Saturday, February 28, 2009

What's in the Fridge?

Last week, I read a column in the LA Times by Russ Parsons who wrote, "How to Pick a Peach" where he discussed what lurked in his refrigerator. I took this picture of my own refrigerator.

Some random observations:
* I have 3 types of cow's milk (whole, cream, and non-fat) and some soy milk
* Lots of salad dressing, mustard, and marmalade (why don't I make my own dressing??)
* Containers of hummus, tapenade, and feta from farmer's market (will I ever finish these before they go bad? You know the spiel . . . 4 are cheaper)
* I see at least two containers of leftovers that I know I'll throw away
* Oldest items - some caramel syrup that's probably more than 5 years old and some Soy Vay marinade that runs a close second.
* Unlike Russ, I have no non-food items (probably a good thing, right?)

If you email me your refrigerator photo and any comments, I'll post them!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apple Bran Muffins

I was in the mood for baking this week. Even though at the end of the day, my students' homework was still ungraded and I was complaining that my day got sidetracked, I had a batch of fresh muffins to show for it. The recipe is from "Cookwise" by Shirley O. Corriher which I was given by my friend Erika recently. While I'm just starting to read this book, I'm really enjoying her explanations of the science behind cooking and her clearly written recipes. I mostly followed the recipe but I adjusted the baking time (my muffins were done way earlier than she suggested at an even lower oven temperature) and I left out the 1 cup of chopped, toasted walnuts (I was sharing muffins with friends who are nut averse and wanted to make them toddler-friendly).

Apple Bran Muffins (makes more than 1 dozen)

1 1/2 c. oat bran (not wheat bran - bought it in the bulk section at Whole Foods)
3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 c. nonfat dry milk (in the baking section - adds calcium to the muffins)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 T ground cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder
1 medium to large carrot grated (about 1 cup)
1 apple, peeled, cored & coarsely chopped (I used a Granny Smith)
Finely grated zest of 2 oranges
1 large egg
2 egg whites
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 c. canola oil
3 T canned crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and prepare a muffin tin with non-stick spray, butter, or muffin liners. Combine oat bran, flour, dry milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Work out any lumps (due to brown sugar) if necessary. Add the carrot, apple, orange zest and stir to combine.

Beat the egg, whites, buttermilk, oil, and pineapple in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon 1/3 c. muffin batter into each cup (just about to the brim). If you have extra batter, you can bake more muffins in a regular tin or make mini-muffins (like I did - my daughter loved these). The regular muffins will take 15-20 minutes and the mini-muffins will take 9-12 minutes to bake. Check them and take them out when the top springs back to your touch and looks golden brown.

What to do with your leftover canned crushed pineapple:
Pineapple Rice
Make white rice and when it's done, fluff it and stir in some crushed pineapple and chopped italian parsley. Good with teriyaki chicken, stir fry, steaks . . . just about anything.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All about the accessories

Appliances and gadgets - I've been pretty picky about those things in the past due to limited cupboard and storage space but now that I have a little more room, a couple new toys have been the inspirations for what I cook.

My friend Kristen bought me a mandolin slicer for my birthday. I used to have a cheapy plastic one that scared me to death but this one is awesome - it is stable on the counter top and has an enormous guard that I think will protect my fingers. It inspired me to make a recipe again that was very laborious with a knife - Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin with Fresh Herbs (Gourmet Nov. 08). Tonight it didn't turn out so great because the potatoes were underdone when it looked done on the top - I'd add at least 15 minutes to the cooking time before you remove the foil. I had also refrigerated it before putting it in the oven which I didn't compensate for with the cooking time. Two other tips (thanks Kristen!): double the cheese and the herbs and make sure the potato slices are pretty dry before layering them. Even though it was a little raw tonight, I still love the recipe.

Last Christmas I got an ice cream maker that I had been eyeing for awhile. It's compact, easy, and great fun. Since the new year, I've been watching the sweets (I know, I'm such a new year's resolution cliche) so I think the frozen yogurt I made tonight was the first dessert I've made in weeks. I used to make this with pear sauce from Trader Joe's but they stopped carrying it. The recipe is a little tart (which I like) but you could add 1/4 cup white or brown sugar to sweeten it up a little bit.

Spiced Apple Frozen Yogurt (makes 1 1/2 quarts)

1 1/2 cup of apple sauce (I used the chunky kind with spices but no added sugar)
2 cups Greek yogurt (I used the kind with honey added from Trader Joe's)
1 T whole milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. You can store it in the refrigerator for a few hours until you're ready to make the frozen yogurt. Then, just pour it in your ice cream maker according to your model's instructions.

I think it's best to make frozen yogurt right when you want to eat it - the texture isn't great if it's put in the freezer after it's made.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Finally, some red meat!

If you're wondering about the title of my blog, it came from something our family in Connecticut used to ask. Instead of asking, "What did you have for supper?" the question would sometimes be, "What was for meat?" To us, it was funny because we often ate supper without any meat. I didn't mean it to be ironic on my blog but it's taken me more than a week to actually have red meat for supper. While this dish could probably be made with ground turkey or chicken, I used lean ground beef. My Grandma Vi would be proud, even if she probably would have used a hamburger bun instead of a pita pocket.

I ripped this recipe out of a magazine somewhere and I have no idea which one or how old this is. The other day I was looking through a notebook with a bunch of untried recipes and I happened to have pitas, mushrooms, and frozen spinach (and, in the cellar, a bottle of open brandy) so I decided to give it a shot.

Not Sloppy Joes (but still a ground meat sandwich) Serves 4

1 1/2 T olive oil
10 oz pkg of sliced white mushrooms
1/2 tsp kosher sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lb ground beef
1/4 c. brandy
10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed & drained
3/4 c. grated parmesan
4 pitas (white or whole wheat)

Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the mushrooms, half the salt, and half the pepper. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook until no longer pink. Spoon off any fat. Add the brandy and cook, stirring, until it's almost evaporated (only took about a minute or two). Stir in the spinach and cook for a couple of minutes until it's heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Fill each pita with the sandwich filling.

PS - Would it be Bec's blog without some games? How about "Name that Sandwich"? Put it in the comments and there will be a prize for the winner.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sausage & Vegetables

The inspiration for this dinner was a crazy website I came across where the writer cooked from her crock pot for 365 days in a row. Seriously. I go through phases with my crock pot and I stumbled on her site while I was trying to figure out why mine cooks things really hot / quickly. One of the things that I learned is it needs to be at least 2/3 full when you use it.

While not anything super special (don't serve it for company), it was tasty and healthy with very little fat and lots of fiber. I served it over brown rice and didn't realize that I would be eating potatoes and rice together until I took the first bite. Maybe not the best idea but if you're carb loading for a race or trying to use a bunch of vegetables before they go bad, this dish would work well.

Sausage and Vegetables

Cut a bunch of vegetables into 2 inch chunks. I used 3-4 small potatoes, some baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, an onion, a red bell pepper, and some white button mushrooms. Layer them in the crock pot from most dense vegetable to least dense (i.e. I put the potatoes on the bottom). Slice some pre-cooked sausage (I used Trader Joe's Jalapeno Chicken sausage) and put it on top. Pour over 2 cups of broth and 1/2 cup white wine (optional). Season with some spices (I ground some pepper over the top, used about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and sprinkled some kosher salt). Put the lid on and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours or until your vegetables are the way you like them.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Lentil Soup

I used to look for recipes that had very short cooking times so I could throw dinner together quickly. Right now, it works best if I can start dinner and then play with my daughter, put her to bed, and then finish up the meal. Tonight, I made a lentil soup that takes about an hour to an hour and a half. It came together really easily (I bought the already chopped onion, carrot, celery mix from Trader Joe's), is very inexpensive (I was trying to figure it out - maybe $1/serving but probably less) and will make leftovers. With the rain outside, it was nice and cozy in here with soup simmering on the stove.

Couple of thoughts: Today at lunch Theresa and I were talking about how she adds vinegar to her soups to give it a little acidity. The white wine in this recipe serves that purpose but you could substitute a tablespoon or two of white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice. I learned awhile ago that one key to having soft lentils is not to salt them until the end. In this recipe, low-sodium chicken broth and tomatoes without salt will also help toward that end.

Lentil Soup (4 servings)

1 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped celery
2 T olive oil
1 -2 garlic cloves, chopped up
3 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1/3 c. white wine
3/4 c. lentils
some spices - tonight I used a bay leaf, a tsp of paprika, a dash of cayenne, and a sprinkle of Penzeys cajun seasoning. We added salt and pepper at the table.

Saute the onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil until soft (about 10 minutes). At the end of that time, add the garlic and spices and saute a minute or two. Add all the rest of the ingredients (except salt, if using). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour or until your lentils are soft. If you leave the pot covered, your soup will be thinner. If you leave the lid off, it'll be thicker and more of a stew consistency. You can also add some water (or broth) toward the end or when you reheat leftovers to adjust the consistency.

Hooray for legumes!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Seared Ahi

Today I was at Whole Foods and it was crowded with people buying food for Valentine's meals. Luckily, they had plenty of sushi-grade Ahi tuna available. I bought 2 tuna steaks to serve with salad for dinner. We ended up slicing it and putting it on the salad with a good sesame miso dressing that I bought at Whole Foods. I've prepared ahi exactly the same way every time for the last few years.

Ahi rub:
2 T sesame seeds
2 tsp Chinese 5 Spice seasoning
1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning OR kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Combine the ingredients and rub the mixture all over the outside of the Ahi steaks. Sear them on a hot grill for 2 minutes per side for rare (longer if you don't like your tuna pink in the center).

This amount of rub should be enough for 2 eight ounce servings. For presentation, I cut the steaks into 1/4 inch thick slices (like in the photo).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eggs for Meat

My husband likes eggs for dinner so now and again, that's what I make. I have this frittata recipe that I've been toying with lately and after going to farmer's market this afternoon (and having no meat but a dozen eggs in the fridge), that's what I made tonight. The variations (below) usually consist of changing the vegetables and herbs that I have available. It's also a great way to use leftovers.

The last time I made it, in the final step I scorched it under the broiler so tonight was a huge improvement over that. However, I missed the mushrooms and it wasn't as puffy as usual (not sure why - will have to investigate egg puffiness and get back to you).


2 T butter
1 cup onions (I used half green onions, half shallots. It's good with leeks)
1 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 T fresh herbs (I used rosemary - can substitute 1-2 tsp of a dried herb)
8 eggs
1 cup of fontina cheese, diced and divided
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
salt & pepper

In a skillet that can go under the broiler, melt the butter and saute the onions until soft.

Add the asparagus and red bell pepper and saute 5-8 minutes or until soft.

Whisk together the eggs, herbs, and salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of the fontina. Pour into pan and gently fold so egg goes to the edges and the vegetables are somewhat even in the pan.

Let it sit there until the egg is just about set. Sprinkle the rest of the fontina and the parmesan on top and put it under the broiler until it's golden brown and puffy. Mine took about 1 and a half minutes - depends on the heat of the broiler and how close it is to the broiler. Watch it so it doesn't burn like I did last time.

Variations: Saute mushrooms or other vegetables with the asparagus and pepper, substitute other herbs or cheeses, add sausage or bacon.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Making Bubbles for Breakfast

My daughter is 17 months old and learning to talk. When I made waffles for breakfast this morning, she first acted confused that they weren't popping out of the toaster. Then, she called them "bubbles" and ate half of a big belgian waffle. There was a time when I made this recipe for breakfast at least once a week for my husband and I. And then, I had a baby and I rarely cook a hot breakfast any more.

My dear friend Lori was kind enough to give me this recipe. I usually make half of the recipe (to make half of an egg, only use the egg white). I know it's cheater because of the the first ingredient, but oh, well. They are amazing.

Lori's Waffles with a few Bec Additions

2 cups of Bisquick (I use the "Heart Healthy" kind)
1 can of club soda
1 egg
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla or orange extract (used orange this morning - from Whole Foods)
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix everything together and put it in a waffle iron until they're done! My husband likes them best with softened cream cheese and lemon curd. I usually put fruit spread with no added sugar but they're great with just plain old maple syrup and butter.

Why I'm starting a new blog

Last night I took a cooking class with four of my friends for my 31st birthday. The woman teaching the class talked about how she came to own the business and be a chef and a teacher and I was impressed by the fact that in her mid-fifties, she was loving what she was doing. When I told my husband the story, he said, "why don't you do that?" by which he meant "why don't you teach cooking classes since you teach and love to cook" and my response was "because I'm not a chef and don't have time to start a business."

But, if you know me at all, you probably know that I love to start things, or just come up with big ideas and talk about starting things (non-profits, birth centers, food tours . . . is it ringing a bell yet?). And that short conversation made me start thinking about what I could do related to my interest in food stuff. I think another blog is more manageable in my life right now than starting a cooking school or getting on the Food Network and it might be a good release for my daily thinking about all things food.

I know there are tons of blogs out there about food. I read many of them and I'm not claiming to have anything very new to say or to contribute. This is just about me, what I'm thinking about, and what I'm cooking. At the cooking class last night, I was totally into the discussions about whether or not we soak dried beans before cooking them, whether or not we rinse rice, the pros and cons of buying heads of garlic, and what you really get when you spend $300 on a pot (I never have). Maybe you share my interest, and maybe you don't, but I hope you enjoy reading my blog!