Monday, December 29, 2008

Beans & Tomatoes

We don't have food. So I went with the slow cooker approach this morning: you put shit in, and food comes out.
I tossed in a can of garbanzos, a can of kidney beans, and a can of canned tomatoes. I added a bunch of garlic powder and a bunch of chili powder. We didn't even have onions.
I think I'm gonna make potatoes to go with it, as we have about 8 lbs of potatoes left from the holidays.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Gifting

Christmas was pleasant this year, with my mother purchasing several items off my Amazon wishlist, including a Le Creuset Stoneware Casserole Dish which is a good size for 2-person mac&cheese, or for making a half batch of cresent roll wrapped brie - we'll see how the stoneware compares to pyrex, and maybe eventually look into the cast iron stuff. I also got one of each size of these and once I find my pyrex lids, I'll be in perfect make&take shape! I cannot wait for somebody to have a potluck.
I really didn't expect my mother to get me any of the pots and pans that are on my list, because I was sure my Dad would find something wrong with them or something, but Mr. Barefoot opened up this pot, and we both got super excited. It's wider than the Always Pot (3 qt) that we use, and a little shallower, and hopefully will allow us to cook two things at once. Or maybe do fewer dishes. It's anodized alumnium, which is so much better than the nonstick, and maybe once we use it, we'll find out why it was so cheap.
I would say, hands down, the most unexpected thing we received was a coffemaker from Mr. Barefoot's parents. Unexpected because we don't drink coffee, like coffee, serve coffee to others, etc. However, they do like coffee, and as part of hospitality, I suppose it would not be out of line to serve them coffee after they have driven down for 3 hours to see us. Then I came accross this article about other uses for coffee. I suppose now at least I can try the bread recipes I've always wanted to try that involve using coffee. Plus, Espresso Brownies sounds like exactly the kind of thing I could take over to Mama Awesome's for a girly movie session. And now I can serve coffee to my running buddies in the morning before races.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

give life

This holiday season, if you want to make a charitable donation, save some money but give somebody another chance at life. Give somebody more time with a person they love. Save a life. The holidays are tough times for most people, especially if somebody they love is sick. The holidays are also a good time to sit around and remember those moments with lost loved ones.
In the years preceding their deaths, both of my grandfathers became sick at different times and required blood transfusions.
My father's father, who suffered from a chronic bleeding condition, required several transfusions because of it. Specifically, I remember he became fairly sick about two years before he died and required at least 4 blood transfusions (over a two day period). He made a full recovery and lived another two years at full strength. (Requiring at least one more transfusion during that time, I think specifically of platelets.) I cherish every extra moment I got with him because of those transfusions. I cherish every extra lunch, every extra phone call asking me how to use the computer, phone, tivo, every family holiday. Eventually, after living a full life to the age of 87, he passed away one morning during his nap. His 10am nap. That he was taking before he was going to go give a lecture. After he sorted his slides.
My mother's father had heart issues and metastatic prostate cancer. Around the same time my father's father got sick, my mother's father had a heart valve replacement. I am sure that the procedure required a transfusion or two, and the pig's heart valve they put in him gave me an extra two years with him, although he was never quite the same, because his mental accuity and other issues were just troublesome. He got really sick about six months before he died, and he was in between the hospital and the nursing home. About every two weeks, he would go back to the hospital for another blood transfusion. The transfusions always made him feel better, and they gave us just a little more time. I am so grateful to everybody who gave blood to give my grandfather even a few more weeks, and while to some, keeping the elderly sustained is a waste of time and resources, it gave us time to spend time with him, and it gave us time to get his affairs in order. At the end of somebody's life, time is everything.
So that is why I give blood. I give to give back, I give to give others the same chances I had, I give to give children, grandchildren, spouses another chance with somebody they love. I don't care whether the recipient is a good person, a bad person, liberal, conservative, whatever. I firmly believe that everybody deserves a second chance. I started giving blood long before I even realized what it meant, but now that I have firsthand experience with how important it is, I believe in giving even more strongly.
So this winter, give somebody else the gift of life. It is painless, and if you are afraid of the needles, just look away. It takes maybe two hours. And the juice and cookies are excellent.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cookies

So the cookie bake ended up being a little sad - most people couldn't make it out, what with traffic and holiday stress, which is totally understandable, so it was me, my hockey buddy, and her boyfriend. My sister and brother-in-law stopped by too, later, to enjoy eating the cookies.
I wound up using the dough from the Best Recipe Cookbook. I went with that recipe because normally when I have trouble with a recipe, I use the BRC and it fixes whatever problem I'm having. My french toast is always too soggy. BRC adds flour to the french toast mix, and tells you how long exactly to soak each side of the bread for, and then how long to cook it for. French toast comes out crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Same with waffles.
However, the sugar cookies were only mostly okay, but the cream cheese glaze was weird. My sister actually spit it out when she tried it. I'm going to have to get my cousin's girlfriend's recipe, because that was pretty good. Or I could continue to make drop cookies because my cutters are rusty and rolling dough out is a pain in the ass. Plus my drop cookies are good.
I also did spritz cookies, and I still can't figure out how to get the dough off the cookie press.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Vegetarian Sandwiches

So last night, Mama Awesome and myself went to Solstice services. The food they served afterwards was totally fantastic, and the best part was the "caramelized onion and feta" sandwiches. It was just caramelized onion on flatbread that had been spread with feta (I did not know that you could spread feta, and it was creamier than feta, so my guess is that it was something more like laughing cow cheese.)
I have a hard time finding good vegetarian sandwiches, so I was so pleased to try something that would be easy to make and fairly portable which did not involve sprouts. I think one could easily make caramelized onions in the slow cooker and then refrigerate them for an indefinite period of time to have a constant supply for sandwich making.

Cookie baking tools & reviews

So last night I made my all time favorite christmas cookie, the peppermint meringue. I love these cookies. So does my sister. And my mom. So I figured I would bring them to both my family's christmases, and whatever was leftover to Mark's family. I figured that instead of making two separate batches, I would make one batch.
DO NOT EVER DO THIS! (I will qualify this -if you have a stand mixer and two ovens, it might be okay.)
The recipe says it makes 16. I could easily say that I get 32 out of each recipe. I had to use every baking sheet I own, and that includes the baking sheet for the toaster oven. However, they did come out totally perfect and awesome...so maybe I shouldn't complain. (Although we'll see about my salmonella cookies that I cooked halfway last night and need to do the rest of this morning...)
I also put together dough for christmas cookie cutter cookies from my trusty cookbook. This is a great cookbook because they give you the reasons why their recipe is best, like that regular granulated sugar makes holes that are too big in the butter, and that you shouldn't use the creaming method for cookie cutter cookies because then there is too much flour at the end. The only problem with starting with the flour is you are basically using the pie crust method, and that is just really something you need one of these babies for. (I keep telling myself that my thrice annual need to make pie crust does not justify my taking up cabinet space with a food processor. Then I tell myself that the deep fryer takes up way more and would get used even less.
I also had to make superfine sugar, which was done in my trusty mini-chopper (I told you, its a great gift idea!) and wound up looking like an episode of Will it Blend when I opened the lid, with a cloud of sugar dust coming out. (P.S. I totally need a blendtec to make meringues, because chopping up peppermint with a hammer is no longer cutting it.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cookie Bake

We're not gonna talk about the high hopes of the slow cooker challenge that were quickly dashed by one too many holiday parties, birthday dinners, and meals-on-the-go.
We are gonna talk about the Holiday Cookie Bake. I have purchased 4lbs of butter and 3 dozen eggs to make christmas cookies. I'm not sure that I have enough flour, sugar, or anything else to really make this work, but I am optimistic. I also got two new cookie cutters - a gingerbread man and a candy cane.
So now I need recipes. I need cookie recipes and icing recipes! Lay 'em on me, readers!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Restaurant Review

The Barefoots went out last night for a finals victory dinner. We chose to go someplace near my school that I have been to before, which Mark wanted to try because it's gotten great reviews. It was a good post-finals place because sometimes the wait for a table is a long one, but we weren't pressed for time.
We picked the Brewer's Art, which is a local microbrewery and pub kind of place, except its like bar food on crack. Its delicious. Over winter break, we will be attempting to replicate the garlic and rosemary french fries that they serve. I will also buy myself a mini cast iron skillet so I can attempt my own version of their caramelized onion and chipotle mac & cheese. Last time I was there I got a veggie burger, which was also delicious. There is actually nothing on the menu that doesn't look amazing, and I think it will be one of the only places I go where I actually try multiple things because everything is so good. Mark got the shrimp & grits, which I didn't really like because the sauce wasn't my style and I don't like grits. But he enjoyed it. I think next time I'm going to make him get the Croque Monsieur so I can live vicariously through him.
The meals I'm speaking of are off their surprisingly reasonably priced bar menu. The restaurant portion is way fancier and three times the price, but if you're looking for fancy, its a good place. Otherwise, just head into the upstairs bar or the downstairs lounge. Sometimes you have to stand around and stalk people for a table. There are no waiters pushing people to clear the tables, so sometimes you need to go with dirty looks or a gentle, "when you're heading out, can you let us know so we can have your table?" Don't wear heels, because you might be standing around, especially on a Friday night or after 8pm.
If you just feel like stopping in for a drink, they have a range of their own beers, plus other local beers, and while you're there, get a plate of Garlic & Rosemary fries. I can guarantee you that it will be the best $4 you ever spend.

Slow Cooker Challenge

So next week, I'm meeting with my moot court team, dealing with Christmas, and undertaking a Challenge.
The challenge will be to use our slow cooker all 5 nights of the week. This is not a very big challenge, but usually when we menu-plan, at least one thing gets clipped.
So far the possibilities I have assembled for the week are these (from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes):
-Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna
-Tofu in Indian-Spiced Tomato Sauce
-Rigatoni with Fennel and Spicy Peppers
-Cheesy White Chili with Cauliflower
-Cider Baked Beans
-New Potato Curry
from Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes
-Arroz Con Queso
-Sweet potato casserole
-Company Chicken Casserole (what should I substitute for cream of chicken soup? Creamy silken tofu? Cream of celery soup? Heavy cream? I think all of these are possibilities. Cream of mushroom and cream of brocolli are not opitons. Maybe it would be good with a creamy tomato soup)
There are others out there. The only rule is that it can't be something I've made before. There is also nothing stopping me from maximizing our available slow-cookers. We are currently housing a guest slow-cooker, so if we really need to we'll use that. But I think I'll do the cider beans and sweet potato casserole one night because that sounds like a good combination.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

C*e*l*e*b*r*a*t*e*!

Ding! I'm done with exams! So what did I do? I baked cookies!
Mark's mom was kind enough to give me a cookie press last christmas when she cleaned out her cabinet. My old roomie had an electric, which I didn't like. But the manual one so far is pretty cool. Its easier to clean, I can use it anywhere in the kitchen, and it doesn't make a weird noise.
So my first batch was a half batch of spritz cookies from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, a classic (and great gift idea) cookie book. (Anyone know when we started spelling cookie with the ie?)
Ingredients:

* 1 cup butter or margarine
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 egg
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 tsp flavoring (almond or vanilla)
* 2&1/4 cups Gold Medal Flour

Equipment:

* Cookie press
* Mixing bowl
* Spatula

Procedure:

1. Heat oven to 400.
2. Mix butter, sugar, egg, salt, and flavoring thoroughly. (I used a mixer, I don't think they existed when the book was written.)
3. Measure flour by sifting or dipping method. (I sift because I don't know what dipping method means.)
4. Add flour slowly.
5. Put dough in press in 1/4 batches. Put onto UNGREASED cookie sheet. (Apparently if the sheet is ungreased, it helps the dough stick to it. Also, the cookies are prone to sliding if you grease it.)

I haven't quite worked out the best method of getting the dough off the press. It might depend on the shape. I had the hang of it for like, 8 cookies, and then I lost my touch. I was using the butterfly shape. I think in the future I might go with "Scottie". There are also club, spade, and heart shapes for my next poker night.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Gift Lists

This is a reminder that with the holidays coming up, asking for kitchen stuff isn't just for wedding registries! I think a lot of people make the mistake of not thinking of their kitchens when writing to Santa (or the Hannukkah fairy), but I've found the culinary gifts I have received to be some of the longest-lasting and most used of anything I've gotten. Kitchenware makes a great gift also because most cooks won't buy themselves really nice tools when they outfit their kitchens on the cheap, but the nicer tools are relatively cheap ($20 or so) to give somebody and they will use it a lot and think of you.
So what do you give and what do you ask for?
Giving:
Last year we received two christmas gifts that we use regularly. The first one is the Vidalia Chop Wizard. I highly recommend it for the amatuer foodie in your life - most people are dubious of As Seen on TV products, so they probably don't own one. There is a William Sonoma version, but its much more expensive, so they probably haven't bought one.
The second is a Calphalon Crepe Pan. It's great for crepes and pancakes, plus non breakfast tasks such as sauteing chopped peppers and onions and making grilled cheese sandwiches, because it has a wider and non-curved surface, unlike most fry pans, but it is usable for more stuff than a griddle because it has higher sides. The Calphalon Crepe Pan with a container of crepe mix is the perfect gift for somebody you know likes food, and you think can handle a mix.
Other favorite gifts include my food scale and Kapoosh Knife Block. Food scales should only be given to hardcore/European cooks who you know want to weigh things as they cook, otherwise it sends the wrong message. (Food scales are used most frequently in the US by people on diets.)
Other ideas:
  • Stocking stuffers/Hannukah Nights 2-7 gifts - measuring tools (pyrex liquid measuring cups in a 1 cup or 2 cup size; OXO measuring cups and spoons for drystuffs), silicon spatulas (again, I recommend OXO), the palm peeler and brush , pretty much any OXO Good Grips products (I plan to buy the 20-piece variety pack at Costco and parcel it out among family member's stockings. The Ice Cream scoop is particularly well designed.) A cookie scoop is great too.
  • Electronics: blender (Black & Decker makes a nice $25 to $30 model - don't spend less than $20, I can guarantee you it will suck), food scale, immersion blender (we don't actually use ours, but if you have somebody who likes to make soup), mini-chopper (look for one with a both chop and grind feature), electric kettle (for the tea lover or Alton Brown enthusiast in your life), hand mixer (the Hamilton Beach one that comes with its own case is quite nice, if you've got money to spare go with the Kitchenaid 6-speed), a crockpot (of any size - the mini-dipper is great for the noncook who entertains. if they are single, get them a 1.5 quart, 4-quart if they entertain or eat dinner with others frequently; 6qt is for a family.)
  • Other items: bamboo/wood cutting boards, a kapoosh knife block, a really nice knife (I recommend a Santoku knife), potholders, pyrex portables or baked dish/cupcake caddies (for the baker/entertainer in your life), the new line of lightweight Corningware, plus cookbooks that are specific to the chef. Also, don't overlook really nice tupperware, for the right person. (Probably somebody you are close to - somebody you can't legally marry. Which in Maryland is NOT your first cousin.)
Receiving:
  • Consider requesting a really nice set of pots instead of that new ipod - you'll probably use the pots more! (The set I linked to is the Costco equivalent of Calphalon. Look for infused anodized aluminum - Calphalon, anolon, and a few other brands make it - but not the teflon coated ones.) You'll use them every day, and they are easy to clean. (I use my ipod every day too - so if yours broke, get the iPod. But if you're just upgrading, think about the pots...) If you don't want to request a full set, go for a 5.5 quart saute pan and a 3 quart saucepan - in our house we call them the "always pan" and the "always pot".
  • If you've always wanted some of that shiny Le Crueset bakeware that looks so nice on the table, go ahead and ask for it! I've never tried it but I did put a mini-casserole on my list so that I can tell whether I like it more than my pyrex.
  • Electronics - if you bake a lot, ask for a stand mixer. If you live a hectic and busy life, or hate your stove, think about putting a crock-pot on your list. See above list of electronics. I'm really hoping this year my sister re-gifts her old blender to us.
  • Cookbooks - Santa is a great person to ask for cookbooks - because you can be specific or general. You can say, I really need a new cookie book. Or you can say, "I need a cookbook that isn't psycho about using the right kind of butter."
  • If your Santa isn't very culinarily-inclined, and you don't trust them, either take your Santa with you shopping (my mom and I always hit BB&B the day after Thanksgiving and she lets me pick my gifts) or ask for gift cards to Bed Bath & Beyond (don't forget that 20% off coupon!) or Cooking.com or anywhere else.
Above everything else, when gift giving, make sure to consider the person's age and propensities when purchasing gifts. I have to take the following into consideration:
  • My sister doesn't cook. She makes fun of me for buying her kitchen supplies. So I don't. Some people are a lost cause and you should just get them iTunes gift cards.
  • My father melts everything in his kitchen. Every year, I inventory what he has melted or broken, and go on a hunt for replacements he can't melt or break. Silicone coated spatulas and spoons are the best thing that has ever happened to him. Last year we bought him 10 and he only managed to destroy 1.
  • Take age into account. My grandmother has some arthritis and while she is extremely strong for 86, I don't like to get her anything heavy. I also like to get her the OXO good grips items whenever possible, because they are designed for people with arthritis - the handles are bigger and easier to grasp.
  • Mr. Barefoot learned from his mother that nothing is broken until it actually comes to pieces in your hand and you can't use the pieces in a remotely functional way. (Last year our ice cream scoop broke - the little sweeper thing that actually scoops the ice cream out, which it is useless without because those are so deep - and he wouldn't get rid of it. I bought him a new one for Christmas and he was like, "why did you get me this? we have an ice cream scoop."Also, his old measuring cup actively leaked, but when I got him a new one he was like, "I guess I needed one.") Some people can't understand why you would get them something nicer than what they have, even if what they have barely functions. Upgrade them slowly over time, one or two new things per year, or replace something that they have commented, in your presence, "I need to get a new one of these."
Don't overlook kitchen gifts for gift-swaps either. And think outside the Bed Bath & Beyond/Williams-Sonoma/Target box - Ikea has some pretty decent stuff, and often Marshalls, Homegoods, or TJ Maxx will have a really nice selection of overstocked items. Plus, keep an eye out for coupons and specials. Also, check out a professional restaurant supply store - usually things will be cheaper there, and some will be nicer.
Also, consider clearing out your kitchen of things you don't use or want and regifting them via Goodwill or the Salvation Army - there will be a lot of needy families this year, and that electric griddle you never use might just make someone's Christmas morning or Hanukkah night. Or if you know you're getting a new set of pots or a nicer roasting dish, give yours up a few days early and let somebody else make dinner in that.
Happy letter-writing to Santa!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Daily Show

I know this is irrelevant to everything, but on the Daily Show, they have just described George Bush as a "lame turducken". A lame duck which has been stuffed with a crippled chicken and then shoved into a turkey. Ineffective, but delicious.
I think the Turducken feast may need to be renamed "Lame Turducken" in honest.
Back to my regularly scheduled scheduling...and dissing the Amish...whoops.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Bean Mac & Cheese

So what do you do when you are tired of leftovers, craving comfort food, dealing with final exams, and needing a bit of protein?
Make Black Bean Mac & Cheese! I was making mac and cheese with taco cheese and I was like - oooh, black beans would be good in this!
Ingredients:
1 can black beans
1/2 lb pasta
1 cup half-and-half
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup taco cheese

Procedure
1. Boil water, cook pasta.
2. Melt butter in a separate pan, add flour, stir together for a minute. Add the half and half. Let thicken.
3. Add half the cheese.
4. Drain the beans and the pasta. Cook the beans in the pasta pot for a second to warm them up and cook off excess water. Put in a pyrex dish. Pour cheese on top. Sprinkle more cheese on.
5. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Next time I'm going to try adding crushed tortillas on top, and maybe a little salsa!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

T-2 Days: Recipes

Here is the tutorial I used to make vegetable stock. Combined with some onions, garlic, and celery and stuffing mix, it'll make great stuffing.
What else is on the table on Thursday?
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Potatoes with Rosemary
Ingredients:
2.5-5lbs redskin potatoes
4 cloves garlic, sliced
.75 c. vegetable broth
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
pepper
Equipment:
Slow cooker
Procedure:

Place in the slow cooker. Add garlic, broth and rosemary. Stir. Cook and cook on high until potatoes are tender, about 3-4 hours. Pour in milk and sour cream, mash. Serve right away or adjust the setting to low to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Green beans with Almonds
Eggplant with goat cheese (recipe to come, depending on deliciousness.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

T-3 Days: Don't be that guest.

I know I harp on this every year. But seriously people! Don't show up empty handed to Thanksgiving! Don't show up at 5 when dinner starts and leave at 7 before cleanup. If you are the hostess, do not be shy about drafting your guests into cleanup duty! If they are close enough to you that you invited them over for Thanksgiving dinner, they are close enough that you can ask them to do the dishes. If nothing else, when you play the thankful game, toss out a, "I'm thankful that you guys are going to do the dishes."
My Uncle John always shows up with a pie, and his wife always helps clean up. One son brings something and the other carves the turkey. They are on the list of "good guests". The list of bad guests? One set of family members that shows up at the start of dinner and then leaves before it is over, avoiding bringing anything or set-up/clean-up. On the list? The husbands who let their wives do all the work and then watch football. The wives that let their husbands do all the work and then watch football.
There is a concern about "too many cooks" if you are sharing a kitchen with houseguests. Do what we do - cook in shifts. Plan a schedule. The night before Thanskgiving, I can tell you when the turkey goes in and my dad gets the kitchen, when I get the table for prep, and when I get the stove, and how many burners each of us get and for how long. I know which dishes go on the bottom rack of the oven below the turkey. I know what I have to cook in the crockpot or the toaster oven.
There is an issue when people bounce from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving - it can be tough to keep dishes hot between one house and another. The most ambitious of us do it in shifts - prep two dishes. Bring one to Thanksgiving #1 and put the other in the oven when you get there - usually, the chef isn't using the oven once dinner is on the table. The better option is to bring a cold dish - desserts are best for this. This is my first Year of Two Thanksgivings. I'll be bringing pies to my grandmothers, which I plan to bake tomorrow night. (And then not eat. We'll see.) I'll also prep stuffing for my parents to bake and take over with the turkey. If you really can't bring anything, and really are so pressed for time, make sure you thank the hostess doubly and try to make up for it, either at Christmas dinner, by hosting next year, or just having them over for dinner sometime.
There are a million ways to help out at the holidays. If your mother/Aunt Sue/Uncle Charley/Grandpa is so controlling that they will not let you show up to Thanksgiving dinner with a side dish or dessert in hand, call them and offer to come a half an hour early to help out. Maybe you can take their kids for a walk or out to play in the yard so they aren't in the way. If you don't cook, offer to bring wine or sparkling cider. Sometimes, its really just the thought that counts. Calling and offering something can be a really nice thing to do. Or just let them know that they can call you and ask you to get ice/drinks/crudites/whipped cream from the grocery store if they forgot it. (A great option if you are traveling and can't cook.) If nothing else, make sure you stay later and clean up. Or when she/he gets up to clear the table after dinner, say, "Oh no, Aunt/Uncle/Grandma/pa/Mom/Dad - you did so much cooking for this fantastic meal that you do not have to clean up. Cousin/wife/husband/parent and I will take care of that." This way, you not only get to help out, you draft your lazy-good-for-nothing family into it as well. Just don't break the fancy china.
Nobody like a guest who shows up with one arm longer than the other. Don't be that guest.

I have a beef with canned food.

The following is a list of things that should come in cans:
Soup (including broth)
Fruit (including pie filling)
Beans
Spaghetti Os
Coconut, condensed, and evaporated milk

Canned food should be generally used for:
Quick and easy dinners
Dinner when you/somebody else is sick
Nuclear winters
Taco night
Baking
Countries/cities in which there is not a regular supply of fresh produce.
People who don't have running water.

Does Thanskgiving fit anywhere on that list? NO!

I understand that some people do not have the benefits of potluck Thanksgiving, in which four people spend Thursday slaving away in front of a hot stove, instead of just one person doing the work. But that is NO reason to make Thanksgiving dinner out of your bomb shelter! What is next, canned turkey? (I'm sure it exists.)

I guess there are some merits to a canned thanksgiving. It tastes the same, year after year, and man do you meet that RDA of sodium. Some things are not in season, I will grant you that. Some things are really hard to prepare from total scratch. But then consider why you are making that dish instead of something delicious and fresh. If you have young, screaming children - don't host Thanksgiving. Or at least have a potluck. Say you'll make a turkey, and everybody has to bring something. Worst case scenario? You end up eating turkey. Plus, all your lazy good-for-nothing relatives and friends learn how to bring food to an event, instead of just showing up to get fed. Lazy good-for-nothings, btw, are anyone over the age of 12. Yes. I get judgmental if you don't bring stuff to Thanksgiving, or don't let people bring stuff. The spirit of the holiday is to give thanks and celebrate togetherness, not to be a control freak. (I'm totally not being a control freak, no matter what Mark says. He has been put in charge of plenty of stuff.) Plus, young kids are great as little helpers - they can be put to work peeling potatoes, measuring stuff, stirring things, washing dishes, polishing silverware.

I don't think I've had canned yams. Ever. Yams should not come in a can. Mostly I wonder - what is so hard about yams? Peel the sweet potatoes, chop them, boil them, mash em up, cover them in marshmallows. You can do it in a slow cooker. You can prep them the night before. While I'm at it - potatoes should not come in a box unless they are being made into potato bread. Mashed potatoes can be made in just thirty minutes while the turkey sits. Put early arrivals to work. Buy redskins or thin-skin potatoes, wash, chop into quarters, boil for 15 minutes, then mash. Add salt, pepper and garlic.

Somethings can be made as a mixture of canned and fresh dishes.

I don't touch green bean casserole. I think it is probably the most disgusting idea anybody has ever come up with. I generally think this because it is based on canned green beans. Canned vegetables in general - wonder why they aren't on my list? THEY AREN'T FOOD!!! They are overcooked, oversalted, shadowy ghosts of what food USED TO BE. I wonder if maybe green bean casserole was made with fresh green beans (because, see list, canned soup is acceptable), would I be less nauseated by it? What if it was fresh green beans with a light Parmesan cream sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs on top?

Cranberry sauce? Okay. I will say that handmade cranberry sauce is delicious, but also a huge pain. Since cranberries are fruit, they do technically fall under the exception. But try, just try, mixing your canned cranberries with some mandarin oranges in the food processor. I can pretty much guarantee you that people who have never before liked cranberries will love them.

Stuffing? Use the breadcube mixtrue you can buy. Even buy the stovetop if you want. But add some stuff. Add, at the very least, fresh garlic, onions, and celery. This year, I'm thinking about adding fresh peppers.

You have three days until Thanksgiving. I challenge you to go out and replace one of your regular canned staples with something uncanned or unboxed.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Keys to a sane thanksgiving.

Alright, there isn't actually such a thing. But I have one thing that really helps. It sounds "a bit rich" coming from somebody as messy as me, but keeping the kitchen as clean as possible, and not letting dishes pile up, is key.
This was the kitchen as I made vegetable stock on Sunday.
My cookbook.
Stock simmering
What I did while the stock simmered
I felt much better.
Vegetable stock recipe to come!

T-4 Days

This morning I hit up the farmer's market for all my Thanksgiving supplies. The list was long but I was able to get pretty much everything on it, even eggplant. I got home and chopped celery, onions, and garlic for stuffing, and stored that. It should keep for a couple days. If it doesn't, I have plenty more because man, you get a lot of celery. I got green beans and already trimmed those to store (apparently you are not supposed to trim them until right before you use them because they will lose nutrients.
I got potatoes, both sweet and redskin, and fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme for dishes and turkey stuffing. (I don't make stuffing in the turkey, but I do put sage and an onion and an apple in the cavity for flavor.) Plus the spices get used to make the stock.
I got a stalk of brussels sprouts, but now I have NO idea what to do with them. Mark's dad likes them, and I think I'll either steam them or saute them with bacon, but I'm not quite sure how to store them. I'll check the Joy of Cooking.
I will be going to the grocery store to get my turkey today. Since it is Sunday, and it needs to thaw for a couple days, it will go straight in the fridge. I think Safeway said they had turkeys for $0.39 per pound. Giant is $0.49. I've been seeing them for $0.99 a pound elsewheres. Three years ago when I did one, it was $0.29 per pound and that was standard. Oh well. I hear the economy is bad.
I also have broccoli, which I think I will steam up.
How are you getting ready for Thursday?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hot Cocoa

I don't usually post recipes for drinks, but this was so delicious I couldn't resist at least posting the link.
Stir it once or twice through the cooking process, if possible. We noticed it got pretty clumpy around the edges, so use a spatula to scrape the edges.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Turducken

Mr. Barefoot's friend's have a tradition of making a Turducken. Last year they did a TurGooDucken, but the chef has complained that the cost is too high and the labor too difficult, therefore this year will mark the return of the plain old turducken.
The first year I made baked ziti - pasta stuffed with three types of cheese sounded good. Last year I made peppers stuffed with peppers stuffed with peppers. (Red pepper, green pepper, jalapeno. Stuffed with a rice-pepper mixture.)
This year I could branch out - I could do peppers stuffed with stuffed mushrooms, but I need a third layer. I could do peppers stuffed with peppers stuffed with peppers again, but this year mix up what I use as filler stuffing. I'm thinking a mix of rice, quinoa, and cous-cous. There was some discussion of deep frying the peppers to add an extra layer. I am pretty sure this would end in disaster, my friend thought it was a great idea.
I would love to find a good way to mix sweet and savory in this mix somehow, but I don't think that is possible. I also want to mix flavors and textures. I also don't want to spend $30 on peppers again...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A little something for my readers...

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for many things - my good health, an incredibly supportive academic and social community at school and at home, my family, that Costco still sells vegetarian burritos in ten packs for $8. I am thankful for the last election - not only for the outcome, but for the democratic process, which while horrible in many ways, I do believe in.
I am also thankful to now have a blog readership of more than 2. Recent comments leave me to believe that I am up to 6+ readers! So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am offering up the blog space to share, and asking you to share your favorite recipes with me.
They can be thanksgiving related or anything else. Vegetarian or meat-stuffed-with-meat. A recipe you know is bound to be popular at thanksgiving, so that when a lot of people ask you for it, you can just direct them here. (Obviously I don't have ads or anything here - this isn't about boosting my readership, its about sharing food, virtually or otherwise.) A cookie recipe you want to be able to access anywhere in the world. A recipe for Brussels sprouts that you think other people should consider.
You can email me or comment and I'll post any and all (serious) guest blog posts of recipes. This isn't a contest. There are no prizes. (Perhaps, someday, if I get up to 12+ readers, I will do a giveaway or something.)

Mr. Barefoot's First Guest Post!

[Editor's note: I didn't write any of this, except where indicated.]
Alright, after many dropped hints, I've finally gotten around to writing my first guest post, and the funny thing is that I didn't even end up preparing this dish. In any case... Beer cheese dip was brought into our life by my grad school buddy Brad, now returned to his homeland in the cheese state of with his wife and 1.5 kids and sadly missed by all. This dip is great because it is a) delicious; b) incredibly easy to make; and c) again, delicious. Everybody loves it. It's one of those dishes that we have to refrain from making because it's so easy and nobody wants to be a one-trick pony. Unless it's a really good trick.
We had a big family party today, for which Ms. Barefoot was responsible for obtaining the lion's share of the food. As a recovering student leadership slut, she's learning to delegate, and my one task was to make the beer dip. Then I discovered we were out of cheddar cheese, and wound up waiting fifteen minutes in the express lane at Shopper's an hour before a Ravens away game. We were supposed to be at the party 35 minutes away in an hour, and I hadn't showered yet. So when I got home, she made the dip and I showered. But I had every intention of actually making it myself, I promise. So here it is:

Ingredients
2x 8oz pkg cream cheese
1x 1oz pkg ranch dressing mix (typically the brand the stores have is Hidden Valley. The little envelopes are usually in a display tray near the bottled dressings)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup your favorite beer

Equipment
Mixing bowl
Serving bowl (if you consider yourself too sophisticated to serve your dip in a mixing bowl)
Spoon or other utensil for mixing

Procedure
-Let the cream cheese soften on the counter for an hour or two. Cream cheese straight from the fridge is hard to mix.
-Mix the ranch dressing into the cream cheese, then the beer, then the cheddar. Use all the cheddar. It may look like a lot, but if you don't you're just eating ranch cream cheese and that isn't nearly as good.
-Cover and refrigerate if you have time, because it's probably a little mushy.
-Enjoy the rest of the bottle of beer and reflect on your culinary prowess. Wasn't that easy?

[Editor's Note: Best when served with those flat pretzel chips that are so delicious. Otherwise regular pretzels or even potato chips will do. You can also use low-fat cream cheese and cheddar.]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pie

Pumpkin pie? Mmmmm. Made out of a real pumpkin. A really tiny pumpkin I bought at the grocery store that was labeled "pie pumpkin". It gave me instructions to microwave chunks of pumpkin and then scrape them out and mash them up.
I added them to some cream cheese, condensed milk, spices, and egg and made miniature pumpkin pies. Yum.
Recipe to come, once I have tried again to puree, probably using the food processor. It tastes pumpkin-y enough, but its not very uniform in color or texture - the pumpkin is a little stringy.
I did get to use my mortar and pestle to grind up the allspice, which was good for getting out pent up law school aggression.

How do you make pumpkin pie? Real pumpkin, canned pumpkin, or grocery store?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thanksgiving at my folk's place doesn't usually involve theatrics and pagentry and "lets all admire the beautiful dinner". (Pretty much everything is served out of Pyrex dishes and Corelle bowls. My mom finally bought a set of casserole dishes. We don't use them.) But I think that a giant stuffed pumpkin with soup inside it might be amazing...

Being Barefoot

Despite how unseasonably warm it has been lately (global warming is just God huggin' us closer!), it was chilly this morning. Our new(ish) apartment has hardwood floors (original to the early 1800s) and is a bit drafty. We already pay insanely high electric bills, so I've been reluctant to turn on the heat (the landlord pays the water, so I've been taking long showers to warm up.) Hardwood floors are warmer than the tile floors that grace Mark's parent's house (brrrr!), and are nicer looking than the linoleum at my parent's house (which they just replaced, so now they look like classy people that have lineoleum). They also seem to have a unique way of collecting dust and sticking it to your feet. So I have not been barefoot in a very long time. I pretty much always wear socks or slippers when I am in the apartment. (Somehow though, my toes are always still freezing when I get into bed.) This has me thinking about the title of the blog.
I think the origin of the phrase "barefoot and in the kitchen" suggests that wanting women to be barefoot deprives them of their autonomy or ability to go someplace. You can't be barefoot and take over the world. At least not in the U.S. You can't even be a professional chef while being barefoot (see Mario Batelli and his massive orange crocs). For these reasons, wearing slippers is probably akin to being barefoot. Wearing crocs is just professional.
I chose the title to poke fun at myself and my very feminist unsense of humor. But it is also to challenge our ideas of what is feminist and what is feminine, what is women's work, and where do women belong in today's society. I really think that we are moving towards a society in which the phrase "barefoot and in the kitchen" is a thing of the past, because more so than any other domestic role, men and women are sharing the load of cooking more than they ever were. That is a good thing. In honor of this concept, Mark is making lentil tacos tonight. (Yes. I'm giving lentils another shot.) Maybe as a sign of our growing societal equality (we just elected a black man president - if getting the right to vote is any indication, a female president is only 60 years away!), I will let him post his recipe.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Very Barefoot Thanksgiving

This year, my boyfriends parents and sister are going to come down for Thanksgiving dinner. This will, with all likelihood, be my only chance to host and cook Thanksgiving dinner until my father is old and gray and can no longer open the oven door or curse when he drops pots. Usually, Mark and I split up Thanksgiving, because it is the only holiday I am unwilling to sacrifice. This year, I have my high school reunion on Friday and am making him come to it. So rather than have him drive up on Thursday and back on Friday, his parents are going to come down during the day on Thursday. This plan does not make a whole lot more sense than him driving up, but they are willing to come down and so I'm not going to probe too deeply into whether it makes sense. In the future, we will probably continue to split Thanksgiving until either we have children or until my grandmother goes the way of all good things in nature. Once my grandmother goes, we will probably alternate holidays and years or figure out a way to make driving to NJ or having Mark's parents and my parents get together for Thanksgiving dinner. (This is absolutely the worst idea ever.) In the case where we are having Thanksgiving in Maryland, my father will be cooking. In the case where we are having dinner in NJ, Anne will be cooking. So this is probably one of the only Thanksgiving dinners I will cook.
So what is on the Casa de Barefoot Table?
  • Turkey (I have only made one once, but my republican friend told me that he would marry me so that I could make him turkey all the time, so I think that is a good sign.)
  • Cranberry Sauce (made by my mother, it's the only thing she cooks and it's fantastic)
  • Stuffing (sausagemeat stuffing made by Anne)
  • Sweet potatoes (haven't decided if I want to go with the traditional mini-marshmallows & brown sugar & raisins or a different route)
  • Mashed redskin potatoes (easy, plus they look good)
  • Dessert (probably made by Anne, but I may make a pumpkin pie)
  • Green bean casserole (this always looks like somebody threw up on it to me, so maybe there is a way to make it taste better??)
  • Seasonal vegetable soup - probably squash and beans, plus some other vegetables in there too
  • Seasonal bread? I'm thinking either a dark wheat bread, a cranberry bread, or a pumpkin bread. This would probably be more of an appetizer.
What is on your table this year?

Minestrone

This is my favorite soup. Well, one of two. We used to make it a lot, back when we were in college. Sam really liked it too, and I think even Tom would eat it. It's especially good with some focaccia bread to dunk. It's perfect for today's chilly fall weather.
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I use bullion. It's cheaper and takes up less space in the cabinet.)
  • 1 cup water.
  • 1/2 cup pasta
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
Equipment
  • 1 large pot
  • Cutting board
  • Vidalia Chop Wizard (its one of those as-seen-on-TV things, but it totally works and I swear by it).
Procedure
  1. Saute onion and garlic until transparent
  2. Add carrots and celery and saute for a few minutes
  3. Add potato, continue to saute
  4. Add tomatoes, beans, and broth
  5. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes
  6. Add pasta
  7. Bring to a second boil for 15 minutes
  8. Add rosemary
  9. Let continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until carrots are soft.

Farmer's Market

Mark and I have been frequenting the local farmers markets where we live for a little while. Last year, the one by the Food Lion in Columbia was our preferred location, now it is the one under the 83 viaduct. (Saratoga St. between Holliday and Gay) It's from 8am to 12pm, running until December 21st.
The bigger question is probably why do we go to the farmer's market? Honestly, the main reason is not because we want to support locally grown produce or organic farming. The main reason is because our local grocery store's produce section sucks.
The relative difference is obvious - the farmer's market in Columbia was small - usually three or four produce stands, a bread stand, and one or two flower stands. There were usually about 10 customers at a time, more in the spring. The Baltimore farmer's market is huge - probably at least 10-15 produce stands, plus that many or more food vendors, local artisans, handmade dog biscuit sellers...it takes up an entire parking lot and is filled with people. The Baltimore Farmer's Market is like the Riverdale Farmer's Market on crack. There is a donut vendor here too, but the line was way too long - there is an advantage to a smaller farmer's market, sometimes.
I highly recommend checking out the Baltimore farmer's market, and if you don't live in the city, check out this - http://www.mda.state.md.us/md_products/farmers_market_dir.php - to find your nearest one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Political Buffalo Chicken Dip

From the famous Mr. Redline, now of Real Life on the Red Line, the recipe for buffalo chicken dip. I don't eat chicken, so I can't really speak to it's deliciousness, but I'm pretty sure Mark likes it more than he likes anything I cook, and he was looking more forward to the dip than the election.

Buffalo Chicken Dip:

2 packages cream cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 cans of chicken
1 bottle of Frank's Red Hot Sauce
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing

1) Heat cream cheese in saucepan
2) Add chicken, Red Hot Sauce, and Ranch
3) Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese
4) Serve hot with chips, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top.

*Note: You can substitute low fat cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and ranch dressing.

Thanks Mr. Redline!

Election Night Tricks & Treats

You may have heard that last night was election night. Apparently that elitist-terrorist-muslim guy won. While the relief I'm feeling should be much greater, the way it is for most people, and my sense of history and finality should be tingling, I am nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm waiting for something. I don't know what. It seems unreal that an election can be resolved, these days, in a single night.
My good friends Mama Awesome, Baby Awesome, Papa Awesome, Mr. Redline, and my nonblogging friends, watched the returns and enjoyed Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and baked brie in crescent rolls. For dessert, there was the best pumpkin pie ever and chocolatey-peanutbuttery-cookie bars, which were amazingly chocolaty.
I will hopefully get a guest blog post from Mr. Redline and DNA as to how to make their election night foodery. For now, here is a recipe for brie wrapped in crescent rolls. Because brie is the food of elitists, terrorists, and winners.

Ingredients:
  • Brie cheese (I used a 6 ounce wedge, you can use any size. For a larger party, use a round.
  • Crescent roll dough (if you are using a full round of brie, you may want to use 2 loafs)
  • Optional - cranberries, chopped nuts, or apples
Equipment:
  • Cutting board
  • Rolling Pin (I made this at the Awesome's, so I didn't have access to one of these, but I wished I had had the foresight to bring my own. I spent very little time at home yesterday. I spent 23 hours out of the house.)
  • Baking dish - I used an 8x8 pyrex dish, but I think I probably will go with a regular aluminum cookie sheet in the future.
  • Oven at 375 (I will experiment with the temperature in the future)
Procedure:
  1. Roll out crescent dough. Do not cut into little triangles. Instead, roll into a large rectangle or oval. (Probably about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick
  2. Place brie in the center of dough.
  3. Add cranberries, fruit, or nuts.
  4. Wrap dough around brie. Imagine wrapping a gift, but instead of wrapping paper, you are using dough. Everything should be covered.
  5. Bake for 20-40 minutes. I don't know how long it actually took to cook, because I had to leave the party.
I had it cold, which was less good, because I like cold brie less. But I was told that it was decent. It could have been by people trying to stoke my ego, but really, I think they generally think that I think highly enough of myself and my cooking that they don't need to do that.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Slowcooker Curry

I don't like Indian food. Some of my friends from college claimed that our mutual dislike of curry made my roommate and I racist. I dispute that by pointing out that I have a number of Indian friends, and that I dislike as many American foods as ethnic dishes. That being said, I dislike spicy food. Like, a lot. It burns my mouth and I find it uncomfortable. I don't like the sensation of having my mouth set on fire. Some people apparently do. So I don't go out for Indian food.
However, making it myself? So I can adjust how much curry goes in? Yum.
Here is the recipe for a simple "No Hurry Vegetable Curry" based on the recipe in "Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker." It is adapted slightly for our mondo-normous six quart slow cooker.
Ingredients:
  • Potatoes - 2-4 potatoes, diced
  • Onion - 1 medium, diced
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced on a diagonal
  • garlic, minced
  • curry powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz string beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • frozen peas - half cup
  • half cup of coconut milk.
Equipment:
  • Six quart slow cooker
  • Pan (I've renamed my 2 inch deep frying pan/skillet/cooking dish the "always pan" because I use it daily.)
  • Spatula
Procedure
  1. Put onion and carrot in pan on medium high heat in some olive oil to soften
  2. Add garlic, curry powder, and cayenne pepper (this is where your personal spice tolerance comes in). Allow to coat and heat.
  3. Put in slow cooker stoneware.
  4. Add potatoes, chickpeas, green beans, tomatoes, and anything else except the frozen peas and coconut milk.
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. (If your crockpot is defective like ours and runs too hot, go for 5-7.)
  6. Add coconut milk and green peas 1/2 hour before serving. Stir into curry.
  7. Serve over naan bread or basmati rice. (I love the Trader Joe's Na'an bread. Its amazing.)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Upside-down pie

I made this pie last night and I call it upside down pie because the topping, which uses applesauce, winds up as more of a dough spread loosely on top, and the graham cracker crust ends up being the crumbly part.
Why make a graham cracker crust pie? A variety of reasons. First of all, its easier. You can keep a graham cracker crust for awhile in the pantry, without losing freezer real estate, having to roll anything, and without people judging you for not making your own crusts. It is also healthier, especially because you can get a low-fat graham cracker crust. My main deciding factor was that I had one on hand and I don't make pie crusts. Personal policy. I just don't do it.
I found this recipe here and I tried it with the apples we picked last weekend. I used Granny Smith, although they are actually still a little tart for the pie. I might try it with a milder apple. I have made some other modifications.
Ingredients:
3-4 apples, sliced thinly (I don't peel them, because its more interesting and healthy if you include the skins.)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Graham cracker crust, prebaked in 9-inch pan
***
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (if you want a more crumbly crust, use 1/4 cup butter, softened but not melted)

Procedure:
1. Combine all pie ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine. Pour into a graham cracker crust.
2. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until crust is hard.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008

This is my first time participating in Blog Action Day. This year's topic is poverty, and I decided to educate myself more on the issue of Fair Trade Products. I couldn't get this up yesterday because my internet was down, so a day late, here it is:
The major fair trade industry, in which the fair trade product is only a little more expensive than the conventional, is coffee. I don't drink coffee, so this has always been a nonissue for me.
Fair trade coffee supports local farming coops and helps eliminate the middleman. Fair trade other-products achieve the same thing (including in your cosmetics). Ultimately, you pay very little more and the people on the other end of the spectrum get a lot out of it.
So what are some of the most common products that you can buy fair trade?
Coffee, tea, sugar, honey, bananas, cocoa, wine, as well as cotton and handicrafts.
I try to eat organic, as well as local. Eating local is also very important for alleviating poverty, as well as helping the environment, because when farmers don't have to pay for shipping costs or try to expand their farms to compete with big midwest farms, they are able to live off their farms. But I think now I am going to start trying to eat/consume more fair-trade products.
So I'm wondering, what can I buy fair trade?
Sugar, for example, is something I don't buy frequently. And while the bone-white sugar at the local megamart is cheap, buying a bag of fair trade sugar elsewhere might cost only a little more, and only sting once.
My options for fair-trade bananas are limited, because Shoppers only carries one kind of banana. I buy wine local (Basignani Riesling - best wine ever.)
Fair Trade Certified, the organization that certifies fair trade, offers a list of helpful shopping locations. They also tell you the logo to look for on packaging that is fair trade certified.
Another important thing to consider is buying fair trade cosmetics. Body Shop cosmetics are purchased via "community trade" which is the same concept (as well as cruelty free), and while they are more than you probably currently spend on shampoo, they are still cheaper than buying organic cosmetics. (And buying organic does not mean it is fair-trade certified.) And again, will paying a couple dollars more for shampoo or coconut scented body lotion really hurt that much at the end of the month?
While there are many ways to use food to eliminate hunger, there aren't a lot of ways to eliminate poverty through food. So consider harnessing your consumer power and supporting people around the world. If you still can't get your head around paying a little more for products, consider it a charitable contribution to working individuals in the third world (or as John McCain would say, "countries that don't like us very much"). It may not be tax deductable, but instead of paying for the overhead and operating costs of a nonprofit with your $20 donation, you are paying for working families to be in their villages and not in exploitative garment factories. You are helping people to empower themselves. And yes, you are helping to end poverty.

Monday, October 13, 2008

PYOP - Pick Your Own Pumpkins

Yes, dear readers, it is That Time of Year - pumpkin patching time, that is!
This weekend, hopefully, I will be out picking pumpkins with the boyfriend and his family. I am also cautiously optimistic that we will be able to pick apples and butternut squash. Hopefully I will have my camera charged and assembled for this event, and then can take pictures.
I hope its just slightly cool so we have to wear jeans and ruggedly outdoorsy jackets and look like an L.L.Bean ad. Weather.com says rainy :-p and 58. But its only a few showers.
I am determined to try making a pumpkin pie from scratch this year. Mark, his family, and my family don't like pumpkin pie, so I'm not sure who is eating my pie.
I am debating whether I will tackle the crust of the pumpkin pie myself. I usually use store bought crusts, for a variety of reasons, the biggest one being that I can't handle rolling the crust dough myself. Also, the amount of butter I have to put in a crust makes me uncomfortable.
I'm considering experimenting with a graham cracker crust for both pumpkin and apple pies. Especially if I use those cinnamon-covered graham crackers...
What is your favorite kind of pie? (And if you don't like pie, what is your favorite thing to do with pumpkins and/or apples?)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Best. Thing. Ever.

I'm carbo loading for my half marathon next weekend, so this has led to the pantry being full of pasta and the fridge being full of bagels.
I picked up a box of pasta salad from target yesterday. It was their Archer Farms brand of "Tuscan Basil Pesto Pasta Salad." I normally stay away from pasta-salad-in-a-box because somebody puts mayo in it and mayo is gross. But you can make this with olive oil and it is fantastic. You can also make it with mayo, but why would you?
It says it makes 6 servings but we only got 4 out of it - probably because I used it as full meals and not a hearty side.
It's pretty much just ordinary pasta salad, except that it is fantastically delicious. And it was about $4 for a box - which is $1 for a meal. It's a little more than a PB & J, but its more gourmet than a PB&J as well. It's still way less than you would pay for pasta salad by the pound at a grocery store.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brie and Pear Sandwich

I went to costco yesterday. This means today, I have too much of everything. I bought a full round of brie, and a case of pears.
So for lunch? Pear and brie sandwich.
I'm not gonna bother with a full recipe, because if you know how to use the internet, you should know how to make a sandwich.
Slice a pair thinly. Take some bread. Spread some brie on the bread. I put about four pieces of brie on each piece of bread, then melted them in the toaster oven. Once melted, the brie spreads easily. Layer sliced pears between bread and toast for another minute.

Yummy!

What is your favorite thing to do with brie? I have 9/10ths of a round left!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Baked Salmon with Coconut or Chile Crust

Last night I was looking for a new thing to do with salmon. So I hunted on Allrecipes and came up with a recipe for baked salmon with coconut crust. I love coconut, but somebody I live with doesn't. So I changed the recipe.
Coconut Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 6oz. salmon fillet (I buy them frozen from costco or trader joes, but fresh is probably fine too)
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Cooking oil spray
Chile Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 6oz salmon fillet
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chile powder, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Cooking oil spray
Equipment
  • shallow pan
  • nonstick cooking pan
  • Oven at 400
Procedure:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine bread crumbs, salt, pepper and dried coconut flakes or chili mix into a shallow container (I use a lid of a tupperware, a plate or something will work.)
  3. Brush salmon with juice
  4. Dredge salmon in crumb mixture to coat both sides. Place on pan. Pat extra crumb mixture over top of salmon. (Really stick it on there.)
  5. Cook for 12-15 minutes until delicious.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers With Garlic and Cilantro Drizzle

I found this recipe in my Fitness Magazine and got so excited I almost fell off the elliptical.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, halved, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 24 pieces)
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and ribs removed, cut into 1-inch squares (about 24 pcs)
  • 6 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 1/2 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs minced fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Equipment:
  • Grill (medium-hot fire)
  • 8 skewers - if wood, soak in water for 15 minutes, then drain
  • small bowl
  • Baking sheet
Procedure:
  1. Thread shrimp, pepper, and pineapple onto skewers. Lay on baking sheet.
  2. Brush with olive oil (I'm going to try using spray).
  3. Combine olive oil, lime juice, garlic, cilantro, salt, sugar, and pepper, set aside.
  4. Grill kebabs (the recipe suggests creating a foil strip and putting the skewers with the exposed end over the foil strip, to prevent them from lighting on fire), approx. 3 min on each side

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dream Kitchen

By the way, I'm sometimes struck by bouts of insomnia. Tonight, obviously, is one of those nights.
Anytime we move, I decide we need new stuff. I think its pretty natural. New place = shiny new things. I am a law student living on a fixed income, and the boyfriend is a poor roller coaster engineer, therefore we don't spend a lot of money on well, anything. We spent today painting our Gorm shelves from Ikea so they looked less like knotty pine and more like something people would use inside their apartment instead of in the garage.
Sometimes we spring for things we really want or need, and spend the money on them. So far, there is nothing that I've spent real money (more than $15) on for my kitchen that I regret.
My miniature food processor? Definitely a good purchase.
Our wok? Could not have made nearly as many delicious stir-frys without it.
Crockpot? Combined total of $22 for the mini and the huge, definitely worth it.

That may very well be the list of things in the kitchen that cost more than $15 that we spent money on. Some things were gifts - some we use, some we don't.
My favorites include the two we got last Christmas. A "Vidalia Chop Wizard" from my boyfriend's parents, and a crepe pan from his aunt. (If you never thought a crepe pan was necessary, by the way, you are wrong. Buy a pan, and a thing of crepe mix, and I promise, you won't regret it.) My mom also gave me a flexible silicone-coated spatula that I love.

I am extremely lucky to already own a set of anodized aluminum pots. They were a housewarming gift from my Dad when I went off to college. He also gave me a stand mixer for Christmas three years ago, but two years ago, I gave it back to him for Christmas. I had extremely limited kitchen space, and my roommate already had a hand mixer. I then bought a hand mixer as well, to keep at the boyfriend's until we moved in together.

But if I was outfitting my apartment kitchen, with my dream supplies, what would I buy, right now? Our kitchen is big, with a lot of counter and cabinet space, and a single basin sink.
I would love to get a giant magnetic strip that we mount behind the stove, for the purpose of sticking magnetic spice jars to - something like this -but not freestanding. Our current spiceracks take up too much space. However, eventually I will have a house with my own spice emporium or something, and therefore something like this doesn't make sense for the long term.

I would also very much like a cookbook holder. Especially one with a sheild. The only reason we don't own one of these is that there aren't any that will hold the Joy of Cooking. And if you know me at all, you know that is The One Ring of cookbooks, and a cookbook holder that does not fit that makes no sense.
I also really want one of these - I just think they must be extremely handy, and save valuable counter space. We got my sister one as a wedding gift. She says its useful. I think it might not be as handy once we no longer have a single basin sink. We may eventually have either a double basin or dual sinks - one on the island and one by the dishwasher. The island rinse sinks are much smaller, which would make this impractical.
Additionally, I would like to buy a tortilla warmer. (This is actually on the list of things I can afford, and also I think I saw one at goodwill.) I do wonder - am I supposed to microwave the tortillas in it? Or just put the warm tortillas I just finished making in it? (FYI - making your own tortillas? Not worth it.) I never thought of it as a pancake warmer before - now that it is no longer a total unitasker, I think I could justify the $8. (Probably $2 down at the Lot Store in College Park.)

I'm making do with the hand mixer I have for now, because it works perfectly well. It has some flaws, and I definitely should not have bought the cheapest hand mixer available at Target. Unlike the much nicer, and only $5 more model, the Oster $12 mixer does not come with its own storage case, and it only came with two sets of beaters. Eventually I would like to get a nice stand mixer, preferably the Hamilton Beach Eclectrics Stand Mixer, because I hate KitchenAid and their overpriced behemoth mixers. (Oh, but they look so good. Oh, but they are the best. No, no they are not. You are stupid. And ugly. And clearly, you never had a SunBeam Mixmaster. Which they don't make like they used to. And Hamilton Beach will probably stop making these by the time I get married, and I will have to register for a stupid KitchenAid. Whatever. I'm taking the label off and covering it in flames, ala Alton Brown.) This makes the next sentence hysterical. As a hand mixer, because I firmly believe that you can own, and use, both, I like the KitchenAid 9 Speed. Mostly, I want the slow start, and a lot of speeds. As is KitchenAid's trademark, the product is probably about 20% better than the competitor's and yet 3x as much.
I do believe the hand mixer by KitchenAid is a better product than their stand mixer. Here is why I hate the stand mixer - the single beater. You can't scrape around it. It's huge. It takes up the whole bowl. You have to beat everything, and then scrape at the end. Plus, the bowls do not stack as nicely as the SunBeam Mixmaster Bowls, and they are not nearly as universal. How am I supposed to stack the bowls with the handles?? WTF! Plus, the base is so narrow!
The Hamilton Beach does not actually solve any of these problems. But you pay a lower price to have to deal with them, and with the $130+ (depending on whether I felt the need to buy the "display but never use" artisan series with a 325 watt motor or the "Pro 5 series" with a 450 watt motor; the HB has a 400 watt motor) I would save, there would be enough money to buy some extra mixing bowls, some super-narrow spatulas, and also, pretty much everything else that is up on my list of dream kitchen materials.
Also, KitchenAids are heavy. Because they are meant to be out all the time on the counter as a display of your affluence, culinary expertise, and ability to color-coordinate your lime green mixer with your matching curtains.

This has gone in a rant-heavy direction, clearly fueled by not enough sleep. I will finish this post later.

Stir-Fry

I haven't made stir-fry in awhile. I don't know why, but I haven't really been in the mood. However, with school starting next week, we will probably be stir-frying more for several reasons:
1. It's fast.
2. It can be done entirely from pantry and freezer items.
3. A monkey can do it, even while reading her Bus. Orgs. Textbook.

To stir fry, I usually use three ingredients:
-Costco stir fry vegetables (also available at the grocery store, but I like having a 10lb bag of veggies in the freezer).
-Tofu or shrimp (depending on what is on hand. I also buy the shrimp at costco. Costco does not yet sell giant bags of frozen, sliced tofu, but when they do, I will do a dance.)
-Stir fry sauce/marinade. I've already written an ode to the yellow curry sauce at Trader Joe's, but I'm also a fan of any kind of sweet and sour sauce, or soy sauce mixture. Mark will just use straight up soy sauce, but I find it extremely salty. I like to peruse the stir-fry aisle at my local hippie mart or mega mart to find new mixtures.

I use the following equipment:
-a Wok
-a cutting board, if I'm using tofu; a colander if I'm using shrimp.

We finally broke down and bought a wok last fall. We got the smallest, cheapest wok we could find that fit my strict requirements:
1. Either not too heavy or had an additional handle. (That is one long handle and one small handle perpendicular on the opposite side of the wok.)
2. Nonstick coating.
3. Made of thick enough metal that the first time I left the stove on too long, it wouldn't burn.
My dream wok was something like this.
We wound up getting something more like this. (I think ours was $20 at an outlet.)
At least it came with a lot of extra bamboo pieces for steaming or something. I don't use them - anyone know how to use any of them? Because I can't put my frozen vegetables on that bamboo rack. I sometimes use the spoon. And the chopsticks, but only to see if my cakes are done in the center.

I do recommend a wok. You can get a cheap one that will still be better for stir frying than the average frying pan. This is mostly because frying pans do not fit enough food, and you can't push all the vegetables up on the side while you cook the shrimp or tofu at the end of the meal.

I don't actually know how to use a wok. I'm sure there are real methods of using them, but I stick with my hamburger helper approach. (1 Pound of Hamburger + 1 Pan = 1 Happy Family)

Comments

It wasn't until this weekend I was told that people were commenting on this blog. It is very exciting to me because I really thought that only Mark and Andy read this. Cool.
I've now enabled email notification, so now I will know when people comment and actually respond.
But for now - responses to some earlier comments.
Catherine - here is a recipe for Amish Friendship Bread Starter. If you make any, I'll take a cup of starter off your hands at some point.
Taylor - try grilled pineapple kebabs with shrimp (I'll be posting a recipe for Cilantro Glazed Pineapple Shrimp sometime soon, I was hoping Fitness Magazine would have it online already, but alas, no) or you can freeze the remaining pineapple and then use it to make pina coladas. Or you can do what I would do, and eat the entire thing.
Scrappy Mom - I cooked the potatoes au gratin in the crock-pot for about 6-8 hours on low, but they were a bit burned - my crock pot cooks very hot though, but my guess is 6 hours would still have been enough.

Aprons

I sometimes wonder if I, like all the other ironic bakers out there -and by that, I mean women who take to the kitchen and bake cupcakes fully aware that they are possibly reinforcing decades-old ideals about women in the kitchen baking cupcakes - should be wearing a kitschy retro apron.
It makes the ironic baking experience even more ironic.
Pretty much only real chefs and ironic bakers wear aprons at all. I guess some guys who barbeque have their "Kiss the Chef" aprons. My boyfriend wanted to get his sister an apron last Christmas. I told him to not be fooled by the fact that I wear an apron, as I am not indicative of the rest of the cooks and wanna-be cooks out there. I wear an apron because I'm messy. And because I'm usually too lazy to get out a dishtowel to wipe my hands, and I only have one pair of jeans.
Nonetheless, I don't have $32 to spend on a cute apron that nips in at the waist and will make me look skiny. Mine is a barbeque apron built for men, but on sale for $7 because it was bright blue with a girlie fish on the pocket. The only downside is that it doesn't have an adjustable neckstrap like my old apron. (Which I think is buried under laundry at my parents house.)
I do think sometimes about getting a new apron. But would I go with the polka dots? Or perhaps a "beyond a reasonable trout" apron for the lawyer in me? Both are ironic, but in different ways. (BRT is ironic because lawyers do not have time to cook.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Honey Rum Beans

So I tried to make my own honey-rum beans tonight.
Into the slow cooker went:
1 can Kidney Beans
Capt'n Morgan's Rum
Honey
Cinnamon
Brown Sugar
1 tsp Cornstarch

I sorta guessed at the amount. The beans, a couple splashes of rum, some squeezes of honey, a few shakes of cinnamon, tablespoon or so of brown sugar, and then the cornstarch all go into the slow cooker.

Haven't eaten the whole batch, but I sampled and then had to be pulled away from the slowcooker.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cooking with Rum

Having just gotten back from a week in the Carribbean, I'm eager to try some new recipes that will hopefully mimic stuff I got to eat while I was there. Caribbean cooking is great because they use rum in everything. My three favorites were rum cornbread, honey rum beans, and rum cake. I'll be working on the cornbread first.
I found this recipe via Recipe Zaar for Rum Laced Caribbean Cornbread. I'll be trying it while I'm still out of school and reporting back.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons rum or 1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flaked coconut
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Equipment:
8 Inch Square Pan, greased
Oven at 400 degrees
Procedure:
  1. Combine butter, milk, eggs, and rum in a bowl. Whisk until combined.
  2. Add remaining ingredients, stir until moist.
  3. Spread in pan.
  4. Bake 40-45 minutes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Simple Pleasures

I went to the farmer's market today. There is one in Hyattsville where I work that is open on Thursday afternoons.
I signed up for the newsletter. Because the cheerful guy telling me to sign up told me, "if you got our newsletter, you'd know that today we'd have PEACHES!" I told him I don't like peaches, but I signed up anyway. Then he said it, "we have berries." Berries...
I stopped by the vegetable stand first. I needed food for dinner. I bought green beans and redskin potatoes. Then I saw the berries. A little too expensive, but way too delicious looking to resist. I took a half pint of berries.
Then, on my way out, I stopped and bought a mini-bag of fresh donuts. If you've never seen a donut maker, they're awesome. The donut maker squeezed out four donuts into boiling oil and then they travel through and get flipped and then drain and then they fall. It's awesome. And they were delicious.
When I got home, I washed the berries. Then I ate about half of them before my better nature got to me and I decided to save some for Mark, and also to use them to top the cheesecake.
But one of the simple pleasures in life is standing barefoot in the kitchen, eating a perfect raspberry, fuzzy and totally ripe.
Often we think of food as fuel, or as the enemy. We sometimes stop thinking of it as what it is - simply delicious.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

Amish Friendship Bread is delicious. It is also the worst chain letter ever. You are supposed to give a ziploc bag of starter to somebody else. I'm not sure how to make starter. Once you get the starter, you will eventually create four cups of starter - three to give away. The problem is if you don't have three friends, or when you show up at a friend's house with a bag of goo and they look at you. So if you are in that situation, keep reading.
So once you get the starter from somebody, you follow the steps below.
Day 1 -6/9 - Do nothing
Day 2 - 6/10- Mush the bag
Day 3 - 6/11- Mush the bag
Day 4 - 6/12 - Mush the bag
Day 5 - 6/13 - Mush the bag
Day 6 - 6/14 - Add 1 cup each flour, sugar, milk. Mush the bag
Day 7 - 6/15 - Mush the bag
Day 8 - 6/16 - Mush the bag
Day 9 - 6/17 - Mush the bag
Day 10 - 6/18 - Follow directions below

Pour the entire contents into a non-metallic bowl.
Add 1.5 cups each flour, sugar, milk.
Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 one-gallon ziplock bags

For the remaining batter:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil
.5 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamom
.5 tsp vanilla
1.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 5.1oz box of instant vanilla pudding

Grease a pan. Mix .5cup sugar and 1.5 tsp cinnamon. Dust pan with half the mixture. Pour the batter into the pan and dust with remaining mixture.
Bake 1 hour, cool 10 minutes.


What to do with the extra batter:
If you have four ziploc bags of batter, follow the steps again. If you know you won't give them away, put two cups in each bag and only use two bags.
Then - use the two sets of starter and follow the remaining directions, without adding the 1.5 cups of flour, sugar, and milk.

I also tried substituting the oil with applesauce and used sugar/fat free pudding. It came out tasting more like applesauce cake, and might be great with a little nutmeg and allspice.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Review

I tried the Light Zucchini Cream for Pasta the other night. Pretty good, except I added some cream cheese to make it creamier. I ate it with whole-wheat pasta, and green beans on the side. Delicious.

Meal planning

Mark and I are striving to do two things: Lead a more sustainable/environmental existence and meal-plan. Fortunately, the two work out well together. We have a farmer's market here in Columbia that is open on Sundays. It is in a parking lot of a grocery store. We pick up fresh produce, and then get whatever else we need from the grocery store. Everything (usually) goes in reusable blue giant bags.
Today we got zucchinis, fresh basil, asparagus, tomatoes, and yellow squash. I also got some cucumbers because I like them.
I'm starting to find recipes for this week - here is tomorrow's, courtesy of Giada De Laurentis

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Parmesean Crust
Ingredients:
4 small new potatoes (red or white, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter)
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 lengthwise (about 1-inch wide by 5 inches long)
Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Procedure:
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let cool. When cool, cut the potatoes in half.

Place a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary and let cook until the butter melts, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, season the cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper. Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes cut side down in the melted butter. Let them cook until golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet cut side up. Sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan. Place in the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate and serve.

I'll let you know how it is!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Other Waffles

Imagine my surprise to realize I'd already posted the same waffle recipe! Sorry guys!
Here instead is the recipe for silver dollar pancakes, which I haven't made in awhile but are also delicious.
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 oz sour cream
Equipment
  • 2 bowls
  • griddle
  • turner
Procedure
  • Mix dry ingredients.
  • Mix wet ingredients.
  • Mix together.
  • Cook. If you don't know how to cook pancakes, you should find a cooking for beginners blog.

Joy of Cooking Waffles

If you're a longtime subscriber, you know I love the Joy of Cooking. If you don't own it, trot over to Amazon right now and buy it.
Here is a recipe for simple, delicious waffles. I like to halve it, because its just two of us, but you might need to make all six.
Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 to 1 cup butter, melted (I use oil instead, for the sake of unsaturatated fats)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
Equipment
  • 2 mixing bowls
  • whisk
  • waffle iron
Procedure
  1. Mix all dry ingredients.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  4. Cook on waffle iron.
Yum!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sweet Potato Tacos

My boyfriend's ex-girlfriend gave him a slow-cooker cookbook (and Indiana Jones!!!) for his birthday.
This recipe is one of my favorites. Who would have thought that sweet potatoes are deliciously fantastic in tacos?
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsps ground cumin
  • 1 large sweet pototo, peeled and diced
  • 1 can black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed and drained
  • Shredded monteray jack cheese
  • Flour tortillas
Equipment
  • 4-6 quart slow cooker
  • Prep bowls
Procedure
  1. Combine spices in a small bowl.
  2. Layer ingredients in the slow cooker in the following order: sweet potato, beans, half of spice mix, garlic, onion, pepper, remaining spice mix, corn.
  3. Cover and cook on Low for 5 hours or until delicious.
  4. Pile into tacos, add cheese, eat.

Judging.

It never fails to amaze me how judged some people can feel by other people's choices. I'll preface this by saying that I am guilty of it as well.
But when I tell people I'm a vegetarian, the reactions are one of three:
1) "I used to be a vegetarian, but then X happened and now I'm not."
2) "I would be a vegetarian, but I think it's too hard/meat is delicious/I hate vegetables."
3) "You shouldn't be a vegetarian - you won't get enough protein/meat is delicious"
I don't care why you're a vegetarian, and you shouldn't care why I am. It's okay to ask why. It's not okay to tell me that I'm going to die sooner because I don't eat enough protein or that humans are meant to eat meat. You are actually the one who will die sooner, because you eat too much protein and humans aren't meant to eat meat. But I don't tell you that when you order a hamburger so let me eat my veggie burger in peace.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Light Zucchini Cream for Pasta

I haven't tried making this yet, but it looks delicious!
Recipe is from VegWeb, I'll edit/update once I've actually tried it. I think this might be really good with some ricotta cheese (because I'm not a vegan).
Ingredients:
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
    salt, pepper, any seasonings you prefer
    olive oil or cooking spray
  • pasta, any type
Procedure:
Bring water to boil and start cooking pasta. (This amount of sauce is enough for about 10oz of pasta.)

Roughly grate zucchini and carrot. I like to leave the skin on zucs because those tiny green pieces of it look very pretty.

Chop onion and mince garlic.

In a skillet fry onion and carrot in some olive oil (or use cooking spray) until onion is clear. Add grated zucchini and garlic and saute for 5 minutes until it's done.

Transfer into blender and run it until the sauce gets all creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Your pasta should be done by now. Drain it. Return sauce to a skillet, add pasta and heat a minute or so.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Yellow Tofu Curry

I made a delicious dish last night. It's a yellow curry, which is the least spicy of the thai curries, and was made using a yellow curry sauce from my local gourmet food store (read - Trader Joe's).
Ingredients:
1 yellow pepper
2 red peppers
1 onion
1/2 block tofu
flour
Frozen or canned pineapple (or fresh)
Vegetable oil
1/2 bottle Trader Joe's Yellow Thai Curry Sauce

Equipment:
Vidalia Chop Wizard (or vegetable knife)
knife and cutting board
paper towels or dishtowel
frying pan
wok
shallow plastic dish to hold flour to coat tofu

Procedure:
  1. Chop vegetables.
  2. Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes.
  3. Coat tofu lightly with flour.
  4. Heat approx. 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil in frying pan.
  5. Fry tofu until cripsy and brown on all sides.
  6. Drain on paper towels/dish towel. Set aside.
  7. Heat small amount of oil (1tbsp) in wok.
  8. Add onions. Cook until transparent.
  9. Add peppers. Cook until light red instead of bright red.
  10. Add sauce.
  11. Add tofu.
  12. Stir until coated and heated.
Can be served over rice or noodles.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Cupcake fat replacement

Last night I made applesauce cupcakes - that is cupcakes with applesauce instead of oil. I made a half batch, so just twelve, which is too many as it is. But they came out delicious and fluffy, which has been a problem in the past.
This time, I replaced the full amount of oil with an equal amount of applesauce. I had read somewhere to only use half as much applesauce, but that's not going to work as well. So I was making a half batch, so I used a half of a third of a cup (I love my OXO measuring cups that have half markings on them!) of applesauce. I also used egg whites, two egg whites instead of one and a half eggs. I whipped them up with the mixer for about a minute until they were at that almost ready to fluff stage, but not peaking or anything. I think this contributed to the fact that the cupcakes were not as dense as they were the last time.
I used the full half-cup of water. They say sometimes to reduce the water when using applesauce, but I didn't and it was fine.
Using unsweetened applesauce and egg whites takes out most of the fat from the recipe, and they taste just like normal cupcakes that you might make from mix. I was using white cake mix, and you really can't taste the difference.