Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Mouths of Babes

I have been blessed when it comes to my child and food. As far as three-year-olds go, she's not exactly a picky eater, unless you count the fact that she doesn't like white bread and can taste when grilled cheese has been prepared with processed cheese food as opposed to real cheese (She calls it "weird cheese" and then says it's gross and won't eat it. And, for the record, only her father heaps this cruelty upon her, because I think the stuff is repulsive, too). And she has a pretty advanced appreciation for things like vegetables and savory foods. In fact, in the grocery store today she pleaded with me to buy squash. We were already checking out, so the answer was not right now, but it was very hard to say no- when a preschooler asks for squash, the answer should always be yes, yes, ABSOLUTELY!

Over the years, several of my friends and acquaintance have commented on my daughter's eating habits- amazed when she wolfs down tomatoes and fennel and, yes, squash. (Don't get me wrong, she still loves candy and ice cream and such, she just likes the other stuff, too.) They want to know how I get her to eat these things and my answer is always the same: she's always eaten them. From the time she started eating solid foods, we've given her whatever it is we're eating. I'm convinced that has a lot to do with it, but I'm not sure it's the whole reason. In some ways, I'm pretty sure she just came that way. There are probably some kids who would refuse to eat at all if they were subjected to seafood and beans and oatmeal and mountains of produce from the very beginning. Hell, my 30-year-old brother would refuse to eat if I subjected him to that. But when it comes down to it, I think we parents really do shape and inform our children's palettes. If we start them out with lots of processed "kid" food, they're going to flip out when we put a pile of sauteed spinach on their plate. If we teach them to want salt and sugar and fat and grease, they're going to want that. (Not that there's no place for those things in a well-balanced diet. I really believe that there is, just in a limited way.) But if we teach them to eat well from the beginning, I really believe we have a much better chance of getting them to do just that.

What do you think? What have your experiences with kids and food been? When you were a kid, what did you eat and how does that affect you as an adult? When I do have another kid, am I destined to have one who will only eat things in chicken-nugget form? Because I'm leaning toward yes on that. WIll my daughter's teenage dietary rebellion involve daily trips to McDonald's and deep-fried Oreos? Discuss.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

As a child, I never thought much about where my food came from. Clearly, it came from the store. Except for the stuff that came from our family garden. (Like the bazillion apricots and plums and almonds and pomegranates we had to clean up off the lawn all spring and summer long. Did I mention I grew up in Las Vegas? Where the summer lasts for about six months? Oh, how I hated cleaning that stuff up.) Even as an adult, I never put too much effort into thinking about the origins of my meal. I've always been most concerned with the final product, the flavors on my plate.

The last several months, however, I've thought about it more. A lot more.

When we lived in the mountains of Utah (see how I said "when'? Because we have had the great fortune of leaving Utah behind, hopefully forever.) and my husband was fishing for our dinner a few days a week and bringing home big, luscious rainbow trout and bass and happy little perch (okay, maybe they weren't so happy anymore), it was the first time I'd ever been so intimately aware of where exactly my entree came from, and the effort exerted to catch it and kill it, and what exactly was involved in the process of cleaning it and preparing it to be prepared. Sure, I'd thought about it in very vague terms before, but I'd never experienced it. I'd never sat on the edge of the river/lake/reservoir/pond hoping that my husband would catch a good one and looked around and been able to observe exactly the conditions and surroundings that contributed to my dinner.

Before this summer, I'd never shelled peas fresh from my uncle's (or anyone else's) garden. I'd never taken seeds directly from a flax plant. I'd never tasted a radish before it was all spicy and bitter and weeks away from its growing spot. Oh, and, radishes straight from the garden? Completely different than radishes from the store. Just wash, salt and eat. Gooood.

When we moved to the East Coast in the late summer, I was lucky enough to become fast friends with Ruth, who introduced me to the joys of going out to pick raspberries and apples, and who then schooled me in the art of making jam. Lots and lots of jam. Ruth also has tomato plants taller than her backyard fence and pots and pots of plants growing everything from strawberries to jalapenos. Needless to say, this girl with a black thumb is going to learn a lot from Ruth.

All of this oneness with my food and the harvest and whatnot has gotten me thinking more about not only where my food is coming from, but about my kid. And how I want her to understand that food doesn't come from a store. That someone cultivated and harvested those fruits and vegetables and those grains, and that the meat or fish on her plate had a face, it was a living animal, and we should respect that. I want her to understand that someone somewhere worked very hard so she could enjoy the bounty. I want to instill these things in her, create more of an appreciation for good food and the having thereof, but I don't want to make it a killjoy, either. Hopefully someday we'll have our own little plot of earth in which I can try to teach her these lessons very literally, but in the meantime, it seems there is much thinking to do. And eating. Because really, that is the whole point.

My Roots Are Showing

Once upon a time, I started a blog as an outlet for my obsession with food. Somehow, over time, I became delusional and started to think all I could do with that blog was post recipes. Which is dumb, because I very rarely create my own recipes. And you know, reviewing recipes is all well and good, but there are 85,000 recipe-reviewing sites out there. Plus, it bores me, this reviewing of recipes. Really, what do you care if I, who couldn't even identify a green onion not so many years ago, like a recipe or not? You don't. But you must like food because you're here. And if you've actually read a couple of my posts and you're still here, you must REALLY like food.

So kids, this blog is going back to its roots. From here and forever more, this is my place to talk about food in whatever way I so choose. Oh sure, occasionally I'll share a recipe that I think simply must be tried, but mostly not. Because there is so much more to food and endless pleasures thereof than recipes. And just as the pleasures of food are endless, so too are my thoughts and feelings and opinions and- brace yourself- issues regarding it. And lucky, lucky you, you get to hear about it all.

Hey, where did everyone go?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble

A few weeks ago, I bought a half-flat of strawberries (I love spring) with grand things in mind. I was thinking jam, freezer jam, pie, strawberry-topped french toast, perhaps an attempt at homemade turnovers (never mind that I only had half a flat and not an entire pallet), but as is usually the case with strawberries, by the time I was ready to begin my culinary escapades 36 hours later, they had almost all been devoured, because really, what better way is there to eat strawberries than fresh out of your hand? I was, however, able to steal a pint from my husband and daughter. Soon thereafter I stumbled upon this recipe from EatingWell.com, and it just so happened that I had some rhubarb in my freezer. It appeared we were in business.

Aside: If you've never had it before, don't be afraid of rhubarb. Think of it as a strawberry's tart little friend. The two were made for each other, I'm pretty sure of it.

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crumble from EatingWell.com
(Did I mention that I got this recipe on EatingWell.com and didn't create it myself? I did? Oh, good.)

For the filling:

1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (4 cups)
1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the crumble topping:

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon cranberry or apple juice

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a large bowl, mix ingredients for filling. Transfer the mixture to a shallow 1.5 quart baking dish or deep-dish 9-inch pie plate, pressing down on the fruit to form an even layer.

In a separate bowl, combine oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, butter and oil. work the ingredients with a fork or your fingers until mixture is crumbly. Stir in the juice until the mixture is evenly moistened.

Distribute topping evenly over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden, 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Now They're Never Going to Let Me In The Club

There's something I'vs got to come clean about. It's one of my dirty little culinary secrets:

I hate bacon.

I can hear all of you gasping, feverishly racing for the "back" button on your browser, flummoxed that anyone can hate bacon, but, sadly, I do. It wasn't always this way. Once upon a time, I loved bacon deeply- bacon cheeseburgers, bacon-wrapped meat, bacon and eggs (although I never was a fan of the BLT)- and then, one day, I woke up and I didn't feel the same anymore. I don't know why. Something about the way it smells and the greasy tracks it leaves behind left me... disenchanted.

To be honest, I wish I could love bacon again. It would make my life as a pretender to the culinary throne so much easier. I wouldn't stop reading a recipe or watching a cooking show at the mere mention of bacon. I wouldn't stare perplexed at the screen when contestants and judges alike on Top Chef proclaim their intense passion for it. I wouldn't have to pretend to gag when my husband suggests purchasing and cooking the stuff. (Okay, maybe I don't HAVE to do that, but it feels like I do. You know, to make my point. In case I hadn't made it 376 times before.) But alas, my friends, bacon and I fell out of love a long time ago, and I can't pretend any longer that we haven't. However, I know I'm pretty much alone in my disdain, so, as a mea culpa of sorts, I leave you with this video, because even if we can't agree on bacon, I hope we can all agree on Jim Gaffigan.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Penne with Spring Vegetables

Sometimes you just want something light, fresh, nutritious and filling- but not too filling- and still delicious.  And sometimes, all you need to get that is a few fresh vegetables and some pantry basics.  (Hey, I never claimed to be a revolutionary.)  

Penne with Spring Vegetables

1/2 lb. dried penne pasta  (I like Barilla Plus or Ronzoni Smart Taste)
1 medium Italian yellow squash
1 medium zucchini
2 small broccoli crowns
1 red onion
1 garlic clove
A handful of grape or cherry tomatoes  OR  2 Roma tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil (The good stuff-  cold-pressed, imported from Italy)
Balsamic vinegar (Again, a good one)
Salt & pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then add the penne and a small amount of salt.  Continue to cook penne according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan over medium-low heat. 

Halve the squash and zucchini lengthwise.  Halve lengthwise again, so you have long triangular sticks.  Chop the sticks (haha) into pieces approximately 1/4 inch thick.  Cut broccoli crowns off the stem, creating large-ish florets.  If using grape or cherry tomatoes, halve them.  If using Roma or another variety of tomato, seed and dice them.  Remove the skin from the red onion, and slice off two very thin, uh, slices.  (Note to self: work on cooking vocabulary.)  Mince garlic or press in garlic press, whichever you prefer.

Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the saute pan.  Let it heat through for about a minute, then add the vegetables and garlic, except for the tomatoes.  (If you prefer, you could keep the broccoli out and steam it.  But that means another pot to clean, and I do enough dishes already.)  Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender-crisp or desired doneness.  Remove from heat.

See, it's even pretty while it's cooking.

Combine penne and cooked vegetables in a serving bowl.  Add the tomatoes.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, also to taste.  Toss to coat.  Admire its gorgeousness.  Serve warm.   (Serves 4.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

People (Person?) for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables

One of the mistakes I think a lot of us new-ish cooks make is focusing all of our attentions on the entree and then realizing about ten minutes before it's ready that we need some sides, too, at which point we grab the bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and zap them in the microwave, hoping a bit of butter and salt and pepper will atone for the cavalier abuse we so shamelessly heaped on the little green orbs.  Which is also probably why a lot of kids grow up hating vegetables.  

So, with spring and all its abundance upon us (Or at least hopefully heading our way.  Please.  I mean really, can the snow just STOP?), let's all take a moment to reconsider how we (mis)treat our veggies.  Even the frozen guys deserve more than a spin in the radiation-box from time to time.  Let's take the time to plan ahead and saute, roast, grill, steam, sweat, dress and otherwise LOVE the ones who do so much to love us back.  

In the spirit of abandoning thoughtlessly-prepared vegetables, I thought I'd share with you one of my favorite preparations for one of my favorite spring vegetables: asparagus.

One of the things I love most about vegetables is that if you treat them right, they will reward you handsomely.  Like when you broil asparagus- the sugars caramelize and the tips get a little crispy and it's a whole new level of asparagus delightfulness.  And for those of us are who are busy or scatter-brained or just plain lazy, broiling asparagus is simple and relatively quick.

Broiled Asparagus

1 lb. fresh asparagus, washed and trimmed
Olive oil

Raise your oven's top rack to the uppermost position and then preheat your oven's broiler. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place baking sheet in the oven until asparagus is charred, but not burnt.  (Keep an eye on it- it took about 6 minutes in my toaster oven back in Las Vegas and about 15 in my mom's oven at 6500 feet.)  Serve immediately.  Thank me later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cream Soup is Back on the Menu!

Spring has not sprung in these parts.  In fact, today's forecast calls for snow- and in my particular neck of the woods the word "snow" was followed by "feet", not "inches".  So far we've only received a dusting, but I know better than to think we've dodged it.  All this Winter Redux business means one thing to me: it's still a good time for soup.  (Although it's pretty much always a good time for soup- even if it's 105 degrees outside.) 

Me and soup are friends.  Me and creamy soups are really good friends.  BUT.  I care immensely about health and having arteries that are soft and pliable and adept at keeping me alive, so cream-based soups were, for a long time, off the menu.  Until a couple of years ago, when I discovered the great secret of health-conscious cooks who still want a silky, creamy soup in their bowl.  A mind-blowingly simple substitution that I would like to share with you because it's Works for Me Wednesday over at We Are THAT Family.  Are you ready for this?  I mean, really, are you ready?  

Evaporated milk.

I know, why didn't I think of that?  Now, make sure it's evaporated and not sweetened condensed because they are NOT interchangeable.  Also, using the lowest-fat evaporated milk is good, but any you can find will be better than heavy cream.  Did you know that ONE fluid cup of heavy cream has 821 calories and 88 grams of fat?!?!  And think about how much heavy cream is called for in your favorite cream soup recipe.  Yikes.  If you use just plain old evaporated milk, not the low-fat version, you'll cut the fat by more than half.  Use a low-fat version and your arteries will sing your praises.   And your soup will still be creamy and dreamy.  Cross my heart. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easy Peasy Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a beloved comfort food of mine.  I don't even need a grilled cheese sandwich alongside it (although that never hurts), just give me the good stuff.  My husband, however, despises tomato soup.  His is a hatred that runs deep and surely stems from some long-buried childhood tomato soup-related trauma.  So imagine my surprise, nay, my SHOCK when he willingly tried this tomato soup... and then... he liked it.  Coulda knocked me over with a feather.

Here's the scoop on how I made mine, and how you can make your own:

I made homemade vegetable stock the night before, and as I said in the post about said stock, on the suggestion of someone else out there in internet land, I kept the vegetables afterward for use in tomato soup.  I wasn't sure how it would work out, but I figured I would give it a shot.  (I didn't keep the apple cores or the parsley, just the vegetables.)  The additional vegetables gave the soup a lovely body and thickness, not to mention a good wallop of fiber.  The carrots lent a subtle sweetness which balanced the acid of the tomatoes nicely, and well, you can never go wrong with garlic.  If you don't happen to have vegetables laying around from making stock, you could cook them in the microwave or steam them.  Roasting them is another option, but that will caramelize the vegetables and intensify their flavors- a beautiful thing to be sure, but they may overpower the tomatoes.  Only way to know for sure is to try though, huh?   Any which way, adding the vegetables elevates this tomato soup beyond what you'll get from a can.

Easy Peasy Tomato Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
Vegetables reserved from making stock (cooked carrots, celery, broccoli, onions and garlic)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat one minute, add tomatoes, let heat through for about 5 minutes, or until they begin to break down a little bit.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree vegetables and vegetable stock.  Add heated tomatoes.  (When blending warm/hot ingredients in a blender always be sure to remove the center piece from the lid to allow steam to escape and prevent your blender from cracking or exploding- I'm not kidding.  Hold a clean dishtowel firmly over the lid to prevent a huge mess.) 

Puree again until mixture is smooth.  

Return to saucepan over medium heat until heated through.  Serve hot.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Uh... Er...

Remember how I said I was going to post a recipe "soon"?  And then I didn't?  Yeah, sorry about that.  I've been having some technical difficulties... and maybe I went to Las Vegas for a few days, where I probably had an In N Out cheeseburger animal style and also perhaps some unbelievably good burritos at my brother's house.  Maybe.  But I SWEAR, tomorrow there will be something new and food-related on this here blog.  Really.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Utah Bubble

Okay, I know this is a food blog, but it's MY food blog, so once in a while I get to break the rules if I want to.  And today, I want to.  There's a new website you've got to check out if you've ever been to Utah, lived in Utah, heard of Utah or made fun of Utah.  Because making fun of Utah is, well, fun.  And oh so easy.  So click on through and check it out.  Then bookmark it and return often because they're adding new stuff all the time. (In the interest of full disclosure: I am married to one of the website's creators and operators.  But I would love it even if I wasn't.)  Then tell your friends, your family, your blog readers and everyone else you know. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

Homemade Vegetable Stock

High on my list of the problems of living in the land of butter and Crisco and ice cream and deep-fried everything is the astonishingly dismal lack of variety at the local grocery stores.  One of my chief complaints about life in Utah is the craptastic grocery stores in which you won't find anything more ethnic than tortillas and soy sauce, and in which there are 84 kinds of ranch dressing and two kinds of vinaigrette.  It is beyond maddening.    

One of the things it seems nearly impossible to get my hands on up here (without paying exorbitant prices, which is something I am allergic to) is low-sodium vegetable broth.  Back in Las Vegas, they carried it in every store and charged no more for it than they did for chicken broth.  I was BAFFLED when I first visited store after store upon moving to Utah and was unable to find the stuff.  When I finally did, it was nearly THRICE the cost of chicken broth.  And that was just not happening.  As I've said before, I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat a lot of meat, and when we're eschewing the meaty goodness, I like to go all the way.  For whatever reason, if I use chicken broth in a veggie soup, I feel like I might as well serve it with a big smoldering slab of steak.  (Oooh, steak.  Yum.)  SO.  Rather than subject you to further ranting and beside-the-point tangents, even though tangents make life fun, I will get to the point.

I was in need of low-sodium vegetable broth.  I was not paying two dollars a can or five dollars a box for it.  I was tempted to ask the next friend visiting from anywhere outside Utah to bring me a case, but decided against it, which left me with one practical option:  make it.  But making broth sounded so intimidating.  Broth is the base of many a dinner in my household, and if it sucked, well, that would be a giant waste.  Also, I imagined making broth to be an arduous process.  Guess what?  I was wrong.  Very, very, wrong.  And that actually makes me happy.

After turning to my trusty internet to do some method research/recipe scouting, I happened upon a blog called Casual Kitchen and this post, and instantly decided that it was the Vegetable Stock Gospel Truth.  And so, armed with my new knowledge, I went forth and modified (because that's the fun, right?) and then conquered.  

Here's my very slightly modified version of the recipe:

Vegetable Stock

3 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2  1/2 yellow onions, peeled and halved (I had half an onion left over from a previous dinner)
4 celery stalks, in 2-inch pieces
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 small bunch of broccoli, cut into pieces but not chopped
3 Fuji apple cores (saved & frozen from earlier apple-slicing)
1/2 bunch parsley, stems and all (not chopped)
12 cups of water, or enough to cover plus a few inches (my stockpot is narrow and deep, so it required a significant amount of water to do this)

Combine all ingredients except salt in a large stock pot, bring to a simmer, cover and let cook for at least 7 hours, stirring on occasion.  Add salt to taste.

When stock is done, strain out the vegetables and reserve the liquid.  Allow to cool, then store in the refrigerator or the freezer.   I measured mine into two-cup portions and froze it. 

I have since used almost all of the broth and have loved it.  The addition of the apple cores provided a touch of sweetness, of which I am a fan.  Next time, I might experiment with adding something seasonal and offbeat like rhubarb, or seasonal and not-so-offbeat, like artichoke. We'll see.  But given the simplicity of making the stock and how freaking domestic it made me feel, I will definitely be making it again.  

OH!  And in the original post on Casual Kitchen, one of the commenters suggested keeping the cooked vegetables to puree and use in soup.  Do it.  I did, and I adored the results, which I will be posting about soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

All Boxed Up

Sorry for being MIA.  We're moving.  I'll be back next week and we'll talk about homemade vegetable stock.  I know the anticipation is killing you, lovelies, but you'll just have to wait.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Carcinogens, Anyone?

Recently, I decided to be a Really Nice Wife and cook something for dinner that my hubs loves and I am indifferent to- because I'm not a Completely Selfless Wife who will cook something that he loves and I hate, like a cousin of mine who is a vegetarian and will regularly make her husband steak.  I'm nice, but I'm not THAT nice.  But anyway.  Back to the dinner.  For this particular dinner, I would be cooking up a nice little ham.  

Hubs has big, strong, man feelings about ham. When a holiday passes in which he believes a ham the designated meat to be consumed during said holiday's meal (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Arbor Day, etc.), and no ham is present, he gets a little sad.  Or a lot sad.  And, well, I grew up in a house where ham was something you had in a sandwich with a slice of processed cheese food, but never for dinner.  So you can guess how often it crosses my mind to make a ham. 

But, on this night, I decided to make a ham.  I went online to investigate the appropriate cooking time and temperature for said hunk of cured pig and to determine the necessary internal temperature to ensure we would not regret eating it.  Armed with my knowledge, I went to the kitchen.  I set the ham in the baking dish and removed the packaging and then sent it happily into the oven.  Partway through the baking time, I pulled it out to drizzle my soy sauce and mustard glaze all over it, and then I came back a few times to brush the glaze on thickly.  It wasn't getting the shine I wanted and I was annoyed, but I supposed that this particular glazing concoction musn't be prone to shine.  If only that was the actual problem.

Upon slicing the meat, I noticed that the glaze had created a bit of a plastic-y coating on it.  It was difficult to slice through and not very appealing, but I didn't pay too much attention to it because I was thinking about the other components of the meal.  Or, I should say, I didn't pay too mush attention to it until my husband said, "Is this PLASTIC?"  

To which I replied, "No, I took the plastic off.  That's from the glaze."  

He looked at me utterly dumbfounded.  "NO, babe," he said slowly, pulling the substance in question off his plate, "this is plastic."  

"But I took the plastic off."

"Apparently not all of it."

Silence.  I looked at the clear, suspiciously plastic-looking ribbon in his fingers.  It seemed it was... well... uh... plastic.  I tried to come up with some sort of plausible culinary technique that required cooking a ham in plastic to explain my complete stupidity away, but came up with nothing.  (Shocking, isn't it?)  I smiled sheepishly.  "Oops."  

We ate the ham anyway.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Compromise is the Secret to a Happy Marriage

I love sweet potatoes.  Love, love, love them.  And it's a huge bonus that they are one of the most nutritious vegetables you can put in your body.  (Okay, technically, they're a tuber, and I don't know if those qualify as a vegetable because I'm not an expert in the classifications of agriculture.  But if you really care that much about it, feel free to research.  And then, maybe get a hobby.  Because seriously? )  I am not, however, a fan of the candied sweet potatoes found on so many Thanksgiving tables.  Why ruin a lovely sweet potato with all that excess??  What did it ever do to you? 

My hubs, on the other hand, adores candied sweet potatoes (and pretty much any other food drowning in sugar and butter), and so, I agreed to make them for him at Thanksgiving.  Of course, I was going to drastically reduce the butter and sugar in the recipes and try to save the integrity and flavor and natural awesomeness of the little lovelies, but he didn't need to know that.  And then, tragically, I was not able to make them for the big day.  I bet you can imagine how sad I was.  There were buckets of tears... or maybe not.  At least not on my end.  He was pretty disappointed.  

After a while, I started to feel bad about the fact that he missed his favorite part of Thanksgiving (other than the turkey and cranberry sauce and my mom's rolls and the stuffing and the pie), but I was no longer interested in revisiting and modifying the recipes I'd found for candied sweet potatoes.  So I made these:

Baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows!  I was able to forgo the criminal amounts of sugar and butter (and keep the skins!), but he still got the sweetness and beloved marshmallows.  Our toddler couldn't believe we were having marshmallows for dinner.  She was BEYOND excited.  This was a hit all around.  

If you want to make your own, it's really easy.  Here's what you do:

You'll need one sweet potato for each person.  Scrub them well, and then pierce in a few places with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Place your sweet potatoes in a nonstick cake pan or something like it because after a while, the insides start to bubble out and it will make a mess in your oven if you don't use a pan.   You can forgo the pan if cleaning your oven is your idea of a good time, but if it is?  You need more than a hobby.  But I digress.  

Bake the potatoes for about an hour or until cooked through and soft.

Remove from the oven.  Cut open lengthwise, but not all the way through.  Add a small pat of butter, a sprinkle of salt and a TINY BIT of sugar and mash the flesh of the potatoes well.  I am not kidding about the SMALL pat of butter and the TINY bit of sugar.  DO NOT make me come over there. 

Switch the oven to broil.

Top the potatoes with a small handful of mini marshmallows, and return the pans to the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the marshmallows are golden on top.  You'll want to stick around and keep an eye on them so they don't burn.  Once they're ready, remove from the oven and let cool a few minutes before serving.  

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Blog Carnival Virgin No More

It's Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer, so I thought I'd join in.  

Breakfast is usually not a big deal at our house.  It's often conquered with a few bananas and some yogurt, oatmeal or cereal.  But sometimes it's not so easy.  Sometimes, there are pancakes. Pancakes themselves are not difficult to make, but I hate getting out the griddle and then cleaning the griddle afterward (or the next day if I'm feeling especially resentful toward the blasted thing).  And once there have been pancakes, there is always leftover batter.  

For a long time I didn't know what to do with the leftover batter until one day, a little light went off in my obviously tiny brain.  And this is my WFMW tip: These days, I cook that leftover batter.  Once the unneeded pancakes have cooled, I place sheets of wax or parchment paper between them, pop them in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer.  Next time the wee one wants pancakes for breakfast and I don't have the time or the will to make them,  I pull a few out of the freezer and heat them up in the microwave.  This leaves me with no annoying griddle to clean, no wasted batter when pancakes are made, no outrageously priced boxed frozen pancakes (with who-knows-what in them),  and best of all, one uber-happy two-year-old. And that DEFINITELY works for me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sorry, Friend of Nemo

Things I am generally not a fan of: 

1. White bread
2. Meat wrapped in more meat
3. Emo anything
4. Fish trying to be something it isn't, i.e. fish tacos

So when hubs walked in the door on Saturday, not with the turkey burger I'd requested, but with a mahi mahi burger, I was none too enthused.  "No, I'll try it," I said, trying to be grateful and positive (after all, he did bring sweet potato fries, too).  But on the inside I was remembering an experience earlier in life with a salmon burger that did not go well.  Don't misunderstand.  I love fish.  Fish is one of my favorite foods.  But I like my fish to be fish- not a taco filling, not a stew ingredient and absolutely not a burger. 

I sat down at the table and examined the burger before me.  The mahi mahi patty had a blend of spices in it and was topped with a pineapple-coconut salsa.  Uh oh.   I hate coconut.  Between it and the bottom bun was a small pile of mixed greens.  In a separate container was an unidentified sauce of some sort- possibly but not neccessarily a version of tartar sauce.  I asked my husband what it was, but he said he hadn't paid close enough attention to know.  The only thing left to do was try it.  

Which I did.  And much to my surprise, it was astonishingly good.  Good enough that I ate the whole thing, although I still couldn't identify the sauce for you.  It had a nice ocean-y flavor, but it wasn't fishy at all- and I didn't notice the coconut one bit.  (Yay!)

So, where can you get this burger?  You can't.  At least not anymore.  It was the January burger of the month at The Counter.  (A little research informed me that it was called the Hawaiian Spice Rubbed Mahi Mahi Burger, and that the sauce may have been a pickled ginger aioli, but there are apparently many dipping sauce choices, so I can't be sure.)  The Counter is a build-your-own burger restaurant, and every month they also feature a burger of the month.  It's a bit pricey for my humble budget (good thing my food was free), but any place that can make a fish burger worth eating has my vote.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I'm A Believer

There are few things in the world I love as much as I love food.  And one of those things is a smokin' deal.  I'm not talking your run-of-the-mill 20% off business here- 20% off is a sucker's deal.  I mean the kind of deal where you walk out of the store and feel like you got away with something.  That is a true deal, and it fills me with complete and utter glee.  

Not too long ago, a friend of mine introduced me to my newest favorite incarnation of the food/deal marriage: our local food co-op.  The beauty of the co-op we have up here in Northern Utard is that it is open to anyone who would like to participate.  It's not income-restricted, it's not specific to any one church or neighborhood, and they actually want as many people as possible to take part. 

The first time we ordered from the co-op, I was skeptical, and not just because I'm a skeptic by nature.  It seemed too good to be true, and we all know what that usually means.  But, I paid my $5 lifetime membership fee and placed my order.  I was pretty certain the food I was going to get was going to be the stuff the grocery stores turn away, but I figured it was worth a shot.  Boy howdy (yep, BOY HOWDY), was I wrong.  The produce was absolutely loverly- the stuff you'd find in the yuppy grocery stores that I can't afford to shop in (and wouldn't if I could because paying double to shop in a status-market is against my moral code), and the meat and grains were equally good.  Whenever possible, the co-op I belong to buys from local growers and producers.

Last week I picked up our order for this month.  Here's what I got for $23:

1 pound of top sirloin fajita strips, 2 pounds of chicken drumsticks, a 2-pound sirloin pork roast, a pound of lean ground beef, a 2-lb. bag of carrots, 5 Fuji apples, 5 oranges, 1 head of romaine lettuce, 3 red bell peppers, 2 avocados, 5 pears, 5 tomatoes, a pound of rice and a loaf of wheat bread from a local artisan bakery.    


I may have died and gone to heaven. 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Maintaining Your Blog is SO Overrated

Sorry for not posting; I suffered a head injury that completely wiped out the part of my brain that remembers I have this blog.  Oddly, that is the ONLY thing I forgot about- having this here blog.  I didn't even forget about my other blog.  Just this one.

Yeah, you're not buying it are you?  Darn.  Oh well, it was worth a shot.

Truth is, this crapola economy has hit us pretty hard, and between joblessness and a never-ending cycle of colds and the flu, there hasn't been much culinary excitement to be had in our home.  (Other than the excitement on Top Chef.  Can you believe Leah and Hosea?  I get that you're in a pressure cooker and lonely, but seriously?  You do realize you're on television, right?  And that they're totally going to exploit this?  You idiots.  And don't get me started on Restaurant Wars.  Yeesh.)

But I digress.  (I digress a lot.  It's one of my favorite pasttimes.) I'm back, and I'm going to be better about posting.  I promise.  I know it's been a difficult separation for you, and well, I just can't have that on my conscience.  And no, those aren't my fingers crossed behind my back.  I'm just practicing yoga.  You know, multi-tasking.  Blogging and practicing the yoga pose in which I put my hand behind my back and put my fingers into a position which some might misinterpret as being crossed.  Really.  Would I lie to you? (Don't answer that.)