The Reorg

So, The Hubs’ grad school schedule this semester of three nights a week, plus some weekends has been depriving me of those now precious commodities… time and energy.  The Kid has simultaneously developed a severe objection to seeing me sit down.  So, I figured I had to get creative.   I started with running laps around the basement with him.  Then, I just got used to the idea that I don’t get to sit down.  On nights when he didn’t want to do laps I started reorganizing.  The Kid is usually willing to help carry things from one place to another and has no problem going up and down the stairs a million times so it seemed like a good idea.  I made the mistake of believing that the kid would eventually get tired and let me sit down, but it didn’t happen so I ended up reorganizing just about the entire house.  Every night, The Hubs would just come home from work or class and just shake his head as I reorganized something else.  The good news is that I’ve found tons of stuff that we aren’t using and will be able to donate it all just in time for the holidays (tons of baby stuff — seriously, how does someone so small go through so many clothes and need so much STUFF?!).  The bad news, is now I’m so close to reorganizing everything that I can’t stop.

This weekend, I reorganized the pantry.  My pantry serves three purposes: It holds most of my room temp food supply (the freezer is just another story), Holds all my platters and party supplies and lastly, it is where I start the seeds for most of the plants that my mom and I grow in our gardens each year.  So, the pantry has always had a lot going on.  The Hubs used to hate the pantry.  I would send him down to the pantry to grab… anything and eventually he’d give up after repeated trips up and down the stairs and just call me with the camera on his phone to figure out where to look.  Poor Hubs!  The Pantry reorg didn’t take nearly as much time as I thought it would and I found everything I swore I had and almost purchased over again.  Thanks to the reorg, I found my:

 

  • yogurt maker (I had an idea that making yogurt with organic milk would be cheaper than buying it)
  • bread dough container (I became a fan of the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes book and used to make bread, then just lost the time)
  • All my canning jars (I really need to bite the bullet and start canning this summer)
  • more than 25 boxes of pasta (don’t ask, if I had a coupon and it was a great price then I got pasta) … oh and this is after I gave boxes away to the food drive
  • the package of farro, I swore I had somewhere
  • …and so much more
Well now I guess I have to do something with all that wonderful stuff I “found.”
I came home energized for some crazy reason today and pulled off a masterful feat.  I juiced, made kale chips (dangerously addictive by the way), made my Curry Chicken and gravy and served it with the brown rice, beans & corn that the kid loves.  (The Hubs and I loaded the hot rice on the salad of course.)  I butterflied the other whole chicken and added garlic, lemon peel, cracked black pepper, salt & olive oil to the freezer bag so it can marinate while thawing.  I somehow had the presence of mind to clear out the vegetable drawer to make a stock with the remaining chicken bones.  And all this was preceded by me grinding wheat berries and rye into flour to set up the bread dough to rise for 2 hours when I got home according to the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes book!  There’s just something about a clear pantry that makes me want to really get going in the kitchen!
Every year around this time, the pantry has to undergo an overhaul (although I think I got the formula right this year) so I can get ready to start the seedlings for the next year’s garden.  In about a month, my mom and I will be studiously hovered over trays of seed starting systems trying to decide what we are planting this year and what we didn’t like from last year.  I know we are going to plant too much, but i never care.  Now that I have tons of space available, I’m going to have to sit down with my collection of seeds (It turns out that I have more than 600 [and still counting] flower, herb. vegetable or fruit seed packets) so since my greenhouse plans have been delayed, I might as well get started with the seeds so the plants are ready to go into the greenhouse whenever it materializes.  Apparently putting up a greenhouse isn’t a simple feat, but I have every confidence that the Hubs will be able to pull it off as an early Valentines/Mother’s Day/(isn’t there another holiday early next year) gift.  (Hint Hint, Hubs)


My Favorite Holiday….

I have to say, I love this time of year.  It’s just cool enough to warrant making and eating soup, but still warm enough for there still to be vegetables available.  Even better than that, is the approach of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  It seems like every other holiday involves a lot of shopping and pomp and circumstance.  Thanksgiving is about food and family.  That’s it.  Anyone can participate.  If your family isn’t close enough then your friends are your family that night.  It’s not restricted to any group, it’s not restricted to any religion, it’s just that time when you get together with your family and eat… and eat…. and eat!  You can eat anything you want, it’s up to you, but there’s always some great family tradition involved in each dinner and I love learning about other people’s traditions.

Every year about two weeks before Thanksgiving, I start planning my menu.  This is way more involved that it should be, but everyone has their obsessions and a holiday that celebrates food is mine.  I remember just about all the menus from my past Thanksgiving dinners (my mind just works that way… no apologies) and refuse to repeat recipes from one year to another.  This can be good or bad.  I ask if anyone has requests for the menu and if the Hubs requests something that I made last year… it’s not going on the menu!  Since the Hubs likes surprises, I never reveal the menu until everyone is sitting at the table and all the covers come off the serving dishes.  (What can I say, I like the drama of it all.) And he usually doesn’t mind what isn’t there ‘cos he’s happy enough to dig into what is there.  (For those who are concerned for our well-being, I have the week off so I will have time for longer workouts and The Hubs will be doing a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving Day to get ready for the battle against leftovers).

I’m in the process of figuring out what’s for dinner and I’ll admit I’m having entirely too much fun.  With our recent trip to Jamaica I have tons of ideas floating around in my head.  I’ve been scouring cookbooks and cooking websites looking for ideas.  I tend to completely indulge my food nerdiness and make just about everything from scratch (yes I know how insane that sounds), but it all comes together in the end which is the most important part of course.  I don’t know what the final menu will be, but it’s The Kid’s half birthday so you know I’m going all out!

Lazy Gravy

As a born Jamerican, it pleases me to no end that The Kid’s current favorite dinner is rice and beans with curry chicken gravy. He’s not a big fan of chicken, but he’ll eat a few pieces if it’s in there. Since the gravy is all he’s really interested in from the chicken, it has to be substantial.  There is also The Hubs to consider since he does not like thin gravy at all.  Ironically I was talking to someone the same night I made this about gluten free diets and some people’s ideas that gluten free food can’t be delicious.  My gravy doesn’t have any flour to thicken it and both the Hubs and The Kid love it (and so do I).  The other reason I call it lazy is that I don’t have to go digging around the freezer to find the chicken stock to give the gravy some liquid.  It looks way too simple, but it’s always a hit.  Thanks to the absence of flour, you also won’t run into the lumpy gravy problem some people have.

So, since we’re talking about curry chicken, I have one huge pet peeve with some curry recipes that I’ve tasted.  If not done right, curry can taste awful.  In long slow cooking dishes, it tends to work out pretty well.  For quick recipes, it’s not usually the case.  If you’re making a quick cooking curry dish, please toast the curry in a dry pan before you add it to the dish.   This will take some of the sharp edge off the curry and give it a more earthy and less gamey taste.  Seriously, it’s one small step and it makes a huge difference.

 

Curry Chicken with Lazy Gravy

1/3 – 1/2 cup curry powder
4 garlic cloves (more or less to taste)
2 large Spanish Onions, cut in large chunks
up to 1 cup of any veggies in the fridge (ex. carrots, red pepper, tomatoes, celery), cut in large chunks (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Marinara Sauce or 3oz tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

 

In a (large) dry medium hot pan (with a large base and preferably one that has a cover or you have a cover that would fit it), add the curry powder.  Leave it alone until it starts to become fragrant and smoke a little. Move it around the pan to make sure it all gets heated up, then put it aside in a bowl until you are ready for it.  Sprinkle the salt and pepper on your chicken.  (If this is your preference, you can coat the chicken with the curry mixture like you would flour.  Since this was my lazy cooking day I didn’t bother.) Add the olive oil to the hot pan and add the chicken skin side down.  Check the time on the stove clock.  Turn on your food processor, and drop the garlic cloves in while it’s running.  When all of the garlic cloves have been minced, turn off the  food processor, add the onions and any veggies your are adding and turn it back on.   Puree the onion mixture.  If it’s been around 3-4 minutes, check the chicken (if you forgot to add salt and pepper to the bottom side of the chicken, you can add it now) then flip it over.  Give the chicken a minute, then add the curry to the oil around it.  Add the pureed onion mixture and mix the curry+oil into the onions.  Add the marinara sauce/tomato paste and mix it together until it all looks like one sauce.  Cover the pan and let the chicken simmer for about 5 minutes then turn the heat down to low.  The chicken needs to just cook in the juices slowly.  I generally just let this heat through for about 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, turn the heat back up to medium then take off the lid.  The chicken should be moist and cooked through, but check it by sticking a fork in one of the thighs and looking at the juice running out of it.  It should be clear.  Taste the sauce to see if it needs more seasoning.  Adjust to your taste buds and serve.

Meat Sauce and Not so Meaty Sauce… Whatever I’m in the mood for

I have a huge pet peeve with the marketing of Vegetarian Food.  The idea that a vegetable tastes just like meat is ludicrous.  Meat tastes good.  Vegetables taste good.  Vegetables don’t taste like meat.  They’re not supposed to!  I tend to believe that you would have a much easier time convincing people to give vegetarian food a chance if you didn’t set them up with incorrect expectations.  There are tons of meat substitutes on the market and some of them are good.  I think it’s amusing that they have options like steak and chicken and bacon, and I get that they’re just explaining the gradient of flavor.  But, if you know that it’s not really supposed to taste like meat and take it for what it is, you can find some that you like.  I was vegetarian for about 6 months my senior year of high school.  I didn’t do it for any reason other than I figured I wanted to eat something else for a while.  My dad is an amazing cook and he just alternated.  Some nights everyone would eat vegetarian and some nights I would break out my frozen veggie patties and have that with the vegetable sides.  They didn’t taste like meat, but they were good.  Now that I think of it, I should find out what brand they were and see if they still sell them.

I realize that I am lucky that The Hubs is open minded about going along with my nutty ideas about what we should eat, but I think a lot of people think of vegetarian food and expect a weak attempt at making meat.  That’s just not how I look at our meatless days.  I figure if I just work out how to make something that tastes good then we’ll all be happy.  I try to stick with buying  organic meat which is more expensive so I just buy less of it and sub in meatless options to balance out the budget.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’m very grateful that I have a Hubs who is willing to at least give it a try.  Which is how I came up with this recipe which I think is pretty cool if you just accept the fact that it’s not meat, that’s it’s actually quinoa and it tastes good in it’s own right.

The Hubs LOVES meat sauce.  I love it too, but I usually find it way too heavy and end up feeling like a sack of potatoes when i’m done eating it so I’ve always lightened it up by using half veggies and half meat in order for us to meet in the middle.  Thanks to the food processor it doesn’t take much time to make.  Using the same basic premise you can make this with meat or without.  The kid likes Quinoa so he loved this and we were still able to get the classic picture of the kid covered in red sauce.

 

Meaty/Not so Meaty Sauce

1 cup black quinoa, uncooked OR 1 pound ground meat (beef/meatloaf mix [whatever you’re in the mood for])

1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned with damp cloth
2 large carrots, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 red pepper, seeds removed, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 spanish onions, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces
4 large garlic cloves
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp italian seasoning
pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and black pepper  to taste
3 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup liquid of choice (red wine, dry vermouth, vodka, water [whatever you have])
Any Good Red Pasta Sauce 36 oz (or more as needed)
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

Meaty: Add salt and pepper to the meat.  Brown the meat on medium high heat in a wide pan.  Do this in batches so the meat has room to spread and gets nicely browned.  When all the meat is browned set aside in a bowl.

Not so Meaty: Make quinoa according to package instructions.  (If you buy it in bulk, then rinse it first until the water runs clear to make sure you get rid of the soapy coating.) If you expect to be short on time, make the quinoa a day ahead.

While the food processor is running, add the garlic so it gets chopped up pretty fine.  Turn off the food processor and add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, red pepper, and onions.  Pulse the veggies until they are finely chopped.  You do not want to puree them.  Add olive oil to the pan on medium-high heat and add all the veggies.  Add a pinch of salt.  You’re going to cook them for a while so the idea here is to get most of their liquid to evaporate.  Don’t rush it.  It will happen, just move them around the pan occassionally and let them brown.  When you start to see them sticking to the pan, add your herbs & spices.

This part is important.  Depending on how long your herbs have been around they may have varying intensities.  Smell the veggies.  Taste them too.  If it tastes like you need more herbs, add them.  Remember that you haven’t added your “meat” yet so if it seems too intense you still have a chance to even it out.  If it’s not intense enough, add more herbs.

Then add the tomato paste.  Clear out a spot in the middle, and put it in the pan for a minute and leave it to caramelize.  Then start moving it around.  Add a pinch of salt.  Now that everything is sticking to the pan (but not burning), add 1/4 cup of the liquid of your choosing to deglaze the pan.  The idea is to use your wooden spoon or spatula to scrape all of the stuck on bits off the bottom of the pan.  This is where your flavor is and you want to get it in the sauce and not leave it for the dishwasher.  Once the liquid has evaporated, add your black quinoa or browned meat and stir to combine everything.  Then add your red pasta sauce of choice.  Bring it up to a simmer and leave it to cook through.  Before you serve it, check it for herbs, salt and pepper.  Add more of whatever is needed.

Serve over the pasta of your choice with Parmesan Cheese if you’re into that sort of thing.

 

Fruit as Decoration… or a useful approximation

I love throwing parties.  I tend to put out too much food (though I am getting better) and need fairly large platters to hold all the food.  As a result, I have more platters than any one person should have.  I have a clear and obvious problem since I had to dedicate a “room” in my basement just to storage of my party supplies.  I get the platters at a really good price which simply adds to the problem of the addiction.  But having so many platters and so little storage space has presented an interesting solution (yes I have that many platters).  When I’m not having a party, I have to put the platters somewhere so I had to come up with a solution to store them. I also have a problem with the house looking exactly the same all the time.  If I buy some kind of decoration for one room, chances are, it will end up in another room or put away for a season or in a Good Will pile because I just don’t want to see the room look the same for too long.  Constantly changing decorations can get expensive, but as it turns out these two wrongs can make a right.

 

Since I have been known to buy entirely too many fruits and vegetables and the fridge is usually beyond capacity, I use the fruit as my decorations.  I have the platters carefully placed all over the house to accent the shape of various tables.  And these usually get moved around as I get sick of seeing the same platter in the same location and they get switched out for other platters hidden away in the pantry throughout the year.   So, when I come home with my load of fruits and veggies, and The Hubs gives me the “Where exactly do you think that’s going to go?” look I just load up my platters and walk away.

The other benefit to this system is I know which platter I loaded first/last so all the older fruit can be used at once for juice if I come home with another batch of veggies and need extra space.  Now that I’ve instituted the same weekday breakfast of a bowl of fruit from my childhood for The Kid, it’s much easier to look at the platters and see what I have available.  And even though The Hubs may be intimidated by the fridge crammed to the top with veggies, he can browse the platters and grab a healthy snack.  And… I don’t have to go buy another figurine or decorative ball or whatever to decorate the house.  I may still be buying another platter…  No promises on stopping that addiction.

 

Potsticker-Style Veggies

There are some things that are just irresistible. For me, good potstickers fall in that category. There’s something about the combination of caramelization and soft steamed interior that I just can’t turn down. The method actually works for veggies too. My favorite veggie to do Potsticker-style is Brussels Sprouts.

Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation. They have the same built in pop up timer as the other cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage that can leave a house smelling like rot if they are cooked too long. If you are steaming them, then timing is critical. The Potsticker method works really well when there are distractions. And because of the caramelization, it changes the flavor profile and makes them a bit sweet and a little soft. I did this recipe with baby Brussels sprouts that were small enough for the kid to pick up and paired it with pasta which he loves and they were a big hit.  The hubs loves brussels sprouts this way too although he eats most veggies.

 

Potsticker-Style Brussels Sprouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered (whichever you prefer)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup water

Toss the Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper. In a medium hot skillet (select one that has a cover or use a cover from another pan), add 1 tablespoon oil and spread out the Brussels sprouts so that it forms an even layer. After about 5 minutes, turn over a couple pieces and look for some browning. If it is brown, toss in the water and cover the pan. The water will steam the Brussels sprouts. After about 8 minutes try and stick the brussels sprouts with a fork. If it is still hard add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover again. Check again in a few minutes. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the finished Brussels Sprouts and serve.

The Dinner Time Food Trade — Sweet Potatoes

We’ve reached the point in The Kid’s development where he wants to feed himself  so, everything must be finger food.  He also wants what is on the adults’ plates.  He gets very excited when he sees everyone else’s plate, but he is willing to give everyone some of his food as well. (Sharing is good I guess.)  And apparently it’s hilarious when adults eat baby food. So, we tend to keep an eye on what we’re eating to make sure at least some of it is baby approved (no hot pepper/spicy mustard) and make sure his food is edible since we are sometimes under obligation to eat it.  I can’t wait until he is safe to eat nuts because I really want some cashew chicken. But until then, we’re engaged in a food trade from baby plates to adult plates.

My current favorite food in the trade is Sweet Potatoes. When The Kid was on pureed food, I steamed them with apples or pears or nectarines. Steamed with nectarines was amazing. I had to make another batch the first time since I think I ate half of it and The Hubs kept saying, “I like sweet potatoes” as though I should have considered making some for him. But I generally prefer the flavor of baked sweet potatoes and of course the minimal effort required.  I’ve smashed the baked sweet potatoes and mixed it with his beans (big favorite).  I’ve just handed the kid pieces of baked sweet potato off my plate (went over well too), but the other night I was entirely too tired to think of something to make and tried something for him that ended up being so good, that I had to “help” him eat it.

 

Sweet Potato & Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous with Corn

1-1/4 cup water
1/2 medium size sweet potato cut small
1 cup Whole Wheat Israeli couscous
1 cup frozen corn

In a small saucepan, add the sweet potato pieces and 1 1/4 cup of water.  Heat until the water is boiling.  Add the couscous and corn.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

 

When it’s done, the sweet potatoes should not be easily distinguished as individual pieces, but will form a coating on the couscous to help them clump a little so the little ones can grab the couscous pearls more easily.  This is actually really sweet and if you decide to put it out for everyone to eat, I would recommend something simple like roasted chicken and your veggie of choice.  Pork could probably work well with this too if you like sweet accompaniments.

 

 

Compost Awareness Week (Really?!)

I swear there is an awareness week for everything, but hey, I love compost so I’ll go along with this one.  I’ve now taken my composting game to another level.  I got a worm composting bin!!!! (So excited!!)  The thing about compost is, once you see how easy it is to make and how little you get in the end, you start putting more and more stuff in to get more and more compost in the end.  I have three 4-foot (cubed) compost bins in the back.  Every year, I put in all the kitchen scraps and all the leaves and all the weeds and plant clippings and when the hubs spreads it out, it hardly covers any space at all!  So every year, I end up finding more and more and more things  to put in to get more out.  I’m telling you.  It gets kind of crazy.

Even with all this composting, I’m nowhere near where I need to be for the yard, but as it turns out, the township puts out free compost from the leaves they collect at the end of the fall season.  Thankfully, this should be enough to fill up the rest of the space that the compost we make doesn’t.  And I can say that it really makes a huge difference.  I tested it on my herb bed and garlic beds.  Last season I created a new bed down the driveway with strawberries and garlic and I added peas and lettuce for early season harvesting.  The herbs did well last year when I used regular dirt and fertilizer, but since I added about 2-3 inches of compost on the entire bed this year, the herbs are already going crazy.  I’ve already cut back the tarragon (which struggled last year)  three times and every time I cut it, it nearly jumps for joy with the way it bounces back.  I have a garden bed that I call “The Hubs’ Bed” because he did most of the work to convert it from the mess it was when we moved in.  It used to have a huge conifer that we had removed and then he pulled out the stump with his SUV.  And so he gets first dibs on whatever goes there.  Last year, it did “alright”, but this year, I’m really hopeful for a great harvest since he has already requested Cantaloupes.

Last year, we hit the tipping point with the composting.  I had too much to compost. The bins were so full that I had to get holding bins to store the compost that didn’t fit into the compost bins yet.  And thanks to the almost weekly snow storms this past winter, the hubs had to trek through the knee high snow to dump the kitchen scraps into the bin and I said, “Forget it, I’m getting a worm bin!”  I put three pounds of red wiggler worms in the bin and since they eat about half their body weight in food scraps in a week, they seemed like a reasonable amount for the household between the hubs, the kid and me.  I stuck it  a hidden corner in the basement and it’s been going for a few weeks now.  Pretty soon I’ll have a good amount of compost so I can feed the indoor plants with it.  And I’ve been feeding some of the outdoor plants with the liquid that collects at the bottom already.

Now The Hubs finds all this worm composting amusing, because I am not at all squeamish when it comes to worms.  And that’s about the extent of my non-squeamishness.  I am the serious eeking, screaming, on top of a chair girl if you even hint that there may be a mouse in the vicinity.  I was superbly grateful to get through college with a Biology degree without ever having to handle mice (I was fine with the frogs).  There is a plant called mouse tails that I can’t even LOOK at in a plant catalog ‘cos it freaks me out that much.  My mother on the other hand has a worm bin and refuses to touch it.  I have to harvest the compost for her so she doesn’t actually have to handle any worms by accident.   So I guess you could say I have two worm bins.

 

 

You eat Spotted What?

I was watching the Pregnant in Heels episode the other day with the woman who wanted to ask her boss, a British Lord, to be the godfather of her baby. Her maternity concierge, Rosie Pope who is British, recommended that she invite him to tea and serve Spotted Dick. It was priceless to see it dawn on Rosie that Spotted Dick sounded hilarious. It really took a minute. But it’s one of those things where it rarely ever dawns on you that what you eat may be kind of weird if it’s “grandma-food”. I define “grandma-food” as anything that your grandmother served you or anything you ate without question as a kid. As a Jamerican (that’s Jamaican-American for those who don’t know), every Easter you must eat Bun & Cheese. You can make it or you can buy it, but you can’t let Easter pass without having some Easter Bun.

Bun & Cheese is to most Jamaican kids what Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches are to most American kids. Even though you must eat Bun & Cheese during Easter, it’s also eaten throughout the year. When I was little and spending summers in Jamaica, my aunt would give us bun and cheese as a snack in the same way someone else might make a PB&J in the afternoon for a kid. My son, a descendant of a Jamerican is going to have the great pleasure of both Bun & Cheese and PB&Js, which I consider the best of both worlds. Now, Jamaican Spice Bun (or Jamaican Easter Bun) is in maybe the strictest explanation of the food a dense fruit bread filled with maraschino cherries and all sorts of other dried fruits and raisins and it’s usually served with a thick slice of cheese. The cherries are the prized fruit in the bun. In the same way that parents might try to cut a sandwich so all the kids have even pieces, Jamaican parents must cut the bun so each child gets a cherry. If someone has more cherries than everyone else, a fight is likely to ensue.

The thing about grandma food is… it’s often hard to convince someone who has it for the first time as an adult that it’s good. It’s certainly possible, but it is unlikely that anyone will love it like you do. The hubs has tried bun and cheese and if it were the last food left on earth, he would eat it, but it’s just not his thing. I can respect that. Thanks to his grandma he LOVES a great Jewish New York deli sandwich. Whenever we go to NY, he has to have one. He gets so excited about going to a “good deli” that you can almost feel his excitement in the air. I, on the other hand, don’t get the appeal of deli sandwiches. Okay, full disclosure: I get migraines from deli meat. But, even before I discovered this was a trigger the deli sandwich held absolutely no appeal to me. As far as I’m concerned whether the deli is in Philly or NY or anywhere, it’s just a deli. (Even while I’m typing this I can feel my husband getting outraged and him having no idea why.) So, we’ll add New York deli sandwiches to the list of “grandma-food” traditions that the kid is going to try and hopefully love.

Unlike some grandma-foods, bun is pretty standard. It’s either done right, or it’s not. There aren’t a bunch of variations on Spiced Bun that result in one grandma making it one way and another grandma making it another way. Most Jamaicans buy the bun from a Jamaican bakery. If you’re interested in trying Bun & Cheese, I highly recommend buying it from a Jamaican Bakery. It’s not hard to make, but you have to know what the texture should be before you make it yourself. It’s dense, but soft… but not too soft. There are a lot of fruits in it… but not too much. There has to be fruit on the top… but a lot of it has to be scattered throughout. You have to have cherries in it… but not too much or they’re not special when you find them. It seems simple and straight forward, but as my husband will tell you, you can’t just slap some meat on some bread and call it a deli sandwich. There’s a right way and you have to experience the original and then you can try to make your own. This is one original even I don’t make myself. Grandma-food is sacred space.

Presto Pesto – One Hand Tied Behind My Back

In the days of pre-parenthood, I watched the Top Chef challenges that had the chefs cooking with one hand tied behind their backs and cooking in pairs tied together so each chef only had one hand available.  I remember thinking, “That would be fun to try…”  They brought back that challenge for a recent episode and all I could think was, “Big deal, that’s a regular Tuesday night for me.” Lol… oh how things change.  Last weekend, I went out to do some grocery & produce shopping and left the hubs and the kid at home.  When I came back, I took the kid so the hubs could go for a run.  We didn’t have anything in the house for dinner so I figured I’d put the kid to play on the floor with some toys and get something going.  Thanks to the Easter Bunny bringing him teeth #7 and #8 (which were somehow worse than all 6 teeth before these), the kid was feeling crummy and wanted to be held.  So, it was “cook with one hand and hold the kid with the other” night.  I don’t recommend trying this recipe with one hand tied behind your back… I’m just saying it’s possible.  The funny thing is, I should have expected it since when I was at the store, I was thinking, I should pick up one of those one-hand choppers in case I need to cut up something while the kid is having a hold on to mom night.  Next time I’m listening to my instinct.  Thankfully, I was able to cut the onion before the hubs was out the door and the hubs was back in time for me to cut the tomatoes.

I defrosted some sausage, but since I was not going to handle uncooked meat while holding the kid, I didn’t add it.  I do, however think it would be a great addition to this or even roasted chicken or fish.

 

Spinach Pesto with Garbanzos & Tomato Salad

13 oz whole grain penne
1 cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1 lb baby spinach
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups garbanzo beans
1 spanish onion (cut lengthwise, pole to pole)
3 cloves garlic

Tomato Salad:
12 Campari Tomatoes, quartered
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Long Hot chili pepper, minced
1 4″ sprig fresh tarragon, minced
3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pesto Pasta:

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, but undercook it by 1 minute.  Heat up a large skillet over medium heat.  When the pan is hot, toast the pine nuts until they are lightly browned and you can smell them.  Add the olive oil, onions and garbanzos and leave to caramelize in the pan for 5-8 minutes.  Meanwhile, mince two cloves of garlic in a food processor.  Add the baby spinach slowly until it is almost all chopped.  Add the toasted pine nuts, and black pepper and let the processor run while you add the olive oil.  The mixture should be thick like a paste.

Move the garbanzos and onions around the pan.  You should see some caramelization.  Let caramelize for another 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and when you can smell it, add the pasta and the pesto.  Coat all the pasta with the pesto.  Then, add two (large) to four (small) ladles  of the pasta water to the skillet to loosen up the pesto and to allow the pasta enough liquid to make up for the minute you undercooked it.  Aff more water as needed.

Tomato Salad:

Toss quartered tomatoes with the salt, pepper, chili pepper and tarragon.  Let sit until you are just about to serve.  Shortly before serving, add white wine vinegar and olive oil.

 

Top the Pesto & Garbanzo Bean Pasta with the Tomato Salad and serve topped with parmesan cheese.