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?