Monday: Turnip Gratin

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Turnip Gratin

Gourmet  | October 2007

Holly Smith


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 pounds medium turnips, trimmed and left unpeeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped savory
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use a Microplane the small side of your box grater)
  • Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer


Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

Melt butter in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet, then cool.

Slice turnips paper-thin with slicer knife, then arrange one third of slices, overlapping tightly, in skillet, keeping remaining slices covered with dampened paper towels. Sprinkle with about a third of thyme, savory, kosher salt, and cayenne. Make 2 more layers.

Cook, covered, over medium heat until underside is browned, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, covered, until center is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle evenly with cheese, then bake, uncovered, until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

The Verdict:

It’s official: I don’t like turnips.  Travis pointed out that turnips are one of the classic “dislike” vegetables from childhood, but I actually like all the others (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc).  My mother used to complain about the fact that all three of us ate our veggies, since that meant there was less for the adults (reverse psychology, anyone?).  So it was actually surprising to me to find out that I don’t like turnips.  I haven’t totally closed the door, but if cream and cheese and butter don’t make me like them, what will?

I would honestly love anything you can suggest – at this point, I’ve all but given up.


Menu November 30th-December 6th

Here’s the plan:

  • Monday: Turnip Gratin
  • Tuesday: Beet and Cabbage Soup
  • Wednesday: Roasted Beets & Carrots
  • Thursday: Chicken Fajitas with Crunchy Lime Cabbage and Avocado 
  • Friday: Winter Squash Mash
  • Saturday: Carnival Squash Soup
  • Sunday: Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder

Grocery List:

  • limes
  • cilantro
  • tortillas
  • avocado
  • sharp cheddar cheese

This is yet another busy week (when are they not, this time of year?)  This week is The Bead Factory’s semi-annual stone sale, so I’ll be working a bit more than ususal, which means Trav will be on his own for a lot of the prep.  I’m going to attempt to keep us away from pizza and drive-through this week, but I don’t think for a second that it will be easy!

If we have spare time any of these days, I do have a few side dishes I’d like to have this week.  After the delicious creamed spinach-and-whatnot we had on Wednesday, I’d like to experiment with creaming just the mustard greens – I think the spice of the mustard greens and the richness of the cream would be amazing.  We also have quite a few carrots and broccoli we haven’t gotten through this week.  While they’ll last until next week (when there’s no share), we also both like roasted or fried veggies, so we could add a bit of substance to one of the meals this week that’s a little more basic.  We’ll see what we have time for, though.

CSA Share: Thanksgiving Week (Saturday, November 28th)

  • turnips
  • celery
  • parsley
  • broccoli
  • mustard greens
  • sage
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • cabbage
  • beets

Trav picked up our share at the farm on Saturday, but it’s taken me until today to even figure out what’s in it – holdiays take a lot of energy, and then a lot of recuperation!

Menu coming up…

Sunday: Tacos with Mexican Rice, Delicata Squash, Corn & Pinto Beans

I had a bit of time Sunday midday so I decided to try a reprise of our November 10th taco experiment.  I tried making theoriginal Zucchini taco recipe a little more to try to avoid the “mushy” texture Trav didn’t like last time.  I think it worked pretty well.  I ended up cooking the delicata squash for quite a bit longer than the zucchini takes, but since I didn’t need to pre-roast the squash, I think it took a bit less time than I took last time, start-to-finish.  I still love the combo of squash, beans & corn, especially when paired with monterey jack cheese and mexican rice.

Creamed Spinach and Rice Casserole Stuffed Acorn Squash

I beleive I’ve said once before that I never ate cooked greens when I was growing up.  My mother didn’t like them, so I never got exposed to them.  Until I was a vegetarian, visiting a boyfriend who was attending law school at NYU.  I dated him for two years of his law school career, and visited every chance I got.  He made it a point to take me to each of the 4-star restaurants that were currently housed in New York, and I presented my vegetarian requirements at each. I found a new love for sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and even some forms of polenta during this time, and will always be glad that 4-star chefs are willing to create a meal for picky 20-somethings!

Anyway, I was looking at the bag of mixed greens that came in this week’s share and thought, I wonder what it would be like to make creamed spinach-and-mustard-greens-and-whatever-else-might-be-in-there?  So I thought we’d give it a try tonight. 

I have several acorn squashes at this point, and I was intrigued by A Good Appetite‘s mac & cheese stuffed acorn squash.  However, I’m desperately avoiding grocery shopping this week – partially because I’m trying to make up for all the days of eating out in our budget and partially because I have visions of crazed turkey-day shoppers running me over with their carts if I were to venture out into the grocery realm.  I do have some Creamy Rice Casserole in the freezer that has just been waiting for a use, so I’ll try that baked in a squash.  Of course, I’ve also got some more bacon that might  be good as crumbles since I’m out of bread crumbs…

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious, and A Good Appetite), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Creamed Spinach

Gourmet  | December 2004

yield: Makes 10 servings; active time: 30 min; total time: 30 min


  • 3 2 lb baby spinach and other braising greens
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon dash freshly grated nutmeg


Cook spinach greens in 2 batches in 1 inch of boiling salted water in an 8-quart pot, stirring constantly, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until cool. Squeeze small handfuls of spinach greens to remove as much moisture as possible, then coarsely chop.

Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Meanwhile, cook onion in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add warm milk mixture in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in nutmeg, spinach greens, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Cooks’ note: Creamed spinach can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over moderately low heat until hot.


Rice Casserole Stuffed Acorn Squash



  • 1 acorn squash, cut in half, seeds & pulp cleaned out
  • 5-6 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 recipe Creamy Rice Casserole from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
  • a few ounces feta cheese


Scrape additional pulp out of the squash to create a bowl, leaving about 3/4-inch squashy goodness on all sides. Save the scrapings for mixing with the rice casserole. Place the squash cut side down in a baking dish & add about 1-inch of water. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix about 1/4 cup of your reserved squash, 3 cups of the rice casserole, and the feta together in a small bowl.  You can freeze any remaining squash for a future use.

Cook the bacon until just begining to crisp.  Remove 1/2 the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.  Continue cooking the remaining bacon until extremely crispy. After the reserved bacon has drained, mix it into the rice mixture.

Take the squash out of the oven. Pour off the water & flip over. Fill with the rice mixture. Bake for 30 minutes until the rice mixture is cooked through and the top is bubbling.  Sprinkle with reserved bacon bits and cook for another minute or so to warm them through.

The Verdict:

This was actually one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had cooking recently.  My sister and brother-in-law were due to arrive in Tacoma Wednesday evening, and several friends & I headed over to my parents’ house to spend some time with them.  I brought the ingredients and several of my cooking utensils over & prepared this meal while we waited for them to show up.  One of my favorite activities ever is cooking with friends, and I really love that my parents’ kitchen remodel specifically created a kitchen that makes it easy to hang out with the cook.  I do have to admit though: it’s difficult to cook in the kitchen you grew up in when all of the cupboards and appliances are completely different.  My parents had their kitchen completely gutted and re-built two summers ago, and although I’ve cooked there a few times since then, all of the dishes, pots & pans, canned goods, etc. have moved.  I’ll find myself trying to open a cupboard that used to have canned goods, only to realize the pots & pans now live there.  Even worse, I try to grab pots and pans from the overhead rack that was in the kitchen my entire childhood, and then just stand there, confused, until I figure out why I can’t even find the place for what I’m looking for, let alone the item.  Not to complain – their new kitchen is beautiful and functional and reallly great to cook in.  I just get easily confused, because I spent all of my formative cooking years finding things in exactly the same place, and now they’re nowhere near!

My friends and family hung out with me in the kitchen while I cooked, and then tasted as items finished.  No one else was actually there for dinner, specifically, but I made a double-batch so that everyone could have some if they wanted.

Anyway, back to the food: creamed greens are delicious.  My father commented that he probably would have put about 3 cloves of garlic in them, and my friend Carrie let him know that there were like 6 cloves in there.  I didn’t adjust my measurements quite accurately, so the cream mixture was pretty thick, but I love it that way, so I wasn’t worried, and it got good reveiws from all my tasters.

The squash was pretty good.  The rice stuffing worked well for all of us but Trav (he said it was “kinda bland”).  However, the squash still wasn’t cooked all the way through when the filling was done & turning crispy, so I think it needed more cooking time on its own.  I also recommend scooping the squash out, mixing it up with the rice mixture, and eating the whole thing as one big pile of goodness.  I think that one of the reasons Trav didn’t like it that much was that he didn’t blend any of the flavors.  Also, he probably thought it could use more bacon.

All in all, I thought this was an amazing meal for having been planned around avoiding the grocery store!

Monday: Corn & Potato Chowder

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Corn and Potato Chowder

Bon Appétit  | October 1993


  • 2 4 bacon slices, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 russet Yukon Gold potato, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups (or more) whole milk
  • 1 15-ounce can creamed corn
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • Chopped fresh thyme


Cook bacon in heavy large saucepan over medium heat until fat is rendered, about 3 minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add potato and bell pepper and sauté 1 minute. Add 2 cups milk and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and soup thickens slightly, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Add creamed corn, corn kernels and 1 tablespoon thyme to soup and simmer until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, stirring frequently and thinning with more milk if too thick.) Sprinkle with thyme and serve.

The Verdict:

Travis: “We could make this soup again.  More bacon though.”

Melissa: “I already doubled the bacon.”

Travis: “Oh.  More bacon anyway.”

The fact that he actually took the time to say that he likes the soup enough to have it again makes me think that he really enjoyed it.  Of course, what’s not to love about bacon, potatoes, and corn in a chowder?  I mean, what’s not to love aside from fat & cholesterol…

I did also love how quckly it came together, since this was done with virtually no prep work (we chopped the bacon & onion before leaving for ballet, and the rest I did while he cooked the bacon). This is something that I’ll keep in the rotation for busy days, since there’s no excuse not to make something this easy, this pantry/freezer friendly, and this tasty. This is one more recipe that’s going to keep us away from pizza and fast food when we’re tired & starving at night! And yes, next time we’ll try it with more bacon. Maybe as crumbles for a garnish?

Menu November 23rd through 25th

Yes, this is a very short “week” of menu.  We’ll pick up our final Autumn Share on Wednesday, so there will be a new series of posts then.  There’s the Thanksgiving holdiay on Thursday, which is one of my favorites, since it’s all about food! (I suppose also about being thankful?)  My sister traditionally does the bird, along with mashed potatoes and gravy and pies of several kinds.  There have been years that she’s gone all out with menu planning and a to-do list that would scare a four-star general, but this year is going to be a bit more low-key.  I’ll include my side-dish on this blog, and see if she’s up for a guest-blog about the rest of the menu.

Here’s the plan:

  • Monday: Corn and Potato Chowder
  • Tuesday: Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner Out with Miss Erin
  • Wednesday: Rice Casserole baked in Acorn Squash and Creamed Spinach, plus prep for our contribution to Thanksgiving
  • Thursday: Thanksgiving!

Grocery List:

  • Red bell peppers
  • Creamed Corn
  • Almonds

I completely missed my day of food prep, since I was working.  We’ll have to get by on what we can do between work and ballet this week and then try to catch up over the holiday weekend.

CSA Share Saturday, November 21st

  • mixed greens
  • beets
  • squash – acorn, carnival, kobucha & pumpkin
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • broccoli

So this week was a little off-schedule.  I guess that’s not really accurate; we were on schedule for most things – those things just didn’t involve being home or cooking.  This was the Bellevue Bead Festival weekend, and I was onsite at the show Thursday evening through Sunday evening.  Trav was on his own, and although I told him that anything in the fridge was fair game, the pizza box in the TV room tells a different story.  I picked up the share today at the farm and managed to get at least one meal figured out for tonight.  I’ll work on getting us caught up enough this week to be back on track through the holiday weekend.  Our last pick-up of the Autumn share is this Wednesday, and I’ve already planned a squash-heavy side dish that I’ll be bringing to Thanksgiving on Thursday.  I should have some extra time this weekend, since the ballet school is closed, to get some more plans made as well as prepping some more soups and ingredients for freezing!

Menu coming up…

Wednesday: Chicken Vegetable Soup with Ginger

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Ginger

Bon Appétit  | June 1996

yield: 6 Main-Course Servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cubed
  • 1 large celery stalk with leaves, chopped
  • 6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 large russet, potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large yam (red-skinned sweet potato), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled, cubed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets (from about 1 large stalk)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 10-ounce package 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups diced cooked 1 chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Add onion and cook until translucent, approximately 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add carrots and celery and cook until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add Bring chicken broth and bring to simmer in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add potato, yam, onion, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, celery and ginger and bring to boil. Cover pot, reduce heat to medium and simmer soup until all vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, saute chicken in oil until cooked through. Remove to cutting board and cool slightly. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.
  5. Purée soup in batches in blender with immersion blender just to chunky texture. Return soup to pot. Add corn and cooked chicken and simmer until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm soup over low-heat before serving.)
  6. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

The Verdict:

The original recipe didn’t have any of the savory vegetables sauteing before adding in the chicken broth & boiling up the veggies together.  From my point of view, that’s the quickest way to a weird, tasteless soup.  I’m not sure what they were thinking when they wrote the recipe, but I was unwilling to try it as written.  Thus: probably the most editing I’ve done to any recipe thusfar.  I guess I’ve just watched far too much America’s Test Kitchen to skip this step!

I’m not sure Trav understood that the immersion blender was meant to be “just until chunky.”  It tasted great, but it was a weird shredded chicken chowder instead of a soup.  I had to divorce my mind from the idea that it resembled the canned cat food we feed our cats each day in order not to feel sick, but as soon as I was able to do that, it was fine.  I think we might skip the immersion blender altogether next time, or maybe just try it for 2 seconds and see if that thickens it without shredding it!

Tuesday: Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Cheese

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Cheese

Bon Appétit  | February 2001

Russell’s, Bloomsburg, PA

yield: Makes 6 servings


  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 2 pounds fresh broccoli, stems and florets separated and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 6 1/2 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (packed) grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)


  1. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. Add broccoli stems and onion; sauté until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and tarragon; sauté 1 minute. Add stock; bring to boil. Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in cream.
  2. Mix remaining 3 tablespoons butter with flour in small bowl to make paste. Whisk paste into soup. Add broccoli florets. Simmer until soup thickens and florets are tender, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Preheat broiler. Place 6 ovenproof soup bowls on baking sheet. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cheese over each. Broil until cheese melts and bubbles around edges, about 4 minutes.

The Verdict:

This was surprisingly less creamy than we had supposed.  I’m not sure where we got the notion (maybe from the flour/butter mixture?) that we would be eating cream of broccoli with cheese melted on top, but that’s not how it ended up.  We enjoyed the flavor though.  It’s like those clam chowders that are thinned with clam juice instead of those that you can eat with a fork.  I actually prefer the thinner soups in general, so although I was surprised, I wasn’t disappointed.  The cheese sort of melted & then sunk to the bottom in a glob, so it was a little challenging to try to get a bite that was cheese & soup & broccoli.  I think if we make it again, we’ll add some cheesy toasts to the plan, like I do for French Onion Soup – that should help with the cheese glob we ended up with at the bottom.

Although this says it serves 6, Travis managed to fit it all into two bowls.  However, it was rich enough that I could only manage about half of my bowl & saved the rest for later.  When I went to reheat it, the cheese had solidified at the bottom of the bowl, so I poured off the top (liquid) portion of the soup & heated that in a pot on the stove.  I whisked in just a bit of the congealed cheese mass, and that ended up being a good lunch.

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