Overwhelmed and underprepared -or- Roasted grapes in wine sauce

I know that I have been using the overwhelmed card a lot lately. I swear, as soon as I am done presenting at a conference next week I will go back to being busy but prepared for life instead of the constant state of overwhelmed and unprepared that I have been living in the last few weeks.

In the meantime, I am cooking with whatever we have on hand (rather than making meticulous grocery lists based on the things I want to make in the coming week) and cooking simple. Sometimes this turns out to be just delicious.

I have already told you about Peter Berley's book Fresh Food Fast. And I am working with a recipe from it again today. It is my go to book. The recipes in the book always inspire me and lend themselves well to substitutions.

The desserts in this book are one of my favorite parts. They are all decadent in their own right, but none of them require an entire day spent baking and assembling.

Roasted Grapes in a Wine Sauce
serves 4
adapted from Fresh Food Fast

Berley's original recipe calls for red grapes and a dry red wine. I used black seedless grapes (they were 2 dollars cheaper a pound than white or red at the market) and white wine (all of the reds we had were "nice wines" and I didn't dare open a bottle of those without Mr. Man home to enjoy the rest of the bottle with me). I have fallen in love with this recipe due to it's ease, the way it made my house smell, and it's ability to be made with any grape/wine combo. I think that next time around I am going to try out a white grape/white wine combo. Also, I served this over ice cream, but I think it would be divine over a pound or olive oil cake with maybe a little creme fraiche on top.

1 lbs. seedless grapes, cut in half
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. Dememera sugar (brown sugar will work just fine also)
1/4 cup dry white or red wine
ice cream or cake for serving

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.

While the oven is preheating place the butter in the pan (a baking dish big enough so that the grapes can roast in one layer) and put the pan in the oven. While the butter melts cut the grapes. Once the butter has melted remove the pan from the oven and add the grapes and the sugar and stir.

Roast for 20 minutes. Then add the wine, stir, and continue roasting for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let it sit for just a couple of minutes.

Then serve over ice cream or cake or eat by the spoonful from the pan (which I definitely did not do).

A way to make it through winter - or - Broccoli cheddar soup

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Winter is here and one thing is for sure- I am not wearing nearly enough layers.

I call it winter because the only discernible difference in the Pacific Northwest between fall and winter is the amount of daylight we get. Don't get me wrong, the evergreens we get to keep through the winter are ray of much needed color here in the winter time. But, a beautiful multi-colored fall full of crisp sunny days, complete with cozy scarves it is not. No leaves turning colors, sunny days are a always a few months away, and those beauteous scarves are just going to get soaked in the rain.

As I have mentioned before, winter is not really my favorite season. But, there are a few redeeming qualities. Soup is one of them. Winter squash, Christmas, Hanukkah, Sweater dresses, boots, and baking are a few of the others.

The first official soup of winter this year is a sort of comfort soup. When I think of the broccoli soup of my youth it is always thick and cheezy and the only thing on the diner menu I can eat (along with grilled cheese of course). This soup reminds me of those diner soups but with a little more flair. It has beautiful specks of red pepper and carrot that make it prettier and tastier.

We ate this soup with some olive bread crostini we got from a place called the Bread Farm. Mr. Man had seen an article awhile back about a small town north of us. Said article suggested this town as a day trip and offered a variety of things to do complete with a suggested schedule. We set out for said charming town.

Turns out it was more of a street. A street with a great cheese shop and bakeries, but a street nonetheless. We only lasted about an hour. But, it was fun to be adventurous. And truth be told our day probably would have lasted longer had we found the park with the suggested hike and made it into the evening hours for live music. Here is the link if you are interested:

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
serves 4
adapted from A beautiful Bowl of Soup

I used a low sodium broth for this soup. For most soups I like to be able to control the level of salt. I think this is particularly important for this soup because the cheddar can be so salty. Also, I have stated that the celery seed is optional because I don't like celery or it's flavor, but you might not agree with that assessment. So, you can add it if you want. I won't judge you. Not much, anyway.

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, chopped a bit (so they are bite-sized)
1 small to medium russet potato, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 tsp. celery seed (optional)
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (the sharper the better)
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large heavy pan (use a Dutch oven if you've got one) over medium heat. Once the butter is melted add the garlic, onions, bell pepper, and carrot. Continue to cook it over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Go ahead and measure out two cups of vegetable stock. To thicken the soup, add in the four and stir constantly for about two minutes. Then add the vegetable stock slowly while whisking continuously. One the mixture is smooth add the broccoli, potato, and celery seeds.

Raise the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Then reduce the heat again, cover, and let it simmer. Stir occasionally. The vegetables should become tender in about 10 to 15 minutes depending on how large you chopped them. Once they have reached the tenderness you like to eat, stir in the milk.

When the soup has become warm again, add the cheese and stir slowly. Add the dry mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about a quarter teaspoon of each).

This soup goes great with crostini or crusty bread. I swear. I am not just trying to justify the long drive I went on last this past weekend.

So easy I can even do it with a brain full of mush -or- Baked Yams

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Man, things have been out of control busy and it will not stop until Nov. 3.

I have had a lot on my plate lately (figuratively speaking of course...because there have been no recipe posts of late). Field work down in Cali. Preparing for my first conference presentation. And the biggest time suck of all has been teaching this quarter.

I feel like I am just treading water right now. We all have days, weeks, months like this. Some months I am light on work others I am working non-stop. In the end it all balances out. It is just the nature of certain lines of work.

When I am super busy I need to be fed well. But, unfortunately there is little time to cook and even less time to plan out "quick" meals. And even more annoyingly, when I do have a few minutes to spare between getting home and feeding myself my brain is mush and unable to process the decisions that need to be made to turn what I see in the refrigerator into dinner.

In these situations it is good to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Something you can make and have lots of leftovers. Something you can make even if your brain has turned to mush.

One such staple my whole life has been Baked Yams. Mamacita makes 'em darn good. People are always asking her how she get's them to be so moist, so luscious, so delicious. And really, there isn't much to it. It is just a matter of baking them in the right manner. She makes them all the time and that is fine as long as you are willing to the listen to the obligatory run of jokes all ending with "Because I yam what I yam!"

Many a times I am presented with dry, pasty baked yams. And there is really no excuse, because now you have seen this post. Now you know the secret. Delicious yams are just around the corner for you and for me.

Baked Yams
serves 1 to infinity

For this recipe it is easiest if you choose yams that are similar in length and girth. That way they all bake at the same rate and you can take them all out at the same time.

1 to as many as you can fit in your oven yams of similar thickness and size

1 piece of foil for each yam (about a square foot or so)

Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Poke the yam with a fork 3-6 times all over. Wrap the yam in the foil so it is completely covered at least twice. Make sure that the seams where you fold the end of the fold over are on the same side as the edge of the foil.

Place the yams in the middle of the over directly on the rack, seam side up. If you are worried about their juices spilling over, place a cookie sheet below them.
Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour. They will be a little squishy to the touch when they are done.

All dressed up with no place to go

Hi there. I am sure that you have noticed some changes here at A Shared Mile. These are the changes I was talking about a few weeks ago.

What do you think? The links at the top need a little love from me (as in need me to write something for them) so check back often for those as they are updated.

I really like this design and I hope you do too. Delicious Design Studio did a great job. Especially considering that I gave them instructions like "I want it to look like hand drawn black and white doodles but with color. And can you include things like ingredients or shopping list items, a ginkgo leaf, and an octopus?" Basically, no direction at all.

But, they came up with what you see anyway. And I love it. It has some of my favorite things. Color, doodles, a representative of my favorite phylum (ginkophyta), one of my favorite invertebrates, and of course lots of food references (because honestly, where would we all be without food?). Also, scroll down to the bottom of the page for some more graphics. I especially love that little fish on the bottom left. It reminds me of a lumpsucker, one of the most adorable fishies EVER.

And in case you haven't met the cutest fish ever, allow me to explain why they are so cute. They have no real fin and use adhesive to stick themselves to leaves and rocks and stuff. So, when they get dislodged you see their little stubby fins working overtime as the current carries them around. It is cute, trust me. Go to your local aquarium and demand that they get these guys immediately.

So, stay tuned for more recipes, stories from the field, and other ramblings from your truly.
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