What WOULD Bekki Eat?

Well, I'll start with what I wouldn't eat. I wouldn't eat margarine. Or tofu. Or lowered-fat anything. Olestra is right out. Hydrolyzed, isolated, evaporated, enriched, or chocolate flavored "phood" won't pass these lips.
What will I eat? Real food. Made-at-home food. Food that my great-great-grandmother could have made, if she had the money and the time. And if she hadn't been so busy trick-riding in a most unladylike way.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Harvest, Delivered

I recently signed up for a lovely service... Netflix? No. Free Credit Report (.com)? Not quite. (Been there, done that, it's such a scam!) Nope. I now get a box of local produce delivered to my front door every week.

I love this town.

Today was my first delivery... winter is an odd time to sign up, I'm sure, but I happen to love most of the unpopular winter veggies. My box included bok choy (stir-fry!), onions, a silly little bunch of collards (um... what's the point? That wouldn't even be a snack.), some white radishes (I think... ), baby beets (once again, I'm not sure... ), radish sprouts/microgreens (how trendy), a bag of baby lettuces, a large bag of Brussels sprouts (um, ok, time to learn!), lovely broccoli, a big bunch of cilantro (thank goodness, since the Little Guy dumped the last of the dried), one Meyer lemon, and two Rio grapefruit. I also opted to get some locally-made chocolates that are WONDERFUL and frankly a health supplement. I'm not kidding. No bad ingredients. If you click the link... I know the lady on the right.

Now this is what I love... Life basically handed me a week's-worth of Iron Chef theme ingredients. Well, ok, it wasn't Life so much as Greenlings.

There are no pics from lunch or dinner. I have a cold and really don't feel good. Leftovers were eaten, leftovers were enjoyed, leftovers aren't pretty.

But, I urge you to find out if there are winter crops where you live. Many farmers go ahead and plant them, because they give something back to the soil, or at least hold the dirt down through the windy winter. But they often lose money on them, because greens and bitter vegetables aren't "cool." Get connected with where you live... hunt down the harvest. If not now, at least in the spring, when things green up again. Fresh is delicious.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Shark Attack

I. Am. So. Full.

And so is my dishwasher.

But it's broken. I think I should back up a bit.


On Iron Chef Mom days, the Grill Geek goes to the store around lunchtime to get the Theme Ingredient. I told him to "be nice to me" because I wasn't feeling well and our Little Guy was already sick.
What's he come home with?

Shark.

Um... ok.... Thanks for being easy on me, honey.

Turned out to be absolutely fabulous... I dug around online, searching for inspiration, and got the idea of fish tacos... and a menu was born. This glorious meal/feast was almost unraveled many times... true chaos in the kitchen. The Little Guy really wanted to help, as usual, and per the Rules of Iron Chef Mom, I had to let him. So, I almost lost all my lime juice to the floor (and didn't have more limes), dirtied twice as many dishes as necessary, got my foot stompled right after I almost amputated a fingertip (luckily my own), kept the Little Guy busy with the spice jars (all glass... yikes!) and somehow he didn't
dump out the cilantro until after everything was done.

Little Guy lined up the spices...

So, this wonderful meal was truly brought about with blood, sweat, and tears. And it was worth it. Without further ado...

KYO NO TEMA... Same! (Sah-mee)


Shark Tacos with Chili-Lime Slaw

First, the order in which to do things:

- If you have a rice cooker, get that started. I like to use coconut milk for half the liquid, but I have no idea if that works well on the stovetop. I love my rice cooker.
- Juice 2 limes

- Melt 3 T coconut oil (unless it's warm in your house and it's already
melted)
- Make the marinade... stick the shark in said marinade... in the fridge.

- Make Chili-Lime Slaw sauce

- Make salsa

- Start the black beans/corn Thing

- Heat the grill (I delegated this to my sous-chef, the Grill Geek)

- Peel and slice mango. Carefully. I can't stress this enough. Never, ever cut toward any part of your body with a Very Sharp Knife. It's a bad idea. Don't do it. I certainly wouldn't...
- Grill the shark, basting with coconut oil, grill time depends on the thickness of the fish.

- Toss shredded cabbage with Chili-Lime Slaw sauce, thereby making Slaw

- Toast/warm corn tortillas in a skillet with a bit of bacon fat

This all went really quickly, even with all the interruptions we had. I didn't use all my 70 minutes. I also didn't remember to start the timer. But I know I didn't use all my time.
Now, for the recipes...

Marinade:

2 T lime juice
2 T melted coconut oil
smoked paprika
cayenne

salt

Put shark in a ziplock, add marinade ingredients, close, and shake-shake-shake. Refrigerate.

Chili-Lime Slaw


1/2 cup Hellman's mayo

1 tsp hot pepper paste

2 T lime juice

½ tsp cumin

generous squirt of agave nectar

salt

Stir. Refrigerate.

Salsa:

about 1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
½ cup red onion, minced
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T EVOO
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T white vinegar
1 T dried cilantro
½ tsp Mexican oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix... stir... let sit, mingling the flavors, stir when you pass by...


Black Bean/Corn Thing:


2 T bacon fat (mmm... bacon...)

1/4 diced red onion
1 clove garlic, chopped

1 can black beans
about
1 cup frozen corn kernels

smoked paprika, cayenne, and salt, to taste

1 T lime juice


Cook the onion and garlic in bacon fat, until starting to soften. Add the black beans, corn, and some liquid if it needs it. Heat through. Add spices. Leave to simmer over lowest heat. When it's time to serve, remove from heat and stir in lime juice.
There's the grilled shark, in it's cage. Turned the tables on that one, didn't we? Anyway... once the shark is done, break it up with a fork.

Assembling the tacos... I put a spoonful of slaw on each tortilla, topped with luscious grilled shark, and put the salsa in a little bowl, to let each diner decide for themselves. I tossed the mango slices with agave nectar and lime juice, because it wasn't quite ripe yet... needed some pizazz. The Black Bean/Corn Thing went atop rice, with some more cilantro (wish I had fresh), and the last little bit of lime juice went in my margarita. Delish.

And after all that, the fully-loaded dishwasher began to smoke. Oh, well. I don't really care.

Coconut Milk Haagen Dazs

I just made the best ice cream in the entire world. Yeah. It tastes like Haagen Dazs, and it is entirely gluten/casein-free. It's healthy. Full of good fats, low in sugar. Delicious.

I'm going to need to buy my own coconut grove.

Oh, and... I'm real sorry 'bout not getting a photo for you. But... well... it was melting fast and was really, really yummy.

The recipe:

3 cups coconut milk*
3 egg yolks
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. vanilla
6 Tbsp. raw honey (I used agave)


Mix (I used a blender), put in ice cream maker... follow your machine's directions.

* Put three cans of coconut milk in the fridge overnight, to separate. Some milks won't, if they have a lot of emulsifiers added. Then, scoop out the solid coconut cream, and save the liquidy stuff for another use (like making coconut rice).

Oh, and I felt the need to melt my coconut cream in a pan, over low heat, before blending up. The particular brand I was using had clumps... and I didn't think the ice cream maker could overcome them. So, I melted it all a bit first.

Homemade ice cream is always "best" right when it's made. It can get incredibly hard in the freezer. So, if you actually have leftovers, you need to invite more kids over. Ok, ok, whatever... you have leftovers... stick them in the fridge for about 20 minutes prior to scooping, or on the counter for 10 minutes.
If you've ever bothered to read it, you'll see that even a carton of Haagen Dazs has similar instructions on it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

New World Shrimp


I'm not very good at naming new recipes... so this is a working title, as well as a working recipe.

I was inspired by the half-formed ideas that drifted through my head for the first Iron Chef Mom night. I had a New World theme for that meal, and it really got me thinking. And salivating. I live in such a crossroads of cuisines.... Midwestern steak-and-potatoes, red-sauce barbecue, Southern soul food, Cajun, and the whole world of Latin American and Caribbean flavors. All colliding right here. Yum!

So, tonight I had "Shrimp Curry" on the menu (yes, I plan my menu for the week... you should, too!) But when it was time to start cooking, I wasn't in the mood to follow a recipe. I was in the mood to invent. Since coconut milk is often in curries, and coconuts are also native to Central America, I thought... a New World curry. What would that be? Well, I don't think I quite figured that out tonight. I'll blame it on the cranky Little Guy who kept interrupting my thoughts. Yeah. But I got close. It was definitely tasty, but not quite "right" yet. Yet.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

  • 1/2 red onion, sliced

  • 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 1/2 tsp coriander

  • 1/2 tsp ancho chili powder

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • several grinds of pepper- black, white, whatever

  • 1/2 tsp whole sugar (like Rapadura, sucanat, muscovado)

  • about ½ cup chicken broth

  • 1/2 can coconut milk

  • ½ cup frozen peas

  • 3/4 cup frozen corn kernels

  • 1 pound peeled shrimp, cut to bite-size, if needed

  • juice from half a lime

Directions

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over medium-high. Add the sliced onion, stirring often, until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, and keep stirring. Add the spices and sugar, to toast up a bit. After just a minute or so, add the liquids. Toss in the frozen veggies, and simmer 5-10 minutes. (I was just waiting for the rice cooker to be done, but also wanted the liquid to reduce a bit.) Add the shrimp and cook another 5 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.

Remove from heat, add the lime juice, stir, and serve. Add Tabasco, to taste (we used the garlic and jalapeno flavors.)

Banana Bread


I finally got around to trying another banana bread recipe. This one is amazingly healthy and amazingly yummy. I need to figure out how to properly store it, to preserve the just-baked texture, though. I'm noticing that gluten-free baked goods tend to change very quickly from something good to something grainy/crumbly/gummy. I also have to contend with high humidity, so I'm pretty clueless about what to do. Any suggestions?

So, here's the recipe. It may seem odd to you... soak the whole grain? Weird. Why? Because of phytates, and other anti-nutrients. You're probably not eating purely for the fun of it (although it should be fun, too), but to get something out of your food. For grains and seeds, that means soaking first.

Whole Grain Millet Banana Bread

Soak for 7 hours or over night: 1 1/3 C whole millet in 3/4 C of water + 2 T raw apple cider vinegar* and cover. Leave this mixture on the counter in a warm spot.

If you get busy you can refrigerate the mix and use it a day or two later if you need to.

After soaking, put the porridge into a blender that can crush ice.

Add:

1/3 C agave
1/4 C melted coconut oil
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 t cinnamon
3 bananas, smashed (1 1/2 C)
1/2 t sea salt

Blend until smooth. You may need to add more liquid to this step. You need to see a vortex in the batter or it won't blend properly. Blending may take 1 to 3 minutes depending on your blender. I'm fairly sure the original recipe intended the bananas to be added whole. My blender couldn't handle that... and I had to fish them out, smash them with a fork, and stir them back in. This made me cranky.

When the mixture is smooth add and stir in: (I did this in the same container I'd soaked in, to make sure I got it mixed in well)

1/2 t of baking soda
1 1/2 t of baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Bake in a well-greased pan for 1 hour, lowering the temp to 325 after 30 minutes, if the bread is already quite browned. Pan will be completely full, but that's ok, because the bread won't rise.
Cool in the pan for 10 - 20 minutes. Then finish cooling on a wire rack.

* You can also use lemon juice, instead of apple cider vinegar, or if you can handle dairy products, use buttermilk for all the liquid, soured milk the same way, or substitute a couple tablespoons of yogurt for the vinegar/lemon juice. The point is to use something acidic, as it's necessary for the chemical breakdown of phytates.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Do you use your food?

This week's Sunday Coupon Rant is brought to you by PediaSure. Peddlers of pediatric poison (oh, I'm sorry, I'll try to not be quite so inflammatory). Did you know they aren't really even a food company? They are Abbott Laboratories Inc. Yeah. Yum.

NutriPals Fruit Bars. They really should put the fruit part in quotes. I'm sure y'all have noticed by now that I have, um... well, rather strong opinions about food and nutrition. For the most part, I leave grown-ups to their own devices. If they want to shovel crap into their mouths, that's their business.
But when they want to shovel it into the mouths of children, it really pisses me off.

"1 full serving of real fruit!"

Yeah... ok... let's take a look... according to their website, which I could not copy/paste (had to type it all up by hand, but I was mad enough to do it):

Fruit paste (strawberry puree, apple juice concentrate, pear and apple puree concentrates, pear juice concentrate, sugar, glycerine, palm oil, corn syrup, rice starch, wheat fiber, malic acid, natural and artificial flavor, pectin, calcium lactate, red 40 lake, sunflower lecithin), soy protein crisps (soy protein isolate, rice flour, tapioca starch, calcium carbonate, malt extract, salt), corn syrup, dehydrated apples, polydextrose, glycerine, high oleic sunflower oil, water, milk protein isolate, fruit pieces (strawberry puree, apple puree and juice concentrates, plum puree concentrate, strawberry and blackcurrant juice concentrates, palm oil, wheat fiber, pectin, natural and artificial flavor), yogurt coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, non fat dry milk, yogurt powder [culture D whey protein concentrate, cultured skim milk, yogurt culture], soy lecithin, salt, natural flavor), less than 2% of the following: toasted oats (oats, sugar, soybean oil, honey, brown sugar molasses), corn maltodextrin, honey, cocoa butter, natural and artificial flavors, xanthan gum, soy lecithin, ... long list of artificial, added vitamins and minerals.


Mmm, red 40 lake... I remember picking that off my Grandma's tree in her backyard... it grew right next to the corn syrup. Aahhh, the memories. Oh, wait!! I see it... "fruit pieces"... there in the puzzlingly-long list...oh, no. Hmmm, pieces of fruit don't have wheat fiber or artificial flavor. As a matter of fact, if the fruit could count as "real", there shouldn't be any parentheses involved at all.

More from their website, the FAQs section:

"Can a child under 1 yr. of age use NutriPals products?"

Use? USE? Do you use your food? I... I... I can't hardly speak/type. The rant is stuck. Almost.

Where are we as humans... what has happened that we are at the point where we use our food products? Shouldn't we be eating our food?

And again... "How should NutriPals Balanced Nutrition Snacks be used?"

Used?!?

I understand why our bottles of shampoo require instructions for use. Somewhere out there, someone was raised by wolves and just-now reintegrated in society, miraculously knowing how to read, but not how to wash his hair. He needs to be told to "lather, rinse, repeat." But since when did we need instructions for our food?

Since we traded it for "food products," I guess. Check your local paper, you could get $1.50 off... hurry, this offer expires soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Iron Chef Grill... preliminaries


Tonight was a practice night of sorts for the Grill Geek. He wants to get in on the Iron Chef fun, so I suggested he plan and make the entire meal once. He grills a lot, but I generally make a side dish or two, and help out with fiddly details. Tonight was all him. And he did well. He has passed the test. Hee hee... and once we hash out the details (does he have to make the entire meal on the grill? How can he smoke meat with just a one hour time limit? And so on...) I will proudly share his endeavors here.

Tonight was lovely slabs of grassfed "rib steak" (I'm pretty sure they were ribeyes), our usual Sidedish, and some salted sliced cucumbers (kids dig 'em.) Delish!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beef and Broccoli


It's easy. Apparently, almost-nobody makes it for themselves. Break out of the box, folks!!! Soy sauce + garlic + beef = stir-fry! It's simple! You can make it more complicated, if you're in the mood, but you don't have to. My marinade/sauce ("oooh, cross-contamination from raw beef!" Shut up, it's grass-fed which means it harbors almost no E-coli whatsoever) consisted of tamari (wheat-free soy sauce), Worcestershire, rice vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, Rapadura (sugar), and then cornstarch to thicken. No biggie. No real measuring, either.

Marinate bite-size beef for, um... a while.
Drain, but save sauce.
Fry up beef in coconut oil, remove from pan.
Add more coconut oil... about a tablespoon. Fry up some sliced onion... until getting soft.
Fry up the cut broccoli (fresh is way better for this, cut into bite-size pieces)
Once that's bright green, add a spoonful of minced garlic (from a jar this time.) Then add the marinade back in. Or some fresh-made sauce, if you're scared.
Let that simmer for a while.
Add about a tablespoon of cornstarch, mixed with water, and stir it in quickly.
Add the beef back in, stir to coat everything with the thickened sauce. Serve with rice.

Calzones

Gluten-free calzones? Yes! I'd heard good things about this Chebe bread mix, but my initial experiment with it failed. I tried dinner rolls. That's not too crazy, really... but, they were chewy. Too chewy. Way, way too chewy. I had two more bags of the mix, so I thought I'd try something very different. Instead of small and round, large and thin. It works really well for this type of application! Still got a bit chewy as it cooled down, so eat 'em hot!



Modified instructions, from their website:

One bag of Chebe Bread Mix will make four small calzones. Follow the package directions for mixing the dough, using olive oil and adding 1/2 teaspoon each of basil, oregano, and garlic powder.

1) After mixing the dough, tear it in half, and then each half again, to make four hunks of Chebe Bread dough approximately the same size.

2) On a Silpat sheet or wax paper, spread one of the rounds out to a very thin layer, using your fingers and the heel of your hand, or using a rolling pin. You want this very thin, but be careful that there are no holes in the dough. You don't want any of the fillings escaping from the center during baking.

3) Flip the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet. Top one side with 1/2 to 1 cup of fillings, leaving edges clear so that dough will seal. I used pepperoni, pastrami, bacon, and green olives for mine. I added cheese for those that can have it. Next time I plan to sizzle up some mushrooms and onions, and hopefully use cooked sausage.

4) Fold over the empty half of dough, and crimp the edges together with your fingers, being careful not to create any holes in the dough.

5) Then, using the tines of of fork, press the edges together all the way around the dough. If the fork sticks to the dough, dip it in cold water. This will secure the edges and give the calzone a finished look. Repeat for each calzone.

6) Pop into a preheated oven at 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or until nicely browned. (Suggestion: brush the outside with olive oil before baking, and sprinkle with Parmesan.) Let cool about 5 minutes and serve with tomato/pizza sauce for dipping.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tacos

Dinner tonight was supposed to be simple. But, I ended up with a LOT of "help" from the Little Guy. It's really hard to keep an almost-three-year-old safe around hot pans. Especially when he's very enthusiastic about helping. With everything.

So, I guess dinner was simple. It just wasn't easy. I usually make some guacamole, or at least dice an avocado, to substitute for cheese and sour cream. (Neither of which is authentic for tacos, but I grew up eating them that way.) Tonight I only managed beef + lettuce.

Basic Bekki Tacos

1-2 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil/fat
1 smallish onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds grassfed ground beef (I like to make and freeze extra)

Cook the onion in the bacon fat, over medium heat, until beginning to soften. Toss in the garlic and cook just a minute, stirring constantly, so you don't burn it. Add the ground beef and break it up with your spoon. I like mine broken up into really little bits, but that doesn't work as well with lean beef like the grassfed. Do the best you can. Heck, maybe you don't care.

When most of the beef is browned, it's time to spice it up. My approximate spice blend (never the same twice):
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tblspns chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
generous pinch Spanish paprika (it's smoked... mmmmm)

Stir that in well, then add 1/4- 1/2 cup chicken stock. All those powdered spices are dry, see, and that means extra liquid is needed. Also add in a heaping tablespoon of tomato paste, and stir it in well. Let it simmer for a while, until most of the liquid is gone.

While it's simmering, slice some Romaine heart thinly, dice up an avocado (or shred some cheese), and toast your taco shells. I'm serious, folks. You are not supposed to just open the box and plop your stuff into the stale, rubbery shells. That's disgusting. Stop doing it. No one could chew through those things. Toast them briefly, about half a "toast" cycle in a toaster oven, or 2-4 minutes at 350 in a regular oven. (You're right, it is ridiculous to heat the whole oven up just for taco shells. Get a toaster oven.) They should be sizzling audibly, but not browned.

Top your tacos with salsa, salsa verde, and/or sour cream. Muy delicioso.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Iron Chef Mom 2

KYO NO TEMA... butaniku.

Or, more-accurately (and wordily): pork shoulder butt blade steak.

I kid you not.

Why does anything need so many names? Oh, well, it was cheap and looked really good, so the Grill Geek bought it. And I spent about 3 hours with my eyes glazed, chin-on-hand, searching the internet for recipes that I could do in just 80 minutes with the things I had on hand.

See... pork shoulder butt blade steak (PSBBS?) is known for being very flavorful, favored by Korean and South Carolinian cuisines, and yet can be quite tough. So it needs to be braised. Which takes a lot of time. Iron Chef Mom is not about lots of time. That's part of the challenge. No matter! Stand back, mere mortals! After rejecting a few ideas (which will be made some other time... they were good ideas) I settled on this one.

Asian Pork Lettuce Bowls

  • 1 pound PSBBS, cut into thin slices

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil

    Braising liquid:

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon gingerroot powder

  • ¼ cup tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)

  • ¼ cup rice wine

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

    Other stuff:

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced

  • ½ inch of ginger, grated

  • Romaine leaves, separated

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Thinly slice pork and quickly fry half at a time, over high heat.

  2. Mix together braising liquid and pour over. Return first batch of pork to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in another skillet, stir-fry onion about 3 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add pepper and carrots, stir-fry about 3 more minutes, until crisp-tender.

  4. Stir in grated ginger, and steal some braising liquid (about ¼ cup?)... heat to boiling.

  5. Remove pork from braising liquid, raise heat to high, and boil to reduce down.

  6. Chop cooked pork, then add about ¾ cup braising liquid to the pan with vegetables. Stir in about ½ tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 1 tablespoon water, to thicken. Add the chopped pork, and stir to combine.

  7. Make bowls of lettuce leaves, fill with spoon of rice, shredded pork, and stir-fried vegetables.

  8. Transfer to plates and serve immediately, garnishing with sesame seeds.

And remember, one of the rules states that you must accept help from ALL sous-chefs... even if said help is them wanting to "wash dishes" and is thoroughly in your way.


Serve with a nice, cheap sham-pagne like Cook's. Yes, I'm serious. Delicate flavors and nuances will be lost against the spicy food, but the sparkles and sweetness are nice.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Cornbread


I've finally made a good gluten-free cornbread!

Ok, I'll need to back-up a bit. You see, cornbread is a highly-charged issue in some areas of this great nation... enough to cause another civil war (or War of Northern Aggression, according to some of my in-laws.)

Yes. My mother-in-law, bless her heart, is a Kentuckian. Born and bred in Louisville, the northern-most bastion of The South. And, that would be Loe-ah-vuhl. Not Loo-is-vill. Get it right, Yankees.

I hail from Dorothy-Land. I was born in Texas, so I have dual citizenship, but my folks moved back to the Tornado Central soon afterward. I'm a Midwestern girl, not a Southerner. I walked blindly into marriage, not knowing about the Great Cornbread Divide. The basics of the battle are: some like it sweet, some would like to choke you until your eyeballs pop out and your head explodes if you add any sugar to that batter.

So, there you go. I felt it necessary to explain things a bit. Now, to make matters worse, I have to make mine gluten-free. Gluten itself doesn't play a big part in cornbread, but pretty much all standard recipes do call for wheat flour. I tried a few mixes... which all were apparently aimed at mimicking the Jiffy corn muffin mix that is available everywhere south of the Mason-Dixon. Which is odd, because there are plenty of Southern mamas that are decidedly in the choke-you-till-you-die camp. And the Jiffy mix is sweet.

I didn't like those mixes. (I did like the Jiffy mix. Sssshhhh! Don't tell my MIL, please!)

So, tonight, I got out my big, black baking binder. (I keep printed out recipes in binders... one for baking/breakfasty things and one for dinner-type stuff.) I turned to the "Breads" section... noticeably bare these days. There were three recipes for cornbread. That's all. Hmph... I have some more explorative baking to do. Anyway, one of the recipes I've already tried. It sucked. Why is it still here? Moving on... another has been in this binder, untried, for years. Again, why is it here?? Oh, well. The last is handwritten. On notebook paper. By my mother-in-law.

She's from Kentucky. She knows her cornbread.

Ok, I'll give it a shot.

I've made it before, with wheat flour, and it was good. Let's see... what could I substitute for the wheat? One of the many problems facing the gluten-free baker is the long list of alternative flours to choose from. Moving away from gluten really isn't restrictive, there are a dizzying number of options, that only the skilled baking-science expert could properly choose from.

So, I shrugged and said "Let's try sorghum."

I think I remember something about Southerners using sorghum syrup back before mass marketers took over the world and groceries became cookie-cutter consistent from Maine to Alabama. So... that must mean sorghum grew well down South... so maybe they used the flour, too. Maybe I'm being all historical and recreationist. Cool.

I baked it... I tasted it... it's goooood. Here's the recipe:

Country Cornbread

1 1/2 cups cornmeal (some say true Southerners eschew yellow, my MIL said nothing about the color)
3/4 cup sorghum flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder (I heaped mine, to help the gluten-less flour rise, no science behind it)
2 eggs, beaten (poor eggs!)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used half hazelnut, cuz that's what I had, and half chicken stock... cuz... why not?)
6 Tbspns shortening (bacon grease, palm shortening, NO trans fats!)

Heat shortening in cast iron skillet (I put the shortening in the skillet in the 400-degree oven before I measure and mix. You want the iron hot, then tip the skillet a bit to coat the sides.)
Combine dry ingredients
Beat eggs with milk
Add milk mixture to dry mixture
Add hot fat to cornbread (stir, of course)
Pour into hot skillet
Bake about 25 minutes, until a little brown on top.

Slather with salted butter. (If you've never paid attention to whether or not your butter is salted, it probably is.)

By the way... don't worry, I am not completely crazy. Partly maybe. Not more than half. Anyway, my mother-in-law does NOT read blogs. She doesn't really even get online. She has one of her minions, er... kids/husband print interesting things off for her.

If one of them somehow stumbles across this page, pretty please don't print it off for her. She cooks better than me and always has. I bow to her greatness.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Coupon Rant

The Grill Geek always knows it's time for me to blog when he hears "That's retarded!" or something similar on a Sunday morning.
Yes, I always go straight for the ads and coupons, digging them out of the thick stack of newspaper. I sort through first... building the ranty anticipation. How many packets of coupons will I get? I've actually had one morning when there were none. I was so disappointed. Some weeks, generally right before Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are 5. This morning I had three... that's about average. On particularly-dull mornings, I'll go ahead and scan through the Walgreens and CVS ads, to see what oddities they're offering. Today I think I've netted enough righteous indignation from the coupons alone.

Campbell's Chunky Fully Loaded "Feed your NFL size hunger!" it says. Do you know why you have an NFL size hunger? Anyone ever question why it is that humans, able to survive and evolve for millenia on just what they could hunt and forage, are now sitting on couches all day and yet starving? MSG.

Speaking of which, y'all should probably sit down for this one... New "Great taste that's better for you" Choice Ramen. 80% fat free and 25% less sodium, in three mind-numbing flavors. The picture shows a bowl of better-for-you noodles topped with slivers of actual vegetables and what I think is sliced chicken. A leaf of parsley lets you know how healthy it is.
Ramen is not food, folks. Seriously. I don't understand the appeal, personally... I never had the typical ramen phase in college. I ate donuts instead, so I'm not trying to act superior. I know many otherwise-intelligent people who like ramen and eat it even when they could afford real food.
Tyson any'tizers... hot wings or chicken fries. In case there were any Americans left that thought there were set times of day for eating (or worse, times when one should stop eating), Tyson has thoughtfully liberated them from the constraint. Any'tizers... so you can eat trans-fatty breaded factory farm chicken whenever your MSG-induced pre-diabetic feeding frenzy tells you to. Don't forget to offset the calories with a diet soda.

Flipping through the pages of coupons I see a bombardment of products aimed at rectifying dry skin, failing eyesight, low libido, dandruff, and greasy kitchens. How folks' kitchens get greasy confounds me, since no one actually cooks anymore. If they did grease up their kitchens more often, they wouldn't need the rest of the crap. (Nor would they need the elastic-waist pants and mu-mus that fill the rest of the pages. Not sure how the Wizard of Oz figurines figure in.)

And finally, the thing that made me yell "that's retarded!"

Puffs, with the scent of Vicks.

The scent. I guess that's the official smell of sickness (beyond the sharp twang of bile, that is)... Vicks. Does a scented tissue actually help anything? Does anyone have tissues on their nose long enough to get a medical benefit from the smell? I just... don't understand.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Turkey Posole

Tonight's dinner comes to you courtesy of Beef Short-Ribs That Refused to Thaw. Yes, indeedy. Thankfully, I have an ever-present plethora of Leftovers in my fridge, so there was no emergency.

Oh, and if any of my dear readers wonder why on earth I didn't just "nuke" the short-ribs, well... you must be strangers and I'd really like you to drop me a line, letting me know how you found my blog.
The rest of y'alls must know that I do not and will not use a microwave. Everyone don your tinfoil hats, please. Microwaves are evil.

Ok, on we go to the food... I had leftover turkey from the first Iron Chef Mom night, I have an eternal supply of chicken broth, and the superfecta of aromatics is always on hand. (Onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.) Perfect! I can fudge the rest.

Turkey Posole, Gringo-Style

1 shot of sotol, in a glass, over ice, with a brief splash of plain seltzer
2 Tbsns fat... bacon for flavor, coconut for immune-boosting lauric acid, olive oil, if you insist
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced (see a theme here?)
however much garlic you like, chopped, I used 5 cloves
1 shot of tequila (don't waste the sotol!)
2 cups (or so) chicken broth
1/2 a can diced tomatoes (bonus points for Ro-Tel)
1/2 cup corn kernels (please, god, not from a can)
about a cup of cooked turkey, chopped up or torn
avocado, diced (and tossed with lime juice, to keep it green)

1. Insert sotol into cook. Not all at once... just... get that going.

2. Get the first three veggies cooking in the fat over med-high heat. Don't stir too often, so you can maybe get a hint of precious "char." Once the onions are getting soft, toss in the garlic. Stir a lot... don't burn the garlic. After just a minute, pour in about a shot of tequila, to deglaze, or something. If your pot is hot enough, it'll reduce rather quickly. Smells great, though.

3. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, corn, and turkey. Stir.

4. Add spices, to taste: cumin, coriander, ancho chile powder (or regular chili powder), paprika, salt, pepper. Yum! I used about 1 teaspoon of each spice, no idea how much salt, and 8 grinds of black pepper. Also add about a teaspoon of dried cilantro, or a tablespoon of fresh. Stir. Once it has come up to a simmer again, reduce the heat to low. I simmered mine for as long as it took the pasta (for the kids) to cook. So, um... 30 minutes? Probably doesn't really need that long. Serve it up in bowls and top with the diced avocado.


Real posole is made with hominy, not regular corn kernels. Oh, well.

This is really colorful and pretty and yummy.

Real posole would also have a jalepeno or similar in it. I relied on my ancho chile powder. I can't do super spicy at the moment.

Oh, and if you're wanting dessert, may I suggest a lovely, easy-to-make margarita? Put ice in a glass. Put one shot of tequila, the juice from a wedge of lime, and a generous squirt of agave nectar into something with a good lid (I use an itty bitty plastic storage container.) Shake. Pour over ice and add some club soda or seltzer. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Que Shiraz, Shiraz...

... whatever will be, will be...

Let's all sing!

Actually, let's not. Tonight's blog is about wine. Because I cannot live by food alone.

I like wine. I don't claim to love it, nor do I claim to know much about appreciating it, selecting it, or gods-forbid, collecting it. Wine is not something to collect. We could all be dead tomorrow. Buy it, drink it, enjoy it. There's a good chance we only get one shot at life, so let's live it up.

Alrighty then, why am I talking about it? Because dinner was Leftovers Soup, with gluten-free biscuits that didn't really work out. Nothing to talk about, unless you want a review of Miss Roben's biscuit mix, which I will just quickly say isn't worth your money.

So... on to the wine.

I am too much an amateur to pass such judgments. Technically. But I will anyway. If you get a chance to buy Shiraz from Chile, if you see it on the shelf in the store and wonder to yourself "Self, I wonder if Chile is a good region for Shiraz? Does the climate there draw the proper nuances from soil and grape?" The answer you should give yourself is "No." And walk on down the aisle. Australia does good things with Shiraz. Other places, where it's called Syrah, can be nice.

I had just finished off a bottle of my 'rooster wine', which is a lovely, bargain-priced French red blend. Nothing too bold, goes nicely with everything. Does not challenge the palate. And that's a good thing. It has flavor, don't get me wrong... it's just not a thinking wine. It's a drinking wine. So, I'd just had that when I thought to myself "Self, I wonder what I should drink next?" I poured over my wine cellar (ok, I walked across the room and looked at the wine on top of the bar) and selected this Shiraz. Because I like Shiraz. My so-far favorite reasonably-priced wine of all is a Shiraz-Pinotage blend, the best of both worlds. So, yeah, I know that I like Shiraz.

But not this Shiraz. No, the Castillo de Molina Shiraz is just... too harsh. Too bold. Makes my tongue feel funny. All very snooty wine-appraising terms, I know. I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the bottle. "Cook with it" is my usual answer, but I don't think I want to concentrate these flavors. They're already too-concentrated.

Maybe I'll save it for when I've had too much of something else and don't have many taste buds left.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1st Weekly Iron Chef Mom

KYO NO TEMA... shichimenchou!


So... I recently posted about feeling rather Iron Cheffish after making dinner from crazy leftovers. The Grill Geek thought it'd be fun to take it a step further. Tonight was the first of (hopefully) many Iron Chef Mom episodes, pitting my against the timer and the children. I had beginner's luck- the Little Guy fell asleep on the couch for the whole thing.

First, a brief run-down of the rules:
1) Must be an original recipe that features the "secret ingredient" in some way.
2) Must accept help from any and all "sous chefs" (aka children/husband) or else it wouldn't be Iron Chef MOM, now would it?
3) First attempt is given 90 minutes, second attempt gets 80, and so on. By your fourth episode, you ought to have the hang of it and be able to pull it off in 60 minutes thereafter.
4) Must be a complete, nutritionally-balanced meal. Unlike the TV show, we're not going for total number of entrees. This is real life. Must include something your kids will eat, but the secret ingredient needn't be involved in that.
5) For style points, the kitchen needs to not be utterly trashed when your time is up. That's another Mom element... clean up as you go. At least a little bit.

The Grill Geek got back from the store around 11 am, so I knew my secret ingredient for 8 hours before showtime. I looked up basic preparation techniques, then went through my stash of recipes on the computer (didn't spend hours pouring over actual cookbooks.) I found a recipe for Moroccan Chicken Stew and completely changed it. I think the only ingredient left the same was... um... the cumin. That's what I mean by an "original" recipe. Base it on something else, sure... but make it your own.

Once I knew that my secret ingredient was bone-in split turkey breast, I started getting the idea of a New World theme to the meal. So... this is where that eventually led me:


Getting ready to cook


Bekki's Iron Chef Turkey

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp bacon fat
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 split, bone-in turkey breast
1 small onion, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp salt
¼ - ½ cup white rum
½ cup salsa
½ cup corn kernels (frozen are ok)
1 cup cooked pinto beans
blue corn chips
1 fresh heirloom tomato, sliced
prepared collard greens

1. Put cornstarch and spices into a large plastic bag, along with turkey breast, and shake to coat. ("It's Shake N Bake, and I hey-alped!") Get the collards goin'.

2. Heat large dutch oven, add fats, and brown turkey breast on both sides.
Remove turkey, add more oil, if necessary, and sauté onion over medium heat until almost-translucent. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, rum, and salt. Bring to boil and stir in salsa, pintos, and corn. Reduce heat to low, add turkey, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove turkey breast and slice. Stir additional cornstarch into bean mixture, if needed.

3. Arrange cooked collards on plates along with sliced tomato, and bean mixture; arrange turkey on top. Garnish with blue corn chips, serve with a glass of sotol (or bourbon.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Baked Fish

I love recipes that use leftovers.
Tonight's recipe used leftover rice, which we almost always have. It's nearly impossible to guess the appetites of children. Both kids love rice, and will often go back for seconds. There had better BE seconds. But then sometimes they don't. So then there are leftovers.

I based it, loosely, on an Alton Brown recipe. I have made that one before, following it closely, and it's fabulous. If you can has cheez, do it as Holy Alton says. If not, do it as I says.

Bekki's Baked Fish Dish

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, chopped small
salt... not white
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10-ounce package) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 lemon, zested (I used 1/2 tsp of shredded lemongrass... had no lemon)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup white wine (I always use dry vermouth)
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 tilapia (or other white fish) fillets
3 cups leftover cooked rice
Toasted sesame oil and paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium saute pan over low heat, melt the butter; add the onion and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute. Add the spinach and lemon zest/grass and cook until just heated through. Season with the salt and pepper, wine and broth, and stir to combine. Simmer a little, to reduce the liquid. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

If the fillets are large, cut in half. Season each fillet on both sides with salt and pepper. Divide the spinach mixture evenly among the fillets and roll the fish around the mixture. Place the rice into a 2 1/2-quart casserole dish and spread evenly. Place each roll on top of the rice, seam side down and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil and sprinkle with a dash or two of paprika before serving.

I didn't roll our fish... just layered it. I was using small Corellware dishes, so The Grill Geek could has his with cheez.

Coupon Rant Catch-up

Am I the only one who is already (only two weeks in) fed up with all the hype about the New Year? Are you improving yourself? Are you on a diet? You should be. We should all be eating low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, high-fiber, high-soy, high-antioxidant diets. Because that's what we're told. Oh, and don't forget your probiotics. Eat your daily Yo-Custard and you'll be instantly thin and healthy. Don't ask any questions about what's in it, where it came from, how far it was trucked, or what will happen to the cute little individual-sized carton when you're done.

Have you noticed that Yoplait got a makeover? Yeah, now it's hip. It's not Yoplait anymore... that might have been the "yogurt" (if they want to call it that, they can, but...) that your mother ate. No, the cool kids need something better, and that means nothing more than a change in name. Now it's YO. As in "Yo, Tiffany! Have U tried this? It's got 2 B good for U." Or some shit like that. So, eat one for breakfast, on your government-sanctioned race out the door to daycare or cubicle. If you aren't in a hurry, you're helping the terrorists.

At lunchtime, make sure you've packed your Sweet Sue canned Poultry Products. "Eating well never tasted so good!" Oh, yes it did. You know what tastes better than canned factory-farm all-white-meat chicken? Almost everything. If it's really all about convenience, pop a can of wild-caught Alaskan salmon into your lunch bag instead. Ah, but... that has flavor. Icky.

Then, for dinner you can serve up some of the Tyson's Heat 'N Eat Entrees. "Delicious homemade meals with less effort." Um... excuse me... but if it comes to the house in a plastic container, already cooked, it is NOT "homemade." That's home-warmed, perhaps. Call it what it is. And, hey, it comes in new varieties. Let's run out and get some... I've got a dollar-off coupon. Do U?

In the same set of coupons are many for hair color, hair shine-enhancer, foundation, and moisturizer. At the risk of being dull, I'll briefly remind everyone that eating well makes your hair shiny, your skin glowy, and if you eat enough real fats, you don't need to slather on moisturizer. But let's forget all that and just cover up the annoying symptoms of the SAD.

Last week's coupons included one that literally had me yelling. I was almost 'vapor-locked' but managed to work past that and express myself after all.
That's it.
There it is.
The culmination of the Western Diet. The artful combination of food science and technology, conveniently-overpackaged, microwavable, and chemically-enhanced to taste great. Fill that aching emptiness in your gut and your soul with creamy, addictive goodness. Now with Real Meat! You may need to click on the picture, to enlarge it enough that you can see the Real Meat. They are sort of meat sprinkles. Mmmm... meat sprinkles...
Now available in mega packs of 4XL single-servings. How convenient. I predict that they'll add extra calcium, maybe some omega-3s, and possibly even vitamin C within the next couple of years, and then it will be a health product.

Years ago, without even realizing, I took the red pill. I questioned the crap I was being told on TV and in print, I threw out the damn food pyramid and started eating food that really was food. Just because something is edible does not make it food. I'm awake now, learning how to feel good- to really, honestly feel good.
All this crap that's being marketed as food is just so many blue pills, keeping the masses asleep. Doze on, if you wish. It's certainly easier. Enjoy your time as a human battery for the Great American Machine. And, hey, you can get meat sprinkles.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Miscellany II

To satisfy the photo requirement... tonight's stir-fry:


Super-chewy round steak, carrots, broccoli, bok choy, onions... and a sauce reminiscent of my favorite Thai Lemon Beef. Pretty tasty!

No, that's not what I'm here to talk about, though.

No, tonight's post is about our friendly household appliances.

Over the years, we have named them. They begin to display peculiar personalities... or at least, we think they do. So, they need names. Sometimes this even goes beyond appliances. I used to have a small, stand-alone pantry. It was white, nondescript, but very helpful. We named it Jeeves. Unfortunately, the movers deemed Jeeves too precarious to be heaved onto a truck and carted long, jolty distances. So, he was given to a wonderful friend, to help store her homeschooling stuff.
Our daughter, the Fairy Child, got on board with this idea, and named every single thing. The ones we can remember are:
Refrigerator: Martha
Coffeemaker: Jose
Rice maker: Fukui-san

The most-notable, most-esteemed, most-favored appliance in our home, though, is Ed.
Ed is not a kitchen appliance. No, his station is much higher. Ed provides our muse, senses our moods, and serves the grooves. Ed is our 200-disc CD changer. Ed is sentient. Ed is wise. Ed knows what we want to hear before we even imagine it. We almost always leave him in "shuffle" mode, so he can make his own choices. When the sun is shining, it's Friday afternoon, and it just has to be Happy Hour somewhere, Ed reminds us how good life is with a little taste of Margaritaville. When the sun is down, the feeling is mellow, and the Scotch has been poured, Ed lulls us with smoky, jazzy "Crush." (Dave Matthews Band, for the uninformed.)
Every now and then, though, Ed gets moody. We think he wants a girlfriend... one of the newish 300-disc changers. When he's feeling sulky he becomes a smart-ass and plays completely inappropriate music and/or jarring combinations. Like, immediately after one of us mentions how hard it is to wake up this morning, and he plays a slow, soothing Diana Krall song instead of a blood-pumping Guns N Roses tune. Or like when he queued up "Leaving On a Jet Plane" the morning The Grill Geek deployed to Iraq.

We love Ed. We spent the afternoon primping and preening him, reorganizing and finally entering the right names for CDs, after much "listen to this." He was a bit of a mess. Now he's fit and trim and ready to go again. Although I still think he wants a girlfriend.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The South, and Further South


Paula Dean can kiss my biscuits!

I'm cookin' up Southern food, and comin' to take your crown, girl!
Lunch today was blackeyed peas (buried at the bottom of the bowl), and collards (with onions cooked in bacon fat, of course) and ham. It was a bit soupy, with extra chicken broth. But, oh so good.

Ok, I know I've got no chance of taking the Southern Cooking Queen's place, really. I don't like fried chicken. There. I said it. I'll also say that "mayonnaise" only has three syllables, tops. Sometimes just two. So, all the Southern ladies can pat me on the arm, whisper "bless her heart" to each other, and I'll be on my way.

As a matter of fact, I'll be on my way further south... I don't believe I have Mexican anywhere in my mutt ancestry. I have almost everything else... all of Europe, several Native American tribes... but, despite not being from around here, even genetically... I love South Texas. Here is one of many reasons:


My afternoon snackies. Tortilla chips (sadly, and abnormally, not fresh or local) and homemade guacamole (what?! you don't know how to make it?!) and... Sotol. It's like a cousin of tequila, only, well... tequila is the one that lives in a trailer, wears undershirts out in public, and gets in bar fights. Sotol lives in a hacienda, wears tailored suits, and settles disputes of honor with duels.
See... big difference.
The Grill Master read an online review that compared sotol to cognac. That clinched it for me. We paid a ridiculously low price for such an elegant, delicious beverage, and brought it home to taste. It is wonderful. I actually had the agave nectar next to the beautiful bottle of sotol, ready to add in after I tasted it straight. Whatever! No... nothing needs to be, nor should be added.

Well, I added ice. And a couple splashes of club soda. After all, it was hot outside.

How To Make Guacamole

This is really hard folks, so pay attention:

Buy some avocados. If they are Hass, the kind you'll likely find everywhere except near Florida, they should be almost-black and a bit squishy. Not so soft it feels like you could stick your finger through it. But hard means it's not ready yet... which is fine, if you're patient. I'm not.

So, you've got an avocado or two, depending on how hungry you are, and how willing you are to share. Cut it open, squish out all the fleshy part, into a bowl. This is messy, but fun. If it's not squishy, it wasn't really ripe, but oh well, you're committed now.
Smoosh it with a fork. Or cut it in smallish chunks, if that's your thing. Everyone has their own thing.
Plop some SALSA VERDE on top. Not regular ol' Pace Picante sauce or whatever. Red sauce + green avocado = guac that looks like puke. Don't go there. Please.
Salsa verde is not hard to find... although if you're not in South Texas, you'll likely have to get yours in a can. Blech. Move to South Texas.
Stir.
Taste.
Want more salt? Add it. Want more tang? Add a squeeze of lime wedge. Want more spice? Might I suggest green Tabasco? Lovely.

There ya go.

Oh, and if you're stuck with mass-market major conglomerate tortilla chips, I highly recommend toasting them for just a couple of minutes in the oven. About 350 degrees ought to do it. You don't want to brown them, but you want them sizzling. That's how to fake the fresh.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rice Pudding

I think every gluten-free person ends up making rice pudding. We eat so much darn rice, we can't escape it. I made a big batch of coconut rice last night, thinking we'd need more to eat than the sushi I had ordered. I had no idea how big everything would be... we were plenty full. So, we had a lot of leftover rice. What to do? Rice pudding, of course. It's almost as if the Universe forced my hand to pour in the extra cup last night, steering me on the inevitable path to rice pudding.

So, I looked around online for a recipe I could adapt to being dairy-free, and one that used leftover rice. In the end I naturally changed almost everything and had my own brand-new recipe. Although I'm certain I'm not the first person to make it exactly this way... after all... how many ways can there be to make rice pudding?

Stovetop Rice Pudding

2 cups leftover cooked white rice
3 cups milk, divided (any kind)*
1/4 cup sugar (was still a bit too sweet for me)
small pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins, cranberries, whatever

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly-grated nutmeg
1 egg, plus additional yolk


Combine cooked rice, 2 ½ cups milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla and seasonings. Cook until just about all of the milk is absorbed, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Whisk egg and yolk into remaining milk, then add to pan, stirring to combine well. Stir in raisins or other dried fruit.
Divide rice pudding into individual serving dishes serve warm or chilled. Top with sliced nuts or shredded coconut, if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings (yeah, right...)

*Note: Feel free to add a bit extra if the pudding is not as creamy as you like it. Any kind of milk works well, I used 2 cups coconut and 1 cup hazelnut.

I got the recipe that I loosely based this on from Slashfood.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Sushi!

No, I didn't attempt to prepare my own sushi. But, this blog is about what I'd eat, and that doesn't always mean what I cook. Tonight was The Grill Master's birthday, so he got fancy sushi delivered (from Sushi Zushi), whether he wanted it or not. Turns out, he did. He loved it.


Clockwise from the big triangle thing:

Salmon Musubi- Sushi rice mixed with Grilled Smoked Salmon, shaped like a triangle, lightly baked with a touch of Sesame Oil.

Summer Roll- Tuna, Salmon, Yellow Tail and Avocado. Rolled with Nori on the outside and topped with Ikura Salmon Caviar.

Salmon, Red Snapper, and Tuna Nigiri

And then up above, barely in the picture, is:

Toreado Roll- Jalapeño toreado, Crab Kani-Kama, Avocado, topped with Baked Scallop in a mild spicy mayonnaise sauce, rolled uramaki style with sesame seeds.

Their idea of "mild" is exactly what one ought to expect when getting food from people who like wasabi, while located near people who eat habeneros. Yeah. Ouch. But, I washed it down with Redbridge beer, which actually was a good match. It's on the sweet, light side, just like most Asian beers!


Everything was absolutely fabulous. Just unbelievable. The scallop was unlike any scallop I'd had before... so tender it almost melted in my mouth. The summer rolls were perfectly balanced in flavor. I've heard that Japanese cooking is very much about balance, but I don't think I'll ever understand how to achieve that kind... it was amazing. Perfect. And this was the perfect, palate-cleansing, spice-soothing finish:


Polynesian Frushi Roll- Fresh Strawberries and sweet pineapple rolled uramaki style and wrapped in banana. Accompanied with mango sherbet.

Perfect.



Monday, January 7, 2008

Gettin' Cheffy


That's home food, hopefully fitting for my husband's birthday Eve. The Grill Master/Uber Geek had a rough year. From start to finish his 3_ th year of existence was shitty. We're doing everything we can, at every possible New Year demarcation, to ensure the next one is better. So, the eve of his new year was this lovely roast chicken, potatoes, and collards. But not quite that simple. I've really been feeling creative and daring lately, so I kicked it up a notch. (Not really meaning to quote the great Emeril, as his way of cooking is MUCH too futzy for me.)

I also learned something important tonight... why it can be dangerous to branch off on one's own in the kitchen. See... I got this idea for a balsamic glaze on the chicken. But, I didn't get it until after I'd already started melting the butter. I don't know if butter is usually part of a glaze... like I said, I was enthusiastically making things up. Well, now, those of you who aren't lost in the throes of butter might be able to tell me WHY that didn't work. The idea behind the balsamic glaze thing is, after all, to reduce the vinegar to a ruby syrup. That means evaporating out the water. But if there's half a stick of butter in the pan, it creates an oily seal over the top of the vinegar.
Which then gets broken when you stir... so what looked like an innocent, placid pool is indeed a seething volcano, set to erupt the moment your spoon/whisk breaks the surface.
Yikes.

So anyway... I managed to keep stirring it often enough to let some of the whole evaporation thing occur. Still not really glazy, but I basted the chicken with it.

The potatoes were done in what I've heard is sort of the French style. Under the roasting chicken. So they get all sizzly-crispy-fried-yummy. I tossed them in a balsamic dressing first, and threw in some frozen pearl onions. They were heavenly.

SHRIMP

I love shrimp.

Love, love, love, love, love... you get the picture. See, here's the picture:


Now aren't those pretty?
It's Sort-of Shrimp Curry. I got my idea from a recipe, but then decided... to do my own thang. Been doin' that a lately.

Bekki's Lazy Curry

Make some rice. If you have a smart rice cooker (small appliance, NOT skilled sous-chef), use chicken broth for about a third of the liquid needed, coconut milk for another third, and water for the last bit. Makes fabulous rice that actually has some nutrient value

Once that's going, slice half an onion, thinly. Get that going in hot coconut oil, over medium heat. Mince/chop 3 cloves of garlic, press another 2 cloves, and grate about an inch of ginger. When the onions are soft, add the chopped garlic, and stir for a minute. Literally. Watch the clock or count or something. Don't burn the garlic.
Add the pressed garlic and the ginger, stir, and add half a cup of chicken broth. If it's the piddly storebought kind, you'll probably want to add at least 3/4 cup, and reduce it down. Blech. Anyway, now add about half a cup of coconut milk. Depends how liquidy you want it.

Let that simmer for a few minutes. Then add about a cup of peas... still frozen is ok... but then you'll want to make sure stuff is simmering again before adding your shrimp. And, yes, that's the next step... plop 'em on in. Peeled, even take the tail off. Have them ready to eat. (If you are using rather large shrimp, more than a bite, cut them up first.)

Simmer until the shrimp are done... they'll let you know... they're cool like that. They turn pink and curl up. Magic!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Cooking with wine

A.k.a... my kitchen smells REALLY good right now!
I love cooking with wine. It really brings out the flavors in food, and that's not just a snooty foodie opinion. It's fact, in the case of tomatoes, at least. I'd love to link to corroborating evidence, but you'll just have to trust me.

Tonight we had spaghetti (Tinkyada, of course), meatballs in marinara, and steamed green beans with butter and salt. Umma-num! And of course a few glasses of wine. Tonight's was Serengeti 2004 Pinotage, which also went in the marinara. I love Pinotage... it is dark and fruity without being cloying or harsh. I don't like Cabernets or some of the other, age-worthy snob wines. They're harsh in the mouth... unless you've been cellaring, them, apparently. I don't have a cellar. I ate mine on the drive home. *wink*

Anyone else think my dinner looks like it has a face? The green beans are the smile...


Bekki’s Best Marinara

Adapted from someone else’s… made it my own... never make it the same way twice.
Serves 4-6, freezes well

INGREDIENTS:

  • Bacon fat (or bacon to produce said fat)

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

  • ½ cup wine (or about 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar)

  • 1 yellow onion, finely diced

  • 1 28-oz can tomatoes, diced, whole, crushed, whatever

  • 3 T tomato paste

  • 4 T chopped fresh parsley (1 heaping T dried)

  • 1 tsp dried oregano

  • 3 shakes red pepper flakes (1 small pinch)

  • freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION:

1. Sauté onion and garlic in bacon fat until soft. Deglaze the pan with wine or vinegar, reduce a bit if using wine.

2. Combine half the tomatoes, herbs, and seasonings in blender with the sautéed aromatics. Process until smooth and return to saucepan.

3. Process remaining tomatoes, add to saucepan.

4. Simmer for about 30 minutes

The meatballs were also homemade... a few weeks ago. I love making extras of those, to have on hand. I made mine with grassfed ground beef, an egg, some Worcestershire, fresh ground pepper, Parmesan (because I was experimenting with my dairy allergy), and gluten-free bread crumbs. Very tasty and very easy. I didn't even bake/fry them before freezing... just flash-froze on a plate and then put in a baggie.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Stir-fry

Stir-fry is SO forgiving. Even when you can't find the "right" ingredients.


I was going to use some cubed beef that I chopped and marinated about a week ago. Except... I couldn't find it in the freezer. Oops.
I remember putting it in the freezer.
I even remember labeling it... painstakingly... as it always is these days. Did I use soy? Did I use citrus? I have to know later. I have to almost write the entire recipe on the plastic baggie.

And yet, it wasn't there.

So... I used shredded beef, from a roast way back in September. I made a sauce with soy (tamari, to be gluten-free) sauce, the juice of a lemon, about 4 cloves of a garlic, smashed, about an eighth a cup of Worcestershire, and a bit of water and cornstarch (to thicken). Other than that, I sliced and sauteed half an onion, half a red bell pepper, about half a carton of button mushrooms, two stalks of celery, and one smallish bunch of bok choy. I would have done the bok choy separately, but I had a cranky almost-three-year-old on my hands. You do what you can do, ya know?

I put it together with a bit of previously-undercooked steak and the "shredded beef" I found in the freezer. I put it over The Usual Rice*. It was very tasty.

* The Usual Rice is, usually, made with somewhat approximate parts of coconut milk, chicken broth, and 'rice water'. Rice water is... the water skimmed off almost-done Tinkyada brown rice pasta. Because... it makes the rice somewhat stickier. And because... brown rice is better than white rice, but my kids hate brown rice. So this way I get some nutrition into them. Ha ha.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iron Chef Mom!

That's what I am... I am Iron Chef Mom. "Mom" counts as a cuisine, I think. It summates what I do better than any other single word I can come up with at the moment. I dare any professional chef to create healthy, tasty meals from Whatever's In The Fridge while mediating sibling disputes, holding a crying (angry, not limply hugging) preschooler, stepping around half-melted ice cubes, and (oftentimes) watching a really interesting football game.

Tonight's secret ingredient was Leftover Roast Chicken with Paprika. Bonus points for also using up the leftover snack-tray veggies from New Year's Eve. I also had a lot of hummus left from New Year's Eve. I wielded my google-fu and found that there are such dishes as Chicken and Hummus, so my gears began to crank.

Ingredients:
3-4 tablespoons fat of your choice (bacon, coconut, AND butter this time)
about 1 carrot, cut into sticks, and then into dices
about 1 celery stalk, done the same
1/2 an onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 handfuls fresh raw broccoli, cut into bite-size pieces
leftover chicken (in our case it was the breasts and wings)
about 1/4 cup prepared hummus
about 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
about 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cilantro
2 shakes red pepper flakes (one pinch)
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:
Heat the oil/butter in a large skillet (with a lid) over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, onion, and pepper, and cook until starting to soften. Add garlic and cook another minute or two. Toss in the chicken (in bite-size pieces). Add seasonings to hummus, and stir in the wine and broth. Pour into skillet and stir to coat. Add broccoli on top (to steam a bit). When "sauce" begins to boil, reduce heat to lowish, smack on the lid, and simmer for about 20-30 minutes.


Serve over rice, garnished with more hummus, paprika, and parsley. Really... ok, you don't have to get fancy schmancy with it, but... more hummus and paprika really make it taste goooood.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Geek Sweeps?

I think it must be Geek Sweeps Week. I've just watched Alton Brown get "stranded" on a tropical island and now there's a MythBusters marathon with the theme of "supersized myths." I'm in heaven.

We ate our proscribed lucky meal last night...

Collards and onions in bacon fat, vermouth, and chicken broth, with some leftover smoked pork... and rice with coconut milk and chicken broth... and blackeyed peas (from a can, I confess) warmed in chicken broth. Healthy, wealthy, and happy... that's what our new year will be.
Yumm-o.

Today was Leftover Day. Because we have a fridge full of fabulous leftovers. Lunch was potato skins, onion dip, veggies, hummus, shrimp, and cocktail sauce. Dip whatever you like into whatever you like. Delicious.

Dinner was...I don't really know what to call it. Like so many wonderful meals, it was born of leftovers, with a little new stuff added. In our house, with the microwave used only by The Grill-Master (Grill-Geek, Geek, whichever) for his Jimmy Dean breakfast sammiches, leftovers aren't a way to save on cooking time or dirty dishes. They are simply something one uses to ensure no good food is wasted. So... I cooked up another mess o' greens (my biggest pan is too small for a true "mess," so some of last night's greens had to wait) with bacon fat and onions and vermouth and chicken broth, and cooked some rice pasta shells. The main event was some of the Solstice Roast Beast, with it's resulting gelatinous broth, and a sploosh of crushed tomatoes. Then I decided to toss them all in a bowl together. I'm guessing it's sort of Italian.

About Me

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Tejas, United States
I am many things... all at the same time. (No wonder I don't get much done!) I am a wife to a retired infantryman, mother of 3, stocker (and stalker) of the fridge, passionate fan of food, nutrition, ecology, coffee, wine, and college football. I love all things witchy and piratey. I often cook with booze. I feed stray cats. I don't believe in sunscreen. I don't like shoes and really hate socks. And I currently can't eat any gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, coconut(!?), or sodium metabisulfite (aw, shucks, no chemical snackies.) Sometimes even citric acid gets me. But only sometimes.