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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Roasted Red Peppers

Removing the skin from roasted peppers can be an annoying and messy task, but that smoky, charred taste combined with the sweetness of the roasted peppers makes it well worth the effort.

Preheat a broiler or grill to high heat. Place peppers directly under broiler or on grill. Allow the skin facing the heat to blacken and blister, 1-2 minutes. Turn the peppers and allow the next side to blacken. Continue rotating until the skin is completely blackened. Transfer peppers to a bowl or container and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap. Allow to sit, covered, for at least 20 minutes (steam helps the skin come off).

When peppers are cool enough to handle, use your hands to carefully open the pepper and remove the seeds, stem, and any liquid inside. Then, place the pepper (pieces, by now) skin-side up on a cutting board and use your fingers or a knife to scrape off the skin. It should come off easily. Do not rinse the peppers.

Hard Boiled Egg Guide

This method of hard boiling eggs is nearly foolproof – you pretty much can’t overcook them this way. So no more dark gray rings around the yolks!

Note: use older eggs for hard boiling – they are easier to peel.

Choose the right size pot: all your eggs should fit in a single layer on the bottom.

Cover with water: add water to cover the eggs by 1 inch.

Bring to a boil: place over high heat and allow water to come to a boil.

Boil for 1 minute: once the eggs come to a boil, allow them to stay at a rolling boil for a minute.

Turn off the heat: turn off the heat under the pot and set a timer for 14-17 minutes – the larger your eggs, the longer you’ll need.

Cool: place eggs in cold water to cool quickly

Peel: make a lot of cracks in the egg. Start peeling at the bubble at the rounded end of the egg, and make sure you get underneath the membrane below the shell, peeling off the membrane as you go.

Rhubarb Muffins

Committee meeting working lunch, 4/19/12

These muffins are a quick and easy dessert or snack, and they can use fresh rhubarb from your garden. The wheat flour adds a little extra nutrition and a sweet, nutty taste, but if you don’t have any, you could substitute all-purpose flour.

Muffins:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, plain yogurt (or 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk, plus 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 ½ cup chopped rhubarb

Cinnamon topping:

  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons flour

Preheat oven to 375. Grease or place liners in muffin tins (16-18 muffins)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk or yogurt, brown sugar, oil, egg, and vanilla. Mix well.

Add wet ingredients to flour mixture and stir until flour is just moistened (over-mixing will make the muffins tough). Gently stir rhubarb into mixture.

Prepare topping: thoroughly combine all ingredients.

Fill muffin cups about ⅔ full. Use your fingers to sprinkle cinnamon topping over each muffin. Bake 18-22 minutes, until tops of the muffins spring back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool.

Bread Pudding with Rhubarb Sauce

Community meeting training dinner, 4/23/12

Beautiful? Not quite. Delicious? Definitely.

Bread Pudding
Bread pudding is incredibly easy to make, and the results are delicious. It’s also a great way to use up old, stale bread. You can use wheat bread here for a little extra nutrition in your dessert.

  • 2 cups 2% or whole milk
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups bread, torn into small pieces (use any leftover stale bread you have)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 ½ or 2 quart sized baking dish or casserole.

In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except for the bread. Place the bread in the casserole in an even layer. Pour the milk mixture over the bread. Press the bread gently to help it absorb the liquid, then allow to sit for 10-20 minutes.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until no longer liquid in the middle. Serve warm.

Rhubarb Sauce
Use this sauce with the bread pudding, or use it to top yogurt, ice cream, or anything else you’d like.

  • 4 cups rhubarb,* chopped into ½ – 1 inch pieces
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided use
  • ½ cup sugar (more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

In a large pot, combine rhubarb, ½ cup water, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until rhubarb is completely tender and falling apart. Taste the sauce, and add more sugar if it’s too tart.

In small bowl, combine cornstarch with remaining 2 tablespoons water. Stir well, breaking up any cornstarch clumps. Add the cornstarch mixture to the rhubarb and return to a boil for 1 minute, stirring. The sauce will thicken.

Remove from heat. Allow to cool at least slightly before serving.

Note: if you want a smooth-textured sauce, you can blend the finished sauce with a blender, immersion blender, or food processor. Always be careful when blending hot liquids, since they can splash and burn you.

*Rhubarb is a perennial that will keep producing tasty stalks year after year in your garden.

Creamy Pasta with Asparagus

Committee meeting working lunch, 4/19/12; Community training dinner and demonstration 4/23/12

Note: the longer this pasta sits, the clumpier it gets. But it's delicious at any time and temperature.

Adapted from Bon Appetit
Total time to make this recipe: only what it takes to boil the water, make the pasta, and stir. You can use whatever fresh seasonal vegetables are available in this recipe. Asparagus is great, but so are peas, green beans, zucchini, spinach, or anything else you have. Boiling times will vary for different vegetables, so you may need to add them to the pasta earlier or later. Zucchini and spinach can go in raw with the hot pasta.

  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta, medium-sized shape like rotini, penne, or medium shells
  • 1 pound asparagus (or substitute another fresh, seasonal vegetable – see note above)
  • 5 oz cream cheese (or use ⅓-less-fat cream cheese [called neufchatel cheese] or goat cheese, if available)
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (you can substitute melted butter, if needed)
  • 1 lemon, zest (grated peel, yellow only – no white part, which is bitter) and 1 tablespoon juice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil, dill, or tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground

Set a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus: snap off the bottoms of the stalks (they are tough, so just break off about 1-2 inches – it should snap naturally). Discard the bottoms, or save them for the next time you are making a chicken or vegetable stock. Chop the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces, about the same size as your pasta shape. If using another vegetable, cut it into bite-sized pieces.

When the water comes to a boil, add your pasta. Set a timer for 3 minutes less than the cooking time suggested on the package. While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: in a large bowl, place the cream cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon zest and juice, chopped herb (basil, dill, or tarragon), and black pepper.

When timer goes off, add the chopped asparagus to the pasta and reset the timer for 2-3 minutes. Use a ladle or measuring cup to remove ½ cup of the pasta water, and add this hot pasta water to the sauce ingredients in the bowl. Whisk everything together to make as smooth a sauce as you can (some lumps are fine – the hot pasta will melt them).

When the pasta and the asparagus are tender (taste them to make sure), drain them together. Add the hot pasta and asparagus to the bowl with the sauce. Toss or stir to coat evenly. Taste, and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serves 6-8.

Hearty Green Salad with Beans, Eggs, and Peppers

Committee meeting working lunch, 4/19/12
Community training dinner and demonstration 4/23/12
Community training dinner 4/3/13, without beans and using dill instead of oregano

This salad is a meal in itself – with lots of healthy protein from the eggs and beans along with the vegetables, it’s a great lunch or dinner. All the components of the salad can be made in advance.

Dressing:

  • ⅓ cup plain yogurt (NOT vanilla)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola, or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano

Salad:

  • 10-14 ounces lettuce*, any variety, washed and dried
  • 1 cup cooked beans*, any variety (see bean-cooking guide for instructions, or use canned)
  • 4 eggs, hard-boiled (see instructions here) and chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers*, chopped

Dressing: Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Salad: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, beans, chopped hard boiled eggs, and chopped red peppers. Add dressing and toss to coat. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish, 3-4 as a main course.

*Lettuce, beans, and peppers can all be raised in your garden.

Sausage and Potato Soup

Most soups follow the same general cooking technique:

  1. Brown any meat and aromatic vegetables (usually onions, celery, carrots, and/or garlic) in oil
  2. Add liquid (chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or water)
  3. Add slow-cooking vegetables (such as potatoes and other root vegetables) or beans
  4. Cook until the vegetables are tender
  5. In the last few minutes of cooking, add pasta, grains, or greens, and cook until just tender.

This sausage and potato soup is a basic one that is easy and tasty. Once you’re comfortable making it as written here, you can vary it to your liking by changing the components added at each of the steps listed above.                                                                                                                 

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable, canola, or olive oil
  • 8 oz summer sausage or fresh sausage, whatever kind you like
  • 1 onion, chopped small*
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped*
  • 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
  • 8 oz potatoes, cut into small bite-sized pieces*
  • 4 oz frozen or fresh greens, such as spinach, kale, or chard (optional)*
  • ½ cup dry alphabet pasta, orzo, macaroni, or other small pasta shape (or quinoa**, if available)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the sausage and cook until browned. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook for one minute more.

Add the stock and potatoes. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, 8-15 minutes depending on the size and type of the potatoes.

If using frozen greens, add to soup (you don’t need to thaw them first) and wait until the soup returns to a simmer before adding the pasta or quinoa. If using fresh greens, add them at the same time as the pasta or quinoa. Cook until the pasta is tender (see package for cooking time). Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Serves 4.

*All of these can be grown here in Nebraska and stored (frozen, in the case of greens) for long periods.

** Quinoa is a small seed that’s cooked like a grain. It’s a very healthy complete protein, and it has a slightly nutty flavor. It may be available in large grocery stores.