Friday, January 29, 2010

Food Waste Friday

This week was a good one, though still not perfect.

Food wasted:

2 jalepeno tamales

This weekend, P is out of town again. As a result, I'm going to cook absolutely nothing all weekend in order to try to work through a large pile of leftovers. I've made some good progress thus far, but hope to eat up the brunt of it this weekend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins

Sometimes, the yummiest treats come about completely by happenstance. Today was one of those days for me. I like to make muffins for my dog, Francis. He's a big fan. I make a tray, let them cool, then freeze them and dole out one every day or two. Since he's so into pumpkin (oddly, even more than blueberries) and since I have so much fresh pumpkin I'm working through he's mostly been eating pumpkin muffins these days. I have several recipes for pumpkin muffins, but I never really can decide which one I like best, so I rotate them. This time I was using this recipe for pumpkin ginger muffins.

Today, it just so happened I was in kind of a hurry, since I was making other treats, canning pumpkin butter and beef barley soup, and have a lot of homework to deal with. So I started making modifications based on the "he's a dog, so this won't bother him" premise. I tasted the batter before I put it in the muffin tins and it was amazing. I tried to get P to taste it too, but he's weird and won't eat batter. Anyway, my point is that these originally were just dog treats, but now they're dog and people treats. I'm not entirely sure I can ever go back to the spiced pumpkin muffins. Hope you enjoy!

Note: I slightly overcooked mine, so they're a little browner than they should be. You'll do better, I'm sure.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. In your stand mixer (or by hand; I did it in the mixer), combine the pumpkin, eggs and water. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the melted butter. Fill prepared muffin tin 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes (the original recipe says 25-30, but 30 was too long). Test with a toothpick, then cool on a rack. Makes 12.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Maple Bars

One day, I was perusing one of my favourite food blogs, One Perfect Bite. I like that site a lot, because Mary posts the most wonderful recipes, pictures, and stories about the food. She makes me want to live in her kitchen and sample everything, and I never leave her blog without feeling really hungry. On this particular day, though, I was entranced by some maple bars that had been posted. They looked luscious and crunchy and soft and beautiful. And I needed to eat some.

And eat some I did. A lot more than some. P ate a lot more than some also, and I took many of them to school to share with my professors from the teachHouston program. The people there are really wonderful, and equally wonderful about helping me dispose of my baked goodies. Everyone who tried these enjoyed them so much that I began circulating Mary's recipe, with my added tips, all over the place. And then Friday, not even an hour after I had finished an email exchange about this very recipe, P said to me, "You know what I wish I had this very instant? Maple bars." We didn't have enough eggs so I told him the next day we'd go to the store, get some eggs and I'd make some.

This recipe has become one of the beloved favourites in my house. Anything in italics is what I've added to or changed about the recipe, or just some extra tips I employ when I make them. I hope you enjoy them as well!

1-1/2 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour 6.61 ounces/187.5 grams
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold butter
2 large eggs
1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1-1/2 teaspoons maple flavoring I used 1 tablespoon
2 cups chopped walnuts I used half walnuts, half pecans
1 cup (6 oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips I use milk chocolate chips

1) Heat oven to 350 F. Combine flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1 egg. Press evenly into an ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.
2) Bake 25 minutes. Beat sweetened condensed milk, remaining 1 egg and maple flavoring in medium bowl. Stir in walnuts. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over partially baked crust. Top with walnut mixture, spreading evenly to edges.
3) Bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Cool. Cut into bars. Yield: 36 bars.


I lined the baking pan with foil (because then you don’t actually have to wash the pan but simply lift the whole thing out of the pan), and I didn’t grease it but next time I make it I will spray some oil in the pan. It was a little tricky getting all the foil off.

If you have a food processor, you can make the crust in there. Just put the dry ingredients in and pulse them a couple times to combine. Then cut the butter into 1-2 tablespoon increments and pulse it until it’s crumbly and combined. Then add the egg and run the processor for 5-7 seconds (that should be enough to combine it well). When you dump it out into the pan, run your hands under some water before pressing it into the pan. The dough is fairly sticky, so if your hands are wet it goes a lot more smoothly.

When you mix the maple batter, you can use a whisk unless you want it super-aerated (in which case use beaters or a blender or whatever).

If you don’t have maple extract (I’m not sure if they sell it in grocery stores, but if they don’t, Penzy’s may have it or you can definitely order it from, where everything they sell EXCEPT the vanilla extract is lovely and inexpensive [which is odd their vanilla extract is so terrible because their vanilla beans are wonderful]), I think you should be alright adding in 2 tablespoons-ish of maple syrup instead. Maple syrup is relatively thin, so I probably wouldn’t add much more than that for fear of having to adjust the baking time due to excess moisture. Though alternately you could boil down 1/4 cup of maple syrup until it’s thick and the flavour is intensified, which would make it a more viscous version of an extract.

Sometimes I keep the maple batter and the nuts separate, and pour on and smooth the batter, then top w/ the nuts. So that's an option too.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Tilapia with Cream Caper Sauce

Alright, so that title is kind of a lie. There's no cream in this. There's butter, and there's milk, but no cream. It'd be better if you used cream, but I didn't have any. Either way, this cooks up in about 10 minutes, which makes it perfect for a weeknight meal. I served it with this salad and these eggplants (we used the eggplants to mop up extra sauce), and it was a filling and diverse meal that we really were excited about. Hope you enjoy!

2 tilapia filets
2 tablespoons each: butter, olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons capers (people who aren't caper freaks like me should use less)
1 tablespoon milk or cream
1/2 teaspoon Wondra flour
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat butter and oil together over medium heat. Season both sides of the fish liberally with salt and pepper. Put in the pan, and cook for 3 minutes. Flip over and cook 2 minutes more. Remove fish to plates, then add capers and lemon juice to the fat that remains in the pan. Scrape up the fish bits and reduce a little, then add Wondra flour and milk. Reduce until thick-ish. Pour sauce over fish. Serves 2.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Food Waste Friday

Another less than perfect week. That's okay. I'm still trying to get the waste down to nothing, and even if it isn't nothing on any given week, the fact that I'm trying to waste nothing helps me waste a lot less than I otherwise probably would.

1 ounce Greek cheese
1/8 cup bean sprouts
2 servings strata

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cucumber, Spelt and Feta Salad

Sometimes I just really get in the mood to eat some grains. I think later this week I'll be making Dave's Mom's Beef Barley Soup too, because I'm all about grains right now. Don't ask me why - I have no control of the cravings!

Anyway, I felt like spelt would be a great addition to a cucumber salad. And of course, cheese makes everything better, right? :) This is pretty easy to make, and is a refreshing addition to any meal. Hope you enjoy!

1/4 cup spelt
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 omani (dried lime)

1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
3/4 cup roughly chopped celery leaves
3 roma tomatoes, diced
1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 pound feta, crumbled


1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each: oregano, aleppo pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
3 allspice berries, ground
1/4 teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 cup olive oil

Combine salt, omani, spelt and water. Simmer for an hour, or until spelt is soft. Drain and cool, then combine with the entire second group of ingredients. To make the dressing, whisk together all but the olive oil. While whisking, drizzle in the olive oil. Combine salad and dressing well. Chill, then serve. Serves 4.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coconut Squash

Today, I was bitten by a nasty sweet tooth. Although I have more candy in the house than I particularly care to admit to, I mainly wanted to eat something that was sweet but still had some nutritive value while I watched a Primeval marathon. I remembered I had an acorn squash that needed to be used (actually, I have more than just this one squash I need to use, but baby steps) and I thought it'd do the ticket. It's prepared similarly to "the usual method" of loading up the cavity with brown sugar and such, but coconut is added for a little diversity in both taste and texture. I serve it still in the shell and just scrape the insides out with my fork, as though it were a baked potato. Less work than the nightmare of peeling acorn squash with all their little ridges. I also let this cook in both a heating and cooling oven, to conserve some energy. Hope you enjoy!

1 small acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1-2 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes, divided (you can use unsweetened too, and it'd probably be better, but this is what I had)

Put half of the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and coconut flakes in each half of the squash. Stuff them in a small baking dish and put in the oven. Turn the oven on to 350F, then set the timer for 30-40 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven another half hour or so. Serves 1-2.

(I forgot to take a picture until I already began to eat - sorry!)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Spinach and Cheese Strata

It seems I am simply not in the frame of mind to come up with my own recipes currently. I've got school fever. My break, which when school starts, will be a full six weeks (maybe not having to take finals isn't such a great thing, since it gives me an extra two weeks off), is starting to drive me batty. All I can think about is my excitement over abstract algebra and differential equations. I'm a nerd. Luckily, when I have nothing up my sleeve to experiment with, there's a whole world of exceptional food bloggers out there to give me inspiration.

In my efforts to reduce my food waste, I've been tossing stale bread in the freezer to be used later for bread puddings and other such things. Happily, Smitten Kitchen's Deb recently posted a recipe for spinach and cheese strata. Yum. I happened to have a pile of frozen bread (and admittedly, still do), so this seemed like the perfect thing to prepare the night before P left town. Not only would it give him a good, filling breakfast, but it'd also provide me plenty of food to munch on for the first day or two that he's gone. You know how I get when he's gone for only a short time - mashed potatoes, tuna casserole and couscous is basically what I live on. So it's good for me to have food already made in anticipation of this trip so I'm not living out of cans and boxes.

Anyway, this strata is really easy to make, although it'd be easier to make if you were smarter than I was and had a concept of how big of a bowl you might need for this or that. Less dishes and all. It's filling, delicious, and reheats well. Hope you enjoy!

"Spinach and Cheese Strata
Adapted from Gourmet (sniffle), February 2003

Serves 6 to 8

1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid, and chopped
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (1/2 lb)
6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
2 ounces finely grated parmesan (1 cup)
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of bread cubes,one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for eat least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350°F. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown, and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Food Waste Friday

Well, I'm just disappointed. No waste last week, but it just didn't hold this week. All of this week's waste was COMPLETELY avoidable if I'd simply paid attention to what was going on in the fridge. I'm kind of bummed, but will try to do better next week.

The Waste:

3 pears (this is the most disappointing part, since I'd planned to make pear sauce with them)
1/2 cheese enchilada (why didn't I eat this?)
3 donuts (I knew this was going to happen; our donut guy snuck in several extra free donuts, and I just couldn't get through them all)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pomegranate and Orange Jellies

I love gelatin. I almost never work with it, because frankly, I'm just not that type of creative. But whenever I see a recipe that looks delicious, easy and fast that still has gelatin, I'm inclined to jump all over it. So when I saw this recipe over at A Slice of Cherry Pie, I got excited. However, because gelatins vary in strength from manufacturer to manufacturer, type to type and country to country, I plied Julia with a billion questions so I could work out how to make it, before I got started. She very kindly took the time to check out her own gelatin supply so we could work it out. If you're in the UK, you'll want to use the Platinum gelatin that has a strength of ~250. Here in the States, Knox is just fine.

I didn't have any passion fruit in the house, and to be honest, I am too lazy to wander off to the store, so I changed the passion fruit in her recipe to orange juice (since I had that). I also used slightly more gelatin than the recipe calls for, because I couldn't figure out where my small weights scale is (and thus I simply rounded up). To juice the pomegranate (I had a massive one lurking in the fridge I'd been dreading dealing with but excited to taste), I used my electric citrus juicer. I find these work tremendously well in juicing pomegranates. If you're even less inclined toward this sort of work than I am, picking up a bottle of POM pomegranate juice would probably work well also.

These are a very soft-setting jelly, so you if you want something more Jell-O or Knox Blox firm, you'll need to add more gelatin to the mix.

These are beautiful, and well worth the wait. I hope you enjoy!

200 mL pomegranate juice (strained)
100 mL orange juice (strained)
200 mL water
4 leaves (1.66 grams each) or 6.64 grams powdered Knox or round up to 1 7-gram packet gelatin
1/4 cup water
80 grams caster sugar (admittedly, I weighed out regular sugar instead of blending some caster)

Bloom gelatin in 1/4 cup of water, or according to package directions. Heat juices, 200 mL water and sugar to a strong simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add bloomed gelatin and stir to combine. Cool for 5-10 minutes, then pour into molds or individual ramekins. Chill overnight. Makes 4 (or several more really tiny ones).

Friday, January 08, 2010

Food Waste Friday

Well, I'll be. No waste this week. Apparently coming home from travels is good for keeping the food waste at bay.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Back In Town

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays! I had a great time during mine, visiting with friends and family. Food Waste Friday will, of course, resume this week for me.

When I came home, P had purchased and set up a new pantry rack for me in place of where my other "main pantry" was (I have a second shelf for baking goods, dried fruit and the like). I was very excited and immediately set to work organising it. I love how the sides are both deep and open, since it allows me to have a perfect view of what canned goods I'm lacking, rather than estimating what's there before I head to the store. And now that the baskets are in place, it's extra organised so I can stay on top of everything (which should help me prevent even more food waste!).

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Sunday Storage

This week I didn't use much. I used:

1 can beans (turns out I really don't care for canned beans)
the last of the tomato sauce
crushed tomatoes
frozen egg whites
1 cup frozen pumpkin (I just ate this plain and slightly warmed, with only salt added)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Saturday Spending

I did not go over this week. That's good. Here's what I spent:


$6.48 - Frito Lay multipack of the little bags of chips
$2.00 - triscuits (I have a whole bottle of banana peppers for them!)
$1.00 - 3 cans tomato sauce
$1.30 - celery (when did celery get that expensive?)
$0.88 - granny smith apple
$1.00 - massive navel orange
$0.45 - 3 packages ramen
$0.34 - head of garlic
$1.00 - 3 avocados (OMG on sale woo!)
$1.96 - frozen lasagna (for lazy days)
$1.98 - 2 large cans coconut juice

Total: $18.39
Grand total: $18.39