Friday, December 9, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 part 1.

My roommates and I cooked a Thanksgiving meal together, a week late. Well, Shan and I actually did the cooking. B cleaned and decorated the house (since Shan's family joined us for dinner), and H dissapeared into his room all day. I was in charge of the turkey, gravy, rolls, desserts, and cranberry sauce. Shan did everything else.

The marathon cooking was actually kind of fun. Shan and B went to the store for supplies around 9:00 in the morning, and I started my stuff while they were out. First I did a couple of loads of dishes and cleaned the kitchen. It's so much easier to get things done when you have a clean kitchen!

Once the kitchen was clean, I made dough for the rolls (a riff on my standard bread recipe). While the dough was rising I threw together a couple of german apple cakes and stuck those in the oven. Then I made pumpkin pie filling and rolled out a pie crust that I had chilling in the fridge (I'd made it about a week prior, and kept it in the freezer until the night before it was needed). The pie went into the oven as soon as the cakes were out. Then it was time to shape the rolls. I just put balls of dough into greased muffin tins, to keep things fairly consistent in size and shape. Then I brushed on some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled the rolls with a little kosher salt and let them have their second rise. The bread went into the oven as soon as the pie was out.

Shan and B arrived home right when the pie was going into the oven. Shan made us all drinks, and B started cleaning without being asked. I did give him decorating duties though. I had too much else going on to worry about that. H came down at some point and took out the trash, I was washing dishes at the time. That's one thing about Thanksgiving. One way or another, it involves dishes. My kitchen is a somewhat haphazardly thrown together space. There are a limited number of pots and pans, and a limited number of utensils. One cutting board, and two "good" knives.

I had a couple of free hours once the rolls were out of the oven. Dinner wasn't served until 6:30, so I had some time before the turkey needed to be in the oven. I spent the time reading up on cooking turkey, doing dishes, and attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to be of some help to Shan. She was working on the side dishes (stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, 2 kinds of green beans). Then I prepped the turkey and got that into the oven.

Overall, the dinner was a success. The guests seemed to enjoy themselves, and we did too. Nothing was very stressful, and everything turned out well. No major catastrophes. Though the kitchen did fill up with blackish smoke, twice (I put too much filling in the pumpkin pie, and it dripped to the bottom of the oven and burned. And some squash fell onto one of the burners on the stove). And B had to go back to the store to get sage.

One way or another, I'm cooking for Thanksgiving from now on. How was your holiday?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Healthy, Inexpensive foods

  • Eggs
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Canned Fish (tuna, sardines, etc)
  • Frozen edamame
  • Whole roast chicken (use the leftovers wisely, boil the carcass into broth to use in soups)
  • Peanut butter (use sparingly)
Treat meat as a part of the meal, rather than the main attraction.
  • Rice
  • Pasta (I should buy the whole grain varieties, but am not so good about that)
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn kernels (I make my popcorn in a saucepan with a little olive oil, then just season it with salt)
  • wild rice
I don't eat bread very often anyway (generally too lazy to put together a sandwich, and I'm not hugely fond of toast), so I usually make my own. Occasionally I'll make soft pretzels too. That takes about an hour of time (and my full attention isn't even needed for all of that), and I end up with enough pretzels to last about a week (just store them in a giant ziplock bag in my cupboard)
  • Frozen veg (I like to snack on little bowlfuls of frozen peas, corn, and lima beans during the hot summer)
  • Potatoes
  • Dark Leafy Greens (good in herby stews, or just sauteed w/ garlic in a little olive oil and then seasoned w/ salt, pepper, and maybe turmeric. Add a can of black beans to that, and you have dinner)
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower (it's not boring if you season it well)
  • Garlic
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Broccoli (I need to find more things to do with this)
  • Radishes (good to snack on)
  • Carrots (not baby ones)
  • Turnips, Beets, etc. (I need to get better about eating these)
  • Canned tomatoes (make for a good base to soups and stews)
  • Celery
Other vegetables are inexpensive too, when bought in season.

  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Bananas
Those are the ones that are inexpensive all year round. You can get a lot more variety by buying things in season, and paying attention to sales. I snack on fresh fruit, and occasionally bake it into desserts. Frozen berries are great snacks in the summer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Morning Oatmeal

Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, pour oatmeal in a bowl. Add a little butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.
If there's time, start a pot of coffee, and maybe do some little cleaning projects around the kitchen (I always seem to have dishes).
When water boils, pour in just enough to cover oatmeal in bowl. Set a plate on top of the bowl to keep the steam from escaping. Wait about 2 minutes.
Maybe use that time to pour yourself a cup of coffee or slice up a piece of fruit to go with breakfast. Check on oatmeal. If water is absorbed, it's ready. Pour in a little milk if you're up for it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Week in Food

Pumpkin Pie
Liver and Onions (with potatoes and mushrooms)

Pickled Radishes

Pear Pie

Missing: roast chicken, bread, chicken stock, and a giant pot of oatmeal.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pumpkin Pie

It's fall! Though it certainly doesn't feel like it. The last few days have had high temperatures in the 70's, and I've been walking around in skirts and tank tops. Still, it's October and the grocery stores are starting to fill up with squash, peaches, apples, and giant jugs of cider.

Right now it's early enough that all that food seems like a novelty. The deep reddish orange pie pumpkins look like rare jewels after months of summer produce. Don't get me wrong, I love summer (and summer food), but fall is my favorite season. So when I was at the grocery store and saw those gorgeous pumpkins, I had to get one and try my hand at making pumpkin pie.

When I was a kid, my mother generally only made pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. It was one of those holiday foods that we ate once a year (except one year, when my brother asked for it instead of birthday cake). She'd make the crust from scratch, rolling out dough between sheets of waxed paper, and make a filling from canned pumpkin puree.

My mother and I are very different in the kitchen. She loves to cook, but she loves to cook efficiently. At some point in the past, she devoted time to figuring out the best way to get food on the table quickly and with minimal cleanup time afterwards. For her, that's part of the fun of cooking. I understand that, because I find similar pleasure in grocery budgeting and planning my route through the store.* I cook efficiently when I have to, like on winter mornings when I put the kettle on while I get dressed and then use that hot water to make both coffee and oatmeal (pack my purse while the coffee drips and the oatmeal soaks), and I always clean my dishes while I cook. On my days off, though, I prefer to take it slow. Hence the whole pumpkin.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Cook Book: Betty Crocker

Look what I found for $2 at a garage sale down the street from my house. It's a first edition Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook, copyright 1950. I love the funny little illustrations, and the tips written in rhyme:

It's best to use ingredients
The recipe recommends;
But if you have to substitute,
This list solution lends.


Do keep a ruler handy,
To measure pans it's dandy.
Place the rule across the top,
Right size pan prevents a flop!

It's also interesting to read the "food storage" advice, because a lot of it is so different from how things are done now. According to this book coffee and tea are supposed to be refrigerated immediately after opening, and you're only supposed to keep a week's supply on hand.

I'm also digging all of the pictures of "modern" kitchens, they're so cool! I'm finally starting to understand why my mother would watch the Dick Van Dyke show and go on and on about the furniture :)

Anyway, I love my new cook book and I've already used one of the recipes to make an awesome pumpkin pie filling. The only sad thing is that the book's really musty and starts bothering my allergies if I read it for very long.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Apple and Roasted Chile Pepper Cobbler

Once again I didn't think to take a picture until AFTER eating a slice.
I cook for two reasons: to feed myself, and to have fun.

I usually feed myself with thrown together pasta dishes, sauteed things (potatoes cooked with onion and sauerkraut, cottage fries, scrambled eggs, etc), hot cereals (oatmeal, cornmeal mush), and bread slathered with stuff (yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, jam). I also try to cook one or two "big meals" a week, and eat leftovers.

For fun I like to bake bread or make some sort of dessert. I love dessert (well, anything sweet really) much more than I ought to. I love it so much, I can eat half of a cake or pie all by myself... in a single day. I combat this love for sweets by maintaining a fairly healthy lifestyle in other areas (I walk a lot and rarely buy junk food), and generally only making desserts once every couple of weeks. Still, my roommates have seen me eat sugar right out of the bag more times than I'd care to mention.

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