Meal Descriptions


I’m still cooking, though.  Since I started working so much, and still volunteering with kids, I’ve seen a drastic reduction in the amount of time I have to play in the kitchen.  I’ve even bought pasta and bread!  The slow-cooker has been my trusty friend.  I made a nice batch of rich stock with turkey bones that have been in my freezer since December, and made a few pots of vegetable and bean soup with it, kicked up with dandicut peppers.  Each pot gives us dinners for a week.  We add a little cheese and eat it with corn chips.  It’s been tasty, and we’ve been feeling good and losing weight.  We’re also eating lots of nuts, whole grains, and fruit.  I’ve always got my yogurt in the fridge (I added some DanActive to some Oikos for a nice array of bacteria), and I am the hummus-bringer for parties.

I found some discounted ground beef, and experimented a little with burgers.  Those were fantastic, but not something I will make regularly.  I also made my first ever quiche, and that was really good, even without a pastry crust.  Last week I made a Pad Thai, which is always tasty.  I experimented about a month back with coconut beer-battered shrimp, and I’m not happy with the deep-fry process.  I made onion rings with the same batter (but no coconut).  Just using a pot and a deep-fry thermometer was a pain.  It took a lot of time, the oil temperature fluctuated a lot, and it was very messy.  My only other deep-fry experience (same pot, no thermometer) making ricotta fritters was much easier and cleaner.

It is finally Spring again, so I got my annual sourdough starter up and running.  Tomorrow I will make the first batch of my famous banana chocolate chip sourdough pancakes for the year.  I am excited about that.  I may also have time this weekend to try a loaf of bread.  I think it will work out much better this year than last year, since I am able to measure things more accurately now with my new food scale.  My starter has been thriving better this time than in previous years.

I made a bowl of pizza dough last weekend (3 pies worth), and tried 50/50 whole wheat and bread flour.  It is not working for me.  My crusts were way better with 100% whole wheat flour.  These have been too gooey and bready instead of thin and crispy.  Mushrooms were on sale, so I’m making sauteed mushroom jalepeno pizzas, and we have salads on the side.

I am looking forward to the warmer months and piles of cheap fresh veggies!  I could go for a pasta primavera and more variety in my soups.

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I went on a vacation for a week, so I mostly ate out and other people’s cooking, but I did get to help make ice cream and a dinner.  After the vacation I was sick for a week, and didn’t do much cooking.  I’m better now and back on my game.

I made the best chili ever.  Just a pound of ground beef, cooked in a big pot, then drained most of the fat into my fat jar, and put the meat aside.  I sauted onions and fresh garlic in the beef residue, then added six arbol chilis and four dandicuts (60,000 SU peppers from Pakistan, hot and delicious!, from Penzy’s Spices), a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, a can of rinsed black beans and a can of rinsed kidney beans (organic from Trader Joe’s).  I added the meat back in and let it all simmer at 150 F for a few hours.  This was about 6 bowls for $5 (the beef was way on sale).  I served it hot topped with Cabot’s habanero cheddar cheese and some tortilla chips.  I should have entered this in the chili contest.

My wife cooked last night: habanero cheese on scrambled eggs with a side of asparagus.  Simple, but good.

I got a package of chicken thighs, took off the skin, browned them in my skillet (I should have patted them dry with paper towels first, but I forgot, and they didn’t brown as well as I wanted), then put them in my slow cooker.  I deglazed the skillet with some chardonnay and a little tomato juice, and added that to the slow cooker with a big can of crushed tomatoes.  That’s running right now, and in a bit I’ll add sauted onions and carrots.

I’m also baking whole wheat bread today, and I’m still making lots of yogurt out of organic nonfat milk.  I’m about to whip up another batch of garlic and yogurt mashed potatoes, too.   We are eating more beans than we used to, but we could still do more.  We also are inconsistent with salads, but carrots and onions make it into a lot of meals.  Broccoli is the most green that we eat regularly, and spinach, but we’re not close to the recommended quantity of veggies.

I’ve done a pretty good job over the last two weeks.  Here are some of the meals I made:

  • Baked salmon (wild caught Pacific) with capers and rice.
  • Pineapple chicken stir-fry (same as my great pork recipe, just with chicken)
  • Slow-cooked chicken with rice (I make a lot of rice, brown with homemade chicken stock)
  • Panfried catfish ($2.59/lb for the fish was an irresistible price)
  • Chili with ground bison and ancho pepper (this was a practice batch for an upcoming church contest, lasted five days)
  • Chicken and pineapple pizza
  • Squash curry with spinach, mushrooms, and onion, on rice

Half of those lasted a few days.  We did get Chinese food one night, and were taken out to dinner one night by relatives, but we generally hold well to 6/7.  We still make lunches from homemade bread, have oatmeal for breakfast each day, and a perpetual pot of yogurt for snacks and desserts.

I’ve been looking at more food books from the library, and nutritionists really seem to push beans heavily.  I don’t mind them, and I usually put them in my soups and chili, but the gas can be a problem.  Is it true that the body adapts to a high-bean diet and stops farting so much?  I’m going to make a big pot of lentil soup this week with a hambone my mom gave me.

 

My massive turkey leftovers lasted a long time.  We had turkey and veggie soups, and turkey with rice and hot sauce, for many days.  My bread rocks for PB&J lunches.  I’ve also been eating a lot of sardines and fruit for lunch.  This last week was spent with my mother for the holidays.  I my home, I rule the kitchen, but my mom rules hers and we got well spoiled.  We managed to only eat at restaurants twice during the whole vacation.  Here are some of the home cooked foods we enjoyed (very much!):  Lentil and kale soup with pesto, Apricot chicken curry, banana bread, spiced apple raisin cake, waffles (this is our family’s traditional Xmas breakfast, and my mom folds beaten egg whites into the batter to make them super fluffy), ham and cheese omelets, French toast, and a sweet chutney with raisins and orange peel that rocked on a veggie burger.  The pesto was made with basil my mom grows, and we came home with a basil-garbanzo paste and a jar of her chutney.  I am going to gank her pesto recipe and recreate that lentil soup.

On vacation we visited Penzey’s Spices and I got some anchos, annatto, lemongrass, allspice berries, dandicuts, and brown mustard seeds.  That place has some neat stuff at reasonable prices.  I also got a microplane, an immersion blender, and a mandolin.  I am excited to make some curry fries and other new dishes.  My mom has cable and I was glued to the cooking channel!  I plan to have some people over for goat cheese crostini with lentils and spinach in a thickened wine sauce and a side of jalepeno poppers.

I’m thawing a chicken, and we’ve got some fish for this week, and I also think I’ll make my squash curry.  It is good to be home, and I am excited to use my new toys and spices.

Leading up to Thanksgiving, we were still eating turkey soup with cheese and tortilla chips.  We compared a raw milk, 6+ month aged sharp cheddar from New Zealand to the supermarket brand extra sharp cheddar, and we preferred the supermarket stuff.  We preferred it because we like powerful flavor, and the extra sharp was strong.  The sharp import was more subtle, but still very good.  It just required attention and a lack of distraction, so we ate it alone instead of in the soup.

My contribution to Thanksgiving included homemade whole wheat crackers with flax seeds and hummus.  I used my pasta machine to roll out the cracker dough, which was a huge help, but the edges were still thinner than the rest and darkened quickly.  Nothing burned, though, and everything was great.  I made a plain hummus for my mother-in-law, and jalapeno-garlic hummus for the rest of us.  I used peanut butter instead of tahini and it worked fine!  The combo was such that we got a long, moderate burning finish from the jalepenos without it being overpowering.  I also made  a pumpkin-ricotta pie, but I experimented a bit by replacing most of the ricotta with cream cheese and yogurt.  I thought the cream cheese would improve the flavor, but I did not like the flavor at all.  It also drastically increased the baking time to have the yogurt in.

I made a batch of yeast waffles using the recipe from Cooking for Geeks.  I let the batter rise overnight.  This made for a perfectly textured waffle, light and airy inside with a crisp shell, but the yeasty flavor was a slight turn off.

The cerviche I made was pretty bad.  I followed the Cooking for Geeks recipe (except for cilantro), and the onion and lime were way overpowering.  It was nowhere near as good as what I had in California.  I did some math, and I figure that the recipe called for six times as much acid as necessary to ensure the deaths of all bacteria.
I made my first souffle, which was a neat experience, but I didn’t do very well.  I also made some ricotta fritters using a What Einstein Told His Cook recipe, and served them with Tupelo honey.  Those were a hit.

I had an interesting bacon experience, and I need some help interpreting it.  I cooked some bacon in my cast iron skillet on low heat to get the fat out without overcooking the meat (I supposed).  Normally I microwave bacon because it’s fast and gives me even, flat, crisp strips.  Bacon in a skillet without a meat press wrinkles up.  To help me with this, I sliced the larger fat strips off of the meat.  As the meat finished cooking, I removed it and left all the fat pieces in the skillet to render.  Our experience was that this bacon tasted a lot like ham instead of the bacon we’re used to.  Some pieces of fat were in over an hour, and were a little browned and shrunken, but all were generally translucent.  I was short on time, so I turned up the heat, and at some unknown magic temperature the bacon fat spontaneously made a pfsht sound and turned solid white.  The resulting white crisps were DELICIOUS!  I had trouble stopping myself from eating them all immediately.  I really wish that I knew what happened there and what the temperature was, in no small part because of the increase in nitrosamines in bacon at high temperatures.

I had some leftover T-day mashed potatoes today, and added a little garlic powder and yogurt to make them awesome.

My local produce place had some great seconds yesterday.  I got 12 ripe avocados for $1, and made a really spiffy batch of guacamole.  I just would not use cumin in it again, and I never use cilantro. I used some canned diced tomato, and lime juice from concentrate.  I got a half-peck of Jonagold apples for $4, and they are so crisp and sweet that I don’t understand why they were discounted.  I also got a few pounds of green beans for $1 that will go in a soup, and four squash for $1 that will go in another soup.  My fridge is packed.  I also bought another 22 lb turkey for $8.50 that is thawing and will get roasted on Wednesday.  It’s been a pretty good week.

I did go out to eat for lunch yesterday at Victory Brewing Company.  They have a very scientifically educational tour, which is a nice change from the more historical tours of other places.  We shared a Gorgonzola burger and some sweet potato fries with leek.  The dry-aged beef was delicious, and is local and fed spent grain from the brewery, but the bun was lame and there was not enough Gorgonzola.  The fries were excellent.  As far as the beers go, we recommend the Yakima Glory.

This was Dale’s and my first Thanksgiving together in Alaska—so, too far away to visit family. We were going to do our own thing, at home, but kind of at the last minute we decided to go to a potluck at “our” church (we haven’t gone a lot, admittedly, but if any church in town is ours, it’s this one). I still had the ingredients for a few things we like and a thing or two I wanted to try, so after the late lunch at the church, we came home, hung out for a while, and I started cooking again when we were no longer quite so full. It worked out well—by the time I was done, we were hungry. 🙂

We had turkey kielbasa—which didn’t technically fit my purchasing rules, but kielbasa is something Dale’s aunt always makes at holidays, and I think that’s a cool tradition—fruit salad (our contribution to the potluck, actually); broccoli cheddar rice casserole; cranberry-orange cornbread; and pumpkin pie.

The cornbread came from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day—and looked like kind of a disaster on the baking stone, as some of the hot sugar escaped. You’re really supposed to make it in a cast iron skillet, so I froze the second half of the dough until I have one. It was still tasty, though, and the sugar scraped/washed off the stone more easily than I expected—there’s still a bit of a stain, but that’s not surprising. People seemed to enjoy it on Friday. (I’m not planning to write about it at length, but pizzas-at-home were a success! The one batch of dough was too wet, but we got through it.)

My family usually does macaroni & cheese for holidays, but Dale and I had had that double batch on our hands not quite a month ago, so I branched out into vegetable-starch-cheese-soup-casserole territory, making this broccoli, rice, and cheese casserole with this “cream of soup” recipe (which is linked from the casserole recipe, conveniently enough). I made cream of celery and used Summit Spice & Tea’s “chicken broth” powder, which is made up of soy lecithin (it can be extracted mechanically, so I think it fits by my rules) and a number of spices—no actual chicken in it. It’s really convenient not to have to use chicken broth by the box, by the can, or by the chicken. I also used brown rice instead of white and halved the casserole recipe, in part because there are just two of us and in part because I don’t own a big enough casserole dish. Except for needing more salt, it came out great. I’d consider throwing chicken or maybe tuna in and making it a one-dish meal. (I didn’t calculate the nutrition information on this one; I’ll have to before I decide whether it’s going into the standard meal rotation or not.) I thought the brown rice might make it “weird,” but it was actually a little hard to tell I hadn’t used white.

I also made Artisan Bread‘s pumpkin oat bread, which was excellent, though I got tired of telling people it didn’t have pumpkin pie spice in it—it was just bread that happened to contain pumpkin. Anyway, I’m probably going to take some of that to the potluck at work this Friday.

So, it was a good Thanksgiving. The only recipe that’s truly my own is the fruit salad. Most people can probably throw fruit together and make something tasty, but, just in case, here’s my take on it…

Fruit Salad:

This recipe is modified from my grandfather’s. He used to always make a huge container of fruit salad for holidays. He hasn’t made it for a couple of years—maybe nobody’s asked him to? Anyway, his always started with fruit cocktail; mine has a lot less canned stuff in it but is generally the same basic composition. He also added marshmallows and shredded coconut, but I left out the former in the interest of sharing with vegetarians and the latter because apparently(?) there are people who don’t like coconut? I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors.

  • a can of pears in light syrup (I don’t think pears are often canned in juice alone, sadly), drained and then diced into the bowl (I actually always use canned pears, for some reason, even when fresh ones are available; it might just be that I still have a bunch of cans in my CostCo flat. 🙂 Or maybe I’m afraid of there being too many “crunchy” fruits and throwing off the balance.)
  • a can of peaches, drained and then diced into the bowl (I prefer to use a couple of fresh peaches or nectarines, but there aren’t any in Alaska right now)
  • 7ish(?) strawberries (I had frozen ones—if you go that route, they cut and store more nicely if you don’t thaw them first, but man are they cold), diced and put in the bowl
  • 6-8 ounces (I only know a measurement because I put them in a mug :)) of blueberries (I used frozen, but thawed and drained them first; if you don’t mind the salad turning a little purple, you can just throw them in frozen), dumped in the bowl—this is inconsistent with my grandfather’s fruit salad recipe but works nicely
  • a bunch of grapes, washed—if you have the patience, the flavors mix better if you’ve cut the grapes in half before putting them in
  • you’ll want to pour some lemon juice into a bowl or one of your empty cans—NOT in the fruit salad itself
  • peel and dice an apple into that can or bowl, and make sure the pieces are all coated in lemon juice; then strain them (keep the lemon juice in that bowl or can; it never goes in the salad directly) and put them into the fruit salad—this keeps the apple nicer
  • peel and dice a banana into the lemon juice—and give it plenty of time to soak it up, trust me
  • peel a mandarin orange/clementine/tangerine or two, clean the bitter part off the sections, and cut each section in half before you throw it into the bowl
  • maraschino cherries—look, it would be healthier to use real cherries, but the maraschino ones are sweet and make kids happy—drained, cut in half, and put into the fruit salad (fruit cocktail has maraschino-like cherries, but my granddad knows I like them, so he adds extra :)); I think these might help offset the sour traces of lemon juice, too
  • Extemporize! You can add some other kinds of berries, more of some fruit you like, less of some fruit you don’t like (I wouldn’t leave out the pears or peaches, though); big-flaked coconut is good; celery might be tolerable; pineapple is good (and only got left out because I forgot it).

And give it at least a few hours for the flavors to mix, before you eat it. Overnight is better (though you may want to hold off throwing in the bananas until the day of).

Instead of giving away free turkeys to shoppers who spend $300 in November, my local supermarket is just selling turkeys for $0.39/lb.  I bought a decent 21.5 lb turkey and popped it in my oven.

This is not a turkey

It's resting

I did a weird job on it, but it turned out better than my previous attempts.  I had some chicken fat left from my last chicken, and I rubbed it on the breasts underneath the skin, then all over the whole top of the bird with some rosemary and pepper.  I threw some celery tops into the cavity, but not many.  I watched Alton Brown’s tutorial after putting the turkey in the oven, then quickly tried to implement his techniques late, such as the 500 degree intro.  I was unable to tuck the wings under the body, but they still came out okay.  I did make the foil hat to protect the white meat, and I used my own thermometer deep in the breast that told me to take out the bird at 161 degrees.  I let it rest for a long time because the meat was still really hot inside and I didn’t want to let all the juice out.  I eventually carved it up.  I made gravy from the turkey fat (1 Tbsp), flour (1 Tbsp), and a cup of stock made from the neck and organs.  It went well with some mashed potatoes, but the turkey was so moist and tasty that the gravy was unnecessary for it.

That was over a week ago.  We’ve had turkey for dinner every day since.  I made some potatoes Anna that lasted a few days, mashed potatoes, and jasmine rice using turkey jelly.  I made some pasta with diced turkey and the best sauce so far: 1 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp flour (into a roux), 1/3 cup yogurt, 2/3 cup milk, 1 sauteed chopped shallot, 2 chopped bacon slices, 1/3 lb Gorgonzola.  That was delicious.  I also made a turkey-onion-bacon pizza and topped it with BBQ sauce, and that might be on the menu tonight too.  Tomorrow I’ll make a crock of turkey soup with beans and veggies.

I’m still baking bread with whey and using it for PB&Js.  I also finally used the bananas in my freezer to make two fantastic loaves of banana bread.  I made some corn bread (old box of Jiffy in my pantry) in my cast iron skillet greased with bacon fat, and it turned out like a big pancake.  It would take a few boxes to fill the 12″ skillet.  Lately I’ve been eating pomegranates, and they’re cheap at an Amish market near one of my clients.  The market sells whole rabbits and ducks, so that might be on the menu in the future, and I also got a 5 lb jar of Tupelo honey and some spices at good prices.

I’m making scallop cerviche right now.  I’m using the recipe from Cooking for Geeks.  I hope it works out.

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