Sunday, August 17, 2014

On hiatus.

So.... six months have gone by since my last post, it seems. Oof. I miss this space, I really do, but then this giant donut shaped belly

Became this sleepy newborn girl,

Who is now this crazy, smiling, squirming bundle of love.

I spend my days catering to the whims of an infant, and so I honestly haven't been cooking much. A sliced tomato with salt, cheese and crackers, the occasional scrambled egg, and one tiny batch of blueberry jam just to stay in the game, but I think I'd better declare it: I'm on hiatus. I've got three more weeks of maternity leave, and then it's back to work, back to routine. Once we've got a schedule figured out (which I'm sure Josie will just laugh at maniacally and change as soon as it's established) I hope to be back. Till then, I hope you're eating well, my friends.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Oatmeal Sundays, part deux

Yes. These two pictures look exactly the same. But they're not the same bowl, I swear!

The top photo is Scottish Oatmeal: 2 cups water, 1 cup milk, bring to a boil, stir in a cup of Scottish oats, simmer until cooked, 10ish minutes. Meh. It was ok. The texture was much better than just previous attempts, creamy but with a little chew. I added brown sugar and blueberries.

The second photo (which, ok, technically we ate the Sunday BEFORE the first one) is April Bloomfield's Porridge, and I actually really liked it! The texture was great, no gluey-ness at all. We followed Luisa's instructions to use less salt - we used 3/4 tsp of Maldon salt, which is hugely flakey and thus less salty when measured by volume than kosher. If you try it and want to use kosher, start with a scant 1/2 teaspoon (or less) and work up from there. This stuff is SALTY. I liked it, but I can see how it would be too salty for some. I added brown sugar and blueberries, because that's what we had. I'd like to play around with this one and try using a little more water and a little less milk, or try using almond milk instead (we usually have that in the house and don't always have cow's milk) and I'll also try a double batch next to see how the leftovers hold up.

We took a little break from oats this past Sunday to eat eggs and toast and Adam's famous breakfast potatoes, but there are a couple other oatmeal preparations to try, and I'll report back on those, of course. Happy breakfasting, everyone.

Friday, January 17, 2014

At least we have a toaster oven?

Adam and I got home from yoga the other night to this charming sight: a busted and disconnected stove. Our landlady, who lives upstairs, smelled gas (thank goodness, as my normally super sensitive pregnant lady nose didn't detect a thing!) and called the gas company emergency line. They came out and waved their magic sniffer wand (or something) at a bunch of spots in the house, and apparently our stove is the leaky culprit, but it was somehow venting up into her apartment and away from ours. Allegedly a new stove is being delivered today, but I don't know if delivery includes connecting it to the gas line, so it may be a few days before the plumber comes and we can cook again. I've been using it as an excuse to eat takeout bagel sandwiches for breakfast, but I'm a little worried Oatmeal Sunday may be thwarted this week. On that note, we found Scottish Oats at Whole Foods last night. Have a wonderful long weekend folks, hopefully I'll be back with more oatmeal next week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Oatmeal Sundays

I have a confession to make: I don't like oatmeal. I find this to be a confounding thing, as I like porridge-y things made from so many other grains! I love risotto and congee made from rice, I devour polenta and grits made from corn, I am well and truly obsessed with the cream of wheat at The Neighborhood restaurant in Somerville, MA (I'm pretty sure they put sweetened condensed milk in it, to be honest). But other than choking down the occasional packet of instant quaker during my corporate office days, oatmeal hasn't even really make it onto my radar until now.

Oh wait, that was a misleading paragraph. I am not about to tell you that I now like oatmeal, or about a recipe that converted me. Sorry. Instead, let me tell you about my project to learn to like oatmeal. They say it can be done, and since I don't find it actually, like, offensive, just kind of... gluey? Anyway, I think it's a matter of finding the right preparation, and I'd like to get into a routine of eating oatmeal on the regular, because, frankly, it's apparently very good for lactation, and, oh yeah, it's all over my other social media, but have I mentioned on this blog that Adam and I are expecting a baby in June? We are. Yay!

So we've instituted Oatmeal Sundays at our house, and I've got five more months to figure out how to eat oatmeal and not be grumpy about it. Up top you can see an attempt at baked oatmeal. Specifically, Heidi Swanson's baked oatmeal from Super Natural Every Day. It has you slice some bananas for the bottom of the dish, then a layer of berries, a layer of oats + stuff, then more berries, and then you pour a milk/egg combo over the top and bake. It's January, so instead of berries I used jam, and I just left out the sugar in the oat mixture. I thought it was just fine, but it took approximately forever in the oven, and I underbaked it, I think, because I was so hungry I just needed to eat breakfast NOW. The edges were juuust starting to get golden, so the middle, while cooked all the way through, was that sort of weird in between gluey texture that I don't really like. If I had left it in long enough I think it would have had a nicer, chunkier texture. I'll try it again, but not right away.

Next we tried overnight steel cut oats in the slow cooker. I didn't follow a particular recipe, but my friend Cara said 4 cups liquid to 1 cup oats and I just ran with it from there. I used a cup of Bob's Redmill Steel Cut Oats, two cups of milk and two cups of water, a big pinch of salt, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and two small handfuls of raisins. All mixed together in the slow cooker at 10pm, ready to eat when we got up at 8am. Apparently last time I bought raisins I bought a bag of JUMBO raisins but I think in the future I wouldn't put the fruit in the night before. They got a little too plump, and it was weird. They tasted kind of wine-y. The texture of the oats was actually pretty good, much smoother than I anticipated. I think this would make a good base for toppings added in the morning (oh and I did add a little maple syrup for serving). We'll try these again for sure, if nothing else for efficiency's sake. If these come out the winner, I might get a smaller crock pot, the one I have felt much too big for this. I also realized too late that I had put the raisins in thinking I'd add peanut butter in the morning, which MANY people suggested, for like a PB&J type thing, but then I forgot. It was morning, after all.

The rest of the candidates:
April Bloomfield's Porridge, which gets rave reviews from a bunch of bloggers I trust and is apparently quite salty, which I love.
Megan Gordon's steel cut oats from Whole Grain Mornings - maybe toasting the oats in butter before simmering them is the key to my happiness? Also, note to husbands and other gift-buyers: I want this book reeeeal bad.
My friend Tiffany suggested Scottish Oats which sounds very appealing and more porridge-y than the other types, but it's just a matter of tracking down the oats. There are several hippie-marts near me that carry lots of Bob's Red Mill products so I'll try to find them locally before I order them online. (A five pound bag?! Come on, Bob.) (Ok, apparently smaller bags are available, but Amazon only has them in packages of 4 smaller bags, which add up to... 5 lbs. Oy.)
And finally, another baked oatmeal contender from Joy the Baker, which a friend suggested via Pinterest (PS, I'm on Pinterest now, apparently. How'd that happen?)

So, folks, if you have any other suggestions for oatmeal preparations or recipes, or just want to commiserate about trying to teach yourself to like something that's so darn good for you, please speak up.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Celery Salad with Dates

These days it takes a particularly good recipe to bring me back here, but this one is so simple and surprising that I didn't want to leave it undocumented. I cleaned out a big pile of old magazines the other day, but I went through them first and pinned all the ones I had flagged with sticky notes and scraps of paper (it's an imperfect system but it works for me, heh). This little gem is from a back issue of Bon Appetit. The slightly salty crunch of the celery next to the sweetness of the dates is an unexpected and delightful combo.

Celery Salad with Dates
Serves 4 as a side

The original recipe called for a couple of ounces of shaved parmesan, which I skipped because I tasted it before I added cheese and loved it as is. The next day I ate the leftovers for lunch (they were a little soggy and the dates were kind of bloated, so I recommend you eat this one right when you make it), and I added some leftover crumbled bacon. The salty fattiness was a nice foil for the sweetness of the dates, so I'll add the parmesan next time I make this one. 

1/2 cup sliced almonds
8 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a strong bias
5 dates, pitted, roughly chopped
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
a good size pinch of red pepper flakes (I used a combo of aleppo and maras pepper)
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 oz parmesan cheese or 4-5 strips of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until golden, about 5 minutes. Pro tip: don't leave the kitchen, and make sure you set a timer. Nuts are tricky, tricky buggers and they burn in like a second. I use the toaster oven and literally watch them toast, though in a small toaster oven with more hot spots, you'll probably want to stir them every couple of minutes.

Combine the celery, dates, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes in a bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over and toss. Add the parmesan, if using, and the almonds, and a splash of the olive oil, then taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want more heat, add more red pepper, or if it's too aggressively acidic, add a little more olive oil. If you're using the bacon instead of the cheese, sprinkle the crumbles over the top of the salad just before serving.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Slow Cooker Beef and Lamb Chili

It's chili night, y'all!

I know I'm not very good at consistent blogging anymore, but I do often post pictures of dinner over on instagram. I'm a fan of the near-instant posting, and since most of my photos are taken on my phone these days (who wants to carry around a DSLR when an iPhone fits in your pocket?), that particular social media has won out of this one. I like that the pictures are usually sort of messy and un-styled, too (note chili splash marks and chipped bowl). Unfortunately, iPhone keyboards are not so excellent for typing out entire recipes, so here I am again! Let's talk chili.

I make a big batch of chili at least once each winter. It's a fantastic recipe that I got from my friend Kristen, and I will certainly bring it out at some point during football season, but man, is that sucker a project: there's lots of chopping and hours of simmering, and it feeds twenty (twenty!) people. I needed to make some room in the freezer this week, and the weather has turned cool again, but I didn't have hours to tend to a pot - in fact, I threw this in the crockpot in about 30 minutes after Bones the other night and dinner was done before I even woke up the next day. This version is a slimmed down, use-what-you've-got interpretation of my old stand by, so there's a little bit of pre-cooking and a little bit of finishing, but the batch was perfect for dinner for two and a few lunches worth of leftovers.

Slow Cooker Beef and Lamb Chili
Serves 6-8, or 2 with plenty of lunches for the week

By all means, use all beef if that's what you've got (or what you like) but we really enjoyed the added flavor from the ground lamb. And a note on fat: Adam doesn't eat pork on principle, but we do have bacon once a year (New Year's Day, when we have guests for brunch), and I save the fat and cook with it from time to time when it seems like a good fit. If you don't save bacon fat, you could certainly use olive oil, or a combination of oil and butter as in the original, or any other interesting fat you feel like cooking with that day. Or you could cook some bacon with your breakfast and use the fat to start slow-cooker chili that you'll eat for dinner that night. I used home-canned tomatoes from my #crazycanninglady frenzy of Labor Day weekend, but I'm sure store bought would work just fine. 

about 2 tablespoons bacon fat or olive oil, divided
2 stalks celery, cut into half moons about 1/2" thick
2 jalapenos, seeded, minced

2 green peppers, diced into 3/4" pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium white or yellow onions, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 lb ground lamb
1 lb stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
2 14.5 ounce cans beans, drained and rinsed (I used dark red kidney beans and pink beans, but use what you like)
1 28-32 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14.5-16 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoon* cumin
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon red chili flakes
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning as you go
kosher salt

*I happen to have a 1/2 tablespoon measure, but if you don't, it's equivalent to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

Heat 1-2 teaspoons fat in a cast iron or other large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the green peppers, celery and jalapenos and saute for 5-7 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the garlic, season with a big pinch of kosher salt, and saute for one minute more. Scrape the vegetables into the slow cooker.

Add another 1-2 teaspoons fat in the same skillet, and add the onion. Saute for 5 or so minutes, or until the onion is just starting to get translucent. Add the lamb to the skillet, breaking it up with your spatula, and season with a big pinch of salt. Cook until the lamb is no longer pink, stirring and breaking up the meat as it cooks. If your lamb gives off a fair amount of fat as it cooks, tilt the skillet and spoon out most of the fat before scraping the lamb and onions into the slow cooker. (Pro tip: I used one of the empty bean cans as a place to put the fat before it solidified and I could throw it out - never put fat down the drain!)

Add another 1-2 teaspoons fat to the skillet, then add half the beef. Turn the pieces occasionally, trying to get a good dark golden crust on at least two sides of each piece. When the first batch is golden brown on a couple of sides, scrape them into the slow cooker and repeat with the second half of the beef. If your skillet is very large you won't need to work in batches, but mine isn't huge, and crowding the meat will cause it to steam instead of developing the golden brown crust you're after.

So now you've got partially cooked vegetables and meat in the slow cooker. Add the beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, then add all the spices - you can use more or less chili powder or chili flake to adjust the heat level, or you could add hot sauce if you like. For me, this amount of seasoning amounted to a medium heat level - I didn't add any additional fire power to my bowl, but Adam added pickled jalapenos to his. Anyway, add another large pinch of salt, stir the whole thing together, then put on the lid and turn the slow cooker to low.

Cook on low for about 8 hours or overnight (it is kind of weird and awesome to wake up to a house that smells like chili). When you get up, take the lid off the slow cooker but let it keep simmering, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to thicken slightly (totally ok to skip this if you don't have time, it'll just be a little more soupy). Taste the chili for seasoning - it may need more salt depending on how aggressive you were when seasoning during cooking. Serve hot, with all the fixins if you've got 'em: sour cream, grated cheese, extra hot sauce, sliced green onion, cornbread, fritos, etc, etc.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crazy Canning Lady 2013 (and some useful links)

Final tally: 17 jars crushed tomatoes, 4 jars tomato sauce, 12 jars tomato juice, 38 jars tomato salsa, 4 jars tomatillo salsa. I had two failed seals, so there's a bit of salsa in the fridge. Nachos for dinner solves part of the problem :)

My most-used hashtag lately has been #crazycanninglady. What you see above is what I made from 100+ pounds of tomatoes over labor day weekend: 38 pints of salsa; 8 quarts, 5 24 oz jars, and 4 pints of crushed tomatoes; 5 pints of thin tomato sauce; and 12 pints of tomato juice that I squeeze out of the seeds and peels at the end of the weekend. I bought 4 cases of seconds (the less-than-perfect tomatoes that go for cheap and are just fine for canning) for a mere $12 per case, and then because I'm a nutter I bought another box the following weekend used the whole box to make another 7 pints of thick tomato sauce.

In the last month I've also made kosher style dill pickles, tomatillo salsa verde, dilly beans, stone fruit + blackberry jam, mixed berry jam, and Asian style plum sauce. I've got tomatoes at home destined for tomato jam tomorrow night, and we're going apple picking this weekend which will inevitably lead to overbuying, so I'm guessing there's apple jelly in my future. (Thanks for the idea, Mom! I bought a jelly strainer the other day!)

If you want to be a crazy canning lady like me, here are some extremely useful links about how to do it safely:

Understanding Acid and pH in Boiling Water Bath Canning from Food in Jars.

How Not to Die from Botulism from Northwest Edible Life

Canning Q&A: The Difference Between Jam, Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves from Food Fanatic

Canning Q&A: Differences Between Jam vs. Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves - See more at:
Canning Q&A: Differences Between Jam vs. Jelly, Marmalade and Preserves - See more at: