Friday, December 31, 2010

Decadent Philistines... Kinda Phone it In....

I learned something today, and that is when one is raised in the Pacific Northwest, year-round access to all types of (real) crab is something that one takes for granted.  However, in the desert of Arizona, that is NOT the case, as trips to three different grocery stores proved.  
I had PLANNED to have Old Ebbitt Grill crab cakes for our appetizer tonight.  That didn't happen.  Yes, I could have bought a few dungeness babies or a handful of king crab legs.  But I didn't want to go through all the effort of cracking/shelling them just for a bit of meat.  And by "bit" I mean an entire pound of jumbo lump.  So we didn't have them.
But we did have a lovely duck.  Together, hubby and I made canard a'la orange.  That called for AN ENTIRE CUP of orange liqueur.  Holy smokes, that was a LOT of booze.  I don't think it cooked off completely, but that might be because the smell of it still lingers in my nostrils.
There also wasn't enough time for dessert, so hopefully Sunday afternoon will bring company, which will also bring the excuse to make said dessert (Aunt Paula, I'm not gonna let you down!).
Of course, what is New Year's Eve without the bubbly.  Tonight, we had a bottle of prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine that has small, soft bubbles.  It was a nice, crisp, apply bubbly that would really go well with anything.  Of course, sparkling wine (champagne, prosecco, cava, etc.) goes with EVERYTHING... or by itself, really.  And thank goodness I had the foresight to get two bottles, so we have one in reserve.  In case of emergency.  Or weeknight.

We also exchanged gifts this evening, as we didn't feel like taking items up to Michigan only to have to bring them back.  I got hubby a bottle of vintage port.  This particular vintage, rated extremely well by Wine Spectator, was "born" in 2000, the year we met, and it was bottled in 2002, the year we married, so it has somewhat of a special tie to us.  I also got him wine for our first Christmas together ten years ago, so as we also age, so does the wine.  I.... I received a Shake Weight (serves me right for threatening to get that for him for a year... actually he did get one from someone else, so we are even).  I also got an awesome running jacket, so I'm excited to bust that out, especially because 1) I ate way too much today and 2) it's freaking cold here in AZ lately!

I kind of wish we had just snacked on the pan scrapings of the duck, as they were soooooooo good!  I feel like adding the orange gastrique took away from their ducky, salty goodness.
That being said, we have approximately 6 ounces of duck fat chilling in the fridge now, so the decadence can continue into the next decade of the millennium.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


For anyone who has never taught high school, you should know that final exam time is hectic.  Thus, the entire month of December, having both finals, Christmas, and (for us) a trip to Michigan, there really wasn't a lot of great eating.  There were some pretty good things thrown in there, but I admit that more than one meal may have consisted of M&Ms while I was grading or prepping for next semester.  And, certainly, one doesn't plan to go on vacation and follow any food rules (yes, Jillian Michaels, I am talking to you!).
So, after three weeks of sugar and more red meat than I care to confess, it was a week of vegging - the good kind.
Our CSA didn't deliver over Christmas (hey - those guys work hard and deserve a little break, too!), so I had to slum it at the grocery store.  Thankfully, Sprouts has a good produce selection, and I was able to pick up ALMOST everything that I needed for the week.
We had some leftover sweet potatoes, radishes, and turnips, so I made the following menu for us this week:
  • Monday - black bean and sweet potato empanadas and Spanish rice (the rice turned out terrible, so thank goodness the empanadas, made with CSA sweet potatoes and jalapeños from my MIL's garden, were big and filling)
  • Tuesday - sweet potato ravioli with lemon sage brown butter (very tasty, but I added a wee too much butter to our dishes, so it was a little rich - next time I'll use a little ladle)

I used wonton wrappers for the ravioli... someday I'll have my own pasta maker, but until then, the wrappers are fine.

  • Wednesday - quinoa with kale, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds (this was something I attempted before, subbing black beans.... I would not recommend that substitution, if I were you; the feta and the sunflower seeds, though, made this AWESOME - I am adding this to my rotation... hopefully with the mustard greens that the recipe calls for again)

That brings us to today.  I made a veggie pasty filling on Tuesday when I made the ravioli, and after HRH went to daycare, I made the dough.  Instead of potatoes and carrots, I stuck to the turnips and radishes.  I am looking forward to trying this, and my fingers are crossed that the crust isn't too dry, as some of the reviews said.  I am chilling the dough, so I'm hoping all turns out OK.  If not.... well, NYPD Pizza is not that far away.
But what about New Year's Eve?????  Well, let's just say, for now, that the plan is to be decadent philistines.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Health Hiatus

Clearly, December hasn't been an "eating well" month.  Between finals at work, setting up courses for spring semester, and then Christmas, there wasn't much "well" being consumed.  However, I did learn that Peeps are gluten free, so I'm going to put that in the "win" column.  Otherwise there won't be anything.
No fear, though - I have a few things up my sleeve for these next few days!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Olive You!

Full disclosure: I forgot the ice cream at home on Thanksgiving, AND the brioche was really disappointing (the lack of rising the night before just led to rolls that were just OK).  Upside - I can have the ice cream all to myself (muahahahahahahahaha!).
However, Thanksgiving dinner was still lovely.  It was a smaller family gathering, but wonderful nonetheless.  There was plenty of food, something for which we all gave thanks.  After all, while modern media might have one think that the day is all about gluttony, the real reason behind the holiday is, of course, to reflect on how lucky and fortunate our lives are.

We had so much food, in fact, that we were able to make several lunches and small dinners out of the leftovers this weekend.  Of course, I worked to use our vegetable share into the meals, too.
We got more dill this week, but I didn't feel like pickling anything, so I found a rather simple spinach and chickpea recipe that utilized dill.  Instead of spinach, I used some arugula and mizuna, which I hoped would make up for the fact that I didn't have any onion (I also used the rest of our CSA garlic to boost the flavor).

In addition, I used the last of the cranberries by putting them inside a baked acorn squash.  The color was quite pretty, but I think that since I was loathe to add that much sugar to my original cranberry dish, the finished product was a bit tart; I would use a little honey next time, which will also smooth out the squash slightly.
The chickpeas were tasty, too, although I always always always underestimate how many greens I'll need, so the greens-to-chickpea ratio was not quite balanced.  That being said, I would most definitely use the arugula in this recipe again, as I didn't miss the onion at all.

Today was a "what do we have" type of day.  I have been wanting an olive burger, something which I had never heard of until our stint in Michigan.  We cooked a few Morningstar® patties and threw on a slice of Swiss cheese.  
Meh - they were OK.  I think, though, that the saltiness of the olives really works far better when there is a real beef patty next to it.  Something about the flavor of beef, the mildness of the cheese, and the olives make the taste something that can't be repeated with a veggie burger.  Oh, well.  The latkes, our side dish of the evening, more than made up for the disappointing result of the original main dish.
Instead of potatoes, we used the radishes and turnips we got in our veggie share this week.  These latkes were amazing.  They were simply flavored - just salt and pepper - but they were phenomenal.  The depth of the flavor that the radish and the turnip added made them better than any potato latke that I've ever had (and I have had some amazing potato latkes).  I was so sad that the count was only two apiece...and that hubby liked them as much as I did, so he didn't want to share.

The last thing I did today was make a kalamata olive bread.  I found this recipe quite a while ago and have been wanting to make it for ages, but I'll be honest - I was too lazy to go get bread flour.  That changed today when I went to the store for other sundries (yogurt for Wee One, basically), and I decided, what the heck?  
I don't like rosemary (in a similar manner to the way I don't like basil), so I just omitted that.  Everything else I duplicated as much as I could - I don't have a cloche, and if I weren't completely out of room for any more kitchen toys, I would totally be getting one.  
I was pleased with this end result.  We didn't wait the full two hours to taste test it - I mean, come on - TWO hours?????  It was, instead, dessert.

I do think I'd make two changes that were not noted in the original recipe (other than the whole get rid of the rosemary part):

  1. I would rinse the olives at least a little - the briny taste was a little overpowering, so the balance of bread to olive was a bit off.
  2. I would cut the olives into smaller pieces, at least in half lengthwise.  Some of the bites were all olive, once again throwing off the aforementioned balance.  

But that just means I have to try this recipe out again... and again...

Last thing - I opened the fridge pickles with dinner, too.  I was really happy with them!  They were a touch sour, to I think I'd cut the vinegar and up the salt a little, but they were nice and crunchy, and I know they'll be great on sandwiches!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'm tired, but I feel like I am juuuuuuust about ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  We did not have school today (a wise decision, as so many students and their families head out the day before Thanksgiving to get to wherever "there" is on time), so I spent the morning cleaning and laundering.  OK, I did a little grading, but that was only to get caught back up because one of the servers was down for a while, slowing everything down.  But I did not grade a single essay.  Those can wait.
After the folding and the hanging and the vacuuming was done, I ran a few errands.  The most important of these was getting the ice cream.  No, I didn't go to Safeway or Fry's or Basha's.  I went to Udder Delights out in Gilbert.
I confess; I have wanted to go there for a while.  The shop is a drop-off location for Desert Root Farms, but it's a really good thing that Bergie's is closer, as I might be getting a cone each weekend instead of just a biscotti.  Of course, when one sees the name, Udder Delights, one can't help but look up the website.
Of course, once you get to the website, you want to see the flavors.  U.D. has regular flavors, available year-round.  These include sugar cookie (with real sugar cookies) and bubble gum (meh - not my favorite, but always a hit with the kids).
There are also seasonal and monthly flavors, like pumpkin cheescake.
Earlier this month, I checked out the new monthly flavors, even though I was really hoping that "ice cream weather" was just about over.
And there it was.



Ice Cream.

Omigawdomigawdomigawd!!!!!!   Red velvet flippin' ice cream!!!!!!!
Clearly, I had to investigate to see if the product was worthy of such a title (can you tell I love red velvet cake?).
Thankfully, I put myself in charge of dessert for tomorrow's family feast, and what better treat to go with pie (more on that later) than ice cream?
So, it was the last errand on my list today.
The people are great; I was told that since this was my first time visiting, I was REQUIRED to sample at least three flavors of ice cream or sorbet, but I was allowed to sample all of them if I wanted to.  I sampled only 4, but what a four:

  • apple pie (seasonal)
  • sugar cookie
  • cinnamon streusel
  • and, of course, red velvet

The red velvet was a gorgeous vermillion that looked as rich as the cake for which it is named.  But smooth?  No.  Mixed in are HUNKS of chocolate and regular cheesecake.  Not little nibbles, mind you.  These chunks are so large that one is an entire bite in and of itself.
My final order was a quart of the apple pie, and quart of the sugar cookie, and a waffle cone with what must be the world's largest single scoop of the red velvet.
I had eaten the whole thing by the time I got home.

At least I'm sharing the apple pie (left) and the sugar cookie!

When I got home, I put my precious cargo in the freezer and then turned my attention to the pie crust that I had to make and the biscotti that I wanted to make just to make.
The pie crust is easy; I like Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe for a two-crust pie.  It's fabulously simple to make, and it doesn't call for any of that shortening nonsense.  Yes, I know; I am trying to use this blog to see how I can eat healthfully, but 1) this is a holiday that I'm cooking for, and 2) I am morally opposed to using shortening in a pie crust.  So, the pate brisee mixed up easily, and it's now chilling in the fridge, waiting for its apple-cranberry filling tomorrow.
We still have a boatload of frozen bananas, so I found a banana biscotti recipe.  I did modify it, using white chocolate chips instead of cinnamon chips (apparently a rare beast here in AZ)  Then, I wanted something more appropriate to the holiday at hand, so I tried some cranberry-orange biscotti as well.  The banana biscotti turned out nicely, although, as per my aversion to baked goods bearing bananas, I based this determination only on the lack of burning and the lovely cinnamon smell that pervaded the kitchen.

Unfortunately, today, the score appears to be Allison: 1, Oven: 1.  That's right, the cranberry-orange batch, the second one I made, decided to get a leeeeeetle crispy on one side.  I think I can salvage but scraping, but we'll see - while the banana still had a hint of softness to it, the cranberry-orange feels brittle, and I'm almost afraid to take it out of the "air proof container" where I placed them all.

Right now, I am waiting to finish step 2 of the brioche rolls I am baking tomorrow.  I will be honest, even though I had some good success with my pain complet (take 2), I am still terrified.  The mood of yeast, as any aspiring baker knows, fluctuates with the wind, and even though I have been waiting for the dough to rise for slightly more than the prescribed hour, it doesn't appear to have risen all that much.  The last thing I want it puckish rolls, so I'm toughing it out for a bit more and praying to the gods of all things buttery, yeasty, and French that things turn out well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quite the Pickle

I was excited to receive dill this week in our CSA share, although that excitement quickly waned when I realized I really have no idea what to do with dill except to make tartar sauce or as a garnish over salmon.
I confess that I do enjoy a well-made tartar sauce (lots of pickles, lots of dill), but making it is beyond my abilities; I can't make anything with mayonnaise as the main ingredient.  It honestly makes my gag reflex step into overtime.  So tartar sauce is out (plus, then I'd have to make fish and chips, and that's just too much work).
And we don't have any salmon.  I know I can go out and get some, but we are in Arizona, not known for its consistently great seafood selections.
The only other use for dill, in my mind was pickles.
As luck would have it, we had an Armenian cucumber in the fridge; it was in our share last week, so I found this refrigerator pickles recipe by Martha Stewart.  I have no idea what a kirby cucumber is, but I figured that the Armenian one would be fine.
I knew that wouldn't use all the dill, and we also had a TON of okra (I'm so not tired of it yet, but hubby is, it seems), so I figured that I could pickle those, too.  So, I found this pickled okra recipe from my Food Network hero, Alton Brown.  Since this was an actual canning recipe, I sliced and salted my cukes as per instructions and then ran to the store for more canning lids and some dill seed.

But then, after I started the process of chopping the garlic and adding it to the pot full of vinegar, aforementioned dill seed, and mustard seed, it occurred to me that we had just received a lovely bunch of jalapeño chiles, courtesy of my mother-in-law's garden (also home to what must be the world's largest basil plant).  So, I decided to change the plan and use, instead of dear Alton's recipe, one from Emeril - BAM!
I have to say, the smell of the brine solution cooking was enough to clear my sinuses.  But it was quite lovely to see the mixture come to a boil anyway.

I am really, really, REALLY hoping that we get more garlic in our share next week.  We have gone through all of it, and I had to actually cut back on how much the okra recipe called for, which was disappointing.  Pickled garlic is something that I fancy a great deal; garlic is my favorite olive stuffing, too, so I'll be sure to be spearing the chunks out of the jar along with the pickles.

When all was said and done, I had two jars of the pickle chips and four jars of the okra.  Because we were warned that the chiles were pretty hot, I was convinced to only put one of each in TWO of the okra  jars.  That way, if those jars end up melting our mouths, we can salvage the other two (at least that's the idea).

Sadly, I am not able to report on the taste of either batch.  While the pickle pickles are only fridge pickles, the recipe still instructed me to wait a week before digging in, and I don't want to be disappointed in any lack of flavor.  I'm counting down the days until I can crack open one of those jars.  The okra, on the other hand, is going to take a month to mature, so that might just be a Christmas "surprise" for us.
No matter what, I'm pretty stoked - with the exception of the two seeds in each recipe, all of the plant-based ingredients came from our CSA.  While I'm certainly no woman of the 1800s, canning and preserving because it's a way of life, I am making use of the foods that are available to me and making sure that I am not wasting them.  And that's the important thing.  In this season of gluttonous excess, the notion of wasting food when others have none is utterly repugnant to me, and if spending an afternoon smelling of vinegar and dill can help keep me from taking what I have for granted and thus focus on how I can ensure that fewer do go hungry, then it's paid for that time tenfold.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

C is for Cupcakes!

***Editor's note:  this really isn't a "good food" post.  In fact, I highly recommend NOT clicking on the cake recipe link if you don't want to be able to hear your arteries clog up as you read.  But when your Wee One has a birthday party, it's time to get your sugar/fat/cholesterol on any way you can.

It was the weekend of the cupcake!  Princess Rufflebottom's birthday party was upon us, and I decided that cupcakes would be easier on me than a tiered cake like I did last year.
Perhaps that would have been the case were it not for the subsequent decisions I made regarding the party and/or cake:
  • We would have a general Sesame Street® theme instead of just Elmo.
  • HRH never travels without CookieDuckieElmo, aka the Primary Color Posse, so there would be three theme colors: blue, yellow, and red.
  • Cupcakes would be blue, yellow, and red, iced with matching icing.

OK, so that meant three different batches of cupcake batter and three batches of icing.  In one KitchenAid®.  
Sooooo, I got up at 6 and began strong.  For many cakes in the past 5 years, I have used this cake recipe.  BE WARNED:  Do not click on this link if you do not want to see what went into the batter, which includes an entire cup of melted butter.  The recipe makes for a very moist, decadent cake, and I've been very pleased with the results before.
It may not be the best recipe for cupcakes, as every cupcake fell a touch.  No one noticed, though, since I just made sure to fill in any divots with extra buttercream.
The bonus, however, was that it makes more than the normal 2 dozen.  I got 33 cupcakes out of my first two batches, which were red velvet and yellow almond (the beauty of that recipe is that you can modify the flavoring however you want it).  After that many cupcakes, I figured it was probably a good bet that I didn't need to take the time to create a blue batch, too.

So we were on to the buttercream.  Yellow.... red which turned out more pink even though I used all the red coloring I had in the house (red, brown, and black a a major pain to create, as one has to use a LOT to make what was originally a white or off-white icing that brilliant a hue)... blue which was also a little too light for my liking for the same reason as above.  Whew!  OK, KitchenAid®, you can take a much-deserved rest; you worked hard today!
After having to modify the cake color plans, I decided to ice 16 in each color.  The red velvet cakes were either yellow or blue buttercream.  The yellow almond cakes were either red or blue buttercream.
Each icing color got its own tip - two different sizes of starbursts for the yellow (seemed appropriate) and blue, while the red ended up looking like roses (that was actually unplanned; I had visualized swirls, but when one is a lefty, the angles are always different, resulting in waaaaay different looks than normally advertised).

Of course, the goal was for people to enjoy the taste, not just the look, but I was really pleased with the way they all looked together.  I do think that the next time I make cupcakes on this scale, I'll have to do some work the night before so I am not scrambling to get showered before the party begins (I don't want to scare people off).  I also want to see how I can make that recipe more uniquely mine in the future... once the price of butter goes down a bit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Missing That Je Ne Sais Quoi...Again

It's FINALLY feeling like fall.  Well, fall for Arizona.  Temperatures are chilly in the mornings and evenings, but they become pleasant enough to have the A/C off and the windows thrown open during the day.  Thus, we have entered Soup Season.  
Yes, I know I made (and posted about) a soup a few weeks ago (before the technical start of the season), but since it was a touch disappointing, I thought I'd try again.  I liked the concept of a squash and apple soup, but I didn't want to feel like I was eating liquid pie - soups, if I may opine for a tick, should have more savory tones than sweet.  
Thankfully, my most recent issue of Vegetarian Times included a recipe for a squash-apple-leek soup at the same time that we received not one but TWO butternut squashes from our CSA.
(NOTE - I apologize - this recipe isn't on the VT website, even though it's this issue's "cover model.")

Since my mom is in town making a pilgrimage to visit HRH, I decided to make use of the long weekend that I have to make not only the soup but another attempt at my pain complet.
This time, I did three things differently:

  • I used filtered water instead of tap water.
  • I let the dough rise the ENTIRE two hours (plus a bit more; I ran out to an errand, which helped keep me from peeking).
  • I added a second rise.  

Upon review of the original recipe, I noticed that there was only one rising, so before the lovely ball of deliciousness was popped into the oven, it sat for about 45 minutes.  I think that this, along with the other two alterations I made to my own actions, helped make the end result less dense but still chewy enough to feel like I am eating something of substance.
The soup was next.  Last weekend, I made a vegetable stock out of the veggies that were, um, looking a touch peaked.  I can honestly state that this soup was made by me from beginning to end.  And the winery that contributed the 1/2 cup of white wine.  But basically me.  Sadly, the store was out of leeks (Seriously, who was getting the leeks?  I never see people buying them; I've even had cashiers ask me what they were), so I used an onion instead.
I was joined in the kitchen by my PIC, who made a lovely salad with the remainder of the arugula and mizuna, along with some julienned Granny Smith apples, hakurei, and Easter egg radish.  If that weren't enough, he took some of our garlic and roasted it so we had something nummy to spread on the pain complet.
Topping off the meal was a hash made of the last apple, potato, sweet potato, Easter egg radishes, turnips, and hakurei, tossed in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.

Well.... the hash was, as usual, awesome.
The bread - lovely.  It was especially nosh-able when smeared with butter and the roasted garlic.  I probably could have enjoyed that and gone to bed a happy woman.
The salad was great, too - refreshing and clean tasting.  The mizuna and hakurei melded nicely, and the arugula finished each bite off with, um, well.... a bite.
But.... sigh.... the soup was just.... lacking.  I can't lie - I've never been happy with a butternut squash soup recipe.  Every one that I have tried has been kind of "blah."  There isn't even a good word to describe how I feel about these soups.
I will say that this soup was not as sweet as the acorn squash and apple soup of last month, but to be honest, I think that the feeling that that first soup left in the mouth was bigger, and it left me a bit more satisfied.  I think I did use too much stock for the amount of squash that I had, even though I tried to add another apple to the mix to add a little "meat" to it, but it turned out really thin.
I'm not sure I'm ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat on the butternut front, but I think my next soup WILL include some different ingredients.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Finally - I managed to try a biscotti recipe!  
It wasn't that it was difficult and/or time consuming... I just kept getting distracted.  
However, Scott's step-sister was in town for a few days on a whirlwind visit, and she just LOOOOOVES pumpkin, so I thought I would try - what else? - a pumpkin biscotti to take her when we met for breakfast.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin anything, so I wanted to find a recipe that I might fancy as well, in the hopes that I found it so toothsome I would have a reason to use the rest of the pumpkin (yes, I bought a can of pumpkin instead of buying one to use for such purposes; I have a 23-month-old, so that would be too lofty of a goal this year) for anything other than an additive in the dog's dinner bowl (pumpkin and sweet potatoes are very good for dogs).
Enter pumpkin-chocolate conjoined biscotti.  This side by side recipe had such a pretty look, and, c'mon - the other half is chocolate!
I made only few modifications to this recipe; I added cinnamon and nutmeg to the pumpkin half, as I feel that one needs to have these two spices in order to have a "proper" pumpkin taste in the mouth.  Additionally, I used dark cocoa powder instead of.... "regular."
It was insanely easy to mix, although I had to add far more than a "drop" of milk to the chocolate batter in order for it to be wet enough (I'd wager that it was about 1/4 cup, although you know I hate to measure anything unless I am trying to follow a recipe).
As easy as it was, once the "log" was lined up on the baking sheet and popped into the oven, I fretted for the first round of baking - what if I made the "log" too flat?  what if it wasn't sweet enough? what if, what if, what if?
However, after the timer went off, I was pleased with how things had gone so far:

Biscotti has to be baked twice (just in case you didn't know).  Thus, I duly followed the directions, waiting a half hour before slicing and placing "cut side down" (if you slice the "log," aren't BOTH sides, then, the "cut side"?) on the baking sheets to go another - and, fortunately for my patience, quicker - round in the oven.
Yet my fears had not been quelled.  I tried one of the end pieces, and while deemed OK and edible, they weren't sweet enough to my liking.
Thank goodness for Google, right?
I found a good pumpkin glaze recipe that I was able to whip up very quickly as soon as cookie sheet #1 came out of the oven.  While still cooling, the biscottis were slathered, pumpkin end only, in the glaze, in order to sweeten up and add to the pumpkin-ness of the treat.

End result - not bad.  I think adding THAT much dark cocoa powder requires a little more sugar, as it was a touch bitter.  But the texture was quite nice; the biscottis were still soft enough, having come from the oven only shortly before being set on the table.  Tomorrow, they will likely be harder and more akin to the whole "cookie to be dunked in morning coffee/tea" idea that is a true biscotti.  But I gave them all away, so I guess I'll never know.  Unless I make them again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

No Leftover Left Behind

I'm really trying not to have leftovers.  I am the only one in the house who likes them, but after a day or so, even I get sick of them.  I hate the notion of throwing something out.  ESPECIALLY when I have paid good money for it.
Thus, tonight we had "What the Heck Can I Put Together Fast and Still Make it Taste Kinda Good, and How Many Veggies Can I Possible Fit Into It?" Night.
First problem: the radishes.  What do I do with them?  They weren't very good in that salad last night, and I don't really want to go that whole "throw on top of something or next to something" route.  
Hold on a sec - they are root vegetables.  I can roast them, can't I?
Yes, yes I can.  
What else can I roast?
Yum.  OK, what else?
There are onions and apple in the fridge (partly used and/or eaten on).
Toss with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper - pop in the oven at 350 or so.  Great!  What's next.

Ummmm....well, there are a few mushrooms left, and we really need to use up that bag of arugula.
Good idea!
(rustling around in the crisper)
Oh crud - these green black eyed peas are just about done.
OK, boil them, drain, and then saute in a little oil (OK, OK - I used bacon drippings this time, but I should have used olive oil again).
I'll start with a little more onion, some garlic.... those mushrooms... throw in the green black eyed peas.... turn off the heat... wilt the arugula... done!

I'm not messy; I'm creative.
The end result - not bad!  The hot salad needed a little kosher salt, but the onions actually fried up nice and crunchy, which was a very nice textural addition.
But what about the radishes?  They were very nice!  The spiciness that I mentioned in my last post was gone, replaced with an earthiness that exposed its root vegetable-ness once and for all. It was sweeter than a potato, but not as sweet as a carrot.  Mixed with the potatoes, apples, and onion, it was definitely a hash that I would do again.  Hopefully we'll get more radishes this weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Even after the stir-fry this weekend, we still had not used all of the mizuna that was in our CSA.  We also got Easter egg radishes, and I have to confess that I cannot think of ANY way to use them that does not call for making them into little roses for people to look at as they eat the other veggies on the plate.

So I was pretty excited to come across a mizuna-soba salad recipe, as it called for not only the leafy mustard green but also some radish.
Now, if you have never eaten a radish, it's a difficult taste to describe.  Texture makes a huge difference here.  They are kind of spicy, but not like a chile spicy.  The texture, to me, is like biting into a very fresh  nashi - crispy yet airy flesh.  The heat is gone almost as quickly as you realize that there is a zing to the radish.  And I have to say, they are very enjoyable to slice when using a santoku (my favorite knife).
I had hoped to make it last night, but the chaos of getting everyone to bed and trying to get a three-mile run in made it a no-go.  I had, however, already made the dressing, so while the DH made a Costco run, I thought I could have that for dinner.
The first few bites were awesome - the earthiness of the mizuna mixed really well with the slightly spicy radish, the saltiness of the soy sauce, the sweetness of the carrot, the chewiness of the soba noodles, and that hint of sesame oil.
But that was it - just the first few bites.  After that, the flavors were almost too much together and at the same time not enough.  I found myself working really hard to eat another mouthful, even though I was really, really, REALLY hungry.
Of course, that may have been the problem.  I gave blood on Saturday, and since then I have wanted very hearty items and have had a yen for beef.  I've already had it twice this week (thank goodness I live in Arizona, with great machaca), but I guess that hasn't been enough for my depleted iron stores.
Yes, I know - being a dark, leafy green, the mizuna is chock-full of iron, as well as other amazing vitamins and minerals, all working together in ways I can't fathom.  But maybe it just wasn't hearty enough for me, as I dream of a gut bomb burger.
On a more positive note, the squash apple soup turned out well, if a little too sweet.  I enjoyed it with the last little bit of my pain complet, toasted and covered in cheese.  This month's Vegetarian Times has a squash-apple-leek recipe that calls for a little crème fraiche, which I think might balance out the sweetness a bit more.  I may have to try it, especially if we get more butternut squash.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oh, Crêpe!

Sigh.... we're out of bacon again, so this morning, the hubby made crêpes, filled with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, broccoli, and eggs.  They were super nom-worthy.  We tend to have sweet fillings more than savory, but A) I think I ate all the jam and B) the broccoli needed to be used more than the Nutella.

Our CSA delivered more mizuna this week, so I adapted a chicken and mizuna stir fry recipe that I found on the Whole Foods website (I don't shop there for various reasons, but I'll happily steal their recipes).  
I used what we had on hand - a yellow onion instead of scallions, more soy sauce instead of rice wine, etc.  It was pretty tasty and definitely tinker-worthy (definitely should have put in the chile paste, but forgot, and I think this would be good with any protein - pork, beef, tofu, even shrimp).  I thought the new tablecloth and placements (that the cat is currently trying to cover with fur) were cause for celebration, so I pulled out the chopsticks instead of slumming it, as per usual, with the forks.

Finally, I used our acorn squash and a few honeycrips from the supermarket (um, so, I did NOT know that in Arizona, when one grows apples, the harvest time is actually NOT the fall but the summer, so sadly, there are no apple orchards to peruse through right now.... total bummer to this pacific northwest girl) to make an acorn squash apple soup.  I had to do this tonight because HRH has decided that she is big enough now to eat a whole apple rather than the slices we offer her in her high chair, so when she saw the apples, I knew I had to act quickly before they were all gone.  

We're not having this until tomorrow, but I already stole a taste, and I was delighted with it, especially as one of the spices used was curry, and I tend to classify that right up there with basil.  I feel like by eating this soup, I'm growing in my gastronomic comfort zone.
Now, the recipe says that it's even better the next day, which is common in soups, so I can't wait for tomorrow's dinner already!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pain Complet Me

I have created.... BREAD.
Don't laugh; yeast is a fickle mistress, and I admit that it has reduced to me to tears more than once when things went... well, agley.
But this weekend (OK, so Monday isn't really a weekend - whatever - when the hubby has a three-day weekend, it's the weekend) I was determined to attempt a pain complet - basically, French bread.  I had looked for a recipe that utilized at least some whole wheat flour, and I am pretty happy with the way this turned out... next time, I'll use the filtered water and let the dough rise a little longer.  The tap water in AZ is perfectly fine, but it's laden with a lot of minerals, so the end result, while delicious, was a tad bit dense.

It's alive!!!!!!!

Ready to hit the heat
I glazed the top with a beaten egg; since we get our eggs from one of Scott's co-workers, the yolks are extremely yellow - hence the yellow hue here.

Just out!
Like any first time mother, I am so proud.

And... devoured
I am so pleased with the whole wheat flour; while the all purpose flour has that silky texture (I mixed and kneaded this bad boy by hand), the whole wheat flour had a lovely nuttiness that came through so nicely.   And yes, it was a touch dense, but I do like being able to bite into a bread that resists me oh so slightly, so I am looking forward to trying this again with the filtered water to see how it lightens things up - but not too much!

P.S. - The loaf is already half gone; we ate the rest for dinner.  Vive le pain!  Vive le vin!  Vive le repas!!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend at Bergie's (PUN WIN!!!!)

This was a weekend that might have been right for gluttonous moments, but I had to be strong and hold myself in check.  So far, so good, but we still haven't had dinner, so the weekend is not over yet.
On Saturday morning, I headed to Bergie's and picked up a great mix of veggies from our CSA, which included mizuna, a Japanese variety of mustard greens, as well as arugula, potatoes, an onion, garlic, okra, green black-eyed pease, some tiny little eggplants, and yet more basil.  Then, I was off to meet a friend for brunch at Wildflower Bread Company.  I love love LOVE this place, so I was so excited to go.  
One great aspect of Wildflower is that it has a company policy of giving back; each night, any un-purchased bread and bakery items to shelters throughout the state of Arizona.  It is also partnered with Share Our Strength, an organization devoted to ending childhood hunger (you may have heard about the Great American Bake Sale, one of this organization's many projects).  
This month, Wildflower featured Cupcakes for the Cure.  For each of these cupcakes sold, $1.00 is donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  
Purchasing one of these cupcakes was actually two-fold for me.  First of all, I got to enjoy a delicious cupcake (and oh, was it delicious - I was going to take a picture of it, but I dug right in, so all you get in the pic below is what was left when the rest of our meal came - not much), but I also was better able to make a menu selection.  See, breakfast on weekends is my favorite meal - there are so many delicious options.  The tough thing is the question I've posted in the poll to the right - savory or sweet????  I know some people have their favorites, and there are a select few places that I always get the same thing for breakfast whenever I go.  But at most places it's more like the world's most difficult question.  I tend to have buyer's remorse; if I get the French toast at Chompies, I end up wishing I'd gotten the corned beef hash.  If I get the chorizo skillet at Brunchie's, I end up regretting the fact that I did not order their cinnamon French toast.
OK, so back to Wildflower.... in getting the cupcake, I was able to sit squarely in the savory corner - the feta and roasted vegetable frittata.  I do NOT regret this decision.  I had already begun to inhale it when I remembered to snap a pic before all that was left was a fork and some tomato remnants. 

The cupcakes had cute little pink breast cancer "ribbon" sprinkles.  You can't see them here because I had eaten them all at this point.
 The vegetables were perfectly cooked, and the salty feta combined with the dash of parsley made for a meal needing absolutely no seasoning.  All I had to do was pile it on that crispy buttered bread.
And the bread.... ohhhhhhh, the bread.  They make it fresh each day, and you can taste it (and if you want, you can buy a loaf or seven, which I highly recommend).
There were a few potatoes left at the end - I had to stop myself from eating them all after I got full, which I feel was on the herculean side of tasks for the day.

This little guy had his eye on our plates the whole time.  There is a sign requesting that patrons not feed the birds, but they are total opportunists; the SECOND a couple left, it was like the Hitchcock movie over at their table.
That afternoon, before we went to Chuck E. Cheese's for a toddler birthday party, Scott made some sandwiches using the aforementioned mizuna, Boca burger patties, and a spread of miso and mayonnaise.  While the spread, put on rather too thickly, was a little salty, the mizuna had a wonderful, refreshing flavor.  This would be great on a BLT, I think, but alas, we have no tomatoes to test that theory this week.

Today, after some of Scott's freshly made waffles, we were fortunate enough to meet a friend who lives in Houston for coffee.  We went to Bergie's (where we get those tasty veggies each week), and what a great day it was to sit outside (it had actually been in the 60s when Zooey and I took our morning run)!

This was, many many years ago, a place of residence that has since been turned into Bergie's with a GREAT patio area.
 As I've noted before, Bergie's has some amazing biscotti, so when Scott went inside to order our drinks, I made sure to request "a few biscotti, too."  He brought back and almond one and a lemon one.  I still think the lemon-lavender one I had a few weeks ago is my favorite, but these were tasty nibbles, too.

Lemon on the top - almond on the bottom
Biscotti is something that I don't always like - too many places make it so hard that it's like gnawing on a piece of dog rawhide.  I want to enjoy my food; I don't want to have to work at it once it's arrived in front of me.  
Not so with this biscotti.  The twice-baked nature of the cookie does mean that it's not soft and chewy like, say, a Chips Ahoy cookie (blech).  But these biscotti have a lovely give when you bite into them or break off a piece with your finger.  Once in the mouth, they have just the hint of a crunch and crumble easily on the tongue.  No matter the variety I have tried, all of the biscotti at Bergie's are flavor-filled in each bite, so there is no bite that is less satisfying than another (unless it's the last one, as you realize there are no more bites after that one... so sad).
Alas, our coffee talk was over all too soon!

Tonight, we are planning on having okra with onions sauteed with onion and an Indian spice mix (cumin, tumeric, cumin, coriander, cumin, etc...) and some of those eggplants stuffed with a wild-rice quinoa mixture that is leftover from the stuffed baked apples I made the other night.  They were good, but the rice mixture tasted like it was missing something; I can't tell what (Scott suggested bacon, but since it was a veggie recipe, that was a no-go), so perhaps tonight with the firmer eggplant as the "bowl," there may be a more satisfying response.  Or maybe I'll just put in more salt.

Tomorrow is a holiday for Scott, so we are both going to be home.  I am actually working, but I hope to try to get a bread recipe in in between taps on the computer.  I've never made bread without the machine before, but I found a recipe that (I really hope) appears to be nearly fool-proof.  I'm dreaming of taking it out of the oven, tearing it open, and slathering it with butter and jam, so hopefully this is a dream that will come true!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Presto - PESTO!

I really am not a fan of basil.  It's always been such an overpowering flavor for me, so when I have something made with the ubiquitous herb, I often have trouble tasting anything else (I feel the same about anise/licorice and rosemary).
Of course, this means that one item is generally off limits in the house: pesto.  I like all the other ingredients - pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic - but that crafty member of my beloved mint family just overshadows all those other tasty flavors.
Enter arugula - that peppery leafy green of which Martha Stewart is so fond.  
When we started receiving this aromatic (also popular in Italian cuisine) from our CSA share, we had to find different ways to serve it over the several weeks.  Otherwise, arugula salad was going to get reeeeeeeeeeeeeally old reeeeeeeeeeeeeally fast.  
In one of our several internet searches, Scott came across a fantastic recipe for an arugula pesto that he described with these magic words: basil-free.
The arugula makes it the same vivid green color, but I have to say that the best part of the recipe (I know; you didn't think it could get any better, right?) is the kalamata olives.  They add a fantastic salty, briny flavor that interacts so well to the parmesan cheese that is also mixed in.

Tossed over warm pasta, this makes nearly a complete meal (I say nearly because I also had a side plate on which I placed a sliced Roma tomato and watermelon; I sprinkled oregano, dried basil - just a LITTLE - salt, pepper, and parmesan on the tomato, so we had a little lycopene-umami thing going on).  Of course, we made sure to use a noodle to which the sauce clings - tonight I used casarecce, which remind me of little paper curls.
It was a little hard to only eat one bowl, even as rich as this pesto is, but I have recently made a very conscious decision to only go back for seconds when (a very tasty) pizza is involved.  

Alas, while the words pizza and pasta may be alliterative and similar in their syllabic make-up, pasta is most assuredly NOT pizza, so after dinner I packed up the rest of the pasta into a storage container (lunch tomorrow!), and I spooned the pesto into ice cube trays so we have several more servings whenever we want.

Would it be Tacky to Say There Was a Fiesta in my Mouth?

I guess that I should also note that I am working on eating less meat.  This is three-fold: 1) we are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and cutting out meat can actually take more CO2 out of the air than switching to a more fuel efficient vehicle; 2) fewer meat products means better health - I'm trying to think of meat as a side dish rather than a main dish (Michael Pollan's argument of "mostly plants" is what we're looking at here); 3) when I DO eat meat, I want to know that the life of the animal was a normal as possible (i.e., a ruminant that was not fed grain or a chicken that was not stacked on top of its cage-mates) and the processing was as humane as possible.
Thus, meatless Monday has expanded to meatless many days.
Sunday was no exception - with the several Anaheim chiles we picked up on Saturday, Scott made a green chile sauce, which I slathered on top of this sweet potato enchilada recipe that I came across.  We had two sweet potatoes from the previous week that we needed to use, and the fact that we still had some cream cheese in the fridge sealed the deal.
We didn't have the green onions that the recipe called for, but after perusing the comments below the recipe, I noted that a few people decided to add caramelized onions, so that was the end of our last CSA onion  Except that my onion did NOT want to actually caramelize, so I added slightly crispy onions to the mixture instead.  
I tried the remnants of the filling after I popped the finished enchiladas in the oven.  While I slightly overdid it on the cream cheese, it was still pretty tasty, and I had difficulty waiting patiently for the timer to go off.
The end result - mixed reviews.  Scott wasn't a fan of the chile sauce with the filling, not being keen on a spicy-sweet combination.  I, on the other hand, could likely have inhaled all four enchiladas that I made and ignored the salad (which used up the last of the heirloom grape tomatoes that I stumbled across at Sprouts).

After taking Zooey for a walk, it was then time to start a little banana bread.  Let be very clear:  I do NOT like banana bread.  The ripeness of the bananas that is requisite for any good banana bread recipe is too ripe for me (I like them still a little green and firm).  But Scott loves it, and it's a good use of the several bananas that HRH starts and then decides she is "all done" with after one or two bites (one can only give the dog so many banana treats).  There are actually enough bananas in the freezer to make another loaf whenever this one has been eaten.
Banana bread, as you may know, is not your healthiest treat, often being high in refined sugar, and recipes usually call for vegetable oil, even though you'd think that the bananas would hold their own in the moistness department.
So I was thrilled to find this recipe, which called for only honey as a sweetener AND used whole wheat flour and rolled oats for the base.  The batter came out not quite as thick as I thought it might, and it filled up the loaf pan quite nicely.

Of course, I can't say how it tastes, but it came out of the oven perfectly browned, and the smell was quite nice.  In hindsight, I would have thrown in some cinnamon, but I'll make sure I do that next time.  Scott likes it and has already eaten a fair amount for his breakfasts, so I'm calling that a win.  When I asked him if it was better than previous batches (one week I was able to make three different loaves with the amount of bananas in the freezer), he said that it tasted pretty much "the same," which was a positive sign - whole wheat can often lead to a denser, dryer product, but with the honey as the sweetener, there was more liquid at hand, and the oats helped keep the loaf from ending up like something that belongs in Fort Knox rather than the kitchen.

Next up in the baked goods department is an attempt at biscotti.  We pick up our veggie share from Bergie's in Gilbert, and they offer Bad Boy Biscotti.  I can't help but indulge each time (the lemon lavender that I had last week is thus far my favorite, but there are a few that I haven't tasted yet), and I don't want my pocketbook to run away from me, so it's time to see what I can whip up at home.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Stuff It

OK, I've been blogging for quite some time about life as a new momma (well, after almost two years, it's not that new anymore, but each day is a new experience still).
Yet, there is more to life than being a momma, so the time has come... I've started my second blog, another online, oh-so-public diary, this time about all various and sundry items that I stuff in my face and the reasons behind said stuffing (some noble, others... not so much).
I fully admit that I have willfully stolen the title for this blog from one of my husband's favorite things to say when we, on the rare occasion, go out for a truly fine dining experience. Whenever asked how the meal was, he always responds that, "we dined like decadent Philistines."
But then again, why can't we always dine so grandly? Since joining our CSA and receiving veggies I would perhaps never have given a second glance (had some of them even been allowed to take up space from the ever-present apples and broccoli) at the grocery store, our family has been pushed to find new and interesting recipes to make at home.
I think it's important that I make a point of stating that I am NOT that type of blogger who posts her own recipes. When I do try to make something up, I don't, um... pay that much attention to how much of something I toss in, preferring the "that seems about right" method (and I know too many people for whom this works perfectly to stop). I am more than happy to steal and then tweak those recipes that I find throughout the internet to suit my purposes. I will gladly share those links here as well as what I have done to make that recipe, in my humble opinion, better.
Additionally, it might be only proper to set forth my objectives for creating this blog:
  • I am more than a momma, and while it consumes me (and I am consumed only too willingly), I need to remind myself of this multi-faceted aspect of myself.
  • Every nutritionist, dietician, and doctor will tell you that the more a person logs what she eats, the more honest she will be, and the more in tune she will be with regard to what goes into her mouth. And since I am all for stuffing my face, I think it's a capital idea to make as public as possible what that maw accepts as food.
  • As I stated earlier, our family recently joined a CSA. As I work to change our dining habits (better food but less of it - think of Michael Pollan's rules in his In Defense of Food), it might be fun to have the honest opinions and (hopefully) support of my friends, family, and total strangers who might happen to stumble across this modest offering.
Thus begins our little journey.