Star-faits and Mash

I decided to go strange for my unfamiliar produce assignment.

First up: starfruit. I saw these little guys in amongst the oranges and thought I’d give them a try. Turns out, you really don’t do anything to starfruit – not even peeling! Several recipes I found also included things like mango and papaya, which I didn’t have. I decided to go simple but kind of fancy and made parfaits for my husband and myself.

Star-faits and coffee

Star-faits and coffee

 

For the second piece of produce, I did choose a local and seasonal vegetable: rutabagas. I learned the hard way that rutabagas are stubborn to peel and difficult to cut!

These, too, don’t necesssarily require much preparation. The first thing I made with them was just themselves. That is, I boiled cubes of rutabaga in well-salted water, tossed them with salt and pepper, and served! They were so delicious we barely had any left over of the large bowl.

The next night I decided to do a little more work. I found a recipe for rutabaga mashed with carrots, which reminded me of the delicious “Canadian turnip” dish we’d had at a friend’s Thanksgiving dinner. This was pretty simple as well: pretty much just boil the rutabaga, then mash it with grated carrots, butter, and a little sugar. Next time I think I’ll use a little more butter and maybe some fun spices; it came out a bit bland.

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All in all an enjoyable experience!

Cashew Icebox Cookies - close enough!

Cashews and Parsley

No, not at the same time. Cashews and parsley were the star ingredients in two dishes I made this weekend: Cashew Icebox Cookies and … some sort of spaghetti dish.

Full disclosure: my husband does 99% of the cooking in our house. While I am capable of following a recipe and often enjoy the time I spend in the kitchen, the  hubz loves cooking and also usually has more time to make daily meals for us. Since he has been cooking at home for 15-20 years and puts a high priority on real scratch food, our pantry is quite well stocked. We’ve got pasta, wild rice, all sorts of sauces, vinegar, meats, vegetables, spices and herbs galore, etc. etc. etc. I like to bake sweet things, so our stock of flour, three kinds of sugar, and a variety of chocolate bits support that pretty well also.

And so we come to cashew icebox cookies and improvised spaghetti dinner.

Cashew icebox cookies - mise en place

Cashew icebox cookies – mise en place

I’d been wanting to make these cookies since I found the recipe in December, but not for the tray I wanted to bring to work (my coworker is allergic to nuts). By the time my husband and I made all the cookies for work, though, we had had enough and certainly didn’t need to be eating more sugar and butter ourselves. So there the recipe sat, untried and unloved, until this past Sunday.

First things first: I pulled all the ingredients and the measuring spoons and cups I’d need. The recipe called for cashews thee ways: ground, chopped, and halved, so that prep came next. From there it was a matter of combining the stuff together, chilling the dough in logs rolled in chopped nuts, slicing ’em up, and baking the things.

Cashew Icebox Cookies - rolled and ready

Cashew Icebox Cookies – rolled and ready

The tricky bit was the butterscotch drizzle. First the butterscotch pieces wouldn’t melt, then the mixture got too hot and possibly a little caramelized. It still looked good, though, so I went to transfer it to a plastic bag for piping. Too soon: the drizzle melted right through the plastic! Luckily I had had it propped in a glass, so I was able to save the drizzle to try again. As I had to leave the house just then, I decided to put the whole pot in the fridge and try again tomorrow.

The second time around things went marginally better. Now stiff with cold, the mixture was in now way ready for piping just then. So back on the stove it went, with a little milk added to keep in from burning before it could melt. This time, when I thought it was ready to drizzle, I removed the mixture from heat and let it cool for a few minutes, carefully watching to time my pouring for when it was cool enough but not yet set. Then I ran into a new issue: the drizzle didn’t want to flow out of the bag and onto the cookies. I tried cutting a larger hole in the corner with somewhat disastrous results. I did manage to drizzle about half my cookies, as well as the table around and between them (I’m reminded of mothers chiding eating babies for having “more on you than in you”). But hey – they taste good and who cares what they really look like?

Cashew Icebox Cookies - close enough!

Cashew Icebox Cookies – close enough!

My dinner on Monday went quite a bit better. The back of my box of spaghetti had a recipe for something involving bell peppers and mushrooms, neither of which I had on hand. So I just went with the things I did have: sausage (though a different kind than the recipe mentioned) and pasta sauce. The recipe didn’t mention any greens or garnish, but having recently acquired some parsley I thought “hey, why not practice those knife skills we talked about?”. While the noodles cooked, I fried my sausage slices in a bit of oil and chopped my parsley. Then, as my back-of-box recipe suggested, I poured my sauce into the sausage and let that simmer. Drain, transfer to bowl, top with sauce(age), sprinkle with parsley, and voila! A lovely, delicious, and simple spaghetti dinner.

Spaghetti plus - with fresh parsley!

Spaghetti plus – with fresh parsley!

I have to say I really enjoyed this assignment – because it encouraged me to think more creatively about what I could do with what I had!