Author Archives: Kate from Scratch

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

perfect-hard-boiled-eggs

Happy Easter (almost) weekend everyone!  If you’re like me, you haven’t done anything whatsoever for Easter yet.  I will have about fifteen people here on Sunday to celebrate not only Easter, but also our son’s fourth birthday!  So, let’s get started with the most obvious Easter staple, hard-boiled eggs.

Hard-boiled eggs aren’t exactly the most complex thing in the world.  You put them in cold water, you bring that water to a boil and then after the eggs cook for about ten (between nine and twelve, depending on size) minutes, you cool the water gradually to prevent cracking of shells.  The only complicated part is leaving enough time to cool the water.  Because they’re still cooking  until they’re completely cooled many people end up with a green ring around the yolk.

tips-for-perfect-hard-boiled-eggs-Easter

So, basically you’re looking to get the eggs fully cooked without overcooking.   This is pretty easy as long as you have a timer.

Overcooking your eggs will give you dark gray chalky yolks, which may not be what you’re going for.  So, check the size of your eggs and cook accordingly.  I think most go wrong when following a recipe for large eggs, when in fact they have medium or small eggs or vise versa.  So, be sure to read carefully and you should be fine.  Also, for eggs that will peel easily, you shouldn’t use the freshest eggs you can find.  Easy peel eggs are a product of eggs that have been around for at least one week, maybe a week and a half, in the refrigerator.

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Now, to get cracking on these party plans.  I’ll be back next week.  Have a wonderful holiday weekend and enjoy!

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

1.  In a large pot (saucepan) place eggs and add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  When the water reaches a rapid boil, turn off heat and cover.

2.   Leave the eggs in the hot water.  For large eggs, leave for 12 minutes.

Note: 9 minutes for medium eggs; 15 minutes for extra large.

3.  Drain immediately and serve warm or add running cold water in moderate increments (about two cups at a time) until cool enough to handle, then drain and place in cold water again until cooled completely.

Posted in All, Basics, Breakfast, Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baked Spring Ratatouille

 

Baked Spring Ratatouille-2

Why should summer have all the fun?  There are many perfectly wonderful vegetables in spring that can be combined to make a beautiful rendition of ratatouille.  This is one of those dishes where you go to the farmers’ market and you just look around to see what your ingredients will be.  If it’s nearly eighty degrees and those yellow squash are calling your name, you should go for it.  If you are still shivering under a sweater and you are grateful for the first sight of asparagus tips, you should go for those, instead.

It’s still pretty chilly here, so I used a combination of some local spring vegetables and some greenhouse grown summer favorites.  However, the heat treatments in this recipe allow the natural essence of the vegetables to be brought forth. So if they’re not completely at their peak, it’s ok, because you’re maximizing all flavor potential.  The warmth is officially on its way!

It’s one of those dishes that is versatile and can be baked with a layer of provolone when it’s still cold at night just to add a hint of delicious comfort.  If and when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, I recommend you skip the baking process, of course.  But that’s not yet.  This version can be eaten with a whole wheat pasta or even put into a crusty roll for a ratatouille sandwich.  You can also wrap up any remaining the next day for lunch with some crispy romaine and a dash of balsamic vinaigrette.  It’s versatile and happens to be both vegetarian and low carb.  Enjoy!

Baked Spring Ratatouille

Serves 4-6
Prep time: 15 minutes (of chopping vegetables)
Total Cook Time: 40 minutes (including oven baking and cool time)
 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups diced spring onions
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cups diced (small, firm) eggplant, skin on
  • salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 cup diced red bell peppers
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus tips
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 cup diced yellow squash
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 cup freshly grated provolone
  • 3 tablespoons parmigiana-reggiano, for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions, for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly spray, with cooking spray, the bottom and sides of an oven safe casserole dish (1-2 quarts in size).
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add oil.  Once oil sizzles and before it smokes, add spring onions.  Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and a pale golden color, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add eggplant and thyme with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, asparagus, zucchini, and squash and continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook for a final 5 minutes.
  5. Stir well to blend, add additional salt and pepper to taste, if desired and then pour into prepared baking dish.
  6.  Bake in preheated oven until cheese bubbles and turns a pale golden brown, about ten to fifteen minutes.   Allow to set for five to ten minutes before serving.  Plate and garnish with parmigiano-reggiano and chopped scallions or basil leaves if desired.

 

Posted in Basics, Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Quick and Easy Spinoccoli Pasta

This is one of the most delicious vegetarian pasta dishes that I’ve ever eaten and that is saying a lot considering that all variations of pasta are a staple in our weeknight dinner rotation.  This even rivals one of my all-time favorites, pasta peperonata, which I never thought possible.  Spinoccoli is just spinach and broccoli, combined.  They’ve yet to create a hybrid of the two, so don’t go looking for a vegetable called spinoccoli.  There’s no such thing, though that would be pretty neat.  And, yes, I’m almost positive about that.

penne spinoccoli

This was not only received  well by all but was given ecstatic reviews from the family, which, let’s face it, is rare coming from them unless of course, there’s bacon involved.

It only took about fifteen minutes and was completely devoured.  There were no leftovers, but I can imagine this is one of those dishes that can be eaten and enjoyed at nearly every temperature.  It’s a quick and easy weeknight keeper-recipe.

Enjoy!

Quick and Easy Spinoccoli Pasta

Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

 

  • 1/2 pound dried pasta ( I used a short cut, penne)
  • 3 tablespoons butter (you may substitute olive oil and a pinch of salt)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 4 tablespoons Italian dressing
  • 1 1/2  cups fresh or thawed (formerly frozen) broccoli florets
  • 2 cups, packed, baby spinach
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
  • parmigiano-reggiano for garnish (optional)
  1. Prepare pasta according to the al dente directions provided on the package, reserving one cup cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, In a large nonstick sauté pan, over medium low heat, add butter, water, garlic, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and Italian dressing.  Add broccoli and cook until just tender, crisp and hot. Reduce heat to low.
  3.  Add prepared pasta with cooking water to sauté pan and toss to combine with broccoli.  Add baby spinach.  Note: Things may look overcrowded at this point, but will wilt down.
  4. Toss together and garnish with chives and Parmigiano Reggiano if desired.  Add fine ground sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Enjoy.

 

 

Posted in Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Wednesday Wake Up: Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

fruit and yogurt parfait Kate from Scratch

As I lay quietly in the darkness, I hear echoed yelling in the distance.  I search my mind to find something. What I’m looking for, exactly, I’m not sure, but in my restless wandering I only know that I need to find it.  I am cheerfully summoned from my epic quest with a small hand gently poking the soft skin of my eyelid.   This has been my regular alarm clock for several years, now.

I open my eyes and smile as they land upon Max’s adorably mussed mop and flushed cheeks.  He says with a grin, “Hi Mom! It’s a new day!”   His eyes sparkle.  Surely such optimism is deliciously contagious.  I wonder how much longer that will last as he approaches the age of four in only a couple of weeks.  I want to box up his outlook and preserve it like a perfect sauce that I stumbled upon and might need in the future.  But, of course, some things are strictly for enjoying in the moment.

I can see the gray light of dawn peeking behind the curtains and for the first time in many months, I hear the chirping of birds outside our window.  It merges with my sleep induced hypnagogic reality.  My eyes strain to see the clock.  I really need to get my eyes checked.  I’m pretty sure I’ve squinted for the better part of my life.

It’s six o’ nine in the morning and I am now aware that I did not, in fact, save the world from evil marshmallow people; which may sound like a bunch of fluff, but in the moment was sincerely frightening and notorious.

fruit and yogurt parfait Kate from Scratch

I snap into action.

Hello Wednesday, let’s do this.

I adjust the heat and stifle the redundant arguments between Trey and Max. The battle of who has more strawberries, who ate more strawberries and who will receive more strawberries in the future are all prevalent points of their intense debate, naturally.

I need coffee.

I should wake Mike up soon.  He’s still pleasantly enjoying his slumber.  He’s always been blessed with the ability to tune out any amount of noise in the name of a few extra moments of sleep.  Initially I thought this was some sort of defense mechanism against the morning rush (or when they were little, 3 am feedings).  But when considering it’s been ten years without variation in his pattern, I suppose this has become a believably necessary portion of his morning routine.

Let’s make breakfast.

fruit and yogurt parfait with granola

We have things to do.

This is quick and easy and can be made in advance for a grab and go breakfast if stored in an appropriate grab and go container, of course.

Some fat-free greek yogurt (I prefer raspberry, but any flavor will do) cloaked over sliced berries and pineapple with a layer of low-fat granola both in the middle and sprinkled over the top for a bit of crunch. It’s a sweet and tangy breakfast treat that’s simple to make in minutes and provides more than ten grams of protein, with a bit of an immunity boost too.

 

Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

  • 5.3-6.0 ounces fat-free raspberry Greek yogurt (or any flavor that you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries (any berry will work)
  • 1/3 cup sliced pineapple pieces
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons low-fat granola

1. Stir yogurt thoroughly.

2.  Layer ingredients: Fill cup with half the fruit and scoop yogurt over fruit.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup granola over the yogurt.  Top yogurt with remaining fruit and sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons of granola over the top.

 

Posted in Breakfast, For Kids, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

World Autism Awareness Day!

It’s that time of year again!  World Autism Awareness Day is today.  And, yes, while I am traditionally a recipe maker, photo taker, accidental mess maker and avid cupcake eater, this is one annual mainstay that I won’t deter from, here at Kate from Scratch. We’re shining a light on autism all month long.

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About Autism Speaks

Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.

It’s a cause near and dear and never to be overlooked and I hope you will join me in spreading awareness not just today, but all throughout April.

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Because, while today is the official day, it is just the kickoff point of a month long initiative to increase the awareness of autism.

So, if you’re a little late to the awareness train, no need to fret, you have time to spread the word and do some good for the cause.

Light It Up Blue is observed in our home, from our blue light bulbs, to volunteering in our own community, to lighting up somebody’s day.  Even the act of a simple donation can be enough.  There’s even an entire online store dedicated to Light It Up Blue gear!  You know, if you want to support a good cause and also get a memento that continues to spread autism awareness throughout the year.

Find countless ways here: How To Light It Up Blue.  Spread the word and show your support. Start by visiting liub.autismspeaks.org.  Autism speaks, it’s time to listen.

 

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Spring Rolls

spring rolls

Somebody needs to make some rules for April Fools’ Day.

Mom, wake up!  We’re super late!   …April Fools!

Mom I just remembered my book report is due today!  …April Fools!

Mom, Max scribbled all over my homework!  …April Fools!

Mom, Max has a permanent marker!  …April Fools!

Mom, I forgot my folder, can you run back and get it?  …April Fools!

And it continued.  (Ahhahhhaaaa.  No.)

The first one was good.

And ok, the second one was fine.  I can roll with it.  It’s all good.

However, getting pranked every three minutes really takes the zing out of it.   I think there’s some sort of cautionary tale about this subject.  Well, there should be.

I’m thinking that an affable revenge is appropriate in this scenario.  Is it completely wrong to want to exact a good-hearted revenge on a seven-year old in a healthy and informative way?  Well, I’m considering it nonetheless.  Perhaps, that is, if I can come up with something genuinely genius and hilarious over the next couple of hours. I’m open to suggestions.

We could always just team up to get Mike (aka Dad).  That’s always fun and sounds like a decent alternative.  But, yes, there should be a moderate amount of ground rules when it comes to pranking.  Like, one prank per person you encounter, so make it count.  That would be a good start.  I’m done ranting now.

So, about these spring rolls:  They’re healthy, fresh, light, gluten-free, vegan and delicious.  They’re easy to prepare and bursting with spring flavors.  They’re sweet and spicy and tangy and entirely more interesting than an average salad.  You can add whatever vegetables you like as long as they sauté up nicely without releasing too much water.  A quick sauté and a toss with the dressing, and they’re ready to be wrapped.  They’re the perfect bite for a spring lunch.

Spring Rolls

  • Makes about 8 spring rolls.
  • Prep Time: 10-20 minutes (depends how fast you can chop and roll efficiently).
  • Total Cook Time: 15 minutes.

Spring Roll Dressing

  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed peeled and minced
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger root
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon or lime zest

Sautéed Mixed Vegetables

  • 12 ounces mixed crisp and crunchy vegetables cut into thin strips no thicker than the width of a pencil (peppers, carrots, asparagus, green beans, zucchini, edamame, green peas, broccoli, etc.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice

Spring Rolls

  • rice paper spring roll wrappers
  • spring roll dressing
  • sautéed vegetables for Spring Rolls (above)
  • dark leafy greens, optional
  • bean sprouts, optional
  • wedge of lime and/or cilantro for garnish

Make Spring Roll Dressing: In a large nonstick sauté pan or wok over very low heat add garlic, onion, ginger, sea salt, cayenne and oil.  Heat over low until fragrant, or about seven to ten minutes.   remove from heat, add zest and brown sugar. Lightly whisk until combined and pour into a heat safe bowl, aside, to cool.

Make Sautéed Mixed Vegetables: Place same pan (no need to rinse or wash it) over high heat.  Add vegetables to very hot pan. Sauté until vegetables are tender crisp.  About three to seven minutes depending on thickness of vegetables. Remove from heat and add salt and lemon juice until cool.

Note: Add vegetables from most to least crisp to ensure even cooking and avoid any moisture from developing in the pan. If moisture develops due to overcrowding or overcooking, drain vegetables before tossing with dressing.

Make Spring Rolls: Toss spring roll dressing with sautéed vegetables, toss to evenly coat.  Both should be cooled.  Set in close proximity to work surface.  In a wide and shallow bowl of hot (but not too hot) water, drop in one spring roll wrapper for about 3-4 seconds.  Remove from water and place on plate.  Working quickly, add a small handful of dressed sautéed vegetables to center of wrapper.  Add greens and sprouts if desired.  Wrap top third over center filling.  Fold sides once inward toward filling and finish by holding filling and wrapping/rolling over remaining top third of wrapper.  Garnish with lime and/or cilantro if desired.

Note: it’s just like wrapping a burrito,  no need to complicate things.  Just be sure not to oversaturate the wrapper for easy rolling.  Great for a lunch on the go.

Posted in All, Lunch, Vegetarian | 6 Comments

Meatless Monday: Chickpea Salad with Citrus and Herbs

Warm-Chickpea-Salad-citrus-herb

We have had so many snow days this year that today is both the first and last day of our supposed “spring break”.   And, after a beautifully sunny near-sixty-degree weekend, this morning it was a lowly 26 degrees.  I went from biking sixty miles and cleaning out my closet with a smile while whistling, to not wanting to get out of bed this morning because the floor was too cold and the covers too warm.

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Only in March does this happen over the course of one week.

Ouch.  Spring break.  Sure!  I guess you could call it that.

So, as winter hangs on, kicking and screaming with its snowy tantrums, we all know this cold won’t last forever.

Time to lighten up the meals.  This is  tangy, fresh, light and very filling. It feeds anyone you can imagine with a special diet; vegans, dairy free, gluten-free, vegetarian and the rest.

In just a short eight weeks, I will be basking in the sultry warmth, chasing our boys with the water balloon launcher, err…   lounging at the pool in the near tropical sun while chilling my manicured toes under the gently flowing waterfall.

One can hope.

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Chickpea Salad with Citrus and Herbs

Toss with prepared vegetables and server over rice or quinoa to make a complete meal. Serves a large crowd, about 7-10 people. You may freeze leftovers or halve the recipe, if desired.  Time: 2-3 day soak (inactive).  1 hour for cooking beans.  15 minutes to prepare & finish.

  • 16 oz. dried chickpeas (1 pound bag)
  • water
  • 3-4 vegetarian vegetable bullion cubes
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut oil: LouAna*
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced: Your favorite kind as long as it’s the size of a softball, otherwise use more than half.
  • 3/4 cup diced, drained roasted bell peppers
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup white wine
  • the zest of one lemon
  • the juice of two lemons
  • the juice of one large naval orange
  • 1/2  teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, plus more to taste if desired
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt, plus more to taste if desired
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley and basil
  • 1 cup prepared vegetables or baby spinach (optional)
  • drizzle of organic honey, plus more to taste

*A sample of LouAna coconut oil was used to create this recipe.  I was pleased with the results.

  1. Sift through dried chickpeas removing odd bits; rinse chickpeas; place chickpeas into large air tight container.  Cover chickpeas with cold water.  Cover and place in refrigerator for 2-3 days.  Note: Any shorter soak time will require a longer cook time.
  2. In a large stockpot, add drained soaked chickpeas. Add fresh water 2 cups at a time until water covers chickpeas.  Add one bullion cube per 2 cups of water added to pot (about 3-4 cubes).
  3. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and allow to cook until chickpeas are tender but not mushy (about 45 minutes to 1 hour).
  4. Drain chickpeas reserving 1 cup simmering liquid with chickpeas and set aside.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, if desired.
  5. In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add coconut oil and diced onion.  Simmer until translucent and fragrant.  Add diced roasted peppers,  crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, orange juice black pepper and sea salt. Simmer gently together until wine is reduced, about fifteen minutes.
  6. Add chickpeas and toss together.
  7. In an extra-large salad or pasta sized serving bowl, pour in chickpea salad.  Toss with fresh herbs and prepared vegetables or baby spinach if desired. Drizzle with honey and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  8. Serve with rice or quinoa for a complete meal.

Notes on serving:  This makes a large (dinner party sized) portion.  If making for a smaller crowd, you may either halve the recipe or make the entire recipe and store leftovers in individual air tight containers in the freezer.  Keeps for up to three months in the freezer, depending on how much air and moisture is removed from freezer container.

Notes on brands: I use knorr vegetarian vegetable bullion cubes almost all the time and am always pleased with the results. You may use any brand of bullion cubes that require two cups of water per cube to make stock/broth, vary salt levels if you change the brand to taste.   I used Mezzetta jarred roasted peppers this time, if you prefer a different brand, you may use what you prefer.   I used yellowtail pinot grigio for the wine.

Posted in Basics, Dinner, Entertaining, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Quick and Easy Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers

Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, and community centers participate in fostering a love of reading by celebrating the birthday of Dr. Seuss.  My son’s school is celebrating all week long with fun activities and asked parents to get involved.  Being a fan of reading and especially Dr. Seuss, we decided to go with it.

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes Kate from Scratch-3

I first went to my most trusted of personal assistants, who also calls herself Google.  She’s fabulously helpful most of the time.  However, what I found there needed specialty store items and eBay purchases.

No thanks!

While fondant and edible printer ink is surely terrific, I wanted to create a simple variation.  One that anyone can manage with a quick run to the grocery store and twenty minutes.  Of course if you want to make the cupcakes with your best “from scratch” recipe and whip up three different colored frostings, you are more than welcome to do that.  But, I’m well aware that not everyone sees that as a rational investment of time.

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes Kate from Scratch-5

If you want to get the cupcakes from the bakery or use a boxed mix and some funfetti frosting  this recipe still works, though using the term “recipe” is a bit of an over statement.  It’s more like instructions for assembly.

And, so this is what we concocted with a little inspiration from pinterest and my husband’s genius idea in the candy aisle.

 

 

Fast and Easy Dr. Seuss Cupcake Toppers

Makes 24

  • 1 bag of marshmallows (not mini)
  • coconut oil (optional, for handling marshmallows)
  • 3 bags Life Savers Berry Bites Gummies
  • 24 cocktail straws or lollipop sticks (toothpicks will work too)
  • 24 cupcakes, prepared and frosted

Note: The gummies are three different colors/flavors, one of which is somewhat orange in color so I only used the two red of the three flavors.
1. Cut the ends off the marshmallows and reshape back to a circle (doesn’t have to be perfect and if you find your marshmallows to be too sticky, you may use coconut oil to reduce stickiness).
2. Stack three red gummies white side up and skewer with either a lollipop stick or cocktail straw (toothpick will work too, just warn the teacher about pointy edges).
3.  Slide the stack to the end of the skewer and then slide the cut marshmallow end to the stack.  Note, the marshmallow should be touching the red side of the gummy.
4.  Cut skewer to the height of the prepared cupcake.
5. Gently slide each skewer into the center of each cupcake.

Posted in Dessert, For Kids | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ten Tips for Perfect Blanching (and a recipe for Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze)

 

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-8

We’re getting another ten inches of snow this weekend, however, it is technically almost spring.  And if you have even the slightest bit of luck, you might start to feel the weather warm up in the next couple of weeks (or months. But I’m optimistic, so just roll with it).

The markets will become flooded with sweet baby peas, green beans, baby broccoli florets, and of course, the Easter favorite and spring go-to of all households, asparagus spears.

Many people pride themselves on their marinades and dry rubs, their rich or perfectly balanced sauces, and they are, of course, all wonderful, I’m sure.  However there is one common cooking method that is sadly overlooked, often underestimated and unfortunately executed with little attention to detail and lackluster flare.  You’ve probably blanched and shocked vegetables in the past and not given it much thought, but it’s almost spring and we need to talk technique.  These vegetables should be given the respect they deserve.

Nobody puts spring green vegetables in the corner and I’m here to help.

Blanching and shocking is a simple, effective and delicious way to prepare these spring favorites.  However, it must be done properly or not at all, in my opinion.  If it’s not done properly you will be left with a quaggy, gray, disgusting, mush-like dish that someone said was once a vegetable and probably would benefit from a can of condensed soup poured on top of it.  Oh, yes, I did just say that.

This is not ok, people!

No main dish can make up for the fact that your vegetables are terrible (says the vegetarian).

Yes, I might be biased, but I feel it’s time we pay more attention to our vegetable dishes especially when they’ve just come back from the dead of the frozen winter ground for our consumption.  Fresh green beans and asparagus spears have a deliciously bitter-sweet and earthy flavor that should be enhanced, not smothered.  Smothering is so November through January.  Macaroni and cheese and sweet potato chili are now nearly a thing of our past.

It’s time to think about sweet pea soups that barely need cooking and lemon scented crispy green beans or grilled broccoli spears dusted with parmesan and sea salt.  These vegetables don’t need much help, they’re pretty much perfect the way they are with just a little help.

So here are some tips on how to perfectly blanch spring green vegetables.

1.  Salt the water!  If the water tastes like nothing, then your vegetables will taste (yup, you guessed it) like nothing.  The water should be as salty as the ocean.  The salt will be washed away in the ice bath so don’t under season your boiling water.  It is important.

2.  Add some flavor.  I add garlic cloves or some lemon slices and allow them to soften up in the simmering water before I add the vegetables. This infuses a gentle hint of flavor into the green vegetables without overpowering their natural and authentic flavor.

3.  Bring your water to a rapid rolling boil before adding the vegetables.  Adding the vegetables at any point in time before this, will not suffice.

4.  Stay there!   This particular category of vegetables can cook in less than thirty seconds, depending on the size and thickness of them.  Stay there and watch them turn bright spring green.  Remove them from the water with a large spider or colander and drop them directly into the ice bath.

5.  How to tell when they’re done?

a) For small vegetables like peas and green beans:  They will turn a very vivid shade of green.  At this point, remove one and taste it.  Are they too crunchy? Probably not, because they take about thirty seconds to cook.  So, unless it’s only been ten seconds, remove and shock.

b) If the vegetables are larger like asparagus or broccoli spears, stick a knife into the center of the vegetables when they change to bright green.  If the knife clings to the vegetable without budging, wait another minute.  If the knife slides easily through the vegetables,  then get them out of that water as soon as possible because they’re almost overcooked.

6. The vegetables will continue to cook until you shock them.  This is why I prefer to get them out of the boiling water when they’re still bright and crisp.  I can drain them and wait a minute and then shock them and they’re still perfect.  Overdone is not reversible, so it’s better to err on the side of caution with this method.

7.  Keep the vegetables in the ice water bath long enough for them to cool completely.  If they’re not cooled completely, they’re still cooking and will therefore become mushy soon after.

8.  The ice water shock bath should be equal parts ice and water and leave enough room in the bowl for the vegetables.  You don’t want things overflowing.

9.  If you plan to cook them with a sauce after blanching and shocking ( either in a baking dish or a stir fry, etc. ), then reduce the cooking time a bit.  They will finish cooking once combined with the sauce of your choosing.

10.  Taste.  This tip goes for every recipe and method in cooking.  Taste the water, taste the product at every stage of cooking so you know what direction you’re headed in with the dish.   An untasted dish of any kind, is most likely going to need a lot of help once you finally take that first bite.  You don’t want that bite to be had by everyone at the table.   That’s when people start grabbing the ketchup.  It’s not because they love ketchup. It’s because you didn’t taste.

If these tips are followed you will be enjoying brightly colored, tender but crisp earthy fresh spring greens. You’ll taste a nuance of the ocean and the brightness of lemons.  It should taste like spring.

perfectly blanched asparagus with garlic, ginger-2

Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus with Orange Ginger Glaze

Serves 4 (with rice or noodles) as an entree.  Serves 6 as an appetizer or side dish.

NOTE: Please taste the salted water to make sure it is thoroughly flavored.  This recipe is for standard 1/2 inch asparagus spears.  If using baby asparagus, reduce cooking time by half (about one and a half minutes into the boiling water).  This recipe works with any green vegetable if you’re not a fan of asparagus.

Garlic-Infused and Perfectly-Blanched Asparagus

  • 5 cloves of garlic, whole and peeled
  • salt
  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  1. Fill a large metal bowl half way with equal parts ice and water. Set aside, near the stovetop.
  2. In a large saucepan with a fitted lid, fill three quarters of the way with salted water.  Cover and place over high heat until it starts to simmer.  Taste the blanching water to make sure it is thoroughly salted and add more if needed.
  3. Add garlic to the pot and allow to cook for about three minutes, or until garlic is fragrant and soft.
  4. When water boils rapidly, add asparagus to the water and allow to cook for three or four minutes, or until tender but crisp.
  5. Using a large spider, strainer or colander, remove asparagus and garlic from the boiling water and transfer to the ice water bath.  Stir until the asparagus is warm and the ice melts slightly.

Orange Ginger Glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest (+ more for garnish/color, optional)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about the amount of juice from one large naval orange)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  •  a dash or two of sriracha (optional)
  • 2 pounds prepared vegetables*

*1  recipe for prepared “Garlic Infused, Perfectly Blanched Asparagus” (above)

In a large nonstick saucepan over high heat, add all ingredients.  Toss until hot and covered evenly.  Note: you may add a bit of water if needed to help coat the asparagus evenly.  You may double the ingredients if you prefer a more saucy dish. Remove whole garlic cloves before serving.

Serve with rice or noodles, garnish with zest

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Wake Up Wrap

breakfast burrito bake eggs and veggies Kate-from-scratch-4This wake up wrap has over fifteen grams of protein and no limit on flavor.   The whole grain wrap is packed with baked sunny side up eggs (or egg whites if you prefer), roasted red and green bell peppers, sweet roasted red onions sliced to perfection and cauliflower florets doused in salt, pepper and olive oil with crisped roasted potatoes sprinkled with rich savory Parmigiano Reggiano for a nutty twist.

Just warm the tortillas, brush with tangy ketchup or spicy sriracha and spoon in the easy baked goodness.

breakfast burrito bake eggs and veggies Kate-from-scratch breakfast burrito bake eggs and veggies Kate-from-scratch-6It’s a one dish, easy to make, little to clean wonder yet feeds as many or as few as you’d like to feed.

Well done, anonymous reader with your amazing wake up wrap.  Well done, indeed.

 

Wake Up Wrap

  • Whole wheat carb balance tortillas (1 per person)
  • ketchup or sriracha for brushing tortillas
  • 1/2 cup per person sliced and deseeded bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup per person sliced sweet red onions
  • 1/2 cup per person bite sized chopped potatoes
  • 1/2 cup per person bite sized cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder per person
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder per person
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano per person
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon per person freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1-2 farm fresh organic eggs per person

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Lightly warm tortillas and brush with sriracha or ketchup and set aside.

Place all other ingredients except for eggs on a nonstick or parchment lined baking pan of suitable size.   Sprinkle all vegetables with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in preheated oven until potatoes are fork tender or about 25 minutes.  Remove baking tray from oven and crack eggs over the roasted vegetables.  Place baking tray with eggs back into preheated oven and cook until egg whites are opaque.

Remove tray from oven, sprinkle each egg with additional salt and pepper of desired.  Spoon into prepared tortillas.  Wrap up and enjoy.

 

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