- Learning our way around the chicken, so to speak. I took a cooking class last weekend with the fabulous Mrs. Wheelbarrow and learned how to use the feathered bird in stock, roasted, and for pot pies and dumplings. I plan on trussing my first chicken and roasting it up, trying all the recipes from the class, and hosting a dinner party with my classmates and friends I.J.. A.M. and M.G. to show what we’ve learned.
- This brings me to my second point —how convenient. Buy the Lodge cast iron skillet, already. I have threatened for years to have one and I never buy one when I see it. I always shy away from recipes that call for using a skillet. This needs to end. Who cares if our wee kitchen can’t handle one more item to stow away? I will cram that baby in - even if I have to sleep with it or tuck it under our sofa.
- Finally cook from the 660 Curries cookbook gifted to us several years ago. Curries intimidate me for the sheer overabundance of ingredients they tend to require. I just need to delve in and go for it. Any recommendations or tips, Peaches & Curry?
- Stop eating over-processed crap. I’m talking about you, candy and cookies, chips and the like. You need to leave our cupboards and my office desk, pronto. Goal: end the sweet tooth addiction, or at least find suitable homemade and healthy treats.
- Returning to live in a place where we can “entertain.” Yes, I used the word “entertain” like I am Martha Freakin' Stewart. I'm the daughter and granddaughter of ministers' wives and we church folk tend to want/need to provide “refreshments” and play hostess all the time. It's in my blood, mmmkay? I like having people over, and yes I know I have reinforced too many times our issue of our wee apartment, but gee whiz is it wee. I am ready for bigger and better things!
- Learning more about wine. I don’t like anything sweeter than a Chardonnay or drier than a Pino Grigio, and I learn towards reds like Malbecs and Tempranillos, sometimes a Shiraz. That’s about all I know about the bottled varietals. I’d like to learn about pairings. Drinking some in the process wouldn’t be too painful, either.
- Travel eats! My 2010 Napa Valley excursion fell through, but this year I may visit Italy! La Dolce Vita is calling Mama Mia Margaret and I in celebration of her 65th birthday — this would be epic and so incredibly fabulous. Crossing my fingers! Scott and I also want to do some solo traveling. All of our vacation time seems to wind up with friends and family — as marvelously wonderful as they are, it’s high time we get in some just-us journeys.
One of the best trips Scott and I took together was waaaaay back in Summer 2004 (I think) to Cobleskill, New York and Burlington, Vt. We took a ferry across Lake Champlain and gobbled up farm stand cherries, blueberries and cheese curds while riding the picturesque back roads of Vermont. It was so relaxing and fun!
This about sums it up — here’s hoping some if not all of these are accomplished - cheers to a fruitful 2011!!
Winter fail: only two mere inches of snow fell on us here in MD. So much for a much-needed snow day!
Many of you dear readers have, in fact, tucked yourselves in, cozily at home this week for a day or two of snow break - lucky you! If you’re looking for some fuel to stay warm and well-fed, we’ve got two recipes for some tasty chili.
Scott received several compliments on the chili I made last week after co-workers smelled his lunch and asked for a couple tastes — who knew a 20 minute chili recipe could illicit such things? I was floored, but it made me proud!
Be sure to add on some nice crispy tortilla chips, perhaps a little shredded Monterey jack, and if you’re feeling spunky, a dollop of sour cream to top off your bowl. Think of these as accoutrement — I like to use this word as much as possible, plus it’s fun to say. Try it - “accoutrement.” See, I told you. Fun.
The recipe I made last week is from Cooking Light - 20 Minute Chili. I opted not to serve it over rice (too much starch!) and I used ground pork instead of turkey and used a can of green chilies instead of fresh bell pepper. It was a wee bit spicy for us, so next time I might go easy on the chili powder, but if you like a little burn, go for it.
Coming up next month: the Super Bowl. Yay, sports. (Y’all know I do not do football or most organized brutish sports - I am an ACC basketball fan, though - Go Blue Devils!). Before you order pizza or dispense the obligatory chips and salsa or french onion dip, take a gander at David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food cookbook for his Super Bowl Chili recipe.
I think it’s the cinnamon that really does it for me — it’s the better-tasting twin of Cincinnati Skyline Chili, only without all those weird add-ins of chopped raw onion, cheddar cheese and spaghetti.
Here’s how to do the thing:
Super Bowl Chili
Yield: 4 servings
I recommend using a deep skillet or stock pot.
¼ cup vegetable oil, or more if necessary1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes, drained½ pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef chuck (or 1 pound if pork not available/desired)
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely diced
2 fresh hot green chilies, seeded and finely chopped (more or less to taste) NOTE: Canned, chopped green chilies work just as well
1 tablespoon minced garlic1 ¾ cups unsalted chicken broth (homemade or canned), plus more if necessary
¾ cup beer
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Chili Spice Mixture (recipe follows)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
8 ounces canned kidney beans, drained
Chili Spice Mixture
3 tablespoons chili powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1. NOTE: This step is optional; simply dice the tomatoes and add to Step 3 if less prep/clean-up are desired. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with a thin layer of the vegetable oil. Slice all the tomatoes in half lengthwise and place them, cut side up, on the baking sheet. Drizzle a small amount of vegetable oil over each tomato half, place the baking sheet in the oven, and roast them for about 1 hour. They will shrink a bit, concentrating their flavor, but should still be quite moist. Remove them from the oven, chop them coarsely, and reserve.
2. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Just as the oil begins to smoke, add the meat and lightly brown it all over, reducing the heat if the mat threatens to burn, about 5 to 6 minutes (do this in batches if the skillet isn’t large enough to hold the meat in one layer). As the meat cooks, break up the larger chunks with a wooden spoon. Transfer the meat to a bowl and reserve.
3. Let the skillet cool slightly and place it over a medium-low heat, adding another 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the onion, chopped chiles, and garlic; cook gently for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken broth, beer, 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture, the ½ teaspoon salt, and tomato paste, scraping the bottom of the skillet to loosen any browned bits. Add the reserved tomatoes and meat, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring just to a boil. Immediately reduce to a bare simmer, cover loosely with a lid or foil and cook, very gently, for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in the beans and the remaining 1 teaspoon chili spice mixture, cover loosely, and cook for ½ hour more. When ready, the chili should resemble a stew with a thinnish liquid but shouldn’t at all be watery. Stir in additional broth or water if it seems a bit dry. Conversely, if the mixture seems a bit loose and wet, uncover the skillet and allow it to simmer until thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Here I sit, typing on this wee blog, with my back to my grandmother’s china cabinet (which was originally a pantry for my great-grandmother’s pump house, where all the men would go to have a drink ‘cause my great-grand didn’t allow liquor in her home, thank you very much).
Peering into the glass door of the cabinet, I see nine jars of Christmas Morning Marmalade, which I rechristened “Pucker Up Marmalade” after Scott and I spent nearly two hours peeling, slicing, and seeding an ungodly amount of citrus fruit right before Christmas.
I already had apple butter and apple pie jam stored up to gift, so I wanted to can something a little different. As Scott’s grandmother Miss Doris loves orange marmalade, and we knew we would visit with her at some point over the holiday, it felt fitting to make some marmalade.
You’ll note the recipe for Christmas Morning Marmalade, from Steve Dowdney’s book Putting Up, involves peeling, seeding and plugging (this means removing each piece of fruit by its natural segment) a LOT of citrus - and removing the pith, the white part under the skin or peel. The recipe also calls for removing the membrane of the oranges, grapefruits and lemons and limes, which is tricky to do. Damn tedious and almost impossible is more like it.
It seemed crazy at the time to use all the peels from the limes and lemons, but Scott dutifully followed the recipe. I think that if we did it all over again, I’d zest the fruits instead of including the meticulously sliced peels. They wound up tasting very hard and bitter - not something you want to spread over a warm slice of toast.
Scott had fun carving through all that citrus, as you can see.
Maybe what he didn’t love so much was hearing me bellow many choice words after realizing I dumped in 13 (!!!!) precious cups of sugar too early - you bring the fruits to a boil then add sugar, but I dumped the sugar in right after I put in the fruit.
I just knew I screwed up, that it wouldn’t jell correctly, and we’d wind up with two hours of work and a semi-jelled citrus mess to show for it.
However, the canning gods smiled on us, and not long after I ladled the hot jelly into the jars:
And turned them upside down for about 10 minutes:
For the first marmalade, it wasn’t bad. I’d give it a B, with a lower mark due to the strange hard peel additions and the very puckery taste. I think I’d like to try a traditional orange marmalade next time.
Some of you asked about our the fruits of our All Clad Factory Sale adventure. Well, my friends, we made it out unscathed - those folks up in Canonsburg, Pa. know how to set up an organized and friendly cookware bonanza - with these beauties:
The next addition to the family will be a cast iron skillet - after my cooking class with Mrs. Wheelbarrow today, I plan on testing my new roasted chicken skills, and spatchcocking!
Hope everyone’s had a lovely and tasty weekend - does it have to end? Cheers!
Scott’s always loved minestrone soup, but in past experience the recipe he followed turned out have more of a thick, stew-ish consistency that I don’t really care for. He never has a problem telling me when something I make just isn’t quite right. I usually know when 1) there’s remnants of food on his plate, and 2) no “Mmmms" ever escape his lips. If it’s not "Mmmm" worthy, just stop right there, rip up that recipe, and file a mental note never to make that again.
Therefore, we set out on Thursday eve to make a Minestrone with the Mmmm factor. I’m happy to report that we succeeded - we cooked up a brothy, vegetable-laden soup that included beans (of which I used to be a naysayer. Now I love most of them!), and it’s perfect for these fall days. Hello fall, we thought you’d never make it. Welcome!
We took our lead from David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food, the hardcover edition which I always love to remind myself I picked up for $1.99 at a Goodwill store in Shelby, NC several years ago with my co-thrifter friend Kellie. Man, I love a bargain!
Simmer all that for about 25 minutes and bring the heat up a little to boil your noodles - small pasta of your choice, such as those cute little stars, orzo, or the basic elbow macaroni as we used.
After five minutes, add in one regular-sized can of cannellini beans. Once you check to ensure your pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and salt to taste. We added in a handful of chopped Italian parsley and the remainder of our garden basil. Garnish away with a little grated Parmesan, and hit it.
It’s a comforting soup with restorative powers. Or at the very least, damn tasty. So there - we made it - Mmmm-worthy Minestrone we can honestly say is a keeper!
Have a great weekend!
Behold the cake I baked for that special day:
Those pellet/poop-like things forming the numbers are Ocean Spray Craisins. How resourceful/scatological am I?!?
The recipe comes from my new-ish cookbook The Healthy Hedonist - the Naked Carrot Cake. It contains the oh-so-nutritious oat flour plus four cups of grated carrots (Oy. That was a lot of tedious grating, let me tell you), and other stuff that makes cake so awesome - vanilla, brown sugar, eggs, spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice, etc.
Only I didn’t want it to be so nekkid, cause frosting, when done well and not all grocery-store lard-ish, is marvelous, mmmkay?
SO, I doctored it up with The Joy of Cooking’s Cream Cheese Frosting, and substituted the lower-in-fat and hard-to-pronounce Neufchâtel cheese for the regular kind, so as to not feel too guilty for smearing sweet dairy yum yums all over a perfectly tasty “health food” kind of cake.
Someone asked me recently if Scott loves carrot cake. Well, he does now. :-)
After our sinful weekend splurge, I determined that this week I would drag out everything chillin' in our crisper drawers and work on eating as fresh and healthy as possible.
I also apparently decided to use a blender for virtually every meal, and with the aid of a new-to-me $2 cookbook I found at Diversity Thrift (fabulous gay-owned thrift store in Richmond), Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003.
Sunday eve I made Cocoa Fudge Cookies for Scott, so he won’t have to go out and buy yucky dry boxed ones. These are somehow not that bad for you, so okay, I made them for me to occasionally enjoy as well. I subbed whole wheat flour for all purpose.
Last night I made my usual Moosewood cottage cheese-blended-with-greens-and basil-and-garlic sauce on bow tie pasta, with steamed zucchini and cherry tomatoes. I chased it with a slice of seedless watermelon. Yums.
I then got to work on blending some roasted red pepper gazpacho. The linked recipe is not the exact one I used, but similar. It’s presently in residence in my fridge and I can’t wait to enjoy it this evening . I plan on serving it with a salad and some crostini with white bean spread I made in the blender also.
Also on tap this week - a light version of a veggie satay with eggplant and zucchini, and stuffed peppers made with free range ground beef we bought at the incredible B-more Farmers Market.
I wish I had a real food processor at times, as a blender is limited and is hard to clean. But, such is life in a tiny kitchen. Multi-functional and minimal, people.
Coming soon: a photo of a multi-use kitchen tool I picked up in Colorado. Hint: It didn’t cost a penny and is very “earth friendly.”
Here’s one for my gift list… I do have a 30th birthday coming up, you know. *wink wink, nudge, nudge*
It’s not ‘til September, so you have plenty of time to select the perfect little thing.
Kidding. I don’t have room for squat at home. I’ll take best wishes and lots of love any day.
But seriously…check out this cookbook featuring recipes from Austin City Limits performers. Willie Nelson’s Mango Salsa? I could go for that.