Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Our State Fair..." + Roasted Corn Chowder

I know exactly what you're thinking right now... I really wish I could see even more photos of Kate's offspring commingling with livestock.  Well, my friends, you're in luck, as this past weekend, we loaded up on hand-sanitizer and antacids, threw the kidlets in the double stroller, and hit up the State Fair!  

Since I like to fancy myself Ann-Margret circa 1962, my very patient family endured many rounds of Rogers & Hammerstein {although, after all the Fletcher's and assorted fair-fare, I likely resembled Blue Boy over the lovely Emily Porter}... but such is tradition!

Per usual, the Children's Medical Petting Zoo was a huge hit -- camels and giraffes and zebras and longhorns and llamas {no red pajamas, though} and donkeys and itty bitty baby piglets, oh my!  

L was none too impressed by Big Tex {he is quite loud, but...SOB!}; this was about as close as we were able to get without audible protestations {and she still looks pretty perturbed by his instructional interruptions to her brisket taco eating}: 

B was generally unimpressed.  Given he was unable to pet or eat or ride anything, I'll give him a pass this year. 

After doing our darndest to contract tapeworms and then eating our faces off, we took a spin on the mini Midway.  Sadly, L is still too young to ride anything legit {re: makes you want to puke}, but the race cars, airplanes, and carousel thrilled her... and this fat bear in pink overalls sufficiently traumatized her.

Yearly Fair Bucket List: COMPLETED.

From the 3rd Most Wonderful Time of the Year to a recipe inspired by the 2nd Most Wonderful Time of the Year {Texas State Fair < Hatch Chile Season < Christmas}, this corn chowder is perfect for a chile night* -- thick and comforting, but without all that heavy cream weighing you down.  Do all your prep work wherever you can grab a spare 15 minutes, and this comes together in two shakes of a blue-ribbon lamb's tail, with only 30 minutes - max - of simmering. 

Hatch Corn Chowder with Potatoes & Carrots
adapted from Damn Delicious

- 2 T. butter
- 1 large leek; halved, then thinly sliced {white and light green parts only}
- 3 Hatch chiles; roated, then de-stemmed and de-seeded {poblanos or Anaheims work great, too} 
- 2 cups milk {I used 1.5 cups of skim and 1/2 cup half&half}
- 3 T. flour
- 3 cups chicken broth 
- 1 pound small potatoes; halved or quartered {I used a mix of purple, red, and creamer}
- 1 pound carrots; sliced 
- 1 pound roasted corn kernels {one bag from the frozen section}
- 1.5 T. creole seasoning 
- 3/4 tsp. thyme 
- 3/4 tsp. salt 
- chopped chives, for garnish

Melt butter in large stock pot or Dutch oven. At Medium heat, saute leeks and chiles until tender, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle flour over leek-chile mixture.  Slowly whisk in milk, one 1/2 cup at a time, until completely incorporated and starting to thicken -- about 3 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, corn kernels, and spices.  

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low.  Simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 20-30 minutes. 


Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin "Lasagna" with Swiss Chard & Arugula

Lots of recipe posts accompanied by semi-to-not-at-all-relevant personal photography coming atcha this week -- how jazzed are y'all?! 

SO JAZZED, right?! 

First up, I'm going to get all #basic up in your face with even more pumpkin patch photos + savory pumpkin entree goodness! 

Last Friday, we hit up the "Gentle Zoo" in Forney, Texas with some friends.  If you'll indulge me, a brief review for any locals reading...

The Gentle Zoo is pretty much your standard petting zoo / pumpkin patch type situation.  I don't recommend uttering the actual word "zoo" to your toddler on the drive over {because 22 miles is kind of a long way to explain that "I'm sorry, sweetie, but no, we will not be seeing an elephant or a penguin today"... over and Over and OVER AGAIN}, but there are a decent amount of animals to feed and pet {the normal goats / sheep / horse trifecta, along with some more exotic offerings such as a kangaroo, tortoise, and capybara}.  The pumpkin patch isn't all that impressive, and I have a feeling that Hep C abounds on the playground, but the "jumping pillow" is super cool, and the tractor ride looked fun {although, full disclosure: L rejected all talk of hayride as if I were suggesting a root canal}.  

Overall Impressions: The Gentle Zoo is a fun outing if it's a pretty day {not too hot -- there's not much shade at all}, your kid likes animals and bouncy things, and you don't mind a bit of a hike from Dallas Proper.  We miss Owens Pumpkin Farm, but this was a decent substitute.  Even if your Chiclets refuse to cooperate for festive photography. {Don't worry, kids. It's not like Mama washed those matching shirts specifically for this outing or anything.} 

One other DFW mention before we're on to the Main Event... We thoroughly enjoyed a lovely supper al fresco at True Food Kitchen on Saturday evening.  The Dallas locale is in Preston Center {I can aggressively endorse the patio situation!}, but it appears there are locations scattered across 6 states... sooooooo, check them out for seasonal, local, healthy fare {tons of vegan, vegetarian, and GF options... but also with booze}.  I wish I'd taken photos of our meal -- each dish was prettier than the last!  I guess I'll blame the Gen Y half of my personality for that oversight {or the Autumnal Sangria?}. 

Now! Pumpkin "Lasagna" that will blow your hair back!  Quotations included because Real Simple is about to change the way you prep lasagna -- subbing layers of fresh ravioli in place of traditional noodles + ricotta mixture.  Assembly still required, of course, but this dish comes together in much more of a snap than standard lasagna.  And, while it doesn't make for the prettiest platter {why is lasagna so damn fugly to photograph?}, the flavors can't be beat this time of year.  I think the arugula addition really cuts the sweetness of the pumpkin.  Make this one for your next dinner party {or, yaknow, Tuesday}!  

Pumpkin "Lasagna" with Swiss Chard & Arugula 
adapted from Real Simple

- 2 T. butter
- 1 large sweet onion, diced 
- 1 garlic clove, minced 
- 2 bunches Swiss Chard, stems removed & leaves roughly chopped 
- 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 T fresh sage, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
- 2 cans pumpkin puree 
- 1.5 cups heavy cream 
- 1.5 cups freshly grated Parmesan
- two 20 oz packages fresh refrigerated ravioli {I used Butoli} {do not pre-boil}
- 5 oz box fresh baby arugula 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large skillet, heat butter over Medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and Swiss Chard and cook 5-7 minutes until Swiss Chard is wilted.  Stir in salt, pepper, sage, and nutmeg. Remove from heat. 

In a mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, cream, and 1 cup Parmesan. 

In a greased 9x13 casserole dish, place a layer of ravioli. Top with half of the onion/chard mixutre, then half the fresh arugula.  Spread 1/3 pumpkin mixture on top of the arugula.  Then it's time for another layer of ravioli + the remaining half of onion/chard mixutre + the remaining half of arugula + a second third pumpkin mixture.  Finally, a third layer of ravioli topped with the rest of the pumpkin mixture.  Sprinkle with the last 1/2 cup of Parmesan.  Cover casserole dish and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 15 more.  Allow to rest for 15 more minutes... and enjoy!  Crusty bread would be an excellent addition... as would some more greens to balance out the richness. 

Big thanks to Caitlin for sending this recipe my way! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baked Grits with Poblano & Cheddar


I'm happy to report, after airing my current, particular brand of Crazy yesterday,* my perspective was mostly on point today* {even as I pointedly noticed the bottled water aisle at the market was glaringly bare this afternoon... seriously, East Dallas?}. But thank y'all for making me feel less like an irrational headcase!

* {Wednesday / yesterday} - Behold! The wonders of scheduled postings! 

For your efforts, you shall be rewarded with my mama's recipe for baked grits. Which is unsurpassed in its awesomeness.  

Now, 'lest you lose your damn mind for a hot minute, please remember the teachings of our fore-mothers and My Cousin Vinny: 

No. Instant. Grits. 

Just say no.

Baked Grits with Poblano & Cheddar

- 1 poblano {or Hatch!} pepper, de-stemmed, sliced into ribbons*
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- small glug of EVOO
- 1 cup stone ground grits {we like yellow}
- 1.5 cups chicken broth + a little extra
- 1.5 cups 1% milk
- 1/4th tsp. salt
- several dashes of Cholula hot sauce
- 1 T. butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- 1/3 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat olive oil over Medium-High heat. Saute poblano until softened - 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for another minute or two until fragrant.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan, bring broth, milk, grits, and salt to a boil.  Adjust heat to Low and cover for about 20 minutes or until grits are done {when all liquid is absorbed and grits are tender and smooth}; you may need to add a bit more liquid.  Be sure you stir a few times to avoid lumps and boiling over.

Remove grits from heat.  Stir in all other ingredients except Parmesan.  Pour into a greased 8x8 baking dish or pie/quiche pan.  Sprinkle Parmesan on top.  Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until top is bubbling and beginning to brown.  Allow 10 minutes for cooling, then devour immediately!

*I suspect roasting and pureeing the pepper {I'd probably do two} might take this recipe to an even higher plane.  I'll experiment and report back.