It’s getting cold in here.

October 10, 2009

You know what’s awesome? Waking up in a 50 degree room on a 30 degree morning with a 20-something degree wind chill.

In early October.

I’ve got major respect for the farmers who were still out there in the freezing cold at 8am to sell their produce. And I’m not even going to think about what two hard freezes in a row might mean for the rest of the farmer’s market season. But, once again, the weather didn’t ask me for permission to get ridiculous.

Anyway, there were some heat issues in our apartment. Namely, that the heat wasn’t on. We don’t control our own heat, so there are always a lot of really good times when it gets cold. While that was being dealt with, I took my mom’s advice and made a lot of use of the oven.

Tonight’s dinner was pretty awesome, and, as a bonus, heated up the kitchen pretty nicely.

lentil burgers with roasted purple fingerling potatoes and green beans

lentil burgers with roasted purple fingerling potatoes and green beans

I made these burgers with some leftover lentils and brown rice from earlier this week, along with some cumin, salt, pepper, and an egg. I based it on Bittman’s recipe (bean burgers are at the bottom), but with no oats because I had plenty of rice. I’ll definitely use some dry oats next time, though, for body and to absorb some of the moisture. Still, solid and super easy bean burger recipe. Crazy cheap, too. I’m intrigued by the nut-based burger recipe in that post, too.

I really love homemade veggie burgers, and these turned out way better than last time I tried a similar Bittman recipe. I’m still trying to replicate the elusive and delicious veggie burger at Local Burger in Lawrence.

On the side, I roasted purple fingerling potatoes and green beans at 400* for about 20 minutes. Before roasting (I let the oven preheat for a good long time), I tossed them with a few good swigs of olive oil, 3 cloves worth of minced garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. This was my first experience with fingerling potatoes and I pretty much want to go out and buy some more right now. For one thing, they were bright purple. For another, they had the perfect skin to meat ratio.

To heat the kitchen up earlier today, I made some cookies from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan.

fig jam-print cookies

fig jam-print cookies

These have barley flour, oat flour, other good stuff, and the jam of your choice. I went for fig jam for that homemade fig newton effect.

I never thought I’d say this, but I think I’m going to go clean up the kitchen. For warmth.


At least I’m on vacation

July 3, 2009

I think “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” is the best word to describe the way I’m feeling right now. The week before vacation always leaves me a little frazzled, probably something about the way I leave myself 261 “loose ends” that I could have tied up, I don’t know, ANY OTHER TIME. This is all exacerbated by the fact that my body has pretty much decided to shut down its sleeping function, leaving me with a combined total of about six and a half hours over the past two nights. But hey, who needs to sleep when you can use the time you’re not sleeping to tie up loose ends??

I don’t know if it’s related to any of that, but I’ve only been interested in side dishes lately, save for the monster-sized order of vegetarian fajitas I got at La Fiesta the other night, the remains of which landed on the floor tonight while I was cooking dinner and completely interrupted my culinary flow. Landlords, take heed: fajitas are reason # 17894 that “oatmeal” kitchen carpeting is not a good idea. If for no other reason than that Martha Stewart does not have a section devoted to fajita stain removal on her website.

Dinner was okay anyway, just a repeat of potato/chickpea salad with some different kind of potatoes from the farmer’s market this time. Plus, cheesy polenta (bring some water to a boil [4x the amount of polenta you want to use], stir in polenta, stir stir stir, add cheese, salt, pepper, oregano [or whatever], stir stir stir; serve).

a bowl full o' starch

a bowl full o' starch

Those carbs really comforted me in my time of kitchen carpet stress.

I also tried my hand at braising a few days back, after a stellar experience with braised spinach during my birthday dinner last weekend.

brown rice, braised green beans and summer vegetables, tomato/avocado salad

braised green beans with summer vegetables (and some other stuff)

When the braised vegetables (delicious) were done, I realized I hadn’t made any plans for what else we would eat, as I was heavily involved in making a fruit salad for a barbecue. So I grabbed the rice from the refrigerator and chopped up some tomato and avocado for a “salad.” I’m lucky I hadn’t already made my simple syrup for the fruit salad dressing, because I might have panicked and added that in there, too.

Also, we survived our frugal June and now it’s July and I fully intend to splurge on stuff like peaches from now on. I have some math that’s strategically designed to show how awesome we are, but I’ve been up since 3:30am and people have been setting off fireworks outside for the last 5 hours and I just don’t have it in me. But rest assured, I’ve sent off for my very own bindle. I earned it.

Maybe dreaming of it will lull me to sleep. Tomorrow we might attempt to tackle the interstate again to go celebrate Matt’s birthday, and I’m going to need all the energy I can rustle up just to yell over the roar of the car.

Potato salad doesn’t have to be gross.

June 3, 2009

I was sick yesterday, and we ended up eating leftovers for dinner. That’s even cheaper than I planned, so, score one for us.

I feel like I should warn you that 85% of the food I’ll be making from now until, I don’t know, September, will be __________ Salad. Or ___________ Salad with ___________ and ____________. I love a main dish salad, and it’s usually about 15 degrees too hot in the apartment to do anything else.

So, tonight, we had Potato Salad with Chickpeas, from Vegan Italiano, which I love but haven’t used in awhile. A while? Awhile? As far as I can tell, the only thing that’s bad about this book is that it doesn’t involve cheese (and yes, I understand why). Easily remedied, so it’s a winner.

potato salad with chickpeas

potato salad with chickpeas

I truly hate traditional potato salad. I am physically repulsed by mayonnaise, and most of the potato salads of my youth had a ton of it. But I love potatoes, so I started trying new combinations last year. This is a really good one, with a light red wine vinaigrette dressing, some red onion and tomato, and chickpeas for protein. I give the chickpeas two thumbs way up, as they take something usually relegated to side dish status and move it into the realm of the main dish. You could have it as a side, or as part of a meal, but I like to go whole hog. The recipe indicated that this was 6-8 servings, but since it was in the side salads chapter, I estimate 3-4.

Even with that adjustment, it still made a fine showing in the cheap department, especially for something with so much produce:

1.45 lb little new potatoes @ 1.29/lb = $1.87
.75 lb tomatoes @ 1.99/lb = $1.49
1/2 red onion @ .89/lb = $.49
1 cup of chickpeas (cooked from dried @ 2.68/lb) = $.45
and some pantry staples (red wine vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil)

grand total = $4.30

That breaks down to $1.08 per serving if you serve 4 and $1.43 if you serve 3. Not bad, either way. Though, if we stretch it to 4, we’ll beat the current record of $1.15/serving from Monday.

Us: 2. June: 0.

Spring cleaning

March 21, 2009

Since it’s officially spring now, and since I’m still trying to clean up my act a bit, food-wise,* I really wanted something green and light for dinner that would still be satisfying. This salad fit the bill nicely:

tuna, asparagus, and new potato salad

tuna, asparagus, and new potato salad

This was adapted liberally from a recipe in the April issue of  Bon Appetit. I kept the spirit of the tuna/asparagus/potato part, but I didn’t have radishes or eggs, or the ingredients for the chive vinaigrette, and I hate capers. So I just made a simple red wine vinaigrette and tossed that with some steamed asparagus, red potatoes that I chopped and boiled until tender, and some chunk white tuna. Delicious. This issue of BA was one of my better airport purchases. It’s got gratuitous pictures of a really awesome kitchen and a recipe for matzo balls that I want to try.

*It’s not really working. In the absence of cupcakes I’m eating anything and everything that looks like it was made with sugar.

Do you ragout?

January 19, 2009

And the hit titles just keep on coming.

Can you believe I’m posting two days in a row? I doubt it will become a habit again, as 2009 is shaping up to be a fairly busy year, what with my new productivity system™ (read: a notebook I use for my to do lists at work that involves a complicated system of two different colors of ink) and my lofty goal to read 100 books in 2009. Obviously my work life has little to do with this blog, but the reading thing does get in the way. If you’ve ever worked, lived, or spent any significant amount of time with me, you know that I’m highly goal-oriented, so setting a number on my reading goal for the year is kind of a blessing and a curse. In order to get on track for the year, I’ve been reading for pleasure at a pace unprecedented in my adult life. At any rate, blogging keeps getting inadvertently moved to the back burner (get it?? Back burner! Because this is a cooking blog!). Personal enrichment comes at such a high cost.

Okay, I know, this is about food. But, actually, I’m reading a book about food right now, so… it’s all kind of related.

Today was kind of mellow, just physical therapy and reading and some yoga, so I went for one of the more complicated dinners on our meal plan for the week.

red chard, potato, and white bean ragout

red chard, potato, and white bean ragout

The recipe that inspired it can be found here. My modifications included: using canned cannellini beans instead of dried, using dried thyme instead of fresh, using vegetable broth as the liquid base, and leaving out the step where you saute the chopped chard stems (“That does not sound good.” -Matt). This was a winner, and the next time I have two hours to prepare a meal, I’ll be making it again. It’s actually a very simple dish, but anything with chard takes a good bit of prep time for me.

I think you could make other substitutions in this dish, like subbing in another hearty green (kale, even collard greens). I think spinach would be too flimsy all around, but it might work if you just threw it in for a few minutes instead of the 15 they call for. I was actually planning to do kale, but our supermarket miraculously had really pretty bunches of organic red chard, so it worked out perfectly.

And now I’m off to get some sleep so that I can return to work (and my system) feeling refreshed. Also on tomorrow’s agenda: my first 5:30 gym appearance in… probably months. We’ll see how that works out.

Here we have many pictures of food

January 13, 2009

Okay, I had to delete tons of Very Important Files from my laptop, including 17 downloaded versions of the fitness schedule at my gym and some crazy Turkish psychedelic music (sorry, Matt – hope that wasn’t important!), but it was all worth it to be able to share my recent eats with my loyal readers.

We’ve been successfully meatless, although I have to admit that I get a little wistful when I see/smell/think of/dream about chicken. But what does chicken have on a delicious meal like this:

pasta with chickpeas

pasta with chickpeas and almonds

That’s based on this recipe that my mom marked for me in one of her old issues of Real Simple.

And, as promised in my last post, here’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever made:

pizza soup!

pizza soup!

I honestly don’t know why this hasn’t occurred to me before. I love pizza. I love soup. Putting them together is just brilliant. Luckily, Donna Klein’s Vegan Italiano had this one on lock down. This really did taste like a bowl full of veggie pizza. It has tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, pizza sauce, and spices. To keep with the pizza theme, if not the vegan one, I did add some mozzarella.

And a few other meatless meals, all straight off the dome:

there's a potato under there.

there's a potato under there. and some cheese.

more pasta with beans (and spinach)

more pasta with beans (and spinach and feta)

breakfast for dinner (egg, spinach, and feta scramble; oatmeal with almonds and dried cherries)

breakfast for dinner (egg, spinach, and feta scramble; oatmeal with almonds and dried cherries

brown rice, cauliflower, and red lentils

brown rice, cauliflower, and red lentils

I swear that red lentils don’t taste like vomit. Even though they might look less than appealing.

Whew! That took a lot of effort. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon with a play-by-play of the exciting new treatment I’m having in physical therapy. Just to keep you interested, I’ll tell you that it involves electricity!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008

We haven’t prepared a meal at home in almost a week, so a huge undertaking like Thanksgiving dinner was fraught with tension. I actually got started cooking about four hours later than planned due to a bout of crippling mouse-related anxiety on my part that ended with Matt disinfecting our counters for the tenth time. I am thankful for Matt.

So, after all of that, we ended up eating Thanksgiving “lunch” at 4:45, making it more of a linner. But it was really good, so I think it was worth the wait. I was going to take a picture of our lovely Thanksgiving table, but, sadly, we don’t have room for a table under normal circumstances, and in all of the frantic sanitizing, I forgot to go to the storage unit to get it for today. So what I’ll do is share pictures of the different things on my Thanksgiving plate. Which I ate on a tray. Which is almost a table.

Sorry there’s no “all together now” picture, but the ones I tried to take looked bad, so I stuck with sharing each component. So you’re seeing (in no particular order) green beans, which I sauteed with some olive oil and thyme; good organic stuffing from a bag, selected and prepared by Matt; a variation on Heidi Swanson’s kale and olive oil mashed potatoes (I couldn’t get any kale so I subbed in spinach); and a slice of really simple roasted turkey breast, and pie. Oh, and Thanksgiving wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without beer. We’ve been going to this liquor store that lets you make your own six pack, so we’ve been sampling the seasonals. This was a particularly good one. I think I’ll be enjoying a pumpkin one later, with my pumpkin pie:


My first homemade pie, I’m pretty sure. I used a version of this recipe, which was modified from a recipe I found in my favorite cooking mag, Clean Eating. It looked a little thin at first, so I was nervous, but it seems to have set up nicely. I’ll let you know.

So there you have it: my very first attempt at preparing Thanksgiving. I had every intention of buying a cake or cupcakes (baby steps with the baking – I’ll bake a cake next time) to celebrate something else today, but things got in the way, so I’ll let the pie also serve as my celebratory dessert for that. After consulting my mom a few weeks ago, I confirmed that today, November 27, 2008, marks ten years since I was diagnosed with RA. My tenth arthritiversary, if you will. Having it fall on Thanksgiving has made me think a lot about having a chronic illness, and how, even as frustrating as it is, I can still be thankful that I have been able to manage it relatively well for the past few years. And if I could go back and talk to my tired, pain-ridden, sad, and overwhelmed 15-year old self in 1998, I would tell her to never give up; that it would be okay, and even better than okay. And knowing how far I’ve come since then is definitely something to be thankful for.

Other things to be thankful for? There are more than I can list, but here are a few: my awesome, amazing, and inexplicably understanding husband, who barely blinks when I ask him to bleach the kitchen again to kill mouse germs that probably don’t even exist; my family, old and new, for whom I am especially thankful now that I am so far away; my friends, all of them, everywhere; the fact that there are a handful of people who actually read this blog; going home in a month to see my family; college basketball; really good books; all five seasons of The Wire; the first three Die Hard movies, which I’ll watch this weekend to make me feel all Christmasy; seasonal beer; fair trade coffee; living somewhere with lots of local produce;
and the new mittens I got yesterday.

So now, I’m off to be thankful. And eat pie.

Edited to add!

The pie was awesome. That lemon peel really gives it something. The best part is the ginger snap crust – thanks to Matt for pounding a bag of ginger snaps with a hammer to make it all possible. I know what I’m having for breakfast.