Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crispy Turnip Fries

Hello! I've been away from blogging for too long! Travels and holiday activities have slightly taken over, and I am so glad to finally get to posting again. :) I hope you didn't forget about me...'cause I'm still here! 

Oh, and did I mention I got my first iPhone? It has been stealing a lot good amount of my attention. ;)

Anyway, back to food. I had another "first" a couple of weeks with turnips. They look like white beets, but aren't as sweet and have the consistency of an apple or jicama. What was I going to do with them?

I went to my trusty Google to tell me all the things that I could do. And then I picked something that would go with the bratwurst I was wanting to make for dinner. Turnip FRIES!

I cut them up in thin sticks, then tossed them in canola oil, grated parmesan cheese, a little garlic powder, paprika, pepper, and a tiny bit of salt. I adapted mine from this {recipe} I found on

Then I baked them up in a hot oven, 425F, for 20 minutes until they crisp up a little. They are pretty watery, so they don't crisp up like potatoes do, just be warned. They have a smaller starch content, which is why these are a pretty healthy alternative!

To accompany by turnips, I braised my bratwurst in white wine that I had from Thanksgiving dinner - if I had a beer, I would have probably used that, but I didn't, so I found the wine as a replacement, and it worked!

I served it up with another side of collard greens and smoked chicken (leftover from a previous dinner). And guess what hubby liked the best?

You guessed it, the turnips! Shocked me. Try these out sometime if you run across turnips in your CSA box (or your shopping cart!).

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Persian Fried Rice

Personally, I like restaurant leftovers. I know that lot of people don't like bringing food home because it just isn't great when you "nuke" it in the microwave the next day. Fried items get soggy, meats dry out, salad wilts - I get that.

Other foods, however, heat back up really well. But then there's the issue of not wanting to eat the same thing all over again. Some of you need variety. I get that too.

Hubby had a brilliant idea of what to do with some leftover rice and meat from a Persian restaurant we took some visitors to last week. "Could you make fried rice with that?" he asked. Sure, I answered. That's a great idea! I was just going to heat it up and serve it as it was! He's a smart one, my hubby.

We had chicken, beef, and two types of rice dishes. I also had onion, broccoli, and baby bok choy from my CSA box. This was perfect becuase we needed some vegetables and some color.

I parboiled (quickly and partially cooked) the broccoli florets that I had cut up by placing them in a small bowl and pouring boiling water over it, letting it sit for a few minutes. When the stems are tender and the tops are bright green, it's done. I have one of those electric hot water kettles, so this process made it SO much easier than boiling a pot of water on the stove and throwing in the broccoli. I need to file this tip away for later use.

While the broccoli cooked a bit in the bowl, I chopped up my onion and bok choy, along with the meat from the restaurant - all into bite-sized pieces.

With some canola oil in a hot pan, I sauteed the onion, bok choy, chicken, and beef.

Then  added both types of rice, the broccoli, and seasoned it all with salt, pepper, a little garam masala (Indian spice mix), and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It needed a little lemon to "brighten" up the dish. Food Network stars always say that. Now, I have too.

I cooked it over medium heat until the rice and meat were warmed through and moist again. We poured a couple of glasses of apple beer (I think it was Belgian), and sat down to eat a remodeled dinner.

I was reminded, with how yummy it turned out, what a great idea it is to use leftover rice in a fried rice dish. It's easy because you really can use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge and whatever meat you may have either in the fridge or freezer (bacon is always a good add-in). Frozen peas or green beans, canned corn or mushrooms or water chestnuts or pineapple (!)...the sky's your limit when it comes to a simple fried rice.

Make it with Chinese flavors like soy sauce and sesame oil or Middle Eastern with cinnamon and coriander. Or, like I did, you can use Persian ingredients and put in a little Indian spice. Use the rice as your canvas for a delicious, comforting meal.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gingerbread Santa Hats

I, like many of you out there, have (recently) joined Pinterest, a website that allows you to create virtual bulletin boards of things that you like, love, and/or admire - things that inspire you, things that you dream of making or baking or replicating someday. And this site, can suck you in. Almost worse than Facebook. Just sayin'.

One day, while I was inside the vacuum that is Pinterest, I found these Santa hat treats, made of brownie, whipped cream and whole strawberries. C-U-T-E!

So, when my friends had a little Christmas get together this week, guess what I made?

Instead of brownies, I made gingerbread (from a box mix from Trader Joe's from my mom-in-law).

I baked the "cake" in a small rectangular Pyrex (glass) dish. I let it cool, and then I took a 2-inch round biscuit cutter and cut out circles like this...

Then, you're left with all the scraps that look like this...

Beware - it is VERY tempting to eat ALL of the scraps immediately. Don't do it! Save some for later!
 I washed and cut off the tops of the strawberries, then dried each one with a paper towel so that the cream would adhere to the berry.

There's that pumpkin plate again. I can't bring myself to put it in storage quite yet.

I was short on time, so I bought whipped cream in a can instead of doing my own...doing my own would have been better. I realized that I could have controlled the firmness of the cream better had I whipped it in my stand mixer. This cream sort of melted quicker than I was expecting.

Anyway, to assemble the hats, top each cake or brownie circle with cream, add a strawberry, and top the point of the berry with a teeny bit of cream to form the hat's pom-pom.

Note: If I had used my own whipped cream, I would have placed the strawberry directly on the cake, then piped the rim of the hat around the berry. Also, if you plan to serve these at another location than your home, I would assemble them at the place where the party is. I messed that up too (got too anxious and then the berries were sliding around in the car. Not good). Ah well. Shoulda-coulda-woulda blah blah blah. :)

The result is a sweet treat to share with friends and family. Add Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies to the plate, and you've got a party!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Ravioli

This dish was my favorite discovery from our Thanksgiving meal. I hadn't made it before, so it was risky to serve it for a holiday dinner, but oh my, was it worth the risk.

I found a recipe on - click {this link} for the web page. I guess Emeril was my go-to guy for T-Day. I made two of his recipes on the same day!

I did almost everything the same, except that I used a mixture of butternut squash and pumpkin puree, I used wonton wrappers in place of homemade pasta dough, and I added balsamic vinegar to the sauce (at the suggestion of a friend).

And, the result was delicious, rich, and left folks wanting more. Just what a cook hopes for, right?

You start by sauteeing finely diced shallots in a little bit of butter, then add in the squash puree and cook it for a few minutes, so that the moisture evaporates a bit.

Then you add half & half, grated parmesan, and nutmeg.

Then, you assemble the ravioli. This job is most enjoyable with help. That's my niece, Rowan. She was a great help and we finished so much quicker with her assistance! As you can see, we used wonton wrappers and sealed the ravioli with egg wash, and then cut the edges using a cookie cutter. On Thanksgiving we made hearts, but with the leftovers I just did circles.

Once the ravioli is put together, I found that it helped to separate each layer with plastic wrap or parchment paper, and then let it sit for a while so that the pasta dried out a bit.

Slip each ravioli in the boiling water individually, so that they don't stick to each other, and stir the pot to keep them separate. Then when the pasta floats up to the surface, they are ready to fish out.

Meanwhile, let a good amount of butter melt in a large pan and let it cook at a low temperature until it starts to brown. Add sage leaves to the butter, then add the ravioli. Coat the pasta with butter, and then drizzle about 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the ravioli (about 15 ravioli at a time). Work in small batches if you're making a lot so that the ravioli don't break in a crowded pan.

Top with shaved parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making Over The Turkey Leftovers

We didn't have a ton of turkey left over from the holiday - it was so scrumptious, most of it was consumed on Thanksgiving Day. Hubby did an awesome job smoking it on our Traeger Smoker Grill

I spent a good 40 minutes picking all of the meat off the bones until I had a heaping pile of shredded, smoky, goodness to play with. Here's how we ate (and are still eating) our leftovers. 

Classic Turkey Salad Sandwich Mayo, mustard, hot sauce, sweet relish, salt & pepper mixed with turkey, served with sliced cranberry cheddar cheese (leftover from the cheese plate) on onion cheese bread (leftover). Aunt Deb's cranberry jello salad on the side. :)

Isn't that pumpkin plate cute?
Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwich with Roasted Vegetables More toasted onion cheese bread topped with turkey reheated in gravy. I roasted broccoli, fennel, and onions for a side dish. Note: the broccoli was charred a bit in the oven (I overestimated the timing), but hubby liked it like that...they were like broccoli crisps. He asked that I do that again sometime soon. Heehee.

Turkey Rice Porridge "Jook" with Shitake Mushrooms This is my family's classic meal made with turkey leftovers. I made about 6 quarts of stock with the turkey carcass and veggie scraps the day after Thanksgiving. This week, I took the about 2.5 quarts of stock and added 1 cup of uncooked, short-grained rice. I let it boil and then simmer for 3-4 hours until the rice breaks down and fills the whole pot and thickens the liquid. Then I added shredded turkey, diced shitake mushrooms, and salt to taste. That's comfort food for a cold, windy day. Tasty soup to warm your insides. Yum.

These three dishes pretty much used all of our turkey! How did you makeover your leftovers?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Random Images from Turkey Day (Before & After)

Just thought I'd share some photos from our Thanksgiving weekend while I gather thoughts for a more organized post later this week.

I hope that you enjoyed your time with family and friends as much as we did here in Southern California. The sun was shining and we loved the 80 degree weekend with walks outside and stops for gelato and frozen yogurt. I'm thankful!

Prepping the turkey brine.

Turkey ready for the smoker!

Coffee break for the chef. ;o)

Fresh-baked pumpkin pie.

Sauteeing the wild (and crazy!) mushrooms.

Deviled eggs ready to be served on a silver platter.

Pretty turkey! Nom, nom.

Hey, there's a kitty in my Christmas tree!

Advent has begun. May the Hope of the season fill your hearts and home!

I'll be back soon with a full-on cookin' with whatcha got kind of post.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We're Hosting Thanksgiving!

I think I finally feel like a grown-up. We have a house now and we are able to host our family Thanksgiving dinner. On Thanksgiving Day. Last year we had an "early Thanksgiving," but this's the real deal.

Mom and Sister and Nieces and Aunts and Uncle are rolling into our neighborhood this week and well, chances are, they will be rolling out! I'll post pics later, but here's a sneak peek of our menu:

Ringler Thanksgiving 2011

Deviled Eggs
Pike Place Smoked Salmon
Cheese & Olive Plate

Smoked (and brined) Turkey & Gravy
Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Butter Balsamic Sauce
Green Bean Casserole
Wild Mushroom & Leek (savory) Bread Pudding
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cranberry-Walnut Jello Salad

Homemade Apple Pie (from home-grown apples)
Homemade Pumpkin Pie (from fresh pumpkin)

I can hardly wait. Lord, am I thankful for food! What are you excited to eat on Thursday?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Pot At Home

Dumplings and soba noodles boiling in the pot!

The Fondue Pot: Hubby brought this small appliance from his bachelor life into our marriage. Ever since he made me cheese fondue for our first Valentine's Day, I have loved this fondue pot. It makes great meals...cheese fondue, chocolate fondue, and yes, even Chinese "hot pot."

When I was growing up we used to celebrate Chinese New Year at my grandparents' house and have hot pot for dinner, using butane camping stoves atop numerous card tables with metal folding chairs set up around them in their basement. Boiling pots of broth with plates full of raw meats and vegetables, all to be cooked up and fished out of the pot with small gold mesh strainers with long handles. Such fun and fond memories with family.

Now, a few times a year, we try to re-create the experience at our home, but most of the time, there aren't 30 other people in the room around card tables. It's usually just us two and our fondue pot.

I add chicken stock (homemade) to the pot with a splash of soy sauce and some diced green onions. Then I wash, cut and gather all the goodies:

This time I had baby bok choy and broccolini from my CSA box (upper left corner).

I buy pork and beef already sliced at the Asian market. You can also get ready-made fishballs or meatballs there. Then I wash and cut up any combination of baby bok choy, broccoli, and napa cabbage or lettuce. Cut up firm tofu into inch-sized cubes, and this time, I got some frozen dumplings and soba noodles to add to the mix.

Then you just set the table with sauces like soy, chili garlic paste, vinegar, hoisin, and/or whatever else you might have that's Asian in your condiment collection.

The rolling boil of the soup tells you it's ready to dump in the food - a little at a time, and when it's cooked, you fish it out with a strainer or a slotted spoon or tongs (you can see, I have no cute little strainers). Use little dishes to make a mix of condiments and then dip the cooked meat and veggies into the sauce and eat it up! You can serve it with rice or without. This makes a really fun dinner and a great way to use the fondue pot in a different way!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bugs On A Log

It was the afternoon on Sunday and we were ready for a snack. I had celery. What goes with celery?
Why, peanut butter, of course!

Back in 1st grade, my teacher, Ms. Nobusada, showed us how to make "bugs on a log." Some people call them "ants"...anyway, same idea.

Since that day, it's been one of my favorite snacks (although I'm often out of bugs, so it just ends up being peanut butter on celery sticks).

Well, I found some bugs (raisins) in the pantry, along with peanut butter...and I also remembered that I had some Laughing Cow cheese wedges in the fridge. Yum. And I threw some bugs on there too. Cheese goes with grapes, right? Yes, yes it does.

It turned out to be a great snack to tie us over until dinner. These things aren't just for 6-year olds. They can satisfy a grown-up's tummy just as well.

Don't forget all the things you learned in 1st grade. They could come in handy later in life!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Soup

It seems like kale is the latest "it" superfood. In the last year, it's as if someone in the culinary or nutrition world made it the most trendy thing to cook with. Or am I the only one who's noticed this?

I never knew what it was until a couple of years ago when someone made a kale salad for a church potluck. And it was really tasty and hearty! I thought, "Hey! This is what they used to use as filler in the dining commons salad bar to make it look pretty!" Yep, I worked in the dining commons back in college, and sure enough, they used kale as a garnish on the salad attempt to make the bowls of sunflower seeds and thousand island dressing look more appealing to 18 year old freshmen. Who knew you could eat it too?

After eating that yummy salad at church, I started playing with it - especially now as it comes in my CSA box. It can be used like any other dark green - like spinach or chard. It works great in stews and soups.

I made a sausage and kale soup a couple of weeks ago. This soup was adapted from a Pioneer Woman recipe for sausage, potato, and kale soup. I swapped out the potatoes for Cannellini beans and used less dairy, but other than that it's pretty close. Mom was here last weekend and had some for lunch. She said she liked it. You might like it, too.

Here's the step-by-step:

Dice half an onion.

Add the onion to a big stock pot with 2 cloves of crushed garlic. I use Dorot frozen garlic. It comes in these perfect portioned cubes and are great if you tend to let fresh garlic go to waste (like me).

Saute the onions and garlic in 2 T of oil with a dash of salt until tender and translucent.

Cut up 3 links of fully cooked chicken sausage in half moons.

Add the sausage into the pot, with 1/4 tsp red chili flakes, and a bay leaf.

Add about 4-5 cups of chicken stock.

Drain and rinse a can of cannellini beans and add to the pot.

When the soup is boiling, add one bunch of kale leaves (washed, de-stemmed, and torn into bite-size pieces).

When the greens are wilted, add 1/4 cup half and half. This adds a little more love to the pot!

Let simmer for 15-20 minutes to let the flavors get acquainted in the pot.
And that's pretty much it! You can add salt and pepper to taste as well. And remove the bay leaf. Serve it warm with a side of crusty French bread or toasted pita triangles. It's hearty, healthy, and has a little kick from the pepper flakes. This meal makes the rainy days in L.A. a little more bearable. Oh, I'm so spoiled here. :)

What have you been making with kale?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Making Your Own Stock

I always cringe at how many food scraps I end up with after I trim my veggies. Soon, very soon, I hope to start composting. But until then, I've been trying to make the most out of the scraps.

My favorite way to use all the "unedible" parts of vegetables (stringy stalks, peels, etc) is to make homemade soup stock. It saves me money on buying canned stock or broth, and it uses meat bones and veggie scraps to their fullest.

If I have veggie scraps and no meat bones, I'll stick them in the freezer until I get some bones. And vice versa - if I have bones and no veggies, I'll put the bones in the freezer until all the goodies are there.
When I'm ready, and have a few hours at home, I'll make my pot of stock. First, I put in the veggies...

This time, I had carrot peels, broccoli stems, the core of a bunch of lettuce, and kale stems. Onion peels are great, as well as celery stalks and leaves. Then, I add a couple of bay leaves and peppercorns for extra flavor. I don't add salt because it's easier to cook with if you can salt it to taste later on, according to what you are making.

On top of that, add the meat carcass, if you are making a meat stock. I had frozen innards from 2 organic chickens that hubby smoked on the grill, as well as some of the bones and skin.

Cover it with water, and let it come to a boil on the stove. When it boils, turn the heat to simmer, and let it simmer with a lid on for at least one hour.

Strain the cooled stock to get rid of all the grit, bones, and veggie matter...and you'll have plenty of stock (a few quarts at least) for soups, stews, and other recipes that call for a little broth or stock! This time I also skimmed the fat off the top before storing it, using a ladel. You can freeze it in plastic containers for a long time, or store it in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. I've seen some people freeze it in ice trays and then store them in ziplock bags after they are frozen in cubes. I hope you try this out if you've never done it before!