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Archive for the ‘Food (duh!)’ Category

I’m actually not a soup person, really. Well, maybe it turns out that I am, but only sometimes, and with certain soups. Most soups leave me unfulfilled, dissatisfied, disgruntled, unhappy, discontent. (Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent).  So many soups don’t have enough zing! Also, so many soups don’t leave me feeling full. Soup is not a meal, I say! Soup is a first course! Soup is a side dish! But I seem to have proven myself wrong, as of late. Soup can be a solid (liquid!) meal, and soup can have zing.

Shelling beans from CSA that went into my most recent pot of stone soup. The best part of these shelling beans is that you never know what will be inside each pod – a kidney bean? a white navy bean? a black bean? I feel like Forrest Gump on chocolates.

I don’t remember how it started. I think my renewed faith in soup started when I made this in September, and paired it with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, rather than doing the cheddar lid thing. Then I thought my stone soup started when I had to provide 8 ladies with food for a book club meeting (Yes, I am a housewife in her 50s, what’s it to ya?) but then I remembered that wasn’t the first time I’d made this soup. The first time I made this soup was probably some late September Tuesday evening, when I got home after picking up my CSA and didn’t have much of an idea about what to make for dinner, so just threw some stuff in a pot and away we went. That’s what this is. But that night – a revelation – this soup was GOOD. While this soup is meant to be made with whatever veggies you have, and a bean or lentil to make it more of a complete meal, there are three four things that elevate this soup to delicious, and I will share them with you here.

Onions and carrots, the birth of soup.

Start this soup like any soup – sauté some onions, carrots and throw in some garlic. If you have celery or celery root, all the better. If you have ginger, go for it. If you have a can of tomatoes you want to throw in, by all means. There are no rules, really. Then I usually throw in some combination potatoes, sweet potatoes, and/or squash, all cut into relatively small cubes so that they don’t take too long to cook. I through in a half cup or more of a lentil, and then make sure I add enough broth/water to give all those things enough moisture to cook. Simmer away. Now here’s where the tricks come in.

1) Roast a pepper in your oven. I personally only like roasted peppers when they are made at home, rather than coming from a jar. My method is that I cut the pepper in half, rip out the seedy parts and rub both sides with oil – I usually use olive oil, but I’ve been meaning to start using sunflower oil because it has a higher smoking point and that way I won’t set off my smoke detector anytime I roast a pepper. Place the pepper skin side down on a small baking sheet and put it in the oven at 400. When the skin starts to become blistered and black (10-12 minutes?) flip the pepper and put it back in for another 5-10 minutes until it is all soft and wrinkly and roasty and good. As always, oven times may vary, so keep an eye on that bad boy. When it is done roasting, chop it up into a few pieces and set it aside. I’ll let you know what to do with it soon.

Some squash and a pepper to roast for soup. You don’t need to pre-roast your squash, I was just feeling sassy.

2) When your potatoes/squash/whatever and your lentils or beans are fully cooked and softened, ladle out a bit less than half of the soup into a large glass measuring cup.  Throw the roasted pepper into the soup that remains in the pot, and puree it with an immersion blender (I love my immersion blender so much!). Add the ladled-out soup back into the pot. Now you have a soup that is mostly smooth, but with some chunks still to give it texture! And also a roasted pepper is hiding in your soup!

3) Lemon juice. So much lemon juice. I don’t know an exact amount, because I just liberally glug it in until it tastes right, but I probably put almost 1/4 cup of lemon juice into a big pot of soup. Never underestimate the power of lemon juice. I didn’t go to culinary school, but I know people who did, and this is an age-old trick. They’ll tell you that it really “brightens” the flavours of your soup, and that is exactly what it does. Trust.

4) I just remembered a fourth trick, one that I only discovered on my most recent pot of soup, but it will now be part of my soup routine. Miso paste. Avoid seasoning your soup much while it is boiling all those veggies and lentils, and then dissolve a bunch of miso paste in some hot water or some of your broth, and mix it into your soup at the same time that you are adding your lemon juice. The miso adds quite a bit of salt and flavour (umami!) to the soup, so hold off on adding any salt (beyond what’s in your broth) until after you’ve done this. I still usually add some spices, but you may not need them.

And that is how you can turn an onion, carrots, garlic, lentils, a pepper and a bottle of lemon juice into dinner. That is stone soup, which I think is also one of the most beautiful folk tales that pretty much hits the nail right on the head when it comes to food security and building community. And if you want another way to build community, just walk around carrying something like what is pictured below. Strangers will talk to you, I promise.

Yes, that is a branch of brussel sprouts. And yes, I use my cat for scale.

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This time, let’s just skip the whole I’m-sorry-I-haven’t-posted-in-so-long bit, and cut right to the chase – because these are delicious and you really shouldn’t waste any time waiting to make them.

But first, a story (hey! I thought she was cutting right to the chase!). Two years ago, Smitten Kitchen published a recipe for Buckeyes. Although I grew up not too far from Ohio, and though I have grown up to realize that many of the traditions, products, etc. that I grew up with are more firmly rooted in Michigan or Ohio than in the rest of Canada, I had never heard of any dessert buckeye. They had peanut butter, they had chocolate, I made them almost right away. Now, don’t get me wrong – they were terribly delicious and I don’t remember having a single complaint about the taste of those delectable treats. BUT I did find them to be a pain in the ass to make. I suspect this is mostly because I do not own a KitchenAid mixer, so instead was using my regular electric beaters to make them. Let me tell you – that made one hell of a mess. Peanut butter and icing sugar all over my kitchen walls, no word of a lie. And the whole dipping-them-in-chocolate thing, trying to cover *almost* all of the peanut butter balls, using some kind of long skewer and trying to angle it into the hot chocolate….well, I remember being frustrated.

When Paul requested these for his birthday dessert this year, I was excited to eat them but less excited to make them, until I realized something about myself: I am a perfectionist in the kitchen. That’s not a new realization, though. The new realization is this: if something is supposed to look a certain way – a certain polished way – I am going to get frustrated trying to achieve that perfect, polished look. But if I don’t have an image in my head of what the food is supposed to look like, if I decide that it’s going to be rustic – things go really smoothly, and actually usually end up looking pretty beautiful. So when you go forth and make these, don’t fret – they will be delicious and beautiful no matter how you go about it.

Birthday Buckeyes or Paul’s Birthday Balls (snicker)

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: about 55, but this would vary depending on the size of your balls (haha, again!)

I made several changes from the original recipe, both in terms of ingredients and in terms of process. Firstly, I used natural smooth peanut butter. Because of this I added a bit of maple syrup to the peanut butter, but as it turned out I still used far less sugar than the original recipe called for. While I started out using my electric beater again (beating the peanut butter and cream cheese together, and the graham crumbs for a few seconds) I ultimately abandoned it for a wooden spoon, and then, my hands. The more I cook and bake, the more I realize that I prefer using my hands for so many tasks. Lastly, I used far less chocolate, mostly because Paul had requested them to have less chocolate – since I wasn’t trying to cover the whole thing with chocolate, I used a different method for coating them. In the end, these came together so quickly and painlessly – and this can only mean that it will be far less than two years until I make them again.

1/4 cup cream cheese, softened

1 1/2 cups natural (unsweetened) smooth peanut butter

a very generous glug of maple syrup, probably 1/4 cup worth

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 to 1 1/2 cups icing sugar

5 ounces/1 1/4 sticks/10 tablespoons/a bit more than a half cup of salted butter, melted and cooled

5-6 squares of semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (I actually melted 10 squares, but have an insane amount of melted chocolate left and no purpose for it – you may want more chocolate if you want to try coating them more completely)

1. Beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, and maple syrup.  Add the graham cracker crumbs and beat for a few seconds. NOW GET RID OF THOSE BEATERS before you just make a bigger mess than you already have. If you do have a proper standing mixer, than by all means use it for this.

2) Add the icing sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, mixing with a wooden spoon or your hands, until you find the mixture to be sweet enough and the right consistency to be able to squeeze and roll into balls. I used barely more than one cup.

3) Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Break off tablespoon-ish size pieces of dough, squeeze together so that it doesn’t crumble, and then roll it into a ball with your hands. You can certainly change the size of the balls depending on your preference. Place peanut butter balls on the parchment lined baking sheets – they can be quite close together but you don’t want them to be touching.

4) Melt your chocolate in a double boiler until it is smooth. Turn off heat. Let cool for a bit (you can finish rolling out remaining peanut butter balls during this time, if you want). Using your fingers, take each peanut butter ball and dip it about halfway into the chocolate, being careful not to burn your fingers. If you are nimble enough, you can do your best to place them back on your parchment with the CHOCOLATE SIDE FACING UP – this way they won’t stick to your parchment, and the chocolate won’t pool or make a flat bottom. Continue dipping – you will need to rinse off your chocolatey hands every row or so – until all your peanut butter balls are coated. Place your baking sheets in the freezer for a half hour or so, until the chocolate is set. Put into an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy!

I think mine look kind of like little acorns – they don’t look like “buckeyes”, but guess what? I don’t even care. And there you have it! And so, I leave you with this little ditty, stuck in my head for the entire time I made these today (and if you’re anything like me, it was likely stuck in your head while you read this post).

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Dudes, this is just a short little post to say: I JUST MADE PEANUT BUTTER.

I am feeling pretty all-powerful right now. Like most things I discover are really easy to make, I’m totally amazed and am also asking myself “why haven’t I always been making my own nut butter?! That was sooo easy!” And it really was, so so so easy.

The thing is, it’s not like peanut butter or other nut butters are all that hard to come by. And with things like almond butter, I wonder whether it would be any cheaper to make it at home, because almonds can be pricy. But with peanut butter it felt so worth it, and I’ll tell you why. I am ALWAYS having a dilemma about what kind of peanut butter to buy. All the brands like Kraft, etc. are delicious and I love them, but I usually don’t actually want to eat peanut butter that is that sweet all the time. And I’m often thinking to myself how much bad stuff is added in to those peanut butters. But then I’ll go out and buy the straight up just-peanuts natural peanut butter and be kind of bummed that there’s NO salt and NO sweetener. I admit that I like a bit of salt and sweet with my nut butter! So then I’ll start looking at brands like this one, which is definitely delicious, but then I’m all like “6 bucks for a tiny jar?! That’s highway robbery!” and so on.

It’s a good idea to give your food processor some breaks now and then so you don’t burn out your motor.

But guess what? When you make your own peanut butter, you can put exactly what you want in it. Like this one, which has a bit of salt, is sweetened with a bit of maple syrup, and has a sprinkle of cinnamon and a splash of homemade vanilla extract mixed in, for extra delicious-ness. Cinnamon-vanilla-maple peanut butter. IT IS SO GOOD.

And all I had to do was put a bunch of peanuts in my food processor and whirl them around until they were buttered. So easy.

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This here is a summer meal.

“But wait!” you say, “it’s only May!”.  Well obviously you didn’t spend last weekend in Toronto/Ontario/my sweltering apartment. So if May seems a little too early to be laying in front of a fan and spritzing water on yourself from the spray bottle normally reserved for punishing the cat, forgive me.  We’re waiting for the screens for our windows to arrive, and since my cat would likely launch herself out of our apartment in chase of birds if I opened the un-screened windows all the way, for now we sweat.

So yes, you may have heard that I moved again. Spare me the “you move a lot!” remarks if you please, because my past bunch of moves have been necessary and had you lived in two back-to-back (TWO!!!) cockroach-infested apartments with a host of other problems to boot, you’d move too. This is the first time in over a year that I’ve felt like I have a home I want to go home to, and it is an immense relief and such a burden lifted off of my emotional and mental health! I am also now embarking on the adventure that is cohabitation, so things are all new up in here.

The new kitchen.

But this is a food blog, not a blog about my life (or is it? are those things not kind of the same anyways?) I owe you a summery meal, and a summery meal you’ll get.

Well hello there, magnetic knife rack…

Last Friday I finally received my copy of Alana Chernila’s cookbook, entitled The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making.  Very honestly, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen such a beautiful cookbook. I sat down and basically read it cover to cover when I got home on Friday evening, and I rarely do that with cookbooks. I’m usually a page-flipper with new cookbooks. But time and time again, Alana’s blog has had these beautifully written pieces that say so much about food, so much that I wholeheartedly agree with.  I would be lying if I said that my eyes didn’t get a little welly-with-tears when I read certain pages of her book.  It’s wonderful, and on Friday night, I was inspired to start making more than just dinner. Saturday morning I bought rhubarb at the market, and will be making some more Rosemary-Rhubarb jam soon. But on Saturday, though none of the recipes came from her book, I made a summery feast.

Homemade veggie burgers, with homemade whole-wheat buns, maple-lemon fiddleheads (by Paul!) and homemade lemon ice cream. Nom.

Now, I won’t tell you about the burgers, because I’ve already written about them here. I’ll tell you about the ice cream and about the buns.

First, the buns. A confession: I’m a bread cheater, because I use a bread machine. I know that I could do it all without the machine, but the machine makes it SO EASY, and I have it, so I’ll continue to use it until I decide it is no longer fit for me. I adapted the bun recipe from here, primarily changing it to include more whole wheat flour and I used butter and some sunflower oil rather than shortening, because shortening is gross.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns for the Bread Machine

1 cup water

1 egg

1.5 cups all-purpose flour

1.5 cups whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup softened butter (supplemented with a little bit of sunflower oil, because I didn’t have quite enough butter already softened, and I am now without a microwave and didn’t want to wait)

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten (optional)

I used the dough setting on my bread machine, and when it was done I punched it down on a floured cutting board and rolled into a kind of log. I cut it into 8 equal pieces, rolled those into balls, and flattened them slightly onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. I covered them with a towel and let them rise a bit more, then brushed them with some egg white, popped them in the oven at 400, and baked them for less than 10 minutes. They were DELICIOUS. I wanted to eat a million of them, but we only had 8 and they were gone so quickly. Thank goodness I’m not gluten-intolerant.

Insert “nice buns” joke here.

Now, the ice cream. The lemon ice cream. If you didn’t already know, lemon desserts are my favourite. For awhile, an old roommate of mine was calling me Liz Lemoncake, after I expressed concern that people would start complaining behind my back that I always make lemon cake. Obviously, my roommate told me I was crazy, and that people would be happy that I was bringing cake at all.  This lemon ice cream is my mom’s recipe. I grew up having it very rarely (because we didn’t use the ice cream maker that much) but remember it fondly. I have often tried to find an ice cream elsewhere that lives up to it, but have never found one – it is truly a rarety to find a lemon ice cream – not lemon sorbet, not lemon frozen yogurt, lemon ICE CREAM. It is tart and yet oh-so-creamy at the same time, and it is divine. Here it is, verbatim from my mom’s recipe (hope this one wasn’t a secret, mom!)

I think this recipe came with my mom’s ice cream maker?

makes 1 1/2 quarts
2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup lemon juice (approx 2 lemons)
2 tbsp grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla
heat the milk to simmering point.  In the meantime, stir together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt.  Stir the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and return to the saucepan.  Place over low heat and stir constantly until thickened into a light custard. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Cool the mixture before pouring into the ice cream freezer can.
Churn for approximately 20 minutes or until the consistency of whipped cream.  Transfer to containers and freeze until firm.
If you don’t have an ice cream machine, I can’t help you. Except that I can, if you are my friend and live in Toronto and want to come over for ice cream.

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Last night, I was thinking that I wanted to eat something really cozy and comforting for dinner, and I wanted it to include brussel sprouts.  I thought of a recipe for a savoury bread pudding that Carly recently shared with me, but I didn’t really want to use up all my eggs and milk.  Speaking of Carly and brussel sprouts, anytime brussels come up in conversation with me, Carly makes sure to let me know that she LOVES brussel sprouts, even though I am well aware of this fact because of the previous times she has emphatically told me so.  I am starting to believe that this is a ploy of hers to ensure that I always think of her when I’m having brussel sprouts; I don’t know why she desires this, but it must be true. So anyways, I didn’t want to make bread pudding, but I thought I could maybe make up a pasta casserole of sorts that would satisfy my comfort craving (“Comfort Craving” to be sung to the tune of a certain k.d. lang megahit).

A couple weeks ago, Paul and I made up a casserole with cauliflower in it, so I decided that I would build off of the basic idea of that one and transform it to have other things in it – like brussel sprouts. A lot of brussel sprouts. So, I quartered some brussels and roasted them in olive oil, salt, and pepper until they were all charred and crispy and delicious. I caramelized some onions, and sauteed with them some mushrooms and garlic and spices (most notably, sage).  Paul grated a lot of cheddar (grating cheese is Paul’s most frequent kitchen duty, I hate doing it).  I also threw some chopped walnuts in with the veggies for this casserole – the bites of the finished product that had walnut in them were amazing, and I would add even more nuts next time. While I boiled the bowtie pasta, I made the lazyman’s cheese sauce in a double boiler over the pasta pot.  This sauce consists of a big glop of sour cream (or creme fraiche, or yogurt) into which you stir your grated cheddar until it becomes melty and incorporated and uniformly a sauce. Last night I added a splash of milk to thin it out.

Meanwhile, I mixed together a breadcrumb topping.  It involved some breadcrumbs, smoked paprika, cayenne, and a bunch of sesame seeds.  At the last second I melted about a tablespoon of butter and mixed that into the breadcrumb mixture. I also got out my round casserole dish that I had never used, and greased it.  Oh, how I love this casserole dish! I bought it this past summer at Treasures in Muskoka – if you are ever around Huntsville or the west side of Algonquin Park, you gotta go to Treasures.  It’s on highway 60 and it is this amazing, crowded little thrift shop full of, well, treasures.  I have beautiful green glasses that I got from there, among other things, and this year I bought this brown tinted glass casserole dish with lid and a wicker holding basket.  I love it. I love coloured glass and I love wicker casserole dish holder thingys.

When the pasta was al dente, I drained it, and tossed it with the veggies I had earlier set aside (i.e. the onions, mushroom, brussel sprouts, etc.) and then added the cheese sauce and mixed until evenly coated.  I poured that into my greased casserole dish, topped with the breadcrumb mixture and some extra grated cheddar. Then I baked it at 400 for about 20 minutes, put it on broil for a couple minutes, and took it out (where I promptly and happily put it in its wicker warmer holder).

This pasta was SO GOOD. My nighttime bad-lighting photos do not do it justice, but then again, photos rarely do a casserole justice.  It was brussel-y and sage-y and breadcrumb-y and smoky and hearty and Paul and I nearly ate the entire dish full, but Paul put away his last half-plateful and I cannot wait to eat it with my dinner tonight. This, I suspect, will become a standby this winter.

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I know what you’re thinking – “That Liz, any excuse to say the word ‘nips’!” but it isn’t like that, I swear. A little while back, I started buying goldfish crackers. This increased when the President’s Choice version came out not too long ago, which are shaped like penguins and just a little bit cheaper than the original.  I started buying these partly to try and break my Crispers habit, because while Crispers are certainly delicious, they are also full of all kinds of crap.  Surprisingly, goldfish/penguin crackers mostly are not.  I mean, they have some things in them that I wouldn’t use in my food at home, but not nearly as bad as the barrage of un-pronounceable things that many other crackers have in them.  And so a cheese-y cracker addiction began.  Sometimes I would opt for Cheese Nips (I swear, I’m not trying to advertise for any of these brands) if they were on sale.  But always, as I bought these, there was a voice in my head nagging me. It was saying “Stop buying these – save your money.  You know you can make these at home”.  This voice usually comes up in the cookie aisle, when I’m tempted to buy some crappy grocery store cookies and I talk myself out of it with images of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.

Not too long ago, I never would have dreamed of making crackers.  Even though I’ve seen roommates make them before with ease.  But those are usually healthy crackers, and I just want a salty snack.  All the homemade crackers I pictured in my head were covered in seeds and made with spelt and all that – completely delicious for many purposes, but generally not the kind of crackers I buy anyways.   But then, almost a year ago now, there was THIS.  I remember reading that post and having my mind blown.  It looked so easy.  So few ingredients! And yet, I didn’t have a goldfish-shaped cookie cutter.  So I put off making them.  And oh yeah, I didn’t really have a good food processor either.  Always excuses, and I kept buying the cheesey store crackers.

Today, I came home from the grocery store to do my homework.  And I did homework, for a little while.  And then I remembered that every day last week I brought penguin-cheese crackers with me to school in my lunch, and I didn’t have any more for this week.  I remembered that I just bought 2 blocks of cheese on sale (300g block for 2 bucks! Pretty good deal!).  Without hesitation, I got up, and started grating cheese.  I knew if I started, it would come together in no time, and it did.  The only part of this recipe that takes any time is the actual baking, and that’s not really active time.  So make these for yourself, because holy crap, they are sooo easy and more delicious than any store version, and cheaper, and they only have SIX ingredients. Two of them are flour, and none of them are weird.  And really, truly, you don’t need a goldfish cookie cutter to make them.

Cheese Crackers a la Goldfish (adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Lee Bros.)

– 1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar cheese (really pack it in those cups, the more cheese the better. If you want to weigh it, its supposed to be 6 ounces of grated cheese)

-4 TBSP of butter (I cut mine into little cubes, and softened a bit in the microwave)

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour

-1/4 cup regular flour

-1/4 tsp. onion powder (optional – you can barely taste it, but I think it adds character)

-1/4 tsp. salt (you can put less – these are not as salty as the store-bought kind, but they are still salty.  I’m a salt fiend, so if you want less, go for it)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and let blend until it forms a ball of dough. This should take about 2 minutes.  THIS was the craziest thing ever! When I turned on my food processor, it just looked like bread crumbs, and I thought there was no way it would come together into a ball of dough.  Did I miss something? Am I supposed to add some water? I checked the recipe again and read through the comments.  Nope, no water. I resisted the urge to add some right away and decided to (gasp!) follow the directions. It was nuts, I’ve never seen this before.  A mix of totally dry and crumbly bits started to get more clumpy, and more clumpy, until suddenly it was one big ball of dough and my food processor was working hard to push it around in circles.  Crazy! So, have faith in this dough.

Roll it out (on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin) until it is 1/8 inch thick.  I never know how thick my dough is, so just try and get it fairly thin, yet thick enough that you are still actually able to pick it up off your rolling surface. Since I don’t have any cookie cutters, I just cut my crackers into squares, placed them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, pricked them a few times with a fork (to let the steam escape) and misted them with water.  In my insanely-fast-super-hot oven, these only took about 5-6 minutes per batch, but the recipe said 12-15.  So keep an eye on them.  Take them out when they are starting to be golden at the edges, but before they burn (duh).  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Keep in an airtight container at room temperature.  Sometimes things like this go soggy when they are in containers, I will let you know if that happens.

I ate about a million of them while I baked, and still ended up with about 80 1-inch square crackers, so pretty good.  They cost me about $1 worth of cheese to make, and the rest of the ingredients I always have and so I count that cost as pretty much negligible. So all in all, a great deal. Even if “I love homemade-cheesey-square-crackers cuz they’re so delicious!” doesn’t quite flow off the tongue in the same way. Enjoy!

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Forgive the Gil Scott-Heron reference (on second thought, don’t excuse it), but when I first ate the result of the recipe I’m going to share with you, I proclaimed to my classmates “OH MAN, this is a lunch revolution!!!”.  Presumably they found me both charming and decidedly nuts.

Before I go any further, I have to give credit where credit is due.  I did not think this up on my own.  I didn’t actually think it up at all; instead, someone mentioned a packed-lunch standby of hers to me in passing, and I flipped right out. Then, I proceeded to yell excitedly about it to anyone who would listen, and most people humoured me but didn’t care that much, except for Carly, who said repeatedly: “that is SO smart. that is so SMART. that is SO SMART” (add something else onto the list of why I love Carly: she is equally enthusiastic as myself about revelations in the realm of packed lunches, in spite of the fact that she currently does not have to pack a lunch to go anywhere).  Anyways, the point is, thank you very much to Ruth for introducing me to this idea so casually over some afternoon wine in Kitchener.

Without further ado, I bring you your new lunch: homemade frozen burritos.  If you didn’t just say to yourself “holy shit!”, then you probably don’t care that much about this. But me, I freaked. Homemade frozen burritos! In the store they have frozen burritos that you buy and microwave and eat! But they are generally not that good! And sometimes they are really expensive! I love burritos! Burritos are one of the two things I’m always in the mood for! The other is roti, which is a similar concept! Why haven’t I thought of making burritos and freezing them?!

Ruth explained to me, in brief, her method: she makes a bunch of burritos, but instead of layering in the filling like you would normally, she mixes everything together in a big slop – beans, cheese, veggies, etc. just all together.  I guess this will make it freeze/thaw/cook better and more evenly.  Makes sense to me! Then, she said, she individually wraps them in little parchment paper bags, and freezes them. Then, when its time to pack a lunch, she just grabs one, brings it with her, and microwaves it for 2 minutes or so when its chow-time. BLAM-O!

And so, the week before I went back to school for second semester, I spent an hour making myself a batch of burritos to freeze.  It really only took an hour start to finish I would say, which I think is well worth it given that I got 6 lunches out of it.  In my burritos:

-one can of my favourite refried beans

-homemade salsa     -cubed, roasted sweet potato     -chopped and sauteed onion, carrot, and garlic

-frozen corn from my CSA that I froze in August      -grated cheddar cheese     -cilantro and green onions

-a chipotle pepper, also from my CSA, which was surprisingly HOT

-a bit of sour cream, and seasonings of salt, pepper, cumin

I mixed all that together, and then assembled.  I used 10-inch whole wheat tortillas, and heated them for about 15 seconds to make them more pliable, then scooped in the filling and rolled them up.  I made little parchment paper bags by stapling sheets of the paper together (note to self and to you: do not put the paper bags in the microwave later on, staples are made of metal and that is bad in the microwave) and then put them into freezer bags.  I did a sort of bad thing and put them straight into the freezer when they were still warm, which means that they got some condensation from the steam that may ultimately mean a bit of freezer burn, but oh well.

On Tuesday I had my first day where I packed a lunch, and I excitedly brought one of my burritos.  The best thing is that since they’re frozen rock-hard, I don’t need to bring an ice pack or anything like that, because it stays cold until my lunch time.  The other best thing is not having to wake up and go “Dang, I have nothing to bring for lunch!”.  The other best thing is that they are delicious.  I microwaved that baby for 2.5 minutes total, flipped it over once to get it cooking evenly, and it was so good.  Keep in mind, like most frozen burritos, by the time the microwave was done it is more fork-and-knife material then handheld, but that’s okay.  It was so satisfying.  A filling, homemade, healthy, and cheap lunch. Score! Happy New Year to lunch!

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The following post can be read to the tune of:

I have been a very bad blogger.  This has, most certainly, been my biggest lapse and as always, I apologize.  But rather than dwell on reasons or excuses, how about I just tell you about some delicious things?  Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted here’s a smattering of images from foods I’ve made in the last couple of months:

Buckwheat pancakes with blueberry-rhubarb compote

Shaved asparagus pizza

That last photo is of my go-to veggie burger recipe.  I’ve been making it for years, and I often crave it.  Usually I have everything for it on hand, so it’s a great recipe for when you are trying to use up things in your fridge.  The first time I had these burgers my good friend and housewife Krista Nerland made them for me and some friends, back in Montreal, many moons ago.  This was when I still ate meat, and when I thought of vegetarian food as usually lacklustre – particularly when it seemed like vegetarian “health food”.  What I’m trying to say is that I was expecting to hate these burgers, and to lie through my teeth that I liked them.  But then, I DID like them.  I was surprised.  They contained something called “bulgur” and that did not at all sound appealing.  Perhaps my now-love of delicious, natural, whole foods can be traced back to this moment.  The recipe itself is from a Moosewood cookbook – Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home – to be precise.

I’ve adapted this recipe slightly – mostly to make a smaller batch, and used their variation of adding chickpeas (I honestly can’t imagine these burgers without the chickpeas – I don’t think I’d like them nearly as much).  The “small” batch – the one I’m sharing here – still makes 6-8 good sized burgers.

Mince 1 garlic clove, and saute it in some oil for a couple minutes with 3/4 cup of bulgur.  Add 1 1/2 cups of boiling water, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and bulgur is tender.  *NOTE* for years when I made this recipe I made it with fine bulgur, and never needed to actually cook it at all – I just poured the water over and covered it and let it sit (like couscous) off the heat.  This was the first time I’ve ever actually cooked it on the stove, because now I have whole bulgur which is much larger, like wheatberries (are they the same thing?!) so just note that if you have fine grain bulgur you really don’t need to cook it.

Meanwhile, assemble the following things in a mixing bowl:  1/4 cup chopped green onions, 1/4 cup grated carrot, 1/8 cup chopped parsley (I frequently use cilantro instead, and I also don’t ever measure it, I just throw a big pile in, YUM), 1/8 cup tahini, 1 tbsp. tomato paste (get the stuff in a tube and you won’t have a rotting can of paste in your fridge!), 1 tbsp. tamari, 1/2 teaspoon (or however much you like) dijon mustard, add your favourite hot sauce (optional) and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix all those things together! Then, mash 1/2 -1cup chick peas (the more you add, the harder it will be to get them to stay together, but I generally use more than the 1/2 cup the recipe calls for) and add them into the mix.  When the bulgur is ready, mix it in too.  Then form your patties (don’t burn your hands!) and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.   You can also fry these burgers, but I gave that up a few years ago because they never stay together and they become an oily mess.  In the oven they still sometimes fall apart when you flip them (be gentle!) but it’s nowhere near as bad as the frying scenario.  But if you’re brave and wanna fry them, be my guest.

If you love chick peas and veggie burgers that don’t try to taste like meat, I hope you will like these a lot.  They are nutty, and the flavours all mingle so well.  I imagine you could alter this recipe to put your own favourite seasonings/sauces in it, but you would want to keep the same amount of binding liquid-y stuff (i.e. tahini, tomato paste, mustard) to drier grainier things if you care about them actually staying together.  Yum! Now I just want these for dinner, but that’s not what I’m having tonight.

In other news, that time of the year is here again – the time when I feel busy all the time because I need to use most of my precious non-working moments to can things.  Canning! I made two batches of jam today, which meant standing in a small, sweaty kitchen and stirring for longer than I normally would on a day off, but really it’s so easy and satisfying and it made me remember why I like preserving things so much.

I made an old favourite today – my Aunt Linda’s Christmas Jam, which I blogged about last year (and used my own blogged recipe today while making it, which Paul thought was cool), but I also made a new, slightly experimental jam.  Rosemary Rhubarb.  Now, I followed a recipe, and in theory it’s not very different from the Rhubarb Ginger jam I’ve made a few times before, but obviously the flavour combination is totally different, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Paul loves it.  I like it quite a bit, though it’s the kind of thing that tastes good but also confuses your brain a little bit.  I’m interested to see how other people find it, but I think that it would definitely be amazing with a good goat’s cheese and some bread.

I hope to do a lot more experimental canning this year, and I want to break away from just jam and into more challenging things – more relishes, chutneys, sauces, syrups! I also have big plans to buy a bushel of tomatoes and can them all so that I can live off them in the sad winter months.  So stay tuned, this won’t be my last sweaty stove afternoon!

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My sub-headline on this site has been “and then I cracked an egg on it” since I started this blog – the reason for this is that I often make something that is chock full of veggies and stuff but fairly devoid of protein and finish it off with an egg (or two) on top.  Runny yolks make the best sauce for food, and I am in love with eggs in a serious way.   But then for a long time I wasn’t doing this so much – in large part because I started eating eggs almost every morning for breakfast, so having them at dinner as well seemed like overkill.  Now I’m working a lot more morning shifts at work, so I often don’t have my eggs in the morning because I’m rushing off to work; so recently, the egg-on-top-of-stuff dinner has come back in a big way.

A few weeks ago, on cook-n-blog Monday with Kat Burns, I was tired.  I didn’t feel like cooking at all.  I wasn’t organized.  Then Kat came over and said “how about I cook for you this week!” and I welcome the opportunity to just watch and snap the photos.  Now, this particular Monday fell right after my birthday weekend – and on this birthday weekend I had a lil dinner party in my dear friend Krista’s lovely dining room.  I cooked for twelve people on my birthday.  What was I thinking? I don’t know, but it ended up not actually be stressful at all, and just being quite lovely.  But I had some leftovers.  I had made a salad of cooked butternut squash and beluga lentils with goat cheese on arugula, and there was a TON leftover.  It was yummy, but if I was going to finish off the leftovers, I needed to reinvent it in some way.  If there’s one thing Kat Burns is really good at, it’s not letting food go to waste.  So she went to work on my leftovers.

She cooked up some zucchini and mushrooms that I had, and added that leftover squash salad – just dumped the whole container into the frying pan.  I was not particularly hopeful, because I wasn’t sure that this cold salad with all its parts was going to heat up all that well.  I was wrong!  All those things mixed together and sauteed ended up being wonderful, especially when it was finished with a perfect sunny-side up egg on top.  Let it be known that I never cook my eggs sunny-side up, because I like the security of knowing that my eggs are fully cooked that comes with flipping them.  But Kat Burns is a sunny-side-up master.  She’s got it down.  She can even cook that egg in a cast iron pan without wrecking it.  That is a skill. She’s proud of that skill, and she should be.

Kat and I had to take a hiatus last week – it was Family Day, so she didn’t have to work in the city, and I wanted to get to bed early because I had an interview for Teacher’s College the next day.  We will soon meet again, however, and now I have a brand spanking new camera all my own, so you can expect a lot more blog posts to be coming your way.  First, though, I have to take my laptop in to be fixed AGAIN because my disc drive is broken, which means that I can’t install my new camera’s software, which means I can’t upload any of my food photos yet.  Le sigh.  Soon, my friends, soon.

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Let it be known that I carried a food-grade large white bucket and lid home from work on the TTC on Monday so that Kat Burns and I could use it to make sauerkraut.  Before I left work I kept wearing it like a purse and saying things like “It’s the new Dolce & Gabbana”.  Do D&G even make purses? I’m not the type of person who would know.  Anyway, sauerkraut has been postponed until next week.  The real story is that on Sunday night Kat sent me the following email:

“Can we make Hors d’Oeuvre pie? I found the recipe in a 1978 National
Geographic advert and it sounds both gross and awesome. Behold:

1 x frozen pie shell (blasphemy!) flattened to a big circle
340g of Cream Cheese
60 g of Blue cheese (optional)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp onion or garlic salt

Garnish: cherry tomato halves, sliced mushrooms, parsley sprigs,
chopped hard boiled egg and sliced ripe olives (in a circular pattern,
looks pretty nice). Bake pastry, cool. Places on serving platter. Blend first 4
ingredients until fluffy, spread on pastry. Garnish as shown. Makes 12
wedges.

YUm”

Now I myself (unlike many reasonable and unreasonable people of this world) am a big mayo lover, but even this I thought was a little much.  Still, I’m always up for a food adventure.  I had a frozen pie crust that I’d made awhile back so I took it out to thaw.  Later on, though, Kat and I decided that eating a mayonnaise pie between just the two of us was not such a good idea afterall.  So instead! We made a sort of quiche/tart thing.  I (as usual) took inspiration from Smitten Kitchen, but mostly because I thought to myself “does cauliflower even go with eggs?” because I had eggs, and I had cauliflower.  I trusted that based on that recipe, the two would combine well.

 

For Christmas I got a set of pie weight chains in my stocking, and decided to give them a whirl, since quiche is the type of thing you’re supposed to blind bake pastry for.  Let me just say, I don’t think I can be bothered so much with the blind baking.  I have always found that if you chill your crust in the pie plate for awhile before filling it, it may get a bit soggy on the bottom but not unreasonably so.  This blind baking business is a lot of hassle, and even with my new pie weights, the thing shrunk so much!

Giant hand pinches the butts of unsuspecting onions.

 

So anyway, I rolled out my crust and I weighted it in the pie plate and I baked it empty for about 20 minutes and then quickly put a baking sheet of cauliflower in to roast as soon as the pie crust came out and all the while I was caramelizing some onions in my trusty cast iron pan.  I whisked together some milk, ricotta cheese, a tiny dollop of mustard, grated gruyere and a mere 2 eggs in a bowl and ground in some salt and pepper.  When the onions and the cauliflower were done, I put the onions in the pie crust, then the cauliflower, and then poured the egg-milk-cheese mixture over it all.  Then we baked some more.  I always have a hard time telling when eggs are done if they’re being baked and there’s cheese or other dairy in them – they always seem undercooked but it’s so hard to tell if they’re just deliciously silky from the cheese and whatnot.  Better safe than sorry though I guess.  I turned the oven to broil for the last few minutes to get a nice browned crunchy top.

Meanwhile, Kat made a salad with romaine, raw collard greens, and some of my rainbow carrots.  She told me I had to eat all my salad so I ate it first because I hate raw vegetables for the most part, and salad especially.

The quiche/tart/whatever it was was delicious, and as per usual, Kat and I washed it all down with many hours of 90210.  Later we made a giant chocolate chip cookie.  Mondays are awesome.

I dog-eared the corner so I wouldn't forget which cookie I was eating.

 

P.S. If you happened to NOT click on the link on Kat’s name above, please do, and here it is again.  She’s undertaking a really awesome project for the month of February, and you can snag some awesome original art for a great deal!

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