Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Garden news!

There had been a scare with the community garden at work.  Luckily, it was resolved and we can go back to gardening! I'll be busy this week. . .here's hoping my plants are doing well.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chinese food dilemna solved

To be accurate, it was solved ages ago, I just got off my duff and found the recipes I needed online.  Hooray for the internet.

One of my bigger weaknesses is Chinese food, as the four people who read this blog know.  My go-to dish at our local place is mapo tofu and egg drop soup.  Mapo tofu is tofu with ground pork with a chile sauce--it's delicious.  And egg drop soup is one of those things that I can eat over and over again.  But it's not like I can go out and get that all the time these days--it's costing me a pretty penny just to get to work (and yes, I could look for a job closer to home, but my employment situation over the past four years has been a little rocky thanks to the economy.  Right now I plan to stay right where I am).  I'm not in financial danger or anything like that, I'm just in need of serious belt tightening, and eating out is one of the first things to go in those cases.

And I'm not saying that like it's a big revelation to me.  Four years ago, when I had a job that paid a lot more, I ate out a lot more.  I did not spend up to what I earned--I was able to sock a lot of it away.  But I did make enough that I could--and did--eat out at lunch or dinner.  And I was working and on the road enough where that was actually necessary a lot of the time.

I found a recipe for mapo tofu and got the black bean paste necessary to make it.  I'll be trying my hand at that.  I already tried my hand at the egg drop soup--it wasn't bad, though I think I needed to do a better job with the cornstarch.  I'll try my hand at making the mapo tofu--both without the pork and with it--and maybe when I have friends over the first couple of weekends in July, I'll make that. 

That's the great thing about cooking--you can try your hand at new things and share them with your friends.  It's a bummer that there are dirty dishes to be washed afterwards, I'll grant you.  I really could use a robot cleaner.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Meal

Today is Father's Day.  Like Mother's Day, I'll have my parents over for dinner.  My dad's request was 40 Clove of Garlic Chicken.  There are also versions for your slow cooker.  I'll sautee some greens, maybe serve some beets from the CSA.  (I've learned to not overdo it on the vegetable offerings.  I used to have three or four vegetable sides and I'd have a lot of leftovers.  Well.  Maybe that would be a good idea for lunch this week. . .

My coworker told me how to make cold brewed iced coffee--she said you take two cups of ground coffee, and mix it with cold water in a large mason jar (I have a three quart one that I used) and let it sit overnight.  Strain the grounds out and serve.  I'll let you know how it tastes, and how my folks liked it.

I will say this about Father's Day: the funny cards that are out there are subpar.  Mother's Day cards had a much better selection.  Also, I'm tired of fart jokes on Father's Day.  That seems to be the only jokey card out there this year.  My Dad Farts.  Yeah, guess what?  Everyone farts.  I fart, you fart (don't lie, you do), the Queen of England farts. 

OK, I was going to delete that last paragraph, but now I'm really curious to see if it will affect the Google ads on the blog. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dinner tonight

The Farmer's Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Your CSA and Farmers' Market FoodsSo, I've been craving pasta.  Craving it.  As in, I'm distracted by thoughts of the stuff.  I've been trying to cut down on my consumption of pasta and bread because I tend to really overindulge--I don't stick to the recommended serving size but will happily eat a half a pound.

Today was interesting, because it was CSA pickup day.  And I had a mad, mad craving for pasta.  Now, here I was with all of these greens and fresh produce (radishes, beets, broccoli rabe, collard greens, broccoli, snow peas, spring onion, and garlic scapes) and all I wanted was pasta.  But I wanted some of those tasty vegetables, too.  I hit upon a solution.

Basically, I cooked up some penne rigate (you can use any kind of pasta you want, obviously).  I chopped up the broccoli rabe and the garlic scapes.  I sauteed the garlic scapes in olive oil, then added the broccoli rabe and a splash of white wine, and threw a pinch of crushed red pepper on it.  I sauteed it until it cooked down but retained its bright green color.  I added a little water from the pasta cooking liquid and a bit more olive oil towards the end.  Once the pasta was done, I tossed it with the broccoli rabe saute and put a little parmesean cheese on it.  (Just a little--too much and it overwhlems the flavor.)

It was pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Though I did cook--and eat--far too much pasta.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

This is not the way to protest your bill

So, I've read stories like this one before.  A customer is angry with a company or the local government or city hall or a utility and pays their large bill with coins only.  And I've gotta say, I'm unimpressed.

Dear Jackasses who think they're Sticking It to the Man: So you think your cable company, lending institution, credit card company, utility, local government, whatever, is ripping you off?  You think it's unfair that you have to pay a fee or taxes? Maybe it is unfair, maybe they company or town or utility is being absolutely awful.

How, exactly, is dumping a bunch of pennies or coins on the desks of the clerks, or on the floor of the business, going to stick it to the people in charge?  Do you really think the CEO or the President or the selectmen care that the front-line clerks have to deal with someone who's feeling spiteful?  You think the board of the company or the local select board is sweating the fact that clerks have to take up a large chunk of their workday day counting the change?

Those clerks are the ones who are paying for your dissatisfaction and anger, not the CEO or the actual decision makers.  Those clerks are plankton on the food chain.  It's pretty nasty and frankly, spineless to take this out on people who make a fraction of what the people on top make, who have to take your grief and who are routinely the targets for abuse. 

Doing this is like throwing rocks at sanitation workers because you're mad at the mayor.  Grow up already.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My CSA meals

About a year ago, I signed up for the community-supported agriculture program at a local farm.  Prior to that, I split a share at another CSA with a friend, but the pickup route was far out of my way.  That farm was about 90 miles away (not the pickup point, I swear--they were large enough that they had pickup points at about six places in eastern Massachusetts. 

It was a nice CSA, but I thought I'd rather something closer and less trouble if I was going to do it again--I had to drive through horrendous traffic to get the stuff (that, with the trucking the vegetables from 90 miles away to several different pickup points, seemed to defeat one of the purposes of eating locally--reducing greenhouse emitions).  I did, however, get a full pallet of tomatoes for free, as they had to get rid of them--I had gotten there a half hour before the pickup closed, and they weren't going to truck them all back.  I canned them and made some into salsa.

So.  I joined a CSA much closer to my home, and on the way home from my new(ish) job.  So far, I like it, but I've only been picking up for about three weeks now.  It's been a lot of greens so far, which is how it goes in the beginning of the season.  Also, I get a lot of small turnips (which are really nice sliced thinly and tossed in a mesculun mix salad).

Stuff like mesculun mix and arugula I use as salad (shocking, I know).  But I do get other greens, and this is how I've prepared them.

Greens are my go-to side dish.  They are easy to cook and they're really good for you. 

I take a bunch of greens--so far, it's been kale, collards, broccoli rabe, and turnip greens from the tops of the turnips--wash them, and trim the tough ends of the stems.  Then I chop them roughly (into smaller pieces but not tiny pieces).  I heat up some olive oil and garlic in a skillet (or I use garlic scapes, which I got last week) over medium or medium high heat on my stove.  After the garlic turns translucent, I add the greens and carefully stir/turn over to coat with the oil/seasoning and allow the heat to touch it all.  After a minute, I add a splash of water (maybe a tablespoon or two) to allow it to steam a bit.  It cooks down fairly quickly, and what looks like a huge amount of greens ends up being a cup or so when you're done sauteeing them.

Other ways I've prepared them:

Collards: I'll take a strip of two of bacon, cut them into pieces, and cook them over a medium high heat in a skillet.  I'll drain off most of the fat except for about a tablespoon, and cook the washed, trimmed, and chopped collards in the skillet, same way as above.  I don't do this a lot because a) bacon is expensive, b) when I have it I tend to eat it quickly and c) it's not all that good for you, so I often do stick with olive oil.  Once in a while it's nice, though, and the crunchiness of the bacon, the salt from it, and the richness of the fat add a nice dimension to the collards.

Kale: You can trim kale, cut each leaf off along its middle stem, and bake them in the oven (sprinkled with a little Kosher salt) until crispy.  Or make kale soup--use stock, kielbasa, kale, and a potato or two that's been peeled and chopped.  Also garlic.  I love me some garlic.  My neighbor makes a heavenly kale soup.

Broccoli rabe: This is pretty good in salads.

Bok choy: This has become a staple of CSA's, it seems, along with kale!  I'm pretty much guaranteed to get one or both of these things.  I'll sautee bok choy as I do the other greens, but I'll add a chopped grannysmith apple to  the garlic initially.  It adds a nice tang to it.  Another nice addition is some fennel.  Any sort of cabbage does well with apple or fennel, I've found.  And bok choy is always a good addition to stir frys.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I have not been kidnapped by malfunctioning Stepford bots, I swear

There has been a lot going on, but I am not going to update about it until it's all resolved.  Sounds ominous, doesn't it?  It's not too bad, but it's a fair amount of work and stress.  There is a garden snafau.  We'll see how it shakes out.  Also, other things at work/other activities have been crazy lately, but not blog worthy as far as subjects.  Also, work is busy (never fear, I'm posting this on my lunch break, people).

Last week, I spent an evening with a bunch of people helping to clean a friend's boat, which was fun.  Now summer is here and I'm thrilled it's hot outside.  Really--I could be very happy in a place that only had spring, summer, and fall with no winter.

I have finished some Jane Austen novels, which I got for free from Amazon (thank you, Cash Only Living).  I got a Kindle for my birthday, and it's nice to find free novels to read.  I'll post something about the books later this week.

OK, so, in the meantime, enjoy this bit of internet funny stuff.  I'm pretty sure it was created with a church sign generator (so it's not real), but it is funny!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vegetarian Chili

Earlier this week, I went to a friend's house for dinner.  It was a potluck, so we all brought something.  I'm not vegetarian, but our friend Steve is, and he often cooks for us (and cooks meat because he is a very good host).  I brought salad and vegetarian chili.  My friend Steve said he liked the chili.  Well, Steve, here's the recipe.  It's ridiculously easy if you have a slow cooker.  Also, check out his pasta salad recipe at the link.  I think I should start growing dill.  Hmmm. . .

Vegetarian Cocoa Chili

1 pint of home canned beans.  I often use pinto or red, or you can use half pints of assorted beans such as red and black, etc.  You can also buy two cans of beans at the supermarket, or use three cups of beans that were already prepared and/or frozen afterwards.

One 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice. 

One 14-ounce can of stewed tomatoes (I didn't have this onhand, and so went without, and the chili was fine, but it does add a nice flavor)

Three hot peppers, chopped (I get the small cans of them from the grocery store, if you grow and picke them yourself, open up a jar and take out three large ones, or to taste.  Also, if you grow and can your own, I am in awe and am not worthy!)

Garlic, chili powder, and cayenne pepper to taste.

1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. of cocoa powder.  Do NOT use more than that, as you'll have a weird chocolate sauce over beans.

Combine all ingredients into a 4-quart slow cooker.  Cook on high setting for 2-3 hours or low setting for 3-4 hours.  If you like, add chopped cilantro before serving.

You can add ground meat if you prefer your chili to be carnivore-friendly.  I've had it vegetarian and with ground beef or ground poultry, and it's good either way.  You can increase the ingredients (but not the cocoa, never more than a teaspoon) and cook in a six quart slow cooker if you wish.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ahhh, dinner

Left to my own devices, I'd eat like a sterotypical bachelor--lots of instant food and ravioli out of the can.  I try not to--even I acknowledge that that stuff, while pleasurable in its own way, is kind of gross as a typical diet for some--but I can tweak really lazy.  If I eat sensibly, I still try to do it with inexpensive foods.  However, thanks to my great luck in getting a chest freezer, I'm able to stock up on things like tuna and salmon for when I want something special.  Something like a poached salmon with yogurt dill sauce or broiled tuna steaks feels like a really fancy meal for friends, but it doesn't take much time at all. 

Last night I had my neighbor Evelyn over for dinner and made a simple meal--a cold minted cucumber soup, tuna steaks (they were on special a few months ago and I have a deep freeze--yay!) wild rice, and broccoli rabe.

This is what I did.

Cucumber soup:

Take three cucumbers, peel them, and chop them roughly.  Chop 1/2 of a medium sized red onion.  Place in a food processor.  Add a handful of mint leaves, fresh parsley, and a small amount of lemon zest (if desired).  Add some crushed ice.  Process for about 30 seconds until it's a chunky soup consistency.  Place in chilled bowls.  This is perfect for hot days--think of it as a very versatile, cold salad.  You can add whatever other vegetables you want (half a bell pepper, tomatoes, etc.) and whichever herbs and spices you like (crushed red pepper, or go with dill, etc.).

Tuna (you can do this with any fish, or with chicken):

Marinate for several hours in a mixture of white wine, a splash of soy sauce, black pepper, and chopped fresh garlic (2-3 cloves) and ginger (about 1 1/2 inches).  Turn over once to allow both sides to get the benefit of the marinade.  Place on broiler pan, and add slices of ginger and garlic to top of fish.  Broil to desired doneness, turning over once to make sure it's cooked evenly.

(With chicken breasts or certain kinds of white fish, you'll probably want to wrap them in foil or parchment--along with some vegetables of your choice--and bake them, so they will not dry out.)

Broccoli rabe:

I'd change this.  I had sauteed it with garlic, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice.  I'd do this right before serving it as I think I made it too soggy.  So--chop up the broccoli rabe, discarding the tough ends of the stems (or saving them for stock and/or composting).  Sautee two or three cloves of chopped garlic in olive oil over medium heat.  Place the broccoli rabe in the skillet and turn over gently to make sure it cooks evenly.  Cover; it will cook down in a minute or so.  Add fresh lemon juice, if desired, at the end (not at the beginning like I did). 

Wild rice mix:

I cooked this in chicken stock.  It adds flavor so you're not so willing to drown it in butter (OK, I'm prone to drowning things in butter becasue OH MY GOD THE UTTER DELICIOUSNESS OF BUTTER YUM).  I used a can of my homemade stock.  Wild rice mix is a combination of brown and red rice and wild rice.  It has a lovely, nutty flavor.  You just bring one part rice and one and a half parts water or stock to a boil, stir once, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  And you're done.

My neighbor brought wine, which we drank during the meal (not while I was cooking.  Trust me, that is not a good idea.  I once had my boss''s homemade wine before cooking Christmas Eve dinner and it was, um, interesting.  I have the tolerance of an underweight mosquito).  And she brought ice cream sandwiches.  Ice cream is my favorite kind of sandwich.  Pity I can't eat them for lunch.