Category Archives: Food

Adventures in Cooking

Tonight, I made pie. It was, shall we say, rustic. After the Sproutling had gone down for the night (with much protesting, because what if she misses something, I don’t want to eat I’m so hungry but oh so sleepy DON’T MAKE ME SLEEP!), I whisked myself off to the kitchen to make the long-overdue pumpkin pie we’d been planning for a while with the leftover Seminole Squash. The first half had gone into a magnificent black bean pumpkin soup (I’m currently having a love affair with the smitten kitchen archives and the cookbook which was a Christmas present).

Observe the too small crust, baked paper-thin and transparent. It certainly ain't pretty. But what of the flavor?

Observe the too small crust, baked paper-thin and transparent. It certainly ain’t pretty. But what of the flavor?

At Thanksgiving, I finally settled on My Favorite Pumpkin Pie Recipe, which is the Baking Illustrated Pumpkin Pie, only with fresh pumpkin (because, for some reason, the same people who think it’s perfectly reasonable to use fourteen different types of flour in a single recipe think that fresh pumpkin is just. too. damn. hard. and instead you should put canned pumpkin through the food processor, overload it with spices, and then recook it on the stove, making it necessary to temper in the eggs so they don’t scramble and then putting the whole mess through a sieve for a nice smooth texture) and my old faithful pie crust, which we usually make 4 at a time and freeze.

Oh, did I mention that our oven has no preheat indicator, no window to peek in, and the internal thermostat is off by somewhere betwen 75 and 100 degrees, depending on where you set it...

Oh, did I mention that our oven has no preheat indicator, no window to peek in, and the internal thermostat is off by somewhere betwen 75° and 100°, depending on where you set it…

So I started off with the pie crust from the freezer, only it wasn’t quite big enough for the 10″ pie plate, which I was substituting because last time this recipe filled a 9″ pie, 6 cupcake molds, and a mini-cake pan. And then as I measured out the leftover pumpkin, I discovered I only had 1 1/4 cups instead of 2, so I learned how to overcook sweet potatoes in our brand new microwave (which is really confusing that they’re overcooked because I used the “sensor cook” setting). Then I wanted to pulse the potato in the little Ninja blender, only I’d used that for tuna at dinner and I really didn’t want the flavors mixing, and the baby needed a snack so I ran upstairs while the crust was blind-baking and the potato was resting, then back downstairs to mix all the ingredients together, only Cooks Illustrated wants you to recook the pumpkin on the stove to get rid of the canned taste and then temper the eggs in since it’s all hot, but since I was starting with FRESH, I figured what the hell, and then my crust came out looking like ragged parchment paper, oh just shut up and eat your damn pie. It’s not even a holiday, unless you count Pumpkin Spoilage Avoidance Day, and you’re getting a pie so say thank you and go wash the dishes for me.

Oh wait, I think I hear the baby again.

Oh Right, This Again

The lovely peach crisp, adapted from a recipe in The Art of Simple Food. Only with a splash of bourbon, because cooked peaches, like a Kentucky grandmother, need a splash of bourbon to bring out true excellence. Wait, what?

Ben has started teaching summer camp this week, which he’ll be doing for most of the rest of the summer. I’m still at home trying to justify my continued existence (my grandmother tells me I’m gestating, which is a full-time job. I still feel lazy). Which means I’m trying to play housewife again. In case you don’t remember how this went last time, let’s just summarize with the fact that I fired myself after a week.

So task one as a housewife: make sure we have something to eat for most meals. That means meal plan! What did I plan this week to cook for us? The most decadent birthday cake possible, and a peach crisp.

Yes, that is actually all I managed to plan for meals. Yes, I should probably be fired again.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited about both the crisp and the cake. Especially the crisp, because it’s currently in the oven, although the monumental I-think-I-might-be-crazy cake is terrifyingly thrilling, too. But I really ought to have something more… nutritious planned out. Or maybe just a full meal. My last attempt at planning a meal? “Well, we’ve got fresh corn, and half a steak leftover from when Dad took us to dinner. So we can each have an ear of corn and about two ounces of steak. Oh, there may also be some beans, too.”

Seriously. Fire me.

Okay, to be fair, this time at least I bought us fresh veggies. And Ben is really excited about the baking projects, so he’s currently refusing to take my resignation. All of which means I’m doing somewhat better than last time, so I have another week to get my act together before this experiment turns disastrous. So next week’s goal: plan more veggies, and maybe work some meat into the equation.

P.S. Turns out Ben brought his leftover meatballs home from lunch, which meant we had TWO portions. So dinner became meatballs, buttered noodles, and those fabulous corn ears from the market. Not too shabby!

I Miss Wine

The other night, Ben made a fantastic spicy beef soup for dinner. Since it was our first real home-cooked dinner after nearly two weeks out of town with a week of electricity disruptions in between, it felt pretty special, so he asked me to pick out a bottle of wine to go with it (which also inspired me to actually clean off the dining room table, change the table cloth, and properly set the table for dinner). I picked out a Côtes-du-Rhône (one of my under $15 favorites, actually: a 2010 Dom Mousset Côtes-du-Rhône, for those who are interested in such details), and we opened it up.

I had myself a half glass (there are tons of studies on alcohol during pregnancy which show small quantities do absolutely NO harm to the developing fetus, and no I’m not getting drunk, so please keep your opinions on that subject to yourself). There are just no words for how transcendent it feels when I successfully pair a wine to a meal. When one sip of the wine and one bite of the food not only complement but enhance each other, each made better by the pairing.

When I’m back to being able to have a daily glass of wine if I want and it no longer feels silly to open a bottle just for a glass and a half, we’re going to explore finding our House Wines. I would love to pick a Norton for the red, but that depends on finding a good one that’s not to expensive to keep on hand. Failing that, we might look for a cotes-du-rhone or similar blend. For the white, probably a torrontes — versatile and inexpensive. I just need to find one that we can stock easily. That doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly only drink two types of wine. It just means we’ll have a go-to that’s always on hand.

Oh wine. I miss you.

Simple Bean Soup Recipe

A while ago, my cousins and I decided to all start blogging and sharing recipes. Meg shared this fantastic recipe for Bean Soup that we come back to all the time. It’s a great, no-hassle recipe that I point to whenever people say “cooking is hard and I have no time”. I ask them, do you have a can opener and a pot? Great, you can totally do this and it tastes amazing. Ben and I usually skip the “soup” aspect and just pour it over rice, but you could also serve with cornbread on the side. We’re in the process of finding our favorite cornbread recipes (more on that at a later date), so no recipe help there from us yet.

Meg’s blog got eaten somehow, so I haven’t had an easy way to point to the recipe when people ask. But Google Reader had it archived for me, so here it is: below is Meg’s post copied in its entirety.

Simple Three Bean Soup

from Sweet NutMeg by Meg

Today is a rarity in the Arizona desert. It has rained nonstop all day.

Tempe enjoys an average of 330 days of sun per year and receives an annual rainfall of only 9.36 inches total. So when this type of weather creeps in, I reach for a blanket and a book. I don’t want to spend a great deal of time focused on the act of cooking as that would impose upon my time sitting around. Tonight, I decided to go with a simple, healthy, yet extremely tasty three bean soup. I always have cans of beans hanging around the pantry. You’d think I was stocking up for the third world war or something… Three cans of beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of corn and some simple spices. You can let it simmer all day or have it ready in a half an hour.

The choice in spices can turn this from a hearty cold night’s dinner to a lite summer’s lunch.

  • 1 can Black Beans, drained
  • 1 can Kidney Beans, drained
  • 1 can Pinto Beans, drained
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 can Corn, drained
  • 1 Tbsp Dehydrated Onion
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Use 1 cup salty tortilla chips slightly crushed, shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream for topping

Add the three cans of drained beans, the can of tomatoes with juices and spices to a large pot over medium-high heat. Add water or chicken stock until your preferred consistency is reached. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for at least thirty minutes. Serve with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese or a dollop of sour cream. Serve hot with crusty bread.

In the summer, serve with tortilla chips and lime wedges!

Happy Birthday, Lilit!

Note the paws gripping the knee for dear life. If she holds on tight enough, the hat might go away...

Ben indulged my whims today in a major way, which is one of many reasons why he is so wonderful. See, Lilit turned 14 today (I think — I know it’s some time in April, and a few years back, I picked an arbitrary day because, well, she won’t know the difference).

I asked Ben if we could make her a birthday cake, which we did. He got out some of the ground pork to defrost while I was at work, and when I got home, we mixed it with some matzo meal (good breadcrumb replacement), put it in a mini cake pan, and baked it. It came out looking sort of like a hamburger, only with a lovely caramelized top. And Ben asked for party hats, so I made party hats for the three of us. Lilit was less than pleased with her party hat, but the cake pretty much made up for it. She liked that part.

SnOMG: Calm between the storms?

Hey look, we found our cars finally.

"Parking lot". See also: "car burial mound"

Well, we’ve begun to dig out finally. But yesterday, we decided to first brave the outdoors for the sake of a walk. My friend Niki lives just down the street from us, so we decided to hike over. And hike really was the applicable word.

Once out in the parking lot, we were able to figure out which one was Ben’s car. It seems that there was a bit of color showing on the side of the cars opposite our window. Also, it appears that he was parked right next to me. So much for guessing.


Too beautiful to disturb...

On our way, we passed the playground. It was absolutely covered in snow, and looked like a fantastic romp. But when we got closer, it was just… too pristine to mess up. So instead of sliding down a snow covered slide and romping across a bridge that looked like it couldn’t bear the weight of another flake, we sat briefly on a bench and admired the view. If you’ve ever sat on a snow covered bench, you’ll understand why I emphasize briefly. Thus, on we moved.

We followed our street (decently plowed down to about 2″ of snow, slush, and ice) out to the side road, where the plows had made some progress. We could walk on the one-car width lane along with the few other people who were out and about (all on foot). You could even begin to see cars along the side of the road!

N. Laurel Road, mid day Saturday

Look! I see a sideview mirror!

So along we went, making our way over to Niki’s house. We crossed an absolutely deserted All Saint’s Road which, despite being closer to categorized as the “main road” was less well plowed than our street. Hell, it was less well plowed than our little court!

Once at the intersection, we came to a conundrum: Niki’s house is around the back of her court, so we could either continue down the semi-plowed road and then double back across the possibly-yet-not-probably plowed court, or we could jump down the hill and blaze a new trail.

We jumped.

I think you can see where this is going. We followed a set of footprints till we got down the hill (finding the snow to be brushing over the tops of my knees). At the bottom of the hill, we had the choice of going around the backs of the building or hoping the front sidewalks were dug out. They were not. And the footsteps ran out. I had the lead, which meant I was the one who had the shock and horror of suddenly discovering that 33″ of snow and my 31″ inseam are really not an appropriate match. I mean, I had two layers of pants plus a heavy knee-length coat, but it just reaches a point where it doesn’t matter anymore. Especially when we turned the corner up to Niki’s sidewalk and I fell in. Perhaps “fell” is the wrong word. I really sort of just sat down accidentally. But it’s very difficult to stand up when you have nothing to push up against. Ben dragged me back up and we trudged the last painstaking feet to her shoveled walkway.

After a particularly warm and pleasant visit, we trudged back home (simpler and more populated than the way over). Once again on Gold Dust, we met our across-the-hall-and-downstairs neighbor and had a great chat with him. Ben decided to go back out and start digging out his car just in case his artistic director decided to make the poor choice of having a superbowl-sunday-snowpocolypse matinee, and I went inside and made cookies for the guys.

Dinner was a very hearty bean soup, courtesy Meg’s recipe. We substituted garlic powder for dehydrated onion (having none of the latter and much of the former), smoked paprika for cayenne (same problem), and added some sausage we had in the fridge. Because we like to stretch our proteins farther, we served it over rice, and ended up with a VERY filling and satisfying meal. Thank you, Meg!

So now we’re going to hunker down again and watch the superbowl, which is the second game that we’ve been able to watch together since we decided to start following football last winter (oops). Maybe baseball season will go more smoothly.

Oh, and if you’re interested in snowfall totals, please see NOAA’s official numbers here. We are in N. Laurel, and Elkridge — which got pounded the hardest with a disgusting 38.3 inches!! — is where my folks are.

Food Challenge #1

Pad See Ew in pan

Earlier this month, I posed a question to my cousins:

So I’ve been perusing food blogs of late, and one of the themes I keep
seeing is these “food challenge” type games. In them, someone picks a
challenge recipe or challenge theme, and everyone tries out the new
recipe or comes up with something to go with the theme. This seems
pretty exciting, but the problem I always have with them is the
impersonal nature of it. I was wondering if you’d be interested in
setting up one of these sorts of food networks among people we know
(including friends of yours as well; the more, the merrier!).

Tenatively, it struck me that it might be fun to do a rotating thing
where once a month, we were each responsible for picking the theme, and
then at the end of the month, had to share with each other what we chose
to make. I think a month gives us plenty of time to find a single
evening to make something, and we all have blogs available to use for
posting pictures & thoughts on the recipes.

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in doing? January’s
almost done, but I bet we could squeeze out a simple theme if we wanted!

They agreed, and I picked the theme this month: “that thing in the back of the pantry you’ve been meaning to make for way too long.”

With the move, our kitchen wasn’t really usable until about a week and a half ago, so I missed my own deadline and we made our challenge meal on Feb 1st. Oops. But we did make it, and here’s how it went.

As we unpacked the pantry, I found a big pack of rice noodle flakes that I’d been meaning to experiment with. Pad See Ew is one of my favorite things to order at a Thai restaurant. It might even be one of my favorite things to eat, period. I found a recipe online for Pad See Ew for Beginners, and Ben and I scrounged the cabinets for the ingredients.

We were missing the sweet soy sauce, so we did as the recipe suggested and thickened soy sauce on the stove with sugar. And we were missing fish sauce, so we skipped that. We also had no broccoli. So really, we just made sweet-soy noodles, which was educational enough in itself to be worthwhile.

I started off with my great non-stick pan (the really big greenpan, which is nonstick that’s safe for high heat). Mom just got us a new set since the old ones were starting to get a bit gunky, so it’s super non-stick right now. Heated it up as high as I could with a little bit of oil, and dropped the pre-soaked noodles in. They made the stickiest awful mess I have ever seen. We ended up with extra-chewy noodles that were partially cooked inside and burnt on the outside. I was depressed, but not discouraged.
Tonight, we tried again, this time a little bit wiser from experience. I put the noodles in a few at a time and then added the soy sauce. Only I added way more than I meant to, and suddenly they weren’t sticking. It seems the problem before was a lack of moisture, so by adding a lot of sauce, it fixed the problem. I tossed the rest of the noodles in with tons of sauce, and by the time we were done, I had a big pile of tasty rice noodles. I tossed some chicken in as well, and we had ourselves a decent dinner.

Will I make this again? You betcha. What I will do differently: more liquid. Instead of just sauce, I’ll make a sauce/water mixture to get even more liquid into the act. I’ll get fish sauce for the added depth of flavor. And I’m going to look for the sweet soy sauce it’s supposed to have.