cooking


Back to the food-snob issue. I love food. I try new stuff all the time. I read cookbooks like novels. I’m the neighborhood go-to girl when anyone has a question about a spice, a substitution, an ethnic cuisine, or bread, or when there’s a random ingredient someone can’t find, since I have such an odd collection of foodstuffs that are not commonly used. Here’s a non-comprehensive list of what you might find in my pantry:

1. Hazelnut oil. I used this last night on the salad of spring greens with baby sweet peppers and crumbled feta. Yummy. Speaking of oil, I also have a jar of coconut oil, some ghee that I clarified, 3 kinds of olive oil, mustard oil, sweet almond oil…

2. Trader Joe’s Marion-berry Blueberry fruit sauce. I’ve had this one for a year. It sounds yummy, but I don’t really make desserts often, so what do I do with it?

3. Sake Wasabi Mustard. Why did I buy that? If I needed sake wasabi mustard, could I not have gotten some sake, some wasabi, and some mustard, mixed them together, and not had a whole jar to deal with?

4. A bunch of spices most of my friends have never heard of: Kalonji, Aamchur, Black Salt, Asafoetida, Galanga powder, Achiote, Agar agar, Garam Masala, Tamarind pulp. I use these every so often, but I wish someone around here used them too, so I could share.

5. A bunch of more normal spices, but in quantities the average American cook has never even seen: 7 ounces of coriander – that’s the size of 4 hamburger buns, 1/2 pound of cayenne, same of ground ginger, cumin, bay leaves, black mustard seeds. I get my spices at Indian markets, where folks know what food is supposed to taste like.

6. All the weird whole grains that the health food people love to tout: Quinoa, Millet, Kamut, Rye berries, wheat berries, Spelt, Bulghur, Polenta, Steel-cut oats, whole oats, hulled barley. Not all of them are yummy. Millet, for example. Always a tiny bit crunchy. I also have flours made from all of the above.

7. A hundred kinds of rice. Mongolian red rice, Forbidden black rice, sweet rice, arborio rice, glutinous rice, basmati rice, brown basmati rice, long grain white, long grain brown, short grain brown, sushi rice. We eat a lot of rice.

8. A 25 ounce bottle of capers. I like capers, but what was I thinking?

9. Interesting varieties of sugar:  jaggery (palm sugar), honey, creamed honey, raw honey still on the comb, agave syrup, stevia (ever tried it? It’s not sugar, but it’s a weird kind of sweet that I don’t really like).

10. All the fixin’s for Halu-Halo. That’s a Filipino snack/dessert that has any combination of the following: Macapuno strings (strips of young coconut), marble sized tapioca pearls, Langka (jackfruit), Nata de Coco (sweet coconut jellies), red beans (or red mung beans or kidney beans), corn, rolled oats, coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, and shaved ice. Yum!

11. Oh, and don’t forget the Pig’s Feet!

Can you top me?

I love pumpkin muffins. I make them year-round, in spurts. I buy the big can of pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), which will make 3 or 4 batches of muffins. These ones are sort of detox muffins. They have lots of fiber, no dairy, and they’re yummy.

Pumpkin Muffins

1/4 cup ground flax seeds
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup plus 2 T soy milk (or regular milk)
1/2 t vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/8 t ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350o, and grease a muffin tin with cooking spray. Add the water to the ground flax, and mix until viscous. Add the sugar and oil, mixing well. Add the pumpkin, mix, then add soy milk and vanilla, and mix again. In a separate bowl (or just on top of the wet ingredients), milk the dry ingredients, and add to the wet. Stir just until incorporated. Quickly divide into the muffin tin and bake for 35 minutes, rotating after 20 for even baking. Let rest in the tin for a few minutes, then release onto a cooling rack.

Each muffin has about 160 calories, 6 grams of fat (omega-3 kind), 3 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of protein. Two of those for breakfast and you’ve got a pretty good start for your day.

And for the bonus, here’s a picture of the blanket I made for my brother’s new baby that was born on Wednesday.

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I’m in love with all the cruciferous vegetables, but nobody ever talks about cabbage. I once went shopping at the local health-food store, and bought a regular old head of green cabbage. I took it to the check-out counter, and the kid behind the register picked it up, turned it all around, and asked what it was. “Cabbage,” I replied. He took out the little produce code sheet, looked up and down, found the cabbages, and asked me, “What kind?”

How many kinds of round cabbage are there? There are two: Red, and Green. What color was my cabbage? Even a colorblind person can tell the subtle differences between a pale green cabbage and a deep purple cabbage. I know this because I’m married to a colorblind person. Although he cannot tell between a green car and a gray car.

I didn’t laugh at the check-out boy. Nearly every time I go there, someone asks me what I’m purchasing, or at the very least, “What on earth you DO with that block of tofu, that bunch of watercress, or that pristine acorn squash?” (Did you know that watercress grows in the wild in all 50 states? And it’s another cruciferous, delicious, and vitamin-ey vegetable? It’s one of the main ones in V-8)

I buy a lot of cabbage, both red and green. I love it. I love it cooked, I love it raw. I love it in curry, with peanut sauce, braised with onions and raisins, stir-fried with chiles and mustard seeds, sauteed with butter (and bacon, if I have any), mixed into mashed potatoes, added to soups, and maybe most of all, in cole slaw.

Cole, or Kohl is the Germanic word for cabbage, and Slaw comes from Sla, which is the Dutch word for Salad, which is an alteration of Salata, the Italian for “salted.” So to be a salad, it has to be salted. When I went to Rome, we were served piles of lettuce with salt and pepper on them when we ordered salad.

I like to make a big bowl of cole slaw, and have it for lunch every day. Today, I asked Calvin if he would like some. Miraculously, he has decided that he loves cole slaw. His friend, T, was here  for lunch, and Cal asked T if he would like some too. T asked what it was. Calvin said, “It’s cabbage with mayonnaise and sugar.” Then he looked at me and asked what else was in it.

“Mustard, salt, and vinegar.” Calvin repeated everything I said, and then informed T that vinegar is “like what you sometimes put on salad.” He’s really fond of balsamic vinaigrette.

I’m glad that I decided to make cole slaw just for me. I never used to make it, because no-one else would eat it. Derek hates it. But after about 2 weeks of having it nearly every day, now one of my sons loves it. I feel successful.

Standard Cole Slaw 

1 head cabbage, red or green, shredded
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2-3 T white vinegar
2 T agave syrup or sugar, more or less to taste (I almost always add more)
1 t Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Put the shredded cabbage in a big bowl. Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl, then combine. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, if you have time.

Variations:
1. add 1 T curry powder.
2. Add 1/2 cup raisins to green cabbage slaw, or 1/2 cup golden raisins to red slaw. Add these just before serving, because they plump over time.
3. Add 1 Cup shredded carrots to green slaw.
4. Add all of the above.
5. Use 2 T plain yogurt and 2 T mayonnaise.
6. Use other shredded cruciferous veggies in place of some or all of the cabbage. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Broccoflower, Daikon Radish, Turnips, Kale, Collards, etc.

I’ve been asked by Erin to openly admit my obsessions. How can I, when I’m so embarrassed about them in the first place?

I’ll leave out the really ghetto ones. So 5 obsessions:

1. Running. Everyone who knows me already knows my obsession with running. It’s not like I’m this fantastic runner, or that I run very fast, or even very far. I just like it a lot, and I especially like trail running. I even have a crappy blog about running. Derek owes me $10,000 for each child I’ve made, but one day he was wondering just how much of my $30,000 I’ve already spent. He said that running stuff doesn’t count, since it’s a physical and psychological need for me. So running shoes, clothes, races, driving to races, all that doesn’t count as part of my $30,000. I think I’ll start signing up for races in Paris and London.

2. Recycling. I’m so far gone that I can only shop at thrift stores for clothes. I always bring my own bags to the market unless I’m buying bulk stuff, in which case I save the same plastic bag and twist tie and use it as many times as I can before it is riddled with holes. I’m dying to have a compost bin (but I can’t yet because my grandpa doesn’t want one in his backyard, but I did make him order a recycling bin for the trash, which he didn’t want because he thought we shouldn’t have to pay for it), and I always save jars and reuse them for keeping things like rice and beans.

3. Cooking. I read cookbooks like novels. I love Indian, South East Asian, Mexican, Native American, Mediterranean, North African, Moroccan, Italian, Finnish, Spanish, vegetarian, vegan, baking… I realize that all those labels are broad generalizations, but I love trying new stuff. I also don’t like repeating meals. There are only a few things that I make periodically. Lentil Sausage Soup, Sweet Potato Quesadillas, Turkey or Pork soft Tacos, and I can’t think of anything else. I have a collection of cookbooks, and I find new stuff in them all the time. I loooove vegetables, so the majority of my cookbooks are vegetarian, and my favorites are from the Moosewood Restaurant. I feel sad for people that don’t eat vegetables, or who think grey green beans and steamed broccoli are the only choices.

4. Mind games. Sudoku, Planarity (which doesn’t count after you figure it out), puzzles, ciphers, foreign languages, math, stuff you have to think about. I guess mystery novels counts in this category, too, and I love me a good mystery.

5. Knitting and crocheting. I only learned how to knit a couple of years ago, and I started crocheting after that. It was while on break from applique, which I haven’t done since I started knitting. Mostly all I do is little stuff, like baby blankets. I did knit a little lamb for my mom, which I then felted. It was the cutest thing. I like to knit while Derek reads books to me out loud. We’ve gone through lots of good books this way. We’ve especially love “The Cat Who…” books. They’re not gory like some other mysteries, and as far as language, they’re pretty clean.

I changed my mind. I’m not embarrassed about these ones, I just left out all the ones I don’t want widely known. But I do think all these things fall under the heading of ways to waste time. But I guess if we weren’t going to waste any time, we’d have to still be eking out our existence on the farm. And I’m tagging bon, Carrie, Crystal, Dan (because I think that would be funny. I hope I can get him to post on DYM), and my cousin Mike, cause honestly, I’m just too curious.

Ha ha, did that get your attention? There really is cheese, but that’s not all. So last Sunday, I sat down with my calendar and asked Derek, Calvin, and Zeeb what they would like for dinner once this week. Derek’s Pad Thai was a success, Zeeb asked for pizza and roasted cauliflower (if you’ve never tried roasted cauliflower, you have no idea how incredibly good it is. I don’t like steamed cauliflower, I think it smells like compost, but roasted? It’s like french fries), and Calvin, predictably, requested macaroni and cheese. I am personally revolted by the stuff in the box, and am mortally offended when he asks for this. There are so much better things in the world. He was introduced to it at someone else’s house, so I will not take the fall for it. But he does like it, and I did say he could have whatever he wanted, as long as he doesn’t complain on the nights when someone else chooses.

In the past, I’ve done a white sauce with orange food coloring, which is just the right sort of scary fake orange color that it tricks the little ones, but I’m not fond of using a lot of food color. So here’s my attempt at pulling a fast one on Calvin the healthy way.

Macaroni and Cheese

16 oz. macaroni
2 cups chopped carrots
2 – 4 T tomato paste
1 cup chopped onions
milk
3 T butter
2 T flour
2 cups grated sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan, cover carrots with water, bring to a boil, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until pretty soft. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook macaroni as directed on package. In a frying pan, heat 1 T of the butter on medium, add chopped onions, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

When carrots and onions are ready, puree them in a blender with the tomato paste and some or all of the carrot water, adding milk if needed. In the carrot pan, heat the remaining 2 T butter on medium until it bubbles, add the flour, and stir for 1 minute. Add the pureed carrot and onion sauce and stir with a whisk over medium heat until it bubbles and thickens a little. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the macaroni, return to the pot, and add the sauce. If it is too thick, add some more milk until it’s the consistency you like. It will be bright orange, and not quite smooth. The cheese doesn’t melt all the way, but I like that. Now I’m thinking that if you did the roux (butter and flour) and added warm milk to make a white sauce, added the cheese to melt it, then pureed the carrots and onions without adding milk, you could then mix the two and it might be smoother. Or you could just leave out the carrots and onions all together, add more butter and flour, and have regular mac n’ cheese. But I think it’s yummy.

You could also use this recipe to make a nice carrot soup if you left out the macaroni, and even the cheese. I bet it would be yummy with chicken broth instead of milk, and maybe some curry powder.

So, yeah. This will get a few more dishes dirty that a box of icky fake stuff, but you will be happier with yourself, and if your kids like it, won’t you feel like a success?

By the way, it did not pass the test with Calvin. He took one look, crinkled his nose, and said, “Mom, what did you put in this?” But Zeeb inhaled his “macaronicheese,” Derek liked it fine, and even my Dad cleaned up the leftovers the next day.

Derek’s request for dinner tonight was noodles with peanut sauce, so this is what he got. I’m calling it Pad Thai because that’s what it most closely resembles, although I’m not sure the purple cabbage is a traditional Thai ingredient. I just didn’t have any bean sprouts, so I pulled out the cabbage and sliced it really thin. And since I’ve never met a cabbage that I didn’t like, it turned out well.

Purple Pad Thai for 2

8 oz. linguine or fettuccine
8 oz. tofu, cut in 1 inch cubes
2 T peanut or canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, white and light green parts chopped
2 Cups shredded purple cabbage (or just use green, but it won’t be as pretty)

Sauce:
2 T soy sauce
3 T lime juice
1 T fish sauce (unless you’re vegan. You know who you are.)
2 T palm sugar* or brown sugar
pinch cayenne pepper

1/3 cup chunky natural peanut butter
1/4 cup water

Garnishes:
Lime slices
snipped chives
chopped toasted peanuts

Bring a large pot of water to boil, add noodles, and cook as directed on package.
In a non-stick frying pan, heat 1 T oil on medium. Add cubed tofu and fry on each side, turning gently with a fork, until each side is golden.

In a small bowl, mix sauce ingredients with a fork. In another small bowl, mix peanut butter with water.

Meanwhile, in a wok or large non-stick frying pan, heat remaining 1 T oil on med. Add garlic and fry for a few seconds. Add scallions, stir, then add cabbage and fry, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Add sauce and simmer for a minute or two. Turn off heat. Add peanut butter mixture, drained noodles and tofu, stir gently. Taste, and add sugar, soy sauce or lime juice to taste. Add a little water if you like it saucier. Plate up and add garnishes.

* You can get palm sugar at Asian markets, or Indian markets, where it’s called jaggery. It comes in lumps or powdered, and is yellow. It has a strong taste, sort of like brown sugar, but different.

I love granola. I make it all the time, because I love it so much. I eat it by the handful whenever I pass the cupboard. It doesn’t have any calories, if you eat it in small amounts. Derek loves it too, and since I don’t like to buy boxed breakfast cereals, it comes in handy whenever I don’t want to make hot breakfast. Which is only about 6 days out of 7, so not that often. So I’ve tried lots of recipes from books and internet, and I’ve mixed up some of the elements (no, Katie, not those elements) to fit my own taste. I’ll admit freely that I have an incurable addiction to the C12H22O11 group, namely: sucrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, galactose, mannose. So this granola might be a touch too sweet, if you’re a normal human, and not one that shares DNA with me or Derek. If you’re related to one or both of us, you will love it.

Here’s the recipe for the version I made today:

Almond Cranberry Granola

6 C regular rolled oats
1/3 C oat bran
3/4 C chopped raw almonds
2 1/2 t cinnamon
2/3 C pure maple syrup if you’re like me, 1/2 C if you’re normal (NOT pancake syrup!!!)
1/4 C fresh almond butter
2 T canola oil
2 T molasses
1/4 t pure vanilla extract (please don’t use the fake stuff. Just leave it out if you don’t have real vanilla. You don’t want your granola tasting like plastic.)
pinch salt (leave out the salt if you leave out the vanilla)
3/4 C dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350o. Spray a large rimmed cookie sheet with oil. In a large bowl, combine oats, oat bran, almonds, and cinnamon. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, almond butter, oil, molasses, vanilla, and salt. Mix well with a fork or whisk. Pour into dry ingredients and mix well. Spread evenly on baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 7 minutes to prevent burning the edges. Let cool completely before adding cranberries. Store in an airtight container. I never refrigerate granola because we eat it so fast it can’t go bad.

You may, of course, use any nuts you like, and any dried fruit. I will not hunt you down. I really like it with walnuts and raisins, but I don’t add the almond butter. If you don’t have almond butter and don’t feel like blending up some, just leave that out and up the amount of oil to 1/4 cup instead. You don’t have to have oil, but I find that the oats toast better with oil added. Melted butter is nice, too.

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I would like you to note that I have just received my 1st degree black belt in Code-Fu. If you can tell me why, you are probably higher ranked than I. Derek-San is a 3rd degree black-belt for the amazing work he did with the photos and text-wrapping on yesterday’s post. I have much to learn.

If you are the praying sort, please pray for my baby girl, Kiki, who will have her cyst removed tomorrow. And pray for me, that I can keep it together during the operation. And pray for Sheila’s mom, Diane, who has had her chemo and radiation therapy postponed, due to infection that hasn’t cleared up yet.

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