Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stuffed Warty Pumpkin

I was gifted a couple winter squashes a few weeks ago. However, since it was the end of the semester and I was insanely busy with seminar papers, I hadn't had a chance to do anything with them. The one of greatest interest to me was the warty pumpkin, because it's really neat looking. I wanted to stuff it because I'm into stuffed squashes, as y'all probably know already. I think I've done two or three stuffed squashes before on here, but since I never make the fillings the same way, I figure one more can't hurt. You could, of course, do this on any squash roughly the size of a sugar pie pumpkin. But this is the one I used. Hope you enjoy!

1 warty pumpkin

3/4 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cup water
teaspoon salt

1/2 cup each: frozen corn, frozen black eyed peas
1 stalk celery, sliced, with leaves
1 carrot, diced
1 shallot, sliced into half moons
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 cubanelle peppers, sliced
3 tablespoons each: feta, goat cheese (chevre), shredded mozzarella

Remove the core of your pumpkin, as well as any seeds and bits. Set the seeds and bits aside for later use. Then you can do this one of two ways: you can cut the pumpkin in half (as I did), or you can leave it whole. Whichever you choose, put it on a sheet pan with some water and roast it at 400F for 30-45 minutes, then let cool.

Combine salt, rice and water. Let soak while you're prepping and roasting your pumpkin, then bring to a boil. Once boiling, boil 1-2 minutes and then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Let sit, undisturbed and off heat for 15 minutes.

Mix together your rice with all the other ingredients that aren't the pumpkin. Stuff the mix into the pumpkin (either whole, or halved. I wouldn't cut it into more than halves or you'll struggle at best to keep the filling in). Put the stuffed pumpkin in a baking dish that is just larger than the pumpkin, and roast for 15-30 minutes. If you're doing this whole, you can even put the "lid" of the pumpkin back on (the stem bit you cut out to open it) before you roast it, and it'll be a cute container. I did mine in halves, because I knew it was just Ross and I eating so I wanted to keep it simple and just have half a pumpkin for dinner, two days in a row. If I'd been transporting it, I think I'd have left it whole since it makes a better presentation. Serves 4 (about 1/4 pumpkin per person; if you're feeding a lot of people, just scale up the filling quantities and stuff a larger squash, such as a large pumpkin or a hubbard squash).



Thursday, November 29, 2012

Loquat Muffins

I have some loquat preserves in the fridge from the last season, and I always forget I have it so I never use it. When I woke up excessively early today, I decided it might be nice to make some jam muffins, and the loquats were open so I went with that. Y'all could use any sort of jam (or fruit) you wanted, though. Hope you enjoy!

Whisk together:

1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt

In a separate container, whisk together:

1 egg
1/4 cup each: oil, yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Mix wet ingredients into dry. Put into a greased (or lined) muffin pan, then top with a dollop of jam or preserves. If your preserves are very thick like mine are, you may wish to push them down a little into the batter with your thumb. If they're thinner, they should disburse a bit on their own. Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 10-ish regular sized muffins.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Simple Chicken Soup

I've been sick the last few days, with some awesome combination viral and bacterial upper respiratory infection. So, while I didn't particularly wish to cook today, I figured I would toss together a quick chicken soup for dinner while I strained some more yogurt. This went in the crock pot, since I figured I ought not miss three days of school in a row and I wanted it to be ready for when we got home. It was, again, very simple, but quite satisfying to both of us. If you're looking for more pizazz, you can easily modify this by adding other veggies or spices. Hope you enjoy!

2 large chicken thighs, deboned and skinned*, then cut into bite sized pieces
1 large carrot, sliced thickly
1 large celery stalk, sliced thickly
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 litre vegetable broth
1 handful wheat berries
salt to taste
1 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, smashed a little with your spoon or ladle
most of that 14-ounce can of water

Combine all in a small crock pot and let simmer on high for 5 hours (or low for the same amount of time or longer). Alternately, you could simmer this in a pot for an hour over medium or medium-high heat. Makes about 4 bowls full, so 2-4 servings.

* I stuck the bones in a bag to make chicken stock with later. I also cooked the skins over low heat in a skillet under all the fat had rendered down (and turned into schmaltz). I then stored the fat in the fridge and ate the crispy skins with the soup.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mixed Fruit Cobbler

Along with the penne from yesterday, we also made a big cobbler. The dough I used is a modified pie crust recipe, with increased fat because I wanted to have a crust type that could work for either pie or cobbler. I used it initially for blackberry pie and pineapple-cranberry pie over Thanksgiving to test it, and it did seem to be great for pie and perfect for cobbler. For pie, it makes a soft crust, but not ultra-flaky like many prefer. For cobbler, it's pretty much the ideal texture. Soft insides, but crisp outer portion. You could use any kind of fruit for this dessert, though. Originally we'd planned to do peaches, but instead went with a mixture of pineapple, mango, strawberry and grape. If you don't need a gigantic dessert, you can easily cut this in half and still feed 4-6 people dessert. Hope you enjoy!

Crust:

3 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt (1 teaspoon iodized salt)
3-4 tablespoons of sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 sticks cold butter
2/3 cup cold shortening
ice water

Mix together salt, sugar and flour. Cut in (using either food processor by pulsing, knives, pastry blender or hands) butter and shortening until it looks like little pebbles or very small gravel. Add in water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, until dough is moistened and crumbly but sticks together well if you pinch it. Wrap in saran wrap and chill for an hour before using (or you can freeze it for later use). Makes enough for 2-3 open pies, 1 large cobbler or 1 double crust pie with some extra dough leftover.

Cobbler filling:

5 pounds (yeah, pounds) mixed fruit, either fresh or frozen (if using fresh, this should be the weight of the fruit after removing any cores, peels, stones, etc)
2 cups sugar
juice of one large lemon
1/2 - 2/3 cups cornstarch
1/2 cup-ish water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400F. Combine fruit, salt and sugar in a large saucepan, and heat over medium-high heat. Mix cornstarch with enough water to make it pourable. When sugar is melted and fruit mixture starts to bubble, add in lemon and cornstarch mixture, and stir well. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until thickened. Pour into a 13x9" baking dish. Top with pastry (I just roll out the dough to roughly fit the pan, but you could cut out rounds and place them on top of the fruit if you prefer it that way), cut a couple slits in the dough, sprinkle with more sugar (I use turbinado for this, but any kind is fine) and bake for 50-60 minutes. Should serve 8-12.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baked Penne

This is a pretty big recipe, making enough food for two 9x13" pans. We were making a batch of penne for ourselves, but also for a friend. It's a vegetarian version of baked penne (I think I have a couple meat versions in here somewhere already), and very, very cheesy. If you make this, my recommendation is to make the full amount of sauce and simply freeze what you don't need yet, so you can use the leftover sauce at a later time. Hope you enjoy!

Marinara Sauce:

1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
maybe 1/3 of the tomato sauce can of water
1 15-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 15-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 big glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, diced
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 13-ounce can mushrooms
1 1/2 tablespoons each: dried basil, dried marjoram (of course you could use fresh)
2 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley (likewise, fresh is fine)

Heat onions, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When onions are almost translucent, add garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add in water, tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes and whole peeled tomatoes, and bring to a strong simmer. Once simmering, use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes. You want to be able to discern that tomato pieces are present, but you don't want them to be very big. Add mushrooms and herbs and simmer for about an hour, or until thickened and fragrant.

Baked Penne:

2 pounds penne, cooked to al dente
1 pound-ish mozzarella, shredded or cut into cubes
1 pound assorted Italian cheeses (I just bought that "Italian blend" shredded stuff for simplicity, but you can use whatever you like)

Heat oven to 400F. Mix together penne, mozzarella and sauce with a spoon. Portion into two 9x13" pans (or just in one big pan if you wish). Top each pan with half of the Italian cheese assortment. Bake for 30 minutes, uncovered. Alternately, you may bake for 30 minutes covered with foil, then another 30 minutes uncovered. Serves 10-ish.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Almond-Date Granola

I figure since y'all have fresh yogurt now, you might want some granola to go with it. This is a pretty simple way to make granola, and it's tasty without being overly sweet. Hope you enjoy!

3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional, but I like it this way)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
1/4-1/3 cup each: vegetable oil, honey
1 cup chopped dates

Heat oven to 250F. Mix together the oats, germ, almonds and salt. Whisk together the honey and vegetable oil, then pour it into the oat mixture and stir until well incorporated. Put on a sheet pan (cookie sheet, whatever) and put in the oven. Give it an hour and a half or so in the oven, but stir it every 15 or so minutes so it doesn't burn. Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool a bit then add the dates. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. Makes about 5 cups.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Yogurt and Labneh

We go through a pretty shocking amount of yogurt in this house. I eat it sometimes with honey (and occasionally a sprinkle of black pepper), or sometimes with jam. Of course, I also use it for baking and mashed potatoes and lots of other things. We also make a lot of labneh, because Ross will eat about a pound a week of that while he's at work. And since a good quality yogurt (for a pound or so) is around $4, I've tired of spending the money on it and have chosen to just make my yogurt. Consequently, I'm sharing the method I use with you, so you can do this as well if you like. This is more methodology based than recipe based, so just be aware of that since my writing format will be more prose than standard recipe. Hope you enjoy!

Making yogurt is pretty easy. It's easier if you use a crock pot, but it's easy even if you use a pot/double boiler. Basically, however much milk you use is how much American-style yogurt you'll get (you have to drain the whey for Greek or Arabic style, which is what will be happening in my house when it's done, but you obviously get less yogurt as a result. On the other hand, you also get whey to use when you're making bread, or I suppose to make ricotta from if you're so inclined). You can also freeze yogurt for up to a year, and once it's thawed it's basically the same as before it was frozen (I have to freeze some to use as my starter culture, or it'll wind up getting eaten). 

So basically what I'm doing is this:

3 quarts milk (I typically buy 2% milk since I'm not a milk drinker and that's what Ross likes, but I prefer whole milk yogurt) into a crock pot. Let it sit there, on high, covered, for 2-3 hours, or until it's 185F (if you hold your milk at 185 for 30 minutes, it'll be thicker/creamier than if you just bring it up to 185 and move on with your day). Grab your thermometer and check the temp. If it's 185, neat. If it's cooler, not neat and give it a little longer. You could also put a probe thermometer in your crock pot before you put the lid on, and then you won't have to check for time since it'll beep when you hit the right temperature.

Once it's 185, turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour or so, until it's cooled to 110F. Then whisk in 3T - 1/2 C of yogurt either into the whole crock, or into just a couple cups of the heated milk (and then return that small batch of milk and yogurt culture to the crock pot and whisk it in).

Wrap it up with a big towel or a blanket or whatever, and stick it in the oven (or in a cooler, or wherever it will be warm and insulated but not too warm) overnight (7+ hours). Uncover, and you should see separation, and possibly green liquid, or whatever. All of that is okay. If you like American style, stir to combine the whey back into the yogurt and put it in container(s) and in the fridge (this is where it will both thicken, and stop souring). If you aren't into the American style, do this anyway and chill it for a few hours or overnight, then, put some cheesecloth in a strainer, and the strainer in a bowl, and pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth (and fold the tops of the cheesecloth over it) and stick it in the fridge (this is what I do). Two hours or the next day, take the yogurt out of the strainer and package it for consumption: you'll have Greek strained yogurt and some whey in the bowl. You can freeze the whey for later use if you're saving it to make ricotta cheese. You can make a sort of lemonade from it instead, drink it as is, put it in protein shakes, use it in soups, bread-making, cooking pasta, or all sorts of other things. I mostly use mine for bread-making.

Now, if you want to make labneh from your yogurt, you will need to strain however much yogurt you'll be using for this for ANOTHER day to two days to remove what's left of the whey, and you'll also want to mix some salt into that yogurt before you restrain it (or after. I often forget to salt the yogurt until after it's labneh). Then you can either have the cream cheese-like labneh in a container when it's done (and you can use it exactly the same ways you'd use cream cheese or marscapone), or you can shape it into balls, stack the balls lightly on coffee filters or cheesecloth on a plate (in the fridge or not; I prefer not because then I don't have to worry that the fridge is drying my coffee filters out), and check it daily to see how much moisture is left on the filters/cloth. Once you've come back and there's no moisture, the balls are done and you can roll them in mint (or not) and gently place them in a mason jar that you then cover with olive oil (you could use other oils if you want. Normally when I buy them this way, they're in safflower oil but I think they taste better in olive). Then eat them as you see fit. I eat them in sammies, with some pickles, za'atar and a drizzle of oil. But take them out of the jar with a spoon and not a fork because they're delicate and break apart easily.

If you just want to eat the yogurt, and you aren't into plain yogurt, you can mix into your portion honey (which is sometimes nice with a tiny pinch of black pepper), jam, fruit, granola, or whatever it is you like in your yogurt. Also, you can make dips and stuff like that, or have fresh yogurt on hand for cakes and stuff.


As an aside, the total cost for this, for me, is $2.61. From that $2.61, I get about a pound of strained yogurt and slightly more than 2 pounds of labneh. For your $2.61, if you like American-style yogurt, you will get a full three quarts of yogurt. Or you can get 2 - 2 1/2 quarts of strained yogurt. And you know EXACTLY what is in it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Alex's White Chili - For Daniel

Several years ago, I was a judge in a chili competition. This was pretty awesome for me, since I love chili to no ends. One of the entries in the non-traditional category was a white chili, made by a guy named Alex. When I first saw it, I admit I thought I would NOT like this chili (as I lean more toward traditional takes on chili), but after tasting it I thought it was fabulous. So I asked Alex for his recipe. As often happens when you ask someone for a recipe that the person makes generally by feel or memory, the recipe you get mostly is a list of ingredients and you have to extrapolate what is meant by this list.

So I extrapolated (and made some "changes" where a required ingredient wasn't really clear or where I thought another ingredient might be tasty too), when it came time for our Second Annual Chili Day (in which we also had our housewarming party, since we moved to a bigger place to accommodate the kid that's on its way). It was really interesting, since the chili offerings were a traditional Texas chili and this white chili. People seemed to like them equally, and I got requests for the recipe for the white chili. Especially from Daniel, who seemed to REALLY like it. So, Daniel, here's the recipe! Hope you all enjoy!

2 pounds chicken (I used thighs for extra flavor, but breasts would be fine too, and I believe are what Alex actually used)
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon each: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil

4-5 quarts chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds dry white beans (any kind, or a mixture, is fine), cooked to package directions
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
3 minced cloves of garlic
1 large white onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium can (11 ounces?) chopped jalepenos or seranos, with liquid
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Chop up chicken into really small pieces (bite sized or smaller). Put seasonings in first section on top of chicken pieces, then mash all together with your hands to coat evenly. Heat a large skillet with olive oil and fry the chicken pieces until cooked through. Put the chicken in a large pot, dutch oven, or crock pot. Add to it your broth, cooked beans, spices, onions, garlic and the full can of chilis with their liquid. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid reduces and you have a thick chili. You may need to skim some fat as you go (I did). Top with grated Monterrey jack cheese. Serves 10-20.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cactus Fruit (Tuna) Sorbet

Kroger had some gigantic tunas for sale that already had all the fine barbs removed (so you can handle them with bare hands), so I picked up a couple. While I was tempted to just plow through them raw, I've been on a sorbet-making kick, and Ross has been on a sorbet-eating kick. So I figured I'd make another frozen treat to enjoy after our Tuesday risotto (for some reason, we eat risotto ever Tuesday). This is much more labor-intensive process than the other sorbets I've posted lately, because the cactus pears require more work to eradicate the seeds. However, once you strain them, there's always a good amount of pulp leftover that's still attached to the seeds., which I really am loathe to see go to waste. I deal with this by incorporating it into the syrup, giving the finished sorbet the flavor of both cooked and raw pears. It's a nice, refreshing treat that uses less sugar than my normal base does, because the fruits are already so sweet. Hope you enjoy!

8-9 ounces, after peeling, prickly pear cactus fruits
juice of 2 limes
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups water
1-2 tablespoons agave nectar

Put the peeled fruits in a fine mesh strainer, and with a pestle, push the fruit and juice through the sieve. Set the seeds and and pulp that didn't go through the strainer aside (this should be between 3.4 - 4 ounces) in one container, and the juice and pulp that did go through (4.6 - 5 ounces) in another. Add the agave and lime juice to the pear juice. Boil your sorbet base (the sugar and the water), and as soon as the sugar is dissolved, add the seeds and unstrained pulp (rinse out this container) to the mix, bringing it back up to a boil. Boil for 5-7 minutes, then remove from heat and strain back into the container. Cool for 20 minutes, then add the lime and cactus mixture. Put it in the refrigerator until cold, then process for 15-20 minutes in your ice cream maker. Transfer to another container and freeze until ready to eat. Serves 2-4.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Orange Sherbet

Okay, so this isn't a true sherbet. But it's basically the same flavor. Ross seemed to particularly enjoy this one, given that he ate the entire container in about 15 minutes flat. For some reason, we have a ton of orange juice concentrate in the freezer, but we don't use it to make orange juice (we buy a different, not from concentrate, brand, or squeeze it fresh). So, it needs to be used but not by being thrown or given away. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate or 1 cup fresh juice
2-4 tablespoons Arabic-style yogurt (or Greek, or whatever you buy)

Boil the sugar and the water for 5 minutes after the sugar dissolves. Add in the orange juice immediately, and let cool for about 10 minutes. Whisk in the yogurt (this takes some time, so be patient). Refrigerate overnight, then process in ice cream maker. Makes a bit less than a quart.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mango-Orange Sorbet

We are definitely taking advantage of the ice cream maker loan. With lots of sorbets, mostly. Here's another one - hope you enjoy!

1 overripe mango (I realize how difficult it is to leave it in the fridge until it's overripe) or 1 cup of frozen and thawed mango, mashed with a potato masher
1 6-ounce container frozen orange juice (or fresh orange juice)
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Once your mango is mashed, mix it with the orange juice. I like to only mash the mango most of the way, so you get little bits of flesh. Boil the sugar and water, and let it boil for about 5 minutes. After that, let it cool for 10 minutes or so, and add the orange and mango mixture. Let cool in fridge until cold, then process for 15-20 minutes in your ice cream maker. Makes a bit less than a quart.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Minestrone (Round Two)

I have a sick friend, and so I wanted to make her some food to eat. Nothing in the world is worse than trying to feed yourself when you're ill (to me, anyway). This makes A LOT, so be prepared. It freezes fine though, so even if you feel like it's too much, you'll have meals for rainy or sick days. I think I already have a minestrone recipe up here, but this also was redesigned, as with the holishkes). Hope you enjoy!


1/2 pound white beans, soaked and cooked (include some of the cooking liquid)
1 parmesan rind
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt as desired
1/2 gallon vegetable stock
5 cloves garlic, roughly minced
1 large bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 cup frozen spinach
1 zucchini, cut into large dice
3 carrots, thickly sliced
4 stalks celery, thickly sliced
1 head broccoli, cut up
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (with juices)
1 tablespoon each: dried basil, dried marjoram
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup ditalini or shells

Heat oil in a very large pot (I used an 8-quart pressure cooker pot). Add onions plus some salt and cook until almost translucent at medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add kale and
lemon, then put the lid on and let cook for 5 minutes. Add everything else and turn the heat to high. Bring to a boil, let boil 20 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer at least one hour. Add pasta 15 minutes before you want to serve. Serves many.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Italian Lemon Ice

I love this stuff, but since I don't live in Chicago I don't know where to get it. So I decided to make it myself. It's very, very simple. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
1/4 lemon, deseeded and VERY thinly sliced (rind and all)

Bring to a boil the sugar and water. When it's boiling and almost thick, remove from heat, let cool 20 minutes then add the lemon juice and lemon slices. Cool overnight (on the counter or in the fridge; my fridge is overstuffed so I did it on the counter). Put in an ice cream maker and process for 20-30 minutes. Taste, a lot, then put the rest in a container and stick it in the freezer. Serves 1-4, depending on how greedy you are.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Holishkes, Round Two

I decided to rework my entire system of making holishkes (stuffed cabbage), and I came up with something that blows my old methodologies out of the water. So I figured y'all might like to know about it. :) Hope you enjoy!

2 pounds ground beef (or lamb)
1 teaspoon each: allspice berries, peppercorns, coriander seeds
2 tablespoons salt (or whatever you like)
1 teaspoon dried mint and dried sumac
1/4 teaspoon celery salt, lemon pepper

1 cup basamati rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

1 large onion, diced
1/4 cup lemon juice, divided

1/4 cup lemon juice
20 ounces water
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

1 large cabbage

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (salted or not, as you wish). While it's coming to a boil, core your cabbage. Then put it in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain and cool until you can handle it with your hands.

Crush up the allspice, pepper and coriander (in a spice mill, or like me with a mortar and pestle; this takes longer w/ a mortar and pestle). Fry the meat, salted and with all the spices (meaning, when you put the meat in, put the spices in with it). Remove the meat from the grease, then fry your onion in it (with a couple tablespoons of lemon juice). When the onion is almost translucent, remove from heat. Cook the rice in the 1 1/2 cups of water and teaspoon of salt. Mix the onion, meat and rice together with another couple tablespoons of lemon juice.

Separate the cabbage leaves and spoon mixture into each one, rolling it up into a cigar or bundle. Place all the rolls into a 13x9 pan (if there's room leftover, I use an inverted souffle dish to take up the extra space). Mix together the remaining lemon, remaining salt, tomato sauce and 20 ounces of water. Pour on top of the cabbage rolls and bake for 60-75 minutes at 350F. Serves 5-8.

No picture, because I ate it all.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spinach Borek

I probably could eat nothing but borek all day long and feel entirely okay with it. Typically when I want them, I run down to a bakery and buy a few. But given how easy they are to make (expecially the spinach kind), there's no real reason for me to not make them. There're a bunch of ways to make borek, but I invariably will choose the one that takes the least amount of time. Enter puff pastry. Since I actually had puff pastry in the house, I was excited because I didn't need to make a dough for the borek. These are shockingly simple to make, and have a wonderful, light flavor to them that makes you want to eat more and more. Hope you enjoy!

2 sheets puff pastry
flour
1 10-ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
2 small lemons
1/2 teaspoon sumac (optional)
1/2 tablespoon salt, divided
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 egg 

Put oil, onions, sumac and a third of the salt in a saute pan. Cook over medium heat until the onions are starting to turn translucent. Add the juice of a half a lemon and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start dissolving. Squeeze your spinach (I put the water in stock leavings or stock so it doesn't go to waste) and add it, plus the remaining salt and lemon juice, to the pan. Increase the heat to medium-low and stir well. Cook until it's almost dry looking.

Sprinkle a very light coating of flour on your board and rolling pin, and roll out your puff pastry. Cut into 6-8 pieces (depending on how small you want them), and turn your oven onto 400F. Put a spoonful of filling on one side of each of your rectangles of puff pastry. Whisk your egg and brush egg onto the pastry not covered in spinach mixture (make sure you leave enough room so the filling doesn't go all the way to the sides of the pastry) and fold over into a smaller rectangle. Push the pastry closed, removing as much air as possible in the process (basically like you're making turnovers is how you do this). Put each borek on a cookie sheet and when they're all done, refrigerate the cookie sheet while your oven heats. Once the oven is hot, put egg wash on the outside of the pastries and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until flaky looking and golden brown. Makes 12-16.

No picture, because I forgot where I'd put the camera again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bulghur Stuffed Eggplants

I've been waiting a while to give you my news (which also will explain the oddity of my cooking lately). So here we are, arrived at that time. I am pregnant. I'm at fifteen fetal weeks, and now that the genetic testing has indicated there are no abnormalities with the fetus, I figured it was time to let y'all know. The fetus also was blood tested as female, so her name will be Ilana Alex. 

I originally intended to make these using soujouk, but that didn't work out because the smell of the sausage nauseated me. So instead, we decided to make this dish (mostly) vegan and generally preserve the overarching idea for this eggplant dish. I say "we" because a lot of of the cooking at the house lately has been me coming up with ideas and procedural information, and Ross doing the actual cooking while I run away to avoid smells I don't like, or lay down because I'm tired a lot. It works out well for us, since we enjoy working together in the kitchen (or for the kitchen, from spots across the apartment from one another). He's been pretty amazing at helping to get the food on the table, despite the 12 hour work days he's been doing.

Anyway, this recipe is really, really easy (as with most of them). It's all pretty much assemble and bake, which I like a lot. Hope you enjoy!

8 baby Indian eggplants, or 1 globe eggplant (your call)
1/4 cup bulghur wheat
1/2 - 3/4 cup broth (I used veggie with a little chicken broth tossed in that was leftover from risotto making)
generous pinches of salt
1 celery stalk, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
juice of half lemon

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
generous amount of salt
juice of half lemon

feta if you like it

Cut the tops off the eggplant(s). Hollow them out so there is still at least a half inch of unaltered eggplant at the bottom of the fruit, and a good "wall" left behind to hold in the contents*. Soak the bulghur wheat in the broth (I actually did this in the fridge overnight). Mix together the soaked bulghur, celery, salt, onion and lemon juice. Stuff it into the eggplants. Put the eggplants into a container that most closely fits them, and make your sauce.

Mix together the tomato sauce, salt and lemon juice. Pour over the eggplants. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. If you like, you may sprinkle some feta cheese over everything about 10 minutes before it comes out of the oven. Serves 2.

*You have two options (well, three, but I'm discounting throwing away the innards of the eggplant as a viable option) for the core of the eggplants. You can chop them up finely and add them to your filling, or you can stick them in your stock leavings bag. I suppose you could set them aside for another use too. I put mine in the stock leavings bag, since a little eggplant is nice in a veggie broth sometimes. But when you core your eggplants, do find something fun to do with the meat that isn't in the eggplant anymore.

No picture, because I forgot to take one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili

I had a little trouble with this one, mentally. Apparently I am quite a bit more rigid in the way(s) I think about chili than I previously realized. It's not that I've never discounted the option of vegetarian chili as acceptable, I just... I don't know. I guess I just never was really on board with eating it. So I decided I would challenge myself and make myself make a vegan chili. It was weird for me, and I spent a lot of its cooking time posting on Facebook about how NOT sure I was about this. Was it really a chili? Or was it a chili flavoured stew? I still really don't know the answer to this question, since I'm still in the middle of my chilistential crisis, but I made it and we ate it and we liked it. So, stew or chili? No idea, but it was still good. We had ours with skillet cornbread, but I think rice would be optimal for this chili. Hope you enjoy!

1-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed (I made my from dry and it was somewhere in between this amount)
3/4 cup frozen corn
3/4 cup frozen and sliced okra
1 1/2 cup frozen cubes of pumpkin (I freeze these myself, but you could wait on this until pumpkin season)
1 can diced potatoes
1 can stewed tomatoes, broken up
1/4 cup dried onion
2 tablespoons dried minced garlic
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings (don't ask)
6 ounces of beer (leaving the rest for you or another family member to drink!)
2 cups vegetable stock

Mix all but pumpkin (unless your pumpkin is from an uncooked, unfrozen pumpkin) together. Keep at a strong simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the pumpkin (unless you already did), and keep it at that same simmer for another 30-40 minutes, or until appropriately reduced. Serves 4-6.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Bluberry-Nectarine Preserves

I personally am thinking of this as a jam, but truly it's a preserve. It's got higher density and the nectarine chunks are big, so you can chew your jam by the spoonful if you eat it like I do. It's quite easy to make. I made only a small portion, but you could make it in any quantity you feel best. It's another formula, basically. This particular preserve is pretty heavy in citrus, because I had lime juice and really wanted that flavour to come through. This preserve has no added pectin in it. To be totally honest, I'm not even entirely sure how one uses pectin. I never really saw the point in learning because it seems to me that the fewer ingredients you use, the better the jam will be (and if I think it's a low-pectin thing I'm making, I'll add some citrus pith/peel or some diced apples to add the pectin in naturally). So don't worry about there not being any pectin - it WILL set correctly! Hope you enjoy!

1 nectarine, pitted and cut into 1/2" chunks (I left the peel on, but you don't have to)
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons lime juice
sugar

Cut up your nectarine, and mix it together with the blueberries. Weigh the fruits. Whatever portion of a pound it comes out to, add that same portion of a cup of sugar. So, if you have half a pound of fruit (that's what I had), you'll use half a cup of sugar. 2 pounds of fruit, 2 cups of sugar. And so on. This is why you can make it with any quantity of fruit and just scale the sugar to meet it. I like 2 tablespoons on lime juice for each half pound. But you may use as little as one tablespoon per pound of fruit. It's kind of up to you how much lime you want to offset the fruit.

Mix together your fruit, the appropriate amount of sugar, and the lime juice in the saucepan you intend to cook your jam in. Make sure you use a bigger pot than you think you'll need, as boiling sugar is something you never want to spill on yourself. Trust me on this. It hurts. A lot. I've done it several times and a bigger pot is the only thing that's ever prevented me from getting these types of burns. Let that pot hang out for at least an hour to macerate, but you can leave it (as I did this time, because I didn't have time to boil the preserve) in the pot uncooked for up to two days. If you're going to do that, put it in the fridge with a lid. :) After you mix everything together in your pot, put a small (salad or dessert) plate and a spoon in your freezer. This is actually important, so don't blow off that instruction (I know most of what I say is pretty flexible and can be ignored but not this one thing).

When you're ready to jam (ha!), put your stove onto medium, or even medium high if you're daring and in a hurry. Get the pot on there, and start stirring your mixture. Once it's thick and leaves a good coating on the back of your spoon (I prefer to use wooden spoons, personally), turn off the heat and grab your plate and metal spoon out of the freezer. Dip your spoon in and get a little spoonful. Drop it onto the plate, and put the plate in the freezer for ONE minute. Remove the plate and gently push the edge of the preserve with your finger. If it maintains its shape (roughly), it's done. Pour your preserve into a clean, sterilized container (you may sterilize by boiling for ten minutes or by heating it in the drying cycle of your dishwasher). Wipe down the side and either refrigerate, or can (water bath processing 10 minutes). I only am making these in small enough batches to eat in a week or so, since I'm supposed to be using up jams I've already canned before canning more. :) But if you make a lot, you'll want to can it.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spanish Rice

It's been a while since I last had Spanish rice, but a friend of mine gifted me her lovely guacamole and her salsas, both roja and verde. She has a bakery, and my dream for her [because, y'know... it's all about me ;)] is to start putting her salsas in there too.  She made my wedding cake and then had to force me to share my piece during the cake cutting (I just did not understand why we couldn't both have a piece). Anyway, since Starr has given me these wonderful foods, I've been eating foods today that honor them and how yummy they are.

For breakfast we had leftover rice, plus chips and guac. But for lunch (and likely, dinner, too), we decided to make a pot of Spanish rice, since we had some appaloosa beans cooked we could stir into them on our plates, then top with cheese, salsa and guac. So that's what we did. I wouldn't call this a traditional Spanish rice by any stretch of the imagination, but it fit in with the flavours I wanted to taste in my mouth. You could serve this with whatever you want, pretty much. Hope you enjoy!

1 cup rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
sprinkle/pinch paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons marjoram or Mexican oregano (I used marjoram because it was closer to my hand)
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (I used Konriko brand, but they're all tasty)
3/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder
1 can of Ro-tel tomatoes (or their generic equivalent, which is what I actually used), drained and juices reserved
juices from the canned tomatoes, plus water to make a total of 1 3/4 cups liquid in the mixture

Combine all the ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5-ish minutes. Cover tightly with a lid and turn heat to a very low setting. Let cook 10 minutes. Turn off the heat completely and let the rice sit, undisturbed, for 15 minutes. Uncover and fluff. Serves 2-4.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Poor Man's Clams and Red Sauce

I've posted another clams and red sauce recipe before, but this time I made it differently and I definitely liked this version better, so I thought I'd share. The one I made today was really spicy, so if you're intolerant to chile peppers, DEFINITELY use less. This is also a pantry meal, as I have been avoiding the market lately and so it's comprised of stuff I generally keep in the pantry. Hope you enjoy!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juices
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 can minced clams, juice and clams
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Put oil, salt, pepper and onion in a 2-quart saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook ten minutes. Add garlic and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, the juice from your can of clams, parsley, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice and red pepper flakes and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring periodically (every 5-10 minutes). Add clams and stir, cook 3-4 minutes (it should be pink bordering on red, with kind of a milky appearance. Serve over pasta. Serves 2-4.

Laziness has precluded me from taking a picture, but if Ross takes one later I'll edit the post with it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cheese Souffle by Ratio

I had a serious hankering for a cheese souffle yesterday (sorry no picture was taken), so I had to make one. Now, I know a lot about eating souffles, but I'd never actually baked one before. I knew they were easy to make, but not exactly how. So I read about 50 recipes and from them I worked out a ratio system, so you never have to worry about "oh, this recipe is for a 2-qt dish and I only have a 1-qt," or whatever. I really do like to put my cooking into math sometimes! This worked out really well for me, and the souffle turned into a beautiful cloud of egg and cheese happiness. We nearly died from ecstasy. I served it with a very simple salad: romaine, cucumber, celery, carrot and grape tomatoes, so we would have some crunchy food to eat with our cheese pillow. For the dressing was a heavily peppered lemon and vegetable oil dressing. So, although I made a four-egg souffle last night, I'm going to give you the "recipe" for a one-egg souffle, and you may scale it up as you see fit. Then it will always work for you. Hope you enjoy!

Recipe is for a one-egg souffle, or for a 1 cup souffle dish:

3/4 tablespoon butter
3/4 tablespoon flour (I used Wondra, but you could use anything)
butter for prepping dish
1 tablespoon or so finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, separated
1 - 1 1/2 ounces grated cheese (about 1/8 cup)
1/4 teaspoon ground, dry mustard, paprika, and/or other spices you wish to use
1/8 teaspoon each: salt, pepper
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Heat oven to 425F. Prepare your souffle dish by rubbing it with butter, then evenly (and thinly) coating it with the parmesan cheese. Tap out any excess cheese. Melt your butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Once melted, add in flour and whisk continuously for 3 minutes. What you're looking for here is the "flour" flavor of the roux to disappear, but not for the roux to darken. This is an entirely blond roux. Heat your milk in another saucepan or in the microwave for 30 seconds, then add it to the roux. Whisk constantly over medium or medium-low heat until it thickens (like if you were starting to make gravy, but not quite so thick as gravy). Whisk the egg yolk with the spices in a bowl. Pour a small amount of the milk sauce into the egg yolk, whisking THE WHOLE TIME (this is very important or you will have scrambled eggs and not a souffle by the end). Once that part of the milk sauce is incorporated into the egg, put the whole egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture and whisk up. Add in your cheese and whisk until the cheese is melted and well incorporated. If you're putting other stuff in there, add it in now and stir well (see notes below). Remove this from the heat and cool to room temperature. I move it to a big bowl and set it on a cooling rack so it cools faster.

While your sauce stuff cools, it's time to make the egg whites. Pour in up to a tablespoon of white vinegar into your beating bowl and rub it with a cloth or paper towels until it's completely dry. Don't wash the bowl, though (if you skip this vinegar step, that's okay - this is just a known technique to aid in whipping egg whites). Beat your egg whites (with cream of tartar if you're using it) until they form stiff peaks that are still but not with meringue-like dryness. So... medium stiffness?

Fold 1/3 of the whites into your bowl of cooled sauce stuff. Then fold the rest of the whites in (or, you may pour the sauce stuff into the rest of the whites and fold it that way. I think this really comes down to which bowl you're using is bigger, but perhaps some people are more precise in their cooking). Pour souffle batter into your prepared souffle dish(es) and put in the oven. Once you close the oven, turn the heat down to 375F. Bake for 30-35 minutes, but DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR FOR THE FIRST 20 MINUTES. Your souffle will fall if you do, and then you will be sad. Serve immediately.

Notes:

- You may add up to 1/4 cup per 1-cup ramekin to your mixture. Options like spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp, etc. are all good options. The important thing is that if you're using a "wet" ingredient (like spinach), you need to get out as much water as possible before adding it to the souffle sauce stuff. Make sure also that whatever you're including is finely chopped, as large chunks will siply settle to the bottom.
- If you are making a large souffle, you may add up to one egg white per 4-cup portion recipe. This will give you extra lift (I didn't do this, but I kind of wish I had). So, if you're making a 1-quart souffle (even if it's in 4 1-cup dishes), you can use 4 egg yolks and 5 egg whites. But you can't use a 6th white until you've gone up to a 2-quart number of eggs (so, an 8-egg souffle). And so on.
- You don't have to do the vinegar prep on your bowl before beating the egg whites, but for me it speeds the process along. DO make sure you have not even a hint of egg yolk in your whites, or it will not go well for you. The technique I use to ensure this is to break my egg over a bowl, separate it, then put the yolk in another bowl and to pour the white into YET another bowl. You wind up doing a lot more dishes this way, but you also ensure if you break a yolk mid-way through this process, you've only ruined one egg instead of all of them.
- Small souffles may only need 20-25 minutes to cook. However, the "don't open the door for 20 minutes" rule still applies. It always applies.
- If your souffle doesn't get quite the lift you were hoping for (this happened to me), it's okay. It still tastes good, and it will still be a little cloud of happiness for you. Your souffle dish was probably just a touch bigger than was needed. For example, mine did not make that massive puff that extended beyond the edge of the dish, but the massive puff WAS still there. It was just lower in the dish. So probably I just need to use more batter in that dish. The texture and taste were exactly as they should've been despite it not being as tall as I had hoped.
- If you own a copper bowl (how I wish I did!), the cream of tartar really isn't necessary. If you don't, you'll appreciate the help from the cream of tartar but it's STILL not mandatory.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Food Waste Friday

Well, this week was pretty terrible. I wasted some grits that I'd set in a pan to form more solidly, for frying. Basically what happened to them is that I put them in the fridge, then put off cooking them. Then I forgot about them. Then I remembered them, and they weren't good anymore. Then I decided not to make more and made something else for dinner instead.

I also wasted 4 figs. I also forgot about those.

2 strawberries in the pound were moldy. It's waste, but it's not waste I blame myself for.

And, 1/3 of a green apple got wasted. I put it in acidulated water so I wouldn't forget about it, and then I forgot about it.

I'm a little embarrassed by the waste this week, to be honest. I feel like I go a really long time with no waste, and then I guess I just get complacent because I'm so sure I'm not wasting food. And then I waste some food. Normally not this much, but it was a good lesson for me not to grow complacent and to keep paying attention to what's in the fridge needing to be used up.

However, I did make a plum flognard to use up some plums that were a little more tart than I was enjoying. So that wound up being a win in the no waste department.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Breakfast Smoothie

I can't remember if I had told you guys about this, but I while back (I think it's been two or three months), I had this cantaloupe that I just didn't get around to eating. Finally, I cut it open and it was really, really ripe. So we ate some, and then there was just a whole bunch of really ripe (bordering on too ripe) cantaloupe left. I kind of didn't know what to do with it, so I figured I'd just freeze it and figure it out later. And that's what I did: I cut it up into chunks and froze it in one pint bags.

I'd honestly kind of thought that I'd make some sort of cantaloupe jam or something. Mainly because frozen fruit is some of the easiest fruit in the world to turn into preserves, and despite making my own preserves I'm still rather lazy about getting it done. Maybe some day I'll actually make cantaloupe jam, but I sort of doubt it since I discovered that nearly overripe, frozen cantaloupe makes for some pretty awesome smoothies.

There're a lot of ways to do it, too. Sometimes I just blend up a bag of cantaloupe and some water. Sometimes I toss in some lemon or lime juice, or blend it up with a few blueberries. You could add yogurt if you had some, or none if you don't feel like it. It seems like the possibilities are endless. I wish I still had flax oil around the house, because I'd totally add that to it if I did. This time though, I did it a little differently than I normally do, because I woke up at 2 in the morning, after only 4 hours of sleep and was entirely unable to go back to sleep (I tried pointing my feet toward both directions in the bed AND on the couch, including getting one of the cats to come purr on me, and nothing worked) so I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to make for breakfast. Hope you enjoy!

1 pint frozen and partially thawed cantaloupe (I basically thaw it in the sink for an hour or two, so it's partially frozen. Or rather, so it's frozen enough that I don't need ice, but not so frozen that my blender gets mad about it)
handful of fresh (or frozen) strawberries
1 1/2 cups orange juice (whee! this helps get rid of an oj I tried out and just do. not. like)
1/4 cup buttermilk (or almond milk if you want it to be vegan - I have both, but the buttermilk is coming due and I don't have room to freeze all of it and I am not entirely sure how many days in one week pancakes will be okay with Ross. Plus, the buttermilk gave it a bit of extra tang.)

Fill blender with the above, and blend until smooth. Serves 2 (2 pint glasses).

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Spinach and Tomato Soup

This is a little weird. I took out some spinach from the freezer a while back, and then I got distracted by a total lack of desire to cook, and the spinach hung out in the fridge for ages. Miraculously, without going bad. I thought I was going to do something completely different with the spinach, but ended up making this soup to serve with the salad from yesterday. New comfort food, perhaps. This is now kind of my soup version of V8 for while I'm tired and eating a lot of chick pea salad.

1 10-ounce package spinach, thawed
3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/8 cup celery leaves
1/8 cup sliced celery
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
that same 14-ounce can, of water or stock (I used water)
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 tablespoon salt (you can put pepper in here, but Ross isn't a huge fan so I try to limit my pepper use these days)
1/4 cup bulghur (optional)

Put everything but the bulghur in a pot and simmer until the carrots are very soft. Blend (or not, if you want it chunky). Add the bulghur once it's blended (if you're using it) and cook another 10 minutes. Drizzle individual servings with a touch of olive oil and a sprinkle of mint. Serves 2 for normal portions or 4 for small portions.

I'll warn you guys this soup looks a lot like mud, but it doesn't taste at all like mud (and now I have Primus stuck in my head)!

Monday, August 06, 2012

Chick Pea Salad

Y'all don't really hear from me a lot these days, I guess. Partly that's because I haven't felt like cooking lately. Partly it's because when I do feel like cooking, I mostly feel like cooking comfort food staples, which leaves me nothing to tell you about what I'm eating. Comfort food meals are pretty much the most awesome thing to me lately, since I've been spending the brunt of my summer doing advanced reading for my way-too-many classes in the upcoming semester.

Sometimes, though, I want something... else. Today is one of those days. I'm a little bummed I didn't have any bell peppers in the house, because that would have made this salad a lot more awesome than it is already. You guys can add some when you make it. This salad is pretty adaptable, and shows up all over the Mediterranean region in myriad forms that are alike and not alike. One of my favourite versions is the Italian one with tons of cucumbers. My version (today, at least), utilizes the produce I had on hand and a simple lemon-and-oil dressing. It goes well with the hummus I'm serving with it, as well as some spinach concoctions. In generally, I'm not entirely convinced there's anything it doesn't go with, since chick peas have that awesome status of being a bean but not ever seeming (to me) to be heavy like a bean. This is a vegan version, but you can change that by adding some hard boiled eggs, cheese, etc., should you feel inclined to do so. Hope you enjoy!

3 cups cooked chick peas
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped scallion
2 stalks chopped celery

Dressing:

1/8 cup each: lemon juice, vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch dried marjoram
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Stir together the salad ingredients. Whisk or blend together the dressing ingredients, then fold into the salad. Chill and serve. Serves 4-6 as a side, 2 as a larger portion salad.


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Saturday Spending

I did finally make it to the store. Not for what you'd think, though. Apparently summer is getting the best of me, and it's fruit all the way for me.

HEB:

$3.57 - half gallon kosher dills
$1.38 - 2 cans stewed tomatoes
$0.79 - 1 can tomato puree
$1.00 - 3 cans tomato sauce
$0.55 - 1 can generic Ro-tell tomatoes
$2.59 - apricots
$1.56 - sugar plums (yep, these really exist)
$1.76 - nectarines
$0.89 - can soup for tuna casserole (yes, I know. This is my one processed indulgence)
$2.61 - grapes
$2.24 - cherries
$2.88 - plums, black
$2.56 - green apples
$1.77 - strawberries
$3.98 - mandarin oranges, fresh
$1.97 - blueberries
$1.78 - crackers
$1.98 - grape tomatoes
$1.48 - celery
$2.98 - fresh peas
$1.78 - carrots
$1.72 - spaghetti
$1.00 - penne
$4.99 - large watermelon

total: $49.81

And I would just like to say, that is a lot of money to spend on mostly fruit. But well worth it.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Saturday Spending (Stuck in the Queue

Well, this is weird. I wrote this post somewhere in the 4-5 weeks ago range. How it got lost is beyond me. But here's the post I wrote on shopping a while back for you, even though it's old:

Alright, so I haven't done a big shopping trip like I'd intended, but I did pick up a few incidentals. Here's what happened:

Fiesta:

$3.29 - orange juice

total: $3.29

Kroger:

$0.77 - tomatoes
$0.59 - scallions
$1.63 - peaches
$1.36 - celery
$0.88 - carrots
$3.99 - oranges
$1.99 - capers (how did I let myself run completely out?)
$0.99 - 18 eggs
$2.00 - lettuces (spring mix, basically, except I bought 5 mini heads to make my own mix for the $2)

total: $14.20

HEB:

$1.98 - creamer
$0.88 - crystal's hot sauce
$2.98 - hard salami

total: $5.64

Phoenicia:

$4.99 - 1 lb figs (fresh)
$3.58 - feta, 1/2 pound
$2.19 - labne

total: $12.05
grand total: $35.18

Food Waste Friday

I've still been doing pretty well on waste. This week I wasted two grape tomatoes. I bought a bunch of them, and these two were just ick so they had to be spit out. Otherwise, no waste.

How's waste reduction going for y'all?

Monday, July 09, 2012

A Request for Help - Book Drive Challenge

A woman I know from my grad program just got a job as the department head for the English department of the Houston CAN! Academy. This school caters primarily to kids in high needs demographics. This school, unfortunately, neither has a library nor can afford to fund one in any capacity other than by providing space. So she's reached out to those of us in the English department at UH to help her put together one for these kids.

As I'm sure you know, easy access to books on a variety of topics is often one of the main keys to success for kids, in terms of education, socialisation, personal development, reasoning/critical thinking development, and simply to keep them out of trouble and on track (similar to after school programs). This topic is really important to me, since books were the thing that kept me (mostly) out of trouble as a kid. Thus, I've decided to take on her cause to get these kids a good library, and I'm coordinating efforts with her to get word of the book drive to as many people as possible, as well as to pick up and delivery the books.

So far, I've posted about it to the Houston FreeCycle list, Facebook, have asked the teacher program for math/science I was in during my undergrad to put out collection boxes for the books (which they agreed to!), and have gotten my former (as of today) boss at the pub I'd been working at to let me put out signs and collection boxes around the pub (Firkin and Phoenix) for people to donate books (which he also agreed to!). Starting today, I began driving all over the metroplex to pick up books from the people who already are responding to this need. And now I'm coming to you for help with this too.

ANY book, for ANY age range, on ANY subject is wanted: history, literature, popular fiction, philosophy, math, art, religion, science, cooking, gardening; EVERYTHING is needed and wanted for these kids. Establishing a library for these kids could make all the difference for many of them.

So what I need from you guys is this: if you want to help out with this, please leave me a comment with your email address and/or phone number. Then I can get in touch with you and give you an address to mail these books to (media mail is the least expensive way to ship books, as the USPS gives a discount for book shipments). If you're local to me (i.e., in the Houston metroplex), then we can work out a time and place for me to come pick them up directly from you.

And here's a copy of her original email:

"I am emailing you with a sense of urgency in my heart that I have not
felt in a long time. I was recently hired by Teach For America (TFA).
TFA's mission is to put high caliber leaders into the classrooms of high-
needs students. CAN! students are high risk and at least 90% of these
students are impoverished. I am set to start teaching in the fall for a
Houston CAN! Academy. I attended orientation at my campus today and am
disheartened, but not surprised, to say that they do not have a library.
They have space for a library but no library. Yes, they have some books
(maybe 100 for the hundreds of students attending) but not the depth of
literature needed to improve comprehension, fluency, and enjoyment of
reading. I have been given the task of heading the English Department at
my campus and leading the ESL program. I am not doing my job if I do not
pull in the resources my students (and any student) needs to succeed. I
have set a big goal for myself and my school. I am going to give these
kids the library they deserve. Even a modest library can make the world
of difference, as I'm sure you know. I myself come from humble
beginnings. I have experienced child abuse and homelessness. I even had
to sign myself out of high school during my senior year (as an AP
student) because the homeless shelter I lived in was far from school and
required me to get a job to support myself. I know the value of books,
education, and those few stellar teachers who kept my spark bright. I
always say, "Education, music, and sports saved my life." I was lucky
enough to be extremely self-motivated to finish high school with honors
and move on to be the student commencement speaker at my university's
graduation. I had no familial support and did it alone. Houston CAN!
Academy students don't have to. I think the community can show these
students just how much support and belief it has for all children. I
have been given the go ahead to do and implement whatever I see fit. I
have been told that the sky is the limit. CAN! needs and wants teachers
to be creative and take initiative to achieve great things for its
students (I am one of ten teachers on my campus). I can read between the
lines, though, and I know that "creative" and taking "initiative" are
going to be key to positive changes. The school has grades 9-12 (14
years to 21 years old) and I am seeking to collect book donations this
summer so these kids can start the school year off right. After all, I
cannot spend precious time collecting books throughout the school year
when it will be too late to be of use for the 2012-13 school year. I am
seeking any and all literature. From poetry to literary criticism to
history to science and math to hobbies to folklore and musicology...I
want it all for my kids and grade level appropriateness is not
important. Comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency can be drastically
improved when students are presented tougher texts. Still, I won't throw
Derrida in front of them just yet. They do not even have Shakespeare
among the extremely small and limited number of books they do have.
Would it be possible for you to send this email to all staff and
students in the department? If so, I think the best plan of action would
be for me to drop off a couple (or ten) storage bins at the English
Department office where people could easily (and at their own
convenience within the parameters of office hours) drop off book
donations. I can swing by periodically this summer to empty the bins. I
have faith that literature lovers will rally around my cause! I'm
starting this library in the making off with several of my most
cherished books from the last two semesters and those I've been
collecting along the way. I sincerely hope this sort of book drive will
not only be okay to begin but will turn out books from the woodwork for
kids who desperately need to get lost in literature and who deserve such
resources.

Thank you very much for any assistance you can provide regarding
this matter."

TIA for helping us to put together a great library for these kids! I'll make sure to post regular updates so y'all know how the library book drive is coming along!

Friday, July 06, 2012

Food Waste Friday

Somehow, I missed that today was Friday until I was writing up tomorrow's grocery post. This week has been chaotic and has flown by entirely too quickly. Fortunately, it flew by really, really quickly without me actually throwing any food away. So that's a bonus. I'm really enjoying the new method of letting my fridge get bare (of course, that will NEVER happen to my pantry) before go buy the whole store. For a while there, we were buying the whole store every week or two, and I felt like it was a lot harder to manage things.

So, another good week in the food waste department. How'd y'all do?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Food Waste Friday

Well, it's just been ages since I've made this kind of a post, isn't it? I think we can all be honest here and acknowledge that at this point in my life, sporadic posting is about all I have in me. Hope y'all are okay with that.

This last week, there's been no food waste. This makes me happy.

I will admit that there've been a few weeks where I've tossed away something (like the cup of grapes I threw away a week or two ago because I made the really unfortunate discovery that no, in fact, we had NOT eaten all the grapes as I'd thought we had). For the most part, however, we've still been doing really well on the waste front, despite the lack of posting-that-creates-accountability.

One thing I've noticed us doing lately that I feel has really been helping with the food waste is simply not going to the store. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out. Y'all know I keep a good amount of staples in the house (even though my Cave is now officially defunct), in the form of canned goods, grains, flour, eggs and flesh in the freezer. So when we go to the store (about once a month, excepting incidentals here or there where we ran out of just flour, or just onions, or just-whatever-that-one-thing-is-that-I-can't-cook-today-without), we load up. And I mean, really load up. The most we've spent on this method is $200, which sets us at a max of $50/week (which honestly really IS a little high for just two people, even when one of those people comes in at 1.58 the mass of the other). We go to the produce section, and buy whatever our little hearts desire in there: fruits, squashes, everything. The produce we select seems to have a strange shelf life breakdown. First week, tons of fruits and super perishable veggies (green beans, lettuce, etc) get eaten, and life is glorious. Second week, there're still apples, oranges, and other fruits that have a longer shelf life, plus celery, carrots, etc. Week three, oh look - parsnips! potatoes! blah blah! And by week four, we're down to maybe a squash, and the remaining onions and garlic (garlic, seriously? We must eat 15 heads a month on a slow month). And then there's simply nothing left in the house in terms of fresh produce, and then I know a trip to the store is in order. By that point our meals are getting pretty boring anyway, so I'm thankful for the trip even if I'm not thankful to put out so much money at one time. I'm finding that by basing my shopping habits on what is happening in the produce drawers, I waste almost nothing.

I know I will want stock for risottos and such, so every scrap of onion/garlic peel, every carrot end, every cucumber end and peel gets stuffed in the freezer for stock later. Why'd I buy so many bananas when Ross never eats more than one? Oh yeah - into the freezer with those for future banana bread. Too many squashes and they're looking a little like they're on their last legs? Slice them and freeze them raw, then use the slices to grill, roast, mash or other things with. Those fresh lemons I didn't need the peels for? I'm cutting them into halves and stuffing them in the freezer. Later, I can zest them (which, btw, is stupidly easy when the fruit halves are frozen), or if I don't want to use them for that, I can even run a piece of a half through the garbage disposal on cleaning day. Or even rub a frozen-then-thawed peel on my wood furniture after oiling it (or better yet, make preserved lemons with your leftover peels). Made too much coffee? Freeze in ice cube trays and make frothy frozen coffee drinks later, or just plunk a few cubes of coffee in a cup of milk to melt into deliciousness.

So this method is working really well for me at this point. How're y'all doing with managing your food waste? Any tips I need to know about? Let's get some more information sharing on this topic!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Warm Parsnip and Walnut Salad

Turns out my LDL is a bit high, so I've been eating more walnuts to help bring it down. Mostly I've just been eating them plain and of course my normal, baked goods doses. But I thought I ought to step it up a notch, and start cooking more with walnuts. And thus, this recipe happened. I was feeling lazy so I made Italian dressing chicken with red rice, but I wanted some real food too. There were some parsnips in the fridge I'd totally forgotten about, and one of Ross' coworkers gave him some garden tomatoes, and it sort of went from there. Hope you enjoy!

5 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 large red onion, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and grains of paradise (or pepper) to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
2 tablespoons tangy pickle juice or lemon juice (I used pickle juice from farmer's market pickles)

2 tomatoes, diced
2 sprigs thai basil, chopped
10 pickled cubanelle peppers, diced
1/2 cup walnut halves, chopped or not as you see fit

Heat oven to 400F. Grab your large cast iron skillet (I used a 12", if you don't want to do it that way, a sheet pan will be just fine, or however you normally roast things) and fill it up with the oil, onion, olive oil (I generally use mid-grade extra virgin oil for these sorts of applications), seasonings and pickle juice. Roast 20 minutes, stir and roast another 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes, basil, peppers and walnuts, stirring well. Turn OFF oven and put the pan back in the oven for 10 minutes to an hour (i.e., you can make this an hour or so before you plan to serve it. When you take it out of the oven is determined by how hot you want it). Serves 2 as a large side.

No picture, because I realised hours after we'd eaten it that this was new stuff and y'all might want to know about it. I've been quiet since I haven't been doing new stuff lately.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Spending

Alright, I finished everything of importance on my shopping list. Woo hoo! Of course, I've started a new list (mostly containing lots of benadryl, since if I don't get the allergies under control soon it'll be steroid shot in the arm time, and that's just not fun for anybody), but now I feel like there's food in the house.

You probably would've thought that I'd post more given this whole last week was spring break, but this is where we were all wrong. I thought I'd post more too. But then my white board got in the way. I've finished every piece of reading for two of my classes, plus gotten ahead in the homework for them both. I'm marginally (and by marginally, I mean one day) ahead in one of my other classes, and I'm exactly even in French, which is where I actually want to be in there. I'm still trying to get all my reading done for the class I'm marginally ahead in, but I just don't see myself getting through Purgatorio, Paradiso, Under the Volcano, The Floating Opera and Origin of the Stories by Monday. That's a pipe dream that will never be fulfilled. But that's okay. Other than a dissertation (this thing is brilliant and fascinating, but is taking me a long time to read because I really do feel the writing has both depth and beauty that demands you read and consider each word carefully) I've been reading for a few months that I really need to finish and return to the professor who loaned it to me (and has demonstrated abundant kindness and patience by not sending me a mean email telling me to give it back already), that's all the reading I have left for the semester. All. Like that's nothing, or something. :) That doesn't seem like much, written out this way. It looks like a lot more on my whiteboard, all though those entries on the whiteboard are now surrounded by beautiful, beautiful nothingness. Whiteness. No other work. Amazing.

Anyway, off of the school stuff and onto the grocery shopping. I got a bunch more stuff this week, as you'll see. But now I have food and am no longer concerned about the pathetic state of my pantry. How was y'all's shopping this week?

Whole Foods:

$1.32 - dried mango (unsweetened in little sheets)
$2.13 - poppy seeds
$3.16 - sesame seeds
$2.70 - goat cheddar (I highly recommend this)

subtotal: $9.31
total: $9.31

Kroger:

$2.72 - 5 pounds potatoes
$1.82 - all purpose flour
$1.05 - ramen (I had a craving)
$1.66 - dozen large eggs
$4.00 - 1 pound shredded cheddar
$2.00 - stewed tomatoes, 3 cans
$4.00 - crushed tomatoes, 6 cans
$2.00 - canned corn, 3 cans
$1.78 - cream of celery (I know; I should just make the soup for tuna casserole, but I am lazy)
$2.34 - bratwurst
$2.29 - other kind of sausage that I don't remember and don't feel like looking in the freezer to see
$1.00 - chicken broth (I was out of homemade and canned, strangely)
$3.19 - bread flour
$1.59 - tabasco
$1.99 - fresh tomatoes
$2.44 - field greens
$1.97 - strawberries
$0.79 - bananas
$1.36 - celery
$1.50 - blackberries
$1.00 - garlic
$0.71 - cucumber
$1.19 - something I can't identify on the receipt
-$3.00 - coupon for fresh produce

subtotal: $40.39
total: $49.70

Friday, March 16, 2012

Food Waste Friday

This week, we didn't waste anything. YAY!!!! How'd y'all do?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Spending

Yep, this week was a big one. I didn't actually have time to get all the shopping done needed. There are just piles and piles of homework. There is no possible way for me to actually finish everything on my reading list for Spring Break, but that's okay. I'll just get as much done as I can, and that'll be the end of it. I only plan on leaving my house twice during spring break, so that'll help. If one of those times involves groceries, I think I can finish restocking the pantry. If not, such is life.

Anyway, here's everything I bought. There is an abnormal amount of juice this week, because we had someone over for dinner who only drinks juice. And then we drank the rest, of course. There's also a lot in the way of dried fruits (including tomatoes) since I like to take those to school with nuts. How'd y'all do this week?

Fiesta:

$1.29 - fresh spinach
$0.99 - two cans corn
$1.00 - 1 pound frozen corn

total:  $3.28
subtotal: $3.28

Phoenicia:

$1.79 - litre mango juice
$1.79 - litre sour cherry juice
$2.19 - litre apricot juice
$2.19 - litre black currant juice
$1.79 - litre lemon juice (not lemonade)
$3.99 - sesame oil
$4.39 - lime juice (also not limeade)
$7.95 - 5 cans anchovies
$1.79 - 1 can silver skin anchovies
$2.49 - tomato paste (tube)
$5.69 - 1 pound bulgarian feta (this one was not as good as the one we normally get)
$4.89 - 24 ounce jar makdous (I'll get the huge one next time)
$3.97 - 2/3 lb dried sour angelino plums
$1.89 - 6 ounces dried apples
$2.69 - 1/2 pound dried tomatoes
$2.49 - 2 pounds fava beans
$6.59 - 1 pound walnut halves
$1.41 - half pound shallots
$5.49 - 800 grams Saudi dates (I really have come to prefer the Algerian and Tunisian dates, but these are pretty good too, and they have a tiny, tiny seed that I like to look at)

total: $65.49
subtotal: $68.77

HEB:

$3.00 - 6 cans petite diced tomatoes
$1.18 - 2 cans whole tomatoes
$1.09 - 1 giant can diced tomatoes
$1.18 - 2 pounds linguini
$2.50 - garlic sausage
$2.18 - 1 pound butter
$3.24 - sleepy time extra tisane
$2.58 - 4 pounds spaghetti
$2.39 - all-purpose (unbleached) flour
$3.59 - bread flour
$0.99 - lemon pepper

total: $23.92
subtotal: $92.69
grand total: $92.69

I can't remember exactly what is left on the list. More corn, I'm sure. Probably some canned soups for my lazy-and-sick days (the allergens are starting to really mess with me, though it's rained for days so hopefully that'll help). Crushed tomatoes, for sure. Maybe some more stewed tomatoes. Anchovies? I might have enough, but we'll see. Sardines? I've used all those up. A bit more pasta, too. Strangely, we're only not about to run out because of those pounds I bought this week. Fruit, veggies, definitely. I think we only have, in terms of fresh produce, onions, carrots, a few citrus and shallots left. Maybe also some more frozen veggies such as spinach. I'm on the fence about which fruits to buy though, since I'm about to harvest many loquats. Anyway, we'll see what happens next week!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Food Waste Friday

A perfect week, despite the fact that we have some food again! How'd y'all do this time?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Bergamot Jutlanders

This comes from page 121 of Martha Stewart's Cookie Book, where the recipe is titled Lime Meltaways. When I first made these, I rolled the dough up and the first roll was dipped into sugar, like the recipe states. But then I was eating them and I saw a Dane who's in one of my classes, and I was reminded that if the extra sugar is taken away, they're very similar to Denmark's Jutlander cookies that are eaten over Christmas. So the next roll did not get the extra sugar. I liked them both ways. Y'all will have to decide for yourselves if you like them better with more sugar or less. But here's the recipe, regardless. Hope you enjoy!

"3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
finely grated zest of 2 limes (1 bergamot for me)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (bergamot)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I left this out entirely and replaced it with an extra tablespoon bergamot juice)
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (I doubled this)

"1. Put butter and 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the lime zest and juice and the vanilla, and mix until fluffy.
"2. Whisk together flour, corn starch, and salt in a bowl. Add to butter mixture, and mix on low speed until just combined.
"3. Divide dough in half. Place each log on an 8 by 12-inch sheet of parchment (wax paper for me). Roll in parchment to form a log 1 1/4 inches in diameter, pressing a ruler along edge of parchment at each turn to narrow log. Refrigerate logs until cold and firm, at least 1 hour.
"4. Preheat oven to 350F. Remove parchment from logs; cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Space rounds 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, toss cookies with remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 weeks.
"Makes about 5 dozen."

I forgot to take a picture of this, so I encourage you all to take pictures of yours and share them with me at your earliest convenience. :)

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Rice Noodle Lo Mein

I still have a fair amount of the rice vermicelli in the house, that mostly I've always used when I want to make spring rolls. But I've been trying to use them in a less work-intensive way, eliminating the need for rolling things. Because right now, I have no time for time consuming foods. Not until after spring break, anyway, when I should be far enough ahead that I have time to sit, to think, and even to sleep sometimes. It'll be exciting. Anyway, this is a pretty easy recipe. I actually cooked the noodles before I went to school, then did the rest when I came home and that's a perfectly fine way to do it although it's not particularly necessary. Hope you enjoy!

1 package rice noodles
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used osmanthus, you could use whatever you want but rice vinegar is probably the best in terms of flavour profile)

1/2 large red onion, or one regular sized red onion, sliced into half moons
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
3 tablespooons sesame oil
1 tablespoon each: sriracha (or other hot sauce), tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

1 can white beans (or 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked)
salt

1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 cup rice wine

Boil a lot of salted water, then add noodles. Cook 3-8 minutes, or until done (each type has a different cooking time, so follow the package directions if you're not used to the ones you have). Drain and rinse with cold water, then return to pot and toss with oil and vinegar. Set aside.

Heat a large frying pan and add the sesame oil, sriracha and tomato paste. When hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the veggies are well softened, then add the beans and a bit more salt. Fry these up for a few minutes, then add the noodles, fish sauce and rice wine and cook until it's done to your liking. Serve with soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, or whatever other sauces you like here. Serves 4.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Saturday Spending

And look at this - I actually know what day it is! Saturday, the day of shopping reports. Not much was bought this time either. See, what happened is that I decided I needed to buy a new gun, mainly as a treat because this semester is about to be the death of me, and since Ross can't get time off work for our planned spring break (boo!), and so I took the monies I'd saved for vacation and put them toward a gun. I like to go to the range when I can, and although the semester has kept me too busy to do so lately, I'd like to get back out there again soon. So instead of setting aside some monies to restock the pantry, I paid for my gun, and thusly groceries will have to wait until I get paid next week. I told Ross today that we have no food in the house and he looked at me like I'm a crazy person (which I think at this point I may actually be. But in seriousness I'm out of anchovies and those are my stress food so there really isn't food in my mind) and so I believe that although to me there is no food in the house because there is not an extreme excess of food, to a normal person there is still an abundance (another friend mentioned this to me on Thursday as well so I think I must just have a skewed perspective here).

Anyway, this grocery trip was just for produce essentials. Next week, if I manage to set aside time for proper grocery shopping (I need to visit two separate stores, so...), the bill will be massive. Massive, I tell you. Because I'm not going to be happy until everything is restocked. Anyway, here's the list. How'd y'all do this week?

Fiesta:

$3.48 - 6 pounds onions (you'll like that, j!)
$1.99 - 3 pounds carrots
$0.99 - celery

total: $6.46

Friday, March 02, 2012

Bergamot Semolina Cake

Well, this is interesting. Today is Friday. I thought yesterday was Friday. So you got Food Waste Friday yesterday, and today you get the recipe I wanted to post on Thursday. I'm not entirely sure why I thought yesterday was Friday, given that I fully knew I had a class to go to (and I did go). I guess I've been confused a lot lately.

What I'm not confused about, however, is this cake. It's really amazing. I think it's the best cake I've ever made. When I first started out, I thought I was going to make a Williamsburg Orange Cake we used to make a lot when I was a kid. Except, y'know, with bergamot. But then I was, once again, laying in bed and I thought about how I'd like semolina in there, and olive oil. So I started thinking about the recipe and changing it all around. I suppose it vaguely resembles the old one, in that it's a citrus cake, but that's where the similarities end. I will probably make this next time with lemon, since I'm nearly out of the bergamots (I know... it's sad. I almost didn't think it'd happen, but it's happening). Hope you enjoy!

Cake:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar (you can drop this down to 1 cup if you prefer)
grated zest of one bergamot orange*

2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup semolina
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup bergamot juice
1 cup milk

Heat oven to 350F. Cream together first group of ingredients. Whisk in orange juice. Add in semolina, baking powder and salt, whisking that in. Add in milk, then once it's fully incorporated, add in the cake flour. Put in a greased 13x9" pan and bake 35 minutes. While it's cooling, make syrup. Pour the syrup on while it's still hot, and let finish cooling before cutting. Serves many.

Syrup:

juice of 1 bergamot orange
1 cup powdered sugar

Whisk together.