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Adventures in the Kitchen and on the Road


Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

I love that this is the time of year for pumpkins. Why don't groceries offer them year-round? Seems like we can get butternut and acorn squashes all winter long. Why not sugar pumpkins? Then I could have Kaddo Bourani whenever I wanted (or whenever I could wait 3 hours for dinner to be ready anyhow). I don't have any ground lamb at the moment so I haven't made that dish yet this year. But I've been roasting pumpkins and using the mashed pumpkin in other dishes. Definitely enjoying it!

So here's a post telling you how to roast a pumpkin.


Braised Lamb Stew

Chilly morning today. Frost tinged windows and just 35F outside. ugh. Oh the plus side, this means the heat from the oven is a welcomed additional source of heat!

Took me a while to gather all the ingredients for this one and even longer to cook but it was worth it to me! After reading the comments on the recipe, I decided to add extra vegetables. My hunk of leg of lamb had a bone in it so I cut around the bone and included the bone in the stew for the cooking portion. I let the lamb pieces marinate for about an hour and then ended up cooking for a lot longer (another 1-1.5 hours?) because I wanted the meat to be melting tender and I was working on something else anyways while the stew cooked. By the time I took it off the heat, the meat slipped right off the bone with just a prod from a wooden spatula. I'm really looking forward to making this dish again. Really nice to have the leftovers on hand for an easy meal to reheat.


Whole-wheat Spaghetti with Lamb, Tomato, and Cumin Sauce

I liked the different smoky flavors of this pasta sauce and thought it was a nice change of pace from our usual Italian pasta sauce. Meanwhile, my boyfriend B liked this sauce but says he never tires of tomatoes with basil so I'll probably stick to our usual tomato sauce most of the time and save the ground lamb for making another household favorite, Shepherd's Pie.

I changed a bunch of the ingredients slightly to match what we had in the house. I didn't like whole wheat pasta the first time I tried it but I think its heartier, nuttier flavor would stand up well to this sauce.

I picked up this book at a cookbook exchange. What a great idea! For a $5 donation/fee, you got to drop off any old cookbooks you didn't want anymore and walk out with as many of the books and magazines that you wanted. Any books left over were to be donated to a non-profit used bookstore and coffee shop More Than Words that's run by teenagers.


Flaky Dinner Rolls

Overall, this recipe was a hit and I wanted to make it again right away. It was a little difficult to roll after getting it out of the freezer because the butter was oozing from the seams and it seemed a bit messy to make. Still, the final product tasted great and my boyfriend ate 5 rolls with his dinner.

After putting the shaped dough into the muffin tins, I forgot to lightly coat tops of the dough slices with cooking spray. I don't know what affects it but the dough didn't rise evenly. Should've taken a photo. A few rose mostly evenly. Others would rise on one side but less on the other side of the roll. Maybe I needed to grease the muffin tins more. These rolls were pretty dry by the next day though so best eaten the same day. Leftover rolls probably would've tasted fine if we had eaten them with something with gravy or sauce to sop up.

Served this with Balsamic Chicken with Caramelized Onions and also with Spicy Sesame Napa Cabbage and Carrot Salad.


Fruit Fly Trap

We love cooking with bananas but buying bananas almost always means dealing with fruit flies since I like to let them get mostly black on the outside before I use them. But now that's ok because my boyfriend makes the best fruit fly traps! For us, our fruit flies are usually all in the trap within a day or two of setting out the trap.

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Rosemary Lemon Chicken Wings

One night, I scanned the signs as I drove north on Route 1, heading out of Boston. I wanted to grab some take-out but nothing appealed to me. Then I saw the word 'wings' and decided to try that. Once I got inside, the menu was primarily pizza but I did see one item mentioning their "signature fall-off-the-bone wings" and ordered that to go. Wow! I didn't taste it until I had reached home almost an hour later but we were so blown away by it that I kept remembering those wings for weeks afterwards. Luckily, the menu did mention what they marinated their wings with so I could search online for similar sounding recipes. This is my attempt to recreate those wings.

If you can drive out to Angela's Coal-Fired Pizza in Saugus, then you can try the original wings. So good. And their Figaro pizza with figs, prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, bleu cheese, and shaved parmesan was fabulous.

Brian really liked these wings a whole lot too. Still thinks it's not quite what we had from Angela's but it's close enough for me. I'm going to stop fussing with this recipe. So long as I was heating up the oven, I baked off the last of the dough for Soft Oatmeal Cookies, and then also did the Saucy Mushrooms and Roasted Zucchini with Garlic. So it was a 3-course dinner: first mushrooms, then zucchini, then wings. I guess 4 courses if you count an oatmeal cookie as dessert.


Marinated Zucchini Salad

Still looking for ways to eat zucchini? This is a nice change from zucchini bread and stir-fried zucchini. I really liked this. I let it marinate for 7.5 hours and it tasted very strongly of the lemon juice. I could've used less lemon juice or maybe not marinated it for as long since it didn't taste much like zucchini by the end. But the slices still had a nice firmness to it. Really yummy. Served with some stuffed zucchini. Also snacked on the leftovers the next day. And since this recipe doesn't involve the stove, there's no need to produce heat in your kitchen in the middle of a heat wave.


Crispy Kale Chips

For a while there, it seemed to be all the rage to post Crispy Kale photos. It sounded intriguing but I just filed it away in the Recipes To Try folder. My boyfriend doesn't care much for kale, you see. So we got spinach instead for our leafy greens. But then last summer I saw kale chips being sold for $8 for a small box and remembered that I had seen lots of posts online about making them at home. So a few more months later, I finally tried it. Yum! When I finally got around to trying the recipe, just as so many of those other food bloggers had written, my thought was "I'm sorry I waited so long to try this!" Just a very light crispy texture that melts away in your mouth. After the first batch, I learned to serve it up with each of us getting our own bowl so we didn't fight over the last bites.

Made this for my sister's family too when I visited her. Her husband hadn't eaten kale before and found he loved it. Even before we had popped it into the oven, he tried a piece of the oiled kale and liked eating it raw. I don't really like kale until it's been cooked but this seems like a great recipe for winning over people who say they don't like kale. Or maybe good for using the kale that keeps showing up in your CSA box.

For my first batch, I forgot the chipotle powder so I used salt and a few squeezes of lime juice and that enough to get us hooked. I remembered chipotle powder for the second batch and that adds good measure of heat to this snack.

The trickiest part is baking them long enough to get everything uniformly crispy but then not so long that it burns. It's a very fine line between almost-done and irredeemably burnt. Seems to be important to keep them in a single layer. It might also be helped by making the pieces more of a consistent size. Is smaller better than bigger? Not sure on that. Apparently you can make the pieces too small. My sister tried using the ready-washed and cut bags of kale at the grocery store and those burned. Maybe she could've used them if she had pulled them out of the oven sooner.


Upma (oop-ma) by Mona's Mom

I was lucky enough to be staying with a friend at the same time that his wife's parents were visiting from India. Mona's mom was happy to let me try to help in the kitchen. I tried my best to learn what she was making but she did everything by feel so this recipe is a rough approximation. She made this upma (pronounced OOP-ma) for a very filling breakfast. My boyfriend isn't a fan of the texture, a little too similar to oatmeal and porridge for his liking. I loved this dish and could happily have it every day. She said that this is a very commonly made dish and every family had their own variations on how they make it so you can search online for other things to add.


Mushroom Rice (and Boston's Haymarket - like a Farmers' Market Outlet)

Bostonians, if you don't mind being elbow-jostled, shouted at, and possibly grossed out by paring away the rotten parts of your fruits and vegetables, all in exchange for buying your produce at rock-bottom prices, go check out Haymarket! I sometimes hear it referred to as a farmers market but it's not. The vendors get the leftovers from wholesalers on Thursday evening and try to sell it Friday and Saturday. So do a bit of a walk-through first so you can eyeball prices and quality. Some vendors will yell at you if you handle the produce while others let you pick what you want. Fruit tends to be very ripe so buy only what you think you'll consume in a day or two. For example, despite being 10 for $1, I declined to buy plums because they were too soft for my tastes. And I looked carefully for mold in the strawberries before I picked 2 containers to buy. Still, if you're willing to put up with the hassle, you can get some amazing bargains. Here's my last haul when we stopped by at the end of the day:
- 10 bananas for $1
- 2 giant bunches of fresh basil for $2
- 2 pounds of strawberries for $1
- 3 pounds of mushrooms for $2
- 2 blocks of Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese for $4 (about 6-8oz each)
- 3 more blocks of cheese from inside the cheese guy's store ($4, $4, and $3.50)

The cheese guy has the best prices we've found on good-quality cheeses. Not the rock bottom prices of the stands, but beats the regular prices of places like Formaggio and Whole Foods. And he offers a nice selection of different cheeses. Really nice English Stilton, some aged goudas, Prima Donna, goat cheese (even a goat blue cheese)... And the shop owner (inside) is really nice and knowledgeable too. There's a small table set up outside with various blocks of cheese. At the beginning of the day, those prices are $2.50 each, 3 for $5, 5 for $10. If you come at the end of the day, some of the cheeses will be sold out but you can buy for $2 each.

If you want to read more:
- http://www.boston-discovery-guide.com/haymarket-boston.html
- http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/442512
- http://www.yelp.com/biz/haymarket-boston

So grab a fistful of $1 bills and go check it out!


So that explains how I came up with this dish. I was trying to think of what to do with 2 pounds of those white button mushrooms and came up with this (although searching the web for 'mushroom rice' I see that I'm far from the first person to come up with the idea). Still, it's really tasty. Tasty enough that we've had it 3 times this week already. Oh and the cheese thrown in the end is optional. I just added it because I wanted something to make it hold its shape when I formed the little rice cylinder. Scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to see more recipes for mushrooms.

gorkabear, I think this is gluten-free too if you use a broth that's gluten-free. Correct me if I'm wrong.