Category Archives: Food

One Bowl at a Time

When my sister and I were little, my mom signed us up for these local children’s cooking classes with cookbook author Marion Cunningham. We’d go to Marion’s house each week and learn about ingredients (like butter samples that had just arrived from France) test out typewritten recipes for her children’s cookbook, taste whatever cooking project she had been experimenting with that week, and then play with her dog Rover while she and my mom chatted in the kitchen.

One thing that I remember Marion teaching us was that jam didn’t have to be a big complicated project – in fact, it could be made just a bowlful at a time.

If there’s fruit that’s a little mushy and on the verge of turning, don’t let it go to waste. Cut it up, put it on the stove with a little bit of water and a few tablespoons of sugar, and cook it up until its thick and syrupy. Then put it in a covered bowl in the refrigerator and you’ve got a jammy fruit spread to enjoy for the next few days. Its ten times (at least!) more pleasant to see jam than moldy strawberries in the fridge.

At the top you can see yesterday’s breakfast — strawberry jam on a leftover popover. {sigh} if only breakfast could be like that every day…

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Two for one Canning

First things First

Before anyone gets any crazy ideas about me, let me begin by clarifying that this canning project was done in the late weeks of September, before Ellie was born. At this point I’m not sure how it works to squeeze peeling, coring, straining and boiling into a busy day of bottling, swaddling, changing and swinging.

Also, the canning tools have been reassigned to the never ending job of pulling bottle parts out of the sterilizing pot. And let me mention here that if you ever want to sterilize plastic baby bottle parts in a steamer on the stove, make sure there’s water in the pan beneath. Otherwise you may find that the parts just melt right to the pan. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

Back to canning…

In late September, I used a small portion of our apple harvest to make and can apple butter. The two-fer mentioned in the title was an accidental byproduct of the butter. The apples cooked for a long time, and were ready to can, except that there was still too much liquid to make the butter really spreadable.

I scooped the hot apple butter right into a flour-sack towel, twisted it tight, and rich, golden, syrupy juice which tasted a lot like apple cider poured through into the bowl beneath. A little cinnamon and sugar later, and we had apple cider concentrate to can as well.

What to do:

I’d put a recipe down, but its so easy that it seems silly. Peel and core apples, put them in a pot on the stove with some water, cook over medium heat until the apples are soft. I had a vanilla bean on hand that I added while it cooked.

When the apples are soft and enough water has evaporated that you’re happy with the consistency, its apple sauce. Sweeten with cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla or sugar to taste, if you’d like.

Keep cooking it, adding a small amount of water if necessary to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When the mixture has turned deep brown color, the sugars have caramelized and you’ve got apple butter. Again, sweeten or season to taste.

If the butter is soft and and still too soupy, strain out the liquid and you’ve got apple cider concentrate, which you can either can or freeze in ice cube trays for single-serve, just-add-boiling-water cider storage.

Delicious Low Fat Salad Dressing?

Awhile back I posted my ratio for a basic vinaigrette. This is my go-to plan for dressing because I can easily vary the ingredients to compliment my salad, adjust the total quantity, and the flavors are always properly balanced. It also uses far less oil than most dressing recipes; I use 1 part oil for 1 part flavor, many use 4 parts oil to 1 part flavor.

P90x has brought a new challenge, as phase one limits fat consumption to just a few Tablespoons a day. And when I’m preparing dinner, I don’t want to spend all of those on the salad…

So of course I set out to find a good substitute for the oil in the dressing. The most important qualities in this substitute: 1. low-calorie 2. delicious 3. strong enough flavor to balance out the vinegar component of the dressing 4. enough texture that the dressing would taste hearty and not watery. After some rustling around in the fridge, I found something that did the job, and maybe even did it better than oil!!

I began the recipe like normal: one part sweet, one part sour, a little salt and some herbs. But instead of mixing in a jar, I added the ingredients to my little Cuisinart mini food processor. And instead of adding the 2 parts of oil, I added half of a roasted red pepper (instructions conveniently provided yesterday!) and a small drizzle of oil (to help the dressing stick to the greens and to improve mouthfeel.) The results of this Roasted Red Pepper Dressing were AMAZING, and will definitely continue post-p90x.

Since then I’ve tried caramelized onions (YUM!!), sautéed mushrooms, olives, spinach/herbs, sun dried tomato, and raw red bell pepper in place of the oil, all with delicious results. I’m sure there are many other vegetables that would be delicious in the dressing, either roasted or raw.

Here’s a sample of my roasted red bell pepper ratio (see the original post for further explanation of this approach to dressing making)

  • 1 part balsamic vinegar
  • 1 part turbinado sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • a few sprigs of basil leaves
  • 2 parts pureed roasted red pepper (peeled and seeded before pureed)
  • small drizzle of oil, about a 1/2 teaspoon

Blend it all up in the food processor or blender, and toss it on your salad!

 

Aside

Roasting a bell pepper is a quick and easy way to maximize its flavor and “fancy up your dish” come on, you know roasted red pepper soup sounds wayyy more gourmet than bell pepper soup. Sliced on a burger, chopped … Continue reading

48 yolks

So Hubbs has started P90x: 90 days of exercise and meal planning. My role as cheerleader, occasional exercise buddy, and chef has challenged me to be creative in providing him with all the right amounts of protein, vegetables, carbs, and fats, while making things that are tasty and nutritious for both of us.

Week one I made a giant baked egg dish that could be frozen and pulled out for his breakfast. Mixing 48 egg whites with 8 cups of ham, cheese and vegetables is no easy thing, let me tell you. And it left me with a bright gold yolk-filled container staring me down from the refrigerator. No, I couldn’t bear to throw all of that perfectly good food down the drain, even though I didn’t have a good plan for how to handle a yolk-glut.

Making mayonnaise was out (I don’t like mayo, and cups and cups of fresh aioli don’t fit well into p90x) and I don’t have time to make lemon curd. Fortunately, after pudding (3 measly yolks), and egg-rolls (another 5, check), good old Martha came to my rescue! Her pasta recipe calls for one and a half cups of  egg yolks! Now that’s the kind of quantity I’m looking for!

I had a few hiccups during this, my first pasta making experience:

  1. I didn’t want to go out and buy the “00” flour required by the recipe, so I used regular old all-purpose (worked, but made the dough tougher).
  2. My flour-well was way too small so the eggs oozed everywhere.
  3. I didn’t have a pasta roller, so I decided to try a snake-and-slice orchiette style pasta.

Results? As grandpa used to say (about almost everything) mezzo-mezzo.

The recipe was fairly straightforward, and the snake, slice and thumbprint method of pasta forming was SUPER easy, although I made my pasta pieces way too big. But the final cooked pasta flavor was good enough that I think I’ll give it another shot. Next time I’ll get the right flour and make the pasta thinner and smaller. And with one more batch, my egg-yolk supply will be exhausted, and I’ll be ready for the next round of egg dish.

Gallery

Sunset Celebration

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Last weekend we drove down to Menlo Park to the Sunset Celebration Weekend, as we did last year. (That’s Sunset as in Sunset Magazine, and Celebration as in the open house they host at their headquarters every year, and Weekend … Continue reading

You Can Make: Sugar Cubes?

Now that we’re British tea drinkers, (we went to England, which makes it so.) and take our tea with milk and sugar, we (I) feel like we’re missing something. Hubbs and I ask each other, in our best British accents if the other would like “one lump or two?” before stirring a spoonful of sugar in the tea — the trouble is that a teaspoonful of sugar is just not nearly as fancy as an actual lump of sugar. Yes, I could get a box of diorama-style generic white sugar cubes. But they’re just… so…. square.

What I like are the fancy brown and white rustic looking lumps of sugar. I’m pretty sure that will complete the tea drinking experience. I did find some, but they were $15 a bag (yah right!!).

So I did the next best thing – learned to make them myself. And it only takes about 15 minutes of effort. Here’s what to do:

Sugar: Put 2 cups of sugar in a bowl. This is the fun place to play around, since there’s so much variety in the colors and textures of sugar available. Look in the bulk aisle of your Whole Foods or natural food store to find the larger grained “sparkly” (not the official name) sugar. I think you could use just about any type.

Water: Mix in 2 T water, and stir till all the sugar is moistened. It should look and feel like wet sand.

Shape: I wanted rustic and irregular looking sugar, so I put a plastic baggie over my hand, grabbed a small bit of sugar (maybe 1.5 teaspoon sized?) and squeezed it tight. Then I set it on waxed paper to dry. As you can see from the picture, the sugar holds together fairly well, but once they’re set out, don’t try to move them till they’re dry. It took me about 15 minutes to get through forming all the sugar. Not too bad.

(This is an area to explore in the future also, since you can use a sugar molds to make fun shapes. I don’t have one of these molds, but will be looking!)

Dry: Leave overnight to dry. In the morning, they were surprisingly sturdy, and made a nice solid clink sound as I poured them into a bowl, instead of the shatter/breaking sound I kind of expected. Put your dried sugar cubes into a bowl and you’re ready for tea!

One idea to make them last longer:

At tea (in San Francisco) we opened the sugar bowl to find a few decorative sugars mixed into plain sugar. This way we got the effect of fun sugar, but didn’t use them all up in one sitting.