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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

And that means I’m drinking hot chocolate and watching Christmas movies with the neighbors, not writing exciting blog posts to keep you all entertained. Today (Thursday) was a banner day for hits, and I appreciate all those who have stopped by to read. Welcome! If you’re not familiar, the blog is a combo of rants on food politics, thoughts on life and my journey towards owning a farm, and tales of cooking and eating. Since the past week has been mostly rants, for Friday, I’m giving you an entirely non-controversial blog post (unless you don’t think humans should eat wheat, in which case you will disagree with me violently).

So last weekend for a holiday party, I decided to make crackers. I was inspired by Miss Zumba, who had made them for my holiday party. I typically buy a lot of crackers, because I love eating them with cheese, and so the idea that I could make them and eat them that way rather than buying them was terribly appealing.

And so it began. You can find the recipe over at Fit for Life. The dough was rolled out:

Early in the process:

More crackers:

And finished, sprinkled with sea salt and baked:

These are actually super easy to make. I thought they’d be something like sugar cookies, which are a pain in the butt to roll and cut out. But this dough rolls out super easily, and I just cut out the shapes with the pastry wheel my mom bought me like a year ago that I’ve never used. It makes those cute scalloped edges. And I just sprinkled a little sea salt (because I love sea salt), and there you go. 7 minutes in the oven and you have crackers.

Now I used whole wheat flour, Miss Zumba used regular all purpose. Hers were a little softer (maybe she didn’t leave them in the oven as long either), and I thought mine where a little crunchier and a little closer to what I think of as a cracker texture (but I also buy whole wheat crackers from the store). They went over very well, and were almost entirely gone by the end of the night.

But then again, maybe that was the cheese. I also put together a cheese plate of Eve’s Cheese:

Jalepeno colby, garlic and chive colby (?), and cheddar. Yum.

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I have been referring regularly to my copy of the Joy of Cooking, a birthday gift from my dear uncle, owner extraordinaire of Normals bookstore in Baltimore. It is a 1970s reprinting of the original 1931 book. It is, unlike many other used cookbooks, surprisingly lacking in stains and bits of 40 year old food. It also is the container of hundreds upon hundreds of recipes.

One of my favorite things about the Joy of Cooking is certainly the key feature it is known for, which is explaining what things are in general before diving into recipes. So if I need explicit instructions on cutting up chicken parts, they are right there (with illustrations), followed by a brief overview of all the ways to cook a chicken. And then a few variations, or what constitutes the recipe portion of that chapter. The same if you need to make a pie crust, or a custard, or chop up a cabbage. Clear, concise instructions. On, as far as I can tell, literally every aspect of cooking.

The one place she is not so clear is on what some of the items she describes are. For example, when perusing the book last week with the HF, we were rather perplexed by the series of recipes for Charlottes. The first was a Charlotte Russe, which I know to be a clothing store aimed at teenage girls who desire to look a little sexy. After perusing the various recipes, I realized Charlottes are apparently those things you get when you soak ladyfingers (a kind of cookie thing) in alcohol. Will be making some of those promptly.

Presumably the people of 1931 knew what Charlottes were. People in 1931 apparently knew a lot of things modern cooking audiences would be very perplexed by. And that, I think, is my favorite part of the Joy of Cooking. She writes for an audience who would see “milk” in a recipe and assume whole, unpasteurized milk. In several recipes she actually makes a note that if you are using pasteurized milk you need to alter the recipe. Hmm, I say, how intriguing- you mean, there is a difference between whole, unpasteurized (raw) milk and pasteurized milk? Funny, that’s what the FDA has been claiming there’s no difference at all, except that all the pathogens have supposedly been killed in the pasteurized version. I wonder how that could be…

Needless to say, any book that suggests using unpasteurized milk might work better for a recipe gets a big thumbs up from my direction. She in general seems to assume you are going to be using ingredients, as in, flour, sugar, whole butter, not “buy a box of cake mix.” I HATE, and by hate I really mean HATE HATE HATE recipes that for an ingredient ask you to buy a box or can of something already prepared. For example, when perusing stuffing recipes for Thanksgiving, half of them had you buy stuffing mix at the store and then doctor it up. Are you kidding? No. When I make bread stuffing, I want to make it from BREAD. I wouldn’t think that would be so hard to understand, but then again, most people shop at the grocery store, so who am I to say.

The Joy of Cooking literally has everything (or so I’m convinced). You can’t just sit down and look through it page by page, because it’s got about 500. And one page might have ten or more recipes on it, if the recipes are variations on a basic concept. But if I have a large quantity of something or another and no idea what to do with it, I am now turning first to Mrs. Joy, because chances are there at least fifteen recipes for it. I’ve already demonstrated this method with cabbage. As HF and I were glancing through it the other night, with me looking for recipes for chicken, we discovered just how extensive the book really is. Not only are there recipes for chicken, and turkey, and lots of them, there are also recipes for: quail, pheasant, mudhen, grouse, etc etc. A few pages on you come across the chapter for small game, which includes recipes for not only rabbits, but squirrels, opossums, raccoons, beavers, armadillos and that standby Eastern Shore favorite, muskrat. According to the Joy of Cooking, beaver tail is actually quite a delicacy, highly prized by Native Americans. The thing I love about this chapter is that the master recipe not only talks about how to cook small game, but includes directions (and diagrams) for skinning, gutting, and otherwise chopping into pieces various small game. There is a special diagram for squirrels, as they are so small. And very special instructions for removing the musk glands from muskrats and beavers. Apparently the key to any small game is to hang it in the cold for several days (HF says this is to remove most of the stink).

For my part, I have told the HF that if he brings me a beaver, I will do my best to cook it up for him. This caused me to picture an image of a pioneer household, with the wife at home baking, when the husband, muddy and cold, suddenly comes in the door with a beaver. He hands it over to the wife, but before doing anything she reaches up for her handy copy of the Joy of Cooking. HA! I do figure that when civilization collapses, if we haven’t quite puzzled out sustainable farming with animals, the book to have is not some crazy survival manual, but the Joy of Cooking. Because if all else fails, at least you will know how to properly cook a beaver.

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So before Thanksgiving got started I did a lot of baking. This is because I go to four Thanksgiving- that’s right, four. And because these are all packed one after another, I find that at least getting all the baking done the night before leads to smoother sailing on the day of.

Because it is Thanksgiving, I make everything with pumpkin. And the secret to making things with pumpkin taste really amazing is to actually use pumpkin. By which I mean a real, live, pumpkin, not the stuff that comes in a can (cause who can be sure what that stuff is).

It is easy to prepare pumpkin for baking. You simply cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff, then you can either bake, boil, or microwave the halves. I typically bake them at around 425 for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft. You can also boil them in some water, or put them in a microwaveable dish with some water and microwave in bursts until soft. Once the pumpkin has cooled off somewhat, you can scoop out the flesh (or peel off the skin), and put it in a food processor until you get most of the lumps out. You can also mash the pumpkin with a fork.

I also make my own vanilla. It is easy enough to find vanilla beans (I get them at the Renaissance Festival, at the herbalist), and then you just need a bottle and some vodka. When the bottle is filled for the first time, you need to leave it for several weeks to steep, but once it’s all ready you can just top it off every time you use it. Every so often you should exchange the vanilla beans for new ones to make it stronger. This is basically what the vanilla you buy in the store is made from- plus loads of bizarre artificial ingredients. That’s why when you leave it too long it gets all alcoholic.

And with homemade vanilla, eggs from pastured chickens, and delicious raw butter you get…

Cookies! This is the first time I’ve made cookies with eggs and real butter in years and years. I’m not sure that I actually like them. Maybe it’s just because I’m so used to the vegan version, but I feel like these are a lot sweeter and, well, boring. They taste like all the other cookies. I’ll have to experiment- maybe using eggs but margarine, or egg replacer but butter. We’ll have to see.

Finally, a new recipe from my new favorite recipe book: the Joy of Cooking!

Which makes…

pumpkin bread! I ran out of cinnamon about half way through the process, thanks to the pumpkin cupcakes I had made earlier, and had to run next door to the neighbors’. That’s what makes it so nice, living where I live. It’s guaranteed that even at 9:45 at night, I can call up my neighbors and run next door with a spoon for a teaspoon of cinnamon.

I love baking, and I love when the whole house smells like cinnamon and pumpkin… and getting to eat lots of delicious pumpkin treats!

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It’s cold. Well, it’s not that cold, we still have a high of 60 on most days. But yesterday was windy and drizzly and even if the high was 60, it was depressing outside. And that means one thing. Soup.

Oddly enough I used to not like soup. I still don’t really like soup, at least soup that I haven’t made myself. People at restaurants usually put weird stuff in soup. But last year, for some reason (possibly due to the purchase of my wonderful, wonderful immersion blender), I got on a kick and started making soup. Lots of it. And it looks like this year will be no different.

The thing I love about making soup is that it doesn’t require a lot of effort. I can roughly chop the ingredients, throw them in a pot, and sit and do some sewing while they cook. Then, five minutes with the immersion blender and presto, SOUP! And it’s warm and delicious, and I can put backerbsen (wonderful German soup crackers) in it.

So last night at our CSA pickup I spotted leeks. I’ve never really used leeks for anything, because the only recipes I ever see that call for leeks are soup recipes. And so I decided to finally make the famous leek and potato soup. Interestingly enough this is the first recipe in my Julia Child cookbook. She calls it the primal soup: the soup that all other soups are based on. And so it is fitting that it is the first soup of the season (ok not counting that chicken noodle). It starts with the ingredients:

My work surface is always limited by the space my computer takes up, but I’m listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on tape, again, in preparation for Friday (when the movie comes out, for you non-nerds). I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts while cooking, as this keeps my brain busy while my hands are working. Anyway, ingredients included potatoes (including four varieties of potatoes), leeks, onions and garlic. The recipe didn’t call for garlic, but I can’t understand soup without garlic, so. And the addition of onion was actually one of the variations, so it’s not the original primal soup recipe, but.

So all of these ingredients go into the pot. I wasn’t sure if you were actually supposed to use the leaves of the leeks, so I used about half of them and decided to see how it would go. Julia seemed to imply that you used the leaves, but she’s not always clear- she said to use the tender green parts, but then also had you washing the leaves, presumably to use them. You don’t have to chop things beautifully for soup, which is one of the features I love. They’re just going to get mashed up anyway. I think I might have added too much water, but I was thinking I was using more leeks than Julia called for, so I added an extra cup or so. But then the soup seemed kind of watery. I don’t know.

Here it is in the pot, post immersion blender:

The green color I think is from the leek leaves. This is also my brand new soup pot (thanks mom!), to replace my old one, which was kind of thin bottomed and usually resulted in the soup burning. I am so excited to finally have a decent pot, which is even bigger than the old one. The little flecks you see are probably from the potato skins. I don’t believe in peeling potatoes before you use them. One, this is a waste of time. Two, this is a waste of nutrients. Most of the nutrients in potatoes are in the skin. The only other ingredients were a bit of salt and pepper, and some cream, though I just used my wonderful whole, fresh, raw milk.


And there’s the soup in the bowl. It has a kind of creamy texture, which I guess is the potatoes. And the taste is kind of oniony. I didn’t realize leeks were so similar to onions, but I guess it makes sense as they are in the same family. My eyes were streaming like mad while I was cutting them up, that’s for sure. I actually had to run into the bathroom and rinse my face to get it to stop. The smell is so strong! My whole house smelled like leeks. I’m sure they’re even better since they were so fresh. The thing I love about Julia Child recipes is that they really are simple, if not for technique, then for ingredients. Two or three ingredients, and no more seasoning than salt and pepper. It let’s you taste the actual vegetables, rather than being overwhelmed by the spices. And now I’ve got about a gallon of soup in the fridge, which I will be eating for the rest of the week. Sigh. Anyone hungry?

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Who’s ready for a break from all these depressing thoughts? Yes, that would be me. It’s cold, the heat in my apartment isn’t working, and I was not ready for any of this. We’ve had such an unseasonally warm fall that I was caught off guard when suddenly it dropped to 50 last week. I went from a tshirt to a winter coat, literally within 24 hours. I need time to prepare! And I need this stupid cough to go away, it’s driving me nuts.

It’s time for: favorite things to do with winter vegetables!

My all time favorite is to cut up lots of root vegetables, throw them on a cookie sheet with a little curry (or, alternatively, cinnamon and nutmeg), and bake. They look so pretty, and they taste like candy:

This collection contains beets, watermelon radishes, sweet potato, potato, carrots, and possibly butternut squash but I can’t remember.

It’s super easy (aside from the cutting up part), and you can also eat them with rice or couscous to make them last longer. You can also cheat and just cut winter squashes in half, scoop out the seeds and the stringy bits, slather with butter, and bake. You can then eat the meat out of the shell with a spoon. Sprinkle a little cinnamon for some extra special flavor.

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Have I posted this already? I can’t remember.

Making sauce from scratch is one of the most satisfying things to do in the kitchen, and I can’t think of it without recalling teaching my cousin and his housemate how to do it for the first time (and the first time I learned how to do it, teaching myself and reading instructions printed off the internet). They were both so fascinated by the process, something that should be completely obvious but that none of us learn, and something that is so thoroughly based in getting your hands dirty: namely, up to the elbows in tomato guts, if you do it like me. The basic concept of making a true tomato sauce, from scratch, is to prepare the tomatoes like you were going to can them, but instead to put them in a pot and add fun vegetables. It is possible to make tomato sauce by just chopping a bunch of tomatoes and throwing them in a pot, or by opening a can and doing the same. But it’s much less fun.

Step one is to cut the stems out of the tomatoes. If you’re buying a grocery store tomato, not only will this not taste as good, but the stem won’t be there. But the flat hard bit at the top of the tomato is where the stem used to be, and it helps enormously to cut that out first. Then you want to boil water in the biggest pot you have, but be careful not to overfill it because you need room for the tomatoes. When the water boils, add them in and turn the heat down. Let them boil for about three minutes, then fish them out with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl.

I find it’s easiest to put my strainer in my biggest mixing bowl, and put the tomatoes in there. As they cool the water will drain out, and the bowl will be there all ready to catch the tomato juice. Cause after you finish boiling all the tomatoes, and they’re all sitting ready and cool enough to touch in your bowl (or strainer), you get to squeeze. If a tomato hasn’t been in the fridge, the skin will slide right off and you can discard it to compost. If it has (and also with some heirlooms, inexplicably) you might have a harder time of it. If there were any splits in the tomato that dried out, you might also have a hard time getting the skin off, and for that reason I keep a paring knife on hand to peel those bits. You should be left with a naked tomato.

And then comes the fun part. You get to squeeze even more. The aim is to get the juice in the bowl, not in your eye, or on the wall, or all over the counter, or on your friend’s shirt, though all of these except maybe your eye can be a lot of fun. But you want to get out a decent amount of the juice and seeds, because otherwise your sauce will be sitting there simmering forever and ever. You will be left with the actual flesh of the tomato, and you will be surprised, if you’ve never done this, with how little is actually left when you take out the water. You will also be left with delicious, pure tomato juice, which you can strain through a cloth (to get out the seeds) and use however you like. I make sure I save some to add to the sauce as it cooks if it dries out. Squeezing tomatoes is a messy process, but I find it extremely satisfying, like squeezing those little stress balls but much better because at the end you get tomato sauce. It is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen.

After you finish squeezing, you can do whatever you like with the actual tomato you have left. You can throw it in a stir fry or chili, make tomato sauce, throw the tomato in Ziploc bags and freeze it, or can it, instructions for which will follow later. If you want to make a traditionalish spaghetti sauce, see below.

Vaguely Traditional Spaghetti Sauce
This is a fun one, because I have so addicted my mom to it that she repeatedly begs me for giant quantities of it over the summer, which she will eat almost daily, and she has now altered her own recipe to more closely reflect mine. My dad, on the other hand, refuses to eat it because it has too many vegetables. Go figure. I like to use a variety of tomatoes because they look prettier, with all the different colors, and I will never get over how beautiful a watermelon colored heirloom tomato looks on the inside.

Lots of tomatoes
More garlic than you think necessary, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Veggies of choice, typically onion and carrot; eggplant, zucchini and pepper will make it more like stew or ratatouille (but even better tasting)
Seasoning, pepper and salt, I primarily use chili powder, cumin, and oregano
Fresh basil, rosemary or thyme if you have it, or a bay leaf
At least one hot pepper
A pinch of sugar
Tomato paste (you can make your own by stewing tomatoes for absurd lengths of time, but this is a pain in the ass)

1. Follow the instructions above to prepare the tomatoes, save aside a little juice in case you need to add it back in
2. Sauté the garlic and onion on the bottom of a really big pot, in a little olive oil
3. Add the tomatoes, and most of the seasoning (but not any fresh herbs), allow to simmer until it thickens a little and most of the juice is rising to the top
4. Add the vegetables, simmer, stir regularly
5. When most of the juice is absorbed (if it gets too dry before the vegetables are cooked, keep adding liquid), add the rest of the seasoning and any fresh herbs, the hot pepper, the sugar, and the tomato paste. It should only simmer for maybe ten minutes after adding these ingredients. Then it should be ready to serve! If you have leftover, freeze it in Tupperware and eat it all winter.

Chili
I make chili almost exactly the same way I make tomato sauce, but with a lot fewer tomatoes, so the ingredients look like this:
A few tomatoes (peeled or not)
1 can each black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans (I often double this)
Lots of garlic
Veggies (same as above)
About a cup of veggie stock, or some water
Plenty of seasoning, especially chili powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin
Hot peppers aplenty
A pinch of sugar
Tomato paste

The instructions are also basically the same, except to add the beans, drained, and the stock on step three with the tomatoes. You can also use dry beans, but you have to soak and cook them first, and I am usually too lazy, especially since Goya canned beans are so cheap.

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Spinach Lasagna
1 lb medium tofu (or 1 cup ricotta, though I’ve never tried it)
¼ c milk
oregano, basil, salt
2 tbsp lemon juice
several cloves garlic
2 cups spinach, chopped (or food processered)
4-6 cups spaghetti sauce
cooked lasagna noodles
2 cups cheese (parmesan or mozarella or both)

1. In a blender, blend first 5 ingredients until achieves consistency of cottage cheese. If mixture is too thick, add a little water. Stir in chopped spinach and set aside.
2. Cover bottom of lasagna pan with a thin layer of sauce, then a layer of noodles. Sprinkle half the tofu mixture and ½ cup of the cheese. Cover this with noodles and cover with sauce.
3. Add remaining filling, ½ cup of cheese, and a layer of sauce. Add one more layer of noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Top with remaining cheese.
4. Bake 30-45 minutes at 350˚F. Remove from oven and let set 10 minutes before serving.

Eggplant Parmesan
3 tbsp olive oil
garlic cloves, minced
1 13 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large eggplant, sliced thin
8 oz cheese of choice, grated (cheddar and mozzarella work well, or, I guess, parmesan)
seasoning
extra cheese, to top

1. Heat oil in large frying pan. Shallow fry eggplant in oil in batches until brown, turning to avoid burning. Drain on paper towels. Add more oil if necessary.
2. Remove eggplant from pan. Add extra oil if necessary. Fry garlic for a minute, then add tomatoes and seasoning. Simmer 15 minutes.
3. While tomatoes simmer, layer eggplant in bottom of casserole dish. Cover with grated cheese. Add another layer of eggplant, alternating until all eggplant is used. Pour tomato sauce over layers, top with remaining cheese.
4. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese is melted and forms crust on top.

Linguine Primavera
Veggies, such as zucchini, asparagus, peppers (things that cook fast)
Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
About 1 lb pasta, such as linguine or fettuccine
1 cup raw cashews
Salt, pepper, onion powder
2 cups milk
Basil, parsley, other fun herbs
Cheese for topping (grated parmesan or mozarella)

1. Cook linguine in boiling water about 5 minutes, than add vegetables (not the tomatoes) for last five minutes. Drain.
2. Pulverize cashews and seasoning in blender. Add milk and blend until smooth and creamy.
3. Combine pasta, veggies, tomatoes, milk mixture, and herbs in large bowl. Top with cheese. Serve!

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