Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Blissful Bites" Giveaway!

Rachel here.

So, it's that time of the year when two of our favorite things come together: gift giving and meal sharing. These aren't wholly separate entities either. Preparing a meal for people you love is nothing if not a gift and so, too, is receiving their satisfaction as they scrape their plates clean. The generosity of spirit that seeps through food--whether taking the time to nourish yourself, spending the weekend in the kitchen baking cookies for neighbors, or sitting down at a meal lovingly prepared by another for you--comes to the fore in the holiday season as we remember to pause and take stock of our good fortune which can be so easily obscured during the daily grind of the rest of the year.

With that said, there are certainly many strong and compelling arguments for the virtues of following a vegan lifestyle. It is responsible on so many levels, including environmental and social. It is a way of eating and living bolstered by a strong ethical spine and, though neither my mom nor I partakes, it is certainly a commitment we both admire in others. And so, today we offer a giveaway. Enter for yourself, enter for a friend. Adding "Blissful Bites" by Christy Morgan to your own cookbook inventory will help you create meals that are friendly to all of the people you feed, and giving it as a gift to somebody who is already following or interested in following a vegan lifestyle would be a lovely way to show them that you support their endeavor. With everything from breakfast staples to dessert delicacies (and organized seasonally to boot!), no matter who ends up with this cookbook in their hands, it's sure to be a hit. And did I mention that every recipe takes 45 minutes or less? Because it does, and as a mom that MATTERS to me.

So here's the deal, folks. Using the random number generator at we will select a winner to receive "Blissful Bites" exactly one week from today (that would be Wednesday December 6th). You have until noon that day to leave a comment below. Tell us how you feel about veganism, how you love it or how you tried it for 45 minutes one time in college; tell us that nothing makes you happier than rare beef; tell us we're pretty (it won't help you win but, you know, it never hurts either); tell us ANYTHING and make sure to include an email address that we can contact you at should you win. From first to last comment, you'll be assigned a number in chronological order and then the random number generator will work its random magic and we'll have our winner. Easy as pie, right? WRONG--it's even easier.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Who Needs Pie When You Have Tortillas?

Janet here: So you don't know what to make for dinner and can't imagine making another burrito or quiche? Take a deep breath and realize you have the makings of a great (easy) dinner within your grasp. I'm talking something I generally call tortilla pies.

Here's the general idea: You saute up some veggies, maybe take some chicken you've got in the fridge and saute that up, grate some cheese of your liking, add some spices and then build a tortilla tower. Bake it and you are in business about 30 minutes later. It's that simple.

You could take some leftover veggies too for one of the layers....or saute them fresh in whatever combination you want. Interested in Mexican? Use chilies and south of the border spices. Got a yen for something Indian? Add in cumin and curries and you've got something that works there too. The point is it's as versatile as you want it to be. The only limitation is your imagination.

Here's a recipe to get you started.

Tortilla Pie
serves 4-6

12 6-inch corn tortillas
about 3 cups assorted diced veggies such as onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, whatever your heart desires
about 1 cup of diced chicken
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese
1 cup or so salsa OR
2 tablespoons butter, about 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup diced green chilies and about 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the veggies/chicken of your choice for about 5-7 minutes until just cooked. If you're doing veggies alone, start with onions and then add garlic and the denser veggies, ending with zucchini, which cooks quickly and you don't want it to be overcooked. If you're doing chicken add it after the onions but before the garlic. It can all be sauteed together.

If you're using salsa, move to the next step. If you're making this roux version (pictured here), melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a roux and then add the broth and stir frequently until it thickens. Take it off the heat and add the chilies.

Place 4 tortillas (they will overlap a bit) in the bottom of the baking pan. Add half the sauteed goodies. Spread cheese on top and whatever sauce you're using. Then add another layer of four overlapping tortillas. Spread your veggie/chicken/salsa/roux/cheese mixture on top. End with four more tortillas and a little salsa/roux/cheese. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned on top.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Give Thanks

As the holiday season kicks off tomorrow with a turkey-induced food coma, we thought we'd take a moment to sit back and count our blessings. When we started LTIR almost two years ago (!), we weren't sure anyone other than our family and friends would read Rachel's and my individual and collective journies through food and life. Turns out people actually will and do, and we thank you. It is wonderful to have someone else respond to something we've written with a memory or recipe tip of their own, or to just say that what we wrote resonated somehow.

On a personal note, I remain awestruck by the wonder of the divine Miss M and how this newest addition to the clan continues to rock my world (even from a ridiculous 3,000 miles away, something I am decidedly NOT thankful for, but I will leave that for another post). She has centered me in ways I never even imagined possible and has helped provide me with a compass for further directing my life and that of my family's. And she did all of this before she even began to talk one word. Amazing.

I am thankful for my absolutely wonderful husband, Peter, who continues to surprise me even after 30 years and who makes me laugh more than anyone I know. He gives me space to grow and continually tries to grow with me. It is a full life of wonder with him.

And my children are on their own now. I marvel at who they are and who they are becoming, and feel thankful I can hang onto the coattails for the ride. In some ways they are exactly who I thought they'd be and yet completely different in ways I would never have imagined. I love that.

I am a lucky woman for my many friends, and feel especially thankful for the tribe of women I've met in my landing in Albany. (You know who you are.) The growth I've experienced with them has been a happy, happy serendipitous (fateful?) plus to a job that I generally love.

Family, friends, health — on the one hand, it's a thankful list that seems cliched, and yet it is really what life boils down to at the end. So thank you all.


So, last year my mom and I endeavored a joint post of thanks, too. I kicked it off last year and she ended up chiming in and saying she had nothing to add. And now here I am with the exact same sentiments. Lovely, lovely words, Ma.

May you all have full bellies and hearts.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Butternut Squash Gratin Goodness

Janet here: First THANK YOU Alecia for passing on this fabulous squash dish that can stand alone (I'm adding couscous to the leftovers to make a veggie meal) or act as a side dish. If you're still looking for something for Thanksgiving, look no further. This one is a keeper.

Butternut Squash Gratin
serves at 6-9

1/2 cup olive oil
4 cups sliced onions
4 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
6 cups squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/2 cup grated gruyere (or so — I probably did closer to a cup)
1/2 cup milk plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup breadcrumbs (or in my case, panko because I didn't have breadcrumbs or bread to make them from scratch)

Heat 1/2 the olive oil and saute the onion, sage, thyme with salt and pepper to taste. Saute until the onions are carmelized into deliciousness.

Spread this in the bottom of a gratin dish.

Place the remaining oil in the pan to heat it up. Toss the squash in the flour and cook in the pan, stirring occasionally, until brown on all sides, about 7 minutes. Add the parsley and cook for one minute.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Layer squash over the onion mix. Cover the mixture with the cheese and then breadcrumbs. Add the milk.

Bake covered for 25 minutes. Uncover and cook an additional 25 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Turkey Day Sides

Rachel here.

Did anybody else have that oh-shit-Thanksgiving's-next-week moment in the last few days? Because I definitely did. And while I love any day devoted to eating, my teeth clenched a little as my head began to swarm with all of the things we need to do in order to make that magical feast appear. Lobbying to host this year instead of visit our friend's house like we've done in the past, John as signed up for the bird (but we haven't signed up for our bird at the grocery store yet...oh good). When he does that, he lays claim to the stuffing and gravy, too. Some year I'd like to commandeer the turkey project (or so I think, having never had to navigate a whole turkey), but currently I love watching the glimmer in John's eye as he ponders different methods and ingredients. I might be delusional, but I'm pretty sure John wouldn't mind being given a turkey to cook--and all the time and ingredients and equipment needed to do so exactly as he'd like--for his birthday.

Anyway, whether you've got a hot date with the turkey or you're doing the whole affair or you're bringing sides to a friends house, today we offer up a round-up of side dishes we've cooked and loved. We can't step into the kitchen to offer another set of hands (although I just pictured spending an afternoon in the kitchen with a mystery reader and I got like, really, really excited), but we can help free up a little brain space for whatever else you need to coordinate between now and Thanksgiving, even if it's just an outfit.

Apple-Ginger Carrots
Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Casserole
Acorn Squash With Wild Mushroom Cranberry Stuffing
Broccoli, Cauliflower And Onion Casserole

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Holy Growing Scallions!

Rachel here.

Ok, so sometimes it's the little things that blow my mind the most. Like, the really, really little things.

While trolling the internet last week, somewhere (maybe a lot of somewheres? That seems to happen on the internet...) I saw a kitchen tip. Instead of tossing the white bases from your scallions, stick them in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill. They grow new scallions! Like, really. Ours are probably six inches long after less than a week.

I love scallions but I don't buy them often because we always end up throwing most of them away. Now I'm never buying them again because we are always going to have them growing on our windowsill.

It's easy. And fresh. And that's just awesome.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pesto and More Casserole

Janet here:

We had friends visiting Saturday night who we hadn't seen in a number of years. In other words, the premium was on catching up, not cooking. Which doesn't mean I didn't want to serve something tasty. (In fact, I think the bar gets even higher when you're cooking for someone you haven't seen in a while don't you? Kind of a culinary version of dress to impress...)

Anyway, this casserole features orzo, which is a pasta I only discovered a few years ago but fell in love with. I'm not sure if it's the shape or size but orzo just tastes better than a lot of other pastas. And I think it also allows other flavors to come out more fully. It doesn't overwhelm.

The casserole also features pesto, which is one of my favorite sauces ever. Again, not overwhelming but totally flavorful. You can make it yourself, using Rachel's recipe) or buy some (which, I'm not gonna lie, is what I did this time).

You're going to have to trust me on how marvelous this casserole looks. By the time it came out of the oven, just a little alcohol had been consumed....and taking a photo was no longer on my to-do list.

Pesto Casserole
serves 6, more if a side dish

1 pound orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange bell pepper, cored and diced
1 onion, minced
2/3 cup pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking pan.

Boil some water and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain. Put back in the large pot.

While the orzo is cooking, saute the onion, garlic and pepper in some olive oil until the vegetables start to get soft. Add to the orzo in the pot.

Stir in the pesto and mozzarella into the pot. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread into the baking pan, sprinkle the Parmesan on top and baked for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the orzo is done. Serve it up.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Caramel Cheesecake Bars

Janet here: I wanted to make these cheesecake bars the second I saw their picture in the new cookbook by Alice Medrich called Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy (Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies). And that was before I learned that the crust was made of shortbread! After that, I was a woman on a mission.

These are seriously unbelievably good. I'd write more about this but that would mean you'd be further away from eating these...and that would be a mistake. Get baking now.

Caramel Cheesecake Bars

for the shortbread crust
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/8 teaspoons salt
2 cups (9 ounces) flour

for the cheesecake part
1/2 cup (6 ounces) caramel sauce, purchased (that's what I did) or homemade
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature


for the crust:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a 9X13-inch pan with foil.

In a medium bowl, mix the melted butter with the sugard, vanilla and salt. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated. Press and smooth the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crut is a gold brown with well-browned darker edges. Let cool before adding the rest of the recipe.

for the bars:
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Stir the caramel sauce together with the salt and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until just smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add one egg and beat until just incorporate. Add the second egg and mix. Stir two tablespoons of the batter into the caramel sauce.

Pour the remaining batter over the prepared crust and smooth. Spoon pools of the caramel mixture over the filing, leaving plenty of plain filling showing. Jiggle a bit to smooth things out if the caramel doesn't immediately incorporate into the cream cheese filling. Take a toothpick and swirl it around to make pretty designs and marbelize the top of the cream cheese filling.

Bake 2--25 minutes until the filling is puffed at the edges but still jiggles in the center when the pan is nudged.

Put the pan on a cooling rack. When totally cool, cover and refrigerate at last four hours but preferably overnight (yeah, that was not possible in my case and it was just fine). Cut into pieces and store in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 4 days — as if that's going to happen. HA!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins with Cream Cheese

Rachel here.

So while my parents were relishing the power in my mom's New York apartment this past weekend, in my house we were spending the days in our pajamas while blowing our noses. For some reason these family-wide colds make me highly effective in the kitchen. This weekend I made a batch of pumpkin muffins with cream cheese and a streusel topping. They were delicious. Thank god I made them, too, because they're the only thing sick little M has wanted to eat for days.

I found the recipe at There were several delicious looking alternatives I might just have to try soon.

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons brown sugar

4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons white sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons chopped pecans

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups canned pumpkin
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease and flour 18 muffin cups, or use paper liners.
To make the filling: In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese until soft. Add egg, vanilla and brown sugar. Beat until smooth, then set aside.
For the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Add butter and cut it in with a fork until crumbly. Set aside.
For the muffin batter: In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add eggs, pumpkin, olive oil and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.
Place pumpkin mixture in muffin cups about 1/2 full. Then add one tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture right in the middle of the batter. Try to keep cream cheese from touching the paper cup. Sprinkle on the streusel topping.
Bake at 375 degrees F (195 degrees C) for 20 to 25 minutes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Super Veggie(ish) Shepherd's Pie

Janet here:

I just want to say for the record that Thomas Edison is a god and that I will never take electricity for granted ever again. While I only had to live without power for 36 hours (thanks to the freak snowstorm that dumped 18 inches of ridiculously wet snow on Connecticut and broke just about every tree, landing most of them on power lines) before high-tailing it to my job in New York (with power! heat! running water! flushable toilets!), Peter stuck it out in Connecticut until Thursday (he is also a god-like) before joining me. When he left the state, there were still hundreds of thousands of people without power. Our power finally came back on Friday night after a week, but as I write this, 40 percent of the people in our town still don't have power, and statewide about 125,000 people are still powerless.

It's a long way of saying not a whole lot of cooking was going on at East Coast Casa Reynolds last weekend. I brought a cooler of whatever food I could grab on my way to work Monday AM since our freezer at that point was beginning to drip and it was clear Connecticut was not going to have power for at least a week. (I hate it when my most dire predictions are proved true.) I figured I'd do something with them sometime this week.

Which I did on Thursday when Peter was en route. Clearly some serious comfort food was in order, and what better place to start than with mashed potatoes. I mean, really, does anything matter after that?

I consider shepherd's pie an excuse to serve mashed potatoes as the main course of a meal. While it's typically made with meat (and I made a ground turkey version of this for years when our children were young and without adventurous tastebuds), I've gone back to my real vegetarian roots now that our household is sans children and haven't cooked chicken in ages. This shepherd's pie is a great vegetarian version that allows for a lot of flexibility and is a great way to use up veggies you've got hanging around or perhaps in quantities that aren't enough for a meal or side on their own but mixed together help to create wonderfulness.

It's also a chance to experiment with mashed potatoes: I've added everything from scallions to horseradish to gruyere to leeks and/or garlic to mashed potatoes, to name just a very few. This particular version included parmesan cheese, some half-and-half and yes some bacon my NY roomie had cooked up for something else. Regular readers know I'm weak for bacon and as I said earlier, this was a week for comfort food.

On to the recipe!

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Serves a small army

vegetables cut up into bite sized pieces: I used broccoli, cauliflower, an onion, and 1 zucchini
16 ounces diced tomatoes: we also had some roasted tomatoes leftover from another recipe so I tossed that in as well
spices: I used oregano, a little basil, some chili powder, salt and pepper, but again this is a chance to season it as you wish
6 potatoes, washed and cut up into pieces
about 1/2 cup half-and-half OR about the same amount of broth (which is what I normally use as a lower fat version)
1 stick of butter
mashed potato fixin's such as various grated cheeses, chives, onion bits, etc in the amount you like

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put some water in a large pot and cook the potatoes until just done. When done, strain, add the butter, liquid of choice and mash. Then add seasonings and mash a bit more. Set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, cut up the vegetables. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and garlic if using. Saute for a few minutes. Then add the veggies, starting with the ones that need a bit longer to cook first. I put in the broccoli and cauliflower first this time and then added the zucchini at the end because I don't like it mushy. After the veggies are semi-cooked take off the heat.

Place the veggies in a large pan or casserole dish. Schmear the mashed potatoes on top. Place in the oven (maybe add a little grated cheese on top for good measure) and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until bubbling and a little brown on top.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pizza and — What Else? — Beer

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel

Halloween is over, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, Christmas is just a stone’s throw beyond that. Nothing screams fall in New England more than pizza.

Ok, you got me... pizza screams nothing of fall in New England. But hey, this is a great recipe and I even remembered to take pictures!

Fresh Pizza Dough
This recipe is from a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, given to me by my very good friend and second-mother, Julie “Miss Sunshine” Wallace. Her son and I were great friends in college, often finding ourselves at the Wallace house on the weekends to get away from the evil dorm food. Miss Sunshine always had homemade meals, fantastic cookies, and of course fresh bread! She still makes recipes from this book and I’m so glad she passed the good word onto me... this recipe is directly from the pages, even though I make a half batch rather than the full amount listed. Enjoy!

(this is the half-batch version)
1 ⅓ cups lukewarm Water
2 ¼ teaspoons Granulated Yeast (we buy one of those jars in the bread aisle
2 ¼ teaspoons Salt
1 ½ teaspoons Sugar
2 tablespoons EVOO
3 ¼ cup all purpose Flour


Combine all the ingredients except for the flour; you can use a bowl or a plastic container with lid. Mix in the flour, one cup at a time... you can use a stand mixer, but a spoon in the plastic container works just as well (oh you may need to add more water or flour depending on how the dough feels in the moment). Cover your dough (but not air tight) and allow to rest for about 2 hours. You can certainly use the dough immediately after the rise, but it works better if you chill it down in the fridge.

When you’re ready to use the dough, preheat your oven to 525* F (You just keep your pizza stone in the oven ALL the time, right? I mean for just might as well, because you should be using it all the time... RIGHT?!?!?!). Prepare all of your toppings... for our pizza we had green peppers, garlic, and chorizo sausage in addition to the “normal” marinara and cheese.

Pull off half of the dough and shape it into a ball by pulling on the top of the round and tucking it under to the bottom, turning the round 90 degrees after each pull and tuck (no this isn’t plastic surgery). Roll the dough onto a floured flat surface... in order to get the pizza onto the pizza stone, you’ll need to then get the dough to a pizza peel covered with corn meal (you can use the underside of a flat sheet pan as well). Move quickly so the dough doesn’t get stuck to the pizza peel... sauce, toppings, cheese, and GO! Shake the pizza onto the pizza stone in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Check and continue baking if required. Let the pizza cool for a bit and serve...preferably with a fantastic this one.

Brown Porter
The city where I work is right next to a military base, which serves as a teaching college for American officers, as well as for officers from our allied countries. We are very good friends with the British family, who traded some of my IIPA beers (from my last post) for some English bottles... I think I made out the best of the deal! The Fuller’s Porter, pictured, was among the bottles I received, which according to the officer and his wife, was special ordered from the UK. I may have shared my Brown Porter recipe before, but it’s something I make time and time again, and continually improve in every new brewing experience. This really does remind my of New England Fall, so I think it’s time for another round -

OG: 1.052
FG: 1.013
IBUs: between 25-30
ABV: 5%

9 ½ lbs base malt, preferably British Continental (Marris Otter, for example)
1 lb Brown Malt
1 lb Crystal 40
½ lb Chocolate Malt
East Kent Golding hops - 25 IBUs at 60 min, and then a little flavor around 5 or 10 min
I use WLP013 or WY1028, but any British yeast will do depending on your tastes

Mash at 154*, sparge and lauter per the norm, boil, cool, ferment at 67*, keg and condition. I’m a big fan of little to no additional carbonation for these types of beers... 1 to 1 ½ volumes of CO2 at most for my tastes!

Some variations ideas (because you shouldn’t just do my recipe... make it your own!!):
Play with the amount of Chocolate Malt; I like to taste the Brown malt, so I use less Choc! Maybe substitute Fuggles for the EKG hops. Try adding a bit of Cocoa Powder, making a Chocolate Porter. Or try adding Pumpkin Spice mix

If you sub a yeast strain (which I highly recommend trying), make sure to compensate the attenuation rate of the yeast with the mash temperature. For example, if your yeast doesn’t attenuate as much, you need to make a more fermentable wort (mash temp needs to be lower).



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It's Autumn, Damnit.

Rachel here.

So, my mom's stuck living in the part of the country that is freezing and living in darkness without flushable toilets or showers. Though I've been given a good deal of grief over living where I do over the years, I think it's pretty clear that I officially live in the right place. I mean, otherwise there'd be no blog posts until my mom's part of the grid turns back on (current forecast for that is next week...yup...NEXT WEEK) and then clearly you all would starve...or, at least die of boredom.

But anyway.

The mornings have turned cooler here, crisp and nipping and lingering longer over the days than they did a few weeks back. And though it's really not particularly fall-like here (we took M trick-or-treating in a sleeveless dress, for instance), I find myself craving the crackle of leaves beneath my feet and the pop pop pop of a wood fire.

So, I'm making fall happen.

I'm spending this afternoon (after I finish my grant know, in case my boss is reading this) roasting butternut squash and white onions to puree them into soup. I'm peeling a million apples to fill the kitchen with a sweet cinnamon-y aroma while they macerate and turn into sauce. And then, time allowing, I'm going to whip up a batch of pumpkin muffins (I haven't chosen a recipe yet for these, though...suggestions anyone?).

And while it all roasts and simmers and whatnot, I'll step outside into the sunshine and savor these last few warm days before the rain comes and soaks us through and makes me start to hate soup all over again.

What's happening in your kitchen lately?