Comfort food

September 26, 2009

The temperatures have dropped a bit, and I don’t know if it’s that or the exhaustion I’ve been fighting, but I’ve been heading straight for my comfort foods this week.

I don’t know what it says about the person I’ve become that I’d rather have a giant bowl of roasted vegetables than a piece of cheesecake when I’m tired or in a bad mood, but roasted eggplant is just so good now that I’ve finally developed an effective method to reduce the bitterness (slice, salt over a colander for an hour, then rinse and lay out in a layer between two paper towels and beat the slices to near death with an empty beer bottle. I assume other bottles would work but I’m just going from my own experience here). I guess I just need to embrace it because this pasta with eggplant, zucchini, mini-romas, and garlic was a near-perfect meal.

emotional eating that I can get behind

emotional eating that I can get behind

The pictures in this post are going to be even worse than normal, just to warn you. See above re: exhaustion.

The eggplant and zucchini that we had in the crisper were both huge, so the pan of vegetables I roasted (375* for 45 minutes) was actually full to overflowing. So we had a whole glass dish of leftovers to complement another comforting favorite: barley risotto. Just plain this time, as the mushrooms we were going to use were green-tinged and slimy. Awesome!

I was going to put the picture in, but I just can’t. I respect you too much. It’s terrible. If you want to see some barley risotto, here’s one I don’t find completely embarrassing. I’ve also made it about 28 other times if you’re looking for recipes. I was getting into arborio rice but we’re on a grocery budget again and barley is less than 1/2 the price, pound for pound, so it’s back in our lives.

Today, we finally opened this jar of tomatillo salsa that we’ve been trying to open for literally weeks and had some black bean chilaquiles to celebrate.



These were easy and warm and comforting – a perfect Saturday night meal. I just cut up two tortillas and burned them again on 450* for 10 minutes. I turned the oven down to 350* and cooked a diced green pepper and a small diced onion in a skillet with some olive oil on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. I turned the heat down and added about a cup and half of black beans, just to heat them up for a minute or two because I didn’t defrost them. Then, I layered the chips, beans/peppers/onions, and about a cup and a half of roasted salsa verde into a baking dish and baked for about 25 minutes, until the chips were really soft. Chilaquiles aren’t traditionally baked but I needed my one large burner to cook some chickpeas and so in the oven it went. On the side, some tomatoes from my favorite kid at the farmer’s market who keeps a really careful tally of how many pints of his tomatoes have been sold so that his dad knows how much he’s going to have to pay him out later.

And now, for more comfort, there’s TV on DVD waiting for me. Between Netflix and Hulu, I think I actually watch more TV now than I did when we had cable. Today, I even made Matt go to the video store to rent two discs of 24 because I’m completely addicted to it (I know – is it 2001 already??) and even though we already pay 20 dollars a month for Netflix I was somehow able to justify it because we walked to the video store so we were saving money on gas.


S(o)uper Easy

September 22, 2009

I’m sorry about that. I really am. Titles are just not my strong suit.

But soup is!

quesadilla soup

quesadilla soup

I set out to make a basic tortilla soup to use up a few things – a few cups of black beans from Sunday’s batch, some frozen corn just taking up valuable freezer space, 1/3 of a red pepper left over from the chickpea croquettes I loved so much, and a few spoonfuls of salsa. Matt had the brilliant idea of adding cheese to the soup itself IN ADDITION to putting some on top with the tortilla chips.


So the extra cheese made it quesadilla soup (clever!) and also made it extra good. Bonus: it disguised the “extra charred” flavor of the tortilla chips I completely burned. I mean the rustic tortilla chips. Rustic because I couldn’t be bothered to cut them so I just ripped them into pieces and they ended up looking really kind of sad. But extra crispy!

Quesadilla soup

You need:

  • 1 flour or 2 corn tortillas
  • a little olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (or to taste – I used more)
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (a whole one would also be great), diced
  • 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked black beans (or about 1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup of corn
  • cumin, chili powder, and cayenne to taste
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 1-2 oz cheese, grated

And then you:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium.
  2. Add garlic, the add diced pepper when fragrant. Cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425.
  4. Cut or rip tortilla(s) into roughly even pieces. Lay on on a baking sheet and spray lightly with oil.
  5. Add 4 cups of water (or broth) to pot.
  6. Add corn and beans, as well as seasoning. Bring to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  8. When the soup has been simmering for 5 minutes, put pan with tortillas in oven. About 5 minutes later, flip them, reducing heat if they get too dark (obviously I missed this step). Then 5 more minutes later (a total of 10 for the chips), take them out.
  9. When soup is simmered, add salsa and cheese. Increase heat to medium and heat through forĀ  a minute or two.
  10. Spoon into bowls.
  11. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese on top. And more salsa if you’re lucky enough to have some.

This makes about four servings. I had mine with unpictured okra. Unpictured because it’s really becoming a daily habit.

Catching up: salad

August 30, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I thought these last three weeks just breezed by!

Maybe I didn’t realize it as much last year at this time, since I spent half of the month on vacation, but for anyone who teaches or works in higher education, August is basically a lost month.

But that’s no excuse. This is a cooking blog.

And I have been cooking. Some decent food, some frustrating food (I’m looking at you, brown rice risotto OR two hours of my life that I spent standing over a hot stove on a hot day saying “Matt, come here, I think it might be absorbing some liquid! I think it’s working now… Wait, never mind, it still tastes like sticks.”), and then some disappointing food (zucchini polenta tart that should have been good but just didn’t get along with my oven and wow did it really not look like the picture on her site).

But when life gets stressful and you’re starting to run out of confidence in your ability to cook normal meals, it’s time for some salad.

We’ve had lots of them over the past few weeks, but allow me to highlight a few:

Heidi Swanson's Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

Heidi Swanson's Lemon Cucumber Tofu Salad

We had this over plain old green leaf lettuce, but it would basically be good over anything because it is, perhaps, the greatest salad of all time. And, as a testament to it’s goodness, Matt asked if we could have it again later that same week. That’s just not the kind of success I usually associate with cucumbers and tofu.

I used the rest of the avocado from that one to try to recreate my favorite black bean salad from Toto’s Tacoz. You may notice that the beans look a little worse for the wear. That’s what seems to happen when I freeze them and heat them up later. They still taste good.

not quite as good as Toto's

not quite as good as Toto's, although my oven-roasted chips are better.

It’s basically homemade nachos, but, you know, better for you. Because of the lettuce? We tried it again last week with pinto beans and actually had some cheese on hand, which helped contribute to the nacho-ness of it all. This also expands nicely to feed a crowd. All you need are chips (I just slice up tortillas with a pizza cutter, spray some oil over them, toast them in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes per side, and enjoy. You could also buy a bag, but this is much cheaper and also tastes better), lots of lettuce, a few cups of black beans, some avocado, and, if you’re in the mood, a cilantro-lime dressing would go quite nicely. So does salsa. We took an earlier prototype to a Dia de los Muertos party a few years ago that sticks out in my mind as one of the most surreal experiences in my recent memory. There was all of this food and we met a few really fascinating people I haven’t seen since. And someone told me my jacket “look[ed] smart” as we were leaving. And then we saw a coyote on the way home.

This next salad turned out much better than I thought it might when I was throwing stuff together in a pan.

hot and cold salad

hot and cold salad

This was staggeringly easy. All I did was chop and soak a few dried tomatoes in some boiling water for about 20 minutes, get Matt to wash and rip a head of lettuce into smaller pieces, heat a few cloves of minced garlic in a hot pan with olive oil, rinse off some thawed frozen cannellini beans, add those to the pan when the garlic is fragrant, then liberally add red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper, and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. I added the tomatoes and another splash or two of lemon juice and bam. The perfect salad topping, already dressed and ready. I added some feta for some extra saltiness. This would also be really good in a grain salad, especially with barley or something else that’s hearty and chewy as a base.

And here ends my homage to salads and their utility (and deliciousness) during times of stress. Up next: pasta!

I’m still here.

August 9, 2009

WOW. I am SO BAD at this blogging thing. I don’t have any real excuses but I guess I’ll blame my life, which seems to be having trouble coming to terms with the fact that I have a blog. Life, which demands that I use my free time to do stuff like exercise and cook and read and get sucked into the lives of a few certain “real” “housewives” in Atlanta and go to the movies. Jeez, life. Stop monopolizing all of my time. These mediocre pictures aren’t going to blog themselves.

So, anyway, we’re doing pretty well making our way through the larder. We’re almost out of grains! I’m not sure that’s been true in our household since maybe 2005. We’ve been taking advantage of some lovely local produce, so here are a few examples of summer bounty.

corn/tomato/red onion salad

corn/tomato/red onion salad

Moosewood black bean chilaquiles (my first time baking my own tortilla chips- I burned all of my taste buds off during tasting)

Moosewood black bean chilaquiles (my first time baking my own tortilla chips- I burned all of my taste buds off during tasting)

paella with yellow romas, green beans, okra, and onions

paella with yellow romas, green beans, okra, and onions

pasta with cherry tomatoes and mixed basil pesto

pasta with cherry tomatoes and mixed basil pesto

curried stuffed zucchini with tomato salad

curried stuffed zucchini with tomato salad

I love summer produce so much. Now if we could just get the temperatures to drop a little so that I don’t feel like I’m on fire when I’m cooking with it.


June 8, 2009

Ha! Right?

I’m really tired.

I have been having this internal struggle because I really want to go eat at La Fiesta but I know I shouldn’t because 1) I will feel gross 2) sometimes they sing there 3) we’re better off saving our money for more exciting, higher-quality meals in the next few weeks and 4) it’s right next to a liquor store where you can build your own six pack of delicious beers and that would just be more money spent. But sometimes you just really want that oily cheese that congeals like hard shell on the beans.

So, anyway, I was going to make enchiladas or burritos tonight, but when I came home and actually looked at the tortillas I had, I realized that they were way too small for any kind of wrapping or folding. So, I improvised and made a casserole out of it. Just as good and, bonus, Matt had a crown replaced today and was pretty pumped about eating some soft food.

If there’s anything the Moosewood Collective has taught me, it’s that black bean and sweet potato burritos are a wonderful thing. Maybe even better? Black bean and sweet potato enchilada casserole.

BBSPEC (serves 4)

you need:

  • 1-2 sweet potatoes
  • 1.5 cups (or 1 can, drained and rinsed) black beans
  • 8 smallish corn tortillas
  • spices to taste
  • red sauce – mine was 1/2 can of tomatoes, crushed red pepper, about 1/4 cup of diced onion, 3 cloves of garlic, all combined in a food processor for, I don’t know, a few seconds

and then you:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook the sweet potato(es). I did it the easy way and diced mine up and cooked them in the microwave for 6-7 minutes until they were easily speared with a fork.
  3. While they’re cooking, put some onions in a hot pan for the red sauce.
  4. When the sweet potatoes are done, mash them up with a potato masher. Not super smooth, still a chunk or two here and there. Think sweet potato casserole, not baby food.
  5. Make your red sauce (see above).
  6. Layer four tortillas on the bottom of a casserole dish.
  7. Spread the mashed sweet potatoes on top of the tortillas. You will need to use your hands unless you have some kind of magical sweet potato spreading instrument that I am not aware of. Which you might.
  8. Add a layer of black beans.
  9. Cover with another layer of tortillas.
  10. Spread red sauce on top. And an appropriate cheese if you have it. We didn’t. I was ashamed.
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes.
BBSPEC and rice

BBSPEC and rice

Obviously, I made some rice. I was starving while I cooked this, and I got really nervous that it wouldn’t be enough because it’s a fairly compact little casserole. So I made some short grain brown rice cooked partially in lime juice and spiced with cumin and chili powder. And topped with some mozzarella I found when I was foraging in the refrigerator. It didn’t really go but, hey. It’s cheese. It’s a good thing I went for the rice, because I basically put my face in this bowl and inhaled it. I think I saved just enough space for one of the freezer-burned lime popsicles I found last night when I was freezing a jillion tons of black beans, though.

the breakdown

2/3 package sprouted corn tortillas = $3.14 (an estimate, and on the high side, because I’ve had this bag of tortillas in the freezer for longer that I’d really like to think about; on the plus side, they are my new favorite)
1.5 cups black beans = $.63
.68 lb sweet potatoes @ .99/lb = $.67
1/2 can diced tomatoes = $.31
1/4 cup diced onion = $.10
1 cup short grain brown rice = $1.00
2T lime juice = $.10

grand total = $5.95

So that brings the price per serving to $1.49. Which now seems oddly expensive to me. Forcing yourself to do math after every dinner really changes you.

I have a situation on my hands.

November 10, 2008


I have Raynaud’s, which has been particularly active lately, leaving me with white, purple, and even sometimes gray fingers and hands. Not good. So I’m doing a new treatment now. Which involves a topical medication that is apparently so sensitive it would be a Bad Idea to expose anyone else to it. And so, I’m typing this with medicated and immediately plastic-wrapped hands. It’s really pretty ridiculous.

dedication. And metablogging.

Let's call this what it is: Dedication. Or, metablogging.

We are a household of medical issues today, as Matt had a root canal this morning (his second in six months! some people are so lucky). He’s not interested in eating a lot in the way of solid food, and that worked out well because I had soup on the menu. I was going to make regular black bean soup, but I switched things up a little and pureed it so that it would be easier to eat.


I think I like it better this way. This was really easy and tasty. Here’s how it goes-

  1. Saute a small chopped onion in a little olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add two cloves of garlic, a bunch of cumin, some chili powder, and cayenne. Sautee for another minute.
  3. Add one can of black beans (drained and rinsed), 2 cups of broth, and a can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about ten minutes.
  4. Blend in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth and thick.
  5. Top with whatever you have on hand, like cheese, or salsa, or sour cream, or chips, or more cheese. Whatever.

That makes 4ish 1 cup servings. I actually doubled it so that Matt could have chew-free lunches for a few days.

I also threw some brown rice in mine to bulk it up and make it more meal-like. Just on it’s own, it’s probably way too light for a dinner. But add some cheese and some rice, and you’re in business. It would also be good with some quesadillas. But really, what wouldn’t?

Okay, I unwrapped my hands because it was freaking me out. I think I’m going to go lie down now.

Don’t be alarmed if I don’t post tomorrow – it doesn’t (necessarily) mean that something happened related to my plastic hands. I just have plans.

On watch.

July 24, 2008

Just when I start to think I can handle Kansas weather, we have another tornado watch. Which completely ruined my evening, THANKYOUVERYMUCH. We were even planning to go out to dinner in the middle of running errands, but I get too anxious to drive during any kind of potential weather situation, so we had to nix that. Probably for the best, really, as it’s about 110 degrees outside. Also for the best because we took a trip to the campus dairy bar at work today. So, for my afternoon snack, instead of eating a Clif Kid Z-Bar, I indulged in a big cup of homemade mint fudge swirl ice cream. Mmmmm. Worth the heat index of 106 walk over, for sure. AND it was eating local. So. Extra points for that.

So for dinner, I threw together a bean salad so that I wouldn’t have to cook anything. Spinach, corn, black beans, tomato, cumin, lime, garlic, cayenne pepper. Oh, and some goat cheese. Which doesn’t necessarily go with any of that. Except that it goes with everything.

I don’t remember it being this bright and shiny. But whatever.

Okay, it’s time for me to pretend to read but actually sit anxiously until the watch is over. At midnight.