Ginger Ale Poached Apricots over Warm Cinnamon Rice Pudding

Apricots Poached in Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon and Vanilla Bean
Simplicity.  I crave it, lately.  Maybe because I’m in a world filled with a bouncing-off-the-wall toddler and red-headed drama, or maybe it’s because the summer is heating up and I’m busy shooting weddings, all the while wondering who this little baby growing inside me will turn out to be.  I forget I’m pregnant most days.  Other than my sudden urge to rearrange all the furniture and the hair tie holding my pants together, it’s easy to forget while dealing with everything else.  That’s why I love cooking so much – it forces you to slow down and spend some time in thought.  Even if for just five minutes – there will be some point in meal prep where you must wait.  And in that waiting usually comes contemplation (if you can keep your phone out of reach).

Last week when I stood over my stove and smelled the tart sweetness of apricots stewing, I was transported back to the very first time I made jam.  It was about this time four years ago and the (now gone) huge, old apricot tree in our front yard decided to dump about 10 lbs of fruit on our lawn for a week straight.  I didn’t know what to do with all that fruit and I’d never made jam before, but I just started to create.  Took a base recipe and made all kinds of flavors: Vietnamese Cinnamon, Vanilla Bean, Red Pepper, Bourbon, Chinese 5 Spice – they were all amazing and I felt so good about not letting any of that fruit go to waste.  I also learned the simplicity of jamming.  The joy of tasting that fruit completely come ALIVE with just the addition of some sugar and a squeeze of lemon.  I never cared about apricots before that year, but since then, they’ve become one of my favorite fruits.
Poached Apricots in Ginger Syrup
I didn’t make jam with these store-bought apricots, but I did let them poach in some leftover ginger ale and a stick of cinnamon and vanilla bean.  The scent in my kitchen was as bright as the summer sun.  When the apricots were done poaching, I removed them from the liquid and let the ginger ale reduce until it was a syrup.  The apricots are sitting in that syrup in my fridge, now.  Waiting to be poured over ice cream or spooned over a warm biscuit with butter.  Or maybe just eaten straight out of the jar. Last week I made a cinnamon vanilla bean rice pudding for Olive’s snack time and added some poached apricots on top.  The combination was so comforting and for a few minutes, we both just ate and smiled at each other.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Poached Apricots

Ginger Ale Poached Apricots with Cinnamon Rice Pudding

2 lbs of apricots, halved, pits removed
1 liter of ginger ale
two cinnamon sticks (or a tsp of ground cinnamon)
1 vanilla bean, split
1/4 cup sugar

Place the apricot halves in a large, non-reactive pot over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger ale, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar and let the mixture come to a boil.  After 10 minutes, remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and set them in a large bowl.  Allow the liquid to reduce to about 1-2 cups of liquid and pour over the apricots in the bowl.  Spoon apricots and syrup over rice pudding, ice cream, waffles, whatever you want!

Cinnamon Rice Pudding*
makes about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup arborio rice (short grain rice)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
1 egg

In a medium saucepan, heat the milks, rice and salt until the mixture boils.  Reduce heat and let the mixture cook about 20-25 minutes, stirring often, until the rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and in a smaller bowl, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean paste and egg and whip until smooth.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of the hot rice mixture to the egg mixture, stirring quickly to temper the egg.  Then, while whisking, add the egg/sugar mixture back into the pot of rice and let it cook over low heat until slightly thickened, about 10 more minutes.

Serve with poached apricots!

*adapted from this lovely recipe off Simply Recipes

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms

Chicken Piccata and Buttered Noodles
This was the first full meal I made on our new gas stove that Matt installed for us last weekend!  He worked so hard rerouting gas lines (scary) and changing out new electrical outlets (scarier) and sawing a bigger hole in our counter top (can’t turn back, now!) and it all ended up totally awesome!  We have wanted a gas stove for years – they just heat so much quicker, they come down from high heat quicker – everything is more precise.  And plus – FIRE!  It’s pretty appealing.  I am tempted to roast marshmallows on this thing.  But I won’t.  I am very thankful for this machine and I swear I’ll deep clean it more than I did our old electric one…
Buttered Noodles
For the first meal, I did a simple chicken piccata with mushrooms and thyme and some soft, buttered noodles.  It was very comforting and yet refreshing at the same time.  I love the bite of the lemon juice and the capers in this dish and so for a twist, I added my favorite herb, thyme, instead of the traditional parsley and I also added some sauteed baby portobello mushrooms.  It all came together great and we thoroughly enjoyed our first meal from the shiny new stove!

chicken piccata

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushrooms
serves 4

3 chicken breasts, butterflied and split in half
1/2 cup flour for dredging
salt and pepper to season the chicken
6 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
1/4 cup capers, drained
1 cup mushrooms, sliced thin
8 oz. long pasta, such as linguine or spaghetti

Heat your oven to 200F.  This is to hold your chicken as you cook it and until the noodles are ready so that everything stays hot until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Salt it.  Salt it some more.  As it’s heating…

Butterfly the chicken breasts by sliding a very sharp knife length-wise into the thickest part of the chicken breast (kinda like you’d cut an english muffin in half) and lay the chicken breast open and cut down the middle, forming two, thinner cutlets.  Do this with the remaining chicken breasts and dry them on both sides and season both sides with a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

Heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat in a large, stainless skillet.  When the butter starts bubbling and popping, coat each chicken breast in flour, shake off the excess and lay floured cutlets on a paper towel until ready to fry.  I worked in two batches – three pieces at a time.  Fry for about 3-5 minutes per side, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer says at least 160. (It’ll cook some more as it sits to warm in the oven.)  Place fried chicken on a plate and place in the oven to keep warm as you fry up the rest.  For the second batch, add two more tablespoons of butter to the pan before frying the rest.

Remove the chicken and place on the platter in the oven.  Add the lemon juice, chicken stock and capers and thyme to the pan and scrape up the brown bits and season with salt and pepper.  Add the mushrooms and let the sauce reduce for a couple minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in the remaining two tablespoons of butter and spoon sauce/mushrooms over the chicken and serve with buttered noodles.

To finish the noodles once they are done boiling, add the drained noodles to a bowl, add a splash of pasta water, a tablespoon of butter and fresh cracked pepper and stir to combine.  Garnish with fresh chopped herbs if you like!

Chicken Piccata with Thyme and Mushroom

Roasted Salmon with Lima Bean Risotto

lima bean risotto and salmon
This week is really busy already! Hence, being behind in my posting! The Palmer house is bustling with preparations for the first annual Carpenter’s Banquet this Friday.  We are cooking for about 250 people, and my friends, that is a LOT of food.  I am amazed by how much it really is.  Forty heads of lettuce for the salads, forty butternut squash, fifty eggs for the bread pudding, two gallons of salted caramel for the bread pudding.  Two gallons?!  Of caramel?  It just adds up.  Anything multiplied by 250 is going to be insane and I will be the first to say that I’m super glad I’m not a caterer!  I think it’s going to be an amazing event and all the proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction will go directly to Carpenter’s Church for their supportive housing project.  It’s nice to be a part of something so good.

Tonight, we also shot the second show for our 24 Frames segment, and I’m super excited that Matt got to be a part of this episode!  It is about our very regular pizza nights and Matt’s perfect pizza crust!  I can’t wait to see what Paul and Daniel do after the first episode turned out surprisingly wonderful, considering I was in it. 🙂

Tonight I give you a simple dish that is packed with flavor.  It’s a riff off of yet another Tyler Florence recipe from his wonderful family cookbook, Start Fresh.  The recipe originally called for peas, but I had lima beans and I think it worked great!  I loved this dish because it was really simple to make and had a protein, a starch and a vegetable in just two dishes!  And it felt super comforting without being too heavy.  We’ve got a few chilly nights left in this season, I’m afraid, but with dishes like this, it won’t be so bad to stay in and cook!

salmon and lima bean risotto - great for toddlers

 

Roasted Salmon with Lima Bean Risotto
serves 4 or 6-8 child servings

2 tbs olive oil
1 pound salmon fillet, bones removed and cut into 4 portions
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup lima beans
1 cup Arborio rice
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the over to 400F.

Season the salmon portions with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the salmon pieces and cook without turning until browned on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer the pan to the oven and cook until the salmon just flakes when tested with a fork, about ten minutes.

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add the lima beans, reduce heat, and cook until bright green, about 2 minutes.  Scoop out the beans into a bowl.  Transfer half of the beans to a blender and puree until smooth.  Set aside.  Keep the broth warm on the stove.

In a large saucepan, toast the rice over medium heat, stirring often, until the rice has a nutty aroma, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the broth, one cup at a time, stirring and waiting until each addition is almost absorbed before adding more.  Continue until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Before all the liquid has been absorbed, stir in both the pureed and whole beans, butter, and cheese.  Serve the salmon fillets on top of the risotto, or flake the salmon into bite size pieces and serve risotto on the side, like I did for Ollie’s plate in the pic above! Enjoy!

Peachy Rice – a warming breakfast

7G9A8761
This lovely little bowl of sunshine was a great switch-up in our regular oatmeal routine last week.  Out of Tyler Florence’s wonderful book, Start Fresh, this was in the 9-12 month section as a breakfast or snack option. This is simply an amazing cookbook.  Given to me by my dear friend and fellow foodie, Becky, I have made several recipes from the book and will post a few more favorites before the week is over! This one was an easy and delicious start – Roasted peaches, apple juice, coconut milk, rice and brown sugar?!  Okay, okay, maybe a bit too much sugar to start every day, but for sure a wonderful afternoon snack and really, not THAT much sugar if you leave out the apple juice and substitute water!  We loved it, Olive loved it, and even my dad, who was stopping through on his way to a doctor’s appointment, loved it!  I’d highly recommend it as a new option for the mornings!  If you use brown or basmati rice, it’d be even healthier!

7G9A8756

Peachy Rice*
serves 4 adults or 6-8 baby portions

1 tbs unsalted butter
3 ripe peaches, cut into chunks
1 cup long-grain white rice (I used Asian sticky rice)
2 cups apple juice or water ( I used half water, half juice)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until bubbling.  Add the peaches and cook until they have released some of their juices, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice and stir until well coated.  Add the apple juice, milk, coconut milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Fold in the sugar, and stir until well blended.  Serve warm!

*adapted from Start Fresh

Curried Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream

curry potato puffs with dill cream

This was an incredibly flavorful dinner for us last Tuesday night.  It was one of those meals that came from a lack of motivation to go to the store.  I had two large potatoes, an onion and some puff pastry and I knew – there’s a meal there, somewhere.  With just a little prep, I had a meal on the table in about an hour.  I made these with left-over pie crust, as well, but everyone, including Olive, preferred the ones with puff pastry.  Buttery and flaky with that smoky curry spice went exceptionally well with the tang of the yogurt and dill.

This meal included one of those moments where I wasn’t giving Olive any sort of chance and declared that she wouldn’t like the yogurt sauce and so I didn’t offer her any.  After we had eaten a few bites, she said, “I want the sauce?!” and so I put some on her plate and she ate it all!  Yet another lesson in giving your kids a chance to prove you wrong. You never know when they’ll surprise you!

curried potato puffs

Curry Potato Pockets with Lemon Dill Cream
makes 9 puff pockets with plenty of filling to spare

2 medium russet potatoes, cleaned, skinned and diced small
1 large yellow onion, diced small
4 tbs butter
1 tbs curry powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed and cut into 9 squares
2 tbs cream for brushing the pastry
1/2 cup plain, full fat yogurt
squeeze of one lemon
2 tbs chopped fresh dill
salt to taste

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and once it starts to froth, add in the onion and potato.  Stir around until the potato begins to soften and then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and add in the curry, cumin and salt and pepper.  Continue cooking over low heat until the potatoes are completely soft.  Remove mixture from stove and set aside.

Set your oven at 400F.  Mash the potato/onion mixture in a bowl until mostly smooth and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Cut the puff pastry into 9 squares and put a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square.  Dip your finger in the cream and dab along the edges and pinch/fold them together into little letters – really, however you pinch and fold is up to you, as long as they have a fighting chance of staying closed while baking! Place on a greased cookie sheet and repeat until all the squares are filled.  Brush the tops with the remaining cream and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the yogurt dipping sauce: simply chop the dill and squeeze the lemon into the yogurt and stir till combined.  Adjust with a little salt and serve along side the pastries.  Personally, I don’t like this sauce on its own, but with the curry pockets, it’s just an amazing balance of flavors.

Enjoy!

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff

turkeystroganoff003

For your Monday family meal, I am presenting something truly comforting, low in fat and wonderfully flavorful.  Coming, again, from Tyler Florence’s book, Start Fresh, this recipe appears at the back of the book where a few dishes are listed that the whole family can enjoy and be modified for any stage eater.  If I were feeding this to 9 month old Olive, I would smash up a meatball into tiny pieces (they are really soft, anyway) and I would take some of the sauce and pulse it a few times with a few noodles.  I’d even have taken a bit of everything for 6 month old Olive and blended it all up with some extra sauce!  I was never too worried about feeding her a huge variety at an early age.  For 15 month old Olive, this meal is a free-for-all.  I’m really strict when it comes to what and when she eats, but as for how, I still cringe, but I do let her eat with her hands, smash things in her face and even try and “smell” everything (which results in food up the nose).  I know I have a lot of guidelines, so I try my best to not stress too much about the mess.  I still won’t dump a scoop of spaghetti onto her try and leave her to it.  I have boundaries, you know.  🙂  But I think WHAT she eats and the way we treat mealtimes is more important than having to hose down the high chair.  (I’m preaching to myself.  This is a life lesson for me and my need to control things too much!)

turkeystroganoff002

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff*
Serves 4 to 6

1 slice multigrain bread (I used rye) or about 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1.5lbs ground turkey
2 tbs whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
1/2 tsp caraway seeds, crushed (just dump some in a plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin if you don’t have a mortar and pestle)
Pinch of kosher salt
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
6 ounces sliced mushrooms (any kind)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 tbs AP flour
1.5 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 tbs sour cream or unsweetened yogurt (I used the latter cause that’s what I had on hand!)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
8 ounces cooked egg noodles (I like the extra wide for baby hands to grasp!)
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Chop or pulse the bread in your food processor (or with a knife) until very small and crumbly.  In a large bowl, mix the turkey together with the bread, milk, onion, caraway seeds, and salt until combined (err on the side of too wet and add more milk if it seems dry).  Shape the turkey mixture into about fifteen 2-inch meatballs.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add the meatballs and cook, turning often, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes (I have to use a meat thermometer for turkey and make sure I get the centers up to 160).  Transfer the meatballs to a plate.

Add the garlic to the same skillet and cook over medium heat for a minute or two.  Add the mushrooms and thyme and continue to cook, turning often, until the mushrooms are golden.  Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms and stir to coat.  Stir in the chicken stock and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Whisk in the sour cream and mustard until smooth, then return the meatballs to the pan.  Turn to coat with the sauce.

Spoon the meatballs and sauce over the noodles and serve garnished with parsley.  I didn’t think this recipe made enough sauce, just FYI, so I think next time, I’d double the parts for the sauce.  Word to the wise!  I like leftover sauce and for the noodles to be absolutely coated!

*recipe adapted from Start Fresh