Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Baking, Picking, Grilling

Busy food day today.  I started out by making a double batch of corn muffins.  I had milk that I really needed to start using up and I love corn muffins, so that decision was easy.  I also made a triple batch of chocolate pudding.  There is a little milk left.  I will either use it to make some oatmeal muffins later in the week or freeze it to use in muffins later on.

The corn muffins will go very nicely as an accompaniment to some salads.  I have plenty of yummy stuff for salads from various local farms.  Today we went to pick up our farm share.  I guess weather has caused problems for some of the crops, but the U-pick field seems to be growing along quite happily.  It was very nice out there today.  It was a bit too warm for my tastes, but no serious humidity and not terribly hot.  The flowers are blooming like mad and there are new ones this year.  I know nothing about flowers, but I was so taken with some of the deep reds and purples.  And some of the flowers were half and half--half white and half pink or purple.  They are quite lovely.  The herbs are abundant as well.  Today I cut some basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, rosemary, and dill.  Next week I will cut some mint too.  While I was gathering flowers and herbs and laughing at the pigs playing and racing each other, Bill was picking green beans.  As we were walking back out of the U-pick field, we spotted one of the pigs digging to the cool dirt below in order to make a place for her/himself out of the sun.

After all of that we went and picked up our share--a head of lettuce, mix and match tatsoi, arugula, and chard (I got mostly arugula with some tatsoi mixed in--I will mix this with some salad greens I brought home from the food bank yesterday from a different local farm and all those leaves will be a great base to build salads on), a couple of cucumbers, a couple of zucchini and/or summer squash, a couple of sweet onions, and a bunch of basil.

We came home and I put stuff away and got the herbs and flowers in water, and then Bill went down to start the coals so we could barbecue.  When we light the coals we want to get the most out of them, so when we barbecue, we cook a lot and prepare ourselves to enjoy some planned leftovers.  Today was no exception.  Just before we left for the farm, I washed the hot peppers I’d brought home from the food bank.  We usually get more than will get taken, so I take home extras.  I set some aside to grill.  A few had some spots on them, so I trimmed them.  They’ve been here for a week, turning from green to red, some of them.  I stuffed these with basket cheese.  I had never heard of basket cheese, so I looked it up.  Turns out it’s some Italian tradition to have at Easter.  I do not remember ever having this, so it apparently wasn’t something my Italian mother did.  I don’t know whether my Italian grandmother ever used this--we were never with her at Easter.  It’s quite possible that it is simply from a different region of Italy.  In any case, I learned that it is a mild cheese, kind of like ricotta, but firmer.  This was crumbly, but that may have been because it shows up at the food bank frozen and then thaws in the pantry.  I was able to use this to stuff the peppers, which I did and stuck them in the fridge.  When I got home, I also stuffed in some garlic chives, cilantro, and basil.  These went on the grill first, along with the boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  I just wanted the peppers to char a little on the bottom, which they did.  The cheese got all bubbly. 

Wow, are they good!  I don’t expect to have basket cheese again anytime soon, but I think in future, I will get some cream cheese, whiz it up the food processor with herbs, stuff the peppers and grill (or bake in the oven, but I know the grilling makes them taste better!).  It did not take long for the peppers to be done, so they came off and some thickly sliced sweet onions and some halved zucchini went on next.  I brushed these with olive oil, sprinkled with Italian seasoning, ground some black peppers over everything, and snipped some garlic chives onto some of the zucchini.

 We put half of the zucchini on while we cooked everything else--turkey burgers, turkey hot dogs for Heather, and some jalapeno chicken sausages.  We came up to eat and left the rest of the zucchini and a bunch of hot peppers roasting on the grill as the coals burned out and cooled.  After we ate, Bill brought the stuff up, I packaged everything and got it in the fridge and put the roasted hot peppers in a bag in the freezer.  Bill cleaned up and then I made some lime vinaigrette for all of those salads I plan on eating this week.  We were almost out of dressing and there happened to be a bag of limes going begging in the soup kitchen dining room today. 

We are currently out of raw zucchini, but I imagine we will get more before the summer is over.  Since we really liked the way this came out, I think we will grill it again.

So now we have enough food prepared to last into the weekend.  I like that.  I won’t really have to cook  until Thursday when I will be making still more fish chowder in the soup kitchen.  Are there any fish left in the ocean?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Salad Demo Day at MCHPP

This morning I went down to MCHPP to do a salad demo in the food pantry lobby.  Sue, the food pantry coordinator had asked me to do a taco salad, so she brought in her electric skillet and I used that to cook some lean ground beef, diced zucchini, and a chopped onion.  Then I added a can of black beans (drained) and the kernels cut from 3 ears of corn.  I added 3 packets of taco seasoning and some water and let that simmer.  Had I been making it at home, I would have used chili powder, chopped peppers, and garlic and skipped the taco seasoning packets, but we use what we've got!  I was going to make some of the 2-step taco dressing (on the handout) because I spotted a container of salsa and some yogurt, but the yogurt was all sweetened and flavored, so that wouldn't work and we did without it.

While the meat and veggies simmered, I tore some lettuce, cut up a few tomatoes and some cucumber, and tossed that in a bowl.  I got some hot peppers and chopped them up, placing them in a bowl for people to take if they wanted.  Finally, I cubed some cheddar cheese to put on top.  I don't eat beef, so didn't get to taste it, but I was told it was good. It was gone before noon, so I cleaned up and came home.

Below is the handout I made for people to take with various salad and dressing ideas:
 Salads are a great way to use lots of different kinds of herbs and vegetables.  They can be a light side dish or a hearty meal.  Add pasta or grains, hard boiled eggs, cooked leftover meat or fish, tuna, canned beans, or cheese for some protein, and dress with the dressing of your choice. 

Easy Vinaigrette
You can easily change the amount of dressing you make—my rule of thumb is 2 parts oil to one part lemon or lime juice or vinegar.  If you use olive oil, it will get hard in the fridge.  This is normal.  Just take it out and let it come to room temperature before using.

--2/3 cup oil
--1/3 cup lemon juice, lime juice, or any kind of vinegar you like—if you use juice, either bottled or squeezed from the lemon will work—I squeeze lemons and limes and put the juice in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, I take the juice cubes and place in plastic bags to store in the freezer.  These can be thawed out and used in the dressing or just use the cubes in water, iced tea, or smoothies
--about 1 teaspoon mustard of your choice—if you have a mustard jar that is empty, you can make your dressing right in the jar—you will not have to add any mustard because the stuff that clings to the side of the jar will come off when you shake everything together
--add garlic powder and/or dried herbs if you like and a sprinkle of chili powder works well if using lime juice

Quick and Easy Creamy Dressings
Cool as a Cucumber
Peel a cucumber.  Cut into chunks and place in food processor or blender.  Add 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (if you want a thicker dressing or a dip, use Greek yogurt).  Blend.  OR, place yogurt in a bowl, dice cucumber finely, and stir in well.  Add some dill and/or chives if you like, and some garlic powder.  Chill.
2-StepTaco Dressing
Place some plain yogurt in a bowl.  Stir in salsa to taste.  Chill.  You can also use this on top of tostadas, nachos, burritos, or other Mexican food, as well as on baked potatoes.  Use Greek yogurt for a thicker topping or to use as a dip.

Any of the dressings above will work for veggie salads, pasta salads, or potato salads.  For example:
--to make a Mexican potato salad, cook some cubed potatoes, add any or all of the following: scallions, bell peppers or jalapenos, chopped avocado, corn (use thawed frozen corn, drained canned corn, or corn cut off the cob), drained, canned kidney or black beans, and some shredded beef, chicken, or pork. Mix with 2-Step taco Dressing.  Chill.  Top with cilantro, if desired. This will work as a side dish or a main dish. 

--place some drained canned wax beans, green beans, kidney or black beans in a bowl.  Add chopped scallions or finely chopped onions, diced bell pepper, and minced garlic or garlic powder, if you like.  Toss with vinaigrette.  Chill.  Eat as a side dish or toss with greens, along with tuna for a main dish.

--Pasta or grain salad--you can make this with whatever you have on hand--great way to use leftovers bits of cooked meat and grain (rice, barley, etc) or pasta and any veggies you want to use up.  Use diced raw veggies or leftover cooked veggies.  Use drained canned veggies or thawed frozen veggies. Add some cheese, if you like.  Mix with vinaigrette.

Grate carrots.  Place in bowl.  Add raisins or dried cranberries.  Add sliced almonds or chopped walnuts, if desired.  Add some orange juice (about 1/2 cup per 2 cups of carrots--or however much you like).  Sprinkle a little dried ginger in or add a bit of minced fresh ginger root, if you like it.  I am not much of a ginger fan, so I leave it out and it’s quite good without it. Mix everything together.

Tear lettuce and any other veggies and herbs you like into a bowl.  Set aside.  Brown some ground beef, chicken, or turkey along with any of the following: chopped onion, bell or chili pepper, diced or grated carrots, diced or grated zucchini or summer squash, corn (thawed frozen, drained canned, or fresh cut off the cob).  drain the grease from the pan.  Add diced tomatoes/tomato sauce/tomato puree/or tomato paste (add some water if using paste until it’s the consistency you want it).  Add some dried oregano and garlic powder if you want.  Add a packet of taco seasoning or chili powder and cumin to taste.  Stir in a (drained and rinsed) can of beans or leftover cooked dried beans.  Add meat mixture to salad.  Top with shredded cheese and cilantro, if desired.  You don’t really need dressing with this, but you could add a dollop of the 2-step taco dressing, or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.  Or just use some plain salsa, if you like that.

--stuff any kind of salad in a pita pocket
--stuff chicken or tuna salad or pasta or grain salad in hollowed out small zucchini, tomato, or little sweet peppers, or on a piece of romaine or other leaf lettuce (wrap up)
--spread some hummus or cream cheese on a tortilla, top with salad and wrap
--instead of tossing your salad ingredients in a bowl, place carrot, celery, and/or bell pepper strips, broccoli florets, snap peas, etc.  Place creamy dressing of your choice in bowl(s) and use as a dip for the veggies.

Cut up fruits of your choice and mix in a bowl.  Top with yogurt of your choice.  Add some nuts, dried fruit, and/or shredded or flaked coconut, if you like.  Stir in some toasted oatmeal or granola.  Eat as a meal or for dessert.

To toast oatmeal in the microwave:
Place 2 cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick cooking oats) in a pie plate.  Microwave for 4-5 minutes in 1-minute increments, stirring at the end of each minute.  Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heroine in the Heat!

Soup kitchen day--and it was HOT!  I did not sleep well again last night-- was awake at 4 and up around 5--that is way too early for me.  I was walking in and fighting the urge to just start crying--it seemed like there was just no way I was going to be able to do the heavy lifting that lunch required.  But I managed not to cry and I got there early, since I knew I'd be moving a little bit slower than usual.  I was making taco casserole and that usually ends up taking every possible minute to complete by the time the doors open at 11.  I got the pots filled with water for the noodles, sprayed the pans for the steak, and started cutting it up.  Some of it was still frozen and it took a little bit of effort.  Crew members trickled in--Maureen started chopping the zucchini and summer squash, Arnie chopped the peppers, and Ms Marlene, the Onion Queen got to work on her speciality.  Lynne came in and helped me cut up steak, and then Cherry came in carrying a box fan and she asked me if she could put it on the counter to replace the little useless box fan that was there already. The blades spin, but you feel nothing.  Of course I was thrilled to have the large fan that actually created a breeze.  I told Cherry she was my heroine today.  It really helped to have that fan and we all spent a little time in front of it when we got too hot.

Got the steak chunks in the convection oven; cooked the veggies; cooked the noodles; and then  started assembling.  I put together a vegetarian pan first--noodles, veggies, seasoned tomato sauce, sour cream, and shredded sharp cheddar.  Then I did the same with the other pans, except added the steak in--had extra, so I packed it up and put it in the cooler for distribution in the food pantry tomorrow.  We had a bunch of bread from Panera that we sliced as well.  We put salsa in little cups and Arnie diced some hot peppers--these things were optional for those that wanted them.  And we had a bowl of crushed up tortilla chips to sprinkle on top.  It was quite a feast, with the salads and choice of dessert.  We served 133 meals, with leftovers going to the pantry for clients tomorrow.

There was an assortment of lovely veggies (much from local organic farms) that were free for the taking.

There was some salad left--enough to fill 2 quart-sized containers.  Cherry took one and I took the other, so there will be chicken sandwiches, leftover potato salad and the veggie salad from lunch today for our supper.  No more cooking today for me.

Once we started and I got into the tasks at hand, I felt better.  I was still hot and still tired, but it was a satisfying morning of work. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Staying Ahead of Myself

It’s another hot one today, although it’s not quite as hot as it’s been for the past couple of days.  Tomorrow and Friday it’ll go back up to near 90 again, so I cooked in advance this morning.  I will be roasting tomorrow in the steamy soup kitchen, but I can try to avoid that kind of experience at home!
I had a quart of milk that needed to be used, so I used half to soak some rolled oats overnight and used the other half this morning to make some lemon pudding.  We have a lot of blueberries at the moment, so blueberries and pudding will be our dessert tonight.  I made some blueberry almond oatmeal muffins with the soaked oats this morning.  Because I was awake at 4-ish this morning and out of bed for the day by 5:30, the muffins were out of the oven before 6:30.  Not being a morning person, I find this to be a most unwelcome turn of events, but at least the oven was turned off early!

After the muffins were done, I had some coffee and breakfast and then headed back into the kitchen, dragging a fan behind me.  I had put a whole chicken in my Crock Pot last night, along with some cut up carrots, a sliced onion, a bunch of sage and one of tarragon.  I cooked this for about 9 1/2 hours overnight on the low setting.  This morning I removed all the skin and bones and put the meat in a container.  The carrots and onion went in a separate container.

Next, I chopped up a large sweet onion, a bunch of little sweet peppers in various colors, a yellow summer squash, two zucchini, a peeled broccoli stalk, and some chard stems.  The chard got whizzed up in the food processor.  I cooked this in a little olive oil (what else?) and added some basil, garlic powder, oregano, and a 12 ounce can of tomato paste.  I added water until it was the consistency I wanted and let everything simmer for a few minutes.  We will have this for supper tonight with brown rice, which I have (already cooked) in the fridge, some of the chicken and a salad.  I made some more lemon vinaigrette to be sure there was enough for the next few days worth of salads.

Tomorrow is soup kitchen day, so I won’t want to do any more cooking after I am done with that.  We have potato salad left, so will have that along with some chicken salad sandwiches, perhaps.  On Friday we can have more of the saucy veggies.  If there’s chicken left, we can have some of that and if not, I can cook a couple of chicken Italian sausages to go with it.  Cold food, the Crock Pot, and ding cuisine--useful strategies to survive the heat!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hot Times in the U-Pick Field and the Kitchen

I used the less-hot morning today to make potato salad (I'd hard boiled the eggs last night), cook some beets left from last week's farm share pick-up, cut up a honeydew melon, and get the fridge straightened up. I had little bits of leftovers in big containers, so I consolidated them into a bowl and had them with lunch! I also got some thyme into a container. Sometimes we get a lot of herbs at Mid Coast Hunger Prevention and I got a lot of thyme last week, so I spread it out on cookie sheets and let it dry. Today I stripped the dried leaves from the stems and now I have quite a lot ready to use!  
We went to the farm this afternoon and headed for the U-pick field first where we saw our porky buddies who were apparently hungry.
 I cut some flowers and some basil while Bill poked around in the remaining pea plants to see if he could find any--there were a few that I blanched for a couple of minutes and added to his salad for supper.  The heat did away with most of the peas.  But I saw that the cilantro is coming up, the basil is lovely, the beans and cherry tomatoes have blossoms and there are more flowers coming.  After the U-pick field, we made our way to the building where we pick up our shares and got a couple of heads of lettuce, chard, carrots, 5 cucumbers, 3 summer squash, and 2 kohlrabi.
I had a small bit of the slaw left that I'd made the other day, so I built my salad around that and made one for Bill, too.  We also had the potato salad with some jalapeno chicken sausage and Raye's Mustard Winter Blend (just to engage in a little wishful thinking).

 Tonight before I go to bed I will put a whole chicken in my large Crock Pot along with some onion and herbs--and maybe carrots--and let that cook overnight. And I will put some oatmeal and milk in a container to soak overnight so I can make blueberry muffins in the morning.  I could have put them on to soak this morning and baked them tonight, but it's just too hot for the oven.  Tomorrow is supposed to be closer to 80 than 90, so that will be nice (I know things are yucky when I can refer to 80 degrees as "nice.").  Naturally, it's gonna get up to near-90 by Thursday, so we will be prepping, cooking, and serving in sauna-like conditions in the soup kitchen.  There's a break from chowder this week and I am making my taco casserole.  Next week, it'll be back to the chowder, though.  It's also supposed to be cooler--in the 70s.  High 70s, but I'll take that over 90 any day. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

This Little Piggy Went to U-Pick

We went to the farm today to pick up our farm share.  We started in the U-pick field where we had some company!
Bill picked some peas while I cut a few flowers and a little basil.  The sage was abundant and there was some early thyme, but I don't need those right now, so I left them.

Then we went and got our regular share, which consisted of a head of lettuce or lettuce mix (I got a head), some salad greens (radicchio, endive, and escarole), beets (or a cabbage--I got beets), carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, chard (mix and match with kale--we almost always get all chard), and a couple of kohlrabi.
When we got home, Bill took this photo of a funky farm carrot.  When he saw it, he immediately said it looked like it was conducting.
Last week, Bill had his first blood test since we've started going to the farm for this season.  He has been going every 4 weeks to get his INR number so that his coumadin dosage can be monitored.  The number is supposed to be between 2 and 3.  Last month he was right at 2 and I thought he might go under this time because we'd started going to the farm and were getting chard, broccoli, and other Vitamin K-rich foods (coumadin is an anti-coagulant and K interferes with this).  When he was in the hospital after his stroke, the doctors all told us that he should continue eating Vitamin K-rich foods, because they offer so much nutrition, but we should try to be consistent.  I have tried to do that ever since. Last spring and summer, the number was fluctuating a bit before we even started going to the farm and it took a little while to get back to where we've been for the past several months, so I was really curious to see how it would go this year.  And he was in the middle at 2.4, even with all that chard and broccoli!  Yay! 

Salmon and Veggies, Orange Banana Oatmeal Muffins and Chicken with Avocado

It was finally cooler today.  I spent the weekend at work with Bill because it was cooler.  When I woke up Sunday morning, it was pretty comfortable and then all of a sudden it got hot and I started feeling queasy, so I decided to go in with him again and I felt better. As soon as I got there on both days, I made smoothies for Bill, Maralee and me.  Bill had found a blender at a thrift shop and brought it in so they could make smoothies.  They'd made orange juice cubes and popped them into zipper bags, so on Saturday I tossed some into the blender with some vanilla soymilk and whizzed away.  The soymilk needed to be used or frozen, so I put the rest of it in the ice cube trays and by the time we left, they were solid, so we put them in a bag.  They were ready for Sunday, when I made vanilla frappuccinos--I used the cubes with some cold coffee I'd brought.  Then  sat in the kitchen, which gets pretty chilly with the AC on and no windows to let the sun in.  And the kitchen is right off of the office area, so I could still converse.  I actually got so chilly that I had to walk out and stand in the main area for a few minutes--what a treat for July!  It was pleasant to be sitting there reading and crocheting in comfort.

It has cooled off here today enough so that I could turn on the oven.  I had a couple of bananas that needed to be used, so last night when we got home, I put 2 cups of rolled oats into a container and added 1 1/2 cups of orange juice, plus the juice that was left from a small can of pineapple.  I let this sit in the fridge overnight and this morning I mashed the 2 bananas, mixed in the oat mixture, an egg, 1/4 cup of brown sugar, 1 cup of whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon each baking soda and salt, and some sliced almonds.  I baked these at 400 for about 25 minutes. 

At the same time, I put in a couple of frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts and some sliced hot peppers.  While that cooked, I mashed up two avocados and added basil, garlic, lemon juice, and some snipped scallions.  I spread this on toasted multigrain bread and to one of them I added the chicken with a half a piece of pepper jack cheese melted on top. To the other, I added the hot peppers and some sliced raw onion. This was a spur of the moment thing when Heather brought home avocados and hot peppers from the dining room.  They were perfect, too--not one brown spot inside!  I never know with avocados--I've bought some that I thought would be just right and I end up having to throw parts of it away because of the brown places.

She also brought home a little bunch of baby broccoli.  I'd already taken out some salmon to cook for supper, and I decided that since the oven was already on, I might as well cook it then.  Once the muffins came out, I put the pan of salmon, baby broccoli, sliced onion, and another hot pepper in and cooked it.  I sprinkled the salmon with garlic powder, oregano, and some sprigs of fresh thyme, also from the dining room.  At suppertime, I boiled some Yukon Gold potatoes to go with and we ground up some pepper on top.  There's salmon left for lunch tomorrow.  And tomorrow is farm share pick-up day, too!  Yay!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Cheese Sauce with Veggies and White Bean Spread (or Dip)

This morning I did what I always try not to do--I cooked in the heat.  Have I ever mentioned that I loathe summer?  It is true.  And summer has arrived.  I am extremely grateful that is was at least delayed and I got to enjoy a relatively mild and wet June.  I hope it doesn't stick around much longer, though.  I try to remember that all of the beautiful vegetables that we get at the farm need this kind of weather to grow.  I will not get to savor the flavor of a farm fresh, local, organic tomato unless it is hot and miserable for a while beforehand.  Usually I plan ahead when I know it's going to be hot--I prepare things ahead of time and we use the microwave (ding cuisine, someone called it) or we eat cold stuff.  But this is the third or fourth day now and the food I had that needed to be used--including some of that stuff from the farm--required cooking, so I did it this morning.  We will have ding cuisine for lunch and will have a cold supper.

Yesterday I soaked two pounds of white beans, changing the water frequently.  Last night I put them in the Crock-Pot and let them cook on the low setting until I got up this morning.  I drained them and planned to put a couple of pints in the freezer, but I ended up needing them.  I had some parsley that needed using, so I put that in the food processor, along with some basil leaves from my windowsill plant, a fresh jalapeno, a grilled chili pepper from the freezer and 4 scallions from the farm (the last of the bunch--the ends will get planted shortly).  I whizzed that all up and added some beans.  Another whiz and into the bowl.  I added some oregano and chili and garlic powders to the next batch and some tomato juice from a can of tomatoes along with the beans.  This was a little too thin to be a spread.  I added it to the bowl and mixed the batches together.  That thickened things up, but I decided to get out the beans I'd put in the freezer and whiz them up with more chili powder and some pickled jalapenos.  The consistency was good, but next time I would probably not bother with the tomato juice.
I put a couple of pints in the freezer.  I have some farm lettuce that I need to use, so for supper tonight I will have this bean spread with lettuce on some whole grain bread and some of the slaw I made the other day.

I had some milk that needed to be used, so I decided to make a veggie cheese sauce to go over pasta. This is how I made it today, but bear in mind that you can use any vegges you like--it is never the same thing twice when I make this, because I throw different stuff in, depending on what I have.  Broccoli is great in this and you can use any leafy green you like.

Cheese Sauce with Veggies

Place a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large skillet.  Add:
1 large onion, chopped
zucchini or summer squash (1 large or two or three small), chopped
a couple of cloves of garlic, minced
Cook, stirring continuously, until onion is just starting to get brown.

Add 1/3 cup flour and stir in.

Turn down the heat to medium and pour in 4 cups of milk (I have used plain soy milk and it works beautifully).  Stir until sauce is thickened.

Add a bunch of greens  (I used chard today and have used spinach in the past--you can also use a box of frozen spinach that you have thawed and squeezed out a little) that have been roughly chopped or whizzed in the food processor and some chopped tomatoes.  The tomatoes can be fresh or canned.  If you use canned, drain out the juice first.  Stir for a minute or two.

Add cheese--either grated or cut into smallish pieces.  Today I used mozzarella and a little bit of Swiss that I had left.  Parmesan, provolone, cheddar, American cheeses all work well, too.

Stir until the cheese melts.

After making this, I still had a couple of cups of milk left, so I put it in the freezer to use in future baking.

It is supposed to be hot again tomorrow before it cools off a bit Monday (my fingers are crossed that we will get some rain, too!).  But now I will not have to cook.  We have our "ding cuisine" and our cold food.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Broccoli Sandwiches

Yesterday was a weird Thursday and now I have to keep reminding myself that it's Friday because my sense of time is out of whack.  Since it was a holiday, MCHPP was closed, so I didn't cook in the soup kitchen, which I usually do.  One of Bill's co-workers wanted yesterday off, so he went in to work, which he usually doesn't.  I decided to go in with him to hang out for the three hours he was there and we had supper there.  I'd made the stuff for broccoli sandwiches.  It sounds like a weird thing, and when I first came across the idea in some magazine 20 or 25 years ago, I thought it was odd, but I decided to give it a try anyway, and we loved it!  I've been making it pretty regularly ever since. It's so simple, but very tasty!

Broccoli Sandwiches
Put some oil in a pan just to coat the bottom.  Save the broccoli florets. Chop broccoli stalks (peel the larger ones first) and slice an onion (use as much as you want).  Cook and stir frequently.  Turn the heat down once the onion is translucent and let cook for another 5 minutes or so, stirring once in a while to prevent sticking.  Stir in the chopped broccoli florets, some garlic powder, and some crushed red pepper flakes.  Add a little bit of water if the pan gets to dry and things start to stick.  Cook for a couple of minutes more.

Serve on a roll (you can hollow out a bit of the bottom if you want) or open faced on a piece of crusty bread.  Top with cheese of your choice.  We had pepper jack yesterday, but I have also used Swiss, cheddar, American, and provolone--use what you like/have.

You can add other veggies to the mix if you like, but it's really great with just the broccoli and onions!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Easy Strawberry Jam from the Barefoot Contessa

Today I went over to a friend's house to babysit her 8-month-old while she did an errand.  She was kind enough to leave the TV on the Food Network--good thing, because TVs and cable seem way more complicated than they were back in the days when I had them and I am not sure that I would have been able to figure out how to change the channel!

After about 15 minutes, the baby was hungry, so we settled in with a bottle and he fell asleep after drinking most of it, so I sat there rocking him and watching the end of Cupcake Wars.  Then the Barefoot Contessa came on.  She kept gushing about Jeffrey (Geoffrey?) who was coming home and she was clearly very excited about this.  Alas, he was arriving home too late for his usual Friday night meal of roast chicken, so she decided to make him some cocoa for the arrival celebration and a fancy breakfast the next day.  This was apparently supposed to be some kind of surprise, but I was thinking that since she writes cookbooks and has a cooking show, there wouldn't be very much genuine astonishment happening the next morning.  I was (silently, so as not to wake the baby, of course!) chuckling to myself when she was telling Jeffrey or Geoffrey the next morning to build a fire and she'd bring him cold toast and yesterday's coffee for breakfast.  He dutifully lit the fire and declared that there's nothing better than a fire on a cold morning!  Funny that just a little while before this she had run off to the store to purchase the ingredients she would need and she was in a lightweight shirt.  Not even a jacket or a sweater was tossed over her shoulders! 

So she started the brioche dough and she made strawberry jam.  I missed the very beginning of the jam making, but I soon wished I had paid more attention, because she was making just a couple of pints of jam and she was not using pectin.  This is very handy for me, because I am always bringing home strawberries from MCHPP that need to be used right away, but usually not so many that I can make a vat of jam!  This recipe looks perfect!  So here's the link!

I like her idea about the plate, too--she said that she keeps a plate in the freezer and when she's making the jam, she spoons a little on the cold plate and swirls it around a little.  Then she can push it around with her finger to see if it's starting to gel.  I see strawberry jam in my future.

After that, some shows came on that appeared to have to do with budget cooking and I was glad to see those.  It was quite interesting for me to watch this stuff that I'd never seen before.  And I got a good jam recipe, got to play with the baby, visit with my friend and learn that I am out of practice when it comes to poopy-diaper changing!!  Who knew that the wipes were all connected together and would not just come out one at a time?  Live and learn!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Vegetarian (or Not) Sloppy Joes, Slaw, and the Farm Share

We picked up our farm share today under grey, misty skies.  I appreciated every single drop of mist.  As I told Bill, any July day that is cool, rainy, and grey is one day in July that I am not hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable and that is a gift!  We got chard (there was kale, too, but we like chard much better, so I usually get that), carrots, 2 heads of lettuce, 3 zucchini, a bunch of scallions, and a savoy cabbage.

When we got home, I used last week’s Napa cabbage to make a slaw.  In addition to the cabbage, I used carrots, a red bell pepper, and some scallions (of course I stuck the ends in dirt!).  I do really like having the slaw prepared because it keeps really well.  I can dump some in a bowl and eat or I can add other stuff if I feel like it and it can become an entire meal.  It’s very convenient!

We also got a head of regular cabbage last week and I had most of it left, so I made sweet and sour cabbage for Bill, since he isn’t a fan of salads.  He can eat this cold or hot while I munch away on my raw veggie salads.

In my freezer inventory a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that I had more containers of Bowdoin tofu than I thought.  It comes to MCHPP when it is left over in the dining halls at the college.  It gets packaged into containers and is placed in the dining room where anyone who wants to can take some.  I bring it home and stick it in the freezer--sometimes the containers are too big and I have to repackage it again before freezing!  Anyway, I took out a quart and a half of the tofu, which was in crumbles and cooked with a few garbanzo beans, some shredded carrot, bell pepper, and some other stuff.  It was mostly tofu crumbles.  When I don’t have Bowdoin tofu, I use the tofu that comes in water.  I remove it from the water and freeze it in a bag.  When I want to use it, I let it thaw and then crumble it and squeeze the water out.  This changes the texture and allows it to soak up more of the sauce.  You can use it like you would cooked ground beef or turkey.

I cooked a couple of the zucchini that we got today in some olive oil, along with a chopped onion, bell pepper, and corn that I’d cut off the cob.  I added some cubed, cooked potatoes and the tofu mixture and stirred it all up, letting it sit on the heat (medium high) for a few minutes before adding the sauce.  To make that, I plopped about 6 ounces of tomato paste in a bowl and added water until it was the consistency I wanted.  This made about 3 or 3 1/2 cups of sauce.  I added 6 tablespoons each of brown sugar and vinegar, a tablespoon of mustard, some dried oregano, garlic powder, and a sprinkle of chili powder.  I whisked everything together.  I could have done this ahead of time and kept in in the fridge if I’d wanted to.  This makes a good sauce for beans, too--I made BBQ beans and ham in the soup kitchen using this sauce one day.  You don’t have to use tomato paste--you can use sauce, puree, crushed tomatoes, etc.

One of the great things about these sloppy joes is that they are so versatile.  When I started making these, I did it with tofu and I still do it that way most often.  I have also done a sloppy joe demo in the food pantry lobby using ground chicken and at home I’ve used ground turkey. Ground beef would work well, too, of course--for any of the ground stuff, you would just skip the olive oil and add the meat to the veggies, cooking, stirring and breaking up the meat until it’s done.  Then drain the excess grease and proceed.  You could use leftover meat--pulled pork or chicken, leftover cooked chicken, beef, or pork, or a combination.  Got a few bits of leftover cooked meat in the fridge--a bit of steak, a pork chop, a chicken leg, a hamburger, or a sausage?  Chop it up and use it up in sloppy joes!  The veggies can be varied as well, according to your taste.  You could add a can of beans that have been rinsed or some dried beans that have been cooked.  The veggies and/or beans really help to boost the nutritional value and stretch the meat and food budget!