Posts Tagged ‘food’

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



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?

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.

End of the season

October 13, 2009

The weather predicted for Saturday, October 10: hard freeze in the early morning hours.

The weather received: 3+ inches of snow.

Hello, winter.

Because I hate to see good food go to waste (especially if I’ve grown it), I made a special trip to our garden at sundown Friday night. I picked a plastic grocery bag full of these:

I spent all day polishing these peas...

Can you guess what they are?

I filled a second bag with green and red tomatoes, and a third with various herbs to dry or use. I drove home after dark, wishing I had made it to the garden earlier, because I KNEW there was more that I had missed.

Saturday was the last day of the farmers’ market. Sigh. I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up, since it was still snowing lightly at 10. But I couldn’t just ignore the last week, not when I had made up a whole list of what I wanted to buy. So I showed up with my $40 in hand (double what I usually spend), and gave my custom to the growers who had braved the cold.

I made three trips to the car.

It’s an affliction.

I bought:

  • parsnips
  • carrots
  • turnips
  • onions
  • hubbard squash
  • acorn squash
  • pumpkins
  • lettuce
  • spinach
  • apples
  • green onions
  • red kale
  • beets

And I was given a sourdough baguette from a vendor anxious to get in out of the cold.

With my car full of produce, I headed home. Unfortunately, my kitchen was already full of Friday night’s haul, Thursday’s coop order, Wednesday’s visit to my parents’ garden, and leftovers from last week’s market.

I pulled on my gloriously stained apron and set to work. As of now (2 AM on Sunday), I accomplished:

  • one green tomato pie
  • ~2 pounds of okra, trimmed and cleaned for gumbo
  • 5 cups of zucchini, grated for bread (half in the freezer, half for now)
  • ~1/2 pound of blanched spinach in the freezer
  • 4 cups of rhubarb, chopped and frozen
  • 1 1/2 cups of rhubarb, chopped for use this week
  • a pot of soup composed of the last of my red potatoes, an aging leek, bacon trimmings from Wohlner’s, and a bit of cream
  • 2 heads of lettuce cleaned and ready for use
  • 2 trays of herbs drying

Oh, and remember that mystery photo? Those are unripe currant tomatoes. I plucked a quart of them off the vine. They are now residing in the freezer with everything else.

Did I mention that I made nutty sweet potato waffles for breakfast, sorted my baby’s clothes, closed all of the storm windows and did two loads of dishes? And I took my older daughter outside for a snowball fight. This is the most energetic day I’ve had in…uh…my life?

Hideous cookbook series, part 4

October 12, 2009

I wandered away from this topic for awhile, but stumbled across a recipe this week that simply screamed for inclusion:

Corned Beef Salad

1 3-ounce pakage orange or lemon gelatin

1 3/4 c. hot water

1 c. Miracle Whip

1 c. chopped celery

1/4 c. chopped green pepper

1/4 c. finely chopped onion

3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped

1 can corned beef, broken up

Add hot water to gelatin to dissolve. When cool, add other ingredients. Chill until set in a 9″ x 9″ pan. Serve with crackers.

–from A Taste of Heaven, compiled by Hazel Dell United Methodist Church

Okay, first off, what about this says “salad”? Is it the gelatin? Is everything that contains gelatin either a salad or a dessert?

Second, just the phrase “can corned beef, broken up” makes me gag. Ew.

And, finally, the woman who submitted this recipe is known for being a fantastic cook. I won’t publish her name, because I don’t want to embarrass her, but…wow. The Hazel Dell compilers evidently did not suffer from the same compunctions.

More hideousness to come!

A meditation on differences

August 8, 2009

I know an older couple that I see on a fairly regular basis. He is retired, but She still works out of the home. Both are energetic, active, intelligent and generous. On most political points, we agree, even though we come from vastly different backgrounds. I care for Them a great deal.

All of this is just to set the stage. Now for the real story.

I invited Them to eat with us a few days ago, which They have done many times. The menu featured corn on the cob, beet salad, strawberry spinach salad and spare ribs. A few hours before dinner, She called to see if They could bring anything. Because the spare ribs were behind schedule, I suggested appetizers. She brought deviled eggs and a veggie tray.

The veggie tray is what triggered this meditation. It was purchased from a grocery store, and filled with grape tomatoes, baby carrots, celery, broccoli and ranch dressing. I can say with complete confidence that very little thought went into the tray. She probably thought: appetizers–something cool, since it’s summer–something quick, since dinner is in just a few hours–how about fresh vegetables?–the Bean loves ranch dressing. Et viola! A veggie tray.

Theoretically, I have no problem with veggie trays. But this one bothered me. Here it is, early August in Nebraska. Farmers around here have bushels of tomatoes and carrots and broccoli for sale. A few have celery, too. The corn, beets and spare ribs we fixed were all from local producers. (The spinach and strawberries were, alas, from California, but they were tremendously marked down–I am on a budget.) I have no doubt that the vegetables on that tray were also from California, perhaps even Mexico.

So what’s the big deal? Why do I have such an issue with this? Because I go to a lot of trouble to buy locally produced foods, foster a local food system and support Nebraska farmers. Because my ability to do this is swiftly disappearing, as we face life with even less income than before. And because the couple in question knows all of this.

Of course, I can’t place all the blame on Them. Time was limited, and perhaps purchasing a tray (instead of creating one) seemed necessary. Where can one buy a prepared tray of local vegetables? Uh…nowhere. At least not in Omaha. Perhaps if a local veggie tray had been available, She would have bought that. I do not know.

But there is another difference between this couple and me (and my husband), and THAT is recycling.

I grew up in a recycling household. This was back before the days of curbside recycling pick-up and plastic recycling codes. We saved newspapers and aluminum cans in our garage until they filled the van, then drove them to a center where a man paid us a few cents per pound. Hardly worth the money, but it was a good thing to do. Less in the garbage, and less in the landfills.

Now that I am an adult, I recycle just about everything. Here in Omaha, we do have curbside pick-up for cans, paper, cardboard and plastics coded 1, 2 and 5. We drive to a drop-off location to recycle glass. We take our old clothes and toys, etc. to Goodwill (just a few blocks away). We compost. Even the Bean, at age 3, knows that most “trash” goes in the recycling bin, and she puts it there.

Not so with this couple. They recycle…nothing. Not plastic bottles, not soda cans, not tin cans, not newspaper…nothing. Everything goes in the trash. As She puts it, “If they want something recycled, they can go through my garbage and get it.”

I just can’t understand it. I try to be objective, see through their eyes. Avoid being judgmental. But it is so hard!

They are smart people. They have to understand about pollution and limited landfill space and nonrenewable resources…don’t they? Is it possible that two American suburbanites don’t know this stuff in this day and age? No, I don’t think that’s it.

And it isn’t that They don’t have the time. If I can fit it in around my home business, two kids, housework, job-seeking, volunteering… If I can fit in, They can. He is retired, after all.

So what is it? What is the difference between Them and me? Could it be something as simple as our priorities?

I don’t have a spotless house. Housework is, by and large, pretty low on my priority list. I won’t leave dirty dishes lying around like I did in college, but I’m not too bothered by clutter. Piles of toys. Laundry, folded or unfolded. Unswept floors, as long as nothing sticks to my feet. Even spiderwebs don’t bother me–after all, they do cut down on houseflies.

Likewise, yard work is not high on my to-do list. I’ve got a vegetable plot in the community garden, and I have grown vegetables in other yards, at other houses. I will plant flowers on occasion, but I’m not terribly disciplined about weeding. Or mowing. Or pruning.

This couple, however, has a very well-kept house and yard. No piles or unfolded laundry inside. On the outside, a deck they sand and stain almost yearly. An enormous rock garden. Lots of shrubbery.

Taking care of their home is, apparently, very important to Them. Which is yet another thing I cannot imagine. I would rather try a new recipe or take my daughters to the zoo. Honestly, I’d rather go do almost anything–cooking and reading and playing are what I actually DO.

I suppose it all comes down to what’s important to each of us. We can’t all be the same, after all. Our differences are what allow us to complement one another.

I would still be a whole lot happier if They would start recycling.