Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cookbook Project: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

It turns out that this whole "working wife" thing is no joke.  For APW book club, we read a book that said that most women, when they return to work, they continue keeping up the same load at home.  I have done that partly, because I work fewer hours than Mr. Barefoot.  I've also started a variety of obnoxious habits, like leaving work shoes and suit jackets everywhere and piling my pajamas in a heap on the stairwell (no, it doesn't make sense.)
Nonetheless, the Cookbook Project (suggested names welcome) has continued, and I've made two recipes, one last week, one this week.

A note about the Cookbook Project before I continue.  Firstly, a lot of you commented to say that you don't own cookbooks.  This isn't something I understand.  I love cookbooks.  I think they are wonderful, it is one of my favorite sections to browse at the store, and I would say that I do actually use 25% of our cookbooks on a regular basis (hence the project).  I use the internet a lot as well, but part of the impetus for this blog in the first place was that many of my favorite recipes were in cookbooks, and I didn't always have them with me.  So how many cookbooks do I have?  You tell me.
There are more in the living room, but that whole top shelf is cookbooks.  It is at least 30, but I think it is closer to 40.  
So I felt like I needed some ground rules.  The first is that I must follow the recipe as closely as possible and not add things.  Substitutions are acceptable as long as they are minor (regular garlic for elephant garlic, margarine for butter), or suggested in the book ("use broth or white wine").  But the point of this project is to try new recipes, and if I add things to recipes, they wind up tasting like something I already cook.  I can omit things that I do not have in the house, can't get, as long as they are for garnish.  I can remove things I don't eat, like meat, but otherwise, if I want to try the recipe, I have to keep the things I don't like.  

This week's recipe from The Stinking Rose cookbook was supposed to be last week, but life happened and I didn't have time to make an involved recipe.  So I had bought some radishes and I turned to Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  I love this book, and I'm really sad I had to "waste" it on a recipe as simple as braised radishes.

  • 2 Tbsp butter/olive oil
  • 1 lb radishes, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or you can use stock)
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • Chopped parsley for garnish (we didn't have any)  

  1. Combine butter, radishes, and wine in a pot, add salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  
  2. Cover and lower heat so the mixture simmers, and cook until the radishes are tender, 15-20 minutes.  Add additional liquid if necessary.  
  3. Uncover and raise the heat to boil off almost all the liquid, so that the vegetable becomes glazed in the butter/pan jices (5-10 minutes).  Taste and adjust seasoning, add lemon juice if you would like, garnish and serve.  

Easy and pretty good, although it would have been better with the lemon and chopped fresh parsley or another spice.  I've made something similar to this before, so like I said, I'm sad I "wasted" this book on something so easy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Rule

You know how you never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach?  Never go to Costco on an empty house. 

We haven't been grocery shopping in pretty much two weeks.  It's been pretty non-stop around here, between seeing friends and family and birthday dinners and trips home and things like that.  So we finally hit that point where we had eaten all the Wasa crispbread, all the frozen pizza, all the stocked freezer lunches, the last of the bread, etc. etc. etc.  We don't really even keep snack food in the house, and we were scraping down the bottom of the barrel on everything else, so I needed to make either a Costco or grocery run tonight after I gave blood.  Costco is closer, so I headed over there. 

When you don't have food in the house, you stock up as if a nuclear holocaust is coming.  So I bought freezer meals and thirty dollars worth of cheese and 8 boxes of pasta and a ton of sauce.  In my frenzy to make sure we Had Food, I picked up frozen pizzas and protein shakes and a sixpack of Lean Cusines and a bunch of other things we only sort-of needed and still won't make a meal. 

Now I'm home and I've come to my senses, a bit. But, I'm still not sure what we'll be eating for dinner tomorrow night. 

Monday, March 21, 2011


This list, of The Top 10 Signs You're Becoming a Better Cook, makes me feel much better.  Because my husband grumbles at me sometimes for not following recipes, or not knowing exactly how much of an ingredient I  use in a recipe, or substituting one thing for another.  And these, plus the fact that my parents trust us with Thanksgiving, except the turkey, are apparently signs of improvement and skill, and not laziness.

The only one I don't have down is 5.  I still consult my recipes pretty regularly, but mostly to remember what-all goes in something, or the right ratio of barley to water.  But I choose to believe that I need to use recipes because I choose to make increasingly complicated meals.

Do you think the signs are spot-on, like I do?  Or do you have your own list of what makes you a better cook?  (Like, the fewer times you have to throw away dinner or trash the leftovers, the more you are improving?)

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Have you had pavlova?  It's dessert pizza, with meringue for crust.  We had my aunt and uncle over for an Irish themed dinner and I made pavlova, which is technically from Australia or New Zealand, but it came up on a list of Irish desserts and I've been dying to make it.  When I announced I had made pavlova, my aunt said, "the last time we had that, we were in Ireland."  So, I felt pretty victorious.

This recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking.
Pavlova Meringue

  • 4 egg whites 
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tarter 
  • 1 cup caster sugar (just grate it in the food processor)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  1. Whip egg whites and cream of tarter until soft peaks form.    
  2. Add caster sugar slowly, a few tablespoons at a time.  
  3. Whip until stiff peaks form and egg whites are stiff and glossy.  (Joy of Baking recommends beating until sugar is no longer grainy.)
  4. Add vanilla extract and continue to beat.  
  5. Sprinkle cornstarch and vinegar over the top of the eggs and fold in with a spatula.  
  6. Spread pavlova into a circle on the un-shiny side of foil or the waxy side of parchment paper.  
  7. Bake at 250 for 75 minutes.  
Mine was underdone in the center and stuck to the parchment because I used the wrong side and undercooked it a little.  I would even consider going 80+ minutes and then turning off the oven and letting it cool completely with the meringue inside.  

To make the rest of it, just mix 1.5 cups heavy cream with 1 cup confectioners sugar and beat with a mixer until it forms whipped cream.  Spread over filling and top with sliced berries and other fruit. (I used sliced strawberries, blueberries, raspberries.)  

We finished this off and licked the platter clean.  I highly recommend making it if you have the time - it's a crazy-easy dessert that packs a really impressive punch.  

Small Batch Cupcakes

One of my favorite baking books is Small Batch Baking.  I love how on nights like last night, when I was craving something sweet, I could whip up a batch of cupcakes and eat half of them without feeling guilty, because half is just three.  These cupcakes were delicious, and the first time I've made cupcakes without using a mix, so I was very pleased they weren't a disaster.


  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • Vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  1. Heat oven to 350.  
  2. Combine buttermilk, egg yolk, vanilla, stir to mix.  
  3. Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder.  
  4. Add butter to flour, mix with an electric mixer until combined.
  5. Add half buttermilk mixture and mix with flour until well blended and changes color slightly.  
  6. Add remaining buttermilk mixture.  
  7. Pour into muffin tins or silicone baking cups (I got a set from my friend Catherine and they are awesome.)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp shortening
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Mix everything together with a hand mixer.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Project

So I started a new project.  We'll see how it goes, but the idea is that once a week, for however long it takes, I cook a new recipe out of a cookbook.  I keep going until I have made something from every single cookbook, or tried a new recipe from some old standbys.  We have so many cookbooks that I've never even cracked that this seemed like a good way to at least decide which cookbooks are good and which ones might get passed onward.  

Week One: The Working Wives' Cookbook.  
This vintage cookbook was a gift from my good friend Amy, and since I am now a working wife (although it does specify "salaried or otherwise"), I thought I would try to make something from this cookbook, which is filled with recipes that you can make ahead and then reheat the next night.  I picked Honeyed Carrots, since we had carrots and we needed to use them.  

 The ingredients list was pretty simple - take a bunch of (sliced) carrots, 4 tablespoons of honey, some salt, and some lemon juice, put them in a pan. Add water to cover, boil until the carrots are al dente and the liquid is half gone.  Refrigerate.
The next night, take 1 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp butter, combine in a pan to make a roux.  Add the carrots and stir the flour into the water until it thickens.

These were pretty good, and a way of eating carrots that has probably gone out of style.  The recipe was quite labor-intensive for something I was supposed to do at 8pm the night before, so I probably won't make them again.  I am encouraged to try to do more things with carrots though.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eggplant Parm, deconstructed

I'm totally coming around to crockpot pasta.  It's an easy way to deal with pasta, especially on a lazy Sunday when I don't feel like sauteing eggplant, boiling water, and cooking tomato sauce all at once.  This is a great recipe for a work-from-home person, since you do need to cook the eggplant first, and then add the tomato sauce and pasta later.

1 large eggplant
1 jar tomato sauce
1/2 box whole wheat pasta (if you use a full box, use 2 jars)
Garlic and lots of it
Veggie crumbles
Parmesan cheese

1. Peel and chop eggplant and put in greased crockpot.
2. Dice garlic, add to eggplant.  Add some more olive oil and salt.
3. Cook on high for 1-2 hours.
4. Add tomato sauce when eggplant is soft and tasty.
5. Add pasta and crumbles when there is about 45-60 minutes cooking time left.  (I rinse the pasta in a colander so it has a little more water.  You may want to do this too.)
6. Serve when pasta is cooked through garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gendered Cooking

This week, I'm going "back to work."  In that I finally got a real job, doing real things, for real people.  This is really exciting for me, especially because I get to finally and formally renounce housewifery, which I dislike immensely, so I'm pretty excited.  It also makes me nervous because it means Mr. Barefoot will be doing more of the cooking.  I usually don't like to talk a lot about issues in our relationship, but I think that navigating a dual-chef household is really tough, and so I wanted to share how things are for me in our house.  He's welcome to retaliate, but I'll try to share his perspective as well.

Others would argue with this statement, but I'm not a control freak. I generally trust other people. I delegate. I let things go when they aren't that important. At home, the only place where I'm not good at this is in the kitchen. And that's because, about half the time, my husband is simply wrong. He just...does things wrong. He uses the wrong pot, the wrong cutting board, the wrong knife. He has this totally weird need to use everything that is smaller than he could possibly actually need.  He thinks this is more efficient. He'll use a paring knife instead of a chef's knife, and then refuse to use the chef's knife because he already got the paring knife dirty.  He'll cram something in the smallest pan to marinate, or to cook, even if that means the thing being cooked gets squished or crowded.

He also follows recipes either too strictly or too poorly for my taste.  This is a ridiculous thing to complain about - that he either cuts things into too bite sized pieces or not bite sized enough, and they are simply NOT HOW I WOULD DO IT.  Somehow, this makes me irrationally angry.  Regardless, I know how annoying backseat cooking is, so I try not to say anything, usually leaving the kitchen.  Which annoys him, because he gets offended that I'm making him cook and am not keeping him company.  Which in turn annoys me.

He's also remarkably rigid about menus - if I get home later than planned, and dinner is going to take awhile, I'll usually skip the elaborate menu plan and meal that will take 30 minutes of prep and 30 minutes in the oven to cook something quicker.  Mr. Barefoot does not stray from the plan.  If the meal takes 30 minutes of prep and 30 in the oven, well, dinner will be ready in an hour.  Have a snack.  Mr. Barefoot also doesn't always start cooking as soon as he comes in the door, and doesn't mind eating at 7:30 or later.  I mind it enormously and get very very cranky when I'm hungry.  If it's not clear already, I'm the problem in this relationship. 

My habits that annoy him?  I come from the "go big or go home" school of cooking - use the biggest pot that makes sense, use the large cutting board, use the space that you have available. Since he usually does the dishes, this makes him crazy, so I've tried to scale it back, but been largely unsuccessful. 

I also don't put things away as I go, and tend to leave everything out on the counter, perishable or not, until he goes to do the dishes later that night.  So he tries to combat this by cleaning around me as I cook, which results in one of the following conversations:
"Are you done with the butter/milk/greek yogurt?" 
"Are you done with the butter/milk/greek yogurt?"

"Then why didn't you put it away when you were done with it?" 

Nobody wins in these conversations.  If anybody is wrong, well, it's me.  I should put stuff away as I go, or while the meal is cooking.  I am simply not lazy enough to just make dinner from a box, but am too lazy to put the butter back in the fridge. 
One of the realities of our situation is that I've developed a system. I know what size pot works for a half-box of pasta, I know what I can fit in a casserole dish. I know if I'm chopping three types of vegetables I use the big cutting board and if it's just an onion I use the small one. These are systems my husband doesn't have down, because like it or not, I've been the one doing most of the cooking since we moved in together three and a half years ago.

So how do I let go of the control and let my husband develop his own systems without backseat cooking or fleeing the scene?  How do we deal with the differences in our eating schedules?  Also, even though the food he cooks is usually delicious, creative, and cooked well, I still can't stand to watch his process, so how do I avoid insulting him when I don't want to be in the kitchen? 

Link Love

I started perusing a few other cooking blogs, including those of readers who have commented recently and many from links you all have on your blogrolls, the other day and have found the following recipes I want to try:

from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian: Butternut Squash and Chickpea Crumble w/ Caramelized Onions and other stuff

from Robyn Cooks:  Pizza with Sweet Potatoes, Leeks, and Blue Cheese and Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

from The Saucy Kitchen: Goat cheese ravioli (if I ever get the pasta making attachment for Darth) and Pasta Rustica

from I'll Have What She's Having, French Lentils with Feta

from Coconut & Lime, Salmon Pea Risotto

Anyone got any more links to share?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Black Quinoa Casserole

Mr. Barefoot wanted to try black quinoa when we were at the market recently, and picked it up.  It really tastes mostly the same as regular quinoa.

My new favorite thing to do with quinoa is cook it in the rice cooker.  It comes out really soft and delicious.  So this week, we made this recipe for dinner.  Instructions say to use the rice cooker, but you can also just make it on the stove.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 small can tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 red pepper (you can add more peppers if you want)
Frozen Corn (I bought grilled corn from Trader Joe's and it's great for this kind of recipe).
Taco seasoning
Greek yogurt


  1. Cook quinoa, tomato paste, and water together in rice cooker or on stove.  
  2. Saute onions, garlic, and red pepper on stove once quinoa is done. 
  3. Add quinoa, taco seasoning, and frozen corn.  Cook until corn is warm.  
  4. Serve garnished with greek yogurt if you'd like.  (I use greek yogurt instead of sour cream.  You could also use sour cream.)  

Has anyone tried Black Quinoa?  Is it somehow better for me than white quinoa?  Or is it just a little crunchier?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To CSA or not to CSA

Sister Barefoot got a CSA share last year and Mr. Barefoot and I watched jealously as she received fresh radishes, arugala, tomatoes, squash, and other veggies.  Okay, we weren't so jealous of the chard.  Chard is a little....gross.

So now we're trying to decide whether we want to get a half-share of the same CSA this year.  Is having fresh tomatoes and zucchini (zucchini bread!) worth the possibility of getting way more chard and kale than we can handle?

Part of figuring this out is to go through my cookbooks and see what recipes intrigue me.  I have a recipe for kale chips, which sounds a lot like eating that seaweed that you wrap sushi in.  Also chard frittata, which sounds like a pretty good way to mask the chard flavor.  I'm hoping to start making more casseroles, and I think casseroles are probably a great use for greens.

The pros of a CSA seem to be:
1.) Fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables come to us
2.) Don't have to go to the farmer's market every week
3.) Supporting a local farm
4.) Expand our horizons and eat different, crazy vegetables - and more of them, since we definitely don't eat enough vegetables.
5.) Approximately $13 a week, which is similar to what we spend on produce

The cons are:
1.) Vegetables we might not like at all, but feel like we have to eat all of since we've already paid for them.
2.) Don't get to go to the farmer's market every week (although I reminded Mr. Barefoot we could just go for the handmade mini donuts.)
3.) Harder to menu plan, since we won't know what we're getting until Monday night.
4.) Might end up with too many vegetables, and end up throwing things away.
5.) We could just take that $13 a week to the farmer's market and buy produce.

Do you have a CSA?  Would you recommend it to me?  Do you have any suggestions for great recipes for greens?  What can I do with chard?