31 January 2011

Working lunch

Just a quick post on my lunch break.  We got fennel, butternut squash, and apples in our CSA.  It turns out that I don't actually like fennel because it tastes like licorice (you know, the gross kind, not the strawberry Twizzler version), so I needed a recipe that masked the anise-y flavor.  Enter: another version of butternut squash soup.  This one is super easy and it's just a chop and dump job, requiring a knife+cutting board, a pan, and a stick blender.

Butternut squash soup with fennel and apples
2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 2-2.5 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 in cubes
1 fennel bulb+ stems, diced
3-4 smallish apples, diced
3-4 c chicken stock
0.5 t nutmeg

0.5 t cayenne pepper (or more if you really like it spicy)
1 t smoked sweet paprika

s+p to taste

Heat up evoo in a large saucepan/stockpot.  Add fennel, butternut squash, and apples and sautee until the butternut squash can be easily pierced with a fork and everything is a little bit browned. 

Add in nutmeg, cayenne, and smoked sweet paprika, and stir to coat.  Cook for ~1 minute to let the spices toast a bit.

Add in chicken stock.  The amount sort of depends on how big your squash is, but make sure that there's enough liquid to stick blender it without it being too thin.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

P.S. Check out Randi's post at Community Supported Home Cooking! :)

27 January 2011

I've started another one

I have yet another blog.  This one is called Community Supported Home Cooking and it's a collaborative blog with all the people with whom I'll be collaboratively cooking.  Our first exchange is Monday!  I'm hoping to post recipes and ideas for what makes for good, home cooked meals to share amongst friends.  I'll be posting my first recipe soon!

26 January 2011

Ode to Big Lots

why yes I did just buy 15 pieces of tupperware
My parents were never into buying off brand products or going to discount stores.  It wasn't until I started to pay for my own stuff that I embraced Target clothes and non-designer label shoes.  While I refuse to shop at Walmart for social justice reasons, I've come to really enjoy bargain hunting. No store is better for this than Big Lots.

I had a really crappy day today and needed some retail therapy to make my world right again.  Normally I head for the nearest shoe store, but this cshc idea has really been screaming to get out of my head and into practice.  We went to Target to look for containers for the food.  At first I was going to get the flimsy plastic almost throw away ones, but they all looked like they wouldn't last for more than a few cycles, so we started looking for nicer containers.  Nicer containers are expensive, especially at Target, so off to Big Lots we went.  We found 9 cup Rubbermaid containers with snap lids for $3 a piece.  Comparable containers cost almost twice that at Target.

So now instead of being mopey about my shitty talk, I'm just super excited to start cooking.

25 January 2011

Community Supported Home Cooking: Potlucks for busy people

I have to give a talk tomorrow.  I should be working on it right now, but I have an idea rolling around in my head that is trying to get out into the ether as quickly as possible.  I've wanted to start a supper club for the past several months, but it's a big time and resource strain.  I cook several times a week and usually I make waaay too much food.  The first night it starts out as the most amazing thing I've ever eaten and by the end of the week, I never want to eat (fill in the blank) evAr again.  So why not share those extras with some friends?

Here's how this community supported home cooking works with four people:

1) I make my overly large dinner that would serve a family of four with leftovers.

2) I eat dinner from it.

3) Those extra three portions? I pack those up in community tupperware and bring them (in my case) to school the next day to give to the other three people doing this.

4) The other three people also bring their leftovers to pass out.  We hide them in the refrigerators in the offices because sometimes the maintenance people (we think) steal food from the community fridges.

5) I take home dinner for that night plus two more nights that I don't have to cook from scratch and so do three other people.

My thoughts are that this would happen every other week.  This averages to having a home cooked meal two times each week.  This should work, in principle, because everyone cooks and no one needs to host a potluck every two weeks.  The only "cost of entry" is purchasing some cheap tupperware that you don't mind sharing with the other people.

The other side of that is that it takes the social aspect out of cooking for others, but to remedy that every 6 weeks we'd all go to one person's house, bring our contribution and eat their contribution that night.  Everyone who attended would get to leave with two more dinners worth of food and the person who hosted now gets three more dinners.  This amounts to hosting a super low key dinner party every ~6 months.

Obviously the dinners would have to consist of meals that re-heat well, but a lot of food does.  Off the top of my head I'm thinking of really good casseroles, Indian curries, and yummy stews.  The potluck nights would allow everyone to make something that doesn't *have* to transport and reheat easily (like, say, pizza).  My thought is that four family units is the perfect size (so Colby and I are one unit) because then you don't have to eat super old leftovers, but you still have interesting food waiting for you.

So what do you think?  Has anyone tried this?  Does this sound interesting?  Would you like to join me?

24 January 2011

The Accidental Vegan... Pancakes

One of my friends took over my house last weekend to make a short film.  I think it's going to be really hilarious, but I'm definitely happy to have my house back.  I spent the weekend helping another one of my friends cook for everyone in the cast and crew and it was a lot of fun.  Perhaps my calling is actually to run a family-style catering business for small events.  Or maybe I'm supposed to be an astronomer.  The two jobs are so very close in description that it's really hard to distinguish the two.  Right.

So I've been ogling this Mark Bittman recipe since last Thursday, with no room to make it.  Once everyone left, I was planning on making it, but I had no milk or pine nuts, so I put off making it until tonight when I finally caved because I was really craving something carb-y and sweet.

Veganized Bittman Cornmeal Pancakes

1.5 c cornmeal
1.5 c boiling water
0.5 c soy milk
0.5 t kosher salt
1 T sugar or honey or maple syrup
1 t vanilla extract
2 T grapeseed oil
1/2 c chopped almonds

Whisk together cornmeal and salt.  Add in the boiling water and let sit for 5ish minutes or so to let the cornmeal really absorb the water.  Stir in soy milk, oil, sugar, vanilla extract, and almonds until smooth.  Don't worry about over mixing because there isn't any gluten or chemical leaveners in these pancakes.  Cook in a hot nonstick pan until golden brown on one side and then flip.  Since there aren't any leaveners, there won't be bubbles, so you sort of just need to let the pancakes sit there for awhile (perhaps 3-5 minutes).


The results?  Dense, delicious pancakes that also happen to be gluten free.  Bittman suggests to serve with honey, but I really liked my version straight from the pan.

21 January 2011

This is for Colby

My birthday is fast approaching and I'm just about through compiling my wishlist.  I have pretty much the easiest birthday to remember if you're a dude: Valentine's Day.  I can't tell if this is a blessing or a curse.  On one hand, there's only one day to not screw up.  On the other hand, there's no making up for a bad birthday with a good Valentine's Day.  I've decided to make it easy on Colby this year and post my birthday wishlist here.

Everyone needs a good pair of black shoes, right?  These Tsubo Acrea are super cute and totally work appropriate.  And by "work appropriate" I mean that they look like I can walk more than a block in them without wanting to fall over in pain.  Unlike these.

The Cooking Channel has to be my favorite channel on TV.  I've definitely become a Nigella fan and Nigella Express has become one of my favorite new (to me) shows second only to...

Bitchin Kitchen.  OMGWTFBBQ I love Nadia G.  Her show is awesome and the food looks even better.

Everyone also needs a good right hand ring.  Right?  Right?  And amethyst is my birthstone and Colby loves Costco... so I'm pretty sure that getting this would be a match made in heaven.  Yeah.
Additionally, everyone needs at least one good, sharp knife.  I actually prefer santoku style knives to traditional chef's knives because I'm a rebel like that.  But really, my hands are small, so I find chef's knives to be too unwieldy.  This Global knife is pretty awesome.
In keeping with the overall theme of this list, most of what's on here is an essential.  What's more essential than a classic strand of akoya pearls

And finally, I'd just really like to be able to sous vide cook at home.  I have a rice cooker and two slow cookers now and all I need is a PID controller.

18 January 2011

Warm fuzzies.

Apparently, I gave Colby my death flu. He's not nearly as whiny about it as I was but he seems to be going through a milder version of what I had.  As a result, he's sleeping with his three favorite accessories: a hunter's orange hat, fuzzy scarf, and warm puppy.

Dinner was a success tonight, and I might modify the menu for this week because we had so much left over.  This chicken stew didn't taste exactly like the one at the restaurant, so I'll be working on this recipe to make it even more flavorful, so stay tuned. 

One of my new year's goals is (obviously) to lose weight.  No January is complete without a new diet, eh?  This time, my goal is to try to make things from scratch and cut out the processed junk (and make my own junk food ;)).  This week's menu is a good start, though I felt the need to publicly profess my intent. The past two years included brave attempts of weight loss that lasted into March and even April, but my calorie intake was so low that I was tired all the time and eventually got so sick that I had to abandon my diet and then never got back on the wagon.  My hope is that by making food from scratch with whole grains and lots of fruit and vegetables, I won't get crazy sick and will easily be able to stick to something that is delicious and healthy for the wallet as well.  My guidelines are as follows:

No eating after 11 PM

Cook with whole grains whenever possible

Always have a vegetable with dinner

Fresh fruit every day

Drink a glass of water before anything flavored

I suppose I'll update with my progress here, since being publicly accountable will make me less likely to holy crap cheat. :)

17 January 2011

Menu: Part a million

I just had a major freak out when I realized that the semester started this week and not next week.  This meant that I had to stay up to write a talk for Wednesday that I may or may not have to give. I should probably go to sleep, but this gave me a little bit of time to write up my menu for the week:

Monday: Colombian chicken stew (I had this at a restaurant in Boston and it was awesome, so I'm working on a slow cooker version)
Tuesday: spaghetti squash and meatballs (something from the freezer)
Wednesday: chicken enchiladas with some sort of fancy brown rice
Thursday: ground beef chili, some sort of vegetable from the CSA
Friday: mustard chicken, zucchini, farro

Chicken Noodle Soup for the crazy sick and lazy

I'm sort of surprised that I'm still awake and coherent right now.  I've found that the best way to go to sleep when one has some horrible combination of a sinus infection and the flu is to take more cold medicine than you're supposed to.  Don't try this one at home, kids.  Colby found Nyquil pills that also contain vitamin C.  This allows me to delude myself into thinking that at least it's "healthy" to overdo the cold meds. :)  But how did I even arrive at this point?  Well, it seems the best way to explain that is through recipe.

1 week in Boston
5 beers
10 days in Michigan
1 crazy new years
1 semi-lazy 'sband (but only when it comes to cooking)
1/2 T chicken bouillon
1/2-1 week in Seattle
1/2  C cooked (mostly plain) pasta
1.5 months poor sleeping habits
1 C water

1) Combine about 2 weeks of working constantly with dangerously high levels of stress.  Let marinate.  

2) Go to Boston for a week and continue lack of sleep, high stress.  Add some (~4) beers and friends with head colds.

3) Fly back to Austin with a tickle in your throat. Begin driving to Michigan about 18 hours after your return and spend the next 10 days schlepping back and forth across the great state.  Let that tickle grow into uncontrollable coughing and yellow, um, drainage.

4) Go to Urgent Care in Lansing and get a diagnosis of sinus infection and tell the doctor what they should give you when they ask you what *you* think you should be taking for it.  Promptly forget to take the antibiotics about 2 days into a 10 day course and then abandon it completely after 4 days.

5) Come back to Austin and have a wonderful New Years celebration, drinking more than you want to remember.  Be sure that your friends fly in from all over the country, bringing whatever they happened to catch on the connections from Dallas and Los Angeles.  Also, let the cedar count be out of control in Austin.  Marinate.

6) Spend a week feverishly working on a poster for the AAS meeting.  Don't do stupid things like spend that time sleeping and trying to recover.

7) Get to Seattle, see lots of people who are generally stressed out, sleep too little, have no regard for their health (because science always comes first), and have just flown in from across the globe.  Start to feel a bit better and then have a beer.

8) Spend the next two days in a state of delirium because you've just chosen the Fight Alcohol mode rather than Fight Germs mode for your liver.  Congratulations!  On top of your sinus infection, you now have the flu.

9) Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the 'sband that can be completely competent at cooking will be making a pound of pasta to eat.  Plain. Or, perhaps with butter... because it's way too much effort to make a real meal for himself.

10) Come home and be pathetic.  Demand that 'sband stays home and takes care of you.  When that fails, place a measuring cup with water and a bowl with the noodles in the microwave.  Pull out the bowl after a minute. Turn the microwave back on and let the water continue to heat.  Dump the water in the bowl, mix in the bouillon.  Vow to never return to a winter meeting of the AAS.

08 January 2011

I'm Back! Sort of...

December and January have been stupidly busy.  I spent a week in Boston writing my face off and then *immediately* turned around and drove from Austin to Michigan for ten days and then had friends over for New Year's Eve.  All the while, I was getting some sort of horrible head cold/sinus infection which started to become a real problem around New Years Day or so and I've been sick ever since.  Normally, I could just take a weekend and sleep it off, but I'm headed to Seattle to the American Astronomical Society conference tomorrow morning.  I'll be presenting on Tuesday, so you should stop by my poster, if you're in attendance.  I can tell you all about the wonders of the universe and stuff. ;)

I'll try to actually blog from Seattle.  I still have to tell the tale of the rest of the trip home, including our wonderful lunch at Zingerman's and a really fun dinner at Steve's Backroom.  Suffice it to say, I miss having good friends close by.