Thursday, October 28, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

I tried a recipe Mark Bittman published in Parents magazine for butternut squash soup.  Thanks to the short ingredient list and my sharp knife, it was easy to make.  The curry flavor was really strong- next time I'll start with 1 teaspoon curry powder instead of the 1 Tablespoon recommended in the recipe.  Otherwise, the soup had a sweet flavor and a thick, creamy texture.  I served it with a loaf of oatmeal bread.

Here is the version of Bittman's soup that I made:

2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
1/2 cup whole milk
1 Tab curry powder (try 1 tsp and taste to see if you want to add more)

In a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onion and squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until veggies begin to soften- about 8 minutes.
Add water and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender- about 15 minutes. 
Puree the soup in a blender until smooth.  Return to pot and add milk and curry powder.  Season to taste.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Skillet White Beans, Tomatoes, Spinach and Fettucini

Last night I made an easy pasta recipe from  The dish is reminiscent of minestrone with the tomatoes, basil, and white beans.  It tastes great and comes together quickly.
Here is the version I made:

2 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 package fresh baby spinach
dash red pepper flakes
dash basil
dash oregano
ground black pepper to taste
12 oz box whole wheat fettucini
6 Tab grated Parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.  Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium high.  Saute garlic 1 minute.  Stir in tomatoes and beans and bring to a boil. 
Top with spinach and cover with lid.  Reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Stir in spices.  Stir sauce into pasta and sprinkle with cheese.

Monday, October 25, 2010

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I used some of the leftover chicken from Friday on a pizza.  When I have barbecue pizza at restaurants, I always feel like the pizza needs a little something other than just chicken and cheese.  So I added a few things I had to the pizza.   The sweetness of the caramelized onions and the pineapple went great with the barbecue flavor.  I added the carrots to get a little extra veggie boost- the flavor just blended right in to everything else. 

1 pizza crust (try an oatmeal crust- it went great with these toppings!)
1 tsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes from a can
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrot
8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until caramelized, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes and barbecue sauce in a small sauce pan.  Heat over low until warmed through.
Spread sauce and toppings over pizza and cook about 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Friday, October 22, 2010

BBQ Chicken, Roasted Broccoli, and Nectarine Cobbler

My neighbor told me her doctor just scheduled the delivery of her third child for Sunday morning.  So, I did what I always do when I want to help but am not sure how- I delivered a dessert. 

As soon as I heard the news this afternoon, I began my search for a dessert that could be made quickly with on-hand ingredients.  This led me to the nectarine cobbler recipe on  (I just happened to have a 4lb bag of nectarines.)  I baked the cobbler in two small dishes- one for the neighbors and one for us.  The nectarine filling was not as juicy as I would have liked, but the sweet biscuit topping was delicious.  I will probably make this again if I happen to have a bag of nectarines lying around. 
For our supper, I cooked a whole chicken with a jar of barbecue sauce in the crockpot.  It couldn't have been easier to make- I just placed the chicken in the pot, poured the sauce over it, then cooked it on low (I used the 8 hour setting on my crockpot).  Too bad it turned out a bit dry.  I think cooking it on the 10 hour setting for about 8 hours would have produced juicier meat.  But, I plan to use the left over chicken in something yummy for supper tomorrow- possibly soup or salad.

I also roasted broccoli florets tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  The broccoli turned out great! 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nutrition Ed

So, what is "eating healthy," exactly?  We know we want to look good and we want our kids to be healthy.  But, knowing how to provide a family with healthy food is tough- actually doing so is even tougher.  Fad diets tell us eating bread will make us fat and popular media tells us food that is not organic and local will lead to the unspeakable.  Others categorize feeding your kid a meal consisting of chicken nuggets, fries, and apple juice from concentrate as child abuse.

Basic knowledge about topics such as daily caloric intake, portion sizes, and ingredients is essential to feeling good about ourselves and how we feed our families.  But, how do we educate ourselves? More importantly, how do we use that knowledge in a real way by incorporating it into our daily decisions without making ourselves crazy?

I'm sure many have a vague idea of what a balanced diet looks like.  A few might even have a clear idea.  We can take a step toward better health by investing a little time educating ourselves about foods and portion sizes and our bodies' needs.  I have put together a small list of a few resources I have found helpful.  Please, leave comments on any other good resources!  This list is by no means comprehensive.

Books to Buy or Check-Out from the Library:
Refined to Real Food - full of information on nutrition with practical, specific ways to integrate wholesome food into your family's diet

Eat This, Not That - thought-provoking info on restaurant food

Websites to Surf:
FDA's How to Understand and Use a Nutrition Label
The World's Healthiest Foods 
YMCA's Healthy Family Home

Portion sizes are an important part of a healthy diet.  Practice pouring a favorite cereal into a 3/4 cup measuring cup (or, whatever the suggested serving size) then, into the cereal bowl.  Pull 15 chips out of the bag and put them on the plate.  Doing this just one time for foods that you eat consistently makes learning to discern and serve the appropriate portion quick and easy. 

How to Not Go Crazy:
Know that not every meal and snack is going to be ideal.  Try to keep healthy food on hand to enable healthy snack options.  Plan out meals for the week and go grocery shopping in advance to avoid 5:00 tired and hungry "let's just go to the greasy Mexican place around the block for supper." 
Unless you are under strict instructions from a doctor, don't beat yourself up about food.  As long as you try to eat a reasonably well rounded diet, you should be okay.  Throw in some exercise and you are doing even better. 

Carden "unhealthy" eating secrets:  we take a walk to Baskin-Robbins every other Thursday,  Jacob eats about 5 Popsicle brand "Mighty Mini" popsicles a day (to compensate, I limit his juice to 4oz or less every day). 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Banana Bread

I cannot remember ever making banana bread that was this good.  This was so moist it was like banana bread pudding.  The white chocolate baking chips melted into the bread to make little sweet spots. 

1/2 cup honey
1 cup light butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 Tab baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate baking chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.
Using a stand mixer, cream together butter and honey.  Mix in eggs.  Stir in bananas and yogurt.  Stir in flour mixture to combine.  Stir in white chocolate baking chips.  Put in greased loaf pan and bake 50 minutes.  Cool in pan 10 minutes.  Remove onto wire rack to cool.  (If you are unable to wait until the loaf is cool, just know it will be a bit harder to cut into neat slices- not that this matters when you are devouring it alone in the kitchen...)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hoppin' John Stew and Okra Cornmeal Fritters

I took Jacob and Taylor Grace to the Memphis farmers' market Saturday.  Jacob loved it!  He enjoyed seeing all the people and grooving to the tunes of the band.  He admired the flowers at one stand so much the lady finally gave him one.  Taylor Grace seemed to enjoy riding around in the stroller and having people comment on her cuteness.  I loved all the fresh produce, bread, and meat.

As soon as we got our goods back home, we enjoyed a thick slice of sourdough bread with some muscadine jelly.  Mmmm.  Later, I used half of my okra to make okra fritters.  This recipe looked tasty: it had bacon, okra, cornmeal, and buttermilk.  But, it turned out bland and unremarkable- a waste of perfectly good okra and bacon.  I will have to come up with a different way to use the rest of the okra.

I also made hoppin' john stew.  I saw the recipe in the "$10 Spot"section of Everyday with Rachel Ray.  I was initially skeptical because of the lack of bacon or ham hock.  But, I never missed it.  The soup was filling, healthy, and made a lot.  It was even better for lunch today since the flavors had more time to develop.  If you like hoppin' john, you will like hoppin' john stew.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup long-grain rice (I used brown)
  • One 32-ounce container (4 cups) vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Two 15.5-ounce cans black-eyed peas, rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vegetable broth, collard greens and thyme. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, coarsely mash 1 cup black-eyed peas. Add them to the pot along with the remaining black-eyed peas and 3 cups water and simmer until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Delta Sky Club in Miami

Guest Post by Art Carden
I'm presenting a paper at a conference in Italy this weekend, and I agreed to guest post about my culinary adventures.  After a stop at the McDonald's at the airport in Miami, I decided (on the recommendation of my friend Bob Lawson) to spend the $50 for a one-day pass to the Delta Sky Club.  Since I had about a five-hour layover, I figured it would be worth it.  

It has been.  In addition to coffee, tea, and other beverages, I've been able to snack on fancy olives and enjoy their business center, which has nice little cubbies for people who need to get some work done.  It's been pretty cool.  Time to Skype with the family before (maybe) a nap and a trip to find my gate.

Fancy olives at Delta Sky Club in Miami.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Curry and Naan

Tonight I made Indian-style curry and naan.  I loved the intense flavor and spice of the vegetable curry paired with creamy yogurt and naan.  However, Jacob wouldn't touch the curry and Art didn't say anything about the food, which usually means he doesn't like it.  But, don't let that stop you from trying this spicy and healthy recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  It is the most flavorful way to eat cauliflower, chickpeas, potatoes, and peas I have ever experienced.

All those veggies require some serious chopping.  Conveniently, my new Pampered Chef knives arrived today.  These knives are amazing!  The only other time I can remember being this excited about kitchen tools was when I got my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  Using sturdy, sharp knives makes a huge difference when prepping food.

Tomorrow, Art leaves for a conference in Italy.  Since he will be in one of the world's most famous culinary countries, he has offered to contribute a few guest posts to the blog.  I'm pretty excited to hear about his experiences.    

Practical Note:  Curry will stain!  The spot is still on my shirt after the first wash.  I'll see if it comes out in the second...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Steak Tacos

I apologize to any readers waiting in anxious anticipation to find out what we had for supper last Thursday night.  We had enchiladas and they were great.  I made the similar enchiladas to the version I have made before only without the chicken and using store bought chipotle enchilada sauce.  We also had an extremely time-consuming yard sale over the weekend, so I did not get a chance to blog about cooking. 

Since things have settled down, I can share last night's tasty meal with you.  We had steak tacos based on a Cook's Illustrated recipe.  Flank steak is rubbed with a spicy marinade before being seared in an hot skillet.  These were so much better than standard ground beef or chicken tacos.  And, they were just as easy to make. 

I made this spicy yogurt sauce to serve with the tacos (and with the enchiladas we had Thursday):
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tab torn cilantro leaves
generous dash of cayenne pepper
generous dash of cumin

Stir together all ingredients.