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.


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.

Taking stock and making stock (or, the longest post ever).

July 28, 2009

I’ve been MIA. Last week was unusually busy, which meant that I didn’t really make any interesting food. By the time Friday rolled around, I panicked about all of the vegetables we had lying around that weren’t going to make it much longer, especially since we were going out of town for the weekend. I panicked so much, in fact, that I broke my own rules about cold soup (namely, that I don’t eat it) and made gazpacho. And I actually liked it. It was like a vegetable smoothie in a bowl. With bread!

gazpacho + croutons

gazpacho + croutons

This set in motion a whole “use it or lose it” theme for the upcoming weeks. We have so much food in the cupboards, the freezer, the eight giant mouse-proof storage boxes, the refrigerator, etc. So, when we got back to town Sunday night, I made a list of everything we had, and there was so much stuff that I decided we could only buy groceries in the following categories until all that stuff gets gone: lunch supplies, produce, and spices. So far, I’ve stuck to it, but it’s only been two days, so we’ll see.

I knew I was going to make risotto tonight, so I decided this would be a good week to experiment with making my own stock. I used my friend Dayna’s method (found here), and it turned out pretty awesome. A little on the carroty side, but next time I’ll know to balance things out a bit more. Although there’s nothing wrong with carroty.

The best part was that it was basically free. I only used stuff I would usually throw away, plus some spices that amount to maybe three cents, and it made about 5 cups of broth that tastes strikingly similar to the kind I buy (USED TO BUY) for $3.99 for a 32 ounce container.

stock success

stock success

In keeping with the liquids theme, I used up some giant local zucchini to make curried zucchini soup, based on this recipe. The verdict?



More bread, because we’re trying to use that up, too.

There’s nothing I like quite as much as crossing something off a list, so I can’t wait.

Parting words of wisdom.

July 6, 2009

If anyone ever asked me about my cooking process (which no one ever has, so consider this a bonus), I think I’d explain it like this:

  1. Start cooking a grain.
  2. Stand in front of the refrigerator.
  3. Find quick-cooking proteins that are or used to be beans.
  4. Look for vegetables justthisclose to going bad.
  5. Heat some oil in a skillet.
  6. Add garlic to it. No matter what.
  7. Chop vegetables. Put them in the skillet.
  8. Add enough ground cumin that everything gets a little bit brown and there’s cumin crust in the pan.
  9. Add the protein(s).
  10. Stir. Add more cumin. Let it cook until it looks kind of gross.
  11. Put the cooked grains in a bowl. Scoop some of the vegetable mixture on top.
  12. Add cheese.
  13. And maybe salsa.
  14. Eat dessert.
  15. Play Boggle.
  16. Go on vacation.
rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

rice bowl with zucchini, tofu, black beans, chickpeas, a lot of cumin, some cheese, and salsa.

Don’t miss me too much.

Another day, another dollar (per serving)

June 6, 2009

The only night this week that we didn’t eat something that could be referred to in some way as a salad was last night, when I worked later than expected and we ended up meeting at Planet Sub for dinner. Matt had a free sub card so it still ended up fitting vaguely in with the theme of the month.

Tonight was salad again, although I 85% promise that I’ll make something outside of the salad family next time I post. I just can’t help it. It’s hot and salads are cheap and easy. Just the way I like it.

Tonight’s orzo and zucchini salad was based on another recipe from Vegan Italiano, though a recipe is hardly needed. I really just borrowed the better part of the ingredient list and their clever method of putting the diced squash in a colander in the sink and draining the orzo over it, which warms it up without really cooking it or compromising its comforting summery crunch.

this + orzo + basil + spices + lemon juice + olive oil

this + orzo + basil + spices + lemon juice + olive oil

So very easy, and, once garnished with a few shavings of Parmesan (really, any cheese would work), a good lunch or light dinner for a hot day. Only 6 minutes of stovetop cooking is hard to beat.

the finished product, once again de-veganized

the finished product, once again de-veganized

the breakdown:

1/2 lb orzo = $1.00
1.28 lb squash @ 1.49/lb = $1.91
2T lemon juice = $.10 (estimate)
a few leaves of basil = $.75
a few shavings of Parmesan = $.25 (also an estimate, and a fairly high one)
and some pantry staples (olive oil, oregano, salt, pepper)

grand total = $4.01

And that’s for four servings, so the price per person breakdown is $1.00. Much better than we would have done if we’d given in and gone out for Mexican. Also, I don’t feel nearly as gross this way. Extra points for that. Enough extra points to go buy a pint of ice cream so that I can buy a little bit of that feeling? I’m going with yes.


May 15, 2009

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way it’s that risotto is not a weeknight food. At least not for someone who is consistently dead asleep by 10pm. It’s actually perfect for Friday nights for me, because I find the whole process very soothing and I also usually have just enough of that frantic pre-weekend energy to push me through.

Tonight was a good risotto night, as it’s been kind of dark and rainy all day, my back isn’t hurting as much – which is either progress or doctor-approved high doses of Aleve – and, oh yeah, we’re broke and couldn’t go out on a date like normal people.

In case you’re new, you might not know that I do not make traditional risotto because I don’t really like arborio rice. I can’t put my finger on why, but it just never really does it for me. Barley, though, barley is like gold in this house. Gold that sells for 1.31 a pound.

Anyway, it’s made the same way. Let’s take a little journey supplemented by photographs, shall we?

  1. Heat 5 cups of liquid (any combo of broth and water) over medium in a saucepan.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add about a cup of chopped onion (embarrassingly, I didn’t have an onion on hand, or even frozen chopped onions, so I had to skip this step).
  4. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and heat until fragrant.
  5. Add a little over a cup (probably about 1 1/4 cup) and cook, stirring, until coated with the olive oil.IMG_2199
  6. Add about 1/2 cup of dry white wine.IMG_2200
  7. When the wine has cooked down, start adding the broth. Add about 1/2 cup at a time and let that absorb before you add more. Repeat until all of the broth is absorbed. This usually takes about 40-45 minutes.IMG_2201
    Okay, true confession: sometimes I just dump all five cups of the broth in with the barley and let it go. I know, I know. They’re going to take away my home chef identification card. To my credit, I did it the right way this time.
  8. I made spinach risotto this time around, so I added 1/2 a bag of frozen cut spinach when I poured in the last of the broth.
  9. When all liquid is absorbed, add salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese to taste.
  10. Stir and heat over low until all cheese is melted. IMG_2202

I had mine with baked tofu and some roasted asparagus and zucchini.

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating

I really need to take Food Blogging 101: Plating and Food Photography

I’m having kind of an insane craving for oatmeal cookies, so I think I may need to go deal with that.

Sunday, Sunday

October 12, 2008

Sundays are kind of a lose-lose situation, right? If you get a lot of things done, then you feel productive but you didn’t really get to enjoy your last day before work starts. But, if you don’t do anything, you get to the end of the day and, well, nothing’s done. I had the first kind of Sunday. Oh, and apparently some people have tomorrow off in celebration of Columbus. I’m not happy about that.

Anyway, to cap off my fairly productive Sunday, I got pumped up and went to that 3-2-1 class that almost did me in last week. I warmed up on the stepmill, walked around the indoor track, and went to get ready for class when I saw that it had been replaced by “Buttz and Gutz.” Why? Those are not even words.

So, I went to yoga instead, but since I didn’t have my mat with me, I had to use one of theirs, and I find it hard to focus when my mat smells like some unidentified person’s feet. Ultimately, it was good that I didn’t get too relaxed, as I needed all of my mental acuity to play “dodge the drunk kid in the dark” while driving home. I mean, it’s a Sunday night. But maybe they didn’t get the memo that we’re not celebrating Columbus Day.

Oh, and before I went to the gym, I tried this bar, which I finally found at People’s today:

Z-Bar in Spooky S’mores flavor. It was good, but it didn’t taste that different from the Chocolate Chip to me. Also, notice that it’s extra spooky because this camera has such a zealous flash. It makes everything look brighter than it is. If I didn’t know those were my jeans, I wouldn’t recognize them because they don’t look like that in real life.

Back at the homestead, I made Quinoa Vegetable Stew from one of my Moosewood cookbooks. Really, it’s just quinoa and rice with a vegetable stew on top (mine was onion, garlic, green bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, fresh basil):

It was pretty good. Filling, but a little bland. The recipe called for cilantro, but I didn’t have any. Maybe that’s what was missing.