Archive for the ‘food’ Category

A Brief Aside

February 15, 2011

From my Simply in Season cookbook:

A shopper’s prayer
Provider God,
Transform this chore, this reluctant shopper.
Journey with me on this expedition of privilege.
I stroll past the breads cooling on the trolley;
yeast-smells proclaim their rising
and invite me to taste and see that they are good.
My hand hovers over the carrots, parsnips, beets….
Thank you for signs of your presence,
for foods and peoples rooted in the soil.
Bless me as I choose.
–Ruth Preston



Nyom, nyom, nyom

November 15, 2010

Note: I’m not sure why I didn’t publish when I wrote it, but here it is: only three months after composition.

I’ve been on a baking streak lately. First it was the Bean’s birthday cake:

Then I made chocolate-peanut butter chip cookies, using–alas–the Doubletree Hotel recipe instead of my old Betty Crocker standby that has all the family-approved adjustments written in. They were good, but not great. Which is why we still have a dozen left after two whole weeks–a situation unheard of in our household.

Next I tried a new Smitten Kitchen recipe: Peach Shortbread. Oh, it looked so beautiful in Deb’s photos. And it was tasty, but not what I think of when I think shortbread. A little too close to pie crust in texture. I’d like to try messing around with this recipe to see if I can come up with something more like shortbread, but embedded with some sweet little peach slices as in this recipe.

Tuesday was a dear friend’s birthday, so I made her a single-layer chocolate cake, cutting down the recipe I used for the Bean’s birthday.

Wednesday was the weekly garden Weed-and-Feed potluck, so I made Plum Kuchen. I had a few pints of wild plums from the farmer’s market and a Deborah Madison recipe accompanied by yet another gorgeous photograph. Mine was delicious, even if it wasn’t as pretty as the inspiring picture. I love to cook for garden night, because I can try new recipes without fearing I’ll have to eat a ton of the result. Aside from the Green Tomato Cake (which was HUGE), I have yet to bring home any leftovers.

Yesterday I received a few gallons of pears and apples from my grandparents’ trees. Today I searched for pear recipes online. I found another Smitten recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake. So I made it for tonight’s dessert, to share with my parents and in-laws. Ooh, yummy.

Up next? Another Deborah Madison recipe: Cornmeal Crepes with Plum Compote (for breakfast, because I still have at least a pint of plums). Then maybe Emeril’s Blue Cheese-stuffed Figs with Lavendar Honey. Or perhaps Fig and Orange Flower Water Custard Tart, also from Deborah Madison. But then what will I make with all of my remaining apples and pears?

Am I in a rut? Is it irrational that I want to bake at least three desserts between now and our trip to New York (only five more days!)? What does it mean that my baking is suddenly using more fruit than chocolate? Will I ever learn to take gorgeous food pictures for my blog?

It’s not homemade…it’s fauxmade!

August 16, 2010

Last week, my daughter and I made brownies. We went to a kids’ cooking class on using lemons. Saturday-into-Sunday, I made her a three-layer Fancy Nancy birthday cake.

We are a family obsessed with food. And not just any food, but the do-it-yourself kind of food. Fantastic, homemade food with less preservatives and additives and chemicals. Locally produced when possible. Organic when practical.

Thinking about food and eating this way is trendy right now, but I don’t think we cook and eat the way we do just because it’s popular (although popularity does help make this food widely available). Cool or not, I would still want to grow and eat from a garden. But we do fit into a certain food-related demographic, one that seems to be growing ever larger under the influence of the Food Network, Barbara Kingsolver, Emeril Lagasse…and so on.

However, it is not the only trendy food demographic these days. There is also the fauxmade crowd (I totally just made up that term). To illustrate this attitude toward food, I offer the following recipe, found on a package of C & H granulated sugar (courtesy of Semi-Homemade maven Sandra Lee).


* 1 package (18-ounce) refrigerated sugar cookie dough, room temperature
* 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1/2 cup powdered sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or other flavoring
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

I’m just going to stop right here.  This is a RECIPE printed on a four-pound bag of SUGAR, for heaven’s sake. And the first ingredient is pre-packaged cookie dough! What the heck?! Why on earth would you buy a four-pound bag of sugar if you weren’t going to bake something with it? And by “bake” I mean mix up from real ingredients, not assemble from prepared items.

Okay, maybe I’m a snob. And I’m probably spoiled–I don’t work 40 hours per week these days, so I have more time to bake the old-fashioned way. I just can’t get behind this trend of semi-homemade food.

Did you know that Sandra Lee has trademarked the phrase “Semi-Homemade”? She also has a show on the Food Network, and she probably has a dozen cookbooks, if you care to call them that.


My feeling is, if you’re going to cook, cook. Don’t futz around making store-bought stuff LOOK homemade; it’s just a waste of time. You may create a warm and fuzzy illusion, but it’s just an that. As soon as anyone tastes your fauxmade food, the game is up. Because it doesn’t taste homemade. It tastes like the preservatives and stabilizers you’re trying to mask.


Weekend O’ Food

August 9, 2010

Friday my mum and I made four pints of plum butter, using sand plums that she and my dad picked from my uncle’s farmland in Oklahoma.

Saturday I spent $40 at the farmer’s market. I bought peaches, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, corn on the cob, eggplants, garlic bratwurst, smoked pork loin and four types of lettuce. When I came home, I made lemonade, fried green tomatoes, corn on the cob and garlic brats for lunch. My husband made the base for a vanilla ice cream.

Yesterday we froze the vanilla ice cream. I made plum syrup with liquid leftover from cooking Friday’s sand plums, then made ice cream using the syrup. I blanched the remaining dozen ears of corn, cut the kernels from the cobs and froze it. (I ended up with roughly four pints.) I made two pints of peach conserve by adapting the apricot conserve recipe from Jeffery Steingarten’s It Must Have Been Something I Ate. For supper, I made soy-glazed eggplant (using homegrown garlic) and a stirfry of snowpeas and carrots.

Yesterday I also bought eight more cartons of mushrooms for pickling, port wine for poaching the underripe pears picked from my grandparents’ tree, ginger for stewing some of the same pears…

I did not buy juice, because we have homemade frozen grape juice concentrate that we need to mix up.

I did not buy Coke, because it was almost $5 for a twelve-pack. I did, however, buy two types of fancy cheese, wine and $8 of chocolates.

Baby got back

January 14, 2010

Yesterday I baked a loaf of bread. My mom gave me a copy of The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, which is primarily about baking bread using whole-grain flour. The food coop recently began carrying whole-grain flour, so of course, I have some. And of course, I decided to bake a loaf of bread.

Let me back up a second. Michael and I almost never buy bread. We have a loverly chrome bread machine that he feeds weekly, and that is our normal source of bread. Cheaper than store-bought bread, plus we can control the ingredients. Perfect, right?

Not so much, unfortunately. I don’t know if it is because we usually set the bread to bake overnight, or if our kitchen is too cold for decent bread rising, or what…but lately the bread has been less than satisfactory. In fact, I would categorize it as Unmixed Floury Goop. Not economical or tasty.

And even when it does turn out looking good, the crust is HARD. I hate that.

Enter The Bread Book. The first dozen or so pages are one recipe: A Loaf for Learning. It gives a great explanation about how baking with whole-grain flour is different, very detailed instructions on how to tackle each step (no matter how tiny), and excellent descriptions of what to look for at each stage of the process. I read it and thought, I could do that.

Later I read the explanation of why breads get a hard outer crust (low temperature during the final rise). And I saw that the Loaf for Learning is marked by a very thin, crispy crust. I knew I had to try it.

So yesterday, I did. It took me about five hours from start to finish, with my two girls underfoot and a business phone to answer and a Nebraskans for Peace meeting at the very end.

By and large, the whole experience turned out great. The loaf is golden brown and delicious. No tooth-cracking crust. Nice light texture.

We ate most of it for supper last night. In fact, it was only when we were almost finished eating that I noticed the bread’s one and only flaw.

It has a butt.

Too much

January 8, 2010

Because the baby is asleep and I already ate lunch and I am bored and I have not left the house in almost three days and if I do any more laundry I will contemplate suicide…I’m going to write about food now.

I made the best turkey noodle soup last night, and all I put in it was too much.

  • Too much celery (a whole celery heart),
  • too much garlic (two small heads, plus the four cloves I threw in with the chicken spine for stock),
  • too much zucchini (all of the last enormous hunk that had frozen in the back of the refrigerator),
  • too many carrots (four),
  • too many leeks (four),
  • too much turkey (all that was left from Christmas dinner),
  • too  much stock (a gallon, maybe),
  • too much Schimmel seasoning (a couple tablespoons),
  • too much salt (I have no idea),
  • too many noodles (half an enormous bag),
  • and too much coriander (a tablespoon or two).

Altogether, we had roughly a gallon and a half of soup. Too much for two adults and a preschooler to eat, of course. So why is there only one bowl remaining in the fridge?

Blizzard banquet

January 2, 2010

We had planned to eat Christmas dinner at my parents’ house this year, with my in-laws in attendance. However, a swirly-whirly blizzard encompassed the area, and we were pinned to the homestead. So at 11 AM, we began making alternate dinner plans.

The duck climbed out of the freezer.

We bought the duck last month from the food coop. I was excited, but a little nervous about it–I like duck, but I’ve never cooked it before. But it definitely qualifies as Special Occasion Food, unlike most of the other food in the house (tuna, anyone?).

I unearthed a recipe for Duckling Peasant Style in my Romanian cookbook. Mostly a simple roast duck, with a glaze composed of tomato, garlic, paprika and honey. Sounded like a winner, so it beat out the standard Duck with Cherries. We didn’t have any cherries anyway.

To go with it, we chose Lucia rolls: a saffron-flavored Advent creation from Scandinavia. Because of our wonderful Spanish friends, we have an abundance of gorgeous saffron, and this seemed a fine time to use it. A few handsful of golden raisins rounded out the recipe.

Those two stars, plus some roasted parsnips and carrots and perhaps a glass or two of Moscato d’Asti, would make for a lovely Christmas dinner, blizzard or no blizzard.

Of course, these things never proceed as planned. At 10 PM, when the duck was still cooking and I realized that the rolls needed to rise AGAIN…we decided to scrap the plan, and just eat our gorgeous dinner on the 26th.

Christmas dinner at our place? Green salad with ranch dressing, a little jamón serrano and a couple bites of Snickers cheesecake.


My fridge…she is full

November 24, 2009

And I’m going out of town in three days! Augh!

What can I make with:

  • half of an enormous pumpkin,
  • two dozen chicken eggs,
  • milk,
  • sour cream,
  • chestnuts (still),
  • yogurt,
  • scallions,
  • leeks,
  • half an enormous zucchini,
  • figs,
  • underripe pears, and
  • green garlic?

Augh! What can I make with all of this that my leetle family will also EAT in the next three days?

I already made last week’s pumpkin lasagne (instead of cannelloni–much faster), lamb kebobs, zucchini fritters and cranberry-orange bread. And Michael cooked the chicken last night for an early Thanksgiving with his parents, which means I still have a bag full of parmesan rinds looking for a home.

Poor little parmesan rinds.

On the menu tonight is the Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin I didn’t get around to last week. And I suppose we can still have the maple leek salad with it. Maybe I’ll throw some figs and chestnuts in there, too.

But still leaves half of the foods on my list! Augh!

You know what this means. It’s time to get creative.

I could make angel food cake and lemon curd. That would take care of my egg infestation. (Wow, that sounds gross. Perhaps egg invasion would be better.) But do I really need to make more dessert when we already have leftover Grape and Almond Frangipane Tart and Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar-Walnut Topping? When both are delicious beyond words? When we’re already planning to make a new kind of pecan pie and maple cream pie for the trip?

Perhaps not.

I could whip up some pumpkin butter, but I don’t have any bread to spread it on! So, okay. Start with bread. Or something bread-like, anyway.

Smitten Kitchen is no help. All I want to do now is make soft pretzels, which is not exactly a great idea when home alone with one’s five-month-old daughter, no matter how cute she is.

Looks like we’re going with the old stand-by: zucchini bread. Whether this will meld well with pumpkin butter, I do not know. It will be tasty with the gratin, I’m sure. Maybe we’ll skip the pumpkin butter and use the pumpkin for Tuesday’s dinner.

For Tuesday night: pumpkin curry with vegetable biryani and a yogurt-green-garlic-and-scallion sauce to cool. And, of course, naan.

Leaving…ooh, I think just the pears! Well, we can just take those with us if my husband doesn’t finish them off with his lunches between now and Wednesday. Yay! Kitchen success!

But what will we do with the leftovers?


November 17, 2009

How well do I follow my meal plan?

After a trip to Whole Foods in which the Bean inadvertently destabilized an entire pyramid of pears…I discarded my original idea. Nothing like the unplanned purchase of a few pounds of underripe but bruised pears to make one rethink one’s immediate gustatory intentions.

So we had turnip and pear soup (from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant–one of my very favorite cookbooks) with green salad and blue cheese toast. The soup was interesting enough, though I doubt I’ll make it again. Just a little too bland, I think. The Bean took two bites and turned up her nose.

On the up side, I did manage to cook up another chunk o’ pumpkin, which should facilitate faster dinner prep tomorrow night.

Meal plan 11.15.09

November 16, 2009

Since it is now…uh…8:57 on Sunday night, and I only NOW have dinner underway, I’ve decided it is time once again to engage in a little MEAL PLANNING.

So. What do I have that needs eating?

  • chestnuts
  • celery
  • pumpkin
  • zucchini
  • eggs
  • leeks
  • beets
  • scallions
  • cranberries
  • Parmesan cheese rinds

Feeling very fallish in my refrigerator. So what can I make with this?

  1. Chestnut soup with cranberry orange bread
  2. Swiss chard and sweet potato gratin (de Smitten Kitchen) with maple leek salad
  3. Chicken Parmesan soup
  4. Pumpkin cannelloni with sage brown butter (sans clam sauce, thanks)
  5. Lamb kebobs with zucchini fritters and yogurt sauce

Hm. Lots of heavy-lifting cooking. I suppose we’ll see how well the girls cooperate. Oh, AND I have choir practice on Wednesday (just joined, so I’m still trying to remember it on my internal calendar).

That still leaves me with beets, too, but I think I can deal with that. Perhaps serve them with the cannelloni. I actually saw a recipe for beet soup served in roasted acorn squash halves, but that sounded a little too risky a combination for my four-year-old. And me.