Sunday, April 29, 2012
The name of a dish is especially important to my husband as I have discussed in previous posts. However, it is important to at least be able to describe the meal in question with references all family members or diners will relate. Sometimes I make, "those Mexican wrap things" and my family will know what I mean. The contents of the wrap are: refried beans, peppers, onions, cheese (cheddar or blend of cheddar/jack) and left over steak or chicken. Neither burrito nor taco nor enchilada, the wraps are baked in the oven until the beans are bubbly and the cheese melted. They may be topped with taco sauce, salsa or a verde sauce - up to the individual taste.
Last night, I knew I had shrimp and chorizo so the combinations appeared in my head that included rice, peppers and whatever else I may have on hand that could be deemed appropriate. Additional options could have included olives or onions, but instead I halved cherry tomatoes. While my younger son had an idea of what was happening in the kitchen, he was pleasantly surprised when called to put his serving in a dish.
"Oh, you didn't say you were making Jambalaya."
Well, technically, I didn't.
When my husband came to the kitchen he said, "Wow, this looks good." Perhaps that should be the name of all my future dinners.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
"The Culinary Definition of Neighborly," by Laura M. Holson and I started to really think about food as a gift.
When my previous neighbors had their first child, I gave them a cold-cut platter on their first day home since I knew not only would the new parents not feel much like cooking, but inevitably family and friends would want to stop by and meet the baby. Being able to offer guests a bite without any fuss seemed like a great gift to me. The platter did seem to come in handy for them.
However, I work with a woman who simply will not eat most food brought in from co-workers. "I don't know what their kitchen is like, how clean they are, etc." While I understand and can relate to her concerns, I am usually willing to take the risk for a home baked good and am especially glad I did not miss the recent 4 ingredient cookies.
When I had a surgery a few years ago, wonderful and thoughtful gifts of food from work included a warm and comforting chicken noodle soup and a rice pilaf that went beautifully with anything.
For my sister's baby shower, her sister-in-law gave her a cooler full of home made frozen meals so the last thing the new mom would have to think about was, "what's for dinner."
Holiday gift guides often rave about gifts from the kitchen and perhaps putting dry ingredients together in a cute mason jar for hot chocolate or cookie dough. My thoughtful neighbors this past year gave us a basket loaded with goodies (of course many of them were already eaten before the photo shoot):
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
No, I can't eat like this, nor do I want to, every day, but every once in awhile I will proclaim, "I need a bad girl breakfast," and when I do, this is what I want. Most days I enjoy a single hard boiled egg on multi-grain or whole wheat toast, sometimes with a slice of tomato. I went through a severe oatmeal period with fresh blueberries and a mid-morning banana is almost expected.
Childhood through early adult-hood, breakfast was either skipped, late or cold cereal. Now, I simply love breakfast at least 5 days per week. It has also evolved as a great meal for socializing - not only lingering on the weekends in my kitchen with family, but meeting friends out either for the local fire department pancake breakfast or a local diner's fare. A greatly underrated meal - breakfast - but when thought of, eggs are always top of mind.
An egg cooking challenge for me has been to mimic the perfect Egg's Benedict. The problem? The first time I had this dish it was at a lovely sidewalk cafe not far from New York's Central Park and really, who can replicate the meal without the entire experience? Why try? It was a perfectly toasted muffin, Canadian bacon, a slice of tomato, the poached egg and a heavenly Hollandaise sauce. The soft, pillowy eggs high above the crispy muffin, the salty ham and fresh tomato all brought together under a silky blanket of sauce - oh the memory alone is making me salivate.
So, instead I continue the culinary journey to instead add to the Egg's Benedict memory list and rather than compare and contrast, simply log on more versions, memories and stories. A rainy Sunday seems the perfect time to take out the saucepan, the vinegar and give the poaching a whirl. Literally. A splash of vinegar in the simmering water, the wooden spoon stirred in a clockwise motion to create the desired whirlpool effect, the egg cracked first into a bowl then slowly lowered into the water for 3 minutes exactly.
A single slice of double protein toast topped with a few thin slices of tomato and the plate is ready for the set eggs to be plated. No sauce is fine, a bit of salt and pepper were added after the photo.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Friday, April 20, 2012
On the tables, a promise of things to come listed:
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Today a "Lunch and Learn" was held and so food was provided to attendees. Sandwiches, bags of chips, canned soda, bottled water, LARGE chocolate chip cookies and brownies were served. The remaining platters were put in our designated community food area, an email was sent to all of us notfiying us of the available goodies and the nonsensical feeding frenzy began first in stealth mode with a bit of restraint until people were comfortable enough to just enjoy. The irony is, we'd all either attended the meeting or had eaten our own lunch, but the food slowly diappeared.
We do bring in treats from time to time and they are also placed in this particular area. This year, we have created a policy, if it is your birthday, you can bring whatever kind of snack to share and most people seem to opt to bring in bagels rather than sweets. Left overs are rare.
Holiday time becomes ridiculous. Not only do many of us bring in food before a holiday, some also bring in uneaten desserts because, "we won't eat it at home." Well, why the are we inhaling it at work???? Simply because it is available? Because we are bored? What happens to our brains when food is simply put in front of us? And just so no one ever thinks this was a preachy post, I was the first one and often am, looking for the large chocolate chip cookie. I also recently brought in a peanut butter/chocolate cake my family did not want. On bagel days, I always hope for salt with veggie cream cheese. Holiday time last year, I brought in fried pumpkin cutlets and fresh Italian bread - delish! Not sure yet what I will bring in for my birthday, maybe an ice cream sundae bar? Hope someone brings in a snack tomorrow...
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A coworker of mine is very aware, aware of herbal remedies, natural tips, vitamins and supplements and eats a mostly whole/organic, "good-for-you" diet. She once said, "We really should be putting our money in our mouths. We should all be buying the best food money can buy for ourselves." Why aren't we? Could be a number of factors including cost. The fast food chains were quite aware what they were doing when they created "value menus" or "dollar items." The public started to cry foul and so they added apple slices. In no way should the fast food giant be held accountable for our choices, the observation is simply that if an individual whether of a low economic status, high school or college student with a limited budget or anyone simply short on cash, has the option of a full meal for $5.00 or a small fresh salad which option are they more likely to select and how can their minds be changed?
Yes, we have these options and choices to make every day. And yes, some of our selections are based on how we were raised, what we think tastes good and how we think the food will make us feel. "I need this piece of chocolate right now," or, "I deserve this."
What if when we went to our doctor's office for an annual physical or with a health problem we were truly instructed on significant improvements and modifications in our diet? Would we listen?
A link to last week's New York Times Dining Section article, "To Heal, First Eat," http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/dining/doctors-learn-to-cook-healthy-crave-able-foods.html?pagewanted=all is suggested reading. How would patients (you and I) feel about a doctor who can put his medicine where our taste buds are by hosting a food preparation/seminar/workshop complete with recipes to take home? A place where the attendees may receive a credit to their health insurance for attending?
We all know, "We are what we eat," but maybe we don't know what a kale chip tastes like or what to do with quinoa and any other number of healthier options now available to the buying public that our parents maybe did not prepare. Who better to help us than the professionals we pay to help us feel better and look out for us to make healthy choices to live a long, healthy, pain free life?
For the third year in a row, my intelligent husband received the results from his annual physical which included another increase in his overall and "bad" cholesterol numbers. Also within the letter was the following advice, "a low fat diet and increased exercise will help bring down cholesterol." Here's what I think he translates that into, "You have to cut down on chocolate chip cookies and french fries and maybe go for a few more walks with your wife." Here's what I see, "Make sure he eats more fruits and vegetables and has a turn on the treadmill." All three versions are fairly vague and could use a bit more backbone, plans must be put in place and monitored. For now, I am making as many healthy swaps in our diet as I can though I know he will never say no to fried foods and yes, I have found his cookie stash.
How do you take your medicine?
Monday, April 16, 2012
What do I think about while driving? Today, I thought of nothing but being in the kitchen. I knew I had some more leftover chicken I wanted to dice up for a salad for my lunch tomorrow, mixed with celery (stalk and leaves) and craisins, salt and pepper, a bit of mayo and tucked into a multi-grain wrap. Mmmm.
This morning my older son and I crowded the kitchen as we made our lunches for work. This is not an activity I normally participate in, but I had been wanting a wrap with apricot jam, lettuce and turkey for lunch and I prefer to make it fresh in the morning. My older son was a good sport and quietly moved to a different counter to pack up his Flintstone sized meal including: 2 sandwiches on double protein bread, a banana, an apple, fresh blueberries, a turkey wrap (for morning snack), a half-gallon cooler of water and who knows what else after I walked out. Planning ahead to make my lunch for tomorrow will make things a bit easier I suspect.
Dinner? Well, the grill seemed like a no-brainer in the heat and so a simply seasoned skirt steak, cooked precisely 4 minutes per side to a rare center with medium ends. Broccolini with a splash of olive oil, an onion browned in the black cast iron skillet, Saturday's potato salad (skins on with celery) and the remains of the Tabbouleh with mushrooms, green peppers and onions as well as a fresh tossed salad. Although I drink a lot of water, tonight I decided on the pink sparkling lemonade. It was a very good year.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
For example, for the longest time if I had left over beef it would either be re-purposed into a stroganoff, pepper steak or a stir fry. Sometimes the beef would find it's way into tomato sauce or served with eggs. These were my culinary secret weapons. Now, I may consider using beef in a burrito, taco, shredded slow cooked beef sandwiches or some sort of pie. Just sitting here thinking about precooked beef has forced my culinary muscles to stretch.
The trick about left-overs is to not try to represent them in their original form. Just as we wouldn't simply stuff tissues in a used/empty box, or wrap new paper towels on an old roll, the bits we are left with should instead be redesigned into something entirely different.
This week's New York Times Dining Section also addressed these thoughts. In "Starting from Scraps," by Andrew Scrivani (link http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/11/dining/inventive-cooking-beginning-with-your-leftovers.html?_r=1&ref=dining) readers are prompted to think about ways to reuse bits of various dishes that may not, at first look, seem to go together. Tossing veggies into a quiche or frittata, or a pasta dish seem the easiest - but how often are we putting them to use?
In this house, if a mere spoonful of something remains 3 out of 4 family members will opt to throw it out for fear of it turning into something unrecognizable that will have to eventually be tossed away. I have been teased for my unwillingness to give in to this line of though and reasoning. I would rather at least give the remaining food a chance. Especially during soup season, or for risotto, omelets... the list is fairly endless.
The components of most meals can be broken down and used in a recreated dish. Stop thinking of this food as simply "left-over." Sunday's broken down meatloaf may be the star in Monday night's pasta, maybe as lasagna filling or a simple meat sauce. This is not just about being frugal (although we all know we waste a ridiculous amount of food even with the most care) it is about stretching our willingness to experiment and create in the kitchen.
Last night, we grilled simple thin cutlet chicken breasts. A ton of them. They were served with a tossed salad, a fresh potato salad, corn and tabbouleh with mushrooms, peppers and onions. So, tonight we have about 1/4 ton remaining and while it would be easy enough to simply reserve the same menu as last night, maybe instead they will be served as sandwiches, shredded into fajitas, be coated in melted cheese, chopped into salad, or tossed with fresh crispy veggies and land on a bed or brown rice.
Thanksgiving turkey is jokingly re purposed into every available form from Friday to Sunday. In this house, the family favorite is to simply dump leftover sides including stuffing, veggies, gravy and the turkey into a stew topped with dumplings (or sinkers) made of Bisquik. They look forward to this more than the original meal.
So, tonight when clearing away the dishes from an incredible Sunday meal, don't be so quick to throw just a few scraps into the garbage, the dog's dish or the compost pile. With a little thought and creative thinking, you may just discover your new favorite meal and when all else fails - stir fry is a pretty good answer.
Saturday, April 14, 2012
To cover up, I lied. "I wasn't talking about the stew," and I grabbed a crayon and continued to color in the coloring book at hand. Honestly, the stew gave my childish palette the creeps but I knew enough that I didn't want to have any type of conflict with my grandmother. I knew I loved her. This was the woman who fussed and made sure I had hair ribbons to match my dresses. This was the woman who let me play dress up and touch her wigs. I even remember her telling my grandfather, Popper, to ride on the swing set with me - and he did.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
A lovely dinner for 2. Well, in all honesty we did some custom quesadillas in the black cast iron skillet. Me, tomato and mozzarella of course with a sprinkle of oregano. For him, sliced left over ham with cheese and tomato. The lovely part was mainly the two of us sharing stories of our day, no rush, no editing.
Although I was perfectly full, something, some other degree of the taste buds started screaming, "Sweets! Must have sweets!" To quiet my inner beast I said out loud, "I am going to have some strawberries, would you like some?"
My husband declined but I rinsed and sliced up 3 large, lush, juicy, sweet, perfectly ripe red berries and ate them on a plate with a fork. Very dignified.
"I can't believe how full I am," I proclaimed and went to the computer.
Moments later, the inner voice cried out, "NO, CHOCOLATE!"
Oh my. I thought I could head off the beast within by having the healthy sweet snack right away. It seemed to only worsen the condition. The left-over Easter candy did not help by answering, "Smaller than snack size, just bite size pieces, just one can't hurt."
Really? Who can have just one? Well, one of each...
What's one to do?
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Used only for "special" occasions for cutting vegetables on a crudite platter or for making cucumbers look extra fancy on toasted baguette with horseradish mayo and roast beef (another fabulous recipe for parties from a girlfriend) - but I am off track. What says spring more than fancy cut and raw carrots? Seems unusual, however, I know as a child I strongly preferred raw veggies and hoped the next generation agreed.