Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

A Little Something For Whatever Ails Ya…

We are all slowly coming down with the flu.  Normally, one of us gets it and then passes it around the house. But, yesterday, all four of us started feeling that ache, that lethargy, that sleepy, cranky feeling.  That fluey feeling.  So, today, we all cozy up to my son’s famous homemade soup and some Sesame Street.  The cable guy came yesterday and we finally succumbed to introducing a television into our home.  Man.  Right now, with my ickiness sticking to me like the nastiest funk ever, I love love love television.  Love it. Love it. Love it.

My son’s soup is both a too-cold-to-play-outside tradition as well as an everyone is sick tradition.  He picks out the ingrediants from the fridge and cupboard and washes them and tells me how much to cut.  He is a pretty fine cook - he understands how to balance out flavors.  So - thought I’d pass along our family tradition of kid-made soup.  Our recipe usually goes a little something like this:

Two onions - sauteed in oil and a little butter in big soup pan

Add carrots, celery, mushroom, and whatever else suits your kid

Sautee all together (I usually add a little white cooking wine & garlic…)

Add vegetable broth and cut up potatoes and sweet potatoes

Boil until some of the potatoes are falling apart and then add one more cup of cubed potatoes and cook until those are just soft enough (this makes for a thicker broth - the first potatoes will serve as the thickener - while still being able to have some nice chunkier potatoes to enjoy)

Season to taste - my son loves to add a little bit of everything which, sometimes, makes the soup taste like the spice cabinet, but whatever.

This soup thing always makes our crappy days a lot nicer.  Thought I’d share. 

Posted in Health, Cooking, Daily Living, Cold and Flu Remedies | No Comments »

Banana Nut Heaven

I have to share with you a recipe I made yesterday. It was for a banana nut bread, but I think it is more of a cake than anything. The sour cream in it really does a number (in a good way) for the moisture of the bread - so much so that it takes on a completely different life than other banana breads I have made.

I added chocolate chips to mine and lessened the sugar to about 3/4c rather than a whole cup. Oh my goodness it is good!

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2)
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped walnut or pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9×5-inch loaf pan. Combine sour cream and baking soda in small bowl. Using electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat in eggs, bananas and sour cream mixture. Sift in flour and baking powder. Stir in nuts. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and loaf is golden brown, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Turn loaf out onto rack and cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf.

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Sweet Peaches and Spicy Beans

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day learning how to can vegetables and fruit with a chef-friend of mine.  We started our day picking the freshest fruits and veggies we could find at the farmer’s market and then went to my house to begin the labor-intensive yet wonderfully fun task of canning.  We made some glorious peach and basil preserves and several cans of garlic/chili pepper pickled green beans (can’t wait to use them on a bloody mary!).

Canning is not something I ever thought I would want to learn - I had always just looked at home canned foods as a mysterious occurance that I would never be capable of.  Yet, yesterday, there I was water-bathing and sanitizing jars as if I had been doing it for years.  There is always something very gratifying about doing things by scratch.  It reminded me of my lifelong affection with bread baking.  It is theraputic and meditative and as close to something historically/genetically wired within us as you can get.  The feeling I get when creating food, whole food that has to be tended to and worked on to be edible, is very similar to the feeling I got nursing my children.  It feels right.  It feels like a very natural thing for me, as a woman, to do. 

And it is just plain fun for me.  There are very few things I enjoy as much as cooking. Canning is a very different variation on cooking, though.  It constantly makes you think of a different time.  It made me think of my grandmother, even though I am pretty certain she may have never canned in her life.  How different things used to be in our world.  How different we are now.  How we do things like can fruits and vegetables now, not for survival, but for a connection and a link to our past and our family that we might have never known.  It was one of the most symbolic cooking experiences I have ever had - even more-so than baking bread…  What occured to me was that our history as women is quite interlinked with our relationship with food and the history of food in itself.  That’s a whole ‘nother article though.  If you have never tried canning, I highly recommend it.

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Indian Pizza Rocks My Socks Off

What a treat I had last night.. We went to our lovely friends’ Jonathan and Lesley’s house where they made us Indian Pizza that was to die for.  I don’t have the recipe for it, but basically, you can make a tomato sauce that is curried and top it with a nice white cheese of your choice.  You can also make a spinach version - reminded me of sag aloo.  So good.  You should give it a whirl.  Sorry I didn’t get an exact recipe - but it seems like something you can play around with and not go wrong.  I do, however, have a nice recipe for a mango chutney to pair alongside it if you do ever make it.  Here you go:

3 unripe mangoes (about 3 pounds total)
1/2 cup distilled vinegar
1/3 cup sugar plus additional to taste if mango is very sour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1/4 cup raisinsFor seasoning paste
a 1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled
2 fresh Thai (bird) chilies or 1 fresh jalapeño chili
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

3-inch piece cinnamon stick
2 star anise
2 tablespoons corn or safflower oil

Peel mangoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. In a small bowl toss mangoes with vinegar, sugar, salt, and raisins.Make seasoning paste:
Cut gingerroot into 4 pieces. For a milder chutney, wearing rubber gloves, remove seeds and veins from Thai chilies or jalapeño. To a food processor with motor running add gingerroot, chilies, and remaining seasoning paste ingredients, 1 at a time through feed tube, and purée to a paste.

Heat a 4-quart heavy kettle over moderately low heat until hot. Cook seasoning paste, cinnamon stick, and star anise in oil, stirring frequently, 10 minutes, or until very fragrant. Stir in mango mixture and simmer, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until mangoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and star anise and cool chutney completely. Chutney keeps, covered and chilled, about 1 month.


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Bustin’ out the barBque - vegetarian style

So, now that we are getting our new yard fixed up - it’s time to start thinking about using our fancy barbque grill and having some friends over for an evening of smokey food and cold beer.

There are several grilled vegetable dishes that can be found on websites such as Epicurious - some think you don’t need a recipe to grill veggies but I find that they have some wonderful sauces to marry your veg with as well as nice marinades to work with. The recipe I found is not a main course, but a wonderful dessert served right from the grill. Haven’t tried it yet, but will very soon!

Grilled Pineapple with Butter-Rum Glaze and Vanilla Mascarone

Ripe pineapple, with its plentiful natural sugars, is ideal for grilling, and it screams “tropical” like nothing else. This makes a great dessert after spicy Latin, Indian, or Caribbean food. Make sure to let the slices brown; you want lots of those caramelized, almost burnt edges. Mascarpone is a smooth Italian dairy product with a texture somewhere between whipped cream and cream cheese. It’s used in tiramisù and available in many supermarkets and gourmet stores, but if you can’t find it, good-quality vanilla ice cream will taste just fine.

1 cup dark rum
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean
8 ounces mascarpone
1 ripe pineapple, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Combine the rum, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer, whisking often, until the sugar has melted and the mixture is slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. (The glaze can be made a few days in advance, cooled, covered, and kept refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.)
  2. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a sharp knife. Whisk the mascarpone and vanilla seeds together. (The mascarpone can be made a day in advance, covered, and kept refrigerated.)
  3. Heat your grill to high.
  4. Grill the pineapple slices, brushing frequently with the glaze, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side.
  5. Remove the pineapple to a platter or serving plates and top each slice with a dollop of vanilla mascarpone. Garnish with a few fresh blueberries. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings; can be doubled for 10 or 12 (no need to double the glaze).

Bobby Flay’s Boy Gets Grill
2004 — by Bobby Flay — Scribner

This dessert seems like just the thing to take the mundane-ness out of the typical vegetarian grill out. I have been getting bored with the grilled corn and grilled peppers - this oughta make things a bit more tasty next time around.

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Drinking up History.. literally

I was mosying around a few websites looking for some interesting recipes this morning and came across an interesting archeaological find. Apparently some of the earliest recipes found, on cave walls and the like, were for beer.

That’s right, most of these recipes are for beer. In his book A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Tom Standage, technology editor of the Economist, estimates that beer was actually created sometime around 10,000 BC, predating civilization itself, and was probably the first complex chemical process refined and recorded by man. As homo sapiens moved away from hunting and gathering food — and toward the first attempts at organized agriculture — it was discovered that storing surplus grains in the earth or earthen pots could help stave off hunger in fallow times. But early storage methods were far from perfect: Water and heat would leak in, and the grains would soon begin to ferment. The resulting gruel was probably not very tasty, but its intoxicating effect would certainly have been noticed, and it was eventually highly prized. Thus it is found in the Sumerian epics of Gilgamesh, where it is served to a savage in order to civilize him, and the Hymn to Ninkasi, which details its production in verse. In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, it is even valued as an elixir with various mystical properties.

The most interesting part about this is that Kirin, a Japanese beer maker, is making an Old Kingdom beer that will follow the recipe from the tomb of Amenhotep II’s royal steward.

This is one of those quirky little facts that make me love human beings.. We’re such an odd species, no?

Bottoms up!

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Urban Epicurean

Now that my son is in school and my daughter is almost two-years-old, I am finally able to renew my passion for food and cooking. Back in the day (i.e. college) I used to love cooking up large meals and inviting all my closest friends for an evening of wine and some of the best food (if I do say so myself) available in the Northwest Florida region. I would start cooking at noon and we would begin the revelry at 4pm. We would eat and drink until late into the night. It was a foodies dream come true.

Then lovely life happened and I have been so busy keeping up that the days of baking bread and making homemade pies have been hard to come by. But no more. Perhaps it is Spring. Perhaps it is just because I have been unable to do it for so long. I am not sure. What ever the reason, I am no longer able to keep my adoration of food exploration at bay. It all started a few days ago with rhubarb.

I am on a rhubarb quest — there has got to be more than just the iconoclastic rhubarb pie. And, whadda ya know, I have found more than just pie to create with this lovely vegetable. Not only have I found great ideas, I have also come across some neat info as to what exactly rhubarb is. So, enjoy my latest findings and feel free to share any rhubarb love that you may be feelin’.

Posted in Cooking, Daily Living | 1 Comment »

World Travelin’ Snacks

I have always loved that my kids are fairly experimental with their eating habits. My 19-month-old loves Indian food (her favorite is Sag or Vegetable Korma) and my six year old is a glutton for any kind of sushi or asian food.

This has lead me to wonder what else they may try and like. I discovered a great little gem of a website that tallies up snack ideas from children all over the world. Of course, the largest amount of entries are from the U.S. but there are plenty of interesting small recipes from all over. My personal favorite, and one we are sure to try, is from a teacher in France:

A favorite of all my students on food days is the chocolate sandwich. Take two pieces of bread (French, bien sur!) and put a plain chocolate bar in between. Voila! A typical French child’s favorite afterschool snack.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is living!

Posted in Nutrition, Parent Education, Cooking | No Comments »

Grocery List Generator for Firefox

If you’re an avid user of the popular open source web browser Firefox, then you’re well aware of its ability to use extensions that add enhancements to the browser. One of the coolest and most practical extensions is the Grocery List Generator.

The GLG (Grocery List Generator) is a helpful little tool to store your recipe-ingredients and other groceries you need regularly. It creates a well-organized grocery list to help make your grocery shopping as easy as possible.

Features include:

Posted in Lifestyles, Cooking, Technology | No Comments »

Fried Donuts Is A Great Way To Start The New Year!

Since New Year’s Day is notorious for resolutions — particularly resolutions to eat better and lose weight — I thought it would fun to promote the opposite. Instead, you may want to start off the new year with a Butter Fried Krispy Kreme Donut. After all, you have the rest of the year to eat broccoli and carrots.

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