Lunchbox Lentil and Potato Salad

lentil lunchboxThe peekaboo sunshine and the birds rallying in the plum tree seem to be telling us that spring is coming quickly. My stash of storage potatoes in the basement begs to differ. For some reason, this season, we’ve been slow to use up our potatoes and have to get on it! Potato soup? Pirogi time? Maybe invite over a crowd and feed them all gratin? Some of our potatoes, gratefully ordered from Laughing Crow Farm at the beginning of the winter, are beginning to sprout. I just cut that part off and proceed as normal, no problem. If I’m cooking up something that I’d like to become brown and crispy, I rinse the prepared potatoes under warm water and dry on a towel. (This removes a little extra starch.)

This dish provides some protein in your lunchbox by combining lentils, herbs, and potatoes in a simple salad that serves well at room temperature. Miraculously, we still have fresh parsley growing on our deck garden. It’s been so fun to have over the winter. (Thanks, Tani Creek seeds!)

Lunchbox Lentil and Potato Salad

About 4-6 lunches, depending on portion size

1 cup green French lentils
4-5 medium potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
half of one onion
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped finely
2 tbls. olive oil
2 tbls. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
4 strips bacon, cooked (optional)

  1. Fill a medium pot and bring to a boil on high.
  2. Wash, peel, and cut the potatoes, removing eyes or any sprouts. Cube into about 1 inch pieces. Boil for 20 minutes in salted water. Drain the potatoes and set aside in a bowl big enough to hold the potatoes and a little extra.
  3. Rinse lentils and add to about 3 cups of water. Add half of an onion, one clove of garlic, and one bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 25 minutes. Drain. Discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Add the lentils to the potatoes
  4. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, sparsely, salt, and pepper to make a dressing.
  5. Pour this dressing over the potatoes and lentils. Crumble in bacon.
  6. Enjoy warm or cold!

Wheat Dinner Bread (in a hurry)

breadHere’s a faithful recipe that I’ve made on many a rainy day. It takes only 2 1/2 hours from start to finish. Pretty quick for a loaf! While it doesn’t have the depth of flavor or crumb that a bread that’s had an overnight ferment might have, it certainly does a good job of mopping up soup or holding a sandwich.

Wheat Dinner Bread

1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 tsp. lemon juice

cornmeal
seed mix (recommended: caraway, poppy, sesame, and millet)
coarse salt, optional

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.FullSizeRender_1
  2. By hand or with a standing mixer’s dough hook, knead for about 10 minutes.
  3. Tuck the dough gently into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise for 1 hour.
  4. Shape into a boule by stretching and tucking the ends under the loaf. Place on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with a dry towel. Let rise for 1 hour.
  5. Wet fingers and thinly spread water on top of the risen loaf. Sprinkle with a mixture of seeds. With a knife or baker’s lame, score the top of the bread twice.
  6. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.

Notes:

  • If you’re going to eat this bread on the same day that it is baked, add coarse salt to the seed mixture that is sprinkled on the top. Yum!
  • Pictured is a beautiful and luxurious lame that I was gifted a few years ago. Before that I always used my sharpest kitchen knife to score loaves, which easily works.

 

Breakfast Honey Buns

This morning treat will scratch your itch for cinnamon rolls without any refined sugar. The dough itself is unsweetened, relying on a honey goo in the bottom of the pan to take it from yeasted bread to breakfast dessert. Do you tend to overindulge on sweets in December? This gives you a special treat to enjoy with your coffee that isn’t too much. (I may never make traditional cinnamon rolls again.)

I adapted this recipe from Baking With Less Sugar, a book that I’m really enjoying (and one that I featured in my recent gift guide.) I’ve tweaked the ingredients a bit and the timing – I always think it’s easier to do the prep the night before.

honey bunsBreakfast Honey Buns

Dough:

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil
1 c. warm water

Goo:

8 tbls. unsalted butter
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. cream or 1/3 c. half and half
1/2 c. water
1/4 tsp. salt

Filling:

2 cups hazelnuts
6 tbls. soft unsalted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. cardamom
a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
1/4 tsp. almond extract

  1. Combine the dry dough ingredients with the wet. Knead by machine or hand until the dough feels supple.
  2. Leave to rise for an hour in a warm place.
  3. Make the goo by combining all ingredients in a small sauce pan over low and whisking until homogeneous. (Yes, it will look pretty thin, but don’t worry, it’ll work out.) Set aside to cool.
  4. The filling is best prepared by pulsing all of the ingredients in a food processor until the nuts are your desired size, but you can definitely chop the nuts and incorporate the butter by hand.
  5. When the dough has risen, roll it out into a long rectangle. Smear with filling, leaving about a 1/2 inch bare on one of the long sides. Roll up tightly and gently, sealing with the bare edge. Cut into 12 equal buns.
  6. Pour the goo into a 9×13 inch pan. Spread evenly and place the buns in the pan, keeping a space between each bun to allow for rising and baking.
  7. Seal with plastic wrap or lid and pop in the refrigerator.
  8. In the morning, uncover, and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature for 400F and allow the buns to come to temperature with the oven. Start your timer for 25 minutes when it hits 400F.
  9. Enjoy warm!

Notes:

  • To make and eat right away, increase the first rising time to 2 hours and, after forming the buns and placing them in the goo, let rise for another hour.
  • For our small family of three, I prepare the recipe using two square pans and freeze the second pan for a future weekend.
  • If you’re looking for a sweeter treat or more complete tips for making a roll, check out Cinnamon Rolls Your Way

Slow Cooker Pork with Plum Jam

cold plum treeRemember those summer days when we were rolling in plums? The tree is cold and lonely now, but our shelves are WELL stocked with plum jam. Let’s just say, one can only eat so much toast. We wondered if there was a savory way we could use up some jam. An answer presented itself when we brought home From a Polish Country House Kitchen from the library. After salivating over many of the winter appropriate recipes in the book, we began to notice a pattern. Apparently there are a lot of plum trees in Poland and many of the dishes involve prunes. What thrifty people. Upon the book’s suggestion, we adapted a recipe to include plum jam and used the slow cooker instead of the oven to ease our schedule. I hope you’ll find this easy, tasty dish comforting for your winter evenings. The jam will give you a little sweet reminder of sunny days.

plum pork roastPolish Style Pork Roast with Plum Jam

2.5-3 pound pork arm roast (or a comparable piece of pork)
1 large clove garlic
2 tbls. dried marjoram
2 tbls. olive oil
4-8 ounces plum jam
coarse salt, pepper
1 1/2 c. water

  1. Rinse the pork, pat dry, and cut a deep pocket in the side of the roast.
  2. With a mortar and pestle, grind marjoram and garlic together to form a paste. (Alternatively, you can mince and mash with a fork.) In a small bowl, mix this paste with about 2 tbls. olive oil, 2 tsp. coarse salt, and many grinds of pepper.
  3. Rub this paste all over the meat and inside the pocket. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour. (Overnight would work just fine, too.)
  4. After the meat has rested, fill the pocket with jam. Tie it closed with butcher’s twine.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium high. Brown the roast on each side (even the ends) for about 1 1/2 minutes each side. Place the roast in the slow cooker and deglaze the pan with the water. Pour this and any scraped browned bits from the skillet into the slow cooker. Cover and cook at least 6 hours.

plum pork roast 2Note:

  • To make tying a little easier, lay your string out in rows on a plate. Then, place your roast on top of it. Bring strings together and tie.
  • We served it with cabbage, beans, and sweet potato one night and mashed potatoes the next. What a great, simple winter meal!

Using the Whole Pumpkin

gnocchi with sauceIt’s cold and rainy out. It’s finally November. There is no reason not to make a pumpkin pie. Today. Maybe right now.

Check out my column, From Scratch, over at the Kitsap Sun to learn how to use up one pumpkin in three different, glorious ways: a classic pie with a twist, a cozy dinner, and a quick snack.

 

Sweet Potato Wraps

sweet potato1The child loves sweet potatoes. Isn’t that enough motivation to try to put them in the main dish spotlight? If you, too, sometimes wonder how you can make a meal out of a sweet potato, here’s an idea. Almost a taco but not really, this wrap is a quick way to get a lot of flavorful good stuff into your little (or big) person.

Sweet Potato Wraps

For the potatoes:
1 large sweet potato
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
generous pinch of salt
olive oil

For the beans:sweet potato wraps
one 15 oz. can of pinto beans
small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, whole

1 star anise pod
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 c. water

To assemble:
whole wheat tortillas
cotija cheese
sunflower seeds
kale, sliced into thin ribbons
other optional leftovers (We had some roasted corn.)

  1. Peel and slice the sweet potato into 1/2 inch cubes. Mix the spices and stir gently with the potato. Distribute them evenly, then drizzle in a little olive oil.
  2. Bake the potato cubes on a parchment-lined sheet for 25 minutes at 400F.
  3. Meanwhile, ready the beans. Rinse thoroughly and set aside. In the small pot in which you mean to cook the beans, add a drizzle of olive oil, the diced onion, and the whole garlic clove. Cook until soft.
  4. To the pot, add the beans, 1/2 cup of water, anise pod, and dried sage. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. (If any water is left, go ahead and drain it off.)
    1/2 inch cubes sweet potato sprinkled w 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp cardamom generous punch of salt 1/4 tsp smoked paprika mix spices to distribute then drizzle oil.
  5. In a dry pan, toast tortillas on each side over medium, if you like.
  6. Assemble at the table as you please and enjoy!

Notes:

  • This is the recipe that we like for making homemade tortillas, using the whole wheat substitution suggestion.

Orcas Island Visit and Clam Chowder

Two ferries and a late night victory over Seattle Friday traffic recently landed us on Orcas Island where we attended Bullock’s fall plant sale and tour. It was an opportunity to see plants in full growth and wander amongst their wild grounds and lovely gardens. Optimistically, we brought back an Italian Stone Pine that is suited to this climate. In six years, we’ll have homegrown pine nuts for our pizzas!


One spontaneous turn down a beautiful lane, took us rather accidentally to Buck Bay Shellfish Farm, a third generation shellfish farm selling seafood right in sight of the bay its pulled from. The child slurped his first fresh oyster, pronounced it delicious, and then proceeded to munch down half of a big Dungeness crab. What a snack!
With a plan to make chowder when we reached home, we grabbed an onion, a few potatoes, and two pounds of clams. The next day, we added some celery from our deck garden and, as we sat at our table at home on our own island, we could still taste the sea of Orcas.

IMG_3961Creamy Clam Chowder

Being a clam chowder novice, I appreciated the clear directions and well-tested procedures outlined by Serious Eats. I made the recipe exactly as stated and would encourage you to do the same. I used water not clam stock. and chose thick-cut Hitchcock bacon.  My trusty immersion blender created a nice emulsion. This soup reheated well the next day.