Monday, January 25, 2010

Cooking hiatus?

I talked to a friend yesterday who mentioned that he has basically stopped cooking, other than veggie burgers. He survives, it sounds like, entirely on milk, cheese, raw veggies, and veggie burgers. (And beer, for the carbs, I think.)
So I got to thinking - how much time that must save! How nice it must be to just come home and drink a giant glass of milk while nibbling on some carrots and brocolli, instead of worrying about cooking.
I won't be doing this, because I really don't like milk. I like chocolate milk, and I drink it sometimes, but usually I just grab a diet shake (fortified with protein and vitamins) instead.
But I began to wonder how long I could live for off of 5-minute meals without getting bored or missing food. Simple tacos/burritos, salads with pre-made tofu, veggie burgers, microwaveable meals, a pre-made mix of stir fry veggies coupled with a curry sauce; canned beans and minute rice. I'm not sure how this would go - I love foods that simmer. In fact, I love food too much generally - I love to savor what I'm eating. I love to really enjoy my meal. But this semester, 5-minute meals don't seem like such a bad idea. Neither does coming home to a carton of milk and a hunk of cheese. So for the next month, which we'll plan at the end of this week, I think I'm going to try to add some more "quick-fix" meals instead of meals that take a little longer. (Didn't really think about night classes when I made the first plan.)
This week? Mac & Cheese with stilton; goat cheese tacos; devilishly delicious seitan chilli, and salmon with pearled couscous. Chili simmers in the crockpot all day; tacos take 5-minutes, so I think that salmon and the mac & cheese will be the two most time-consuming meals of the week - but still, not bad.

What do you do to deal with time and effort in the kitchen? How do you cut down on one or both without sacrificing flavor, health, or cost? Can we have it all?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Butternut Squash Pizza

You know how sometimes you eat something and you just wonder "how did I live my entire life without eating this?" This pizza is such an item.

We've been keeping pizza crust dough on hand, so when I found this recipe at school and sent it to Mr. Barefoot, we knew we could do it for dinner that night, cuz we didn't have to make the dough. I highly recommend keeping it on hand - if you buy this book, which you should, the thin crust dough recipe makes 3 crusts - just freeze one and refrigerate one. (I don't know how long it keeps for - ours made it 2 weeks.

The only way we modified this recipe was to skip the rosemary cuz we were out; and pre-bake the crust. Mark did all the butternut squash prep work, which I appreciated muchly. I did the dough rolling, which was way too easy. I then baked the crust for 10 minutes at 400 while the squash and whatnot softened up. Then I added the squash and onions to the crust, put it in at 450 for 8 minutes, then added the cheese (and we used about a half-cup to a cup of cheese).

I didn't take pictures because it was too delicious and needed to be in my mouth stat, so hopefully next time I'll remember.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog for Choice Day

I'm going to keep this short, because well, there's not a lot to say about abortion and cooking. Except that to some people, it might seem odd or contradictory that a vegetarian/pescatarian is so fiercely pro-choice. And the answer is this:

I don't eat meat. But I'm not going to storm the halls of congress and yell about murder and how eating meat should be banned and be illegal.* I'm not going to set up a restaurant where everything is vegetarian but I lie to you and tell you it's meat. I'm not going to force feed you tofu or my opinions.

I also believe that the answer to abortion is in better prevention methods, more honest and open conversations, more sharing of information and ideas, and not in deadhanded government control to limit the practice. Truthfully, I believe the same about eating meat. I don't think I've convinced any of my friends to stop eating meat by preaching. But I do make it an effort to show them that a less meat-filled existence is possible, and to set an example, and to share what I know, and to share my food, and I think that's where change happens. When change happens in people's hearts and minds, it has an effect on the industry.

I would love to live in a world where all the meat is raised hormone-free and gets to see grass and sunshine. I would love to live in a world where we existed on mostly plants, helping to reduce global warming and hunger and poverty around the globe. I make the choices I make to try to see that happen. I believe that power as consumers is important here. I would also love to live in a world where abortion clinics close down, not because of protests and murders, but because of thoughtful choices by consumers to use more reliable methods of contraception, because the unintended pregnancy rate goes down, and because we make an effort to use effective methods of sex education.

So that is how I connect my personal beliefs about vegetarianism and my political belief favoring freedom of choice. How do you? And if you are pro-life, how do you connect eating meat with valuing life in all of it's forms? I'm not trying to make trouble - I'm genuinely curious. Share in the comments.

*Some people do this, but I wish they didn't. I suspect this will lead to back-alley butcher-shops and the raising and eating of livestock as pets, I suspect.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meatless Monday: Winter Lager Soup

I'm a big fan of cooking with beer, so when I was looking through a seasonal cookbook (Local Delectables: Seasonal Recipes from the Pioneer Valley) gifted to me by a friend and found a Winter Lager Soup, I was eager to try it. We cooked it in the crockpot even though it's a stovetop recipe, and it came out okay. There are some changes I would make for next time.


2 tbsp sunflower oil (I used olive oil)

3 ½ cups white onion, diced (I used one small onion - I think next time I would use the full 3.5 cups)

6 large cloves garlic, minced (we only had 2 cloves)

1 tsp dried rosemary

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried tarragon

1 tsp salt (I needed to add way more than 1 tsp)

3 lbs Russet potatoes, cubed (I think I came out with less than 3 lbs because the potatoes they had at Cross Street Market were lousy and full of eyes. Also, cube them fairly small - bite sized - something like 1/2 inch cubes)

1 ½ cups lager beer (I used Yuengling)

7 cups water (I used 6, because I was crockpotting. I think next time, with the crockpot, I would reduce this even more and use 3-4)

In a large stock pot, heat oil over med-high heat; sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned.

Stir in spices, potatoes, beer, and water.

Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. (Or put in your crockpot which cooks on crazy high heat and cook for 2.5-3 hours on high.)

Serve topped with whole wheat toast covered with melted Gruyere cheese. (I used whole wheat toast with melted parmesean cheese, but it added a whole other dimension to what would have been a watery broth. I also covered the soup with parm, which was also a nice addition.)

I also added a box of mushrooms to the soup, which gave it some more stuff, since we were eating the soup for dinner and not as an appetizer.

Verdict: The soup was okay - I think next time I would add more stuff to it, like carrots, celery, and white beans. It did smell amazing, and was nice and warm for the winter.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New mac and cheese.

I got a new cookbook for Christmas. You should all go buy it. I started out easy, with a recipe that made stovetop mac & cheese. I used this amazing pasta shape I bought from Safeway a few months ago but hadn't used. It's like elbow macaroni on crack. I'm so excited to make all these delicious and pretty recipes from this book.
This is Leah's Greek Mac & Cheese, which involves V8 and jack cheese and provolone and feta.
Interesting tip to add warm milk to the roux to make the flour absorb faster. Also contains allspice and cinnamon and oregano. Mr. Barefoot says it tastes like a creamy Greek dish that he has had before, in Greece.
I covered it with parm and served it with peas and broccoli. It was delicious. You should try it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Final Menu

Here is how our Winter 2010 Menu came out - I wound up covering with vellum instead of laminating it, because I had vellum. I would have preferred a transparency, but I don't own any of those because I'm no longer in the 5th grade. The vellum lets us cross out which meals we do but preserve the menu, which isn't that necessary since we probably won't cycle this plan for more than 4 weeks. I realized today I didn't put chilli on this menu. Or enough stuff with goat cheese. Or any kind of stuffed pasta. So probably going to mix it up after 4 weeks. Or just make chilli some weekend. I keep having to remind myself that 2 nights out of the week aren't planned.
I left room on the bottom of the bulletin board to attach shopping lists for specific weeks, or recipes to.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Crockpot Tip

When you are cooking something in a crockpot, and the food is kind of well, wet, or looks watery, just put a dishtowel under the lid to soak up the excess moisture. I use this for caramelized onions, mac&cheese, sweet potatoes, and some vegetable dishes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Meal Planning

Menu planning is always a challenge, but we talked on the trip about how to make our lives a little easier this year, and menu planning is a big one. We talked about doing a monthly menu, instead of weekly, ala Sew Liberated. Basically, you do all the meal planning at once for four weeks, and simply rotate. You also don't have to eat the things on the same day each week. I think four weeks is enough that we can cycle back to the beginning and not be sick of the foods we're eating. You also get 2 "gimme" days, when you can cook whatever you want.
Right now, I'm trying to decide whether the way to do this is specific recipes or more generally - for example, do I put in "mac & cheese" or do I put in "sweet potato mac & cheese". The benefits of going more general are that I can choose to do beer-leek mac&cheese instead, but the drawback is that it still leaves us somewhat menu-planning.
So right now, my list, if we go general, would look like this:
1. Tacos
2. Mac & Cheese
3. Risotto
4. Grill Night
5. Stir-Fry
6. Soup
7. Pasta
8. Fish

That isn't enough meals, so I think the answer is to go more specific. 20 meals are necessary to make this work, and they should be seasonal or year-round items. In early winter, this means quite a few potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans.
1. Sweet potato tacos
2. Traditional Mac & Cheese
3. Sweet potato barley risotto
4. Winter Lager soup
5. Burgers
6. Meatless sloppy joes
7. Barbecue tofu
8. Stir fry w/ rice
9. Curry
10. Minestrone soup
11. mushroom risotto
12. Chili/coconut salmon
13. Specialty mac & cheese
14. Goat Cheese/black bean/spinach tacos
15. Bean tacos (leaving general so we can do lentil or something else)
16. Pizza
17. Butternut Squash (I'm leaving this one general, as I don't know that much about what to do with Butternut Squash)
18. Salmon w/ cous cous
19. Mushroom "stroganoff"
20. Wild Card

I think a Wild Card meal is a good way to get to make something else - adds another "whatever" meal to the mix, in addition to the other two. I may swap one or two of these meals out for a Wild Card meal.

I wound up putting all of these into an Inkscape document and printing it out. Probably won't get it laminated just yet, because well, that sounds expensive. Although I do have teacher friends who might have access to a laminator. Oooh.

I'm thinking of the 5 meals as Sunday-Thursday - Friday and saturday nights are usually either a hodgepodge, leftovers, happy hour, dinner party, dinner out, or us cooking something together. I deliberately put a bunch of our Sunday "freezer meals" on the list - burgers, pizza, soups, so that those can be used for that day.

I also haven't planned sides - some of these meals are one-pot meals with veggies thrown in, and some will involve eating veggies. I find it's too difficult to try to plan the vegetables I'm eating until I get to the store. Oh, and check out this awesome link to figure out what is local and in season for you this Winter -

Bonarie Travel Notes

For this post, I will use this blog for it's intended purpose - a way for me to track and archive my own recipes, meals, and other food-related issues. If you regularly travel to small Carribbean islands in which you do not have access to regular grocery stores with regular hours, you might also find this list helpful. Mostly I wanted to remember what we used on the trip and keep it in an easy-to-access place. This is also a pretty good list of car-camping foods. Also, we had 3 couples each bringing food, and then combining it when we got there, so there isn't a lot of harmony on this list, and overall, I think we can all agree that we brought too much of some foods. There are also some foods we simply didn't get around to eating.

What we brought / What we ate:
Quinoa - 1 lb bag / 1/2 bag
Dried beans (1 lb black beans; 1 lb white) / 1 lb black
Pasta salad mixes from target / both eaten
1 small jar (3 inches high) and 1 regular jar peanut butter / small jar lasted the week - for sandwiches and apples; brought large jar home
Powdered pasta sauce / didn't eat
Velveeta Shells and Cheese - 2 boxes / eaten in one night
English Muffins - 1 pkg wheat, 1 pkg regular / both eaten
Frut snacks, rice crispie treats, trail mix / eaten
pistachios / eaten
peanuts / not eaten
pre-made beans mixes / not eaten
Mrs. Dash spice mix / went through about 1/2 a jar
butter / ate about half the container
rice - 1 lb bag /ate half the bag
canned corn - small can / eaten
granola / ate half a bag
canned tuna / ate about 2-3 cans
canned salmon / Mom and Dad Barefoot ate about 6 foil pouches
canned chicken / ate 1 can; Mom and Dad Barefoot ate about 4 more??
mayo / did anyone eat this?
salad dressing / used some to make the worst pasta salad ever
barbecue sauce / really good on mac & cheese, did not use otherwise
whole wheat pasta - 1 lb bag / this was a terrible idea
cereal - 1 box / didn't work that well b/c couldn't get milk until mid-week. ate half box.

Can be purchased in Bonaire - relevant for next trip - all items can be found at both Warehouse and Cultimara unless otherwise indicated:
Indian curry sauce mix/other mixes (at Warehouse Supermarket)
Tomato paste & pasta sauce
Sandwich meat, cheese, tomatoes (at Warehouse Supermarket)
apples (at Warehouse Supermarket)
garlic, onions (buy these at Cultimara if you don't want 10)
frozen veggies (peas and green beans mostly)
shredded cheese (Warehouse)
Cookies, delicious snack food, dutch sprinkles

Can't always find:
milk, stuff to grill, produce, salsa

In the future, we will probably bring, in addition or differently from what we brought this time:
1-2 cans of beans (heavier than dried beans, but worth it to not have to soak, and didn't eat full pound of dried beans that we cooked.)
taco seasonings and salsa (we did taco night midweek and it was a great idea)
tortillas (all that was available was frozen, bringing your own from the non-perishable section of the grocery store would not go amiss)
regular elbow macaroni and 1-2 packages of italian dressing (not whole bottle)
more pasta salad mixes
small package of bbq sauce
pizza crust mix/premade pizza crusts
spice mixes - hopefully we'll get these when we register and can fill them with delicious spices.

Good Post-Dive Meals
taco night (this was a really good idea, and done early in the week so we had plenty of leftovers)
mac & cheese (delicious after a night dive)
pizza (we didn't try this, but we will in the future)
grilling (if you can get fresh fish to grill - we did this in Caymans and it was fantastic)

Family Barefoot, feel free to chime in with your own comments on what worked and what didn't.

Meatless Monday: Travel Easy Quinoa

Today's Meatless Monday recipe comes from Sister Barefoot, who introduced me to meatless mondays (as a vegetarian, every day is meatless, but I really love the idea and I try to be really supportive of my sister and other people who enjoy meatless Mondays.) Sister Barefoot has gotten much better at cooking from her first post-college days, in which everything she made was out of a box. (It was all delicious - she knows all the right boxes. There is nothing wrong with out-of-the-box eating - it's a pretty cheap, healthy, and easy way to eat without eating out all the time. Just watch the sodium.)
We went to Bonaire for a week, which means that some things can be found in grocery stores and some things can't be. We were diving up to 3 dives a day, and after that, you kinda want to just come home and sit and relax, not get all dressed up (meaning brush your hair) and go out on the town. We went on one trip where we went out to dinner every night, and it got pretty expensive. I'm also simply not a big fan of restaurant dining. We had three meals out while we were there, one featuring local Bonairian goat cheese, and cooked the rest of the time. It worked really well for us, because we are a "slow travel" type of family. If that's not your game, that's totally cool - but this meal was so good, I will totally make it at home.
Ingredients (feeds 5 hungry divers w/ some leftovers, or 8-10 normal people):
  • 2 cups quinoa (brought from home)
  • 1 can tomato paste (purchased at Cultimara Supermarket)
  • Water
  • 1/2 package frozen peas (probably about 1-2 cups. (purchased from Cultimara Supermarket)
  • Optional: 1 pkg canned chicken (brought from home. If you don't like canned chicken, this is the best way to eat it.)
  • Salt & Pepper
  1. Rinse quinoa. If in a foreign land, use paper towels. If at home, use brand new quinoa friendly strainer you got for Christmas!!!!
  2. Add tomato paste and water to pot. You want to add enough water that there is approx. 2 cups of liquid.
  3. Add quinoa and seasonings. Cook for approximately 20-30 minutes, until delicious. If adding canned chicken, add after 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add frozen peas. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, until peas are hot.
This meal was delicious, and made great leftovers, warm or cold.