Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Friday, November 16, 2007


I will be hosting a small gathering for family, total count will be 7.  I’ve ordered an organic, pasture raised turkey, they smallest they had was 12-14 pounds.  Assuming it comes in on the small side, I am planning to do a “deconstructed” turkey.  You cut up the turkey, into a full breast with wings, legs with thighs, and everything else.  Everything else (back, neck, etc) is used to make a very nice broth, the thighs get stuffed.  To roast, the breast sits on a pile of stuffing and the legs sit along side.  This cooks much quicker than a full bird.  The full recipe is in the Julia and Jacques Cook book (which is one of my very favorite cook books).  In addition, I’ll make mashed potatoes. gravy, cranberry sauce (this is really easy, see below for the recipe), and a few vegetable sides.  Maybe a squash gratin, maybe a cornbread dressing with roasted fall vegetables…  it’s wheat free corn bread with lots of vegetables, but I’ll need to find a dish that fits in the toaster oven to make this work.   But when else are you going to eat parsnips and rutabagas? (and if its good, I'll post the recipe next year!) And of course there will be pies for dessert, both pumpkin and pecan unless someone gets a better idea.

Let me know what makes the perfect Thanksgiving meal for you!

So, to keep you interested in Thanksgiving and NOT Christmas (no matter how many of our neighbors already have their Christmas light up already), here are two favorites:

Creamy Winter Squash Gratin
8 cups cubed peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 teaspoon salt
3 ½ cups 1% milk
1/3 cup flour
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 clove garlic
2 (1 oz) slices bread
2 teaspoons fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400F

Arrange squash in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or use cooking spray).  Bake for 25 minutes or until the squash is tender.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add leeks and salt, cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.   Combine milk and flour, stirring well with a whisk.  Add milk mixture to pan, bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.  Add cheese, pepper, and nutmeg, stir until cheese melts.  Gently stir in squash. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with a cooking spray.

Mince garlic in food processor.  Break bread into pieces, add with parsley to food processor.  Pulse, then process into crumbs.  Sprinkle bread crumb mixture evenly over squash mixture.  Bake at 400F for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Yield: 8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup).

Do ahead: prepare the gratin a day ahead and refrigerate, store the bread crumb topping separately. Let sit for a while at room temperature, add crumbs, then bake at 400o for 30 minutes or until brown.

Cranberry Sauce not from A Can

I think the cinnamon and vanilla really make this special (not to mention the lack of a tin-can taste), I always use tangerine juice since we just start getting them about this time)

Cooking Time: About 15 min.
Prep Time: About 5 min.
Makes:  3 1/2 cups, about 12 servings  (about as much as two cans)

6 cups (2 bags, 12 oz. each) fresh cranberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup tangerine juice                 
(or use orange juice with a tablespoon of lemon juice added)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla

Put everything except vanilla in a saucepan, and over high heat bring to simmering. Turn down heat, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are tender (lots of them pot open), about 10 minutes.

Stir in vanilla, let cool.  Serve, or chill airtight up to 1 week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mixed Media

One of my endeavors during sabbatical was taking a mixed media art class at the Desert Botanical Gardens.  They have a very serious botanical illustration program, with drawing, pen and ink, and watercolor classes.  Mixed Media was a new class, to combine pen and ink with watercolor.  The instructor was intending this as an advanced class, expecting the students to have taken the pen and ink and water color classes as prerequisites.  She was a bit unprepared when most of us in the class had little if any experience.  Fortunately, she quickly switched gears, and did a great job …  in the end, everyone had some very nice pieces. Her background was doing medical illustration, and she patiently taught us how to dip our pens, draw a line, as well has how to use watercolors.  However, She did not have any patience for non-artist quality materials, and started us with a pricey list of materials.  I have now fallen for sable brushes, and today figured they how well they work well for doing a little oxide line work on my pots!

We started the class by copying some Beatrice Potter illustrations from “The Tale of Benjamin Bunny”, as she used a mix of ink and watercolor.  We tried ink first, then watercolor, and then the other way. We also tried different inks, including one made from walnut shells.   Either way, you start with a pencil drawing (which we traced) that is transferred to the watercolor paper.  For the watercolors, she taught us how to mix colors, we started with 2 reds, 2 yellows, and 2 blues. A good reference book is  “Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green” (hint, hint Christmas is coming).  The hardest color to mix was the grays. For the final project, I composed a picture of five different basils that I have in my herb garden (sweet basil, lemon basil, variegated basil, a purple basil, and Blue African basil).  I did cheat a bit, I shot pictures of each, cut out the background (so I also learned a lot about Photoshop), then did some tracing to get the basic shapes and perspective.  My biggest problem with getting big drops of ink on the paper, fortunately, the teacher had some watercolor whiteout (Creative Mark Aquacover) which did a good job of covering them up!   Here are pictures of my pieces.  I also did one of a yucca, hoping to get one without an ink blog (but not successful).

I’m really glad I took the class, I have a much better feeling for a few more more techniques, I might get to the point someday where my drawings have some level of accuracy(!), and have found that good watercolors are really pretty fun to use.  I was really surprised how quick you can get the colors down, but found that just like pottery, there are times you just have to stop, to let things dry out properly… because it can go bad very, very quickly.   Now to just get my studio arranged to support both pots and paints!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sabbatical End

The wailing you will hear tomorrow morning will be me going back to work.  It’s the last day of my 8 week sabbatical.   Its been a fabulous time, … I’m not even close to running out of fun things to do, and most days I’m exhausted in a good way.  The highlight was the trip to Italy, but there were so many other wonderful things, like my visit with my sister-in-law, a mixed media art class at the botanical gardens, time to, doing stuff with friends like lunch, golf, and wine tasting.  So far, I have written 20 blog entries, about 50% more than normal, and going twice a week to yoga.  The BBQ at my in-laws has gotten some use.

I have also really enjoyed my time at home: working on art, listening to music, puttering (not to be confused with putting), cooking and watching the birds and rabbits in yard.  I enjoy making a really nice salad for lunch:  finding what looks good in the fridge (which has not once been really, really empty), composing the salad, having a glass of wine. I have found that I might have the patience to paint.

I feel very lucky to have had this time, and glad my friends (and especially my husband) have been so supportive, and put up with my blathering even when they have had less than stellar days.  I am currently reading Julia Child’s “My Life in France”, where she describes herself before going to cooking school as the “butterfly of fun”.  That’s what I have felt like!  Maybe I should go to cooking school next (she started at the Cordon Bleu in Paris).