Sunday, April 30, 2006
Be Careful What You Wish For
My ham came with its hock attached. The hock is the joint just above the pig’s foot. The ham was also covered in a thick layer of fat that had hardened on its surface and had a small showing of mold. The instruction that came with the ham suggested to boil the ham for twenty minutes per pound. I trotted out to the garage to gather a hacksaw and my turkey fryer pot—a mere stockpot was not going to cut it. I scrubbed the saw in hot water and soap and proceeded to saw off the hock (I never said this blog was for the faint of heart). Then I washed the ham with a non-perfumed soap and a scrub brush to take care of the mold and grime left on its surface. Taking my sharpest knife I trimmed away all the fat. I was left with a respectable 12.5-pound fresh bone-in ham that I covered in water and boiled as instructed. There is no comparison between this ham and the pathetic slices you get wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. It is on the dry side, salty, and full of flavor. If you have had prosciutto this is very similar flavor, but more robust.
Ham Sandwich on a toasted whole wheat bun with homemade mustard and spinach
(see April 18 post for mustard Recipie.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
An Occupational Hazard
Hot Potato Salad and coleslaw
(I know, I know, this sounds weird, but trust me it is delicious).
Scrub and chop 20 small red potatoes and boil in salted water until tender the night before. Cool on the counter and then move to the refrigerator. (Unless you douse the potatoes with cold water when you drain them from the hot water they will continue to cook. I don’t like the cold water method, so I remove the potatoes par-boiled. They will continue to cook as they cool.) The next day prepare mayonnaise by whisking together two large egg yokes, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 cove of garlic, 1 tbsp mustard, and a dash of salt and pepper. Using an electric beater on medium speed slowly add 1 cup of canola oil at room temperature. Chop one red pepper and four stalks of celery. Add mayonnaise, pepper, celery, and more salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix.
Chop and wash 1 head of cabbage add four grated carrots and one head of chopped parsley. Prepare a vinaigrette dressing by mixing 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1 cup olive oil, a few drops of stevia, and salt and pepper to taste in a jar with a tight lid. Shake vigorously. Mix dressing and veggies together.
For leftovers mix equal amounts of cole slaw and potato salad and heat in the microwave.
Notes: Stevia is a natural sweetener from the Stevia plant native to Paraguay. It has unfortunately run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration and the food industry lobbyist and is only sold as a supplement in health food stores. A few drops can substitute gobs of sugar.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
I’ve been contemplating for days what to make with this glorious egg. Today when I came home from the gym I made up my mind—a frittata. A simple dish, the frittata is a baked omelet. Because it is not fried in a pan the eggs have more loft.
I pulled a bag of brussel sprouts from the fridge (when I told my friend Amy about this dish, I lost her at this very point) and set them to steam in a small saucepan. I melted coconut oil in a medium-sized cast iron skillet and chopped a clove of garlic and half an onion to sauté. I grated and set aside two ounces of mild raw milk cheddar cheese. When the brussel sprouts were tender I sliced them into smaller pieces and added them to the cast-iron skillet and topped with sliced tomatoes left over from a weekend barbeque and the grated cheese. I took my precious egg from the fridge and cracked it into a small bowl. The shell was thick and the yoke was twice the size of a chicken egg with very little white. I beat in 3 tbsp of milk and 1 tsp of mustard into the egg with a fork and poured it over the veggie cheese mixture, seasoning with salt and pepper. I cooked it in a 350 degree oven for twenty minutes and let it cool while I sliced a kiwi fruit. It was a stunning breakfast that I ate while reading the daily comics.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Some Like It Hot and Waiting on the Porch
In the surrounding neighborhood we had friends both in school and out in the working world that lived similar lives with similar goals. During an evening gathering among the neighborhood housesholds we were bemoaning the fact that with our busy lives (see simple smimple) we didn’t have time to eat the way we would like to. This conversation gave birth to The Dinner Co-op. Monday-Thursday one person—in the beginning there were eight—cooked a vegetarian main dish and delivered it in leftover yogurt containers to the four participating households. All the homes were within walking distance, so meals could be delivered on foot. Every other week one person hosted a “feast.” We gathered at their home and they served a full meal and we planned the next two weeks. It was a magical time and a system one might imagine lasted for a few months and then died out. The dinner co-op lasted ten years! It was a magical time. Today’s lunch was one of the Dinner Co-ops most popular dishes.
Peanut Curried Vegetables
Wash and chop 1/2 onion, 3 broccoli stems, 2 carrots, and 1/4 of a cabbage. Melt 2 tbsp of coconut oil on medium heat, add onion. When the onion is translucent add 1 tbsp curry powder and cook for another minute or two. Reduce heat to medium low, add carrots and onion and 1/4 cup vegetable broth and cover the dish for five minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and 2 tbsp of peanut butter and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until vegetables are done. Good hot or cold. Serves two.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Habit to Habit
Since the company I work for ordered Pizza yesterday and I have no lunch to report, I’ll give you another food-related craft project that involves my latest favorite obsession. Black tea makes a fine tan dye and does not require a mordant (see post from April 8). I have an extensive collection of antique hankies from great aunts of yesteryear. My attic is the family repository of all heirloom linens. Most, like my great grandmother’s wedding gown I keep tucked away in layers of acid-free paper for safekeeping. The number of hankies though is overwhelming. I decided to dye eight of them and make a kitchen curtain with the sewing assistance of my friend Stephanie.
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Southern Fried Fusion
Since I ate leftover Mu Shu vegetables for lunch. I share with you my recipe from 2005. I knew this one was a stretch, but if I were editing Southern Living I sure would have had fun with it. I was going for a mix of flavors that incorporated African, Asian, and traditional American flavors. You get brownie points for using their sponsors. I got two in this one. This year I’m going for four!
Southern Fried Fusion
1 12 oz. package rice noodles
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tbsp. Crisco canola oil
2 tbls. soy sauce
1/4 cup water (optional)
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 package Pilgrims Pride precooked chicken tenders
6-8 large leaves of chard or kale
Wash chard or kale and slice in fine strips and set aside. Set a large pasta pot on stove and boil enough water to cook the entire package of noodles. Cook noodles and drain.
Finely mince the garlic and coarsely chop onion. Pour canola oil in a large fry pan and sauté garlic and onion until translucent. Add peanut putter, soy sauce, black pepper, and cayenne and stir. If needed add water to thin sauce. Add greens and Pilgrims Prides chicken tender and cook until greens are tender and chicken is warmed.
Toss with pasta and top with peanuts and parsley.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
One evening, Mom was at a cast party loudly discussing her chickens when a representative from the mayor’s office approached her. Dad immediately saw disaster. Chickens being dragged off while a child cried in the background. Disaster was averted. He simply wanted us to give a commendation from the mayor. They had been trying for years to place chickens in downtown Houston to control mosquitoes.
Peel and chop two leftover hard-boiled Easter eggs. Wash and chop desired amounts of garden radish, red pepper, celery, and fresh cilantro. Mix in 1 tsp maoynaise and 1 tsp homemade mustard. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mustard: this recipe is adapted from The Craft of the County Cook: soak 4 tbsp brown mustard seeds in 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar overnight. The next day bring boil vinegar and seeds in a pan with 1 tbsp honey and a pinch of salt. Brown 1 tbsp flour in a dry skillet and add to food processor with 2 tbsp yellow mustard seed powder. Slowly add vinegar to the dry goods on medium speed. Once mixed add 1 tbsp olive oil and pulse a few times. Store in a glass conations. Will keep for months.
Notes: not all mustard is made equal. Some yellow mustard can be very spicy and others mild. Some of it depends on its freshness. A variety of mustard is available at health food stores.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Eating $200 Worth of Chocolate
Chopped broiled chicken breast, red chard, onion, roasted veggies, with rice pilaf and parm.
Chop a small onion and cook in a large skillet in 1 tbsp coconut oil. Wash and chop 4 leaves of chard and add to skillet when onions are translucent with salt and pepper to taste, cover. Chop up leftover chicken and roasted veggies from previous nights dinner out and add to skillet. Cook for 5 minutes and add left over rice on top and cook until hot. Top with parm.
Notes: My husband calls Parmesan “vitamin P” because I add it to everything. I like the fresh grated kind that you find in health food stores and the deli section of the grocery store.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
The discussion of raw milk has a polarizing effect on conversations. Sally Fallon writes eloquently about milk in her cookbook Nourishing Traditions stating that pasteurization robs milk of its enzyme content and the modern dairy cows breed for overproduction has a pituitary gland that over produces growth hormones associated with tumor growth and cancer. Critics claim that pasteurization and modern milking practices have saved us from infectious diseases. Fallen claims that with modern milking machines and stainless steel tanks combined with efficient packaging and distribution has made pasteurization almost unnecessary. My friends in the dairy industry are horrified by these suggestions; maybe they know the truth about these facilities.
Sadly, I’m not genetically equipped to digest raw milk. I watch the farmer haul in the milk from the mornings milking on his cart and look longing at the beautifully quart jars of milk with cream floating on the top at the farm and I know that it is not for me. I tried souring the milk to produce kefir, but that didn’t work either. I still got stomach aches. I’ll have to settle for the low-homogenized milk from Amish farm country that I find at Vitamin Cottage in plastic bottles shaped to look like milk bottles of yesteryear.
Slaw made with shredded cabbage, Daikon radish, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped apple topped with Annie’s Goddess Dressing
I prefer my cabbage chopped and not shredded. Wash and prepare desired amounts of vegetables and fruit. Add 1/4 cup pumpkin seed to a dry skillet on medium heat. Shake pan occasionally until seeds are browned and popped.
Notes: Annie’s Goddess Dressing is made from Tahini, a wonderful base for dressing.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
It Takes a Host of Brownies To Do What Martha Does
It has been interesting to watch the rise of Martha. The truth of her method is that the average homemaker really needs a host of brownies to get the job done. Brownies are tiny pixy like men who dress much like Robin Hood, but all in brown. According to wikipedia.org they customarily inhabit houses and aid in the daily housework. They do not like to be seen and will only work at night, perhaps in exchange for small gifts or food. They usually abandon the house if their gifts are called payments, or if they are offered gifts of clothes. The character Dobby from the Harry Potter books was based on the folklore of the Brownie.
My grandmother used to read me tales of a specific Brownie’s adventure in England. My brother once rubbed some brown ink on the bottom of my Barbie and pranced her all over my grandmother’s Damask tablecloth when I left it out overnight. This is something a Brownie would do to teach lazy kids a lesson. Neither he nor I will ever do that again. Grandma was pissed.
Salad: shredded lettuce and cabbage, peas, Daikon radish, Parmesan, chopped apple, and toasted walnuts topped with Sweet Red Pepper dressing.
I’ll skip the wash and chop instructions. My only trick here is to take frozen peas and thaw them in hot water.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Books on the Shelf
My cookbook shelf is relatively paltry in comparison it contains: James Beard American Cookery; The New Southern Basics; Joy of Cooking, Laurels Kitchen; The Martha’s Café Cookbook; From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce; Full Moon Feast; New Southern Cooking; Mrs. Rowes’s Favorite Recipes; The Craft of the Country Cook; Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners; Preserving Fruits & Vegetables; Flowers in the Kitchen; Beyond Curry; Recipes from Oma’s Kitchen; Chocolate Fantasies; Country Life Natural Foods Cookbook; 2004 Southern Living Annual Recipes; Shelia Lukins All Around the World Cookbook; The Grains Cookbook; Eat Fat, Lose Fat; and Nourishing Traditions.
Quinoa topped with steamed cabbage and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Enjoy hot quinoa the night before and use the leftovers for lunch. I cook my quinoa on low eat (after it comes to a boil) with a 2:1 water to grain ratio. Wash, cut, and chop cabbage and steam for about 15 minutes or until tender. Drizzle with vinegar and oil and season with salt and pepper. I eat this dish cold in the summer and heat it up in the winter.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
What Readers Notice
Lettuce topped with roast beef, daikon radish, carrots, Parmesan cheese, and Sweet Red Pepper Dressing
I cooked a small sirloin roast the day before. Roasts are best cooked simply (so I read in James Beard’s American Cookery). I lavishly dressed the roast in pepper and a bit of salt and placed it in a small shallow baking dish and cooked it at 350 degrees, twenty minutes per pound. In the morning, wash lettuce leaves and allow to dry. Wash, peel, and chop the desired amount of radish and carrots. Tear lettuce into the bottom of a suitable-sized Pyrex dish and add radish, carrots, 1/4 cup Parmesan. Carry dressing—in this instance Seeds of Change—in a separate container and dress the salad when ready to eat.
Notes: We get our grass-fed beef from a rancher in a neighboring state. They truck the carcass to a local butcher and we buy 10-15 pounds at a time.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Life Can Test Your Bounce
Peanut and flaxseed butter on raison spelt toast with honey and banana
Find the best bread you can lay your hands on. Slather it with generous amounts of nut butter, honey, and banana. Smoosh.
Notes: I am so lucky to have Cresset Community Farm in my backyard. Every Thursday, Ursula heads off to use a commercial kitchen to make thirty or so loves of bread for the members of her farm. The making of these loves takes over fifteen hours. I helped her out one night after she has a run in with a tractor. Arriving at 2am to help her kneed the large volumes of dough, I watched her work soaking grains, mixing ingredients just so, and having the patience not to rush the process. The results are loves of dense rye, sweet pumpkin, and tasty spelt bread.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Enjoy a fresh pizza the night before, but don’t eat the whole thing.
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Dyeing to Cook
Baked tofu with onion, steamed broccoli, basmati rice
Place coconut oil in the bottom of a cast-iron skillet and allow to melt over medium-high heat. Place 1/2 tsp each mustard and cumin seeds in oil. When they pop, add 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup basmati rice, and a pinch of salt to the pan. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. In a cast iron skillet, chop onion and cook in 1 tbsp coconut oil. Add 1 tbsp curry and cook for five minutes on low heat (it is important to cook the curry so that the bitter under taste is diminished) Chop 1/2 lb tofu and toss with onion and curry. Place the skillet in oven at 300 degrees for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop and steam 1 head of broccoli. Serves 2.
Notes: My husband is a huge fan of Ayurvedic cooking. Ayurveda is a medical system from India that takes into account the movement of energy in nature and in people. Our favorite cookbook is The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amedea Morningstar.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
You Don't Have to Share Your Lunch
Black beans cooked with kale and onion, topped with salsa. Side of Nita Crisp crackers.
Chop onion and sauté in 1 tsp. coconut oil. Add 1 bunch of chopped kale and cover for five minutes or until Kale is tender. Add 1 can of black beans and heat, about another 5-10 minutes. Top with 2 tbsp of your favorite brand of salsa. Serves 2.
Frontera Mild Roasted Poblano salsa rocks! I ate this dish like dip with flatbread crackers.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Although the implications of it are not funny, I do love being able to say, "I live in a 100-year old farm house next to five hundred houses and a Super Wal-Mart." If all goes as planned we will soon leave our home of the past eight years. When we purchased the house it was at the end of a dead-end street and four enormous Cottonwood trees graced the front yard. Its 1,000-square- foot interior suited our lives well. It has grace, charm, and comfort in spades. Then came the development and we lost the irrigation ditch to a busy road, three of the trees to a sidewalk, and the cornfield to the houses. I know quite a few people who are happy living in those homes. Sadly for us it doesn't make as much sense to live here anymore. I'll miss her.
Red leaf lettuce topped with sweet potato, orange peppers, and parmesan tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.
Scrub sweet potato and cook at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool (I usually cook potato the night before). Wash lettuce and pat dry with a clean towel. Chop 1/4 of an orange pepper. Place all the ingredients in a Pyrex dish and toss or carry dressing separately and toss when ready to eat.
I'm not good with salad dressings. I just don't have the skills. Some of my favorites are Drew's and Annie's. If you see a dressing with the name “Liz” on it, don't eat it. It is bound to have too much vinegar.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
I am not much of a weekend cook. I get preoccupied with the makings of the weekend and I tend to eat more of the grab-and-go foods that one might think of as work food. The weekend is when I do most of my food gathering. I go to the farm and pick up my veggies and bread and shop at the grocery store. These are activities I never tire of. At the farm I gather my share of that week's harvest, visit with the farmers, frolic with any newborns that arrived during the week, and chat with other members. At the mainstream grocery stores I am amused by the advertisements and new food creations emerging daily, and at the health food store I get giddy when I find a new brand of non-homogenized milk.
Cottage cheese with chopped apple and banana topped with cinnamon
Wash and chop apple. Peel and chop banana. Place cottage cheese in a pyrex container top with fruit and cinnamon.
I love pyrex food containers. I have a set that comes in three sizes with lids. Plastic tends to hold food smells and tastes and it leaches chemicals into the food over time. Pyrex is easy to wash, too.
Romancing an Herb
Brown Rice with steamed beets, coriander, topped with onions cooked in coconut oil and Parmesan.
Cook 1/2 cup brown rice according to directions (My favorite guide is The Grains Cookbook by Bert Greene or as I like to refer to it as Greene on Grains.) Wash, peel, and chop beets and steam until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Beets tend to take longer than you think. Put 1/2 tbsp. Coconut oil in a skillet on medium heat and heat. Peel and chop an onion and sauté in oil until translucent. Add salt, pepper and 1 1/2 tsp. coriander and cook for another minute. Mix 1/4 cup Parmesan into cooled rice and then toss in beets and onions. Eat at room temperature. Serves two (although my husband would argue that point).
We often have grains for dinner and have leftovers for lunch. This means that I don’t have to work as much in the morning. I use a lot of coconut oil. It makes everything taste fantastic, contains an abundance of medium-chain and essential fatty acids and lauric acid, making it a healthy as well as indulgent choice. You can substitute olive oil if you prefer, but it really can’t handle much heat without breaking down. Any health food-type store should carry a decent brand of coconut oil.
Mixed salad greens with Chorizo sausage, Parmesan, red pepper, fermented beets, and raspberry dressing.
Top mixed greens with chopped sausage and red pepper, Parmesan, fermented beets. Place dressing in separate container until ready to eat.
I bought a salad from Vitamin Cottage yesterday, but couldn’t find a fork so I ate the fresh mozzarella and pesto topping the salad and all the veggies that I could eat with my fingers and was left with the greens and salad dressing. Perfect for today’s lunch. The sausage I also get from Vitamin Cottage. It is precooked and totally yummy. The fermented beets are part of the last share I got from the farm. This is an ancient way to preserve vegetables and make them more digestible. It is similar to the process that makes sauerkraut.
Baked beans with steamed carrots and turnips topped with onions fried in coconut oil.
Peel and chop carrots and turnips and steam. Chop onion. Melt 1 tsp. coconut oil in small skillet and add onion. Dump one can of Eden Organic Baked Beans with Sorgum and Mustard in a bowl. Add steamed veggies and onion and stir. Makes enough for two lunches.
I chopped and peeled the turnips and carrots yesterday morning thinking we would eat them for dinner, but my husband cooked something else for dinner (always a shock and a treat). I like it when I have a jump-start. Cupboards are still low, so this evening I went shopping at Vitamin Cottage and Albertson’s gathering—beets, chard, grapefruits, yellow and sweet potatoes, almond butter, eggs, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, salad dressing, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and a salad for dinner from the former and soda water, trash bags, strawberries, broccoli, and red peppers from the latter. I’m no purist. I know red peppers and strawberries are the worst pesticide laden produce you can buy, but they are so good!
I never really thought about my eating habits in quite that way and came to the conclusion that when it came to eating I was prepared. Just like the pack I carried on my back, my kitchen was stocked and ready to support my family and me. Cooking is the action we focus on most, but finding healthy, fresh, foods that you actually want to cook, having a good set of tools on hand, and knowing how to manage it all is just as important as knowing how to put it all together in the stew pot. I am constantly surprised to learn that this is not a universal skill. My coworkers peer at my lunch with something close to wonder.
Julia Butterfly Hill, the activist who sat in a tree for an unbelievable amount of time to keep it from being chopped down, puts it beautifully stating that:
“People are often afraid to cook; sometimes they are afraid of food itself.As a culture we are always looking for a formula that will make us well from low fat to low carb. But wellness is much, much more than what we eat—it’s how we eat.
We’re so disconnected from our food sources that we no longer know how to
nourish ourselves. We are afraid of recipes—afraid we’ll ‘mess up’ or won’t enjoy what we prepare. We’re overwhelmed by lists of ingredients and gadgets and we fall back on old-standbys…”
This is part of what Diana wanted to know, the ritual around eating. For me, Monday-Friday I get up and head straight for the teapot. I make strong, dark, sweet tea with lots of milk. After I’ve had enough of the milky liquid to consider my next move--but not so much that I don’t do it—I head out the door for the morning swim/bike/skate/lift. After this fun and frivolity, I go straight back to the stove and start cooking. On with the morning eggs, in to the toaster goes the toast, and out of the fridge comes a piece of fruit. Breakfast rarely varies. Then onto the cutting board with whatever I plan to cook for lunch—seasonal vegetables, fresh meats or cheese, herbs, and other necessary ingredients.
I spend about 30 minutes in the kitchen preparing food for the day. Breakfast is easy and for dinner I wash and chop a few vegetables and think about that later. Lunch is where I spend the most time—and I really don’t spend that much time cooking. Sipping my cold tea, I might chop an onion and sauté it in coconut oil, then wash veggies gathered from a local farm and parcel out grass-fed beef or set black rice to boil. I tap out curry from my stash of herbs over the stove (the worst place to keep herbs and spices, but I love to see them) and add it all to the onions and watch it cook.
Later in the day when I pull out my flaming orange lunchbox and trudge down the hall to heat it the sideways glances start. Then the outright nose dipping into my bowl, “What is that? It smells fabulous. Can I get the recipe? Where do you find the time?” I smile that secret smile of rebelliousness for bucking the daily trap of fast food and slavery to one-stop-shopping. Welcome to my lunchbox.
Spaghetti Squash with Wellshire Chorizo Sausage topped with Muir Glen Organic Sun Dried Tomato sauce.
Cut squash in half and scrape out the seeds. Place in oven on 350 degrees and get outside. Let squash cook for about an hour. Scoop out half the squash into Pyrex bowl with lid. Chop one sausage and add to the squash. Top with 1/2 cup sauce.
The next three months are the most challenging for me. It is the end of March and the veggies from the CSA farm where my husband and I barter for a share of the harvest is gone until July. I also just returned from a long trip, so the cupboards are a bit bare. This is the kind of challenge I like.