pot clean.

Heat rest of onion oil in pot over medium-high heat. Stir-fry scallions, garlic, and remaining uncooked onion until softened, about 1 minute. Add noodles, shrimp, cabbage, and reserved sauce, stir-frying over medium heat (use 2 spatulas if necessary) until sauce is distributed and cabbage is crunchy-tender, about 3 minutes.

Stir in eggs and transfer to a large shallow serving dish. Sprinkle pad Thai with peanuts, fried onions, and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and Sriracha.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


The other night I made Cuban black beans for dinner. I don’t often make the same thing twice, which became completely apparent while we were eating.

“I’ve had this before somewhere…” hubby said between mouthfuls.

“Yes, dear. I’ve made it before.”

If he heard me, it didn’t register.

“But I’ve eaten this before somewhere,” he says.

“Yes, honey. I’ve made it before. And we ate it. Right here. At home.”

I hope my child doesn’t inherit selective hearing.

I already blogged about this dish here, so why do I mention this? Because instead of running between laptop and stove to recreate this dish, or daring to drag my computer into the tornado of splatters and spills that is my kitchen, I had a little help.

My own cookbook with my own recipes. Isn’t that awesome? It was a Christmas gift from Amber, who I don’t hesitate in titling as the most creative gifter I know – and I don’t just say this because she reads this. She has what I call “The Knack.” It’s a combination of good taste, a generous heart, and an internet browser full of bookmarks of cool stuff.

The cookbook was created via TasteBook and no, I have not been paid one red cent to mention this (I only wish that were the case). I wish you could hold the cover. It’s a lovely texture, almost velvety. I can order new pages and add to it as much as I want via the TasteBook website. Pretty cool idea.

So a big hug and “Thank You!” to Amber - check out where she gets her inspiration at her photo-riffic blog.

Oh, and Amber? My splatter-free laptop would also like to express her appreciation as well.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rotini with Broccoli and Navy Beans

Last Sunday afternoon, as the sun came out and the crisp blue winter sky made an appearance, I decided it was time to get out of the house. I literally told myself, "Beth, you are getting out of the house. The laundry can wait, the blog can wait, the baby will be just fine at grandma's house. Just go." Yes, I talk to myself like that.

So I loaded up my cross-country skis, bundled up in my hubby's winter gear (one benefit of being married to a hunter), and got ready to go. Only one problem: getting out of the driveway.

Just as I was getting ready to push the truck into four-wheel drive and battle the snow drifts, I hear the distinct beep-beep-beep of heavy machinery.

The snow plow!

Thank you, Mr. Snow Plow, for clearing our street and doing a pretty decent job of not piling up the snow in front of our driveway. But maybe it helped that I was standing there taking pictures of you as you drove by, eh?

I dropped off baby at grandma’s and headed down to Riverwood golf course, which converts to cross-country ski territory in the winter (note to Bismarckians: skis available for rent at Riverwood golf shop). The trails weren’t groomed yet when I got there, but no matter. Some intrepid soul had already plowed a path through the virgin snow, so I just followed the lead.

At some point, I wondered if I was lost. What if the skier who forged these tracks really had no idea where they were going? The golf course isn’t that big, but when it’s cold out and you’re feeling your energy wane a bit, all the cottonwood trees start to look the same and the snow-covered ground seems to stretch endlessly. Should I turn around? Perhaps a bit foolhardy, I skied on and eventually came around to my starting point, feeling grateful for the beautiful day, the fresh air, and the precious moments to leisurely spend outdoors.

In order to have more time to do things like this, I find myself looking for shortcuts in the kitchen. Not Hamburger Helper shortcuts (not that there is anything wrong with that – don’t sue me, General Mills), just looking for a shorter path to getting real food on the table. I love puttering in the kitchen – I’m a food blogger, after all – but the reality of life right now is prioritization, and baby, husband, and time to maintain my own sanity, or, um, well-being, all make the cut before, say, hand-rolling my own linguini noodles.

Enter the one-pot pasta dish. You already have the pasta water boiling, so why not throw the veggies in there too? The pot and pasta are already hot, so why not throw in the sauce and let the residual heat take care of the rest? Homemade marinara sauce and fresh chopped tomatoes (in season) are great, but jarred sauce and canned tomatoes can be pretty darn decent too, so why not take advantage of that occasionally?

This dish puts all that together and then some. I’ve made it dozens of times, mostly in high school during my vegetarian days because it was one veggie dish that I could make that the rest of the family would actually eat. The one-pot adaptation is a recent change – a sign of the times, my friend, leaving a few more moments to get out and enjoy gorgeous snow days while they last.

Rotini with Broccoli and Navy Beans
Adapted from The Vegetarian Times Cookbook – if you have the time, you can steam the broccoli separately to control its texture a bit more and retain more of the nutrients, and/or make your own tomato sauce with fresh herbs and such – but just keeping it real here. My husband picks out the beans, but I love 'em in this.

1 lb. rotini
1 jar marinara sauce (I used Target brand)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I used Italian seasoned Muir Glen)
1 15 oz can navy or cannellini beans
1 large bunch broccoli, cut into florets
Handful of olives, pitted and chopped

Bring pot of water to a boil. Add large pinch of salt to water, then add rotini. When rotini is almost done with about 1-2 minutes left to cook, add broccoli. While the pasta finishes cooking, drain beans in strainer, rinse and leave beans in strainer. When pasta is al dente and broccoli is tender but still a little crunchy, turn off the stove and pour pasta and broccoli over beans in the strainer to both drain the pasta and warm the beans. Transfer all back into pot and place pot on warm burner. Pour tomatoes and marinara sauce over pasta mixture; stir well. Add olives, toss and serve.