Is this thing on?

February 19, 2010

Uhhhhh. Okay, I have a prepared statement about my absence that includes overwrought phrasing like “settling into the rhythms of my new life” and has lots of excuses about my health and my fatigue and why I basically stopped cooking. But it boils down to: “we moved and I am lazy.”

I’ve been cooking off and on, really simple things fit for our wee new kitchen.

like this sweet and sour red chard with soba

It was my first attempt at sweet and sour sauce, and it was way more sweet than sour, but it tasted great and held me over for about 2.5 seconds before I cracked into a family sized bag of Kettle Chips.

and this bowl of mush

Which is actually curried red lentils with spinach. The timing of this particular meal is important, as I made it soon after passing out over the credit card bill. So this $1.50 dish was actually priceless – a triumph of willpower when it would have been so easy to call out for another eggplant sub.

And with that, I have shared all of the meals I’ve cooked since early January. The shame! I fully expect someone to come any day now to take my apron, my food processor, my brand new bright green spatula, and my home cook’s badge.

Until next month…


Use it or lose it

January 6, 2010

I started 2010 off with the best intentions, just as I start every year. But you know what they say about the pavement on the road to hell, etc. I was going to start eating fruits and vegetables again! And use what we have instead of going out and spending money! And drinking lots of water!

Well, I guess there were vegetables on my pizza Monday night. And the sandwich I got last night when we went out AGAIN had sweet potato chips on the side.

Before that, though, I was doing a really solid job.

Exhibit A

day 2 stew

You like that rhyming, right? This is what we made with our New Year’s leftovers. There was quinoa and then the braised beans and collards, plus some broth, some fresh collards, and more black-eyed peas. I feel like we should get extra prosperity points for making the ingredients for our lucky New Year’s dinner stretch over two days.

Exhibit B

black-eyed pea hummus wraps

I had black-eyed pea hummus sometime last year at The Dish and it was  really good. Like regular hummus but… I don’t know, Southern? With mounds of black-eyed peas left, even after the stew, I decided to give it a shot. And it was awesome.

Black-eyed pea hummus (makes ~4 servings)

You need:

  • 1 cup cooked black-eyed peas
  • a few T lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1T olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • crushed red pepper

To do:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, or by hand.

So easy. I’d like to experiment with other flavors in the future, but this time I kept it simple to get a solid foundation.

Also: we ate at home tonight! And there were vegetables in it!

rigatoni with white bean and kale marinara

It has been at least almost nearly a week since we had some other version of this exact meal, so it was obviously time for a new variation.

Braise up

January 1, 2010

I’ve been taking advantage of my brief unemployment to do all of the things I never do when I’m working – going grocery shopping in the middle of the day, spending 5 hours waiting to have my picture taken at the DMV, actually using the daytime minutes on my cell phone, and cooking pounds and pounds of beans to stock the freezer. On Monday, I’ll return to my regularly scheduled programming, and I’m fairly sure that none of these things will be possible. Unless I have a hot plate in my new office.

We were out running errands the other day and stopped to eat lunch at a place that offered braised white beans as a side dish. I was all over that, until the waitress brought it out and warned me that there was chicken stock in it, and I had to part with it for some (delicious) roasted veg. But I literally couldn’t stop thinking about braised beans, so I ended up making my own.

braised white beans with kale + baked sweet potato

That picture is seriously terrible. But the meal was great. Especially after a fun-filled day at the DMV.

I did this as kind of a dry run for tonight’s lucky New Year’s main dish – braised black-eyed peas and collards.

prosperity in a bowl

Braised Beans and Greens (serves 4)

You need

  • Olive oil
  • Several cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2-3 cups of cooked beans (adjust based on your hunger level)
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of liquid (water, vegetable broth, or a combo)
  • 1 lb greens

To do:

  1. Heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat in a large skillet (with a lid)
  2. When the garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown, add beans and liquid (for tonight’s meal I used a little leftover Prosecco from our NYE toast in addition to vegetable broth) and bring to a boil
  3. Add greens*, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and give it all a good stir
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low for 10-15 minutes
  5. Uncover, increase heat (add a bit more liquid if needed), and cook over medium for 5 or so minutes

*If you’re using more delicate greens, wait until you uncover the pan to add them. I did this with the kale, and it was tender but still bright green and presumably all anti-oxidanty. Collards are a bit tougher and need to cook longer, so I put them in right after the beans.

After a few weeks of fairly erratic meals, it’s nice to get back into the habit of cooking meals I feel good about. Not that all those pizzas weren’t delicious, cookies for breakfast can be quite lovely, really. But sometimes it’s good to reset the system.

Happy new year!

I’m back.

December 28, 2009

Oh, hey.

I could make a lot of excuses about why I haven’t been blogging but, instead, I’m going to be honest. Which is actually way more interesting because the truth is that back in November the power supply on our laptop caught on fire. Fortunately, Matt was there, and he saved the day. I don’t know what I would have done if we had lost the 4 million pictures of food on the laptop AND all of our earthly belongings all in one day.

Speaking of our earthly belongings, I’ve also been a little bit distracted by the fact that we moved ourselves and all of said belongings across the country last week. And moving from the Midwest in the middle of December is a world of stress all its own. Because, well, have you ever seen that show Ice Road Truckers? Because now I have. In real life.

I’m totally kidding. The drive, while excruciatingly long, was fine. We managed to hit a window between snowstorms that really couldn’t have worked out better. Plus, we paid someone else to move about 99% of our stuff for us, so that was a bonus.

Which is a long way to say, I’m back!

With the holidays and everything happening right after we moved, we’ve really only spent a few days in our new place, and I’ve only cooked two dinners here. I wish I had taken a picture of the first one, a sweet potato risotto that was truly awesome. My mom gave us two big bags of sweet potatoes, so I’m sure I’ll be making it again. So don’t you worry.

Tonight’s dinner was probably more along the lines of what we’ll be eating on a regular basis, as we’re watching our pennies these days in the wake of the move.

super easy split pea soup

super easy split pea soup

A few things I’d like to point out about this picture:

  1. My favorite North Carolina beer in the top right, purchased at the neighborhood grocery store
  2. The fact that we ate dinner at a table, which is something we haven’t been able to do in our own home for over 2 years

It’s the simple things, really

Super Easy Split Pea Soup (serves 3ish)

you need:

  • olive oil for the pot
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of split peas, rinsed and picked over (these were green but I’ve also made a really good one with yellow split peas)
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth and 2 cups of water (or another combination adding up to 4 cups of liquid)
  • bay leaf
  • more water, as needed

To do:

  1. Cook carrots, celery, and onions in a soup pot over medium heat with garlic and olive oil until the onions are almost translucent, about 8 or 10 minutes, adding water as needed
  2. Add split peas, water, broth, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf
  3. Bring everything to a boil and give it a good stir
  4. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering for about 45 minutes until the soup is thick and the peas fall apart (if you use yellow split peas, this takes about an hour)
  5. Serve and enjoy

I thought about giving you the shockingly low cost of this meal for us, but my mom actually gave us a bag of split peas, so it wouldn’t really be a true representation, as it was basically free. If you buy your own split peas, you can add about 50 cents to that.

Taking it easy

November 1, 2009

Last week was sort of a blur, which is mostly to do with the thin film of fatigue that settles over me whenever we move from one season to another. It’s been particularly strange this year, with the “it’s fall, it’s winter, it’s fall, it’s summer, it’s winter, it’s fall, now it’s summer again” thing we’ve had going on here in Kansas, and my body has been protesting any kind of activity beyond work and non-negotiable errand-running. But, hey, we got an extra hour today. Which means that now it’s going to be dark when I leave work, more or less without fail. So that should help.

Anyway, I try to push through these quirky seasonal changes in my energy levels so that I can actually cook decent food, which theoretically should be helping. And it does. Kind of.

I go on auto-pilot, really, and cook the things that I am halfway done making before I realize that I have put 0 seconds worth of thought or mental effort into them. Vegetable soup is good, what with the methodical chopping and the various “exciting” spice blends I can use to take it from one cuisine to another. This was an Indian-inspired one, with a little rice thrown in. For fun. Just because I’m in cruise control mode doesn’t mean I can’t be a little crazy, right?

curried vegetable soup with rice

curried vegetable soup with rice

And the most automatic meal of all is some version of pasta with beans and greens and something red. This time it was french lentils, spinach, and a ridiculously overpriced (but shrewdly unlabeled) red pepper, with a quick lemon-garlic sauce.


go-to pasta

Tonight, though, in a sudden burst of energy (the extra hour, perhaps?), I set out to try something new. I grabbed two pie pumpkins at the last farmer’s market of the year yesterday, and tonight I baked one and pureed the flesh to use in another pumpkin bread, and to try in something savory: pumpkin and black bean soup. I started with the smitten kitchen recipe but diverged quite a bit. Maybe that’s why my soup looks approximately 0% like hers.


vegetarian black bean pumpkin soup

I’m going to work on this recipe more before I post it, but for now I’ll say it was certainly passable, and even good, if not what I was actually going for. See, the pumpkins I’m getting are just not orange inside. Maybe they’re past their prime, or haven’t even reached it yet. I have no idea. I have yet to farm pumpkins. They taste just fine, but aren’t terribly pumpkiny, which seems, well, strange. While I did tweak the proportions here, I think the pumpkin I used just blended in, both taste and color-wise. It did add a little body to the soup, as well as a bit of creaminess, both of which I appreciated. Plus, I put the bowl of soup on a orange plate so that makes up for the lack of color in the soup itself.

I was going to roast some pumpkin seeds but I decided to use my energy to bake bread instead. I thought cornbread would be a great fit for this soup, but apparently Matt is some kind of cornbread-hater. Instead, I found an easy recipe in How to Cook Everything for whole wheat quick bread. I’m afraid of real bread baking, what with the yeast and the 110* water and all of the other nerve-wracking elements of it, including kneading and “turning out on a floured surface.” I’ll get there. Eventually. But for now, I’ll stick with this one, which was quick and easy and hearty and doughy with a little hint of sweetness from molasses. That Mark Bittman and his cooking of everything. It never ceases to amaze me.

Roasted squash soup

October 25, 2009

There’s something about store-bought butternut squash soup that just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s always too sugary sweet and creepily smooth for my tastes. But there’s something about the sound of it, “butternut squash soup” that always makes me want to try it, even though I never like it. So last night, after an unintended week-long hiatus from home-cooking, I decided to attack the butternut squash I bought a few weeks ago and try to make my own.

roasted butternut squash soup

roasted butternut squash soup

Total success. This was a mostly savory soup with just a hint of sweetness, and I didn’t bother pureeing it, which meant it wasn’t so super smooth. I treated it like baked potato soup, really, but with a 3 pound squash instead of potatoes

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (serves 3-4)

You need:

  • A butternut squash (or other winter squash), unpeeled, halved, seeds and pulp removed
  • Salt, pepper, and olive oil for roasting
  • 1T unsalted butter (or olive oil)
  • Savory vegetable broth, about 1 cup per pound of squash
  • Salt and pepper

To do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400*. Line a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Put the halved, seeded squash on the cookie sheet. Rub flesh with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the squash face up for about 10 minutes, then flip over for and roast for another 30. Times will vary depending on the size of your squash.
  4. Remove baking sheet and allow squash to cool, about 5-10 minutes.
  5. Heat butter (or olive oil) over medium heat in a dutch oven or large pot. Begin to scoop the flesh of the squash out with a large spoon, transferring directly to the pot. Then, peel the remaining flesh and add, stirring as you do. The peel should come off easily.
  6. Add vegetable broth and stir frequently until soup is fairly uniform in texture. Heat over medium or a little higher for about 10 minutes, until broth is heated through.
  7. Add salt and pepper, stir, and serve.

So easy, and mostly hands-off prep. And pretty, cheap, too. Next time, I’ll roast the squash seeds and use them as a garnish to give this a little extra staying power. I’d also love to try this with acorn squash or delicata or even a pumpkin.

Legume therapy.

October 16, 2009

Whatever vague borderline sickness I’ve been fighting off for the last week or so hit me in the face yesterday morning, and I was in bed all day, with a really limited appetite. It was unnatural, basically.

By the time dinner rolled around, I felt like I really needed to eat something, so I went for the simplest thing I could think of: rice and beans. I tried to spice them up a little bit with what we had around.

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

rice and beans with cheese and guacamole

I used some leftover brown rice with red beans and red peppers, punched up with some chipotle puree. The guacamole is kind of an accident – I wanted to slice some avocados on top, but the ones we had were overripe so I just mashed them up with some lemon juice.

Tonight I was still feeling kind of rough, so I needed something warm and comforting.

split pea dal

split pea dal

Dal is always comforting, but especially when it’s accompanied by little chickpea pancakes and yogurt to balance out the accidental overdose of cumin seeds and red pepper flakes.

From the amount of coughing and sneezing I did after eating it, I think it might have been just the remedy I needed.