Saturday, January 27, 2007

Cooking Mishaps

Yes, it's true. I'm a little bit pregnant. I'm just finally over being nauseous 14-hours a day. I'm starving almost ALL the time, which was especially annoying when I was naseous. I'm trying to eat well--my crazy, fat, holistic, Kaiser Permanente medical professional has told me she only wants me to gain 10 pounds. (Which from everything I've read is way, WAY underweight, but hey, maybe she sees a big fat woman and knows I'm not going to stay an a lowly 10 pounds.)

She's given me some directives:

  1. No sugar.
  2. Nothing with sugar or sweeteners.
  3. Nothing processed.
  4. Nothing that's white.
Yes, folks, that's right. I'm not supposed to eat anything that's white. No white bread, white flour, white tortillas, white rice, pasta, cream-based anything, butter, etc.

I've been trying to cook healthy or healthier foods, but my mojo is completely off. Here are some recent disasters:

Brown rice and stir-fry: I normally love brown rice. I had a mouthful of this and almost yaked. Mushy? Bland? Plasticy? I don't know. I kept trying but finally gave up.

Black bean soup: I was looking forward to trying the America's Test Kitchen Black Bean Soup, which seemed pretty easy and healthy. I didn't use "processed" canned beans. I soaked my beans overnight, then cooked them for 3 hours. The next night I made the soup. We finally had it on the third night because the beans were still CRUNCHY the second night. I just had the last of it for lunch today, and it was still pretty al dente. Which beans shouldn't be.

Florentine Pasta: Tonight I made a Florentine Pasta, which was about three pounds of organic spinach, onions, garlic in a saffron bechamel sauce (with saffron it was golden, not white!). Well, somehow I messed up the sauce and it was totally thin, so I tempered two egg yolks and added them. Perfect. Except five minutes later the sauce was broken, and we ended up with this wierd dish with a scrambled egg sauce. Tasted okay, but it sure wasn't what I'd planned. And I ended up adding a bunch of parmesan cheese (WHITE!!!!) to help pull it all together.

So, do I give up trying to cook at all for the next few months? Is it just mum-dum? Or an offshoot symptom?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why I'm Not Cooking

I haven't been cooking lately. Nor have I been going to fantastic restaurants. Here's some clues as to why:

1) I'm taking new vitamins
2) I'm drinking a lot more OJ and water than I normally do
3) I've been very, very tired lately
4) Certain smells just put me off.

Any ideas...?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Why Does Spinach...?

Why does spinach make my teeth feel chalky? No matter if I eat it cooked or raw, I always get this odd coating sensation after I have it.

Well, according to Alex Tangren of Chez Panisse, "Agricultural scientists say that this comes from the leaves' high concentration of oxalic acid."

Ever have a glass of milk with some rhubarb pie? Oxalic acid combined with the calcium in milk creates Calcium Oxalate.

And too much calcium oxalate causes kidney stones. So, watch your intake of oxalic acid. There's more info at Wikipedia.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pasta e Fagioli

Fast, cheap and satisfying...Pasta e Fagioli is a perfect soup/stew for those dreary days of January. This dish was a hit with the whole family--The Bug had thirds!

It's a rustic dish, so don't worry about perfect sizes on the vegetables. Also, while it seems like a lot of ingrediants, it's really a "what's in the fridge that needs to be used" dish. Add and subtract items as you wish. I like to make this when I have some leftover crusty bread to throw in. Total cooking time should take no more than an hour. This is a fresh, fast dinner. (To make it vegetarian, skip the chicken and make with your favorite veggie stock.)

Pasta e Fagioli

2 Tablespoons olive oil
Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I use the flash-frozen kind, so they're fairly big)
1/2 large yellow or white onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 head of celery, including center stalks, diced
1 large carrot, sliced or diced
1 head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 large can chicken broth
1 large can skinned, diced tomatoes
1 can white or black beans, with some liquid drained
1/2 cup small pasta, like tubetini or alphabets (if you do a mixture like me, watch cooking times)
8 oz frozen chopped spinach
1/4 cup romano cheese, shredded
crushed red pepper, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
day old sourdough bread, torn into bite-sized pieces (optional)
fresh herbs (basil, thyme, or parsley work well)

Heat olive oil in large stock pot on medium high; add whole chicken breasts. After they have browned on both sides, add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Lower heat immediately to medium/medium low, saute until fragrant. Add chicken broth, turn to high heat and bring to a boil, then turn down to med/med-low again. Add cauliflower and tomatoes. Cook for about 3 minutes, then add pasta. Stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking to the pot.

Halfway in the pasta cooking time, add beans; stir well. Remove chicken breasts and slice into bite-sized pieces, return to pot with any juices that have collected in the cutting process.

When pasta is cooked, add frozen spinach. After about 3 minutes, add the bread, red and black pepper, and cheese. Check for seasonings.

Ladle into bowls and top with chopped fresh herbs.