Real Life

I’m going to tell you a little about how things go down around these parts when the weekend rolls in. Don’t get too excited – it isn’t nearly as fascinating as I’m suggesting it is. But that doesn’t stop me from talking about it, so here goes.

We generally kick things off as soon as we get home on Friday. Chris has the luxury of getting to sneak out early which means we get home around the same time as one another. Whoever gets home first picks out a bottle of wine, opens it up, and gets to relaxing. Sometimes that also means I’m cooking something that signals it’s weekend time, which typically involves pasta. I’m not sure why, but pasta dishes always seem appropriate on Fridays. Last Friday was no different.

While eating said dinner and wine-ing, we proceed to catch up on a couple of tv shows or watch a movie. At approximately 10:00, 10:30 on a “late” night, I’m passed out on the couch, usually right in the middle of a show. Yup, real life.

This Saturday probably wasn’t the epitome of a typical Saturday, but it certainly was a good one. I started it off with a little run through Panhandle Park and after burning a few calories, I got down to bizness. I re-learned how to use my teeny tiny plastic sewing machine, and I proceeded to – wait for it – make seat cushions! Dang, I felt crafty as all get out. They aren’t finished yet, so I can’t quite call myself Martha Stewart, but even so I’m feeling the need to make sure a lot of people know that I made. a. freaking. seat. cushion. With my bare hands (sort of). Two of them. Hot damn!

Amidst the excitement of cushion-sewing, I broke out the lard and the butter as well as one of my favorite Rick Bayless cookbooks and went to town on making empanadas. I had some leftover fresh pumpkin from a pumpkin curry dish I made the other night and figured it would make a mighty fine filling for the rounds of doughy goodness, and I did not lead myself astray. The empanadas turned out to be pretty tasty, and perfect for a little Mexican-style get together later that night at Liz & Kevin’s place.

So all in all, it was a fun-filled Saturday, and I felt like I’d gotten a decent amount of stuff accomplished.

Meanwhile, as anyone I’m friends with on Facebook already knows, Chris spent his Saturday protecting the citizens of Arkham City, which essentially means he sat on the couch with a set of headphones on and a game controller in his hand. He kept on his typical Saturday attire (workout pants and either a Northwestern or NC State hoodie, depending on what’s clean) until I forced him away from Arkham City and into the shower. (I’m not complaining here, either, just poking fun. His free time is well-deserved, plus it gives me time to play with lard.)

We then headed over to Oakland where Liz & Kevin whipped up a ton of awesomeness, including guacamole and flank steak tacos. We made the mistake of suggesting a trivia game, and as a result we left their house feeling about 10 times dumber than when we’d arrived. My only saving grace was the fact that I brought the empanadas, so I was thankful for that and considered it time well-spent in the kitchen that day.

Sunday rolled around and we were rewarded with an extra hour of sleep, which we took full advantage of. We spent the morning walking over to the farmers’ market, grabbing brunch at Nopalito, and doing regular Sunday errands and such. We watched our regular Sunday night shows, The Walking Dead and The Next Iron Chef, and before we knew it, it was time to call it a night and get the whole week started, all over again.

See what I mean? Nothing earth-shattering over here, that’s for sure. But truthfully, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How was your weekend?

Pumpkin Empanadas
Adapted, barely, from Fiesta at Rick’s; makes 24 empanadas

time commitment: ~3 hours (1 hour, 45 minutes active time)

printable version

ingredients
pumpkin filling
2 c pumpkin puree (canned or fresh*)
1/2 c dark brown sugar
1 1/2 t g Mexican cinnamon
1/2 t salt

empanadas
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 c white spelt flour
1/2 t salt
2 t sugar
1/2 c chilled lard (yum!)**
1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter
2/3 c ice water

glaze
1 egg beaten with 1 T water

instructions
combine all pumpkin filling ingredients into a 2-quart saucepan; cover and set to medium-high heat. stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved, then uncover and simmer until mixture is thick, about 15 minutes. move to small bowl and cool to room temperature.

while the filling cools, make the dough. add flour, salt, and sugar to a food processor and pulse to combine. cut lard and butter into small 1/2-inch pieces and scatter over the flour. cover and pulse about 8 times. uncover and pour half of water into processor. pulse 3 more times, then add in the remaining water and pulse a few more times. at this point, the dough should clump together, but if it doesn’t just add 1 T of water at a time, pulsing until it does come together. dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring into a ball. divide in half, wrap each half in plastic, and refrigerate for at least an hour. (you can also do this whole part with a pastry cutter or two forks, but that takes a long time and the processor is sooooo easy.)

take one of the halves of dough outta the fridge. flour a flat surface, and roll dough into a rectangle about 12×16 inches (or thin enough in any other shape to cut out 12 4″ round empanadas). using a 4-inch circle or cookie cutter, cut 12 circles out. working with one at a time, brush the outer edge lightly with water and place ~1 tablespoon of filling in the center. fold the dough over the filling and press the ends together to seal. you can crimp with the tines of a fork or make them into crinkly ends or twist the ends like I did (although I can’t really explain how I did that other than say that I pulled a tiny piece of one end out and constantly twisted the dough around itself until I got to the other end…. and that doesn’t help, does it?!).

transfer to baking sheet and place in fridge for at least 15 minutes. meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 F and repeat this process with the remaining half of the dough.

bake empanadas for about 15 minutes, then remove them and brush the lightly with the egg wash and bake another 5 minutes. cool and serve. (you can also freeze them; I froze half of them by putting the sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes then dumping the pre-frozen treats into a plastic ziploc bag. to bake frozen empanadas, add 5 minutes to the cook time and cook straight from the freezer – do not thaw.)

*to make fresh pumpkin puree, take about 4 cups of cubed fresh pumpkin and boil in a large pot for about 10 minutes, until soft. drain pot, and mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth
**if you’re afraid of lard, Rick says you can also use shortening (same amount) OR I’m sure you could just omit and double the butter if you really want

Turnip the Volume

Does everyone go through a ‘cooking funk’ every now and then? Does everyone wanna come home from work and not stand in the kitchen – chopping veggies, sauteing, cleaning – every now and then? Does everyone who joins a CSA look at the produce they’ve been given and say, “What in the hell am I going to do with this shit?” every now and then?

If not, then I’m totally off my rocker this time. But I have a feeling I’m not standing in this barren, gritty field all alone, am I now?

Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook, 95% of the time. I love to come home and hang my bag on my kitty hook in the hallway, toss my shoes down towards the bedroom, occasionally spin some tunes in the background, and practically meditate in front of stainless steel & granite –  chopping veggies, sauteing, and even cleaning. But the 5% does occur (5% of the time, actually). Being part of a CSA is unfortunate during those times, because the produce glares at me each time I open the pantry or the crisper drawer, and each time I open the freezer to see a plethora of meats, various cuts and types, piled high amidst peas, ‘pickle sickles’, and turkey stock.

Turkey stock. I must have overlooked it dozens of times this year already, since I vaguely recall tossing it in there last Thanksgiving weekend. Seeing turkey stock was all I needed, this time, to ‘knock the funk away’. When the CSA gives you a bag of root veggies and you’ve got a tub of stock in the freezer, it only means one thing: soup. Plus, what else is one to do with three big ol’ turnips anyway?!

I’ll admit I’ve never made turnip soup, nor have I seen many recipes for it elsewhere. And I’m not sure I’d want to eat it solo, but I’ve learned that winter squash makes just about anything taste good, brussel sprouts aside. One of my favorite parts of fall is the abundance of the winter squash crops, and we seem to always have a variation of it lying around, which is perfect when a plan for soup suddenly emerges.

So even though I wasn’t necessarily excited about cooking anything these last couple of weeks, thanks be to the turkey stock, I managed to find a little inspiration to not make those veggies wither away (although truthfully, it would take a lot for the humongous turnips to wither away…). The soup is hearty and definitely has that turnip-y taste, but the squash really provides a nice accent so balance it out, I think. And for spice, I thought a nice kick of chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika might turn the volume up, just a tad. Of course, if you’re like our downstairs neighbors and you like things nice and quiet, you can reduce the spices, but that’s just plain silly, if you ask me.

Roasted Turnip & Squash Chipotle Soup
chiknpastry recipe; serves 8-10

time commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes (most of which is inactive)
other: freezes well

it doesn’t take much to whip up a comforting soup – honest. veggies, spices, and broth is generally all you need. Here, the squash works well with turnips which to me taste sort of bitter and cabbage-y. the squash adds the sweetness and tames the turnips, i think. you’ll note the recipe here calls for diced squash, but you can certainly halve them and roast them the “lazy way”, which is what I do!

printable version

ingredients
2 delicata squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 T chipotle chili powder
1 T smoked paprika
salt and pepper
evoo
1 onion, large dice
2 firm apples, large dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
36 oz turkey or chicken stock or broth
18 oz water
1 T oregano, chopped
1 T agave nectar

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F.  in a large bowl, toss squash and  turnips with chipotle powder, paprika, salt and pepper and olive oil. turn onto foil-lined baking sheets. roast until tender, about 1 hour. cool slightly.

meanwhile, heat about 1 T of oil in a large heavy pot (dutch oven is perfect) over med-hi heat. add onion, apples, and garlic; saute 5 minutes. add broth, water, oregano, and squash/turnip mixture. bring to boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

working in batches (or using immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. return to pot. at this time, if soup is too thick, add more water to thin, being sure to heat through. stir in agave nectar. season to taste with salt and pepper and finish with a splash of half & half, if desired.