Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My puliminologist hates me and other frustrating near-wordlessness

In a stereotypical middle-eastern accent: "You should avoid leafy greens while on Coumadin"
Thanks, doc. I will take that under consideration. *nom nom nom*

Monday, February 22, 2010

Salad Spinner: I know what you are thinking...

You are thinking exactly what I thought: Complete waste of a kitchen tool and cupboard space. That is what I thought, until I tried it. I got one for Christmas from Jon's mom. I was thinking "Great, when the heck am I ever going to use this thing." Well, I gave it a whirl for the first time this week and it is AWESOME! It uses centrifugal force to pull out all the water so you don't have a drippy, soggy salad. It also shows you how really dirty some of the greens actually were, and thank God you spun it out.
For the sake of not boring you half to death, I only let mine spin for you here for about 10 seconds. You will see how much water was spun out. Imagine if you spun it a little longer. So, without further ado, the salad spinner movie. Enjoy my star jammies...

On the first week of Lent my stomach said to me...

...some vegetarian spaghetti. No seriously. I made a whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce, added squash and baby spinach to thicken it up and make it more hearty. It was delicious.

   I made (sorta) a new recipe called Spanakopita. Don't know where it originates from, but since it calls for Phyllo Dough I thought it was French.
   Thanks to wikipedia I have been proven wrong again. It is Greek. So any way, you basically mix some feta, ricotta, egg, softened onion and wilted spinach in a little phyllo pocket that looks like a little ravioli or dumpling. Feta and the "pita" should have been the dead give away with the Greek. Dur, but I digress.
     My version was not so um, classy. You see small towns don't have fancy cooking ingredients like philio or ricotta for that matter. (do these people never eat lasagna?) So I made due with a puff pastry sheet and mozzarella substitutes. Basically, all you have to do is wilt the spinach in a pot for about 5 minutes (no added water). In the meantime, chop an onion. When the 5 minutes are up, drain whatever water you spinach has weeped through a colander. (Or a salad spinner if you have one. More to come on this tool.) Put some butter in a skillet, and throw in your chopped onion and spinach until the onions get soft. I added a little garlic powder since we were eating spaghetti.
   With your third hand, lay out the thawed phyllo according to instructions, or your puff pastry and roll it out a little thinner, maybe til it is about 1/2 of its original thickness. Thankfully, the puff pasty is tri-folded, so i just ran my knife down the fold-line and then cut each of those into three. Now is time to panic because the spinach mixture is needing to be taken off the stove because it is about to burn. (or is that just me). Put the spinach mixture in a bowl with a couple of lightly beaten eggs, a large handful of feta and a handful of mozzarella. Mix the pocket innards until they are consistently mixed.
   Then, use a large tablespoon to shovel some of the cheese-egg-spinach goo onto one of the squares. Hey you, Polly Perfect reading this and pulling out a measuring spoon. This is an inexact science here, don't measure, just put enough in until it looks like you have a good blob on innards on the dough.
    Then fold the dough over and pinch it closed on all sides. Repeat until you run out of dough. Cook at 350 for 15-20 minutes. The little guys will puff right up and look like twinkies. They were a hit, and Jon ate the onions without even knowing it. Yea for cooking deception.

 This is how they are supposed to look, mine of course did not. Mine turned out a little more like the ones below.
But of course, still not as pretty and uniform. You get the drift. It's me we're talking about.

Ode to Julia

Julia succinctly describes our purpose for cooking:

"The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It's doing
something that you appreciate, something you believe is
worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at
least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it."

-- Julia Child

Thanks Julia, you said it beautifully. And thanks Bonnie for sending it to me!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's for dinner: Porcupine Meatballs

     No, not really, but this is a great cheap recipe to feed the whole family with 3 ingredients. In my house it is called "Porkie-pine Meatballs" because we were never sophisticated enough to pronounce porcupine correctly. (kind of like I still say kindie-garden for kindergarten.) But I digress.
    Porkie-Pine Meatballs are called such because they are meatballs rolled in rice. As they cook the rice begins to stick out of the ball like the quills of a porcupine. Cute, no? I have never had anyone say they didn't like it, and kids think it is cool because it has a weird name, but is really just meatloaf in ball form). Plus it is quick. Always great when there are complaining mouths to feed.
     I have to give all the credit for inventing this recipe to my wonderful mother (Hey Mom, look I'm blogging!) She invented this recipe back when I was a youngin' (another Texanism) to feed a family of 4 when my dad was bringing home a sailor's wage in the early 80's (zilch). We had been living off of food with tomato based sauces for waaaay too long (aka broke food) and craved something different yet within the $1 price range. She stumble upon a forgotten can of Campbell's Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup in the pantry and made a go of 1lb of beef, a bag of rice, and a can of said soup. As the fiscal situation has greatly improved, so has the ingredients. However, keep in mind when money is tight, you can always revert back to those three ingredients.

"Porkie-Pine" Meatballs
1 Large can of Campbells Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup (or 1 small can if cooking for two)
1 lb of ground beef for every 2 people (i.e. 1lb for 2, 2lbs for feeding 4 etc.)
           (You can sub ground turkey with good and healthier results)
1/4 cup of dry white rice, rinsed (or more if you are feeding more)
1/8 cup of dried onion flakes ( more or fresh onions if your group likes onion)
Salt and pepper to taste.

Put the can of condensed soup in a pressure cooker on the stove. (If you do not have a pressure cooker you can use a glass baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees) DO NOT ADD WATER to the soup; leave it condensed. Or you can add a little water, who am I foolin'?

Put the ground meat of your choice in a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix with your hands. Form tennis-ball sized meatballs with your hands and place in the pot/dish. If using the pressure cooker, follow your manufacturer's instructions so the thing doesn't explode. We cooked ours on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. They will come out moist but not soggy. In the oven it's a little more hit and miss. Usually about 20 minutes. If making in the oven, be sure to cover the meatballs with a spoonful of soup to keep them from drying out in the oven. Serve on a bed of rice with a little soup "gravy." Serve with any veggies you have available if you like. (ours was always corn and Ranch Style Beans. Oh and a biscuit. Enjoy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Shopping at Rich Grocery Store #3 & other things I have to STOP doing!

So in Texas, HEB is the store to shop if you want great food at a low price. Now if you just want a low price you can go to Wal-mart. I am giving them the virtual finger right now.

 (This picture was kindly stolen from another website )

Wal-mart, aka poor people grocery store, has the worst produce in the UNIVERSE. If I am going to do this vegetarian thing for Lent, Wal-mart should definitely be something that I give up. So, I head on over to HEB for the good deals and the awesome produce. Well, I thought I was...

The HEB that is closest to me is in that rich neighborhood, a few blocks from the "remarkable" store with the $30/ lb cheap meat cuts. It was like I was walking through the Whole Foods Market with it's wide selection of over priced organic produce, herbal supplement section, and vegan pet foods (for all those dogs and cats who feel guilty about consuming meat/eggs/milk *rolling eyes*). The store was preparing for dreaded Valentine's day by hand dipping strawberries for the rich house-wives who can't melt chocolate (maybe a little too judgmental with that last statement) and dip in clean strawberries. Even I can do this and not screw it up. Jon just doesn't like strawberries, so there.

Still, everything was ridiculously overpriced. I was naturally attracted the wall-long display of cheeses. (naturally I spent the bulk of my time there pining for cranberry-drunken goat cheese and a beautifully crafted English Roquefort.) But I digress as usual. I spent $53 dollars for little more than milk, tomato sauce, a loaf of artisan bread, cheese, bananas, and frozen ravioli...yes also cheese. Oh and some red pepper hummus ($6.99/ lb!!!! ).  So, even shopping like a poor person I spent way too much. When will I ever learn?

Lenten Sacrifices and Other things I am not prepared for

Hello bleaders,
    Today I am am going to shpeal about Lent. No no this in not a conversion message, come back! I thought I would share you the hilarity of what I am about to do. Or the seriousness of it all, whichever you glean from it.
(Warning: A brief theology lesson follows for those who don't know what Lent is about. If you want to skip it, go down and skip the next two paragraphs)

Lent is a time of sacrifice that is suppose to gives us human folks a little glimmer of what is like to go without, like Christ who made the big sacrifice of His life for us.Typically, Catholics are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays (hence all the fish sandwiches that pop up at fast food joints). A major misconception is that all sacrifices have to do with food, like giving up sweets, sodas or what not. Not true. You can give up wearing make up, or going out to the movies, or getting your weekly manicure. It only has to been a real sacrifice. Some "bad sacrifice" examples would be like giving up coffee and you don't have it but once a month. Another example of a bad sacrifice would be to give something up for ulterior motives. Like, giving up fried foods for Lent to lose weight. Because that is not for God, it is a bad sacrifice.

Then there is another type of thing that many people don't think about for Lent: doing something extra, like giving of yourself. You can choose to do something extra instead of abstain like pray the Rosary every night, or volunteer 3 days a week at the nursing home, etc. etc.

So me, I have decided to give up meat, everyday for 40 days. Not a half-ass give up either (oops, I guess I should say half-arse since this post has some religious content). No fish (yak!) for me. Strictly fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and other hunter-gatherer stuff. Oh, and don't get me wrong, I am not going crazy and abstaining from milk, eggs, etc. I think I would die without cheese.

Last year I did this for Lent, too. I was just totally unprepared. I put on like 5 lbs because I ate a lot of cheese pizza and fried cheese sticks. (seeing a trend here, maybe I should give up cheese for Lent). This year, I checked out a book called "The Clueless Vegetarian" to help me get started with recipes and mix-matching healthy meals.

I am doing this as a sacrifice because I LOVE me a good steak, medium rare, but also last Lent I learned a lot about food. I tried foods I would have never tried if I could have had meat. Like hummus, tofu, and bell peppers, and tomatoes. Now, I still eat 75% of those things. It taught me also about being hungry, because several times I was unprepared and hungered. It also taught me to better appreciate God's bounty of natural goodness. I learned how to prepare different meals and how to use different spices etc. I learned many lessens. So we will see how it goes. Hopefully it won't be 40 posts about how I want a steak. :-P