Category Archives: Vegetables and other foods

Just one word: Vegetables. There’s a great future in vegetables.

TXGVNG MNU # 2

So lazy; it’s snowing, and cozy in here, and I’d prefer to be curled up on the davenport watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, but a full 20% of my readership has requested the second Thanksgiving menu.  If I could I’d write the WHOLE post without vowels to save time and energy on all these keystrokes.  But that would be cheating Kate.  :o)

I did a 14 lb turkey very simply, with butter jammed underneath the skin of the breast and lots of kosher salt and pepper everywhere; it went in at 325 on a roasting rack, for three hours or maybe a bit more (this is why you should write things down sooner than 8 days later).  When it was done I removed it to a carving board (the kind with the channel around the edge to contain the juices); the fat and stock in the bottom of the pan got strained into a 4 cup measure, and refrigerated while the bird rested to allow the fat to congeal somewhat on top for easier removal.

I did nothing special with the mashed potatoes; I use a ricer, which is like an immense garlic press.  The potatoes (especially waxy ones) will retain a bit of texture when you use the ricer as opposed to a mixer, which will get a much smoother texture.  I don’t mind the bits of solids and I like the old school feel of doing it by hand.  Once an unconscionable amount of butter and half and half were added (with S&P to taste), I put them in a covered casserole in the oven until the rest of the meal was done.

I like cooking from scratch but I LOVE convenience, and since for this second meal I was a bit less prepared I used STOVE TOP.  I love Stove Top Stuffing, stop laughing.  I once had my friend Joan over (the best, most accomplished home cook of this century) for a roast chicken dinner and she was aghast: “JESUS CHRIST BARBARA what the hell is in that box–?”  She couldn’t conceive of using anything that required only that one add water and margarine (no worries, I use butter not margarine).  I told her it was addictive, just like potato chips.  And she agreed– this stuff is salty and rich with nothing else added, and I don’t care that it’s so 1978.  Not even Stove Top can escape gilding though; what I’ve found is it’s a way to cram in vegetables and no one’s the wiser.  For two boxes of Stove Top I browned a pound of fresh Hot & Spicy breakfast sausage, the type that comes in the chubby tube. ( I can’t help that that sounds funny, and that it sticks with you; it’s like getting “It’s a Small World After All” out of your head, you just can’t do it.  And for the rest of the day now your mind will treat you to variations on the theme of “It’s a Small World After All” with visions of dancing chubby tubes.  You’re welcome.)  OK, to the browned sausage I added a ton of diced celery and onion and sliced mushrooms (– in the past I’ve also added zucchini and carrot– when it’s done you can barely tell and the kids have gobbled it down), and sauteed until all is nicely browned, then I put the measured hot water and half the butter the package calls for (the sausage provides plenty of fat) into a larger casserole dish, added the sausage and veg, and let that hang out in the oven until the rest of the dinner is almost done.  Ten minutes before dinner, I added the packaged bread pieces, tossed it all together, and covered it to let the bread soak everything up.

For the gravy, I started with a can of gravy (I think it’s Campbell’s now, it used to be Franco American I think), and added the reserved turkey juices, minus as much of the fat as I could skim off.  I thin it all with a bit of water and add a cornstarch slurry (two or so tsps of cornstarch dissolved in a couple TBLS of cold water), cook it over medium heat until it thickens and bubbles, and then pepper it to taste; it usually never needs salt as everything is salted already.

I made cranberry sauce from scratch, if you can call this scratch cooking –it’s so fucking easy and delicious, people think you’re brilliant: a 12 oz bag of cranberries, picked over (some of them are too mushy to use, likely the Cranberry Board would say they’re fine but I toss the ones that don’t look fabulous), rinse, tossed into a small saucepan with 3/4 cup of water, and start with a half cup of sugar.  Cook it until thickened.  That’s it.  DON’T ADD ANYTHING ELSE.  You only use cranberries for a short time this time of year, you must respect the cranberry!  Add a bit more sugar if your palate demands it, but no orange, no funky stuff– just let this jewel shine.

Pepperidge Farm made the rolls this year, which was very kind of them: I only had to give them $3 for 8 rolls, which were pre-baked, frozen, and ready to be crisped in the oven.

Asparagus appeared again, this time seared in bacon fat and salted.  Seared?  I meant to say burnt.  I was lucky the smoke alarm didn’t go off, which puts the dog into paroxysms of death-angst.  Still, when you picked the burned parts away it was really quite delicious.

Finally, a super quick pumpkin cheesecake, an amalgam of a couple of recipes from allrecipes.com.  The following is the closest to what I used for the filling, except I always use way more cinnamon than recipes call for, and I made a graham cracker crust instead of pastry:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pumpkin-Cheesecake-I/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=pumpkin%20cheesecake&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

 

Damn Hamn Bone Makes Hamn Good Soup

In the quest for frugality, the royal we are annoyed by the damn hamn bone.  We know the bone makes good soup, but we are tired and we don’t feel like messing with this gross thing.

We have removed all the usable meat within three days of baking the ham.   We have used the bigger chunks for sandwiches and we have cubed the remaining odder bits to freeze for omelets on future Saturday mornings. With vexation we put that bone into a larger soup pot with water to cover, and we simmered it for several hours.  Then we removed the bone to cool, and once cool we stripped it of any edible flotsam, then we strained the broth and returned it to the stove with the flotsam, then we cheated.  We drained a huge can of cannellini beans (40 oz) and dumped it into the ham stock, added a tablespoon or so of cider vinegar, some salt and lots of black pepper, and used a potato masher to smush most the beans.  The resultant thickened velvet was salty and soothing and a perfect winter comfort.

We were most pleased.

Thanksgiving Menu(s)

Yesterday I decided I will not need to eat again.  Ever.

Iteration number one:

Paige’s excellent turkey, classic preparation, unstuffed

Whipped potatoes, richly buttered

Turkey Gravy with a twist (Paige adds a bit of garlic and turkey bits from the carving)

Stuffing Balls (classic stuffing prepared in muffin tins so each serving has crusty bits with a tender interior)

Then I brought:

a spiral-sliced ham, baked covered at 325 for 80 minutes then glazed for the last ten minutes with dijon and brown sugar (a TBLS of dijon and half a cup of brown sugar to make a thick paste– if it’s too dry add a tsp of water, not more mustard)

Classic mac and cheese, recipe in a future post

Intensely Garlicky Green Beans.  The jury is still out.  WAY too much garlic, but as I made them Shar and I could not stop eating them, they were that good.  The night before, I roasted the green beans at 450, tossed with barely any olive oil and a pinch of salt, until they were just starting to wilt and brown.  They sat in the fridge over night while I tried to figure out what to do with them. I had toasted almonds to top them with but that seemed boring, tame.  Paige had mentioned garlic; I had parmesan cheese… hmm.  So I melted half a stick of butter in a skillet, crushed three cloves of garlic and sauteed over medium heat in the butter til fragrant, then added half a sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers and a pinch of salt because it was wanting.  Tossed all that with the cold beans in a big pot over medium high heat until the beans were warmed through, put them in a casserole, and grated fresh parmesan cheese on top.  Brilliant– or ridiculous, you decide.  {(I-will-not-talk-about-eggs) Then for lunch today I sauteed the cold garlic beans in a skilled, topped them with two whisked eggs, cooked until nearly set, then sprinkled all with more rasped parmesan cheese.  Unreal.}.

Paige made pumpkin pies, of which I’m not a fan, and a stunning peach/raspberry crumble, using summer peaches she’d frozen.  I brought a couple chocolate/peanut butter pies, embarrassingly simple and candy-like:

(For one pie):  1.5 cups chocolate graham crumbs, 5 TBLS melted butter, 2 TBLS sugar, pressed into 10 inch pie pan, refrigerated

8oz cream cheese, 1 cup peanut butter (I used half peanut butter and half Jif chocolate peanut butter), 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar, a couple TBLS milk, and half a tub of whipped topping (whip each ingredient in a mixer, adding each successive ingredient slowly until incorporated, until adding the whipped topping which you should be able to fold in).  Pour into the prepared pan, cover and chill until firmish.  Then cover with one cup whipped cream (heavy cream whipped with two TBLS sifted powdered sugar and a tsp of vanilla til firm peaks form), and garnish (I used chocolate shavings and Reese’s pieces).

This turned out to be better the second day, when the crust had softened a bit.

I realize that the type of cooking I like to do involves zero risk.  Things can be changed, the margins for error are immense.  Paige cooked the turkey, which could be dry or overcooked– it’s risky (hers was awesome).  A ham is not risky– cooked at low temperature, it’s just heating through, no seat belt required.  Macaroni and cheese can be adjusted as I make the sauce– very little risk of failure.  And the desserts– Paige took on baked desserts which leave no room for mistakes, whereas mine, the no-bake option, was no-fail, too.  There’s a metaphor in there that is making me uncomfortable and it’ll have to wait to be explored another time, preferably with an open bottle of wine.

Iteration number two is coming on Sunday; I’m still working out the menu, which I think may include a pumpkin cheesecake (oooh, without a net upon the wire).

Ok, Nearly Enough About Eggs

Last egg post for a while, PROMISE.

Some of the best, most loved food comes from poverty.  Chicken wings, pate, lobster, they all had very humble beginnings– they were the foods of poor people.  Scrapple, pierogi, meatloaf– same– foods that rely on effort and patience instead of high-quality ingredients.  In that same vein, this morning’s breakfast was the delicious result of scrounging for decadence without a trip to the grocery store.

Frito Egg Pie

4 oz ( 2 cups or so) corn chips

6 eggs, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup cottage cheese, 3/4 cup milk or cream

4 oz can chopped green chiles

12 oz shredded cheese (jack, cheddar, mozzarella, a mix, whatever)

4 scallions, chopped, white and green parts both

Toss the chips into a 2-3 quart greased casserole, mix the eggs and etc in a bowl and mix in the chiles,  dump over the corn chips, top with cheese and then the scallions.  Bake at 350 or so until lightly browned and no longer jiggly in the center, 40 minutes or so.  Serve with salsa and sour cream.  So good.

Apple French Toast (prepare this the night before)

3-4 apples, depending on size, tarter the better: peeled, cored, sliced thickly

Butter and Cinnamon

16 oz french (crusty) bread

7 eggs, 2 cups 1/2 & 1/2, tablespoon vanilla, 1 cup brown sugar

Liberally butter a 9X13 in pan, line with apples, dust the apples with cinnamon.  Slice the bread thickly (1 and 1/2 inch) and fit into the pan, cutting the bread ends as needed to fill in the open spots between slices.  Mix the eggs and so on until the brown sugar is dissolved.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread, and smush the bread down to allow it to soak up some of the egg stuff.  Dust the bread with cinnamon (lots) and cover tightly; refrigerate over night.  The next day, let it sit at room temp for at least an hour to get the chill off, then bake covered with foil for 45 minutes at 350, then take the cover off and continue baking for another 15.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, then dish out to include the apples and any juice/sauce with each piece.  This screams out for a drizzle of maple syrup or whipped cream or, fuck the diet, some vanilla ice cream.  Damn that’s good.

 

 

The First Annual Deviled Egg-Off

So, I won.  Vania’s eggs were perfection, exactly what is dreamed of when one dreams of deviled eggs.  But my eggs were devilish, beguiling with heat; the judges were seduced by Sriracha.

Red Rooster (Good Luck) Eggs

Hard boiled eggs, peeled, halved, yolks in a bowl, mashed til fine with:

Mayo, twelve parts

Sriracha hot sauce, three parts

Dijon Mustard, two parts

Worcestershire sauce, one part

Measurements are approximate– everything is to taste.  Go easy on the hot stuff until you get an idea of how hot it is.  Fill the eggs at the last second.  If you want to garnish, a sprig of chive and a single dot of Sriracha is supercute.

Addendum:  How much mayo?  I have never measured.  If I had to guess I’d say nearly as much mayo as egg yolk.  A yolk is about a tablespoon, so if you used twelve eggs, you’d use (GIVE OR TAKE) 12 tablespoons or 3/4 cup of mayo.  It’s all about the consistency, how creamy and (SORRY) moist you’d like the texture.  So for twelve egg yolks, start with half a cup of mayo and add more if you think it needs it.

 

 

This One’s For My Sister

So I was on the phone with Shar trying to juggle a few chores in the kitchen, among them getting the Enchilada Casserole out of the oven, and giving Shar the play-by-play.  The prince had interrupted a few times, checking to see if it was ready and to ask if I was STILL ON THE PHONE.  YES I’M STILL ON THE PHONE, if the phone had glued itself magically/tragically to my ear I would have given my left forearm some badly need rest.

So Shar says, “ooh, Mark (her own royal progeny) would love to eat at your house.”  Well, yes of course.  Young men who don’t know how to cook want to eat wherever there are second helpings, and if you’re serving beer they’ll bring their friends too.

But this is one of the prince’s favorite meals, and it’s a real fridge-and-pantry-cleaner.  Don’t tell the prince I said that.

Enchilada Casserole

Two chicken breasts: start poaching them in four cups of water, in a fairly large sauce pan.  When they’re done, pull them out, let them cool on a plate, and strain the broth (use a fine mesh strainer if you have it) into a big bowl or stylish vessel of your choice

Half a stick of butter: wipe out the now empty saucepan with a paper towel, and melt the butter over medium high heat.  When foaming add

Quarter cup of flour:  using a whisk, stir this into the hot butter and stir for a minute, then add

The reserved poaching liquid: add it a couple tablespoons at a time, letting it absorb and seize up before you add more liquid, and stop at about two cups added.  Toss the remainder of the broth (unless you’re super thrifty then freeze it for another use) then add

A 10 oz can of enchilada sauce: this adds a ton of flavor, a bit of spice, and a nice pink color, then add

Dairy:  some milk, or the last bit of half and half, or the third cup of heavy cream leftover that you didn’t know what to do with, or the smidge of sour cream you don’t want to waste.  This is where you start tasting the sauce and adding

A ton of cheese: NOT the time to use the blue cheese, but a lot of other nuggets will do.  Just shred up your last bits of cheddar, pepper jack, mozzarella, swiss– if you have a small hunk of cream cheese, smush it and toss it in.  A few dessicated wrapped slices of store brand american?  They will love this pool.  I used at least a pound of cheese.  Maybe lots more, I’m not sure and I wasn’t even drinking…that much.  (This is where you can turn the oven on to 350 if you’re sober and can set a timer and do other things, 400 if you’re drinking and you PROMISE to stay in the kitchen and not email or start laundry in the basement and forget the timer and the casserole).  Just keep tasting, salt it if need be (likely not) and keep stirring, then add

The shredded or chopped reserved chicken: now the thing looks like something, like a rich stew or a thin buffalo chicken dip.  You’re tempted to pour it into small bowls with little endive leaves as garnish but you are not done until you line a not-quite-as-big-as-a-9×13-inch-pan-so-if-you-have-something-smaller-but-not-too-small-a pan with

Crushed tortilla chips: how much is up to you.  I would say for a deep 11 inch round casserole I used about half a 13 oz bag of chips, had the prince crush them (I was on the phone, after all, and that crushing shit is NOISY), then used about half to line the pan before I poured half the saucy mass over it, followed by the remainder of the chip crumbs, followed by the rest of the stewy stuff, followed by

Yet more cheese: stop judging, I’m trying to make the prince’s casserole dreams come true.  A modest half pound of shredded cheddar, like Diana used the night she and William went to Target and picked out Pokemon sheets for his big boy bed (it could’ve happened, you don’t know).  It then goes into the pre-heated oven for half an hour or more.  When it’s bubbly and attractive, take it out.  It will be runny, soupy, or gloopy, depending on how thick your sauce was, how much cheese you used, and how many tortilla chips you crushed.  There’s nothing attractive about this, it’s just easy and good.

Addendum: when you add the chicken, add any leftover bits you want to get rid of that won’t offend: corn, black beans, green chiles, cooked red or green pepper or onion, black olives, jalapenos, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini.

 

 

 

 

Consider Two Eggs

What was in your omelet this morning?  What?  No omelet?  Acceptable only if you don’t care for eggs (WHAT?  You don’t like EGGS?  Unacceptable.).

Two eggs, 150 calories, 10 grams of fat.  OK, the fat’s a little high– toss one of the yolks and add an extra egg white or two.  Whisk vigorously– I find this easiest in a taller plastic cup.  Add a tablespoonish of water or milk (or sour cream or heavy cream or even mayonnaise, seriously do not turn your nose up) and a good pinch of salt.

Pour into a ten inch non-stick skillet that you’ve slicked with butter or olive oil and heated to medium high, then immediately turn the heat down and begin lifting the edges to get the bulk of the egg cooked.  When there is no more runny egg but it still looks quite moist (sorry for those readers who DETEST that word moist), take off the heat and cover with a plate while you pick out what it will envelop.

This morning mine had: a couple TBLS guacamole, fresh salsa, two tortilla chips crumbled up, and about an ounce of cheddar cheese.  Once that was slathered onto the egg I folded it up up, put it back on the still-quite-hot burner, covered it again, and let the filling warm through on low heat while I toasted a piece of rye bread.  It all was too delicious to speak of.

What can’t go into an omelet?  Personally I can’t think of much. Peanut butter, maybe– but that could be just me.  Here’s a partial list of what can:

Leftover: macaroni and cheese, spaghetti sauced with marinara, tomato salad, tortellini, anything from Olive Garden (including the bread sticks– seriously, tear into small bits, sprinkle with more garlic and add some melty cheese like jack or even velveeta), taco meat, black beans and corn, that last bit of green beans from last night’s dinner with a sharp cheese like fontina, mashed potatoes, cold french fries (chop, warm in the microwave for ten seconds and then pepper liberally) the leftover fixings from burger night (all the veg like tomato, onion, pickle- chop uniformly and sprinkle with cheddar).

The omelet takes homely stuff and makes it je ne sais quoi, Francais?  I mentioned peanut butter as a dud, but though it’s not my thing I know plenty of people who dig sweet omelets and if you’re there, PB and nutella in an omelet really does not sound bad– or cream cheese and cherry jelly– OK, now I’m starting to rethink my aversion.  Cream cheese, caramel drizzle, and a few chocolate chips.  A couple of halved marshmallows and a leftover halloween chocolate?  If you’re into it that would make for a helluva November weekend breakfast for the twelve and under set, who will remember the crazy breakfast more than they’ll remember the costumes they wore.

 

Food for the Poor

Sometimes it’s the day before payday and you have next to nothing.  Sometimes it’s just been a really hard week and you’re tired of hearing bad news.  So, poor, or just poor in spirit, you must eat something that doesn’t require a trip to the grocery store or a lot of effort.

Soup.  Cheap.  Comforting.  Easy.

This is soup for one, so just multiply if you’re feeding more than you.

Peel a potato and cut into large chunks.  Add a quarter of a peeled an onion.  (How big a potato?  How big an onion?  Don’t worry, doesn’t matter, you’ll see).  Put into a pot and add enough water to not quite cover.  Bring to a boil then simmer until tender.  While that is simmering, think about what else you can add.  Do you like broccoli or cauliflower?  Spinach, kale?  Corn?  The cruciferae you’ll want to add after the simmer has been going for a couple of minutes, because you’ll want those to be as tender as the potatoes, but fresh kale or spinach or corn won’t take but a minute or two.  If you have greens that will do well with a longer simmer (mustard greens, collards) you might want to (wash, chop, de-stem, and) boil those separate from the potatoes and add at the end.

If you don’t want to add anything, take the cooked potatoes and onion off the heat but do not drain.  You’re going to mash or puree as is (an immersion blender is perfect for this to get a smooth texture but not necessary).  Then add some milk or cream, then add salt and pepper.  That’s it.  Return to the heat just long enough to get it to the temp you want, and then eat, from the pot if that’s where you’re at on a given day.  Or, set the table, light a candle, pour a glass of wine.

This is a lovely little lily of a soup that can be gilded in many ways.  You can add broccoli or a cousin, and puree when all is tender.  A splash of vinegar or lemon juice helps here, I’m not sure why.  You can add corn or spinach, as mentioned, after the puree.  A sprinkle of cheese is not unwelcome.

Taste of it, as Mom used to say; be kind to yourself and have a nice hot bowl of simplicity and frugality.

Food for grown-ups

I’ve told the prince that one of the things you must learn as you grow, along with how to drive, how to ask a girl out, how to be kind, how to look people in the eye, how to be on time, and in general how not to be an ass, is how to like vegetables.

My friend Ruth, proud of her first apartment, asked me over for dinner; she was 18, I was 17.  She made pot roast (ambitious for a teen but not too successful), and she made boiled broccoli smothered in cheese sauce and extra cheddar.  I think the cheese sauce was store-bought and I’m pretty sure the sauce and cheese outweighed the veg; but it was the first time I ever ate and DID NOT MIND broccoli.  The waiting coffin called “heart disease” got a few shiny new brads, but the superhero called good health got a small shot of steroids too.

I can eat any veg.  I choose not to eat limas and a few other losers, but I have learned simple preparations for so many veg, minus the two lbs of cheese, and I am convinced they are the key to a healthy life so I eat them every day.   Phyto this, bio that, the chemistry of why vegetables are so good for you is not fully known.  It’s not just the known nutrients; it’s the way humans are meant to get a whole variety of nourishing shit.  I won’t eat stuff that actually tastes like shit because for me food must be pure pleasure and the following is a purely delicious way to eat one veg.

The last of (imported but cheap) asparagus was available last weekend; I’m the only (grown-up) one who will eat it and I love it enough that I can eat the whole pound+ but have learned from painful experience that that is a bad idea.  Gastro-fill-in-the-blank-ness.. So I buy the pound+ and eat it over 3-4 days.

Rinse a portion of the sparegoose.  Shake off the excess water or let it sit for several.  Snap off the woody end of each and discard.  In a small skillet heat to med high a tablespoon of olive oil and, when hot, snap the spears into two inch lengths starting at the bottom.  Reserve the tops for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking.   Toss the thicker bits in the hot oil until they just start to brown then add the tops, and toss til the the tops and all are a bright green with bits of brown.  Take off the heat, salt lightly, and cover to keep hot.  It’s wonderful as is but you can then add the merest smidge of any of the following: fresh parmesan cheese or a sprinkle of bacon or some fresh squeezed lemon juice or a nubbin of butter or a drip of sesame oil or red pepper flakes or a schmear of almond butter or some chopped toasted almonds or half an ounce of chopped prosciutto or crisp-cooked pancetta.