Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Leblebi

Leblebi are the Turkish snack of spiced, roasted chick peas (garbanzo beans). I had made some beans the other day to make hummus but then decided that since I feel too lazy to make more flat bread (I think there's only one loaf I tucked away in the freezer, and that's just not enough). So I went with this instead. Please feel free to use canned beans if you like. It makes it more convenient for those who don't love cooking their own beans. Enjoy!

2 cups cooked chick peas (drain and rinse if canned)
spice mixture*
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oven to 450F. Blot peas, then toss with oil and spices. Spread over a baking sheet and roast for 15-30 minutes or until dry and crispy and delicious.

Spice Mixture:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon sumac

Grind together in mortar and pestle or spice grinder (coffee grinder; whatever you use).

*There are a lot of different options for how to spice these little guys, so play around with it and find a combination that you like best!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

I remember these always having carrots grated into them when I was a kid, but today I didn't want them that way. I wanted it to mainly scream of potato and olive oil. And that's what they did. Happy Chanukah guys.

1 1/2 pounds peeled, scrubbed and grated potato
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sumac
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or matzo meal)
2 eggs
1/2 cup or so olive oil

Mix everything except the oil together. Heat the oil in the pan until water dances on it. Scoop out large handfuls of the potato mixture and squeeze it to remove as much of the starchy liquid as you can. Drop each handful into the oil and press it with a spatula to flatten it out (I use a 10" pan and do 2 at a time). Fry until the bottom is golden, then flip over and fry until the other side is golden. Serve with sour cream and apple sauce. Serves 2 (makes 6).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sweet Potato and Rosemary Penne

Sorry to have been absent so long. Between a pile of pears I've been canning, a touch of nausea and several botched meals (bad kitchen juju these days!), I've had nothing to say, really. But tonight I did not fail in the kitchen, and that makes me smile. I hope you enjoy it!

2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/2 onion, diced
salt to taste
8 ounces penne, cooked according to package directions
1-1 1/2 cups white beans, cooked with a sprig of rosemary (if using canned, ignore the rosemary sprig, of course)
2 cups finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Infuse the rosemary in the oil over very low heat for 15 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes (and season it) and increase the heat to medium low. Cook for 15-20 minutes, then add the onions (season again) and cook another 15-20 minutes (until the sweet potato is cooked through). Add the beans and penne and toss lightly, then stir in the lemon and parmesan and heat through. Serves 2.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Eggplant, Lentil and Chick Pea Stew

I had this huge eggplant calling to me, saying, "Eat me before I go bad!" and I didn't really have any specific sort of anything I wanted to do with it. I do like stew, though, so I decided to make another winter-type stew that would keep me full all evening while I finish preparing for my last final. Hope you enjoy!

1 globe eggplant, peeled and cut into 1" cubes ($1)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes ($0.50)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce ($0.20)
4 cups chicken broth (free, I made it)
1/4 teaspoon each: ground cinnamon, ground mace, aleppo pepper, tumeric (~$0.20)
1/2 teaspoon each: ground coriander seed, salt ($0.10)
1 teaspoon each: ground black pepper, pomegranate molasses, crushed omani (if you don't have the omani, you can sub dried lemon peel. I don't know a sub for the molasses, so just leave it out) ($0.30)
1 cup-ish (it might've been a little more) cooked chick peas ($0.10)

1/2 pound beef sausage, cooked ($3.00)
1/3 cup puy lentils ($0.15)

1 cup rice ($0.10)
1 teaspoon salt (penny)
2 teaspoons dill weed ($0.02)
1 3/4 cups water

Combine the first group of ingredients in a large saucepan. Cover and set to medium heat. Cook for about an hour. Add in the lentils and sausage and cook another half hour or until lentils are done. During the last part of the stew cooking, combine the last group of ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover with a paper towel and then lid and drop the heat to low. Cook 10-15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for at least 15 more minutes (or until stew is done, which is what I do). Serves 4.

Total cost: $5.68 (with sausage); $2.68 (without sausage)
Per serving: $1.42 (with); $0.67 (without)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Crabapple Jelly

I found some crabapples at the store, and while really they were a bit more expensive than I'd like (particularly since I remember the trees overloaded with fruit as a kid that we could've picked since no one wanted it), at $2.99/pound, but that is still a lot cheaper than you can buy crabapple jelly for. So I got a couple pounds. I looked at yet another billion different recipes, and pretty much everyone seems to make it the same way. I added a bit more lemon than people seem to like (and I might not've used the normal amount of sugar, since I kind of lost track of what I put in. I was thinking about the meat sauce that was cooking so I got distracted), but I'm obsessed with lemon. It's reasonably simple to make, though I really do need to invest in a jar lifter so I can stop turning water bath canning into a terrifying experience.

2 pounds crabapples
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
6-7 cups water
4 cups sugar, approximately

Wash the apples and pull off their stems. Toss in a saucepan and add lemon juice and water. Bring it to a boil and then turn down the heat a bit. Simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the apples make your entire house smell edible, and they mash easily when you push a wooden spoon against them. Strain them. You should have about 4 cups of liquid. Clean out your saucepan and put the juice back in there. Add about 4 cups of sugar (volumetrically, you want to use as much sugar as you have juice). Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Boil it until it hits 220F while stirring constantly. Pour into sterilised jars and process. I did mine in the water bath for 15 minutes, but I think the Ball book says 10. I was just busy, so I gave it longer. Mine made 4 half pints. Theoretically it would've made more jars, but I had a little issue the first time with it not setting so I had to redo it and it condensed it slightly more than I think this normally makes.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hearty Winter Soup

I was looking for something to really fill me up, and keep me that way. Rustic soups and stews are my favourite for this. Since it's "cold" now (ok... it's not as cold for us as it is for many of you, but it's all about what you're used to), all the better. Also in the job description was something that could cook itself while I was at school. This is really perfect for a slow cooker. I did this in 3 steps, but if you are going to be at work all day it will work equally well using just two steps. If you have leftover turkey, use that instead. It'd be a fine substitute for chicken. Hope you enjoy!

1 onion, cut into large chunks
2 carrots cut into 1" pieces
1 cup wheat berries (I pre-soaked mine but you can just dump them in unsoaked and it'll be fine)
1 tomato cut into large chunks (or a small can of tomatoes)
1/2 bulb garlic, peeled and cloves left whole
5 cups chicken broth (homemade is ideal)
1 large raw boneless and skinless chicken breast (mine was still frozen when I put it in), ~8 ounces

1 slice dried galangal (if you don't have this, go ahead and use ginger. If you can find it, however, its flavour is better for this)
1 dried chile arbol
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon each: cider vinegar, pomegranate molasses
1/4 preserved lemon, cut into little bits
1 cup cooked appaloosa beans (sub: any kind of bean you like)
2 celery stalks cut into 1" chunks

3 cups shredded cabbage

Combine group one in a saucepan or slow cooker. Cook about two hours. Remove the chicken, cut it up and put back in the soup. Add group two (I put the anise, chile and galangal in a big tea ball for easy removal); cook another couple hours. Add the cabbage 30 minutes before you want to eat. Alternately, put all but cabbage in your soup pot and let it hang out. Add in the cabbage 30 minutes before you want to eat. Serves 4.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pear Preserves and Jelly

P is a little persnickety about his pear preserves. Most people spice them and he doesn't like that so I decided to make my own (okay... more truthfully I decided to make my own because the one he likes is expensive and he's almost out again). I did not use pectin (I don't know why I didn't, since I actually bought some), though you certainly may adjust the recipe for it. Pears are on sale here in Houston for 4/1.19, which is quite a lot cheaper than the $6.25/10.5 ounce jar we spend on the type he normally prefers.

9 cups pear, peeled, cored and sliced (2.38)
42.15 ounces (1200 grams) granulated sugar (1.04)
3/4 lemon, sliced super thin, then cut into quarters (19 cents)

Combine the pears and sugar, then refrigerate overnight (ideally. Otherwise, if you're forgetful like me, refrigerate for 24 hours). Stir and add lemon, then slowly cook until it reaches 220F (some people say to do this at a simmer for a couple hours; I just cooked it over low heat until it reached 220 on my candy thermometer and the pears were relatively transluscent). This took for-freaking-ever, because I was studying for a test and as a result, I had the heat much lower than I normally might have. I wound up with significantly more syrup than I expected (likely a bi-product of having let it sit for 24 hours instead of 8-ish), so I spooned the pear and lemon bits into the jars and then poured some syrup over them. This left a lot of remaining syrup (4 jars worth). I packed them into jars too, but when I should have done, and what I know you will do, is reheat it until it's a full 220F again. Then pack into jars. I left 1/2" headspace and processed in a water bath for 10 minutes.

The preserves set beautifully. 3 half-pints worth. The jelly doesn't look like it's going to set, although it appears to be similar to one of those runnier jellies instead of one of the loose syrups. Either way, I'm keeping it on hand for pancakes instead of trying to set it again. I got 4 half-pints of that.

Total cost: $3.48 (I do not count jar costs, since they get used over and over)
Per jar: $0.50

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chili, Potatoes and Tea

Usually when I buy potatoes, I buy red ones. I just really, really love red potatoes. Oh, and I also love the purple fingerlings. I forgot about that until just now, because they're so costly I rarely buy them anymore. This time, though, I bought a russet. A big one. I'm not really sure why I bought it, but it was just there, in the pile of russets, "staring at me." It was like it was saying, "Allie... Come buy me, and bake me, and eat me." And so I did. Buy it, that is. But then it sat on the Cameroonian mortar (they're kind of wide and flat, so they're perfect for holding things), hanging out with the garlic, onions and lemons. Because I didn't know how I wanted to deal with it. But then, when I was peeking at my jars of foods I've preserved this year, I noticed there was a jar of chili I hadn't already promised to someone else remaining.

And then I knew what to do with the potato. I was going to make a nice, cheap, yummy dinner for us. So if you don't normally eat chili on potatoes, I recommend it highly. This was my first, but will not be my last. This worked out really well, since I was also in the middle of carving foam for the cell I'm building.

1 pint chili
1 large russet potato
1 teaspoon oil
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup extra sharp cheddar, grated

Heat oven to 350F. Rub the oil all over you (cleaned) potato, then sprinkle the salt all over it. Put the potato on the middle rack of the oven and let roast for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the potato in there while you heat the chili in a small saucepan. Cut the potato in half, and pour half the chili on each half-potato. Top with cheese. Serves 2.

As the weather gets colder, I crave more teas. Unfortunately I only seem to get these cravings (outside my morning cup of tea) after 5, when it's too late to have the caffeine. So recently I've been venturing into my spice cabinet. I just thought I'd recommend it. Right now, I'm really into this one.

2 teaspoons mint leaves
1 teaspoon each: lemon balm, stevia (my mother grew some and shipped it to me)

Steep in 3-4 cups of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Put 1/2 teaspoon honey (right now I'm favouring orange blossom) in each mug and serve. Serves 3-4.

Also nice is cilantro, rose hip and orange peel, which I sometimes like with a bit of lemon.

And also plain sage tea, and plain mint. Anyway, I thought I'd just recommend getting into your spice cabinet to see what kinds of warm, caffeine-free combinations you can come up with that you enjoy. Does anyone have any favourites to share?

Happy Thanksgiving! We'll be out of pocket for the rest of the weekend, but I hope you and yours enjoy a safe, happy and fulfilling turkey day!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Spicy Green Beans and Spaghetti

We got a huge bag of green beans at the farmer's market, and rather than sitting down in front of the tv and scarfing them down, like I normally might be inclined to do (I have this problem with peas, too), I actually cooked some. Mainly because P asked me to.

I've been really into the farmer's market lately, you might've noticed. I find the food is better, and ultimately cheaper in most cases (8 billion eggplants for 4 monies, as an example).

Anyway, I just wanted to kind of lightly cook these with a minimum of added flavours. A little heat sounded good to P and I, but I was asked not to make it searingly hot like that one time with the shrimp. I agree, since I thought my lips were going to fall off when we had those shrimp. This was nice - just a hint of spice, not quite so little you forget it's there but also not enough that you feel like you have to keep eating to be safe. I hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon each: sesame oil, vegetable oil
2 pinches chile flakes (red pepper flakes)
2 large cloves of garlic, roughly minced
1/2 pound dry beans
1 tablespoon cane vinegar (or rice vinegar; I'm just trying to use up all the cane vinegar so I can open the ume plum vinegar which I love enough to drink alone)
1 teaspoon dried mint, rubbed between the palms (optional)
pinch powdered galangal (sub: powdered ginger)
4 ounces spaghetti, cooked to package directions and drained

Put the chile flakes and oils in a pan. Infuse over low heat for 15 minutes. Turn up the heat to medium and add in the garlic. Fry the garlic lightly, then add the beans, vinegar, mint and galangal. Continue to fry until the beans are cooked through but still have a good crunch to them. Toss in pasta and fry together for one more minute. Serves 2.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bread Pudding

Not being a real Southerner (or even a fake one), I really have never used my stale bread for anything but croutons. But recently I've been baking a lot more bread than normal and my eating hasn't kept up (thankfully). So I've been storing all the stale bread in chunks in the freezer. I decided I was going to make bread pudding. I had no real understanding of how to make bread pudding, so I looked at about a billion different recipes to figure out a general concept of how this works exactly. I totally spaced taking a picture of this, and since I actually made it last week but forgot to tell you, it's now too late (until the next time, of course). It appears that most recipes use raisins, but I decided to use more fruit than just that. Anyway, I hope you enjoy!

4 cups bread cubes (I cut mine about 1"x1")
4 eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large handful each: dried cherries, raisins, pecan halves


Heat oven to 350F. Grease 8x8 pan. Beat the eggs, then add all the other (except fruit, nuts and bread) and beat thoroughly. Fold in the bread, fruit and nuts. Bake for 1 hour. Halfway through the cooking, open the oven and press down the top of the bread (it will be poking out, and will still poke out of the mixture after you press it down, but not as much) with a spatula. Serve with sauce. Serves 9.

Whiskey Sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons whiskey
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Stirring, bring to a boil. Stop stirring once it comes to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's in Your Spice Cabinet?

Over at Chile Chews, they're doing a meme of what people have in their spice cabinets. I thought this seemed like a lot of fun, so I'm participating too. I have some spices that are not on this list, and the instructions say to just add them to the end. So if you want to continue the meme, you can either use the list I have, or refer back to the original post, linked above.

I've cut and pasted her list, and put in bold the spices I have. The ingredients I've added to the end have been done in italics. She uses an asterisk for herbs she's grown herself, but I'm not doing that part because I have no herbs I grew myself that I don't also have that I didn't. I've got some duplicates, I guess.

1. Allspice, ground
2. Allspice, whole
3. Anardana, ground (dried pomegranate seeds)
4. Anardana, whole
5. Basil leaves
6. Bay leaf
7. Caraway seeds
8. Cardamom
9. Cayenne pepper
10. Celery seed
11. Chile pepper, New Mexico, ground (note: this is not a blend; just pure ground red chiles)
12. Chile pepper, green Anaheim, whole*
13. Chile pepper, pasilla negro, ground
14. Chile pepper, red Anaheim, whole*
15. Chile pepper, red Thai, whole
16. Chipotle
17. Chorizo spice mix (mixed by me)
18. Cilantro
19. Cinnamon, ground
20. Cinnamon, stick
21. Cinnamon sugar
22. Cloves, ground
23. Cloves, whole
24. Coriander, ground
25. Cumin, ground
26. Cumin seed
27. Curry powder
28. Dill seed
29. Dill weed
30. Fennel seed
31. Fennel seed, sweetened (Indian)
32. Fenugreek seeds,ground
33. Garam masala (mixed by me)
34. Garlic powder
35. Ginger, ground
36. Ginger, whole Jamaican (dry)
37. Indian "Sweet Seasoning" (mix from local spice store)
38. Italian seasoning
39. Juniper berries
40. Lemon Omani, whole (crushed)
41. Lemongrass
42. Lemon peel
43. Mace, whole (ground)
44. Marjoram
45. Mint leaves
46. Miso powder
47. Mrs. Dash Table Blend (great all-around salt free mix)
48. Mustard, ground
49. Mustard seeds, black
50. Mustard seeds, yellow
51. Nutmeg, ground
52. Nutmeg, whole
53. Onion, granulated
54. Onion powder
55. Orange peel
56. Oregano leaves
57. Paprika
58. Paprika, Spanish smoked
59. Parsley flakes
60. Pepper, black
61. Pepper, red rose, whole
62. Pepper, white
63. Peppercorns, black
64. Peppercorns, mixed
65. Pickling spice
66. Pomegranate chutney* (dry mix with anardana)
67. Poppy seed
68. Poppy seed, white
69. Poultry seasoning
70. Red pepper, crushed
71. Rosemary
72. Saffron
73. Sage
74. Salt, Hawaiian red
75. Salt, kosher
76. Salt, Mexican rock
77. Salt, pickling
78. Salt, pink
79. Salt, sea
80. Salt, smoked
81. Savory
82. Smoky sweet pepper seasoning
83. Tarragon leaves
84. Thai seasoning
85. Thyme (in a bottle)
86. Turmeric
87. Vanilla beans
88. Wasabi
89. Salt, iodised
90. Ginger, crystallised
91. Galangal, whole dry
92. Galangal, powdered
93. Vanilla sugar
94. Chia seeds
95. Grains of Paradise
96. Herbs de Provence
97. Rose hips
98. Dry leeks
99. Epazote
100. Mullein
101. Roasted garlic powder
102. Garlic Salt
103. Dried elderberries
104. Dried shallot slices
105. Shallot powder
106. Horseradish powder
107. Minced dry carrot
108. Minced dry bell pepper blend
109. Star anise
110. Ground bay leaf
111. Thai curry paste
112. Aleppo pepper
113. Worcestershire powder
114. Bergamot orange peel
115. Bragg sprinkle
116. Tomato bouillon
117. Shrimp bouillon
118. Beef bouillon
119. Chicken bouillon
120. Onion bouillon
121. Garlic bouillon
122. Sumac
123. Truffle powder
124. Onion juice
125. Garlic juice
126. Chopped dry onions
127. Sesame seeds
128. Lemon balm
129. Celery salt
130. Lavender
131. Minced dry garlic
132. Konriko/Season-All/Tony Charchares (I have all seasoned salts)
133. Anise
134. Peppermint (the mint above is spearmint in my house)
135. Dried chives
136. Stevia leaves
137. Persian fenugreek leaves
138. Chile, dried ground jalepeno
139. Chili pepper
140. Cream of tartar

Stewed Vegetable with Shrimp

While I was muscling a second turkey into my freezer (turkey is on sale for 39 cents a pound right now, so... you know how it is), I noticed a half pound of locally... uh...harvested? Caught? Whatever. A half pound of locally obtained shrimps I'd purchased at the farmer's market a month or so ago and stuffed in the freezer for later. Sometimes I don't know what's in my freezer (I also discovered 3 pounds of ground meat I didn't know I had, which is perfect since I need to make more meat sauce soon). Additionally, I had some zucchini left from our last trip to the farmer's market. So I figured I'd stew it. And then eat it, of course. This was really simple to make. I hope you enjoy!

shells and tails from 1/2-1 pound of shrimp
2 cups water
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt

1 can stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 zucchinis, cut into 3/8" half-moons
1 teaspoon each: dry basil, sumac
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 tablespoons shrimp broth
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 pound fettucini

Combine first group of ingredients in a small pan and simmer for a half hour to an hour. Strain. I never actually use the whole amount because like with clam juice, a little goes a long way. So the amount above what I needed for this recipe went into an ice cube tray. I freeze it in 1 tablespoon cubes (then store it in a zipper bag) so I have it to use later when I just need a little extra something in a recipe.

Combine can of tomatoes, zucchini, basil, sumac, shrimp broth, salt, and chicken broth. Let it simmer over medium-low to medium for 1/2 hour to an hour (or you can just make the shrimp broth at the same time this is cooking, and add the broth in at the end. That's okay too, if you aren't home starting to get ready for finals while you do this). When the zucchini is tender, cook the fettucini according to package directions. Add the shrimp to the tomato mixture (while the pasta is cooking) and cook through. My shrimp were pretty big so they took about 6 minutes to cook, I believe. Drain pasta and plate, then top with tomato-shrimp mixture. Serves 2.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Seasonal Fruit Salad

Our ginormous box of grapefruits came yesterday (thanks, M!), so I decided to use some of them to make a fruit salad with the fruits we (mostly) got at the farmer's market this weekend. I wanted to lightly dress it, so I decided to use up some of the quince "paste" I made (ok... it's not quite paste; it's more like a thick preserves because I didn't cook it long enough - still tastes great though) and a little bit of parsley from my garden to brighten it up. I hope you enjoy!

3 navel oranges
1 valencia orange
3 grapefruit
2 satsuma mandarin oranges
1 dancy tangerine
1/4 pomegranate
1 apple

2 tablespoons quince paste or preserves
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
2-3 tablespoons juices from all the citrus
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Supreme* the citrus and squeeze the juice from the membranes into a bowl. Peel, core and chop the apple. Get all the seeds out of the 1/4 pomegranate. Combine the citrus, apple and pomegranate. In a small bowl, whisk together the quince, parsley, citrus juice and oil. Toss fruits in this. Chill.

*To supreme citrus, cut the ends off the fruit, then stand it up on one end and cut off the peel and pith from all around the fruit. Hold the citrus in your palm, facing up at you, over a bowl. Using a knife, make incisions next to the two membrane adjacent to each segment. Drop the segment into the bowl. After all the segments are cut out from the membranes, squeeze the membrane to get out all the juice. Also, pick up each piece of peel and squeeze it to get the juice out of any flesh that is on them. Remove the segments from the juice to add them to the salad bowl. You will get a lot more juice than is needed for this recipe, but it is nice to drink as a citrus juice "mix." Additionally, I use a potato peeler to get the peel (and as little pith as possible) off the fruits prior to the above so I can candy them later.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

I have some beets, as per usual, and also some brussels sprouts. P was wanting some of the Anson Mills grits we got, but I didn't really think that was going to be enough for dinner (despite us now both being sick). That being said, I wanted to keep it light (because we're both now sick). So I decided to roast some veggies and make them part of a salad. This is kind of sweet-tart, seasonal, inexpensive and healthful. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup stale bread, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sumac

1 large beet, cut into thin half moons
3 brussels sprouts, cut into quarters
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, cut into 1" pieces
1-2 tablespoons oil of your choice (I went olive, but standard vegetable would also be good; I briefly contemplated sesame)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon each: sumac, fennel seeds

3 cups torn green leaf lettuce
3/4 cup assorted cherry and/or grape tomatoes
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

drippings from vegetable roast
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional; just add it if you don't feel enough oil survived the roast)

Heat oven to 350F. Toss the bread cubes in the oil, salt, pepper and sumac. Spread them out on a foil lined baking sheet (or not foiled lined; it just makes my clean-up easier). Roast for about 15 minutes. Yay croutons! Combine the second group of ingredients on in a roasting pan (or on the baking sheet) and throw (not really) in the oven. Raise the heat to 400F, and let the veggies stay in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until done. Turn off the oven, but leave them in there to finish off. Prepare your third group of ingredients (the seeds take me a while, personally. I view the deseeding of a pomegranate to be a nearly sacred event, so I take my time, enjoying the pop of each seed as it leaves the pith and plops into my bowl). Line plates with lettuce. Pile half the roasted veggies on each plate in the middle of the lettuce, then surround with all but the pomegranate seeds. Whisk together the last group of ingredients and pour over the salad, then top with seeds. Serves 2.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Potato and Egg Scramble

I like this as a breakfast food. Well, okay. I also love it as a dinner food. Very, very filling and not too expensive. We've also been really into eggs lately, so... yeah.

Hope you enjoy!

1 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1 sliced red potato
1 tablespoon each: sesame oil, vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
pinch each: salt, sumac (optional), nutmeg

1 diced zucchini
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable)
1/3 cup beet stems (optional)
1/2 cup celery with leaves, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

6 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg
2 tablespoons milk or cream

1/2 cup grated cheddar (optional)

Heat a pan to low, then add oil and heat. Add onion, carrot and potato and sprinkle with sage, salt, sumac and nutmeg. Slowly cook until the potatoes begin to reach translucency. Add in zucchini, broth, beet stems (yes, stems. I'm on the stems again), celery and S&P. Cook this until the broth is absorbed fully and the beet stems have softened enough to eat (15 minutes, maybe?). Push this off to the sides of the pan so there is a huge opening for the eggs. Whisk together the eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and milk, then pour into the middle of the pan and increase the heat to medium or medium high. Scramble the eggs and as they begin to set, begin to integrate the potato mixture into the egg mixture. When the eggs are nearly set, add in the cheddar and finish cooking (the cheddar will be fully melted at about the same time as the eggs are done setting). Serves 2.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spiced Hot Chocolate

The downside of being sick is that you really can't taste anything, and you don't really want to eat anything. I'm still eating though, because I'm trying to get over this illness as quickly as possible so I can go back to school and work (I went to class Monday and to my morning class Tuesday, but have done nothing else since). Today I have been eating odd foods. One of the things I ate was a version of "chicken soup" that I think only a sick person would want to eat. I dumped some leftover rice in a bowl, poured on some lemon juice and crystal's hot sauce, then threw in a teaspoon of shmaltz, a bunch of leftover roasted veggies and some homemade chicken broth. Then I threw it in the microwave until it was hot. I don't know how it tasted but I think it was okay. It didn't make me sicker, so that's all I care about (P said it looked gross). I also have eaten a lot of dried fruit, and pickled onions. A lot of onions. Nearly a jar. Add that to simmered honey, lemon and honey tea and lots of broth, and I decided I wanted something strong enough that its flavour could bust through my currently ineffective taste buds. Enter hot chocolate. Despite my nostalgic love of packaged hot cocoa, it tends to be weak in flavour, even when made with milk so I decided to sit in a chair and whisk up some of the real stuff. It was awesome. I could taste it. I should hope I could taste it, considering what a diet buster it is! I hope you enjoy!

2 cups (500mL, approx) whole milk (you can use lighter milk if you like - this was super rich)
2-3 ounces grated dark chocolate (I used 2/3 of a bar of chocolate which was 86% cocoa)
1/2-3/4 cup vanilla sugar (or use just sugar, and throw in some vanilla extract at the end)
5 cardamom pods, ground (I sifted these as well, since I mortar and pestle it)
pinch nutmeg

Heat in a pan until it's at a strong simmer, whisking continuously. Top with an overabundance of marshmallows. Serves 2.

Variations: Melt in some crushed candy canes or peppermint extract. Or some orange extract. Or cherry even. Yum!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pumpkin and Chicken Lasagna

As SJ likes to tell me, when you have a lot of leftovers, make some lasagna. Ok. I think she's less prone to mishaps than I am. Or maybe I should just not be in the kitchen while I'm taking lots of medicine (I'm sick - I think I have a cold but I do not know). I had some misadventures with this one, so I wound up having to make the pasta from scratch. I'll put the recipe for that in here too (it turns out you can make the pasta more simply than I did, with just all-purpose, eggs and salt. But you know me... I like to do things the hard way!), but feel free to buy pre-made or to make them the normal way unless you're just really bored or really in need of a work-out (I lost the clamp to my pasta roller, so I had to roll it by hand, too. My sheets turned out thinner than the store bought though, strangely enough).

Pasta:

235 grams fine semolina
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Mix the flour and salt and make a pile on your bread board. Make a well, then knead in the eggs and oil. Knead the dough for about ten minutes, then let rest for 10-20 minutes, covered in plastic. Roll it into a 6x9 square and cut into 6 sections. Keep the un-worked sections covered as you roll out each section of dough. Roll until you can see through it (I roll it until the grain of the wood is clearly discernible) and cut to the size of the pan (or if you're cooler than me, cut it smaller and use more than one sheet per layer). Lay each sheet of pasta on a bedsheet which has been lain across a table or counter, and let them dry for an hour or so before using. If you're of the boil preference, you may boil these noodles before using them. I will not be doing so. I will be using extra sauce so I don't have to.

Greens mixture:

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced onion
1 diced hatch (anaheim) chile
5 cups chopped beet greens or chard
1 cup arugula
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden. Then add chile dice, salt, pepper and lemon. Cook down, then add greens and wine and cook down.

Bechamel:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
6 ounces white wine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
pinch nutmeg

Melt butter, then add flour and stir until it is a light roux. Slowly pour the milk in (theoretically this should be heated first, but I forgot) while whisking and combine thoroughly. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. If you are trying to up the liquid content of your sauce, as I was (I just don't want to boil my pasta), whisk in some wine.

Remainder:

1 1/4 cup pumpkin mash
1 1/2-2 cups ricotta
2-3 cups shredded or diced chicken
4 ounces mozzarella for top

Preheat oven to 375F. Oil the casserole dish, then layer in the following manner:
Noodle, pumpkin, ricotta, chicken, greens, bechamel, noodle, pumpkin, ricotta, chicken, greens, bechamel, noodle, bechamel. Bake for about an hour, then either take it out, or add the cheese on the top and bake until the top is golden, 15-30 minutes. Let it rest 15-30 minutes before serving. Serves 4.

Pear and Cranberry Tart

Originally, this was going to be just pear. And a crostata. Then it was going to be a pear and cranberry crostata. But then I had an incident with my lasagna noodles that meant I was going to have to make them from scratch since I can't go to the store today, and this very suddenly became a tart. I also actually did one layer too few, so I'm recommending you do 3 pear layers instead of the two I have, so your shell is full. :)

I hope you enjoy!

1 pie crust for a 9" pie
2 tablespoons corn starch
3 large pears, cored and cut into thin slices
1 cup cranberries, whole
3/4 cup vanilla sugar, divided

2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon water

Preheat oven to 400F. Line tart pan with prepared crust. Dust it with the cornstarch. Arrange half the pears in a spiral (or however you want to). Dust with a scant 1/4 cup of the sugar. Top with cranberries, concentrating the cranberries around the edges (but not exempting the middle from them). Use any malformed or small slices of pear to fill in the gaps around the cranberries at the edges (so the top layer will stand up straight, so to speak). Arrange remainder of pears on top of the cranberries (if the pear slices are falling down, feel free to stuff some more cranberries under them to keep them raised up) in another spiral. Dust with another scant 1/4 cup of the vanilla sugar. Repeat as before, with the cranberries, another pear spiral and the remainder of the vanilla sugar. Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until done. Heat jam and water until it's relatively thin. Let it cool thoroughly then glaze with jam mixture. Serves 8.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lo Mein

This is not really a traditional lo mein. This was more of an attempt to use some corn noodles I had in a pseudo-"appropriate" way. Also, I was trying to use up some more of the left-over chicken. It worked out well in the end, though I think I actually prefer a more standard pasta for this preparation. Once again, I forgot to take a picture. I was famished and more-than-a-little cranky (because I was hungry, and also because I've had a headache for a week and a half now, and because I'm in the middle of writing a semester paper that is already looking like it's going to be utter crap), so I just ate it up. I realised I'd spaced the photo when I went back to do the dishes.

Either way, I hope you like it.

1 onion, sliced into rounds
6 small ichiban eggplants (2-3 large), diced
1 sliced carrot
2 stalks diced celery
1 small daikon, cut into 1" strips
1 zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 yellow squash, sliced into half moons
8 cloves roughly chopped garlic
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 large green bulb onion, thickly sliced
1 cup reconstituted shitake slices (dried)
2 cups cut up cooked chicken
3 cups chicken broth, or a pot of boiling water
1/2 package corn noodles, or 8 ounces long pasta


1-2 tablespoons chicken collagen
2 tablespoons cane vinegar or rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sriracha
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rice cooking wine
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sesame oil (plus more if you're not using collagen)

Heat oil and collagen in a pan. Add in onions, salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until golden. Then add eggplant, sriracha and carrot. When cooked a bit, add ginger, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon. After a little while, throw in the squashes, mushrooms and vinegar. Bring broth or water to a boil. Cook pasta, then drain and rinse with cool water (don't rinse in the case of normal pasta). Add pasta, green onion, chicken, wine, salt, pepper and celery to the pan and heat through, until the celery is cooked but still crunchy. Serves 2.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Crab Salad

Ok, it's really krab salad. Normally I would turn my nose at fake crab and refuse to eat it. But we're doing this diet thing, and fake crab has no calories (nearly). Plus, it was only $1.50 for a pound. I can live with some flavoured cod for that price. When you make this, I know you will use real crab instead, to amplify the deliciousness of this salad. This is a dry salad, because I wanted the ingredients to be able to do the talking rather than the dressing as the focus (y'know... for when I make this with crab and not cod). I hope you enjoy!

1 pound crab
1 green onion, thickly cut (except the bulb - cut that thin)
2 cups roughly diced cucumber
1 stalk celery, roughly diced
1/2 large tomato, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup each: coarsely chopped basil, mint
1/4 cup chopped tarragon

Mix, then stir in dressing until everything is lightly coated.

Dressing:

freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (I used Crystal's, because that's P's favourite)
1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
1-2 tablespoons chopped capers
3 tablespoons mayonnaise (or sur creme - up to you)

Whisk together.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chicken with Spelt "Risotto"

After the storm, my mother sent me a bunch of spelt. I thought this was great, since I'd been intending to get some. Of greatest interest to me regarding the spelt was cooking it as though it were risotto. I've noted over the last year a lot of people have been making risotto with grains other than rice, and the thought of the crisp, chewy grains of spelt were particularly appealing to me.

To top it off, I also baked a chicken earlier this week. So this was a great opportunity for me to use up some of the leftovers. For one, I saved all the shmaltz (chicken fat) from the chicken, as well as the collagen jelly. I got a lot of jelly out of this chicken (which, happily, was on sale for $2.50 for the entire chicken). So I've been using the jelly as a fat replacement in my cooking. I still add in a little fat here and there, but the jelly is working beautifully to add a bit of meat flavouring to non-meat dishes.

And, of course, I got more beets, so I'm using the stems again. I really enjoy the little bit of beet flavour that comes from them, without all the long-term cooking beets are normally associated with.

I actually just cooked the spelt until it was fairly chewy, rather than letting it break down more. As a result, I had some broth left over in the pan and I just poured it straight into the bowls so it could soak in as we ate. This dish is also very economical, and can be made to stretch significantly further by simply cooking in more spelt than the one cup I used. I hope you enjoy it!

3 tablespoons collagen (alternately, 1 tablespoon oil of your choice) (4 cents)
1/2 cup diced onion (15 cents)
1/3 cup diced beet stems (20 cents)
5 coarsely chopped garlic cloves (5 cents)
1 stalk diced celery (10 cents)
salt and pepper to taste (2 cents)

1-2 tablespoons shmaltz (5 cents)
1 tablespoon olive oil (15 cents)
1 cup spelt (25 cents worth if it hadn't been free)
3-6 cups broth (I needed 4; your mileage may vary), heated to a simmer (free, since I made it using the skins, peels and ends of veggies I've already eaten)
salt and pepper to taste (2 cents)

1 1/2 cups cut up chicken (white and/or dark) (75 cents, but in most instances a dollar)
1/2 cup cooked corn kernels (25 cents)
2/3 cup torn basil (17 cents)
1/2 cup chopped parsley (free; I grew it)
1/2 preserved lemon, minced (13 cents, as I make these myself)


Heat the collagen, then add in the beets and onions, plus salt and pepper. When nearly cooked, add garlic and celery. Cook through, then remove from pan to a bowl. Heat shmaltz and olive oil, then add spelt. Fry lightly, then start adding broth one ladle-ful at a time. As the spelt absorbs most of the liquid, add in another ladle of broth. Periodically taste a grain of spelt to test for doneness. When nearly done, add in the cooked vegetables as well as all other ingredients and stir well. Cook another 3-5 minutes, then serve. Serves 2-3.

Total cost: $2.33
Per serving: $0.78 or $1.17

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Homemade Soda

Sometimes we like to drink soda, but we don't like the associated price tag, or all the crap that's stuffed in it, removing it from the "food" category. So I have just been making my own. I make an assortment of syrups from the "trash" of my cooking, and then mix it with club soda (which we pay $0.79 for a 3-litre bottle; after I save up, I will be buying this for us instead). You can make your soda as strongly or weakly flavoured as you like, and the varieties achieved are outstanding.

You start by making a simple syrup base (1:1 sugar:water, brought to a boil and allowed to boil for another minute). Then you can do it two ways, once the simple syrup is made. One is to simmer the additive in the syrup for a while, such as with orange peels or lemon peels (to make candied peel at the same time, thereby further reducing waste). The other is just to remove the syrup from heat, stir in the additive and let it infuse for a while (I go 30 minutes to 4 hours). Then I strain it into a jar and keep it in the fridge. In most cases, it only costs you the sugar, really, since you're generally just using the bits of fruits and herbs you'd normally throw away anyway.

Some examples:

Apple syrup: I use just the cores and peels and infuse for an hour.

Ginger syrup: Peel the ginger with a spoon (reduces lost flesh), then slice thinly. Simmer the ginger in the syrup for 30 minutes, then remove from heat and let infuse for 4 hours. I mainly use this syrup for when we're sick. Don't throw the ginger away! Roll it in sugar and put it on a baking sheet. Bake on the very lowest heat your oven can do until it's completely dried (like dehydrating anything in your oven, really). Voila, crystallised ginger, AND syrup!

Lemon-Lime (similar to 7-up, though not exactly the same) syrup: equal parts lime and lemon peel, simmer in syrup for 15 minutes then allow to infuse for an hour. If you removed the pith first, roll the peel in sugar and dry for candied peel!

Orange soda: Same as the lemon-lime, but just orange. Again, a great opportunity for candied peel!

Kumquat soda: Cut the kumquats in half, simmer as above w/ the other citrus, but you can do this for even longer if you'd like. Then let it infuse as above. This results in glacee kumquats which I've discovered a disturbing fondness for. This is P's favourite of the sodas.

Honeydew: After I cut the melon, I always find there's a decent amount of flesh remaining on the peel. So I cut the peel into pieces and make the syrup. Except I do actually throw the peel away (I suppose you could eat it?).

Mint: Just do infusion; this is one of my favourites. It's such a refreshing treat!

Strawberry: I just use the tops when I cut them off, and I don't actually bother to take the leaves off. Just infuse on this one.

Pineapple: Use the core; simmer then infuse.

Kiwi: Using the peels that have bits of flesh remaining on them.

Etc. I also keep basic simple syrup around for mixing iced teas and the like. Enjoy! These syrups will all keep for a really long time in the fridge, should they last long enough to worry about it.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Overfilled Omelet

We got some delicious things at the farmer's market this weekend. I bought another 2 weeks worth of eggplant (sorry, to those of you who're tired of it) for 4 dollars, and this time I got zucchini instead of yellow squash. But, since we didn't show up uber-late this time, we actually were able to get some fresh eggs and some beef sausage. I really just wanted to eat the sausage and eggs, but I wanted a good excuse to put some eggplant in, as well as other veggies. Omelet it is, then. I made a huge amount of filling, so this are definitely over-stuffed.

This recipe is another one of those that seems like it's got a lot going on, but truly it's quite easy to cook.

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 large ichiban eggplant, sliced thin (or 2 small)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice

4 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4-pound link beef sausage, casing removed (or just sliced if you want to keep the casing)

1 cup arugula or baby mustard greens (I got both at the market, I just don't remember which one I used here)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice

6 large eggs (12 ounces)
1/16 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper to taste
splash white wine vinegar
1-2 tablespoons butter

1/2 tomato, largely diced
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1-2 tablespoons chevre

Ok, so here you can choose if you want to do the meat first or later. I did it later, because I got so excited about the fresh eggs and stuff I totally forgot I was excited about the sausage too. Anyway, I'll tell you how I did it, and if you want, put the meat first, then proceed. Oh, and in case you were curious, I've mostly been slicing my garlic recently because I love the flavour of garlic but want to cut out some of the potency. Slicing, instead of mincing, allows me to have the best of both worlds, so to speak.

Heat pan at medium, then add butter and oils and let heat. Toss onions, salt and pepper into the pan and stir to coat. Cook until they are slightly browned and about to become translucent. Add garlic, eggplant, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Cook until the eggplant is softened and mostly cooked. Throw in the mushrooms, season them and add more lemon. Cook this until the mushrooms are done, then pour it all into a bowl, cover with foil and set aside.

Then add to your pan the olive oil and sausage. I took the casing off my sausage, but I only broke it into large pieces, about 1/2" around instead of breaking it up completely. Fry this until it's nearly cooked, then add the greens, salt and (yep, I know; I'm a lemon freak) lemon juice. Cook until the greens are done, about a minute and a half, then remove this stuff and mix in with the other cooked foods.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, nutmeg, salt, pepper, milk and vinegar. Whisk well. Melt butter in pan, then pour egg mixture into the pan. Watch the eggs carefully. When the edges are cooked enough that you can comfortably lift the sides of the omelet with a spatula (for me, this is usually around 1/4"), lift the sides and spill some of the uncooked egg underneath the cooked. A friend of mine pokes holes in the bottom of the omelet, and if you like that method better, go with that. I'm a lifter, personally. When the omelet is nearly set throughout, put little teaspoon sized dollops of chevre on one side of the omelet. Then pile on the meat mixture, and add in the tomato and scallions. Fold over the omelet as well as you can, then put a plate or lid over your pan and let it cook another minute or so. Serves 2.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pumpkin Empanadas (Hand Pies)

I wanted to make pumpkin empanadas for P on our anniversary (the 28th), but I wanted to minimise the amount of calories in each pie. I was basically successful (each pie works out to ~250 calories). Additionally, this is my entry for October's In The Bag.

This recipe has a lot of "parts" but is actually quite simple to make. I made one part here, and one part there, between classes, and just tossed them all together and baked them once we were both home from school.

Anise tea:

1-2 tablespoons anise seeds
1 cup water

Bring to a boil. Boil down to 2/3 cup. Strain. Chill well (it needs to be COLD!)

Dough:

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup, give or take, anise tea

Cut butter into small bits, and freeze. Freeze bowl of food processor (or your mixing bowl and whatever you intend to cut the butter into the flour with). Toss the flour in the freezer too, if you feel like it. I felt like it. Pulse the flour, salt and butter together (or cut/rub the butter in, in your usual fashion. I personally have given up on doing this by hand because I am getting lazier and lazier, the older I get) until it's in pea-sized bits. Add the anise tea, 1 teaspoon at a time, until the dough just comes together. It should take roughly 1/3 a cup, though it could be more or less. Put the dough in a flattened ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Pumpkin Filling:

1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons loose packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (I actually used about a quarter teaspoon of this huge flake Balinese salt and pounded it down with the allspice, but 1/8 teaspoon regular or kosher salt would be ducky)
1/2 teaspoon freshly (or not) ground allspice
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (optional)

Mix well.

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out your dough fairly thin (1/8-1/4 inch thick) and cut out circles. I used a 3" springform pan to cut out circles. Place a large dollop of filling in the middle of each circle, then fold in half and crimp with a fork. Make a small slit or two on the top of each pie to let steam escape. If you feel like it, sprinkle a little bit of vanilla or turbanado sugar on top (I used vanilla). If you don't feel like it, don't do it. :) Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden. Let cool on a rack before eating. Makes 6 pies.

(P.S. The total cost of this recipe is ~$1.51, unless you add in the vanilla bean, in which case I don't know because I buy my vanilla beans cheaply here, but I don't know where you get yours. For me, it's ~$1.82 with the vanilla)

Monday, October 27, 2008

No-Soup Tuna Casserole

I'm still paying attention to the diet, but likewise, I have a serious craving for tuna casserole. To me, the brunt of what makes tuna casserole not-diet-friendly is the can of soup that's tossed in. Also, I am still using up all the eggplant I got at the farmer's market (plus I was proving to my cast iron pan I didn't forget it lives here). So I decided to try to make my own version that was a little fresher and less soupy.

Here it is. I hope you like it.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 onion, diced
salt to taste
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
5 cloves garlic (use less if you're not a garlic freak like I am)
4 ounces button mushrooms, cut into eighths
2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

2 6-ounce (or 5-ounce, if you're buying those now) cans tuna in water
2 ears corn, kernels cut off (you're only using the kernels, reserve cob for other things)
1 12-ounce bag pasta spirals (or shape you like), cooked to package directions
1 1/2 cups sugar snap peas (or 1 cup shelled English peas)
1 ichiban eggplant, diced
1 tablespoon lemon pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Heat oil in cast iron pan over medium heat. Add seasoned carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add seasoned onion, cook another 5 minutes. Then toss in the seasoned celery and sprinkle in white wine vinegar, then cook that 5 more minutes. Reduce heat to low and add in garlic, mushrooms, butter and 1 teaspoon lemon. Cook it down until the mushrooms look well-softened and brown. Add in tomatoes, tarragon, mint and remaining lemon juice and cook them down another 10 or 15 minutes, stirring periodically, until a rich sauce has formed in the pan. Transfer to 2-quart casserole dish (including sauce), and add corn, peas, tuna, pasta and eggplant. If you want the lemon pepper, toss it in (I opted to just put it in my own bowl). Stir well and bake for 1 hour.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pickled Okra

As I mentioned before, I made some pickled okra. I can't tell you if it's good, since it'll be a couple weeks before I get to crack open a jar and eat it. It looks yummy, though, and I'm ready to eat it.

1 pound okra
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1/8 cup kosher salt

2 pint jars

In each jar: (this is PER jar, not total)

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon dill seed
pinch dried chile flakes
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns

Sterilize your jars. In each jar, put the spice combo listed above (and feel free to add anything to your own tastes too, such as coriander seed, allspice, what-have-you). Pack the okra tightly into each jar, alternating right-side-up and upside-down. Smoosh them on in there, seriously. About a half pound per jar. Bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil, then pour into the jars, leaving about a half inch of headspace. Process in a water bath for 10-15 minutes (at sea level to 1000 ft). Makes 2 pints.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

American Day, plus Shrimp

Today I voted. So that's good, and I'm happy to live in a state where I can vote early.

In addition to voting, today I will be canning. It occurred to me that I actually had more stuff to can than just the remainder of that stew I made last night (which we are actually eating again for dinner, and I'll can the rest). I have the leftover pumpkin soup, which is ideal as an appetiser-soup more than it is as a full-meal-soup, so I'm canning the remaining quart in two pint jars (I made the very unpleasant discovery that my canner is not actually large enough to do quart jars. This is mostly disappointing because I just bought quart jars, but it's also sad because I can't spend the money on a 16-quart canner right now). I also have all that okra remaining to can (P actually did like the okra in the stew I made though he typically will only eat it fried or pickled). I intended to cook and can some beans, also, for days I don't feel like cooking them, but I think I don't really have time for that because I'd like to make more dolma today. That, and I'm supposed to start reading King Lear for my lit class.

Oh, I got 100% on my calculus test.

So, with all that stuff in mind, I leave you with a recipe I never took a picture of, because I forgot (once again). We had this the other day with the leftover vegetable casserole. Enjoy.

1/2 pound shrimp
1 1/2 tablespoons tamarind, soaked in 2 tablespoons of warm water*
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon each: wasabi powder, cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Mix together all the ingredients and marinate the shrimp for 30 minutes or so. Grill or pan fry the shrimp. Serves 2.

Note: If you get tamarind paste, it will have seeds in it. Even if it says "seedless." I'm not sure why it says seedless when it's so obviously a lie. But it always does and it never is. Anyway, to use the tamarind paste, take it and mix it up with some warm water. Then strain out any bits (seeds, seed skins, etc) and discard. Use the liquid for your cooking.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Garden Stew

Or at least, this would be a stew from my garden if I had a garden that grew more than just chives and parsley. From my dream garden, I'd make this. Instead, I bought this stuff from the farmer's market, where it came from someone else's "garden." Mostly, anyway. I've also resigned myself to the inability to make a small pot of soup or stew so I've just gone with it and intent to can the remainder tomorrow or the next day. Enjoy!

Oh, by the way, this is awesome with freshly made bread.

1/3 cup wild rice, presoaked in 2 cups of water (or not presoaked, with 2 cups extra water added to the pot)
8 ounces fresh button mushrooms (or 1/3 cup dried of your choice)
3 carrots
2 red potatoes
5 sliced cloves of garlic
2 small turnips
2 cups celery chunks
2 ichiban eggplants
2 yellow squash
3 cups rough chopped turnip greens (or greens of your choice)
1 yellow onion
large handful okra
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
1 15-ounce can each: stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes (liquid included in stew)
1-2 tablespoons salt
2 cups cooked kidney beans

Chop up all the vegetables into large pieces. I wanted this to be fairly rustic, so I just sliced the squash and eggplant thickly and cut everything else into big chunks. Toss it all into a big pot and simmer for a few hours with the lid on, until the liquid has risen and the vegetables are all cooked through (for me, it was about 3 or so hours). Serves 6-8.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Harvest Roast

Do you guys ever just roast a bunch of veggies and pig out for dinner? That's the plan we had today after a lovely soujourn to the farmer's market. I wound up getting 10 eggplants and 7 yellow squash for 8 dollars from one vendor, a huge mess of turnips and greens, plus daikon, for 3 dollars, a massive bag of okra for 5 dollars. Etc. So this seemed a good time to just revel in the freshness of the food which was available, and also to clean out a couple other items from the fridge. P wanted this on rice, because he felt rice would fit better in the diet he's made me put him on (he claims to have gained 30 pounds since he met me, which is probably true but which I consider to be a sign of good eating rather than of weighing too much. This is not how he views it) than the simmered spelt, couscous or other type of pasta I'd originally planned to serve it with. I haven't had rice in a while, so really, it's a win. My mother sent me a big 2.5-3 quart ceramic casserole, and this is how I broke it in. I stuffed it so full I actually had to bake it for a while to cook it down a bit, before adding in all the other goodies. The thing I didn't like about this was that it actually didn't have quite enough lemon for my tastes. If I'd thought it through, I'd have added a whole preserved lemon instead of half, or just the half and some extra lemon juice. If you're not a lemon freak though, this should be just right for you. I hope you enjoy.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large handfuls whole garlic cloves
1 medium red onion, sliced into thick half moons
1 small head cauliflower, cut up (about 2 cups worth)
2 cups celery, cut into 2" pieces
1-2 yellow squash, cut into thick rounds (maybe 3/8"?)
1-2 ichiban eggplants (or whatever you've got), cut into rounds like the squash
3-4 turnips, scrubbed and cut into 6ths
1 large beet, peeled and sliced into sticks
1 large red potato, sliced into rounds
1 large roma tomato, sliced into rounds
pinch salt

1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 preserved lemon, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoons rinsed capers
pinch saffron
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon crushed grains of paradise (sub: black peppercorns)

Heat oven to 400F. Put the whole first group into a large casserole dish and toss with hands to evenly coat with oil. Roast 40 minutes. Bring the second group of ingredients to a boil and simmer until fragrant. Pour over vegetables and stir to coat evenly. Roast another hour, stirring every twenty minutes. Drain all the juice in the bottom of your cooking dish and boil it down to a thicker sauce. Serve with rice or other grains (I spooned the sauce over the rice, too). Serves 4.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Beet Stem and Potato Quiche

This is another recipe I'm using to illustrate the kind of really good food you can feed your family for a tiny amount of money. For this one, I was trying to optimise my usage of the ever-so-lovely beet. Also I am stalling on studying for my biology midterm, and this is a lot more fun. One nice thing about the quiche is that you can eat it cold, so it's perfect for P and I to munch on all day. One meal that makes many.

Also, I was craving quiche. For like, the last couple months. I just didn't feel like making it despite the craving until today. Which is, naturally, when I discovered I was out of milk, so I had to use evaporated. If you have real milk, use 1 1/2 cups.

I used to only buy bulk beets, but it occurred to me I should stop doing that. So this last time, I bought a bunch of beets with the greens still attached. The peels of the beetroot go in my bag of vegetable leavings for stock. The greens I wilted down with lemon and some other veggies and used them in a simple pasta (I make a lot of these pastas with whatever-veggies-are-in-the-fridge and tons of lemon meals. I've shown you guys a few of them). When I was trimming the greens from the beets, I put all the little stems in another bag to use elsewhere. Plus of course the roots, which I will either roast or pan fry on another day. A large bunch of beets cost somewhere around 2 dollars at the store, so I'm estimating each part of the beet bunch as costing $0.67. I used almost half the stems for this recipe.

1 tablespoon oil (~15 cents)
1 small red potato, sliced thinly with skin left on (~20 cents)
1/2 large orange bell pepper (these were on sale 2/dollar, so 25 cents)
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided (25 cents)
1 cup sliced scallions (20 cents)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (5 cents)
1 cup (roughly) chopped beet stems (33 cents)
3 eggs (60 cents)
1 can evaporated milk (85 cents)
salt and pepper to taste (2 cents)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (2 cents)
1 cup grated farmer's cheese or mozzarella ($1.20) (if you happen across a Syrian farmer's cheese, get it. It's perfect for this)
1 pie crust (I am too lazy to make my own, so $1.25)
1/4 cup parmesan, optional (30 cents)

Prepare or thaw one pie crust. Line a glass tart pan with the crust. Preheat oven to 450F. In a pan, heat the oil. Add in potato slices dusted with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until they are just beginning to become soft. Add beet stems, garlic and half the lemon juice, plus a touch more salt, and cook until firm but soft (raw, the texture of the stems is similar to rhubarb so you want to cook it down a bit). Add in bell pepper and scallions with the remainder of the lemon juice. Cook down. Turn up heat to thicken/cook away any extra liquid in the pan.

Whisk together eggs and milk, then add cheese and a bit more nutmeg. Pour veggies into pie shell and spread out evenly. Top with egg mixture. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 and cook another 25 minutes. If you see fit, top with parmesan and cook another 10 minutes. Otherwise just cook another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest 10 more minutes, then eat. Serves 8.

Total recipe cost: $5.67 (less if you make your own crust or use less/less expensive cheese. Why do my cheap recipes generally cost 5-something?)
Per serving cost: $0.71

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dolma

I got this recipe from my good friend and "nephew" Y, who lives in Haifa. This is, hands down, my favourite dolma recipe, and the one that ruins most other dolma for me. They take a couple hours to make if you're doing it solo, so just be sure to reserve enough time for them. Or even better, get a friend to help with the rolling and it'll go more quickly! Enjoy!

I use pickled grape leaves, and I've found this recipe makes closer to 100 units than 50, so I just buy the larger jar of leaves.

Around 80 young and fresh (pickled is also an option)
5-6 tablespoons of olive/corn/sunflower oil, divided
2 chopped onions
100gr of pine nuts or sunflower seeds
1.5 cups of washed and then dried rice
1 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of sweet or spicy paprika
1-2 lemons
1.5 cups of water

The recipe is for 50 units.

If you have used pickled vine leaves, then the leaves should be soaked 10-20 minutes in large bowl of water and then thoroughly rinsed to remove any excess salt.

To prepare the stuffing -

Fry the onions in 3 tablespoons of oil until they turn golden. Add
In the pine cones or sunflower seeds and continue frying for an additional
2 minutes. Mix with the rice and take off the stove. Add salt, mint
leaves, black pepper, paprika and the juice from half a lemon. Mix.

Cut off the vine leaves's stems. Take a wide and shallow pot and cover its bottom with the largest leaves. Now, you prepare your stuffed leaves - you take the vine leaves and place them with their shiny side down, put a teaspoon of the feeling on the side that is close to the stem, fold on the sides and role until it is tight and solid where the shiny side of the leaves is facing the outside. You should get about 50 units or so.

Arrange the stuffed leaves in the pot in about to squeezed layers
And again cover with whole vine leaves. Boil in a frying pan the water with
juice from half a lemon, a tiny amount of paprika and about 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Pour the liquids into the pot until they reach the height of the rolled leaves. Cover the pot and warm on a medium flame. Boil for 20-30 minutes.

Turn the fire off and leave the pot covered for at least another 30 minutes at which point you can add more lemon juice if you wish. Serve warm or cold.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

So here's that soup I mentioned the other day. It's very, very simple. This soup is based off of Dalva's soup (Dalva was the housekeeper where P lived in Brazil), which appears to have used a different variety of pumpkin.

Additionally, this is my October entry for No Croutons Required.

2 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
4 cups water
1-2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
pinch salt
1 tablespoon pumpkin skin puree (optional)
couple teaspoons olive oil (optional)

Mix the above, except oil, in a saucepan. Bring to a slow boil, reducing until it's the thickness of tomato soup. Remove from heat and puree using a blender or immersion blender. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with oil. Serves 2-4.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

One of the things I wanted to illustrate with this dish is how cheaply we can make gourmet-type meals at home. I put the prices for each ingredient in there, as well as the per-meal-breakdown. I feel like it's important to make note of ways we can still feel decadent with our food without increasing the worries our troubling economy has brought. This recipe is one of those, as well as a continuation of my exploration of the joys of pumpkin. I hope you enjoy it.

Sauce:

1/4 cup dried mushrooms (I keep several pounds of assorted dried mushrooms, because they're an excellent value in terms of long-term viability and versatility - in this instance I used black trumpets, so this part cost about 30 cents, as I buy dry mushrooms in bulk)
1/8 cup dried shallot (buy a big bag at any Middle Eastern store for a couple bucks; this cost about 10 cents for this recipe's worth)
1 1/2 cup hot water (penny)
1 teaspoon each: oregano, thyme, basil (free since I grew and dried them)
1/4 teaspoon each: rosemary, paprika, dried galangal or ginger (I used galangal) (couple pennies)
2 peppercorns (penny)
salt (penny)

Simmer it for a couple hours, then immersion blend or blend in normal blender. Return it to the pot and continue to simmer until you're ready to make the shells.

Shells:

Equal parts pumpkin and ricotta (pumpkin was maybe 50 cents, ricotta was on sale for a big tub for 3 dollars, of which I used half and froze the rest)
1 teaspoon-ish rubbed sage (I grew and dried this, so it was free)
1 large egg (20 cents)
salt and pepper to taste (pennies)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (15-30 cents)
Shells - I usually figure 3 shells per person (on sale for 2.19; I used about half the box)
Mozzarella for the top (optional, ~1 dollar's worth or so)

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook shells according to package directions. Mix together pumpkin, ricotta, egg, salt, pepper and sage. Oil a baking pan. As the shells are done boiling, stuff them with the pumpkin mixture and put them in the pan. Cover in sauce (above) and add cheese to the top, if you're doing that part. Bake 45 minutes, covered, then 15 minutes uncovered.

This cost me about 5.38 to make 18 shells. That's actually three meals for us, since there are only two of us. With some in season sauteed veggies and a salad on the side, I spent another 2 dollars, making the first meal 3.80 and each of the other meals 1.79 each. Even if you have 6 people in your family, you can feed them all a nice meal for just a few dollars, which makes this an excellent value. The per serving cost (3 shells = one serving) is 90 cents.

This picture is not one of my finest (again!), since I actually forgot to take a picture until after I'd already plated and eaten. So uh... yeah. It might look a little off.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

I think that after pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread is probably the second most thought of pumpkin recipe. I developed this recipe to be able to send a wider variety of breads to a friend of mine and SJ's after Katrina. I actually hadn't made it since then, until today. But P asked if I could make pumpkin bread, so I threw some together while I'm working on the pumpkin shells you'll see tomorrow. I figure before I toss a savoury pumpkin dish at you, I should give this one too. Enjoy!

In blender or food processor (or whatever you use), mix:

2 large eggs
scant 2/3 cup granulated sugar
brown sugar to make the granulated a full 2/3 cup (I just like a bit for flavour)
1/3 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla (alright... in reality, I use closer to a tablespoon, but if you're a normal, non-vanilla-freak, go w/ a teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon and ginger
1/8 teaspoon each: clove and nutmeg

Then mix in:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon pumpkin mash (yum! I measure a little extra so I can eat some)

Then stir in:

1 3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt (try not to forget this, like I did today)
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Bake in 4 mini loaf pans for 30 minutes, or one regular loaf pan for about an hour.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Pumpkin Puree, Juice, Seeds and Butter

Today is pumpkin day. This means the next couple days will probably be pumpkin days for you all, in terms of reading my blog. Today I will just tell you all about what I did to process the pumpkin. Tomorrow I will make something with the pumpkin. And so on. I have a lot of pumpkin.

I think you all probably know how to make the pumpkin mash, but if you don't I'll tell you. Most people buy those little pie pumpkins. I like to just buy one huge pumpkin and be done with it. Some people say there's a significant difference in the quality of the mash but I think they're smoking a little something extra. Or maybe that's just because I just like to do the big pumpkin, and saying they smoke a little something extra is one way of justifying it. Either way, you get what you like. I spent $4 on my huge pumpkin. The little ones cost so much more.

The Beginning:

So I cut my big pumpkin in half, from top to bottom. Then I scoop out all the seeds and the stringy bits. Most people throw away the stringy bits, but I have a use for them, so don't chuck 'em just yet. Put the bits and the seeds in a big bowl, and add enough water to cover (it's about three cups). While you're doing that, heat your oven to 375F. Cut each half of the pumpkin into 3 long strips, then cut each strip in half (this makes 12 pieces, total, for the whole pumpkin). I put half of the pumpkin bits on a sheet pan and toss it in the oven for an hour. I don't salt it, oil it, or do anything to it other than stick it in the oven and walk over to the bits bowl. When the first half comes out of the oven, take it out and let them cool until they're easy to handle. Put the other half in the oven for another hour. If you're not sure your chunks are roasted thoroughly, stick a fork in them. If the tines go in easily, it's done. If it's work, cook it longer.

The Butter:

While your stuff is roasting, you may as well start the pumpkin butter. I dip my fingers into the bowl of water-covered pumpkin bits, and I separate out all the seeds. Every last one of those little guys. They just get tossed in a colander. The bits get put in a measuring cup. My measuring cup says I got a full 4 cups of stringy bits from the pumpkin (I'm so glad I didn't get the biggest pumpkin, like I'd originally intended!). Throw it in a saucepan. Then measure out the water left in the bowl after the bits and seeds have been removed. If it's not a full 3 cups, then add enough water to make it so. If you don't have 4 cups of bits, btw, just wait until you make the mash, and then you can add enough pumpkin to make it 4 cups. Put all that stuff in your saucepan, then add:

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 heaping teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 heaping teaspoon each: ground ginger, cinnamon, bergamot (or regular orange) peel, ground allspice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Let it cook for about an hour over medium to medium high heat. Then stick your immersion blender in there and blend away (or put it in a real blender and do the same). Keep on heating it until it's thick and ... uh... fruit-butter-like. I had to ask my mom about the correct texture, since I've never made this stuff before. She said not as thick as peanut butter, but not thin enough to run. Either way, do it like that. I reduced the heat as the mixture reduced, because I'd hate to have burned this concoction. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

You can can this is you like, but I just stuck it in a jar and it's in the fridge. I tasted it, and it's pretty yummy, so I don't think it'll last long enough to warrant canning.

Back to the Mash:

When the chunks of pumpkin come out of the oven, let them cool down until you can handle them. Then cut off the skins (unless you're cooler than me and already peeled them. I used to do that, until the year I lost a chunk of my thumb to the peeler. Now I do it after they're cooked), cube the pumpkin (don't feel bad if you can't help but munch on a few cubes of this sweet, sweet taste of heaven - it happens) and throw it in the food processor. You can use a food mill too, or a blender, or... well, you know. Do it however you like to do it. Then! Then, we make juice. Make your juice. Then portion out the pumpkin and store however you like (in the freezer, by canning, whatever. I'm not in charge of it). I like to store it in one cup and two cup parts, for versitility in recipe selection.

Juice:

Take the seeds out of your colander (hopefully you've rinsed them well, but we'll get to that in a minute too). Line the colander with some cheese cloth and stick the whole shebang in a big bowl. Dump in the puree (I did half the pumpkin at a time), and let it drain. This is similar to what you do if you have one of those cool jelly strainers, but I don't have one so I had to make my own, so to speak. Anyway, let it drain. And drain. And drain. You can gather the tops of the cheese cloth and squeeze the pumpkin too, if you like. I do that when I'm impatient. I think it took around 2 hours total for the pumpkin to be "juiced." Put all that juice in a pitcher. I got around a litre. Chill it. It's delicious. If you like it sweeter though, add in some simple syrup or whatever you prefer.

Seeds:

Is this anyone else's favourite part? I love the pumpkin on the whole, but the seeds? They're like the reward for all your hard work. Most of the time I'm a purist about this, only adding salt and oil, but today I felt rebellious. So I used Tony Chachere's seasoned salt.

Anyway, rinse off the seeds in the colander, and get all the bits off. You need those for the butter. Then spread them out on the baking sheet and let them dry until you're done doing everything else with the pumpkin. Heat your oven to 250F or 300F (what I heat it to varies each time). Pour on a tablespoon of your chosen oil on the seeds, and whatever spices you like them to be seasoned with. Mix it all up, then spread them out evenly. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending. Let cool, then eat!