My Not So Secret Food Obsession (Cabbage?!)

When I was growing up, I remember listening to conversations back and forth with school friends about how much they hated cabbage. They would tell horror stories of it cooking on the stove for hours and stinking up the entire house. If you even mentioned cabbage to one, she would claim to have fallen dramatically ill and would be unable to eat anything for the rest of the day (did I mention we were in elementary school). Well, I used to sit there listening to these conversations, completely and utterly confused. My dad made cabbage all the time and I never smelled anything. Instead of the boil all day cabbage that my friends would discuss with such disgust, I was treated to Stir-Fried Cabbage.

There are a few foods that I am oddly obsessed with and Stir Fry Cabbage is so high on that list, it may be embarrassing. When my dad made cabbage, my uncle and I would end up standing at the stove some nights and eating it straight out of the pot when I was supposed to be putting it away in the fridge. We both had infuriated stories of times when we went into the fridge for leftovers and either he or I had eaten the last of the cabbage leaving my dad no other option than to make more to avoid a war.

Now, I understand that for most people cabbage is an all day undertaking and ends up tasting horrific. If you’re willing to give it another try… try this version. Jamaican Stir-Fried Cabbage is crunchy and flavorful. You cook it just long enough to wilt the cabbage and it’s flavored with red pepper and garlic. It’s sweet and a little salty and pairs beautifully with any number of dishes. Fish, Corned Beef…. wow I could go on all day about this…

 

 

Stir Fried Cabbage

 

Stir Fry Cabbage

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red pepper, sliced thinly

1-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

!/2 head of cabbage, sliced thinly

1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: Everything has to be cut and ready to go before the oil is hot in the pan

Set a dutch oven or 4 quart soup pot over medium-high heat. When droplets of water curl into balls and skate over the surface of the pan, add the olive oil and red pepper. Move the red pepper around the pan until it is coated in the oil, then drop in the garlic. Put all the cabbage in the pot at once with the salt and pepper. Move the cabbage around the pan until all the cabbage is coated in oil. Keep moving the cabbage around. So all the cabbage gets heated evenly. The cabbage will shrink in volume as you cook it. When all the cabbage is coated in oil, test a small bite. It should be crunchy. Move the cabbage to your serving dish. Keep in mind the cabbage will keep cooking in the serving dish so leave it open to maintain the crunch and serve as soon as you can.

Superstitions….

When I was a kid, my grandmother insisted that everyone eat Pork, Collard Greens & Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day Dinner.  There were no excuses allowed.  Not even the fact that I don’t like the taste/texture of cooked collard greens.  Hate may be a strong word, but sadly, it applies here.  I juice collard greens all the time because I know it’s nutrient dense, but if it’s cooked, I will pass any day but New Year’s Day (begrudgingly of course). Although I should say, soup is my only reasonable exception to the no cooked collards rule  so I usually do New Year’s Day Soup if I’m making dinner, but since I had limited time this year I went with the family’s easy fall back: The Big Salad.  Since we prefer salads that are a mix of hot and cold ingredients, I figured I could still say I “cooked” New Year’s Day dinner.

So, I set up three pots on the stove and went to work.  Of course you can make the parts days ahead and assemble at will like a salad bar so don’t let the big list fool you into believing this salad is a lot of work:

New Year’s Day Good Luck Salad

 New Years Day Salad

Pot 1: Saute Pan: Pork (Smoked Sausage):

  • 1-pound smoked pork sausage
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (raw if you can find it)

Slice 1-pound smoked pork sausage in 3/4-inch to 1-inch slices and set aside. Set a saute pan over medium heat.  The saute pan is ready when you can drop a few drops of water into the pan and the water forms a ball that skates over the surface of the pan.  Add  the sliced sausage to the pan and move the sausage around the pan for about a minute.  (You’re just trying to get some of the oil out of the sausage.  You know it’s right when there’s a bit of a sheen on the sausage.) You can walk away from the sausage now, but every minute or so, check on the sausage and move it around the pan so all sides get browned.  You want it to start browning, but not turn black and get some fond (browned bits) sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When the bottom surface of the pot is covered with fond, Add 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Toss the sausage in the browned bits so they are coated and leave the sausage and vinegar to cook together until all the vinegar is evaporated and it’s a bit sticky and bubbling in the pan.  Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 2: 2-quart Sauce Pan: Black Eyed Peas:

  • 3 cups black eyed peas
  • 1 spanish onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning herbs
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup stock (turkey/chicken/vegetable)

I used about 3 cups of black eyed peas that I cooked from dried peas and froze a while ago.  Some supermarkets have fresh black eyed peas in the vegetable section, but canned black eyed peas would work equally well here.  Set sauce pan over medium heat.  When water droplets curl into balls and skate over the top of the pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and minced spanish onion.  Move the onions around the pan with a wood spoon or spatula.   Add  (If you are using canned peas then only use 2 tsp of salt) 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 1 tbsp, italian seasoning herbs, 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika .  When onions are translucent, add 1 tbsp minced garlic or roasted garlic puree.  When garlic is fragrant (about a minute), add the beans.  Toss to coat with the onion-garlic mixture.  Then add 1 cup turkey/chicken/vegetable stock. Use a wood spoon or spatula to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.  Cook on medium heat until the liquid has evaporated.  Remove the beans from the pan and set aside.

 

Pot 3: 1-quart Sauce Pan: Brown Rice:

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4-1/2 cups water or stock

Used my usual Brown Rice recipe, but added 1 tbsp curry powder & 1 Tbsp smoked paprika to the oil.

 

 

Big Bowl on the counter: Kale & Collard Greens (Raw):

  • 1 large head kale, cleaned & dry
  • 1 large head collard greens, cleaned & dry
  • olive oil

When I say “large head of kale” I mean you should have about a gallon of kale and collard greens when you’re done.  If you have a salad spinner, it should be filled to the brim.  Cut the stems off the kale and collard greens then cut the leaves to your desired size.  Save the stems for juicing.  I like them about 1/8-inch wide and 1-1/2 to 2-inches long, but this part is up to you.  You’re going to “massage” the olive oil into the kale/collard mix.  Really squeeze and toss the kale/collards as though you are trying to get water into a sponge.  When you are done all of the kale should be coated in a THIN sheen of oil.  I would say about a tablespoon per quart of greens so adjust up or down depending on how much you are going to eat.

 

The Salad Bowl…

OK…. so here’s where it gets kind of creative…. The salad can be all or some of the following ingredients adjusted to your taste/preferences.  Most of them I picked in order to stand up to the taste of kale/collards.  If you prefer really flavorful salads (ex. Spicy Chicken, Teriyaki Salmon, etc.), try using massaged kale/collards sometimes since they can provide an interesting contrast that’s a nice change from just lettuce.

  • Smoked Sausage (Pork, Chicken Apple, Beef)
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Massaged Kale/Collards
  • Hot Brown Rice
  • Minced Red Pepper
  • Minced Sun Dried Tomatoes
  • Minced Shallots
  • MInced Hot Chili Peppers (jalapenos, serranos, long hots)
  • Corn Kernels (Steamed or Roasted)
  • Cucumbers (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Fresh Tomatoes (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Avocado (diced 1/2-inch)
  • Lemon/Lime Juice (or Salad Dressing of Choice)

Give this salad version a try when you’re absolutely tired of eating the same salad every day.  Since the Kale is more resilient than lettuce you can pack a couple lunches days ahead.  Just do hot stuff in one container and cold stuff in another.  I promise if you can finish the salad you’ll be stuffed!

Of Soup and Spices

It’s fall and soup season again. So, if I see vegetables in the fridge for more than a day, I’m tempted to turn it into soup. This week the lucky contestants were cauliflower and leftover baked potato wedges. Now, I like puréed soups and The Hubs likes chunky soups. So, I’m going to write this one out so you can do this soup either way with a few modifications.

I was in a spice mood when I started making this soup. This is one of those soups where I just open up the spice drawer and just start pulling out anything that sounds interesting. It probably helped that I’d been talking to my mom the day before about a doctor who wrote a cookbook and was pushing spices like turmeric, mustard, sesame, etc. etc. Of course, I am also completely hooked on making my own bread since I found HFCS on the list of ingredients of bread I was about to buy. And I figured I needed something else to do with the 12 pounds of honey I bought. (…Don’t ask) So, I figured soup would be the best thing to dip my bread into.

 

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Curried Cauliflower-Potato Soup
(Makes 4 quarts)

1/4 c curry powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 large spanish onion, minced
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 large heads cauliflower
2 quarts potatoes, baked
1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

Chunky Soup:

NOTE: cut cauliflower & potatoes into 1/2″ pieces. (Make it look pretty).

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), grind the spices in a spice grinder or leave whole. Add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the curry, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Stir the onions and beans occasionally until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower florets and cubed potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add enough stock to cover the vegetables. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a sharp knife through it easily. Add more stock as needed to get to desired brothyness (it’s a word now…). Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Puréed Soup

NOTE: Cut the cauliflower & potatoes any way you like. It’ll look the same in the end.

In a separate pot warm the stock over medium-low heat. Add curry, coriander, cumin, sesame seeds & mustard seeds to a stock pot and turn to medium heat. When you start smelling all the spices (the whole spices may start popping), add the minced onions, garbanzo beans and olive oil. Add the smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Leave the onions and beans to cook in the spices, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and the spices are starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic & stir the ingredients until you can smell the garlic. Add the cauliflower and potatoes. Turn to coat with the spices. Add 1 quart of the stock. Cover the pot and let cook until the cauliflower is soft enough that you can put a fork through it easily. Purée in batches in a blender or in the pot with a hand blender. Add more stock as needed to get to desired consistency. Add more salt & pepper as needed. Serve with buttered multigrain bread w/ apple butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Life Happens… And so do quick meals…

I have a rolling list on my phone (and fridge) of every meal that The Kid and I eat in the week (I used to pack lunches for The Hubs but it got confusing so he handles his breakfast & lunch himself). I have this week’s menu complete and I am starting to figure out next week. Yes, it’s true, I have meal planning OCD. I used to think I was crazy, but thankfully, my Bestie assures me that she has a list too. It’s the only way we know exactly what we need to have available in the fridge (either buy it on the way home or defrost it ahead of time) and how we manage to keep food on the table and lunch in the lunch boxes. No one seems to care how food gets to the table, but they surely want to know what happened when it doesn’t get there. And this is how I ended up standing over the stove at 6am Monday morning cooking coconut rice so it would be ready for me in the evening so I could give I could make something for The Kid’s lunch for Tuesday (how’s that for a breadcrumb trail…lol)

The coconut rice is of course simple. I make my rice using my Foolproof Method but substitute the oil with coconut oil, and substitute the water with a mixture of 1 can of coconut milk and enough chicken stock to make 4 cups. This is of course for 2 cups of uncooked rice. When it’s cooked transfer the rice to a storage container & put it in the fridge. (Feel free to race off to daycare drop-off & work like I did when you’re done.)

I’ve found that my “fried rice” recipes work best with rice that isn’t freshly made. You can use freshly made rice, but I’ve found that the cold rice doesn’t absorb the oil like fresh rice would and you maintain a much better texture with individual grains of rice.

So, fast forward to the evening and I leave work an hour and a half late. I have half an hour before I have to pick up The Kid and nothing else ready in the house for his or my lunch tomorrow. Ooops!!!

Now as luck would have it I had just roasted some red peppers over the weekend, we had steamed snow peas for dinner last Friday, I had a butterflied chicken with two breasts and a thigh left (save the thigh for something else) and two containers of fresh cremini mushrooms. There was no time to cut onions (it was a miracle i sliced through the mushrooms as fast as I did without causing myself harm) and I also had to set up my coffee and The Kid’s breakfast and sippy cups on top of everything else so… trusty roasted garlic purée to the rescue. If I had more time to make it I would have added 1 cup of minced onions.

This is a cut as you go recipe so if you prefer to get everything sliced up before you start expect to stand around in some parts. It was all done and under a lid in less than half an hour, but I apologize since I was trying to beat the clock I can’t give you individual times for everything, just the visual cues.

Chicken & Mushroom Turmeric Fried Rice
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2-3 Tbsp olive oil
2 (8 oz.) containers cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
1 cup minced onions, optional
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp roasted garlic purée
1 roasted red pepper (skins & seeds removed), minced
2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-1/2 cups snow peas, cooked or defrosted from frozen, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock/drippings
Coconut Rice
1 tbsp salt

You’ll need a very large skillet. If you don’t have one (or aren’t feeding a child with an appetite far beyond his years….) Halve the recipe and use a normal skillet.

Get the skillet on the stove over medium heat before you start doing anything else. You want the pot really hot to caramelize (not steam) the mushrooms. Clean and slice the mushrooms while the pan is heating up. You know the pan is ready if you drop a few small droplets of water in the dry pan (no oil yet until the pan passes the test) and the water droplet dances around the pan. Then add the oil followed quickly by the mushrooms. Spread the mushrooms around and go start cutting up everything else. Leave the mushrooms alone until you start seeing them turn a caramel color and start to curl. Then, move them around the pan so the get coated in oil. (If you are adding onions this is the place to do it. Let the onions get just a little browned, but not burnt.) When the mushrooms look wilted and caramelized, add minced roasted red peppers, garlic purée, turmeric, and smoked paprika. Move everything around the pan. The spices should begin to stick. Add the chicken and coat with the spiced mushroom mixture. Next add the chicken stock/drippings and scrape up the all the flavor stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the corn and peas. Finally, add the coconut rice. You will likely need to use your hands to break up the rice to get everything mixed together. When everything is mixed, turn the heat to low, cover and leave for at least half an hour for the rice to warm through and the favors to meld.

Summertime… Yeah it’s Summertime… Having some Pesto

I’ve been busy beyond my normal level of busy in the past few months, so I’ve been a bit neglectful.  I apologize, but here me out: Hubs had a crazy grad school schedule despite graduating in May (lol) then he started a new job then a new new job. I became Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified and sifted through massive convoluted Access Database code to rehab a poor database. We got rid of our pool which had reached the put up or shut up moment in its life. I redesigned all our garden beds and have officially decided to convert the garden to a fully edible landscape.  Forgiven? (I’m going to assume someone said yes…)

So, as I sat at work this afternoon dreaming of dinner I kept thinking about the basil plants that were getting too big and would be in danger of bolting soon.  Oh and what was I going to do with all that tarragon?  Well, I wanted a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil, but I had too much basil for a delicate preparation. I figured a semi-warm summer afternoon would be the perfect time to make the season’s first batch of garden fresh Pesto. So, pesto with a tomato mozzarella salad was the final decision

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Pesto Shells

Basil-Tarragon Pesto Shells w/ Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Garlic Spread on Toasted Bread

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

1 cup mozzarella balls, bite size, sliced in half
1-1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

About an hour before you are going to eat…. In a glass bowl with a cover (or you can just cover with plastic wrap) place mozzarella balls & tomatoes. Grate garlic cloves on a fine grater or use a garlic press. Add the garlic to the tomato mixture with a pinch of salt.  Cover & set aside. Every 10 minutes or so, shake the bowl so the juices get distributed evenly. Right before serving add white wine vinegar and shake again.

Basil-Tarragon Pesto

1 lb. pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups Basil leaves (not packed)
2 cups tarragon leaves (not packed)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon. small, juiced

Put the pine nuts in the pot that you plan to cook your pasta (…unless you have a free dishwasher on staff). Turn the heat to medium-low. You are going to toast the pine nuts in the pot so keep sniffing the air until you start to smell the toasted popcorn-like smell and the pine nuts are just starting to brown.  I wish I could tell you how long it takes, but I keep my pine nuts in the freezer so times vary for me.

NOTE: Pine nuts have low self-esteem. If you look away they will burn. Keep an eye on them and move them around the pan with a wooden spoon every few minutes or so until they are ready.

Take the pine nuts out of the pan and set aside.  Add the water to the pot to boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

NOTE: You can use any pasta you want for this, but I figured shells would be easier for The Kid to pick up with the halved tomatoes.

Add the garlic to your food processor while it’s running. When all the garlic is chopped (and pressed against the side of the food processor), add the pine nuts. Stop the food processor and add  the Parmesan cheese, the basil & tarragon leaves and a pinch of salt. Process until it starts forming what looks like a ball rolling around the processor. Start pouring in the olive oil slowly. Watch carefully. You only want to add enough oil to stop the “ball” from rolling around the food processor. (You are going to use pasta water later to thin it down to the exact consistency you want. So, don’t add all the oil if you don’t need it).  Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, process, then begin the test & adjust.  Taste for more lemon juice, salt, etc.  Adjust as needed.

Add the pesto to the dish you plan to serve the pasta in. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pesto and stir them together. (I think it’s easier to add the pasta to the pesto with a slotted spoon or spider than to drain the whole thing in a colander first.)  After you mix the pasta & pesto, add some of the pasta water if you want thinner pesto.  Adjust to your taste.

Serve immediately topped with the tomato-mozzarella salad and toasted bread topped with some warmed Roasted Garlic Mayo

 

Roasted Garlic “Mayo”

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I have a garlic problem. Whenever I go to the produce spot I buy a big bag of garlic. I always think I just ran out. Then I get home and realize I still have the six heads of garlic from last week sitting in the onion basket. So now I have 15 heads of garlic and then I go back next week and buy more garlic since I’m sure I finished all the garlic from last week and then I have 20-something heads of garlic!! I need an intervention.

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All this garlic led me to a semi-genius idea — Roasted Garlic “Mayo.” I love roasted garlic. I think it adds a great warm flavor to a lot of dishes. Although, I will admit that the idea of roasting garlic heads in foil just annoys me. I hate squeezing the garlic out at the end and knowing that there is some left behind in the garlic skins. Yes, I’m greedy. So the other day I peeled seven or nine heads of garlic (Yep, I zoned out and lost count after six) and put them in a small saucepan on the stove. I added a couple tablespoons of olive oil, covered the pot and turned the heat to Low and walked away.

It took a couple hours, but as soon as I smelled something I checked on it. It was pure yummy roasted garlic. I dumped all the contents of the pot into the mini food processor and puréed. I tasted it and added the juice of a lemon. If I thought it would last I would have added a bit of salt for the sake of preservation, but one taste and I knew better. This would be great spread like mayo on a sandwich or mixed into mashed potatoes. Yum. So just so I remember next time:

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Roasted Garlic “Mayo”
Cloves from 6-9 heads of garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

Put all the garlic cloves in a small saucepan. Add olive oil. Stir garlic cloves to coat in oil. Turn heat to Low. Leave covered until you smell roasted garlic (about 2 hours). Purée garlic with juice of 1 lemon. Put in a glass container & refrigerate.

Fourth Time Around

I am that person that loves shopping in the supermarket. I have been known (pre-parenthood and on grandparent weekends) to spend a few hours in a new supermarket wandering the aisles and sometimes circling back to aisles after finding something in another aisle. If I see something new I must buy it. Sometimes I have to pull out my phone just so I have some idea what things are. The phone came in handy once when I almost bought Durian which may have stunk up my house forever.

My favorite aisle is always the spice aisle. My spice drawer is full to the brim and I have more spices in the pantry and even more in the cabinets. I never discriminate against new spices. If I don’t have it already then I feel compelled to buy it. And I have not been disappointed yet. One of my favorite spices of the moment is red curry paste. It has lemongrass, ginger and chiles (among other things) and tastes fantastic with coconut milk (my other current mini-obsession).

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Red Curry Paste

The other night while we were eating dinner, The Kid started getting fussy and saying he was “All done.” Usually I can convince him to wait until everyone is done eating before he gets up from the table. But then I realized the problem and had to say to him, “Honey, I realize you are all done, but can you sit at the table and wait for Daddy to finish his fourth helping?” That was also my cue to write down the recipe so I could repeat it…

Garbanzo & Potato in Red Curry Sauce

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2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Spanish onion, cut 1/4″ pieces
2 pounds shitake mushrooms caps, chopped 1/2″ squares
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon red curry paste
6 yukon gold potatoes, cut in 1/2″ cubes
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 celery stalk, minced
6 sundried tomatoes, minced
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup scallions chopped

In a medium-hot large saucepan, add the olive oil. Add onions, mushrooms and kosher salt. Let the onions and mushrooms saute for about 3-5 minutes until they start to brown slightly. Add the curry powder and let it toast in the oil for about a minute. Add the mustard, red curry paste, garbanzos, potatoes and spices. Cook stirring occasionally until spices begin to stick (about 5-8 minutes). Add the celery and sundried tomatoes. Add the chicken stock and fish sauce. Scrape up all the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the coconut milk and corn. Cover the pan and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add scallions and transfer to serving dish.

 

Double Take

It happened…. The Kid ate meat!!! Okay… this may not seem that exciting, but I was pretty sure this day would never come. Up until now, every time I made a dish with meat in it, The Kid would pick out all the meat and hand it to me. But the other night, he did his usual: he saw me eating a piece of meat and asked for a piece. I gave it to him, expecting the usual spit out and hand back, but instead — he ate it!!! Then he asked for another piece. And another, and another. It was a miracle that I didn’t drop my poker face when he kept eating it and he ate about the size of a chicken thigh and then went back to his bowl of Garbanzo & Potato in Red Curry and Thai Purple Rice like nothing happened. Meanwhile, I was in shock and desperately trying not to indicate to him that a miracle happened.

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The chicken was actually the same chicken that I got in the two pack a few weeks ago and butterflied. Since I cooked another chicken that night, I just threw this one into a freezer bag with the rind of a lemon, 4-5 whole smashed garlic cloves, about a teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, a tablespoon of salt and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. It turned out fantastic if I must say so myself. I moved the chicken to the fridge two days before I planned to cook it and let it defrost. I guess I put it in a cold section of the refrigerator because it didn’t look entirely defrosted to me so I decided to cook it low and slow at 325F for 90 minutes. I took out my broiler pan and put the chicken on top. In the bottom section, I just put a sliced Spanish onion, an entire head of garlic with cloves separated (but not peeled) and the contents of the freezer bag in the bottom. I didn’t even add my usual splash of dry vermouth. When I took it out, the onion and garlic were roasted and covered with the chicken drippings. The chicken was so moist that I didn’t even need to make gravy. I just cut up the roasted chicken and saved the onions, garlic and chicken drippings for another night.

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The other great thing about this dinner was the Thai Purple Rice. I’ve been on a colorful rice kick lately (which I plan to discuss soon), but there was something truly gorgeous about this meal when I added the Thai Purple Rice. I cooked it using my usual foolproof rice method letting most of the water evaporate off until it was just below the level in the pan then stirred once, covered it, turned off the burner and walked away. The taste is a little sweeter than brown rice and I’m a huge fan now. Paired with the golden Red Curry Sauce the Purple Thai Rice gives a similar (inverse) visual of Cuban black beans over yellow rice.

Although I may have to remember this dinner forever since it was The Kid’s first true appreciation of meat, I will still endeavor to come up with more recipes that incorporate his first food love: beans. We will continue to be vegetarian-ish, but the meat really does add more options and you know I love options!!

Oooh… Under Pressure

I did it!! I got a pressure canner!! Ok, perhaps I am the only one who is even vaguely excited about this. The Hubs didn’t quite understand why it was Happy Dance worthy, but that’s okay. I’ve had this idea for years that I should help out my poor bulging freezer and can some of the stuff I make like sauce and beans. Unfortunately, I’ve also had this irrational idea that I would blow a hole in the kitchen ceiling if I used a pressure cooker. Yes… I know it’s irrational, but destroying the house seemed like a good reason not to give it a try without some lessons. But then, during the Holiday Deals madness I found a 23 quart canner for half off and decided, “Why not!” and ordered it.

The pressure cooker arrived at the house and was sitting in the box for a couple days. I took one look at it and remembered my poor yogurt maker that sat in the pantry for a year unused. Now here is the part where I lost my mind… I had the day off, I was finally finished with all the organizing and the kid was at daycare. The plan was to just relax and stay in bed to recover, but instead…. I decided to make some tomato sauce and can it. The tomato sauce was nothing fancy and to be honest, I only made it to test the canning procedure. It was just a super simple tomato, onion and herb mix with a touch of balsamic vinegar (canned tomato sauce needs some acid and the lemon juice that the recipe book recommended just seemed weird to me).

So, there I was… standing in front of the stove woozy from exhaustion. I took one look at all my sterilized quart size glass jars, lids, and rings still in their hot bath and figured it was now or never. I put the tomato sauce into the jars, assembled all the jars, and gently placed them in the canning rack. As I put the lid on the canner, I figured The Hubs couldn’t possibly be THAT mad about having to extricate a pot lid from the kitchen ceiling if I was seriously exhausted at the time. I turned on the heat, and prepared for the madness. The instruction book said I needed to get the pressure gauge over 11 pounds of pressure for about 20 minutes. I kept an eye on the pressure gauge half terrified of catastrophe and kept adjusting the heat (mostly downward so it didn’t hit 15 pounds of pressure). After 20 minutes, it was all done. According to the instructions, I could just walk away and let it cool off by itself.

After that massive build up and my obsession with destroying the kitchen, it was over. I had three bottles of canned tomato sauce and a kitchen still in tact. Of course, when The Hubs got home he took one look at the kitchen and said…. “So did you rest at all today?!”

Holiday revisited — Thanksgiving 2011

So, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  I love it even though it’s the red-headed-stepchild of the winter holidays.  The stores somehow go from Halloween decorations straight to Christmas without acknowledging that there is a holiday between the two.  So, since Christmas infringed on Thanksgiving’s glory, I’m going to take a moment from the Christmas planning to talk about Thanksgiving.  I’m not cooking Christmas Dinner (eating at Dad’s table) so, why not..  The yearly Thanksgiving tradition is that I don’t reveal the menu beforehand, but I spend countless hours trying to figure out what to make.  Every year I think, “This is the year that I finally make the Turkey Roulade!” I get really indignant about it and get myself all worked up and convinced I’m going to do it.  And every year, I take one look at the whole bird and I just don’t have the heart to cut her up.  There’s something about the big reveal of the big roasted turkey on the table with the sides that I just have never been able to resist.

This year’s dinner was pretty tame even for me.  Anyone who has been to my parties will vouch that I have a tendency to go overboard.  One of my friends still talks about the chocolate sleigh I made for a Christmas party that I filled with homemade marshmallows (to look like presents).  But even with all the “tameness” it was still good.  So the menu (secret that it was before dinner) was:

Mixed Greens Salad with Roasted Pumpkin, Craisins, Red Onions, Blue Cheese & Toasted Walnuts
Roasted Turkey w/ Gravy
Sausage & Cornbread Dressing (with Roasted Jackfruit Seeds)
Sweet Potato Gratin
Mashed Potatoes
Kale
Pot Sticker Style Brussels Sprouts
Whole Cranberry Sauce w/ Orange Zest & Cloves
Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Crescent Rolls

See…. Pretty tame.  I do make my own cranberry sauce but since I love whole and The Hubs loves jellied, I always make both.  I almost broke my own rule of no repeats for the Mushroom Truffle Mac & Cheese I made last year, which was amazing, but I figured when I make it the next time it will taste even better because I had to wait for it.  I should probably explain the Jackfruit (upcoming post).  Even though I bought chestnuts to roast for the stuffing dressing (no, I don’t put it inside the bird, I like a little crunch to it). I decided to use roasted Jackfruit Seeds in the dressing instead since they were ready in the fridge.  The roasted Jackfruit seeds are similar in texture and taste to roasted chestnuts, so it worked.

Ok, here’s the real reason I was thinking about Thanksgiving.  I was looking through the freezer and found the extra container of Turkey Drippings.   When I saw the container in the freezer it took me back to the Thanksgiving Sandwich The Hubs made for me with the leftovers.  Every year, I make myself a Thanksgiving Sandwich, but I should have known better.  Sandwiches are not my territory.  The Hubs created a masterpiece.  I thought Thanksgiving was good, but the sandwich was amazing.  I truly wish I had taken a picture of it, but I’m afraid if I did, I would have made it the background of my computer screen (yes it was that good).  The Hubs made a sandwich with the Turkey, Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Kale and Brussels Sprouts.  He used the gravy instead of mayo and cranberry sauce instead of mustard.  It was AMAZING!!  I can’t wait until we get our Christmas Dinner leftovers from my dad so I can see what sandwich The Hubs is going to make with that!