Archive for April, 2012

Achievement Unlocked: Failed “Good Morning” Check

So, it’s been a bit of a busy weekend.  After yesterday’s series of posts about game night food, I was up until three-thirty playing a game of Arkham Horror (which we won!  by the hardest method possible!  go us!).  Slept about four hours, cooked, and played an honestly exhausting D&D session, which brings us to me not quite nodding off at my keyboard at eight-fifteen on a Sunday.

(Also, for an after-game drink, I picked up a bottle of brandy at the local liquor store and am now seriously reconsidering my life choices up to this point.  Experienced drinkers, does this get better?  Or does it always taste like wine mixed with jet fuel?  I am conflicted…though, of course, not conflicted enough to dump the rest of my glass.)

I was trying to go through my normal routine of D&D-session snacks – something vaguely healthful, to contrast the cookies our fighter normally brings, and something vegan-friendly.  Holding a bundle of farmer’s market asparagus and surfing AllRecipes brought me to a delicious-looking salad for which I just happened to have all the ingredients at home.  It’s dead simple, but I’m writing it out here anyway because it’s delicious, and perhaps a bit of a change from your typical methods of consuming asparagus.  Then again, I don’t know what those are, so I’m not really one to preach, am I?  🙂

It was only after assembling the salad that I realized it had the word “feta” in the title.  And a bunch of feta in the bowl.  Feta is cheese, and therefore not vegan.  Upon realizing this after the construction of my vegan-friendly salad, or so I thought, I slipped it into the fridge, sat down at the table, and collapsed in hysterical embarrassed giggles.  Thankfully, the cleric ordered me to go lie down for two hours, so I was able to make it through the game session after all.  Barely.

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Fresh Asparagus, Tomato, and Feta Salad

  1. Wash and trim the tough ends from your bundle of asparagus.  Chop stalks in half and plunk into pot of water.  Boil.
  2. Open can of petite diced tomatoes, drain at least some of the liquid, and set aside.
  3. Mix half-cup of seasoned rice vinegar, pinch of sugar (more if vinegar is unseasoned), generous sprinkle of salt, and three tablespoons olive oil in bowl.  Whisk.  (Or, fork.)
  4. When asparagus is sort of tender but not bending yet, remove from pot and drain.  Slice into one-inch lengths.
  5. Plunk asparagus and about a third of can of tomatoes into serving bowl.  Add four ounces or so of feta; if you like more cheese in your veggies, add more cheese.  Pour dressing over all and toss to coat.
  6. Place in fridge, apologize to vegan friend, and GO TAKE A NAP.  Salad is ready to be served after about an hour, or whenever you wake up.
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Achievement Unlocked: Made Vegan Roll Eyes With Joy

This morning’s farmer’s market foray yielded shallots, usually an impractical purchase, but at three bucks a box, too good to pass up.  I flashed back to a Smitten Kitchen post in which Ms. Perelman called herself “the girl who cried…cook!”.  That resonates, really, but for me, it’s not “Cook!” so much as “Eat!”.  I’m not sure anybody remembers most of what I cook, but I have a feeling that the vegan friend won’t forget these.

Caramelized shallots.  If you’re not big on onions, I’d skip these, but if you enjoy the flavor, these are eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good.  Here goes!

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Caramelized Shallots

  1. Peel your shallots, however many you happen to have (about a pint box, in this case).  Just as you finish peeling them, leave to go to a yard sale.  The shallots will wait.
  2. When you get back, melt six tablespoons of margarine (if you want these to be truly vegan) in a skillet.
  3. Preheat oven to 400.
  4. Add three tablespoons of sugar and three tablespoons of red wine vinegar.  (If out of red wine vinegar, add most of three tablespoons of vinegar and drizzle in a bit of red wine.)
  5. Add shallots and cook until starting to brown, about ten minutes.
  6. Scrape shallots and sauce into baking dish.  Bake for somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes, depending on size of shallots and attentiveness of cook.
  7. Remove dish and place shallots into smaller serving dish.  Watch vegan friend enjoy them.  😀

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Achievement Unlocked: Crispy Roasted Chickpea Snacks

More party food!  The easiest possible party food, really.  Four ingredients, one of which comes out of a can.  Make at least a double recipe, or you’ll regret it.  That is all.  🙂

Not quite all.  I originally found the recipe at Steamy Kitchen, but so many people have posted this recipe that I’m sure you could find a tasty one anywhere.  Okay, I’m done.  NOW go make these.  😀

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Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  If making all party food at same time, leave oven heated to 400.
  2. Open two cans of chickpeas and drain into colander.  Rinse.  Thoroughly.  Bounce around a bit to make sure it’s thorough.
  3. Line rimmed cookie sheet with paper towels.  Pour chickpeas onto towels and spread into single layer.  Pat dry with another paper towel.  Roll around with top paper towel to loosen skins.  Discard skins and paper towels once chickpeas are mostly dry.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes or until crispy and almost almond-brown.  Outside will be  crispy, inside will be fluffy and delicious.
  5. Sprinkle with salt and spices of choice (current example: onion powder and a little dash of chili powder).  Toss to coat, and serve.  Watch them be crunched up in an hour.  Grin.

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Achievement Unlocked: Vaguely Healthy Cabbage Thing

To offset the previous entry’s small wads of spicy fat, I borrowed another recipe from Steamy Kitchen.  Do you ever look at a recipe and think, “That looks disgustingly healthy, how could that possibly be good”?  Is that just me?  Maybe that’s the reason I need to lose a few pounds…hm.

Anyway!  Cabbage, white beans, potatoes, onions, thyme, and olive oil combine in a large skillet to become…slightly less healthy-tasting than they look, I promise.  In a mixed-dining audience of at least twenty over the course of the night, it’s hard to know which recipes are going to be hits, and which will be next week’s leftovers.  This actually got vacuumed up better than the chili, which shocked me.  It also inspired me to memorialize the recipe here so that I don’t forget it for next month…especially if that head of cabbage is still sitting in my fridge.  It keeps forever, after all.  No reason to get rid of it.

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White Beans And Cabbage

  1. Dice about a cup of red potatoes.  Strive for the size of frozen peas; don’t stress if not all of the bits end up that size.
  2. Roughly chop half an onion (use the other half from, or for, the sausage balls, depending on the order in which you cook).
  3. Thinly shred (not, like, coleslaw thin) about three cups of cabbage.
  4. Open and drain a can of white beans; rinse them in your colander.
  5. Splash some olive oil in your skillet and add your potatoes.  Saute until potatoes start to brown (and, no doubt, are sticking to your skillet).  Add onion and keep sauteing.
  6. Add white beans and continue sauteing.  Look for beans to get slightly brown.  Add a generous sprinkle of dried thyme.
  7. Scatter cabbage in skillet and continue tossing about.  Wait for cabbage to wilt; realize it’s not wilting.  Pour a generous cup of water in the skillet to loosen things up.  Stir until water has boiled away, less of mixture is sticking to pot, and thyme is aromatic.
  8. Remove from heat and bring to table.  Scatter a few leaves of fresh rosemary, because you need *something* to do with that stuff, after all.  Serve and watch in surprise as it all gets eaten!

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Achievement Unlocked: Hee Hee, You Said Sausage Balls

Monthly game nights at our place involve a LOT of cooking on my part.  It’s a potluck, so I know it’s not necessary, but something in me  will not allow me to welcome people into my home without offering food, even if it’s enough food for twenty.  The next four posts will be writeups of this month’s party food!  (Rarely do I make the same recipe two months in a row, with two exceptions: a rave review potato salad and a vegan curry that’s spread halfway across the country.  I’ll post them the next time I make them.)

First up: sausage and cheese balls.  (There’s just something funny about “sausage” and “balls” in the same sentence.  Yes, I am in fact twenty-two.)  They’re not pretty, but they’re delicious, especially when you tweak the recipe as you go along.  The problem with making uber-delicious party food is that you end up eating seven or eight of them before the party ever starts.  😀  Also, they worked like a charm for taking my mind off my aching back as I cooked.

The original recipe calls for breakfast sausage, but I’ve had beef chorizo sitting in the bottom of my fridge for a while, so I used that instead.  I believe it was a little more squishy and less clumpy than it would have been otherwise, but you certainly didn’t hear me or my guests complaining.  Makes somewhere between forty and fifty little appetizers.  Thanks to the awesome ladies at We Are Not Martha for the recipe (and a lot of pictures of glittery crafts!).

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Chorizo and Cheese Balls

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  (Or Silpats, if you’re lucky enough to own them.)
  2. Mix one-and-a-quarter cups of flour, half a teaspoon of sea salt, a generous shake of chili pepper, a less generous shake of black pepper, and one-and-a-half teaspoons of baking powder in a large bowl.
  3. Dump in roughly two cups of cheese: in this example case, about half a bag of reduced-fat Italian cheese blend, and a cup of cheddar that your roommate so generously shredded.  Toss with hands to coat cheese mixture with flour mixture.  Eat bits of cheese that stick to hands.  (Wash hands.)
  4. Roughly chop half an onion and add it to the mix.
  5. Squeeze in two ten-ounce tubes of beef chorizo.  Mix to coat.  Attempt to push mixture into loaf.
  6. Reread recipe, add half a stick of melted butter, THEN push mixture into loaf.  Realize that bottom of bowl still contains a nontrivial amount of flour and cheese bits.  Resolve to make that up as you go along.
  7. Form mixture into small (smaller than limes, but being consistent is not hugely necessary) balls.  Place on baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes or until crusty on top and cooked the whole way through.  Remove from sheet and place on paper-towel-lined plate to drain.  Try not to eat the entire plate before your guests arrive.

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Achievement Unlocked: Fus Pho Dah!

I am informed that I’m only allowed to make the pun in the title if it somehow involves throwing or pushing, as Fus Ro Dah is the pushing spell in Skyrim.  Look, I’m not that advanced a student of video games; I have yet to beat the first Assassin’s Creed.  (I’m stuck on the Robert de Sable assassination; that crowd is a pain in the buttocks.)  But sometimes, you can’t pass up an utterly terrible pun, even if it makes your boyfriend swear he doesn’t know you for all of ten or fifteen minutes.

Anyway!  Pho.  Vietnamese comfort food.  I read Steamy Kitchen‘s recipe and was instantly hooked by the writing style, not to mention the delicious imagery.  Rice noodles, beef, spices, fresh herbs and lime.  What’s not to like?  (Especially the rice noodles.  Ever since a friend introduced us to homemade spring rolls, I’ve been craving that taste and texture combination.)

I deviated from the recipe in almost every way possible without actually changing the ingredients.  It’s very tasty, but I’d love (for once) to work in a kitchen where soup doesn’t get actually cold within ten minutes of serving it.  The process is broken, but the recipe is delicious, and here’s how this non-particular student went about it.

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Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

  1. The night before: boil a pot of water.  Take two pounds (ish) of beef marrow bones and boil them rapidly for ten minutes.  (This removes a good deal of the scum from your broth.)  Skim scum, and transfer bones to slow cooker pot.
  2. Fill slow cooker pot almost to the top with water.  (I was using a 5-quart pot; Steamy Kitchen’s recipe was made in a 12-quart.  Hence the discrepancy.)  Add two onions, halved, and charred if you’re not afraid of your broiler like I am.
  3. Add your Pho Spices Bag!  To construct, assemble the following in a hank of cheesecloth: one or two cinnamon sticks, eight or so cloves, five whole star anise, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, and one cardamom pod.  If you’re less than prepared and not willing to spend SIXTEEN DOLLARS on a tiny jar of cardamom at the store, follow this formula: leave out the cardamom and fennel, add seven or so allspice seeds, and sprinkle some coriander on top of the broth.
  4. Add a 4″ chunk of charred ginger, if you’re Jaden Hair, or a hefty sprinkle of ginger on top of the broth, if you’re me.  Add two teaspoons of sugar and a quarter-cup of fish sauce; try not to get fish sauce on your t-shirt.  Your shirt may be black, but it’s still going to stink.
  5. Add a pound or so of cubed beef stew meat.
  6. Turn slow cooker to “low, ten hours”, then go to bed.
  7. In the morning: turn slow cooker off and remove pot.  Fish out onions, spice bag, and bones.  Discard the first two and freeze the bones for later use.  Fish out as much of beef stew meat as possible and plunk into another large bowl or pot.  Shred chunks.
  8. Strain remains, bit by bit, into same pot where stew meat resides.  Discard strained-off bits.
  9. Slice some uncooked sirloin, flank steak, or generally steak-shaped beef as thin as possible.  (This works better if the beef is at least partially frozen.  If it’s as frozen as mine was, though, nuke it in the microwave for a minute before continuing.)
  10. Prepare your rice noodles, following the directions on the package.
  11. Eat some rice noodles, then remember they’re supposed to go into the soup.  Right.
  12. If preparing for a crowd, set out plate of toppings: fresh herbs, lime, bean sprouts, and sliced chili peppers.  If you’re just making it for yourself and your distracted boyfriend, slice a lime and let him add his herbs.
  13. Layer rice noodles, shredded meat, and sliced meat into soup bowl.  Pour almost-boiling broth over the whole lot; it’ll cook the beef.  Squeeze in some lime, add herbs, and eat.  (Note from experience: if you don’t have fresh herbs, don’t use herbs.  The dried mint I crumbled in smelled nice and tasted just fine, but the texture really didn’t go well.)

It was delicious, but not really a showstopper of a recipe; perhaps next time I’ll make it for a larger crowd and shop a little more thoroughly.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  🙂

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Achievement Unlocked: Roasted Potatoes Of Awesome

Hi, my name is Amanda (I don’t think I mentioned that before), and I’m a forgetful home cook.  Actually, it’s about half forgetfulness and half procrastination.  I’m a bargain shopper, so for the past most-of-a-year, I’ve been buying my potatoes in the six-dollar ten-pound bags instead of the four-dollar five-pound bags.  Usually, they get used up in a timely manner; we’re a big household, and we go through a lot of potatoes.

Not this time, though.  Standing in the kitchen waiting for a bolt of inspiration to strike, I spied the bag of white potatoes sitting atop the fridge.  There were probably three pounds of tubers left, all of which were growing these horrid Cthulhoid tentacles and multi-eyed protuberances.  Had I been more inclined to take pictures, I could have titled them with various Lovecraftian epithets; however, I’ll spare myself the public embarrassment should my grandmother ever stumble across this blog.  (Hi, Grandma!)

Anyway, with a pot full of chunks of withering potato and the bag embarrassingly full of hacked-off spikes, I set about kitchen-foraging to figure out what the hell to do with them, besides simply slathering them in mayo.  Here’s what came out.

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Infinitely Flexible Roasted Potatoes

  1. Slice what feels like a pound of sprouts and eyes off of three pounds of potatoes.  Slice potatoes into small (inch-ish) chunks and plunk in pot.  Set to boil as you forage.
  2. Realize while foraging that this endeavor may have been doomed from the start.  You’re out of onions, black bean sauce does not go well over potatoes, and the boyfriend hates horseradish.  Keep poking around.  Discover container of lord-knows-how-old takeout wontons in fridge and eat them as you think.
  3. Clean ramen bits out of colander (whoops) and drain potatoes.  Do not do as I did and place the colander too close to the edge of the sink, spilling boiling water on your bare foot.  Whoops indeed.
  4. Preheat oven to 350ish.  Melt half a stick of margarine in a measuring cup.  Add glugs of steak sauce to make 1/2 cup of sauce.  Realize this is not nearly enough for three pounds of potatoes.  Add another half-stick of margarine and some glugs of Worcestershire sauce.
  5. Tumble potatoes into dish and splash evenly with sauce.  Sprinkle lemon pepper, garlic powder, and dill on top, because they’re awesome.  Slide dish into oven and bake for approximately 35 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool, and eat those suckers straight from the pan.  Or, uh, you could put ’em in a bowl first.  That’s cool too.  🙂

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