Winter Salads – Culinary Literacy Corner

When you think of “salad”- traditionally it consists of fresh lettuce & greens with assorted garden vegetables, fruits, toppings and a dressing. Salads can be a side dish or a main entrée.  During the summer there is an endless supply of fresh greens, veggies and fruits in season available at grocery stores, farm markets and even your home garden!  But what about winter? 

Absolutely!  You can enjoy a variety of great salads all year long.  Yes, you can find summer fruits and vegetables at grocery stores during the winter but there can be quality issues (not as appetizing or tasty) and they can be very costly.  So for winter salads focus on hearty greens, late harvest vegetables & fruits that have a long storage life and pantry items.  Salads are not just lettuce and greens!  There are tons of great recipes featuring fresh brussel sprouts, beets, squash, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions and more.   


Examples of Winter Salad Ingredients:  

Winter Vegetables: spinach, kale, beets, squashes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, garlic, onions 

Winter Fruits:  apples, pears, cranberries, citrus (grapefruits, oranges), pomegranate, figs, dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, cherries), canned fruits like mandarin oranges 

Pantry Items:  olives, nuts (almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), chinese noodles, ramen, oils (olive, sesame, avocado), vinegars (balsamic, red wine), maple syrup, honey 

Winter Cheeses: Bleu, Roquefort, Gorganzola, Parmesan, Goat, Feta 

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Holiday Baking

This year, the holidays are going very differently for me. Usually on Christmas Eve, we usually go to three different houses, and three again on Christmas day. We visit with a ton of friends and family and share so much good food. This year, while I am totally planning on Zooming my holiday (I got all my nieces great presents and I very much need to see them unwrap their gifts), it’s just me and my husband at home. Since I will be at home this year with some time on my hands, I thought I would dedicate some of the holiday to what I like to call project baking. Project baking is baking that takes some time, that turns out something really, really special.

I have a fairly large list of what I want to make, so I thought I would share them with you, as well as links to the recipes. Some of these are a little more time consuming than a batch of cookies, others homier and humbler than what I might make to bring to my family’s holiday gatherings. No matter what I choose, though, putting one or two of these projects in my oven will make my home feel cozier and more like Christmas. Here’s hoping that if you find yourself with time on your hands this holiday season, you’ll try to make something special for yourself or your loved ones, too.


Kolaches

Kolaches are semi-sweet puffed dough typically surrounding a fruit filling. They originate from Eastern Europe, and according to Wikipedia, they were traditionally a wedding confection. The type I intend to make this holiday has a yeasted dough and aren’t the cream cheese dough cookies that my Hungarian grandmother makes. I have a lot of jam and preserves on hand, and I think a batch or two of these treats will be very nice to drop off to my parents and grandparents.

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Step Up Your Leftover Game

The holiday season is definitely a time when we are all inundated with leftovers. We’ve put together a video in our Culinary Literacy Center to demonstrate a few recipes that you can make with Thanksgiving leftovers, and have provided a list of related recipes at the bottom of this article.

Leftovers are not just for the holiday season though. Keep in mind that making use of leftovers is something that will help your household economically-speaking. It also helps to build your skills as a home chef. Look at is a fun challenge rather than just re-hashing something that you’ve already eaten. Make something brand new and delicious!

The following tips will help give you confidence in the kitchen and help you make the most of your leftovers year-round:

  1. Google away. Make use of the internet to find recipes that utilize your leftovers and the ingredients that you have on hand. You can search for recipes in general by typing keywords into a search engine. There are also websites that help you locate recipes based on ingredients that you have. www.BigOven.com, for example, allows you to enter in three ingredients (for example “turkey,” “stuffing,” and “mashed potatoes) and will then display recipes that include those items. Supercook is another website, with an app available as well, that lets you add in what you have on hand and then provides recipes.  
  2. Customize. Use those recipes that you find online or in cookbooks or magazines but don’t be shackled by them. Don’t have one of the ingredients listed? Don’t worry. The whole point of cooking with leftovers is to use what you have without heading to the store. Leave it out or substitute with something that you do have. Is the recipe appealing to you, except for one ingredient? Same thing. Leave it out. Want to make it a bit healthier? Substitute with low-fat ingredients or leave out some of the carbs.
  3. Be creative. Taking the last tip a step further, think about the recipe and ways that you can make it better. Make it your own. Would dumping cheese on top make it better? Probably! Give it a try. Cooking is an art, not a science. Have the confidence to try out new things. Experimenting will build your skills overall in the kitchen and make for more exciting meals for you and your family.

Try out the following recipes with your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Leftover Thanksgiving Casserole: https://www.itisakeeper.com/14034/leftover-thanksgiving-casserole/

Leftover Thanksgiving Salad: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/130738/leftover-thanksgiving-salad/

Fried Mashed Potato Balls: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a22566735/fried-mashed-potato-balls-recipe/

Leftover Stuffing Waffles: https://www.foodnetwork.com/thanksgiving/leftovers/best-thanksgiving-leftover-recipes

Turkey Pot Pie: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/turkey-pot-pie-recipe-1962933

Leftover Thanksgiving Panini: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ree-drummond/leftover-thanksgiving-panini-2250042

Leftover Thanksgiving Nachos: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/leftover-thanksgiving-nachos-3537549

Leftover Thanksgiving Pull-Apart Sliders: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/leftover-thanksgiving-pull-apart-sliders-5419776

Let us know how your Thanksgiving leftover experience was this year or share some of your tried and true favorite leftover recipes in the comments.

Cooking on a Budget – Culinary Literacy Corner

Cooking can be stressful all on its own, but when you add in tight budgets, it can seem like an insurmountable task.

I’ve included some tips and tricks, as well as some articles and links to free printables like meal planning guides, to help give you some doable advice to get you started cooking on a budget. It’s tough! I know I personally do not enjoy sitting down and doing the legwork, but at the end of the month, my stomach and my bank account thanks me!


Prioritize

The first thing I recommend is to sit down with yourself and really think about what you value in your household, what your resources are, and most importantly how you most want to utilize your limited time and money.

It is important to really have a good handle on what your household’s day to day needs are, the sorts of things that might help (for instance maybe batch cooking on Sunday will help alleviate stress during the busy week) and what might not be as useful.

Some of these tips will work better for you than others, and that’s okay! At this point in our lives, I think most of us are interested in solutions that work for our own unique selves and families rather than trying to add things to our routines that will make them harder, more expensive, or simply consume more of our valuable time in unproductive ways. So, prioritize! When you see a step that doesn’t fit, skip it! Many of us love the idea of saving all our vegetable scraps and chicken bones to make homemade stock, but the reality for me, at least, is that I use so much stock, and have so little room in my valuable freezer space, that this becomes unfeasible for me to do on the regular, and it’s fine by me.

Budget

If you don’t have a budget, now is the time to make one. You cannot save money if you have no idea where your money is going, or in the case of some of us, how much you even have to begin with.

I love an Excel sheet with a formula that I can just plug my numbers into. I do a monthly household budget, but some people have very, very detailed budgets that give them an overview of their whole year. Do what works best for you.

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Fall Produce Guide – Culinary Literacy Corner

Fall is an exciting time for vegetables, especially if you are going to farmers’ markets or local farm stands. Much of summer’s bounty is still available (September is my favorite time of year to make ratatouille after all!) but autumn’s vegetables are beginning to make an appearance, so to help you make sense of what’s in season at this time of year, we’ve put together a little guide in the hopes you might add something new to your dinner plate!


Root Vegetables

Fall is the season that root vegetables shine! Things like beets, kohlrabi, parsnips, and turnips are all in season in the fall months.

These root vegetables love to be roasted. Try seasoning them with all sorts of spice blends until you find what you love. Personally, I love Urban Accents’ balsamic and onion seasoning!

Here are some guides to roasting veggies:

How to Roast Any Vegetable

How to Roast Vegetables (Plus 6 Ways to Enjoy Them)

Is There A Right Way to Roast Vegetables

When in the store looking for root vegetables, smaller is often better, especially when it comes to turnips and kohlrabi. When these root veggies are larger, they tend to be more bitter and less tender. Look for small, firm turnips with a good color and bright green kohlrabi. If you’re lucky enough to get beets, kohlrabi, or turnips with the greens intact and not crushed, don’t discard them, sauté them with garlic and olive oil! They’re edible and delicious.

Here are some recipes to get you started:

Kohlrabi, Apple, and Mint Slaw

Roasted Beet, Goat Cheese, and Avocado Sandwich

Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnips

Winter Squash

The difference between winter squash and summer squash is primarily in their skin. Summer squashes have tender, edible skin while winter squashes have been left in the field to develop a tough outer skin that make them good for storing.

Everyone is familiar with the delicious butternut squash, but you may want to try some of the other tasty varieties around!

Delicata squash is delicious roasted with a chili lime seasoning like tajin. Its skin is edible, so it just needs the seeds scooped out and seasoned and it’s ready to roast.

Kabocha, sometimes called Japanese pumpkin, is another tasty variety to try. Cut in half, with the seeds removed, it roasts up creamy and sweet.

Spicy Roasted Delicata Squash Recipe

Roasted Kabocha Maple Syrup and Ginger

Butternut Squash Risotto

Sausage and Apple Stuffed Acorn Squash

Leeks and Fennel

Leeks are a member of the allium family, which includes things like garlic and onions. They are delicious and make everything taste special. When in the store look for bright whites and crisp greens. Leeks go great in everything from quiche to soups, so be sure to try these yummy aromatics in your next cooking experiment.

How to Clean Leeks

Buttered Leeks

Leek & Gruyere Tart

Chicken Pea Tray Bake

Fennel, also known as anise, is my favorite vegetable. It’s so crisp and has the most delicious smell. This licorice scented veggie loves citrus, and in the fall and winter, the way I prepare it most often is in a salad with arugula, parmesan, dried dates, and whatever citrus is on sale that week. It’s so good raw, it took me years to finally roast it, but this versatile veggie also loves heat. Fennel is also used as part of sofrito in certain parts of the world. If you are lucky enough to purchase it with its lacy, green fronds intact, don’t discard them, they are edible and can be chopped and used as a fresh herb or garnish.

How to Cut Fennel

Teri’s Sliced Orange Salad with Arugula, Fennel & Shaved Parmesan

One Skillet Lemony Chicken with Fennel and Tomatoes

Familiar Veggies With Colorful Takes

This fall, look for familiar veggies in unexpected colors! Cauliflower, which is in season during the fall, comes in some lovely shades like purple, orange, and lime green. Carrots can be purple, orange, red, or yellow. Radishes can come in easter egg colored bunches, as well as watermelon (green on the outside with a pretty pink center) or black!

Just be careful! Some these colorful varieties will make dishes look unpleasant because their colors will bleed, purple carrots and purple cauliflower are the most likely culprits.

Carrot Tart with Ricotta and Feta

Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter Lemon and Radish Tops

Rainbow Cauliflower Rice

I have made this carrot salad so many times over the years, I don’t remember where I got the original recipe!

Ribboned Carrot Salad

8-10 colorful carrots

1 handful fresh mint leaves

1 bunch flat leaf parsley

1-1 ½  limes, juiced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

½-1 cup roasted pistachios

10-12 dried dates (plump and sticky ones!)

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or smoked paprika)

1 teaspoon cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

3-4 tablespoons Pomegranate arils (optional)

Feta (optional)

  • Using a vegetable peeler, ribbon your carrots into a large bowl. You will have a core of each carrot left, usually I just munch on these or share them with the dog. You can save them for use in a salad later, or freeze them with other veggies for use in stock. Here is a video showing how to ribbon carrots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3yuK3ybBTU
  • Finely chop the parsley, making sure you have discarded the tough stems. Sprinkle parsley onto the ribboned carrots.
  • If your dried dates are pitted, make sure to remove the pits, then finely chop and add to the carrot and herbs.
  • Add the roasted pistachios. I love pistachios so I add about a cup, but a half a cup or so is also fine!
  • Add the olive oil, the lime juice, and the seasoning and mix everything together thoroughly. Taste and see if it needs more olive oil, lime, salt, or other seasonings. Sometimes when I make this, it is very dry, so I need to add another glug of olive oil and some more lime juice. I also like things really seasoned, so I often end adding more than a teaspoon of each Aleppo pepper and cumin. It’s really up to you and how you like your salad!
  • Once everything is seasoned to your satisfaction, add the pomegranate and a sprinkle of feta, if you are using it. I usually just pull a chunk of the feta from the block and sprinkle it in. Remember, this step is super optional and gilding the lily at this point!

If you want more veggie info, the companion video to this piece is on our Facebook page and keep an eye out for even more posts and videos featuring all things Culinary Literacy!

Cooking through the Tough Times: Part 2

Although we are no longer on a strict lockdown, many guidelines are still the same. It’s useful, then, to utilize our pantries as we try to stay out of crowded stores. Many of us may also have panic bought ingredients that are a little different than what we normally use as staples disappeared from the shelf. I have a few cookbook suggestions that I love to help you cook through your pantry and maybe utilize those red lentils you bought when there were no other legumes available on the shelf!


Bean by Bean and The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon

Bean by Bean is one of the most loved books on my shelf. I bought this book used at a garage sale for a dollar. It’s worth so much more than that. Unlike a lot of cookbooks, Bean by Bean doesn’t have any lavish, beautifully shot pictures. It’s mostly text. But that text is jammed full with useful recipes and tips so you can cook any legume you have in the pantry into something tasty and soul satisfying. Crescent Dragonwagon knows her business. She is a longtime vegetarian and it shows in all her recipes. The book is mostly vegetarian recipes with tips for making them carnivorous if the cook so desires. Bean by Bean also contains great vegan recipes. Included with many of the recipes are suggestions for sides, as well as complete menus. I have actually used several of the menu suggestions for parties I have thrown and was absolutely smitten with the results, as were my guests! I cannot stress how much I love this humble little cookbook.

Crescent Dragonwagon’s The Cornbread Gospels is a nice companion to Bean by Bean. Like Bean by Bean, there are no splashy, high resolution photos of sumptuous dishes, but the recipes are simple, delicious and down to earth. Also, the most important part, there are a lot of them. Crescent Dragonwagon packs this book full of regional and historical recipes for cornbread as well as other ground corn based treats. Like her other cookbook, she also adds lots of delicious recipes that you can use in conjunction with that tasty pan of cornbread you just made. Full of history and great suggestions, not to mention Truman Capote’s own cornbread recipe, this book is great for using up staples in your pantry.

Southern Biscuits by Nathalie Dupree and Cynthia Stevens Graubart

While we were in lockdown I made SO. MANY. BISCUITS. So many. I had a lot of butter in the fridge as well as a huge container of heavy cream, so I put it to good use. This cookbook has been a favorite since I first bought it in 2011. Having made almost every recipe in the book, I can firmly say that there is something delicious and comforting in this book for every type of home cook. If buttery and flaky biscuits seem too far out of your reach, I suggest maybe trying some of the drop biscuit recipes in this book. They will come out great, I promise, and after you are a pro making them, try some of the more complicated recipes. You won’t regret it!

A World of Dumplings: Filled Dumplings, Pockets, and Little Pies from Around the World by Brian Yarvin

This cookbook comes out whenever I am stressed and need something a little comforting and homey. Brian Yarvin visited festivals, fairs, ethnic neighborhoods, and restaurants around America researching the recipes in this book. Complete with great photos, clear, step-by-step instructions, and mouth watering recipes, this cookbook does not disappoint. I will admit, some of the recipes may require a bit of online shopping to source some ingredients, but most of these little, doughy gems are made with simple, basic ingredients that you either probably already buy or can find easily at the grocery store.

Cook90 by David Tamarkin

I initially checked this book out in an attempt to revitalize my cooking. I felt like I was in a rut and wanted a bit of a challenge. This cookbook is designed to help you meet the challenge of cooking ninety meals in one month. It was also one of two cookbooks that I had checked out from the library when it closed.

I quickly realized that this was a handy source for meal planning inspiration as well as a great resource for helping you learn to repurpose ingredients, substitute what you don’t have, and make the most of leftovers. The recipes are tasty, simple, and mostly healthy!

Cook90 also began again this year on Epicurious.com. You can take a look at the challenge here as well as take a peek at their awesome pantry cooking suggestions here.


What have been your go to meals and cookbooks over the past few months?

Let us know in the comments below!

Cooking Through the Tough Times: Part I

For most of us, this has been a very difficult time, and I know when life gets difficult, I often find myself puttering around in the kitchen. Like so many of you, when the libraries closed, I was bereft, and also stuck at home without one of the resources that I find most valuable from the library, access to untold cookbooks for free. On top of that, limited grocery staples, not knowing what would be available on the shelf, and the desire to stay home and out of public places unless it was essential, made doing something that I normally find very simple, very hard. I literally felt like someone had tied my right arm behind my back and was also squeezing my heart. What could I possibly make with what we had on hand? What did I need to get? I was very, very stressed. Although I only cook for my husband and myself (and my husband will eat anything I put in front of him), I really love cooking exciting, flavorful things. I also love adapting and making up my own things in the kitchen, but when I am stressed and upset, that creativity goes out the window. Needless to say, the pandemic has not been kind to my creativity, but I am also not the kind of person who can ever just serve boiled beans and rice without any extra flair. I was hobbled and despondent. Sometimes I get in a kitchen rut, and in the past there was always a simple fix, go to the library and grab some shiny, new cookbooks. Now what was I going to do?

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