Friday, November 14, 2008

rising cost of good food

The New York Times published an interesting and inspiring article last week; Money is Tight and Junk food Beckons, that describes the extreme cost of eating fresh, healthy foods and a California couple who tried to eat for one month on less than $1 a day (their fascinating blog is here). They baked and cooked bulk grains and beans, supplemented their diet with orange Tang for vitamin C, and lost weight, energy, and a lot of time. Their blog doesn't inspire me to attempt a similar experiment. It does make me want to spend more time in the kitchen developing recipes that are fast, healthy, and more affordable than some of the really terrible things people are forced to sustain on because of time and money.

Michael Pollan (a NYTimes contributor and author of The Omnivore's Dilemma & In Defense of Food) wrote a great article several weeks ago, a letter to the next President of the United States asking them to make food policy a priority for the health, security, and economy of our country. He was interviewed on Fresh Air and makes a compelling argument for an overhaul of the way America grows and sells food. Definitely listen to the Fresh Air episode- it's really, really, great.

I'm going to make lots of soup this fall and winter. It's cheap (a 10lb bag of potatoes at Aldi is $2.50, a big can of crushed tomatoes $1!) and easy and comforting, and can feed two people for at least a week. One of the biggest challenges to writing about soup recipes will be documenting ingredients and quantities... so much of the seasoning and I do is in pinchfuls and shakes... it's hard to keep track of! I'm making split pea soup in the next day or two, will try to carefully record my steps, and will post the recipe if it's worth eating!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pinto Beans and Kale

After a long, freezing, and frustrating day I wanted something easy and spicy and steaming for dinner. A few weeks ago my friend Mia mentioned that one of her favorite meals is her grandma's pinto beans and kale.

I had kale and a 28 oz can of pinto beans from Aldi that's been in the pantry for months... so I threw a few things together and it turned out to be the perfect thing for a cold and grumpy night.

Pinto Beans and Kale

(serves one hungry girl three times)

1 tb butter
2 cloves garlic
about 1/2 lb of kale, shredded
28 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 vegetable bouillon cube dissolved in 2 cups hot water
1/2 tsp thyme and rosemary
lots of black pepper and red pepper flakes

Melt butter with garlic in skillet over medium high heat, add shredded kale and beans, saute until wilted. Add veggie broth and spices, and let simmer, stiring occassionally, about 30 minutes until most liquid has evaporated.

I ate this with a some of Aldi's jambayla rice mix I had on hand. It was perfect. I also have to tell you all how inexpensive this meal is to make if you have basics on hand. The kale ($1.29/lb at Kroger), beans (about $1 at Aldi), and rice ($.99 at Aldi) cost less than $4.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

First Pumpkin!

Had to share my first carved pumpkin this year:

I found the template at the Associated Press political pumpkin pattern site
and was putting the finishing touches on Barack's ear about two hours later! I tried to find a pumpkin with a flat-ish side because the templates aren't really designed for round things.
I used lots of pins to hold the template in place, poked about 8,000,000 tiny holes around the edges of the pattern, carved the lines using a grapefruit knife, and carefully picked out the positive space using a paring knife. I'm thinking about trying to photoshop my own template of Biden grinning. I just love that smile.

experimenting with ice cream

Two good friends surprised me with an ice cream freezer for my birthday about a month ago. Since then, I've been experimenting weekly using Jeni Britton, David Bovitz, and the contents of my fridge as inspiration. So far I've tried vanilla, lemon yogurt, lemon-raspberry yogurt, chocolate, white chocolate ginger, and just plain frozen yogurt. The best, so far, was the white chocolate and ginger.
The original recipe can be found here, but I made a few minor changes in both ingredients and methods. Here's my version:

White Chocolate and Fresh Ginger Ice Cream

4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups 2% milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate chips, spun through food processor
5 egg yolks

1. Blanch the ginger for a minute, drain, and add sugar and milk to saucepan. Stir occasionally over low heat for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Put white chocolate into medium bowl and set aside

3. Whisk egg yolks in medium bowl and, while whisking, slowly drizzle warm ginger/milk mixture into bowl.

4. Return to saucepan once combined and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat a spoon (about 5-8 minutes?)

5. Add hot mixture to white chocolate and stir until chocolate melts. Add the cup of heavy cream, cover, and refrigerate while making and eating delicious dinner (about 4 hours).

6. Pour through strainer (or large slotted spoon) to catch the big pieces of ginger, and freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer for about 40 minutes until really, really thick. Eat and share what you can, put the rest in a plastic airtight container. Cover the top of the ice cream with plastic wrap to avoid ice crystals.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

General Tso's Tofu (second attempt)

One of my culinary goals is to perfect a General Tso's tofu recipe. It's one of Dylan's favorite take-out dishes and something I really enjoy. My first attempt was loosely based off this recipe, my second off of this. I didn't snap any pictures before we ate everything, but next time I definitely will. The results this time were better than my first- I made sure the oil was hotter (350 degrees) when I added the battered tofu, and allowed the sauce to warm (instead of thicken) before adding the tofu so it was coated better.
I'll post the recipe I used last night- but will made some adjustments next time. If you have any suggestions or feedback from your own experiences please share!

General Tso's Tofu v2.0

1 block extra-firm tofu, drained and cubed


2 eggs

1/3 cup cornstarch

3 Tb rice vinegar
3 Tb brown sugar
3 Tb soy sauce
1 tsp fresh minced ginger
1 minced garlic clove
2 tsp cornstarch
red pepper flakes to taste

While about 2 inches of oil (I used canola) are heating in a deep saucepan, whisk egg and cornstarch together and add cubed tofu. Hand-toss to coat. Add pieces slowly to the hot oil and fry until brown and crispy. Heat another skillet with a little bit of oil, when tofu is done, add the sauce to the skillet and immediately add tofu, shake/stir/flip around to coat tofu. Dylan likes his tofu plain, I like to add steamed broccoli, carrots, and green onions.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

3-Bean Salad

Most of the foods I crave these days are mom's recipes I grew up eating. This afternoon I had a serious hankering for her 3-bean salad. I couldn't get a hold of her for the recipe, but managed to create a delicious/similar variation:

Not-quite-Mom's 3-bean salad

15oz can green beans
15oz can red kidney beans
15oz can limas
minced clove of garlic
diced small yellow bell pepper
2 stalks of sliced celery

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp worcestershire
1/8 tsp celery seed

Combine rinsed beans, garlic, pepper, and celery in large bowl
Warm dressing ingredients on stove until sugar dissolves, pour over beans and gently mix.
Refrigerate at least an hour.

The Beginning

I've been toying with the idea of creating a blo
g for months now, and am finally pursuing it! I have more free-time than ever these days, and am in the process of settling into a new house. I'll be documenting my cooking, gardening, and sewing endeavors as I break in the new home!