Eat, pray, lunch

Ploughmanesque

I’m still just as bad at eating proper lunches as ever. I didn’t finally sit down to some non-trivial calories until 3 PM today. But, thankfully, I was able to assemble this semi-filling, semi-healthy lunchish platter. That’s rotisserie chicken, cornichons and olives, some delicious Dutch cheese, half a Landjäger sausage, and an organic apricot.

What I need is to figure out a way to incorporate more vegetables into this type of super-speedy thrown-together meal, ya know? Then I wouldn’t feel so bad about my spastic work-from-home eating habits!

He said, she said: A chicken story

I’d like to report on a little conversation I had with Grant a couple weeks back. Nearly verbatim.

Me: Hey, I just noticed that Ballard Market does indeed have rotisserie chickens! They’re only $8 instead of $10 like at Whole Foods, and they’re from Draper Valley Farms (the same place I got our awesome Thanksgiving turkey from!), which is a much closer farm that raises their poultry WAY more sustainably than the crappy California one that does the theoretically natural Whole Foods chickens. (Michael Pollan wrote a whole exposé on them in The Omnivore’s Dilemma.) And they’re brined with a much healthier solution than usual; it’s less salty and it’s all natural, not like those gross QFC ones that are cheap but full of corn syrup and nitrates. But they aren’t super obvious because they’re not pre-packaged; you have to actually talk to the deli staff to get one. So please try to remember that next time you shop there, and try to remember to get them from there over other groceries whenever you can, OK? There’s one in the fridge right now if you want some, and I just stuck it in there so it’s probably still warm. I gotta run.

Him: So… what you’re saying is… there’s chicken in the fridge… and it’s really good.

Brunch for TEN!?

My lovely friend Jen emailed me the following question today:

If Ginnie was serving brunch for 10 this Sunday, what would she make? :)

And being me, I over-replied. But I realized this might be a heck of a useful post!

For TEN!? What have you gotten yourself roped into?

1) Meat: I’d do ham steak/s instead of bacon or sausage because it’s easier to cook (just sear in pan & voilà) and doesn’t make the house stink like meat for vegetarians. Make ‘em look fancy by doing grill marks if you have the requisite apparatus and time and sanity. I don’t like putting much of any kind of sauce or glaze on ham, but something orangey would be nice if you felt like dressing them up. Another plus is that since ham is pre-cooked/cured, you’re not likely to accidentally undercook meat or give anybody a food-borne illness.

2) Sweet: I’d make the Blueberry Pecan French toast recipe from Epicurious since you can prep most of it the night before. Throw in a bit of cinnamon too and use real vanilla bean if you can. Also make sure you use full fat milk or even half and half — nobody eats French toast to be healthy & it’ll taste better. :) I like making it with strawberries instead of blueberries too, but definitely shell out for fresh fruit, not frozen. You could probably sauté apple or banana if berries are too scarce. Use Grade B maple syrup for maple-ier flavor — Trader Joe’s has good prices. You could whip up some cream for a festive addition to this.

3) Egg: Then you can do a big easy vegetable omelet (arugula & fancy mushrooms like oyster or chanterelle?) or scramble, and fancy it up with drizzlings of truffle oil — but keep that part optional on the side if you have kids or other picky eaters to feed. Maybe truffle half of it and stick a little shroom on top to distinguish the truffled half. Go very easy w/ that stuff!

4) Drink: Do a big pitcher of mimosa on ice; more people like those than Bloody Marys or other AM cocktails, and people can always wander into your kitchen to tweak the ratio. (Maybe leave out some decent brandy on the counter if they feel like spiking their version.) Cristalino cava is usually $7-9 per bottle and works great; the normal kind is best but Extra Brut works too. Don’t get the pink. Fresh squeeze the oranges and have extra pre-squeezed from the night before so the fun keeps flowing. I like to use blood oranges if available for a fun look — but don’t fret over orange selection because the reddish peel coloration rarely corresponds to the color of the flesh. Just grab & go and know that any oranges will be delish. :) If you have an opaque pitcher use that instead of clear, because the pulp residue makes clear pitchers look unnecessarily dirty/icky after just one pour.

GOOD LUCK!!! Oh, and this may also be of service.

Spaghetti (squash) and meatballs

Ah, the challenges of attempting to eat South Beach/heart healthy/low refined starch, and still eat inexpensively. It’s damn tough! This one’s been lingering in my draft pile, but it was so yummy I didn’t want to let it slide.

Back when Grant wanted spaghetti and meatballs RIGHT AFTER a bunch of starch-overloaded Stroganoff, I countered with spaghetti squash and meatballs. He consented. I cooked. I had never made this dish before, or even heard of spaghetti squash before my friend Jen introduced me to it a couple years ago. I was so thrilled to learn of a less starchy spaghetti alternative!

I used About.com‘s guide for cooking the actual squash, because Martha’s said to cut it open raw and I thought that might be too rough on my tennis-elbow-crippled arms. And I used roughly Martha’s turkey meatball recipe, but I kinda fudged it as I’m wont to do. My meatballs were better anyway, and beefier. (I don’t know why, but I just really really hate ground turkey. I think it’s sort of like carob — it feels like someone is just trying to trick me.)

Always better with some Italian flat-leaf parsley mixed in. And prettier, too.My sauce was just a jar of Newman’s Tomato Basil to which I added a bunch of herbs and veggies, as I usually do. It’s nice that there’s a cheap, easy to find, no sugar added natural sauce out there — makes me feel less bad about using a prepared sauce. This wound up being a pretty tasty dish, all things considered, though the meatballs make it much more labor-intensive than just a straight up meat sauce. It all depends on how much time you have to spare. Either way, yum!

And for those of you who, like me, are horrified at the idea of pasta plus more starches, this is a great way to feel less guilty about making the perfectly accompanying garlic bread.

My intro to slow

Let's pretend mine will look exactly like this.

My mom gave me a slow cooker for my birthday. Yippee! I grew up on her Moroccan-inspired lamb and couscous dishes prepared lovingly in the crock pot, and I’m looking forward to creating my own.

However, in true Virginia fashion, I got bored flitting through recipes that called for complicated steps (searing the meat BEFORE I put it in the cooker? You mean I can’t just throw this sh*t together before I dash off to catch my bus in to work?) and ingredients I don’t currently have in my kitchen (see aforementioned couscous), so I decided I’m just gonna wing it. Yep, I bought me some grass-fed lamb at Whole Foods, and Imma throw that in there with chopped turnips and rutabaga and carrots and kale and herbs and spices and a can or two of beans or soup we have that I can’t seem to use up, and some wine and whatnot, and just throw it on low and go with the flow. Ya know.

The plan is Lamb Thursday. I’ll keep ya posted. (And possibly I’ll put the slow cooker in a baking dish in case it explodes/leaks while I’m at work, which seems totally likely, and yet does not deter me from this “plan” in the slightest.)

Smoked salmon & hazelnut linguine

Yet another dish I cooked up on the fly without noting any specific quantities. Let’s see if I can reverse-engineer this baby, because it was DELICIOUS.

Set a large pot of salted water to boil for your fresh linguine (we use Seattle’s Cucina Fresca brand. Not to be confused with my friend Brooke).

Mince 1 shallot (or 1 bulb if large) and 2 garlic cloves with a few sprigs of Italian flat-leaf parsley. (I use the chopping attachment to my Cuisinart hand mixer.) Brown a tablespoon of salted butter in a skillet (I like cast iron). Once brown, add another tablespoon, reduce heat to medium low, and add in minced shallot-herb mixture. Add 1 cup double-strength chicken stock (I use the Organic Better than Bouillion). Reduce to very low and let this simmer while you…

Pour 1/4-ish cup milk (I used whole) in a pot, bring to gentle boil. Add a tablespoon or so of unbleached white flour, mix in the lumps, and roux it up. Eventually add a glob of cream cheese (1/3 c?), a similarly sized glob of sour cream, a quarterish cup grated parmesan, and a splash of kefir, and enough milk to thin it all out. Mix and melt but don’t overheat it to burning.

Crush some raw hazelnuts (I smashed them in the pestle part of my mortar and pestle with a mojito muddler, because well, we just unpacked and I can’t find the damn mortar. Assuming the mortar is, in fact, the stick part. You know what I mean. Smashy smashy.) Coat with a bit of olive oil and nice salt, and toast in (toaster, if you like) oven until the oil sizzles and the nuts begin to brown and become fragrant.

When finished, break up chunks of dry (non lox-style) smoked salmon, being careful to remove any bones, and stick the salmon in a bowl to warm up in the remaining heat of the toaster oven.

Boil the pasta for 30-60 seconds less than the stated cook time. Drain, combine with sauce, curse about having made way too little sauce for that quantity of pasta like you always do. Oops. Add in hazelnuts and salmon while combining, garnish with grated Parmesan; devour immediately.

Chez nous !

OK, so yes, this is a picture of reheated Popeye’s chicken leftovers. But hey, don’t knock it just yet! First of all, we have a tacit understanding that anytime there’s an Ikea run, there must also be a Popeye’s run. That’s just how it is being married to Grant. Second of all, when I got stuck in horrid post-Ikea traffic and called him to have him preheat the oven, and we both forgot that I had three dishes of salted oiled kale leaves ready to make chips, and he didn’t think to check it, and he roasted them at 400 for like 20 minutes, it actually wound up crisping them almost perfectly with only slight burny residue on a few leaves (which I still happily ate). Hooray accidental snackery!

AND we had enough chicken left over for dinner AND I managed to clean up our living and dining rooms so we got to eat on an actual table for only the second time since moving in AND I made Grant prepare the sides (biscuits, also left over, plus steamed broccoli) so I could get a little cooking break. SO check out this pseudo-fancy shot of our eating space. Decent, right? I mean, the décor is still a bit bare as we haven’t hung any pictures, but come on. CLOTH NAPKINS AND CRYSTAL CANDLESTICKS, people. Sh*t is coming together now. (Now if only I could find my Pyrex containers to take leftovers in to work easier!)

Back to food (and food blogging) with BEEF

Well, as you may or may not have gleaned from various Tweets and status updates or from real-life knowledge, the hubby and I had a busy first quarter. We went to Rio de Janeiro in late February, where hubby served as the wedding officiant for two great pals. Then we came back, almost immediately closed on our new house, and then almost immediately moved and have spent almost every waking second on home improvement or spending loads of money on theoretical home improvement. Oh, yeah, and both of our day job companies are gearing up for major releases. Busy!

But oh, so worth it. Don’t worry, some Brazil-specific posts are coming soon, about all the deliciousness therein. But for now, let’s focus on COOKING in a KITCHEN that I OWN. Not only did I make some interesting appliance discoveries, but I just care so much more about the place since it’s mine! We’ve tinkered with a few meals or dishes here and there, but this is the first fully cooked at home DISH that I did in my new cuisine, upon Grant’s request: Beef Stroganoff.

I used the Epicurious recpie with some substitutions and quantity wild guesses, and it turned out lovely (though I prefer a higher meat-and-sauce-to-pasta ratio so I might use half the noodles next time, or double the rest). Grant wanted to make it with ground beef instead of steak like the recipe calls for, so we compromised on inexpensive but still not ground up stew meat. (The idea of it with ground meat totally grosses me out, but maybe that’s just me?)

I also played around with the new oven last night and figured out that it runs, if anything, slightly hot. Good to know for muffins, cakes and cookies! Mmmmm, cookies. My banana sour cream cinnamon muffins turned out lovely and moist and yummy, but they had been cooked for almost exactly the minimum that the recipe specified and were still a bit browner on the bottom than I like. Learning new appliances is never easy (our microwave LOVES to splatter/assplode) but it sure is fun! I’ll have to post a video of Grant reacting to our oven vent, which is built into the top of our microwave, opening and closing at the push of a button, with the microwave text narrating the whole while. Crazy technology.

Thanksgiving 2010

I decided to host Thanksgiving this year with my mum, hubby and five friends — this would be the first time we cooked for anyone else since our July wedding! Eek! It was a wonderful affair, though — I got to use literally every single wedding/engagement gift we had received, and all the foods turned out delicious (if not perfect). This post is hecka long and detailed, so read on if you’re brave or hungry! Continue reading Thanksgiving 2010

Orange Chocolate Mousse…

With orange bourbon vanilla whipped cream, garnished with orange zest and shaved bittersweet chocolate.

This is what follows the awesome meal I cooked for Grant’s folks, which also includes:

  • Goat cheese wrapped in black sesame seeds, to nibble while I finish cooking
  • Organic spring green salad with raspberry cumin poppyseed Dijon vinaigrette and toasted almonds
  • Organic pork chops with balsamic-roasted pears
  • Roasted garlic tarragon mashed potatoes
  • Steamed broccoli (hey, something’s gotta be simple!)
  • A nice 2006 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

Man, I love a good excuse to cook!