Posts Tagged With: easy

flourless chocolate peanut butter oatmeal muffins

It’s been a while since my last muffins for Monday recipe (which included chocolate chunks, pecans, and bacon), not so much because I haven’t been making muffins, but because I haven’t been doing much blogging.

That said, today’s muffin recipe is brand new and so yummy that I just had to share!

breakfast is gonna be really good this week.....

breakfast is gonna be really good this week…..

Despite my love of all things chocolate and peanut butter, I have never combined these two ingredients in a muffin recipe before, probably because I don’t like eating dessert for breakfast.

(If you’ve tried any of my muffin recipes before, you know that they are all very lightly sweetened and a far cry from the cake-disguised-as-breakfast muffins that lots of people make. And I do enjoy eating a sweet ‘n’ fluffy muffin every now and again–just not first thing in the morning!)

This recipe is rich and flavorful, but not overly sweet, which makes it a perfect little muffin to start your day off in a hearty and (mostly) healthy direction.

I should disclose that this recipe was kind of inspired by those no-bake peanut butter chocolate oatmeal cookies that our cafeteria always used to serve for dessert when I was a kid. (Though not quite as good for you as my muffins, those cookies are darn tasty and super easy to make–here’s a recipe!)

I should also disclose that this recipe is flourless not because of any recent developments in our ability to tolerate wheat or gluten….

I just happened to be out of whole wheat flour…

So why not experiment? 🙂

What’s in it:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a larger bowl, beat together the peanut butter, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff just until everything’s incorporated.
  • Divide your batter among your 12 muffin cups. Unless you’re scared of raw eggs (I’m not), feel free to lick your spoon clean of all those deliciously chocolate-y, peanut butter-y batter remnants.
  • Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes or until they’ve risen nicely and are firm enough to spring back a little when you press the tops.
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temperature.

I ate one of these babies as soon as it left the pan, and it was pretty special. The cocoa flavor is dark and rich, and the nuttiness of the oats nicely complements the peanut butter flavor.

I was a little worried about how the texture would turn out since I had used all oats and no flour, fearing my muffins might end up a bit fragile and crumbly, but I think the eggs and the stickiness of the peanut butter gave them enough body and structure.

Now that I’ve made tried my hand at flourless muffins, I’m excited to try some more variations, and of course I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there when I do. 🙂

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a perfect 30th birthday, and a perfect field pea soup

I love a good birthday cake, especially the carrot cake we got from Big City Bread for my 30th birthday party a couple of weeks ago:

thanks to Micah’s mom for the candles and to my friend Alice for the lovely photo!

The folks at Big City were super nice, by the way, and offered to let me sample several tasty cakes before picking one. But when they sliced me off that first little sliver of this cream-cheese-and-carrot decadence, that was all the convincing I needed.

I received some very thoughtful presents, too.

The best gift, of course, was a fantastic gathering of friends and family at our house for my birthday party, complete with food and booze and some cheesy 80s music to commemorate the decade of my birth.

From my sweet, sweet husband: a clean house, two four-packs of my very favorite fancy beers (Wild Heaven Invocation and Ode to Mercy), lots of yummy birthday pizza from Transmetropolitan (including the best combo ever, bacon + artichoke hearts), and a classy date at Five and Ten the night after my birthday.

Money from the folks (always appreciated), a lovely bottle of Malbec from Dave and Kim, hand-drawn pictures and a birthday card from my niece Lilly, and a gift certificate to Avid Bookshop (yay!) from her uncle Jason.

From Eric and Jinny, a bottle of chamomile grappa (perfect for sipping after a swanky date-night dinner), and from my good friend Amy, a very pretty tea set with a mint-green teapot, two mugs, and packages of green tea and cookies.

Scratch-off lottery tickets (not winners–oh well!) and cute sticky notes from some school pals, plus a pretty handmade necklace from my fourth grade Froggy Friend!

I’ve got a pretty dang sweet crew of friends and family, if I do say so myself! What a perfect birthday.

So imagine my surprise when I returned to school the following Monday to find one more present waiting for me on my desk, a pink gift bag from my friend Leigh, with a note that read: “I’ve picked some field peas from my garden (purple-hull/crowder). If anyone knows what to do with these, it’s you! :)”

My birthday had already been wonderful, which made these pretty peas the proverbial icing on the cake:

I don’t mean to brag, y’all, but I think this is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken, ever

I spent last Saturday morning sipping coffee, baking muffins, and shelling those pretty little peas:

they’re lovely without their shells, too

Then it was time to come up with a recipe. I winged it, as usual, having never made soup with fresh field peas before, and let me tell you guys–the results were nothing short of spectacular.

not the prettiest photo I’ve ever posted, but I think you still might be able to tell that this soup was
packed with veggies, full of flavor, and perfect with a hunk of toasted homemade sourdough

What’s in it:

  • 1/2 cup diced bacon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 6-8 big cabbage leaves, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup freshly shelled field peas
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked, if you have it)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 cups stock or broth (I used pork)
  • 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the bacon in a big saucepan over medium heat and cook until it starts to crisp and the fat has rendered out.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and carrots, and saute for about 5 minutes or until they start to get tender.
  • Stir in the cabbage, field peas, marjoram, paprika, and lemon zest. Mix until everything’s coated with the bacon fat and seasonings. (At this point, things are going to smell really, really good.)
  • Pour in the stock or broth, add the vinegar and bay leaves, and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
  • Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until until the peas are cooked through and the veggies are falling-apart tender.

This hearty soup makes a meal for 2 or 3 with sourdough toast, buttermilk biscuits, or hunks of warm homemade cornbread.

Make the portions a little smaller and you’ll have the perfect starter for a Southern-style feast of summer veggies and crispy fried chicken.

And when you slurp up your first spoonful of this savory soup, you’ll swear it must be your birthday (even if it’s not).

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birthdays are better with ratatouille

I’m turning 30 on Friday, but this post is about a much more famous birthday.

All you foodie folks probably know that Julia Child, if she were still alive today, would be one of those 100-year-old ladies that Willard Scott always used to introduce on the Today show.

(Does he still do that? Is he even still on the show? I haven’t watched in a decade or two…)

What amazes me about Julia Child?

She wasn’t French, and yet she brought French cooking to America before people could just plop down at a keyboard and Google recipes for beef bourguigneon or ratatouille.

She got people excited about cooking outside their comfort zone.

And she wasn’t pretentious or snooty about French cuisine–her vision was that everyday people could use everyday ingredients to make delicious food. She was down-to-earth, funny, and so charming.

I can’t say Julia’s been a direct influence on my life as a cook, because I don’t own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (though I’ve adapted a recipe from it at least once) and honestly am not sure I’ve ever seen a full episode of her show.

But she has influenced my cooking–and your cooking and everyone else’s cooking–the same way the Beatles forever changed the face of pop music.

Rock and pop bands today, whether they enjoy the Beatles’ music or not (or, for that matter, whether they’ve ever heard of the Beatles or not) have been influenced by Fab Four. Music today is different, and better, because the Beatles existed.

And cooking nowadays is different, and better, because of Julia.

Now, the ratatouille.

Two weeks ago, I was headed to my good friend Amy’s house for a cookout. Her husband was grilling cornish hens, another friend was bringing bread, dessert was covered, and I was supposed to bring some sort of vegetable.

I had only been back from Portland for a couple of days at this point, and Micah and I had picked up a few things from Daily Groceries, but we didn’t have a lot of any one vegetable. That made it kind of hard for me to come up with any single side dish.

What did we have? Garlic, an onion, a few tomatoes. One eggplant. A huge summer squash. Three bell peppers.

Ratatouille, it turned out, was not just a practical solution for combining all those yummy summer vegetables. It was also delicious, and a natural complement to Trey’s perfectly grilled little chickens.

slow-simmered veggie goodness

Julia Child inspired the recipe I used, which was posted by Priya on her lovely blog, quête saveur. Of course, I not only multiplied the recipe by 1-1/2 for our large group, but I also made some changes. My apologies, Julia!

What did I change? I cooked the vegetables slightly out of order and all together instead of in batches to make this a super-easy one-pot dish. And I seasoned my ratatouille differently from how Julia wanted me to, because I didn’t have any parsley but did have some other stuff that seemed like it would work.

I don’t know how my results compared with Julia’s vision, but this ratatouille was darn good.

What’s in it:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound, peeled and diced (salt it and let it sit for ~20 minutes while you prep the other veggies)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, about 3/4 pound, chopped
  • 1 large summer squash, about 3/4 pound, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the oil in your biggest skillet over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they start to become translucent.
  • Stir in the bell pepper and squash and saute for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain off any water your salted eggplant has released and add the eggplant to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Finally, add your tomatoes, lemon zest, and herbs.
  • At this point, your ratatouille might look a little dry, not stew-y and delicious. Don’t add water or chicken stock–just let it cook for at least 30 minutes. The vegetables will release plenty of liquid, and you’ll end up with a savory, hearty pot of stew that you can easily sop up with a warm slice of homemade bread.
  • Season to your liking with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

The best thing about ratatouille is that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways.

The night I made the ratatouille, we ate it as a side dish with those aforementioned cornish hens.

The next day, I used the leftovers as a salsa for brunch of leftover steak frites and eggs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I made a second batch at the end of last week, which we ate as an entree. First over some steamed brown rice (which was kind of bland) and then over polenta (oh, my goodness! highly recommended!).

The last of the ratatouille and polenta was also my lunch today, chosen over several other lunch options because, of course, I wanted to commemorate the Julia who inspired it. 🙂

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potluck goodies – 7.4.12 – blueberry cherry clafoutis

Yes, this post about the 4th of July is long overdue.

But, like I said, July’s been busy. So I hope you’ll forgive me. 🙂

Three and a half weeks ago, we enjoyed a pretty awesome Independence Day celebration.

Jessica and Brent had us over for a cookout at their house, which is in the middle of nowhere. But, strangely enough, the little rural fire department just down the road from their neighborhood hosts an impressive fireworks show every July 4th, and this year, we were invited to set up our tailgate chairs in Jessica and Brent’s front yard, sip a cold beer or three, and enjoy the festivities!

The party itself was fantastic. Great company, of course (much of the same bunch we hung out with at the wedding a few months ago), but also, great food!

Brent made a spicy and delicious low country boil. We stuffed ourselves with salads and sausage balls, red-white-and-blue Rice Krispie treats and a crazy chocolaty layered dessert in a trifle dish, a loaf of my very first sourdough, and the blueberry cherry clafoutis that you see here:

full o’ fruit!

I was going for a red, white, and blue dessert with the cherries, blueberries, and custardy cake, but as you can see my dish turned out to be a little more like deep purple and warm, golden brown. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

This sweet treat was inspired in part by an abundance of fruit in my refrigerator, but I doubt I would’ve thought of it on my own without some help from my blogging friends.

Daisy over at coolcookstyle posted her Cherry Clafoutis recipe (adapted from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1) just a couple of weeks after Putney Farm posted their Cherry Clafoutis recipe (adapted from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook).

Unable to decide which recipe to follow, I combined the two.

Not willy-nilly, either–I actually made myself a little chart to compare techniques and quantities of ingredients between the two recipes, then merged them into one. (Yes, I’m a nerd.)

I loved that Putney Farm spiced their clafoutis up with lemon and cinnamon, but Daisy’s recipe proved easier to execute because it didn’t involve individual ramekins or cooking the cherries first.

And, of course, I made a few changes of my own, subbing blueberries for half of the cherries and Greek yogurt plus 2% milk for the whole milk/heavy cream.

Having not made or eaten a clafoutis before, I can’t tell you if mine turned out to be technically correct, but I can describe it for you: imagine a dessert that’s part-cake, part-custard, and bursting with fresh fruit–without being super-sweet. That’s exactly my kind of dessert, and if that strikes your fancy, I’ll bet you’d like a clafoutis, too!

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups cherries, halved and pitted
  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • powdered sugar for dusting and/or vanilla ice cream for topping (both are optional but highly recommended :))

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9″x13″ baking dish. (You could probably use a smaller dish instead for a thicker clafoutis, but you’ll probably want to adjust the baking time and/or temperature if you do.)
  • Spread the cherries and blueberries out evenly over the buttered pan.
  • In your blender, combine the rest of the ingredients except for the powdered sugar and blend for about 1 minute. Or, mix in a bowl with a stick blender, an electric hand mixer, or a whisk until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the batter over the fruit. (Be gentle so you don’t shove the berries around too much in the dish.)
  • Bake for about 1 hour or until your clafoutis is puffy and golden brown. (Daisy notes in her recipe that the cake will sink a little, like a souffle or a frittata, after you take it out of the oven. So when this happens, don’t worry! It’s supposed to do that.)
  • After allowing your clafoutis to cool for 5 or 10 minutes, feel free to dust it with powdered sugar before cutting yourself a big wedge, which you are then welcome to top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Now that I’ve made my first clafoutis, I’m interested in trying other variations.

First, I think next time I might reduce the amount of flour just a bit (and maybe also reduce the baking time or temperature) to see if I can achieve a more custardy, less cakey result.

And while clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries (which I adore), they’re not really suited to hot, humid Southern summers, so next time I’ll probably experiment with some local and seasonal fruits like figs or peaches, which grow all over around here (even in my yard, when the pesky squirrels don’t get them first!).

Of course, Wikipedia informs me that once you vary from cherries, your dessert is now properly called a flaugnarde…but please forgive me if I fudge a little and call mine clafoutis anyway. It sounds prettier. 🙂

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quick lunch – 7.2.12 – a bowl of Southern summer goodness

Summer in the South is a magical time.

A time when tomatoes plump to their juiciest fullness, when squashes just grow and grow and grow, when sweet corn practically bursts from its husks, when a myriad of hot and sweet peppers are ripe for the picking, when okra pods stretch to that perfect two or three inches, when pungent onions and garlic just beg to be dug up and sauteed in a bit of butter to mellow out and flavor everything you eat.

A time when, goshdarnit, I just can’t get away from Athens Locally Grown or Daily Groceries without spending ungodly sums of money on all those gorgeous, flavorful local veggies.

And, since I’m a teacher, summer is also the time when I can cook at least two meals a day if I want–and that’s quite often the case, because heaven knows there’s not so much time for culinary tomfoolery once school starts back in August.

So when I surveyed the contents of our kitchen a few weeks ago after a particularly splurge-y spree at the market, looking for lunchtime inspiration, here’s what I found:

all that’s missing is one of those fancy wicker cornucopias

A most inspiring collection of colors and flavors, if I do say so myself.

So I set to slicing and dicing and sauteing and stirring, and here’s what I came up with:

bright, beautiful, delicious!

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion (or, in my case, 3 tiny ones), diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini (I used zephyr), quartered and sliced
  • 1 ear of corn, cut from the cob
  • 6 okra pods, thinly sliced (the smaller okra is, the sweeter and more tender it’ll be–look for pods that are 2-3″ long)
  • a big handful of cherry tomatoes (ours were sungolds)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a big handful of fresh basil, cut into slivers

Step-by-step:

  • In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa and toast it in the oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock/broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  • Cover the quinoa and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the quinoa cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onion starts to look translucent.
  • Stir in the squash and corn. Saute for another 5-7 minutes or until the squash is almost tender.
  • Mix in the okra and tomatoes and cook for about 5 more minutes.
  • Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir just until the mixture is combined.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Divide your veggies and quinoa between two bowls and top with the fresh basil.
  • Eat up!

Our bowls of Southern summer goodness were enjoyed warm as a light but satisfying entree. For dinner, add your favorite protein for a heartier meal. (I’m betting shrimp would be amazing.) Or try this recipe as an excellent summer salad. Just chill it in the fridge for a few hours to serve cold alongside smoky burgers, crispy fried chicken, or your favorite grilled seafood.

And, of course, I whipped this meal up from a huge heap o’ veggies that I happened to have on hand, but you could easily adjust the recipe to match your own vegetable availability and tastes. As long as you use what’s fresh and in season, there’s really no way this quinoa veggie bowl could turn out anything less than fabulous. 🙂

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quick lunch extravaganza – when life gives you bread, make sandwiches

Our house has been infested.

With fleas, earlier in the summer, and lately with some very persistent ants.

But, mostly, with bread.

It started when I overbought buns for a cookout a few weeks ago. Micah was smoking a pork picnic roast and grilling burgers for almost 20 people, so I cleaned out the Daily Groceries bakery case and brought home enough buns for everyone to have two.

My calculations didn’t account for folks going bread-less, which many of them did (in order, I’m sure, to consume more of the delicious meats and veggies on the table).

So after the cookout, we still had about twenty buns leftover, but only enough uneaten burgers and barbecue for about half that.

Oops.

We would’ve frozen the extra bread, but our freezer was already getting out of hand.

Which meant that, after the extra pork and beef were gone, we still needed to eat eight more buns, because of course I just couldn’t bring myself to waste them.

Four buns became vehicles for our delicious berbere-spiced sloppy joes disorderly josephs.

A couple of onion rolls were transformed into savory French toast sandwiches with tarragon and some of Micah’s crispy home-cured bacon.

the roundest French toast I’ve ever made

Step-by step:

  • Cook a few slices of bacon and set it aside, but leave the grease in the pan.
  • Whisk together one egg with a little milk, salt, pepper, and dried tarragon.
  • Batter the buns in the egg mixture.
  • Cook in the bacon grease over medium heat until browned and crispy.
  • Layer on a plate with bacon and top with a drizzle of maple syrup.

This French toast was not only quick and easy, but also a tasty way to repurpose those extra onion rolls. They soaked up the egg-and-milk batter beautifully, creating a fluffy, moist French toast that paired perfectly with the salty crunch of the bacon.

And when we finally got down to the last two bits of our booming bounty of buns, we made these:

toasted sorta-caprese sandwich….gooey and melty….yum…

This sandwich was also laughably simple, but so tasty.

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  • Split two sandwich buns and brush the insides of both halves with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add a few thick pieces of cheese (we used Edam) and some sliced tomatoes (we used a handful of halved sungold cherries).
  • Close the sandwiches and wrap them in foil.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the sandwiches are nice and warm and the cheese has melted.
  • Add a big handful of fresh basil to each sandwich and enjoy!

The same day that we ate these delicious sandwiches, my friend Jackie brought me a jar of her generations-old sourdough starter, with instructions to feed the starter the next day and then bake with it the day after that.

I dutifully followed Jackie’s feeding instructions (minus the potato flakes/potato water), and that jar of yeasty goodness responded by giving me three large loaves of lovely bread:

fresh out of the oven, fluffy, and delicious

I’m very excited to have a sourdough starter and a fantastic recipe now–but dang, we ended up with so much bread! Fortunately, I was able to share this stuff with two of my best friends, so Micah and I only had one big loaf left to eat ourselves.

Next time (tomorrow!), I plan on tweaking the feeding and baking proportions of this recipe to yield just one or two loaves at a time, and I’m also excited to try using my sourdough starter to make other yummy baked goods like cinnamon rolls or pizza dough. If you want to make sourdough but don’t have any starter, ask around to some bakerly friends and you can probably find someone who has extra. Or, you can always make your own like my blogging buddy Stephanie did a while back. 🙂

Anyway, so right when Micah and I thought we’d found the light at the end of the starch tunnel, we now had another very large loaf of bread to eat.

So we did what any sane person would do in this situation.

We made more sandwiches.

bread + bacon + tomatoes + pesto

These sandwiches were salty and crunchy from the bacon, savory and spicy from the pesto, sweet and juicy from the tomatoes, and crispy and hearty from cooking in just a little bit of bacon grease. You could use your favorite pesto recipe or some store-bought pesto–or if you can hold out for one more post, you can use the parsley pistachio pesto we enjoyed (I’ll give you the recipe next time I write!).

Sourdough sandwiches, round two:

grilled cheese with pickled beets and fresh basil

The pickled beets and onions gave this tasty sandwich a fantastic tangy sweetness that played nicely with the spicy fresh basil, creamy Edam, and sharp cheddar.

We enjoyed crusty hunks of toasted bread with a few other meals throughout the week until finally, today, there was only one big two-sandwich hunk of bread left.

So today (no pictures of this one–sorry!), we sliced up that last hunk of bread and filled our sandwiches with pesto, bacon, and cheddar for a yummy concoction that went perfectly with the free potato salad we got with our weekly Earth Fare coupons on Sunday.

Why devote an entire blog post to this most humble of feasts, this I-don’t-know-what-to-eat-so-I-guess-I’m-stuck-with-sandwiches brown bag filler?

What’s so great about the lowly sandwich?

Sandwiches can be boring, can make you feel like you’re in a mindless, hopeless bread-filling rut.

But that’s not how I feel about sandwiches at all.

To me, a sandwich is a blank slate, a beautifully clean canvas.

If you stuff your sandwich bread with wilted iceberg lettuce and a sad, sad slice of processed ham, then of course it’s not going to be a masterpiece.

But if you let yourself think outside the lunchbox, you can turn plain old bread into a delicious work of art. 🙂

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supper tonight – 6.25.12 and 6.28.12 – pork (belly) ‘n’ beans – a guest post from Micah – plus 3-ingredient microwave chocolate cakes!

I was much too busy with Red Clay to help Micah cook dinner Monday night, so he whipped up an amazing (and very fancy) meal for us all on his own. I snapped some photos and told him his delicious supper would go up on the blog if he would write up a post about it. So he did, and here it is!

*   *   *   *   *

Hi. I’m Tanya’s main squeeze Micah and her very first official guest blogger.

I’m also the resident cook/curer of all things carnivorous in our household and a dabbler in what Tanya has coined “boozy infusions.” These are simply booze that has been infused with something (preferably non-toxic) that you think it should taste more like. But I’ll go into further detail about those adventures in a future guest post.

The reason I’m writing is to tell you about this here dinner:

beauty and substance – a perfect combination

I’ve recently begun to discover my roots. In other words, I’ve become enamored with Southern cooking.

I’ve long had a taste for the tasty. But whenever I’d think about the great food cultures of the world, I’d think about French, Italian, authentic Mexican, Japanese, etc. Never did Southern cross my mind. Only recently have I discovered what has been right in front of my face (and in my mouth) my whole life.

This has a lot to do with the rise of our local celebrity chef, Hugh Acheson. I know Tanya has mentioned him before. He’s the man who has put Athens, Georgia on the culinary map. His specialty is Southern cuisine with a modern twist.

After we visited his restaurants and read his cookbook, A New Turn in the South, a lightbulb went off in my head. The South does have one of the finest food cultures in the world. In bridging the traditional cuisines of three continents (North America, Africa, and Europe), we Southerners have created something greater than the sum of its parts.

Sure, it’s been hijacked and bastardized by the Paula Deens of the world, but trailblazers like Hugh are taking it back. This makes for an exciting time to be a foodie in the South, and it has made me want to incorporate a little Southern charm into almost everything I cook.

Including the meal I’m telling you about here, which fancifies butter beans and quick pickles with a little bit of pork belly. Voila!

Wait, that’s French. Let’s try again.

Here it is, y’all: my Pork (Belly) ‘n’ Beans.

First, there are two things you’ll want to make ahead: pork belly confit (I followed these directions from Belly Love) and pickled beets (made following thismodernwife’s recipe). These’ll keep in the fridge for a while, so make them when you have time and keep ‘em around for this meal.

(As you can probably tell from the preceding recipes, and Tanya can confirm, I prefer to read things with lots of pictures.)

Ingredients:

  • For the butter bean puree (you’ll have extra left over):
    • 2 cups dried butter beans or baby limas
    • 6 cups stock or broth
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 3/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
    • salt and pepper to taste
  • Everything else:
    • two 2- to 3-ounce pieces of pork belly confit
    • 2-4 tablespoons pickled beets, sliced into thin strips
    • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

What to do:

  • Put beans, stock, onion, and garlic into a pressure cooker, slow cooker, or big pot. Cook until tender (about 30 minutes in a pressure cooker or several hours on the stove/in a slow cooker).
  • Puree with a stick blender or in batches in the regular blender until smooth.
  • Add cream, lemon juice, and paprika, plus salt and pepper to taste.
  • Strain with cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer. (Bonus: The solids that are leftover make good bean dip.)
  • Add the liquid back into a saucepan and cook on medium low heat to reduce it until it’s good and thick.
  • The last step is to crisp up the pork belly. Add the pieces to a skillet over medium heat and cook each side until brown.
  • To serve, ladle about ½ cup of butter bean puree onto each plate, add the pork belly, top with slivers of pickled beets, and garnish with parsley.
  • Eat up!

*   *   *   *   *

Tanya here again. I just want to reiterate how good this was! Micah and I usually work together in the kitchen, but this recipe was entirely his creation and entirely, mouthwateringly, perfectly delicious.

The best part? We had enough of all the fixins that, after having this meal Monday night with a tomato cucumber salad, there was still plenty for us to enjoy it again yesterday, this time with the last of my peach tomato gazpacho.

Oh, and for dessert? We made some fantastic 3-ingredient microwave chocolate cakes, thanks to Stephanie at a {modern} christian woman.

topped at the last minute with the remnants of a pint of
cherry vanilla Häagen-Dazs that we found hiding in the freezer

Gluten-free friends, these are made from egg, powdered sugar, and unsweetened cocoa, so you can enjoy them, too! 🙂

Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

supper tonight – 6.7.12 – frito pies

Yes, you read that right.

Yes, we bought a bag of (corporate, processed, full-of-preservatives-and-crap) Fritos.

We could’ve (and probably should’ve) walked down to Daily Groceries or driven over to Earth Fare for some organic, all-natural Frito-type corn chips with five or fewer easily pronounceable ingredients. It’s always my preference to buy a healthier, more sustainable option.

But when you’re really hungry after a long day at school or work, and the chili’s completely ready in the pot, and then Micah says, “We need chips! How about Fritos? I’ll go get some.”–well, it’s kinda hard to stick to your principles.

And since we do stick to our principles most of the time….well, I wasn’t going to argue.

Plus, I’ll admit: I like Fritos. Always have. And I love, love, love Frito pies.

You might’ve had Frito pies before, but if you haven’t, let me tell you a little bit about them.

The Frito pies of my childhood were comprised of three vital components:

  • Canned chili. Dave and I were the working-class kids of teenage parents, so brand-name chili like Bush’s or Hormel happened sometimes, but other times, the cans looked a little more like this:

from the creative folks at Max Pictures’ Blather, where they actually printed
Dharma Initiative PDF labels for chili and Spam, affixed the labels to the cans,
and then snapped some photos

  • Fritos:

from Frito-Lay’s official website

  • And shredded cheese:

from Joe Hribar’s blog, which includes a whole section about food packaging

We ate a lot of Frito pies growing up, so you would think they were commonplace enough for me not to get that excited about them (or maybe even enough for me to get tired of them).

Not so.

For whatever reason, Frito pies always sparked high spirits. If one of us asked what was for dinner and Mom or Dad responded, “Frito pies!”–they always said it with that exclamation point at the end, always enthusiastic, always eager–then Dave and I always felt the excitement, too. (I’m speaking for him here, of course, but I’m pretty sure I’m hitting the mark.)

Maybe Frito pies were exciting because we had some choices–how many chips, how much cheese, what the final crunch-to-chili ratio would be.

Maybe Frito pies were exciting because they were kind of real food, but still kind of junk food, too, and maybe when the chili ran out, we’d still get to snack on the leftover Fritos afterwards.

Or maybe Frito pies were exciting just because they tasted really damn good.

Whatever the reason–the autonomy, the forbidden-fruit-thrill, or the hearty-spicy-crunchy-melty deliciousness–Frito pies are one of my very favorite childhood memories.

They’re a tradition that carried over to my teen years, too, when we would go camping with my Dad and someone might stew a big dutch oven of homemade chili over the campfire (or just plunk an opened can of chili beans right down on the grates of the grill), and our chili and chips and cheese sometimes got fancified with a sprinkling of black olives or a spoonful of salsa or a dollop of sour cream.

My mom still makes Frito pies sometimes–the kind everyone’s pinning on Pinterest where you put out lots of little single-serve bags of Fritos next to a big pot of chili and and an assortment of fixins so your party guests can build their own Frito pies without dirtying any dishes because the chip baggie doubles as a sort of bowl.

Well, as of last Thursday, I still make Frito pies, too:

the layers, from bottom to top: a generous fistful (or two) of Fritos, a heaping
ladle of chili, a sprinkling of shredded cheddar, and a scattering of fresh cilantro
(Micah also added a dollop of Greek yogurt–subbed for sour cream)

When you eat a Frito pie, you should top it with whatever chili you like best, whether it’s a can of No Beans Hormel or a pot of vegan chili with sweet corn and chunks of carrot or some very traditional chili that’s just chile con carne, stewed to sublime, spicy perfection.

Our chili wasn’t the best we’ve ever made, definitely wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty dang good, so I’ll share how we made it here.

What’s in it:

  • 2/3 cup dry black beans (or you could use a can of already cooked)
  • 1 cup dry pinto beans (or use 1-2 cans)
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage (ours was medium-heat breakfast sausage from Moonshine, but once we seasoned it, it didn’t taste like brunch anymore)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 pound fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (or sub cayenne)
  • 1 can Pabst Blue Ribbon (or beer of your choice)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • If your beans are dry, soak ’em and cook ’em. We used our pressure cooker to get them done in about 45 minutes, but you can simmer them all day on the stove or in a slow cooker–or just used canned beans because they’re easier. 🙂
  • In a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat, brown the ground sausage.
  • When the sausage is cooked through (or close to it), add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and saute until they’re translucent and tender.
  • Mix in the tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, and ground chipotle.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients, including the beans. (You can add the liquid from the beans or not, depending on how thick and chunky you like your chili and how long you want it to take to reduce.)
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least 30-40 minutes, but as long as a few hours to let the flavors really play together nicely.

Now that you have that big, spicy, hearty pot of chili, go ahead and make yourself a Frito pie. A basic three-ingredient stove-top pie, a rustic campfire pie, a cute little Pinterest pie….or make up your own. Use Fritos, or splurge on the organic all-natural five-ingredient corn chips. It’s really up to you.

And in the end, that’s probably the best thing about a Frito pie. 🙂

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

supper tonight – 6.5.12 – leek & mushroom pizza

Vision:

Musing, wishing, dreaming…

     …conception, imagination, anticipation…

…an overall idea of how you hope something will turn out.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a prophecy.

Some written recipes include an indication of their creator’s vision. Maybe a grab-you-by-the-tastebuds blurb at the top of the page, a charming anecdote that invites and entices you, a photo that captures one stylized representation of what your mouthwatering result should look like.

But mostly, the recipe is a plan–a straightforward description of ingredients and materials, steps and procedures.

A recipe is the map that helps you navigate to your cabin in the woods, not the relaxing thrill of the forested hike you look forward to taking when you get there, not the buzzing and chirping and humming of nature all around you, not the sweet warmth of the hot cocoa you’ll sip on the porch when the evening chill sets in.

The recipe is not what makes your mouth water, not what you’ll look forward to.

The recipe is concrete, explicating (hopefully in careful detail) the very real process of creating your vision or someone else’s. But it is abstract, too, because you as you’re reading, you don’t yet smell it, taste it, experience it in any tangible way. It is only a string of words and numbers, measurements and imperative sentences, that can lead you through–and to–that sensory experience.

The vision blurs these lines, too. It is abstract because it does not exist yet–it is only your dream of what will be (or what could or should be), not what actually is. But it is concrete, too, because the vision is what you can smell and taste, see steaming, hear sizzling–even if only in your mind.

When I cook, I might follow a recipe. But I’m more likely to adapt a recipe, ignore a recipe, forget a recipe, create a recipe as I go along.

Recipe or not, I almost always have a vision. I know what I want my food to look like on the plate, to taste like when it touches my tongue, to feel like as I chew.

I know how I want to feel when I eat it.

But when you’re cooking with someone else, someone you love, and you have a vision but no recipe, how do you communicate that vision to the person cooking with you?

*      *      *      *      *

Tuesday night, Micah and I cataloged the contents of our refrigerator, brainstorming pizza topping combinations. Some items–the squash and peppers, the ham and brie–were off-limits, already earmarked for other purposes. What was left?

For several minutes, we stood, stared, chatted, considered.

I saw the creamy-white button mushrooms, round and plump, still dotted with specks of dark soil. I saw the young, slender leeks, their stalks delicately stretching from small ivory bulbs to sleek green leaves. I saw a deli tub of fresh mozzarella, moist and elastic, floating in cloudy, salty brine, ready and waiting and eager to melt.

And then, I had a vision.

Brown and beige and shades of green. Warm, mellow, earthy flavors. Nothing bright and flashy, nothing showy, no punch-in-the-mouth heat or tang or bite.

I didn’t have a map, but I knew where this pizza was going and what it would do when it arrived. I pulled the mushrooms, leeks, and mozzarella out of the refrigerator, plucked garlic powder and thyme from the spice rack, gathered flour and salt and yeast for the crust.

Micah greased a pizza pan with olive oil while I mixed the dough. Then I pressed the dough into the pan, thinner and thinner, spreading it to the very edges.

As the crust prebaked on its own, unadorned, for maximum crispiness, Micah melted butter in a skillet. I cut up the mushrooms and leeks, which Micah sauteed while I sliced the cheese. The recipe was created as we worked, every ingredient and action working together towards the vision I had in mind.

When our crispy crust came out of the oven and off of the pan, I spread the softened, buttery vegetables over it.

Micah looked again into the fridge. “How about some of these?” he asked, picking up a tub of mixed green, kalamata, and oil-cured black olives.

I love olives. We both do. But I thought about my vision and decided: not on this pizza.

“No,” I said as I worked, eyeing my distribution of leeks and mushrooms, looking for spots that still needed to be filled in. “I don’t really want olives.”

“But what if I do? Could we put olives on half?”

“Olives don’t go on this pizza,” I said. “I’ve got a vision.”

“I think they’d go just fine.”

“But I don’t want olives.”

“I do,” Micah said, clearly exasperated.

With good reason.

I was being stubborn. Of course I knew that. Even then, I realized I wasn’t communicating my vision very well, wasn’t justifying my choices, definitely wasn’t convincing Micah that olives were a topping for another pizza, another time.

“No olives,” I said. I carefully placed the wobbly ovals of sliced mozzarella, spacing them evenly, tweaking the design as I went along.

Micah, sweet and patient as he is, compromised. And by compromised, I mean that he let me have my way.

Micah isn’t what you’d call whipped, isn’t a doormat, doesn’t just give in to my whims any time. But he does pick his battles, and he knew this one wasn’t worth fighting.

I, on the other hand, am hard-headed enough that I would’ve argued about it, not for the sake of fighting, not even because it was that important to me, but just because I wanted to be right (and, of course, I felt sure I was).

The pizza, now dressed, went into the oven. Without olives.

Soon, scents of crisping crust and bubbling cheese, garlic, herbs, sweet leeks and warm mushrooms diffused through the kitchen.

A few minutes later, the pizza was done.

a vision, realized

We sliced. We tasted. The crust crunched between our teeth. The mushrooms and leeks were buttery, delicate, and tender. Each bite was warm and mellow, brown and green, earthy and rustic and exactly what I had envisioned.

“Do you still think it needs olives?” I asked Micah.

“No,” he said. “It’s good.”

“Like I said, I had a vision.”

What’s in it:

  • For the crust:
    • 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water (about 100-110°F)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • For the toppings:
    • 1  tablespoon butter
    • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    • 4 leeks, washed and sliced, white and light green parts only
    • 6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • salt and pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  • Put the yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the sugar into the water, then pour over the yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
  • Add both flours, salt, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Mix until the dough comes together into a ball, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes (or use the dough hook on your stand mixer). Flatten the dough into a disc.
  • Brush 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil on a large pizza pan.
  • Put the disc of dough in the center of your pan. Press it with your fingers to spread it all the way to the edges of the pan. (It will be very thin! If you accidentally tear the dough like I did several times, just do your best to smoosh it back together. :))
  • Brush the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough.
  • Bake the crust for 7-8 minutes.
  • While the crust is baking, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, leeks, and dried thyme. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the leeks are slightly translucent. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Once the crust has baked for 7-8 minutes, remove it from the oven and slide it off the pizza pan and onto a large cutting board (or your kitchen counter, if it’s clean enough–mine never is!).
  • Top the pizza with the vegetables, then the mozzarella.
  • Return the pizza to the oven and bake it directly on the rack for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble a little bit.
  • While the pizza cools for a few minutes, sprinkle it with just a tad more salt and pepper. Then slice and enjoy.

the vision, close-up

If When your dinner turns out amazing (it will), please don’t gloat and say “I told you so.”

Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to be sharing this pizza with someone who understands your vision, or (more importantly) someone who understands your stubborn need to be right all the time–and loves you anyway.

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

quick lunch – 5.29.12 – kimchi fried rice

As soon as I saw the recipe for Kimchi Fried Rice on coolcookstyle, I knew Micah would love it.

Not only is Micah borderline obsessed with kimchi (Korean spicy fermented cabbage), but also, any food description that includes the word “fried” sets his salivary glands a-squirtin’.

Plus, this dish includes one of Micah’s other very favorite foods: hot dogs.

So on Tuesday, when I spied one last lonely frankfurter in the fridge, then spotted a container of kimchi from Fook’s, I knew it was time to try this recipe out.

Of course, I couldn’t follow the instructions exactly because I was missing some ingredients and had the wrong amounts of several others. So, as usual, I improvised.

The first obstacle I had to overcome was not having (or ever having heard of) gochujang, a spicy, fermented chili-and-soybean paste.

I searched Google for alternatives and found a recipe for making your own gochujang substitute, which of course I also modified based on what I had in the pantry and my lazy desire NOT to mince three cloves of garlic.

The gochujang substitute recipe, with my own additional substitutions indicated:

  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely ground red chile pepper sriracha chili garlic sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon rice wine tawny port (the only cooking wine I had in the house)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

The resulting mixture was less of a paste and more of a thick sauce, and I have no idea if it tasted anything like it was supposed to, but it was pungent and spicy and garlicky and salty, so it at least captured a pretty accurate flavor profile. 🙂

Once I had some semblance of gochujang, it was time to get cooking!

Here’s the lunch Micah eventually came home to:

please forgive the slightly withered cilantro….
(fresh would’ve been better, but this was what I had to work with)

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, divided
  • 1 large hot dog, cut longways and then sliced into half-moons
  • 2 cups cooked rice (mine was not a day old as suggested, so when I cooked it, I used less water than usual to keep it a bit dry)
  • 3/4 cup kimchi, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon gochujang or gochujang substitute
  • soy sauce to taste (which is what I used instead of salt to season at the end)
  • 2 eggs
  • cilantro (mine was accidentally dried after too long in the fridge–oops!)

Step-by-step:

  • Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
  • Add the hot dogs and cook until lightly browned around the edges.
  • Add the rice, spreading it evenly over the hot dogs, and drizzle it with the rest of the sesame oil. Cook undisturbed for a minute or two.
  • Stir in the kimchi and gochujang (or subsitute). Spread the rice mixture out evenly over the bottom of the pan again, reduce the heat to medium low, and cook undisturbed for 3-4 more minutes or until the rice on the bottom starts to brown and crisp a little.
  • Season to taste with soy sauce.
  • Divide the mixture between two bowls and stick ’em in a low oven or the microwave to stay warm.
  • Return your pan to the stove, adding a little oil or cooking spray if you’d like. Crack the eggs into the skillet. (The original recipe recommended using a separate pan for the eggs, but I didn’t feel like washing two pans, so I didn’t.)
  • Cook the eggs until they reach your preferred level of doneness. (We prefer ours runny-sunny-side-up.)
  • Top each bowl with an egg, then sprinkle with the cilantro and serve.

Micah and I both really enjoyed this lunch. The rice had just the right amount of bite to it, and the flavors were pungent and spicy and tangy. That hot dog gave things a meaty, savory punch, and it also worked with the egg to make this hearty enough to stand alone as a one-dish meal.

Like this recipe? Go visit coolcookstyle for more delicious inspiration! That gal really knows what she’s doing. 🙂

Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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