Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Dinner

How did I make Christmas Dinner for 22 and not take a single picture?

The menu:

Slow-roasted Pork Shoulder
Bubble and Squeak
Apple Slaw
Manicotti (homemade for the vegetarians, who decided to eat pork, too!)
Fresh Asparagus

I was going to make a corn pudding, but ran out of time.

In the end, the pork shoulder was too dry (I used a Nigella Lawson recipe that said there was no way the pork could be over cooked that way, but boy was she WRONG).

The apple slaw was made last minute with Granny Smiths and my new, wonderful mandolin. I julienned them and sprinkled with lemon juice, tossed in glazed walnuts, dried cranberries, and bits of blue cheese. A sprinkle of salt, a tsp of sugar, a tablespoon of cider vinegar, and a tiny bit of mayo to give it a little binding. It was pretty darn good. I'd cut the apples thicker next time though, as they got very soft, very fast.

The manicotti was from an America's Test Kitchen recipe. Bland, very bland, but their idea of using no-boil lasagna noodles and rolling up the cheese in them was a great one, and a time saver!

More later. Just waiting for pictures to load from camera.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I've been hearing about Turducken a lot this holiday season. Seems lots of people aren't happy with just the traditional turkey, not even the deep fried turkey. The in-thing now is Turducken: a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken--all boneless, of course.

That sounded pretty tasty to me, until I thought of what I'd like even BETTER this Christmas:


A cow stuffed with a pig stuffed with a lamb. All boneless, of course.

Think of it as a pig roast, on steroids.

Who's up for the ultimate meat feast?!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving, here we come!

I can't account for my time this year. Somehow time has flown by and I haven't blogged...but I really haven't cooked, either. Two years ago I burst out of bed on Thanksgiving morning, thrilled to be getting to cook. This year we go to my sister-in-laws, and I'm kind of happy about it. No mandatory cleaning beforehand, no need to clean-up after.

I cooked an $8 Safeway turkey ten days ago, and made a stock from it on the weekend. I now have to reduce that so I can actually have the pot back, as I have been assigned the potatoes for the Thanksgiving dinner. This family always has Bubble and Squeak, and I shall make a simple vegetarian version of that--and will make my fancy one on Christmas

CHRISTMAS! I've been given CHRISTMAS!! I will be making roast pork, with all the trimmings, whatever those may be. I will make my fancy bubble and squeak dish then, which has bacon and tons of cheese and those Durkee fried onion bits. It's a heart-clogger, for sure, but it's del-i-cious!

I'll post tomorrow's B&S recipe, with the feedback from the family (which amounts to...how much was left in the pan and on the plates).

Regarding the baby: HUGE. He's not yet 18 months and is in 4T clothing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer is Over

Today was the first day of school. I think I've posted twice since school let out--what in the world have I been doing? I had envisioned this summer to be warm, sunny days spent digging, planting, weeding and pruning in the backyard; afternoons filled with childrens' laughter and shrieks of splashing in our little kidney-shaped pool; and fragrant, cool evening walks as the sun sets after a relaxed homemade dinner of food from our yard.

It's been none of those things. Sure, I have poblano and anaheim pepper growing well, and the basil will definitely produce a nice batch of pesto for the freezer. I have a set of plants from the Morningsun Herb Farm that I must get in the ground tomorrow or they'll all be dead. I've been in the pool about three times, maybe four (though last week the guys all went in while I worked in the cool Bay Area). I guess I get out on two walks a week--maybe three.

Anyway, all that said, I haven't been cooking much. And what I have been cooking I haven't photographed. It's the lazy days of summer, I guess.

Yesterday I made chilaquiles with peppers from my backyard and some lovely local tomatoes that I roasted with the peppers. To round out the brunch I decided to make corn soup, as I love corn but the Bug can't eat it off the cob with his temporary front teeth (having flipped over his handle-bars last summer and now has to wait about 6 years to get caps). The corn was from Parker Farms and had just been harvested. It was so sweet and tender and juicy, I almost hated to make it into soup. Almost.

Creamy Corn Soup

Four ears of fresh corn
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon corn starch
4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup roasted, peeled and diced poblano peppers (use tinned if necessary)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste

Put the bacon on a low pan and allow to get crisp, but not burnt. Drain on paper towel and save two tablespoons of bacon grease. While bacon is cooking, cut corn off the cobs, reserving one ear's worth and putting the other three in a blender. Pulse the blender--be patient. It will take some time for the kernels to get down to the blades. Brown the onion in the reserved bacon grease, add garlic and cook until soft. Add all, including any bacon fat in pan, to blender. Add water and cornstarch, and blend well.

In medium soup pot, heat corn mixture and broth on medium, turning to medium low when bubbling. Add more broth if necessary. Cook down to desired consistency; add peppers, remaining corn, and cream. Dice bacon and add to pot. Heat on medium/medium-low, stirring well, for about 10 minutes, or until hot. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste. Adjust liquid levels to taste as well.

Serve with shredded cheese, chopped cilantro and diced red bell pepper.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Never had a clove-scented basil leaf

I'm growing basil and cilantro plants--and my cilantro has already gone to flower. But my basil is happy and producing fat leaves. However, I'm unhappy. My sweet basil is very, very strong. It has a much stronger clove scent than other basil plants I've grown in the past.

Did the nursery folks mislabel it? Or have I done something to promote the stronger clove taste in growing it with cilantro? Has something else I've done affected it?

I have to say, I don't like it, which is disappointing. I'd planned on making tons of pesto this summer, and I don't know if it will be to my liking.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm back!

After a 20-day hiatus from blogging, I'm back. It's been a busy July. No real post for now, but I've had some inquiries, along the line of...all okay? Yes, all is fine. Yesterday we celebrated the Baby's first birthday. How fast a year goes!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bits and Pieces

There is so much to write about, and some how I've managed to wait until it was tomorrow, again. It's too late to write anything properly. This past week has been a blur of food and visitors and my trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I still don't have an answer for that, but I do know some new things about food.

1) Country-style ribs from Safeway are not ribs. They are pork shoulder cut into rib-shaped slabs. They are, however very tasty barbequed, and don't take nearly the same amount of long, slow cooking as regular ribs. I don't know why though. Maybe if they were cooked long and slow they'd be even better?

2) Cooking country-style ribs in the oven wrapped in foil with braising liquid for a long, slow period isn't nearly as good as grilling them outside, over hickory chips.

3) S'mores are just as good made in the microwave as over the 'que. And faster.

4) Dim sum is normally a brunch thing. Don't show up at 4pm in Chinatown expecting dim sum to be served...anywhere.

5) Duck is very tasty. Duck five ways is even better.

6) Babies like duck broth.

7) Husbands like a never-ending supply of chocolate-chip cookies.

8) Homemade vanilla ice cream is not appreciated by four-year olds.

9) Barilla Plus is a great pasta to feed to kids--fiber, protein and omega-3s.

10) The Bug knows that he likes calamari with tentacles. Seriously! I still won't touch the stuff.

Oh. I'm tired. Should that be the title of my blog? Seriously....

Saturday, June 28, 2008


The lovely young family is here to stay! They showed up Tuesday night, then swept the Bug away for a wonderful trip to Monterey, arriving back very late Thursday night. The kids were all so exhausted they fell to bed fully dressed, teeth unbrushed. And were up again at the crack of dawn--and will be up again that early tomorrow, so I must type fast.

I'd forgotten what little littles were like. Those who can voice what they want but are still all over the place with knowing what they like and want. An average conversation in our kitchen is now:

"Want Teddy Grahams!"
"There's none left. Would you like Nilla Wafers?"
"Want Teddy Grahams!"
"I'm sorry, they're all gone. Would you like Nilla Wafers?"
"Want yogurt!"
"Okay, Strawberry or Blueberry?"
"Yes Blueberry?
--new child: "I WANT YOGURT!"
"Okay, hold on. Dardar, strawberry or blueberry?"
"I'm thirsty."

And so forth.

So I wondered how dinner would go and if I should bother making something. We've been eating more croissants and danish than anyone should. And one of the children has a never-ending bowl of spaghetti leftovers from some restaurant.

I made hamburgers, cooked them on the barbeque, and was very excited that they didn't turn out like hard hockey pucks. Us adults had tomatoes and avocado and red onion on our burgers and boy, were they yummy. And on the side we had a nice fennel salad with orange and red onion. Have I posted that yet? It's very nice. Suddenly very tired. Late night. Much red wine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Lemon Suckers

I love having house guests too. And tonight I had the pleasure of a sneak preview of a lovely young family who'll be spending four glorious nights--Saturday through Wednesday. My old friend from college and her two little ones: Nana and Dardar. Nana is four and a half, Dardar is two. They are so adorable and loving and energetic and funny and elastic and fudgety and persnickety and precocious and tenacious....it's wonderful.

We have a lemon tree. And they, being from Virginia, do not have a lemon tree. So everyone, from grandmother down to baby, was wowed by the load of fresh lemons. Nana proceeded to pick a dozen lemons off the tree and line them up on the counter, wanting to know when we'd make lemonade.

Since they'd just arrived and everyone was buzzing in different directions and all the children wanted attention and us two who brought this group together just wanted to SIT and NATTER...I really didn't want to make lemonade.

Enter the eleven-year old. Wow. When is a Bug not a bug? When he's eleven and standing about 87-feet taller than the littles around him. He cut lemons, showed how to press them, added sugar and water, and filled sippy cups. Call him the lemon king.

So what one thing *didn't* he do? Clean up, of course.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fires and Ice Cream

There's a large wild fire burning out of control near my house. The Bug and I saw the smoke right after it started yesterday. We were out at the local produce shack and the Bug said, look--it looks like a volcano! And it did. I realized as we were driving home that it was on the ridge line about five miles from our house. Right now the region is in voluntary evacuations, so we're packing up the stuff we need and love so we can be ready at a moment's notice.

Since it's so smoky, we can't enjoy the nice weather outside. I think we'll watch movies and I'm going to make vanilla bean ice cream. We had steak and eggs and grilled vegetables for brunch--something I *never* do. I figured if we had to evacuate, at least we'd have a hearty meal under our belts.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Buying Too Much and Carrot Soup

I've been wondering lately how people without much money are handling the rise in...everything. The rising price of gas, of milk, of bread, of cereal, of rice, of bell peppers, of onions even. It seems my food costs have gone up about 20% in the past six months. I've been crabbing and kvetching...but no more.

Last night I threw away a produce drawer full of food. A drawer...you know the one I mean, the one at the bottom of my fridge. I'd gone to the Farmers' Market two Fridays in a row. And bought way too much stuff. Even I knew that at the time. And then I went to Whole Foods. And then I went to WinCo. And after that I did my necessity trips to Safeway for milk and baby food and red wine (which are much cheaper than at other stores...).

In the end, produce never got eaten. It was as though everyone was overwhelmed by the bounty, and when they opened the fridge just thought, Oh. There's nothing in here to eat because I just see a forest of food.

Too bad there aren't any trees.

And so, when the trees began to smell, I finally tossed them.

I made a new rule yesterday. The cupboards and fridge can only be 1/3 full at any given time. I'll do the disaster stash someplace else. I think we don't force ourselves to eat what we have. From now on, I only replenish when we're absolutely empty.

Today for lunch I made carrot soup with all the carrots that made it out of the forest. They were still needing to be eaten, and I had bags and bags of them in baby version, sliced, and shredded (remember, the Bug has two false front teeth and can't bite into his favorite veggie). So I browned some red onion, two cloves of garlic, and a whole mess of carrots with salt, pepper, and a little curry powder. Then I threw in a box of generic chicken broth, a little extra water, and simmered till they were soft. I blended it with an immersion blender (a fantastic baby present!), added about two cups of shredded carrots, let it reduce another 15 minutes, and gave a quick whir again.

After adjusting seasonings, we enjoyed it topped with some plain yogurt left over from our Greek dinner. The Bug, the Baby and I all quite liked it (the Bug and I added more curry powder and I added some red pepper flakes), and then I fed it to my mother-in-law when she arrived mid-afternoon. She wasn't sure about the yogurt, until she had it. I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it, too.

I wouldn't have made it today...had I not seen the carrots waiting patiently. I probably would have just opted for a quick canned soup. I'm glad I saw them!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Perfect Moment

This afternoon I had the perfect moment. It was about 5:00pm and I was sitting in my backyard, reading a book. The Bug, who at eleven is nearly too old to be called a Bug any more, was splashing around in the pool, today being the first real pool day of the summer. The baby was in bed for the night, and Juiceboy was readying supplies for an upcoming camping trip.

I'd just put some lamb chops on the grill. Delicious, fatty smoke was pouring out of the vents, billowing first, then carried away in great wafts by breeze. The sun was beginning its evening slide behind the hills, and I scooted my chair into the shade of the tall evergreen. I had a glass of cool red (nothing nicer than a slightly cooled Cabernet on a hot summer day) and my new Lee Child. Yogurt and grated cucumber were draining in the kitchen for tzatziki; pencil thin, organic asparagus was ready to be quickly cooked in a drizzle of hot olive oil. And we had leftover sourdough baguette to sop up some lovely balsamic vinegar floating in olive oil--which the Bug calls "special sauce."

Birds were trilling. Everything was bright and alive and in bloom. The lemon tree was fragrant. I was cool and tired from an earlier swim, and anticipating a good dinner. My family was happy. I was perfectly relaxed and wishing it could last for hours.

Here's a lovely, garlicky tzatziki recipe for you to share with those you love a lot. It goes great with lamb, gyro meat (WinCo sells great pre-sliced, packaged gyro meat for veritable PENNIES!), as a dip, etc.


Cheesecloth--this is a mesh fabric sold with cooking supplies. My Safeway carries it with the pots and pans.
2 cups lowfat or full-fat (but NOT non-fat) plain yogurt
Half-to-a-whole large cucumber, seeded
One clove garlic
Fresh lemon juice, to taste

You'll need a wire mesh strainer--one with a lip on one end and a long handle on the other works wonderfully. Line this with about a foot of doubled cheesecloth. Place the strainer in a bowl deep enough so the strainer doesn't touch the bottom. Add the yogurt and let stand at least 1.5 hours. If you have more time, up to 24 hours, place plastic wrap over the bowls and refrigerate.

After 1.5 hours a fair amount of liquid should strain out of your yogurt. Put the yogurt in a small bowl; mash garlic with a press into the yogurt and stir. With the big holes of a grater, grate one half to a whole cucumber; place in the strainer (minus the cheesecloth). Salt generously and leave for 20-30 minutes to drain.

Add cucumber to yogurt. Add salt and lemon juice as needed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Where has it gone...time?

Sigh. Where has the time gone? Here it is, June already. Here it is, almost summer. I had planned to grown many herbs this summer, rather than spending too much at farmer's markets only to have the herbs shrivel and die in my kitchen.

However, I didn't grow any from seeds and so must rely on nurseries. And right now I'm relying on Home Depot (don't all of you throw rotten tomatoes at me) because my nursery is closed before I can ever get to it.

Today the Bug and I recycled baby formula cans, spray painted them sun yellow, and left them to dry in the driveway. Tomorrow we'll punch holes in the bottoms, fill them with dirt, and plant cilantro and basil in them. We also planted pepper plants in big planters in the backyard--poblanos and anaheims. 70 days to maturity! I'm hoping that we haven't over crowded these plants. They seem fine now, but I think they might want more space as they grow, if memory serves me right.

I haven't mentioned the lovely herb stall at the Oakland farmer's market, with the most enthusiastic man selling not just mint but spearmint (yum!), and lovely Thai basil and perfect tarragon and some really interesting cumin leaves. I stuck them in water and wrapped them in a damp tea towel all week. The Bug kept snagging mint leaves (both types) all week long. I realized they'd gone round the bend when I smelled basil on his breath instead last night.

Here it is, almost midnight, and I should be in bed, snoozing. I'll be crabby in the morning.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Leeks and Eggs

I have the kind of job where I can work from home a day or two a week, as long as I don't have meetings, etc.; I try very hard to work from home on Fridays, on account of the terrible Friday evening traffic in the Bay Area. Unfortunately, that means that I miss the Old Oakland Farmers' Market, which is on...yes, Fridays.

What I like about this market is that it's geared towards the locals. It's a stone's throw from Chinatown and the produce offered matches the neighbors. Lots of greens, daikon, kohlrabi, etc. at this last market on Friday. The prices were all reasonable--for $8 I got two lovely bunches of beets, two beautiful bright fennel bulbs, and three leeks. These were lovely, fresh, and fragrant. Yes, even the beets smelled lovely and dirty.

As you might guess, I had to work on Friday. And I was lucky enough that a fire drill drove me out of my office in the morning and it was a gorgeous day. I bought the produce mentioned above, a $4 loaf of pugliese that was delicious from a french bakery, fougasse with garlic and cheese for my lunch from the same bakery for $2.50--delicious!, and then spent way too much ($12) on boulani and cilantro pesto...but oh, it's good.

I got home with my "trees" as Juiceboy calls the fennel, and didn't really know what I wanted to do with everything. I sliced fennel up into slices, wrapped them in prosciutto and drizzled olive oil on them for a light appetizer. Wonderful! While I munched on that, I soaked the leeks and drained/dried them, to have them to cook tonight.

As it was, I got home late and the guys ate leftover pizza. What would I cook that was quick, easy, and just for me? Leeks and an omelet. I'd read somewhere that braised leeks were a lovely omelet filing. I thought I'd try to perfect the two, separately, yet eat them together. Because honestly, I'm not the best cook. I can easily screw one thing up...and if I serve it *in* something else, I've messed up the whole dish.

I melted a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat, till it was bubbling, then added about 2.5 cups of the leeks. I had cut them into 1-inch slices before I washed them last night.

Then I added a teaspoon of kosher salt and turned the heat up just a tad. I cooked the leeks, shaking the pan every now and then, for about five minutes, until they were brown, then I stirred them, and cooked for another five minutes. Then, I added about a quarter cup of decent white wine. I turned the heat to medium low and let the wine cook down. Then, I added about 1/4 teaspoon savory and fresh pepper to taste.

I removed the leeks to my dinner plate.

Then, I added another 1/4 tablespoon of butter to the pan, let it melt to bubbling, and added two eggs that I'd salted and peppered, and added two teaspoons of water to, stirring well. I tipped the pan to quickly coat the bottom with egg, then used a spatula to move the eggs to the side, tipping the pan once more. I used light, gentle movements and barely let the eggs touch heat. I have an electric range and used a wide pan...and the eggs spent no longer than two or three minutes in it.

I ate it with a slice of the bread from the market--it was on day three and was a little tough, but a touch of olive oil or red wine fixed any problems.

So how were the leeks and eggs? Delicious! The leeks were remarkably sweet, and the eggs...I've never had such soft, tender eggs. They just simply melted in my mouth. It was an amazingly simple dinner, and fast, and I plan to have more like it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Butter is Not Always Better

It being Mother's Day today, I was talking to my mother. She mentioned that she'd made some lemon bread that completely fell apart when she de-panned it. She'd swapped butter for the shortening and "sour cream" for the milk, since her milk is skim. What did she do wrong?

Her sour cream was actually whipped cream, that she'd made of cream and whipped--without sugar--that had gone a bit passed its date...and was, therefore, sour. I don't know if this type of sour cream has the same density as regular sour cream, but I'm not certain it would be a good substitute for milk.

Since I didn't know, I needed to figure out if butter is a good substitute for shortening. I read lots of statements that said that butter is always better...in terms of health and flavor, that is. But when it comes down to the science of it, butter is NOT always better. At least, not if you do a one-to-one substitution.

Why is that? Well, shortening is pretty much 100% fat. And butter is fat, water and sometimes salt. If your recipe requires half a cup of shortening and you put in half a cup of water...you won't have enough fat. But you will have extra liquid. So, what I've read is that you need to have 1.2 times the amount of butter as the recipe calls for shortening.

What really crushed her is that she had special butter from Trader Joes that she said is better in baking...but she didn't use it. It likely has less water and salt in it. I never did ask her why she didn't.

So...can you substitute butter for shortening? Yes, but adjust your recipe accordingly.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Growing Up Greek

I had a Greek upbringing. I drool at the thought of skordalia, lucanico and pastitsio. I will drive many hours for good Greek Festivals (in churches, with dancing...not convention centers and long lines and hip hop over the loud speaker).

Wait, you say. You're an Irish/British/Canadian born on Long Island. How could you have been raised Greek? As my husband pointed out, neither the Canadians, nor the Irish and British are known for their love of Greek cooking. Where does the Greek come into play?

My dad was an airline pilot, and when I was five, we went to Greece. We stayed mostly in Athens, though we did take a bus trip that was very long, and very boring, and two Australian kids named Alistair and Fiona and my sister and I all became bus sick and threw up out the window on a herd of very affronted sheep. After that the tour leaders realized us kids needed fresh air, so they took us to Olympia, where we were made to run around a giant dirt track, where the first Olympics were held. I was the youngest, and I came in last.

During the bus tour we dined at simple, open-air restaurants. We seemed to always have lamb stew and watermelon. At five I didn't see the endless fascination with lamb stew, night after night, so I would wander from table to table, collecting the large wedges of watermelon the adults pressed on me. It seemed they were sick of the endless parade of watermelon wedges.

When we arrived back home, my parents made deep fried zucchini and skordalia. We never had anything deep fried, so I did my best, even though I despised zucchini, and still do. I tried getting the thin coating off the zucchini slices and dipping it into the thick, yet airy, garlic-potato dip that was swirled with olive oil. I ended up worrying down more zucchini than I like to remember, just to get to have the skordalia.

Then, my parents discovered Zorba the Greek's restaurant. It was a little hole-in-the wall on the main street of Smithtown. It probably had ten tables. I recall plastic gingham tableclothes and pictures of the Acropolis and the Aegean on the walls. I can still remember the layout of the menu, though we got to know it so well we never had to look at it. We always ordered the same thing: a large Greek salad, a large plate of french fries, three gyros for my family and the lucanico for me. I never liked the lookes of the gyros with the yogurt sauce and all those onions...and now? Now I dream of tzatziki and lovely sauteed onions and pressed Greek meats on a spit.

Just today I bought a jar of dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) at Whole Foods. My local supermarket doesn't carry them, so I stock up when I wander into the WF. I didn't bother buying "Greek yogurt" because I make my own, with a special yogurt strainer my mother gave me for Christmas a few years back.

And when I make items for potlucks, what do I make? Most usually my awesome pastitsio--which is a cross between macaroni and cheese and lasagna, Greek-style--with bechamel, ground lamb, and a hint of cinnamon. There's never a smidge left in the pan. I swear, people would lick it if they thought they could get away with it.

My absolute love of Greek food has caused me to wonder hard about living in the Bay Area. There are no good Greek hole-in-the-wall spots. A pizza/gyro place on Polk Street in SF with a fake bird chirping over the doorway, and that's about it. Everything else is Middle Eastern, and/or four star. A great Greek place is going to be listed under the "Cheap Eats" column in the weekly newspaper.

I suppose it was also my love of Greek food that made me make Greek Meatballs for a recent cocktail party. Ground lamb and pork, feta cheese, oregano and dill went into the traditional recipe (with egg and breadcrumbs, etc.), then I baked them in the oven instead of pan frying. Delicious! But I didn't keep track of the proportions, so I don't have a recipe to post, yet.

What's your favorite Greek dish?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bacon Spinach-Artichoke Spread

This is one of the dishes I served at the cocktail party. It started out to be low-fat and vegetarian, and now is neither. It's recipes like this that keep me fat and my guests happy.

Bacon Spinach-Artichoke Spread

1/3 cup mayonnaise
1.5 packages of softened cream cheese or neufchatel...but not that horrid fat-free cream cheese
1 can artichoke hearts, drained
Two cloves garlic
1/4 cup chopped onion
One package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan, divided
Six slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled (remove the big chunks of fat that remain after cooking)
Dash of Worcestershire
Dash of lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Blend mayo and cream cheese in a mixing bowl until well blended. In food processor chop artichokes, garlic and onion, mix into cheese. Add in remaining ingrediants; season to taste. Spray a round baking dish with cooking spray and spread the dip. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees; broil 2 minutes until top browns slightly.
Serve with toasted, sliced French bread.

Blackbird's right

Okay. Quick post as I'm supposed to be at work, pushing paper around my desk. As I prepped The Baby's bottle at 2:32am I realized Blackbird is right. I hate my blog. I don't like the design; the dark background; the fact that it looks the same as everyone else who Bloggers. I looked at my photos and realize I'll never win awards, and seriously, I need to stop letting The Bug take the pictures...or at least I need to clean up the plates before the pictures are taken.

And I need to get back on my diet. I don't know when I fell off it, but I've been eating like Paula Deen cooks. I have five kinds of cheese in my fridge, three kinds of butter, and at least four items that have pork in them. I am bursting out of my clothes and will look the same in my bathing suit this summer as I did last...when I was pregnant.

I must stop dreaming of visions of pork fat and think spring: farmers' markets, local produce, and fresh fresh fresh!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Random Photos of Food

So I'm tired and going to bed. But I'll post some photos first. Promise the recipes tomorrow or Wednesday.

Snow-Pea Salad.

Mid-Week Sunday Gravy

Tortilla Eggs

Blackbird's Kvetching

Blackbird is kvetching about boring, confusing blogs that blend too much into everyone else's blogs. She said that some blogs are about what the blogger is making/buying/cooking (or something to that effect) and how it gets boring, because they're *always* making/buying/cooking.

That's me! Is it time to blend all my little blogs into one? I'm too busy to actually make a real go at the other ones. The Customer Service blog is intended to be all about excellent and awful experiences in customer service...as this is a huge peeve for me. No pet about it. And Motherhood and Apple Pie started as a place to put all the stuff that was rolling around my head as I commuted...but I really haven't done anything at all with it lately. An 11-year old, an infant, a lonely full-time-dad husband and a 50-hour a week job just kind of fills my days, you know?

But then I remembered that this is a food blog. It's okay to be narrow-minded. People come here to read about what I'm cooking and the lessons I've learned. So maybe I don't have twenty-thousand regular readers. That's okay. I get a LOT of people who what to know how to cook rice noodles. Or find out if sugar goes bad. And how to make cream cheese wontons.

Next post? How to make a killer Spinach-Artichoke Dip. The secret? BACON!

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Oh, I'm so tired. I need a day off tomorrow to recover from the cocktail party. I began cooking at 10am and didn't stop until 5pm. When one of my guests said, "it must have taken you all day" I just said, oh, no, not at all. I'm glad they saw that nothing came from the freezer section at Costco. But would they have cared?

Here's what I ended up making:

Brooklyn Cheese Puffs
Bacon Spinach-Artichoke Spread on toasted French bread
Greek meatballs with a garlic dip
Carrot chips (good with the garlic dip)
Pigs in a blanket--yes, this crew of people love these. Served with a variety of mustards and ketchup.
Pork Shoulder sandwiches with tomato marmalade from the Top Chef cookbook
Three semi/soft cheeses--Port Salut, Herbed Chevre, and a brie with assorted crackers from Trader Joe's
As usual, the pigs in blanket were the biggest winners, but the Brooklyn Cheese Puffs from the America's Test Kitchen "lost recipes" cookbook went surprisingly fast. I found them to be bland and uninspiring. Only with a good scattering of salt did they perk up.

Pictures and recipes to come...have to go clean up now!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cocktails, Anyone?

We're having people in for cocktails tomorrow. Not many. Not including me and Juiceboy there will be seven. Enough to have to think about food. Because these folks expect cocktails and dinner, not just a drink and a handshake and you're on your way....

So I'm working out my menu tonight. Here's what I'm thinking of:

Three semi/soft cheeses--Port Salut, Herbed Chevre, and a brie
Spinach-Artichoke Spread on French bread
Snow-pea wrapped shrimp
Greek meatballs
Crudite and dip (don't know what kind yet...whatever I have left!)
Pigs in a blanket--yes, this crew of people love these. Served with a variety of mustards and ketchup
Pork Shoulder sandwiches with tomato marmalade from the Top Chef cookbook
Will it be enough? Will I have enough time? I'll be cleaning and tending to the giant baby at the same time...ack! Will try to take photos to record the horrible mistakes I made. Did I mention the Pork Shoulder will take 8 hours to braise in the oven?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

On Formula

I realized at 2:30am that I haven't talked about the main food the baby ingests: formula. I stopped breastfeeding about two weeks after I returned to work--I learned that Juiceboy found it much easier to make a bottle of formula than b-milk and was letting it go bad. After all that pumping!

We started out using Similac, simply because they sent us free cans. That stuff is AWFUL and here's why:

1) It smells putrid.
2) It smells even worse when it's burped up.
3) Many babies are fussy on it, even the Sensitive or Soy formulas (including mine...who managed to eat that crazy lunch and ask for more!)
4) It's SUPER expensive. Try $28 for a regular-sized can at Safeway, or $30+ for the big cans at Costco.

One day I decided that the baby was so fussy, gassy, and spit-uppy that changing to a cheaper, store-brand formula couldn't hurt. And it didn't. The kid is 8.5 months and growing out of his 18-month clothing. He's 29 pounds and long, long, long. He's bright and curious and doing just great. When you do the side-by-side comparisons, you'll see the store brands stack up to the expensive brands, in every area but price. That's because of the FDA standards.

My recommendations on formula:

#1 TARGET--the store brand is about $13 a can.
#2 SAFEWAY--the store brand is off the shelves right now but I've been told by customer service that it returns April 18th with a new name: Mom-to-Mom. It used to be $11-$13.

Here's a Consumer Reports article on formula.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Spinach Tacos

Okay, so they aren't really just spinach tacos. But that's the only thing I could think to call it. I had leftover chicken thighs from the White Chicken Chili in the fridge, so Juiceboy cooked four of them up as I braved Bay Area Traffic.

When I arrived home it turned out that neither of us was super hungry and The Bug was happy playing on the computer. The Baby had just spit up all over himself, so I grabbed the opportunity to give him a bath (which is something I rarely do). As I dried him I tried to think of things to go with the chicken, and realized I don't really like thigh meat, unless it's all cut up and part of something else, and I was completely not interested in dinner.

"Hey, how about if I cook up some spinach and we just have a little light meal of tacos? No beans or cheese or anything...."

Sounded good to Juiceboy. I pulled out the sad little bowl of caramelized onions, and we had a great, simple dinner of onions, chicken and spinach tacos. I had corn tortillas and the guys chose flour. I think I made the better choice.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Heady Scents

We live in a small '63 ranch house. Pure California. Designed by people who don't cook onions. Or garlic. Or fish, or seared pork, or yummy high-heat shrimp...get the picture? Juiceboy just walked into our bedroom, which he'd closed the door to when I started the onion fry. It was our last bastion of non-smelly house. Or so I thought.

"It smells in there. But a different onion smell. I realized the rest of the house smells better. Guess I didn't close the door fast enough...?"

How do you get food smells out of the house?

Caramelized Onions

The above onions are NOT mine, but Kathy Maisters, at StartCooking.com

If I didn't know better, I'd think I was pregnant. I've been craving caramelized onions all week. None of the restaurants I had to go to for work had them. Seriously--I ate out four times in five days...you'd think one place would have a sandwich with caramelized onions!

Of course, I wanted real caramelized onions. Not ones sprinkled with brown sugar to speed the process, or fat slices of sort-of brown onions...that make you think they possibly just sauted them in a brown liquid.

So tonight I pulled up the old Joy of Cooking, sliced up two organic "Mother Love" onions and got cooking. The Bug was curious...could he have caramelized onions as a snack in his lunch? Would they be thick, like jam? (Mmmm...caramelized onion jam....).

They softened for 80 minutes. Then I put the baby down to sleep and turned the heat up to medium. Ack! In 15 minutes they were caramelized and slightly burnt. Somehow the heat was too high. They're edible, but I've got to figure out my burner and pan.

In the middle of the caramelization process Juiceboy opened all the windows and doors. I was SERIOUSLY stinking up the house. The house is still redolent with the odor of slightly burnt caramelized onions.

The verdict? The Bug said they're the best onions he's ever had. I will try again, this time, with the heat lower.

I was going to blog the whole recipe, but Kathy at StartCooking.Com has a great play-by-play, straight out of the old Joy. The image above is hers...honestly, her onions are much prettier than mine.

If you haven't visited her site yet, do. The video on how to make grilled cheese just cracks me up!

White Chicken Chili

America's Test Chicken recently aired a show on White Chicken Chili. As you can tell from previous posts, my family loves a good chile verde. And this looked like a recipe that would be quick and easy--and easy on my wallet, too. It took longer than I had planned--directions such as "while the chicken browns, seed and slice the peppers" were deceptive. The chicken browned for a total of 8 minutes, while it would have taken much longer to seed and slice 8 or 9 peppers. We ended up having dinner at 8:30pm (Juiceboy HATES my 9:00 dinners), but everyone agreed that the chili and cornbread was really, very good. Below is my version of the recipe.

White Chicken Chili
Adjusted from America's Test Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8
3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Table salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium jalapeño chiles
3 poblano chiles (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
3 Anaheim chile peppers (medium), stemmed, seeded, and cut into large pieces
2 medium onions , cut into large pieces (2 cups)
6 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 (14.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans , drained
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

2-3 chipotles in adobo, minced

1. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook without moving until skin is golden brown, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, turn chicken and lightly brown on other side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; remove and discard skin.

2. While chicken is browning, remove and discard ribs and seeds from 2 jalapeños; mince flesh. In food processor, process half of poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions until consistency of chunky salsa, ten to twelve 1-second pulses, scraping down sides of workbowl halfway through. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Repeat with remaining poblano chiles, Anaheim chiles, and onions; combine with first batch (do not wash food processor blade or workbowl).

3. Pour off all but 1.5 tablespoons fat from Dutch oven (adding additional vegetable oil if necessary) and reduce heat to medium. Add minced jalapeños, chile-onion mixture, garlic, cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

4. Transfer 1 cup cooked vegetable mixture to now-empty food processor workbowl. Add 1 cup beans and 1 cup broth and process until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add vegetable-bean mixture, remaining 2 cups broth, and chicken breasts to Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until chicken registers 175 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 40 minutes.

5. Using tongs, transfer chicken to large plate. Stir in remaining beans and continue to simmer, uncovered, until beans are heated through and chili has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Mince remaining jalapeño, reserving and mincing ribs and seeds (see note above), and set aside. When cool enough to handle, shred chicken into bite-sized pieces, discarding bones. Stir shredded chicken, lime juice, cilantro, scallions, chipotle and remaining minced jalapeño (with seeds if desired) into chili and return to simmer. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Lunch with Orangette

The baby and I are having a lovely lunch. Juiceboy is having a lazy morning watching The Thin Man and the Bug is out playing with friends across the street. So it's just the little Flea and me, tasting bits of this and that while I chat up on Orangette's travels in the Bay Area.

First, we started with some Ginger Carrot soup. It's Saturday, so it's time to clean out the fridge and cook soup with anything that might go dark and icky this week out of the veg bins. And for some reason, last week I bought an enormous bag of organic carrots, which have a "best by" date of April 6, tomorrow.

So, in with some olive oil went half a red onion, some cloves of garlic, a bit of sliced ginger, the rest of a celery stalk, half a bag of broccoli slaw, one yukon gold potato, and the giant bag of carrots. I'd browned the aromatics first, of course. Then I tipped in a big can of Swanson's chicken broth. I simmered it all for about 45-60 minutes, then pureed it all up with my wonderful immersion blender.

I added some curry powder to my bowl, but now that I've tasted how strong the ginger is, I don't know if it really needs any in the big batch.

Anyway, the baby enjoyed it greatly. When I realized how much ginger was in it, I decided he'd had enough (don't want to hurt his little tummy). But he wanted more--of anything. So next he had a little strawberry yogurt. But that wasn't enough. So I brought out cold, leftover tortellini in a spinach and tomato sauce. The baby had the soft, cheesy bits in the center of the pasta, and a few soft bites of pasta itself. And he wanted MORE. Aha, I thought. Cold spinach will end his curiosity of my lunch.

Nothing doing. More, more! He kept his baby-bird mouth open for me to cram food into it, until finally I put it all away, and gave him a simple cup of water.

Looking back I wonder, will my shirt be adorned with his lunch later this afternoon?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sausage Ziti with Four Cheeses

Sausage ziti with four cheeses?! A fat family shouldn't be eating this! Is that what you're thinking? Well you're right. This is a fattening, rich, yummy dinner that is perfect for when the in-laws have descended and you have little time in the kitchen, many hungry mouths to fill, and maybe just a little bit too much wine in your belly.

Yes, it's Easter, and the in-laws are down. We had a lovely time in the afternoon gabbing and drinking, and by 6:30pm everyone was hungry for dinner. This was a hit (and super easy to make). Serve it with a green salad and some good warm Pugliese bread.

Sausage Ziti with Four Cheeses

16oz penne rigatoni (penne with ridges)
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 pound Italian sausage links--if you like a little spice, get hot Italian links
1 jar good spaghetti sauce. I liked Classico's "Traditional Sweet Basil" in this.
Four cups fresh spinach, chopped (get the washed and ready to eat kind)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
5 oz bag of shredded mixed "Italian" cheese, including mozzarella, Parmesan, and provolone.
Red pepper flakes

Boil water, add salt and oil for cooking pasta. Cook according to directions. While pasta is cooking, in a non-stick skillet at medium, add bulk sausage. Turn up to medium-high heat and brown, breaking up into bits. If your skillet is big enough, add links, and brown those well. You'll be cooking them entirely in the pan, so give them good color and let them cook through. Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the pasta liquid. Put pasta in a big bowl--really big, because you're going to be mixing everything in this bowl.

As sausage is done, add it to the pasta. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel, and use the paper towel to lightly grease a 9x13" pan. Add chopped onions to the skillet and brown on medium heat. When brown, add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add spinach. If the pan is too dry, add a little of the pasta water. Let the spinach cook down, then add the sauce and heat through. Add red pepper flakes and fresh ground pepper to taste.

In the meanwhile, reserve about 1/2 cup of the cheese and add the rest to the pasta. Toss the pasta to mix through. Now add the sauce and mix thoroughly. Put the pasta in the prepared pan and press it down into the pan. Top with the extra cheese.

Heat in a 400 degree oven for twelve minutes, then put it under the broiler for three minutes to gently brown it.

***Test for seasonings. My in-laws don't like a ton of seasonings so I just kept it simple.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

It's a funny Northern California Saturday in March--cool and sunny in the morning, turning to clouds and damp mid-day. As I typed that sentence I heard the strange sound of rushing water outside only to find nickel-sized hail suddenly coming down.

This morning was the first day that all of us are whole again after a nasty stomach bug. It hits for about eight miserable hours and leaves the victim wrung up for the next 36 hours. I ate toast and bananas for three days afterwards, and still don't feel ready to face things like a big bowl of bibimbap and kimchee.

I've decided once and for all I'm changing the ways I feed my family. No more running through the drive-through because Juiceboy can't find a thing for dinner (or I'm more in the mood for a burrito than I am for soup, or salad, or a ham sandwich....). And no more cheaping out not getting the stuff that I know is best for the family because I feel it's too expensive. Take for example, milk. I know organic milk is the best way to go with two growing boys. But I see the $6/gallon price tag and choke, knowing I can get two gallons of regular milk for the same amount.

And yet, I'll spend upwards of $80 a week just getting take-out and coffee.

So, this morning, I made some muffins. Muffins?! you say, "muffins are fattening and terrible for you!" But look at this recipe. It's got low-fat yogurt, flax, and big, fat blueberries. This recipe yields 12 smaller muffins or 10 to 11 larger muffins, and results in moist, fluffy, sticky muffins that needed no butter or jam.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins

2 cups minus three large tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 heaping tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground organic flax (optional)**

2 large eggs
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons warm melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest (add more to taste)
Juice of half a lemon

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then, in a smaller bowl, whisk the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix with a few strokes until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Don't overmix--the batter will be lumpy. Gently fold in the blueberries. Spray your muffin pan or line with muffin cups, then divide out the batter. I like to make eleven slightly bigger muffins and put water in the last cup to add moisture to the oven (I don't know if this really works....).

Cook in a 400-degree oven for approximately 22 minutes. You can check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into a few of the muffins. If it's clean, they're ready. Let cool for a few minutes, but serve warm. If not serving immediately, let them cool on a rack, or they'll get soggy bottoms. And no one likes a soggy bottom.
**Costco carries organic ground flax in a nice big container with screw-top lid. It even comes with a handy scoop. Mine was under $10 and I found it in the cereal aisle.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Utter failure.

I have a lumpy, sodden mass of smelly dough in my refrigerator. It didn't rise. I'm tempted to try to bake it just so I can dispose it in a less gross way. Then again, tomorrow's garbage day. I might just scrape it into a bag tomorrow morning before I head off to work.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Feed the Beast...Day 3

The sourdough starter has bubbles and a decidedly SOUR aroma, just like Joy said it would. Somehow I pictured rapid bubbles, like it was boiling. I also thought it would be much more spongey, and not thick and heavy.

I've started the dough for the sourdough bread: 4 cups bread flour, 1.5 cups lukewarm water, and 2 cups sourdough starter--which was the whole thing. If this works, and it's good, I'll need to start over from scratch.

I can't imagine who smelled that mess and one day said, "Aw, forget about it--let's just bake it and tell the customers it's SUPPOSED to taste like that!"

The way that food evolves just amazes me.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Very Excited!

I'm so very excited! Okay, I know by writing the word "excited" into a blog with the title "Food Fetish" is going to result in even *more* frustrated people in Moscow, Poland, and other European countries coming to my blog. For some reason, I have a lot of misguided people from "over there" who come looking for food fetishism. I love food, but just not in that way.

So why am I so excited? Because my flour mix is starting to show signs of LIFE!!! There are a few bubbles forming on top of the mixture. Tonight I mix in another half cup of bread flour and quarter cup of room-temp water, then cover with new, un-perforated plastic wrap. I continue feeding the mess every twelve hours and eventually it's supposed to be a spongey, bubbling mess. And sour smelling.

Doesn't that sound like something YOU'd like to eat?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The starter

So the recipe for sourdough starter is so simple, there's no way I can mess it up. 1/2 Cup bread flour mixed with 1/4 cup room temp water every 12 hours. Easy, right?

So how was I able to mix in REGULAR flour instead of the bread flour?? I was so concerned about getting it in the right time period; getting the right amount of air holes in the plastic wrap--but couldn't get the FLOUR right?

We'll see if it's right.

Since I don't know if it's okay, I thought I wouldn't post the boring flour picture. Instead, here is a picture of our GIANT baby, who is 7 months, but in 18-month clothing. He is OFF the charts!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sourdough Starter

I had the most delicious bread in Washington DC. It was at a little bistro near my hotel (read more about the dinner here) and that bread was the highlight of my stay. Well, outside of seeing an old friend, but the two don't really compare, now would they...?

This bread had a hard, chewy crust. Sweet, thick center, with bite and resistance. It was lovely. And I've been craving it ever since.

I took a luxurious nap this afternoon (sleep when the baby sleeps, and all that). During my nap, I dreamed of bread. So when I awoke, I decided I should bake bread. But the stuff I make in the bread maker has disappointed me lately. The crust is okay, but the heart of the stuff was like Wonder Bread--all air holes and flavorless.

I remembered the year I spent making simple loaves of bread by scratch. They weren't pretty, but they tasted good.

So out came the good old Joy of Cooking. Did I really want standard white bread? No. I wanted that bistro bread. What was it that separated great bread from standard bread? Is great, bistro bread made with a sponge or a starter? Maybe. Maybe.

So I've started a sourdough starter. I can't help remember Jeffrey Steingarten's tales of woe in making starter in Manhatten. Will the fact that I live two stone's thows from a vineyard help? Will all the grape yeast be flying around the air, even if it's winter?

We'll see. It's day one. I'll post as things progress (or don't!).

Sunday, February 17, 2008

High Heat Chicken

I made a high-heat chicken last weekend, inspired by a recipe in the new Cook's Illustrated. It was for a chicken with super crispy skin--my absolute favorite--but I wasn't about to rub it with baking powder and air dry it in the fridge over night since it was 5pm and dinner needed to be on the table no later than 7pm. School night and all that jazz....

So I took ideas here and there, and ended up completely filling the house with smoke and super-heated chicken fat scent. The chicken itself was really good--moist and lemony. The skin? Not so crispy, but still pretty darn good.

There's no real recipe, but if you want the tips, email me at flea-girl@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Recipes as Spam

Just got the strangest email--must have been some sort of spam. All it was was this dreadful, strange recipe!

Recipe: Tuna Salad

1 ea Env. Golden Onion Soup Mix
1 1/2 c Milk
10 oz Frozen Peas & Carrots *
8 oz Medium Egg Noodles **
6 1/2 oz Tuna, Drained & Flaked
2 oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese ***

* Frozen Peas & Carrots should be thawed. ** Egg Noodles should be
cooked and drained. *** Cheese should equal 1/2 C
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large bowl, blend golden onion
recipe soup mix with milk; stir in peas & carrots, cooked noodles and
tuna. Turn into greased 2-quart oblong baking dish, then top with cheese.
Bake 20 minutes or until bubbling.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


We just got a new camera at work, and since I had to take lunch, I thought I'd take a picture of it, you know, just to test the camera.

This is a picture of my favorite Bun dish, #47, from Saigon Restaurant in Oakland. It's grilled pork with spring roll. I like two bowls of the pickley-carrot sauce.

And this is a GREAT camera. I haven't messed around yet with resizing images or anything, so I think this one is honking HUGE. But look at that detail! You can see the ridges on the scallions, and the finely chopped peanuts, and the different strands of the rice noodles!

I've learned that Kodak Easy Share cameras are crap. Spend the extra $150 or whatever and get a good digital camera!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Eat Like a Monk?

Juiceboy has been felled by stomach troubles, and I'm making him eat small, simple meals. My mother used to say, "No fats, no fruits and no fries" when we had tummy troubles. And so, that's been my motto too.

It worked. And then he thought he was all better and ate ice cream, and a pasta with olive oil, and he was up at 5:30am today moaning and groaning. So back we go to a monkish diet. But Juiceboy, despite being in the bathroom a lot today, was trying to dive into the tortilla chips, or have something like a hearty soup for dinner. I knew I had to make something that would satisfy his eyes, and baby his stomach.

For dinner, he and I had a simple, easy soup:

Sicky Soup

One rib celery, very finely diced
1/2 cup fideo (or well broken-up angel hair pasta)
Two small cans low-sodium chicken broth
Half a can petite-diced tomatoes
Splash of soy sauce
a few crusts or small chunks of day-old sourdough

Spray a pot with cooking spray, add the celery and pasta. Cook on medium heat until pasta begins to turn golden brown. Add broth, tomatoes, and soy sauce; bring to a boil, cook for 3 minutes until pasta is soft. Place bread in bowls and spoon soup over it.

The sourdough is an important part. The sourness adds a lot of flavor that the soup wouldn't have otherwise.

It was pretty good. Nothing you'd get in a fancy restaurant. And with no onions, no garlic, it's halfway to eating like a monk! (Switch the chicken broth to vegetable, and you'd have it....)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Can't Win them All

A Cooking Light recipe on braising prompted me to make something braised this weekend. It's been gloomy, we all have colds, and the thought of some slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth beef was just what the doctor ordered.

Being of stuffy-headed mind, I read the recipes and article twice and watched the videos on the website carefully. The videos were a disaster. The talking heads didn't discuss cuts of meat at all. They didn't show browning techniques. I wanted something more than a pot roast. I wanted delicious, braised beef.

Well...you can guess what happened. It was Saturday afternoon, so all the smaller cuts of bottom round were sold. There was a huge brisket--but I don't have a container big enough for a whole brisket. If I'm going to buy flank steak I'm going to marinate and grill it. No roasts. So, I got a four-pounder. It had to be cooked in my bigger, lighter pot.

I forgot that it heats faster. What happened as I was dicing onions? Yup, I burnt instead of browned. Picture it: the Bug coughing from smoke, the baby crying, and I'm scraping meat like it's toast. Juiceboy to the rescue, and dinner got back on track.

I slowly simmered it in a lovely red wine sauce with parsnips, carrots and red potatos (those added about 45 minutes from serving time). I served it on top of wide egg noodles.

In the end, dinner was an hour late. The veggies were just barely cooked and the meat was tough. And...it was your basic pot roast.

It made for good leftovers. I slowly simmered it the next two days, cooking extra egg noodles right in the sauce the second night. They were pretty good.

So--I don't know if I'm too excited by braising. I've yet to have truly tender beef come out of something braised. But then again, I'm known for my kitchen fiascos.

Did I mention I burnt the bacon the next day?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Itch I Can't Scratch

I've had a craving for something, but I don't know what it is. I know that seems like an oxymoron. Maybe I've lost my palate for food? I feel like I'm craving pho, or orange beef, or beets, or salty/crunchy, or grapefruit...and when I have some, some of whatever it is, and it's perfectly good, I'm just not satisfied. Not that I want more. Just that I really didn't want that. And I'm still craving.

It's like getting your back scratched. It feels really nice, and there's an itchy part right there under your shoulder blade, oh yeah, there...no, actually to the left, an inch and a half above your bra line....oh, no, now down by that freckle near your spine...yes...no...to the right and up....

Does any of this make sense?

Maybe what I'm craving is sex. Maybe I should go see.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Seasonal Eating

I'm trying to eat more seasonal foods. That means passing the Australian strawberries and going for oranges. Or skipping tomatoes and reaching for...winter squash. Even though none of my local farms are open, I'm assuming that if it's seasonal it's cheaper. And maybe fresher. And it's also a good way to open up to a lot of vegetables that I've written off in the past as wierd, boring or "why would I eat *that*?"

I tried a spaghetti squash, tossing it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. I found it to be odd, and certainly tasted nothing like spaghetti. I'd be willing to try it again with a different preparation. But it's the first time in YEARS that Juiceboy has left something on his plate because he didn't like it.

Before that we had a parsnip. Yes, one. I sliced it up and baked it with a little brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and a few tablespoons of chicken broth. It was really a lot like apple pie filling. Hmmm. I wonder why? We all seemed to like it and I'll try it again, this time taking care to buy the smallest parsnips without a woody core, and dicing them in even cubes.

That same night (it was our Winter Solstice Feast), I made an apple & beet salad. Even though everything turned that bright red color, it was surprisingly yummy and Juiceboy had seconds--and previously he said he didn't like beets!

Apple & Beet Salad

Shrink wrapped, refrigerated beets (I get mine at Trader Joe's), diced
One Fuji apple, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup to one cup crumbled blue cheese
The juice of one orange
Salt to taste

Mix everything in a bowl. Let sit 15 minutes for flavors to blend, adjust seasonings to taste.