Sunday, June 17, 2012

White Pizza Sauce for Lazy People

When I make pizza dough, I make the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day recipe, which usually makes enough for 4 pizzas.

Sometimes my boyfriend and I will make all four pizzas in one night, so that we'll have food for the entire weekend so we can play Skyrim without having to take time out to cook.

When we ran out of red sauce after pizza two, I said "I'll go look online for how to make white sauce".  He said "when I worked at a pizza joint we just mixed ranch and blue cheese dressing".

Problem solved.

I had some ricotta cheese to use up, mixed in some Parmesan, fresh garlic, ranch and blue cheese dressing.

No "recipe" - just mix the ingredients until it's not too runny. 

This is DELICIOUS with broccoli, probably good with asparagus or spinach too, tomatoes, basil, etc...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pop Tarts for Hippies, Homemakers and Healthy Eaters!

In my fantasy life I own and operate a food cart featuring freshly made cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, yogurt, paneer, cream cheese and more), and "healthy" junk/comfort food - classic American junk food made from locally-sourced, seasonal, organic ingredients. 

If I were to define my life's calling, I do believe that would be it.  It's a perfect fusion of my life-long love of and addiction to junk food and my recently illuminated passion for local, healthy, sustainable, responsible, seasonal, flavorful food.

All I'd need is a commissary kitchen, a car or truck adapted with refrigeration, an up front investment of at least $10,000 (probably more), I'd have to quit my current job, hire staff, spend way more time on social media, create a side-business of retail versions of my food cart stuff for sale in local grocers, and promote the hell out of myself all over town until I'm burned out and wished for the simplicity of just having a normal full time job like I have now in my real life.

Until I can "stretch myself across like a bridge where fantasy and reality lie too far apart" (to paraphrase Fiona Apple),  I shall continue sharing with you recipes like this:

Homemade Pop Tarts - via 100 Days of Real Food
•    2 ¼ cup whole-wheat flour, plus extra for rolling out the dough
•    ½ tsp salt
•    1 cup cold, unsalted butter (2 sticks)
•    ½ cup water plus ice
•    1 egg beaten with a splash of water
•    7 – 8 tablespoons jam or jelly

1.    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.    Put the flour and salt in a food processor with the dough blade and pulse it together briefly.
3.    Meanwhile fill a glass measuring cup with ½ cup water and add a few ice cubes to it.
4.    Take the cold butter straight out of the fridge and cut it into ½ inch chunks. Sprinkle the pieces of butter on top of the flour in the food processor. Be careful to spread out the butter as opposed to letting it all clump together in one piece.
5.    Turn on the food processor and blend until the mixture resembles a crumbly meal. While the food processor is still running add 1/3 cup water through the top. Watch the dough come together and add 2 – 3 more teaspoons of water as needed so a dough ball will form. If some of the dough is in a ball and some is stuck to the sides that is okay…you can fix it with your hands. At this point the dough could be stored in the fridge in plastic wrap for up to 3 days or in the freezer (in a freezer safe container) for up to 6 months.
6.    Remove the dough from the food processor and put it on a lightly floured counter or large cutting board. With a rolling pin (and another sprinkling of flour) flatten out the dough to one big rectangle or square that’s no more than a quarter inch thick. Trim any uneven ends and use those to patch other edges as necessary.
7.    Using a knife cut out 14 to 16 rectangles of dough. Actually you could make them any shape or size that you want at this point  . Lay half of your dough shapes onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Spoon about a tablespoon of jam down the middle of those bottom dough pieces.
8.    Top them with matching dough shapes and seal around the edges by pushing down with a fork. Make a few holes in the top with the fork as well. Lastly, brush the tops of the uncooked toaster pastries with the egg wash.
9.    Bake at 375 degrees F for 18 – 24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the cooked pastries on a cooling rack (if you have one) then either eat them right away or store them in the fridge for 3 days or the freezer for several months. They can be eaten cold or reheated. Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Salt and Vinegar French Fries

This is now the FOURTH time in the last 3 weeks I have made these fries, and each of the first three times, I ate them so quickly I completely forgot to take a picture and document their glory!!!

Shown here with Cooper Burgers and Sweet Potato'au Gratasanga - links coming soon!

Vinegar-Infused Fries - inspired by Umami Girl
1. Use at least one potato per serving. I have used fingerling, russet and yukon gold, all with great success.  If I'm cooking for a munchie session with Tony, I'll do at least 4 good sized potatoes (or way more fingerlings).  For a party of 6, use at least 8 med/large potatoes (or way more fingerlings)

2. Cut them into fry shapes. I cut in half lengthwise, then cut the "tops" off each half, making four long slabs ~1/2" thick.  Then, I slice each slab in to 3 or 4 pieces for more or less equal sizes.

3. Put the fries in an appropriately large pot - cover with regular ol' white vinegar, and maybe with water too. (I have, upon running out of vinegar because of these fries, gone to a 1/2 water/vinegar ratio, or less, and they always turn out good and tangy.

4.  Bring to a boil, and boil until fork tender

5. Let the potatoes cool in the pot with the liquid until cool (or about half an hour - mine are always still warm)

6. Preheat the oven to ~425 (400-450 are good roasting temps)

7. Drain in a colander, and pour some oil on a baking sheet (safflower/sunflower is good because it has a high smoking temp.  Please don't ever use "canola" oil for anything, ever, and watch out for GMOs in soybean oil).

8. Mix around the potatoes in the oil (I use my hands) until they are all well coated.  Then, dash on your favorite seasonings - I use generous amounts of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as well as smoked paprika (or cayenne if I have a cold/allergies).  There are lots of possibilities!

9. Bake for a while - wouldn't you love it if I kept track of times?  :(  10 minutes?

10. When you decide they are "halfway" done, take out the pan, close the oven, and flip each one over so they will be golden on all sides.  Place back in the oven, and cook until almost done.

11. If needed, turn on the broiler for the last few minutes.

ENJOY!!!!  Use your favorite dips. I've been into a blue cheese dressing/Plochman's stone ground mustard blend.  THESE FRIES ARE SO GOOD!!!!!!!  I don't think I'll ever make fries any other way!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chocolate Syrup

It's so much fun to make your own junk food! 

Chocolate syrup is pretty much unhealthy no matter what, but doesn't there  seem to be something a little healthier about it having only five very pronounceable ingredients?

cocoa, sugar, water, vanilla extract and salt

Essentially, you just put them in a pot, bring to a boil for a bit, simmer for a while, wait for it to thicken, cool and enjoy. 

The nuances:
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 - 2 cups sugar, to taste
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 Tbsp vanilla

1. Mix cocoa, sugar  and salt in a small sauce pan and remove clumps.
2. Add water.
3. Bring to a boil, let boil for a few minutes
4. Reduce to simmer and simmer for a while (at least 10 minutes)
5. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and allow to cool. 
6. Refrigerate - the colder it is the thicker it is. 

It's getting dangerous in my kitchen!!!! 

Worse, I discovered my crappy oven in my current crappy rental does NOT overheat like my last 3 crappy I can finally start to bake successful CAKES! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

My New Potholder!

One of my coworkers is a very talented crochet artist, and I commissioned her to make me a potholder in the likeness of my dear Mojo, so that he can *always* be in my kitchen no matter what.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Asparagus

The entirety of last week I was consumed with the idea of making fettuccine alfredo with asparagus.  Not sure where the craving came from, or whether it was a nutrient craving (asparagus) or a dairy craving - (butter, cream, and cheese?) or what but once I get an urge like that it will haunt me until I try it.

I have no idea if this is an "authentic" recipe but holy hell was it GOOD!

After consulting a few recipes, I came to the conclusion that if I melted some butter, added some cream and Parmesan, it would be pretty good. 

I love being right!

I was too hungry and nervous about making this for the first time, so I didn't take step by step pictures, which means - I'll have to make this again!!

Fettuccine Alfredo (maybe)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1 half pint cream (4 oz)
  • 2 very large handfuls of freshly shredded Parmesean
  • a tiny dash of garlic powder
  • a few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • a bit of freshly chopped parsley for garnish if you want
  • Fettuccine noodles - I used 1/2 a package of fresh Spinach Fettuccine by a local company (Pasta Plus), and as always, I made way too much.  Don't be like me.  Measure your noodles.  Just don't ask me how much to use.
Begin to melt the butter over low heat while you are bringing salted water to a boil in another pot for the noodles.  Cook noodles according to directions.  When butter is melted, add cream.  It is so much fun to watch it blend as you stir.  Add a tiny dash of garlic powder if you want.  Add 1 very large handful of Parmesean, and stir until it's pretty much melted. Even if it doesn't melt, it probably doesn't matter. After the noodles are done and drained, decide you need another handful of Parmesean.

When the sauce is awesome and to your liking, add the noodles and stir gently to coat.

This is really really really good with freshly roasted asparagus.  I mean just look at it!

If you want a more polished recipe, check out the blogs I routinely scour for inspiration: the Pioneer Woman and Simply Recipes.

Roasted Asparagus

I was in too much of a scramble to make sure all the components for Fettuccine Alfredo came together that I didn't stop to take a picture of the lovely lovely sight that is freshly roasted asparagus.

So I'll have to make it tomorrow, but you can see part of its glory in the picture below.  This is now my favorite way to prepare asparagus.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Toss asparagus with enough oil so they're all coated. Toss with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast for 8-10 minutes, depending on your oven - I shook the pan halfway through so they could roll over and roast on the other side.

Mint Sugar

What makes a good fruit salad even better?  Mint sugar!

Wash and dry about half a cup of fresh mint
Process in a food processor or blender until finely chopped
Add about 1/2 cup sugar (raw sugar or unprocessed cane sugar)
Process until well blended

Toss with chopped fruit and serve immediately. 

I have been known to refrigerate the leftovers - the longer this sits the more liquid comes out of the fruit just so you know.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dirty Mustard Vinaigrette

There are no pictures I could take and no words I could use to adequately describe this wonderful salad dressing!

You'll just have to try it yourself.
Grab a blender. Put in:

2 Tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 heaping Tbsp good dijon mustard (or less, if too intense
a dash of dried herbs if you want such as oregano or tarragon

Blend. Keep the blender running, lift the lid, and carefully pour in your favorite oil (safflower, sunflower, olive, or a combo) until it's as much as you want (about 1 cup of oil).  Taste as you go and adjust any of the ingredients as needed.  The mustard gives this dressing a very intense flavor, so you don't need to use much!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Just good, basic hummus, though I am a fan of adding flavors like Roasted Red Pepper and Spicy Spinach, sometimes it's nice just to whip up a batch of plain hummus.

1 can garbanzo beans
1/2 juice from said can of garbanzo beans
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup tahini
1/8 tsp kosher salt
 a few Tbsp lemon juice
a few Tbsp olive oil
a splash of juice from a jar of jalepenos
a few jalepenos, diced
a dash of good paprika
a dash of cayenne pepper

Adjust lemon juice and olive oil to get the consistency you want, and add more tahini for flavor as needed.

Excellent with pita bread

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Is that beautiful or what?!

While finding recipes online, I kept coming across references to a book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" - an amazingly simple, no-knead way to make awesome bread with hardly any effort.

I checked the book out from the library, and quickly found a few dozen recipes I wanted to try.  This is one of the few cookbooks I might actually buy!

The few times I have made their basic "Master Recipe" it has turned out AWESOME.  I can hardly wait for the bread to cool off before slicing off a piece and eating it right then and there in the kitchen.

Look forward to many more posts as I try different recipes from "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" including rye and sandwich white.

Golden Gravy (the hippy kind!)

Everyone should have a good gravy recipe.

The recipe I'm sticking with is my current 2nd favorite recipe from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook

You can view the lovely recipe here on someone's flickr page.  I love the drawings and illustrations in this cookbook.

This recipe is EASY, and uses ingredients you "should" have in your kitchen at all times anyway.


Toast the flour, stir in nutritional yeast, then oil.  Cook until bubbly, then add water, whisking until it thickens and bubbles.  Add soy sauce (or Bragg's liquid aminos) and salt and pepper to taste.

In Joy!

Eggs in a Nest - Two Ways

I can't tell you how many times in the last 6 months I have made eggs and toast because that was pretty much all I had to work with.  Eggs, hash browns and toast are one of my go-to poverty breakfasts.  Always with aching necessity have I prepared eggs and toast, and therefore resent them as much as I resent Spanish Rice Casserole, meals that describe hungry times.

But this morning, to commemorate the end of a forced month of frugality, I turned shame into pride and made some really cool eggs in toast and hash browns:

Eggs in a Nest - in the bread!
I'll let you head over to Pinch my Salt for the 'recipe' but basically you just cut a hole in a slice of bread, butter it, crack an egg in it, and when it's mostly set, flip it over and finish cooking it.

The thicker the bread, the smaller the hole needs to be.  I used an old spaghetti sauce jar.  I toasted the 'holes' too so I could put it back on top as a surprise door since I wouldn't let Anthony see what I was making for him.

When I flipped the bread, the egg from the uncooked side spilled out, but that was okay because I served them first side up so they looked great!

If you're going to make toast and eggs, you might as well just put them together like this!!

Eggs in a Nest - a hash brown nest!

This recipe I found on "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Swiss Chard" holds a lot of promise, and I will definitely make these again, but maybe I'll have to buy a larger muffin tin instead of a cupcake pan.  All my "nest" (hashbrowns" stuck to the pan so I just had delicious puffy cupped eggs but no nest.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Beer Battered Asparaugs Spears

On Friday, I went to a party at my sister- and brother-in-laws house.  Brother works in Portland 4 days a week and had slept for 14 hours before waking up for his birthday party.  Sister had been in Portland the whole week taking care of her mother who had been recently hospitalized.

My partner and I were the first to arrive after school and work, so we offered to help prepare.  Anthony helped with man-stuff like yard work, and I was authorized command of the kitchen.  I was shown the available foods to work with, which included two bunches of asparagus.

As luck would have it, I had THE BEST COOKBOOK I'VE EVER READ with me.  I had been reading "the Locavoere's Kitchen: A Cook's Guide to Seasonal Eating and Preserving" by Marilou K. Suszko.  A preview can be found here on google books, but I highly recommend immediately purchasing this book or getting it at a library, like I did, NOW!  I rarely read cookbooks cover to cover, but this one was like a suspense novel - I could not put it down!  Most of the recipes are simple enough for even a novice to master, using ingredients you *should* have in your well-stocked cooking kitchen.

I made the two asparagus recipes that were the simplest, and most suited to a birthday cookout menu - Beer Battered Asparagus Spears and Crunchy Asparagus Spears.  Sadly, no pictures were taken, as if there would have been time to photograph these delightful foods - as the book predicted, the asparagus disappeared as soon as it was ready.

So I'll have to go to the Farmer's Market this weekend, make them again so I can show you some pictures, if you can't tell from the recipe on google books how good these are going to be!!!

Beer Battered Asparagus Spears
from the Locavore's Kitchen, by Marilou K. Suszko

2 pounds fresh asparagus, washed, dried, tough ends trimmed
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt (or ½ tsp table salt)
1 tsp freshly ground  black pepper
12 oz beer (1 ½ cups) – I used a room temperature Pabst
Canola or vegetable oil for frying

In a shallow baking dish, combine the flour and the seasonings. Slowly stir in the beer until the batter is smooth and thick enough to cling to the asparagus (using all of the beer may not be necessary)

Heat ½ - 1 inch of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Dredge the asparagus through the batter, coating each stalk completely. Fry in the hot oil until golden and puffy, about 4 minutes, turning once. If the spears are browning too quickly, reduce heat a little.

Drain the spears on a paper towel-lined tray before serving

Side-bar notes:
“This is one of those recipes that disappear almost as fast as they come out of the pan. Use thicker spears of fresh homegrown asparagus, tender to begin with. A quick bath in the hot oil makes them almost melt in your mouth…and using beer from a local microbrewery keeps it all in the local family.”

“How do you know if the oil is hot enough? Place a  drop of batter in the oil, if it sizzles immediately, it’s ready. Too hot?  The oil smokes.”

Megan’s note:
I only use safflower or sunflower oil for frying.  Canola oil is most likely made from genetically modified ingredients, as is soybean vegetable oil – both canola and regular “vegetable” oil have low smoking temperatures.  When oil smokes it releases free radicals which are harmful to the body.  Using an oil with a high smoking temp such as safflower or sunflower ensures a non-smoky oil for frying.  

Crunchy Asparagus Spears

Another brilliant recipe from 'the Locavore's Kitchen' by Marilou K. Suszko.  If you haven't bought or checked out this cookbook yet, please do!!!!  A preview is available on google books.

Crunchy Asparagus Spears
from the Locavore’s Kitchen – Marilou K. Suszko

¼ cup mayonnaise (or veganaise)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 pound fresh thick asparagus, though ends trimmed

Preheat oven to 450

Whisk together mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a shallow baking dish, wide enough to dip the spears in the mixture

Spread the breadcrumbs on a rimmed baking sheet. Oil another rimmed baking sheet with 1 Tbsp oil

Roll each stalk of asparagus in the mayonnaise mixture. Roll in the breadcrumbs until coated

Transfer to the oiled baking sheet.  Sprinkle with remaining olive oil

Roast 13-15 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and the asparagus is crisp-tender

Serve immediately

Side-bar notes: “Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, thick spears are better than thin, and freshly picked trump them both! Rolled in panko, a very crunchy Japanese breadcrumb, these spears make a nice side dish or can be served as an appetizer with a mustard dipping sauce. Simply mix the mustard of your choice with some crème fraiche or sour cream thinned with a little milk. Learn to make your own crème fraiche on page 50”

“A suitable substitute for the panko crumbs would be fresh breadcrumbs, lightly toasted. To make the crunchiest possible breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from a slices of bread and process into coarse crumbs in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Spread on a baking sheet and place in a 400 degree oven until dry and lightly toasted. Make extra and store in a sealed container for future use”

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pita Bread via bread machine

If you don't have a bread machine, please get one! Mine was a surprise gift when my partner went to a moving sale to buy an awesome rug.  I use it at least once a week, sometimes more.

If you want to find a non-bread machine pita bread, click here to view Food Blog Search results and pick a recipe that looks good!

Bread Machine Pita Bread
adapted from the Happy Housewife

3 1/2 cups flour (I use about 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached white)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp honey*
2 tsp yeast
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil**

Add the ingredients to the bread machine according to instructions - mine is liquids first, then flour, then yeast.

When dough is finished, plop onto a floured surface and divide into 8-12 pieces.  When I did 8 they were very soft and awesome, and when I made 12, they were still soft and awesome.

Roll into balls and let rest under a damp towel for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400, with a baking stone or cookie sheet in the oven.

Place the pitas on the baking sheet or stone and bake for 3-5 minutes, depending on your oven.

Mine have puffed up both times I made them, but I haven't gotten a fully functional pita pocket yet, so I have just used the pita as a pull-apart flat bread for hummus***, which is my favorite way to eat it.

*Please buy local honey - the more commercially produced your honey is, the more likely it is to not actually be honey.  Also, honey that you get from a local farmer supports a system of agriculture that sustains life - Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is caused by pesticides from industrial farming, so please make sure your honey comes from a local farm - the bees and the future human race will thank you for their continued existence.  Our fates are linked - without bees, we wouldn't have much to eat.

Also, honey is awesome.  I learned from Carl Sagan in Cosmos that honey never spoils.  People have found honey in 2,000 year old tombs and eaten it. 

**Yes, it has to be olive oil, no you may NOT use any other kind of oil.  :)

***Mmm...hummus!  Here are my recipes for flavored hummus - Roasted Red Pepper, and Spicy Spinach.

Update: April 11, 2012 - Frozen Pita Dough
When I made the pita for this post, I froze half of the dough balls after shaping.  Two days later, I took them out, and thawed them on the counter (forgot to time it, but it seemed like it took about 40 minutes).  When they felt not-frozen anymore I rolled them out and baked as usual.  They weren't as awesome as the fresh batch, but more than edible, especially with hummus!  From now on, I will probably make a double batch of pita dough and freeze so I can have fresh pita's quickly and easily whenever I need them.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Apple "Pie" Oatmeal Topping

Making this was a triumph in frugal (for me) cooking!  Stranded at the end of a pay period with $29 for two weeks of living, I had to give up my lofty preferences and just use and eat what I had on hand, with no room for error or extravagance.

Last week I made pre-assembled oatmeal packets (like the kind you buy in the store except you make them!).  Somewhere along the line I also found a recipe for Apple "Pie" Oatmeal from Love Big Bake Often.

How could you not make this?

I will definitely make this again.  I think it is also the basis for a very easy dessert - saute apples with butter, cinnamon and brown sugar...serve with good vanilla ice cream.  A lazy apple pie?

Beer Bread

The moment I heard that "beer bread" was an actual thing, I went straight to Food Blog Search - a specialized google tool which searches a large number of reputable food blogs.

When I want good recipes, I always search there first.  Then I use regular google just to gain a more thorough examination of the core recipe.

I usually locate no fewer than 3 recipes to compare - the more ingredients and instructions that are true to all of them, the more likely it is it will work.

Here are the proportions I decided to use, and at the bottom of this post are the seven most inspiring recipes I drooled over during the research phase.

Shockingly Easy Beer Bread

3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 generous tsp kosher salt
3ish Tbsp sugar
12 oz beer

Oven 375, buttered 8" loaf pan, bake 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven.


I've heard that cheap beer works best.  I used a micro-brew the first time, and despite the fact that I ate half the loaf in one sitting, I didn't think it was great.  The 2nd time I made it, I used a Pabst and the bread was awesome.  I also added 1 Tbsp dill and 1 Tbsp onion powder.  YUM!

This bread does last a few days sealed in a container on your counter, but honestly the only time to eat this bread is RIGHT AWAY.

The crust of mine has traditionally turned out hard, so I brush it with butter and let it sit in the pan for a few minutes.

Throw in any shit you want - cheeses, herbs, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, oatmeal, dried fruit, whatever else!

Here are all the recipes I used to inform my template:

Rosemary and Feta Beer Bead from Cookie + Kate 

Beyond Easy Beer Bread from Farmgirl Fare

Basic Beer Bread from My Baking Addiction

Beer Bread that Conquers Fear of Bread Making by Honest Fare

Beer Bread by Ezra Pound Cake

Beer Bread Four Ways by Bake at 350

Honey Beer Bread by Gimme Some Oven

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Crock Pot...Air Freshener

There is a long and strange story about how I came to own a crockpot, heavy with guilt and moral dilemmas.  I tried, several times, to give it back to it's rightful owner, Eugene being the kind of town where you run into everyone you've met or wronged at least once every 2-3 years.  During my last attempt to return the crockpot, I ran into the lady at the Whiteaker block party.  "I still have it, let me return it! I have a car! I remember where you live! What's your phone number - here I'll call you on my cell phone so you'll have my number. Call me ANY night when you are home from work or on the weekends I don't do much, I'll bring it right over!"

The call never came, and 2 or 3 years have passed.  Finally, last Sunday, I said "fuck it" - it's mine now. 

So after SEVEN years of owning a crockpot, I used it!

To kill odors in my home...

Although I have bookmarked recipes for crock pot brownies and polenta and lasagna and soups, I filled mine with baking soda, water, cinnamon, cloves, "guilt apples"* and lemon juice and left it on all day, moving it to different rooms of the house.  The house did indeed smell better, but I don't know if I believe that the baking soda disappeared the odors. 

At any rate, it's totally worth it to make your house smell like an apple pie.

*Guilt apples are apples you buy but don't eat and they get mushy so you don't want to eat them.

Here are the two "recipes" I used: 

and this exceedingly obnoxious blog:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oatmeal Packets

A former sugar junkie goes naturaler little by little...

Years ago, I would have absolutely rejected the idea that something homemade could taste as good as something manufactured, but now I've seasoned my palate to enjoy "real" flavors more and more.

Always in need of quick, easy and healthy breakfast and snack options for the workweek, I was thrilled when I came across a recipe for pre-made oatmeal packets on the Simple Dollar.

I assembled 10 packets, the first of which I added more cinnamon and 1 tsp of brown sugar.  I am already looking forward to eating it tomorrow at work!

I will also experiment with different spices (cardamom!) and seasonal toppings and dried fruit mixes, and keep you updated on the results.

I made 10 packets, which works well with my two week budget of twenty nine dollars

With minimal time, and ingredients I usually have on hand, I took care of the bulk of 10 meals - either breakfast or my afternoon snack.

I also found a recipe for Apple Pie Oatmeal topping that I will make later this week with all the apples I've been neglecting.

Or, I could dice up some apple and pear and mix it in the oatmeal when it's done.

Efficiency eating!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Twenty Nine Dollars

Twenty nine dollars is not only one of my favorite Tom Wait's songs, it is also all of the money I have left until payday - two weeks from now.

That's $29 for two weeks of food for two people (he's broke too for now), if I spend the money on nothing but food.

I can totally do this.

What helps (tremendously) is that when I do have money, I go apeshit crazy and stockpile shelf-stable food staples.

The last time I did this was January 21st.  All I have bought since then are perishables - half and half, cheese, milk, coffee, and fresh vegetables.

Now I've got to work my kitchen mojo in order to make frugal yet nourishing meals until my income catches up with me. First, I wrote down everything I have on hand to use.  Then, I compiled an overly ambitious comprehensive menu for my specified duration.  In seeing what's missing, I'll scrupulously decide to purchase the fewest, most cost effective ingredients to turn an impromptu famine into a modest feast.

Everything That Remains:

Leftovers (aka Challenges)
Broken lasagna noodles
A little pizza sauce/red pepper sauce from last week's dinner party
Hummus I made two-weeks ago for a potluck at work

Perishables (most of which are in the fridge)
A few becoming-overripe pears and apples
2 handfuls of brussel sprouts from the farmers market two weeks ago
some broccoli
a head of cauliflower
a few onions
1/2 bag of potatoes
More than enough garlic
A lot of carrots
1/2 a bunch of celery

1/2 pound low quality "fresh" mozzarella
1/2 pound cheddar
A cube of blue cheese
Half a triangle of Parmesan, half a triangle of Romano
A tiny cube of pepperjack
3/4 cup feta 1 pint yogurt
1 1/2 containers of sour cream
2 1/2 packages cream cheese

2 pounds of coffee (we go through pretty much 1 pound each week)
1/2 bottle of hazelnut chocolate milk
3 boxes of Peach flavored Stash tea (my favorite!)
1 small bag of jasmine green tea from Mountain Rose Herbs

1/2 gallon bag of frozen pineapple juice cubes ("I made 'em myself!")
3 or 4 baggies with mixed frozen fruit (from when I pre-assemble smoothie stuff)
1 bag frozen peas
1 bag frozen stir fry veggies (for Anthony's late night ramen fixes)
Tater tots and hash browns

2 cans diced tomatoes
4 cans tomato sauce
3 cans tomato paste
3 cans kidney beans
5 cans garbanzo beans
4 cans black beans
3 cans pinto beans

1 can of pumpkin
1 can coconut milk
2 small half-used bottles of curry paste
2 bottles vegetable broth

3 boxes mac and cheese
7 packets of ramen
A lot of pasta (spaghetti, fettuccini, macaroni and lasagna)
A lot of peanut butter
2 small jars of Sweet Creek Strawberry Jam

Olive oil
A little safflower oil
White vinegar
Balsamic pomagranate vinegar
Red wine vinegar
Bragg's liquid aminos
lemon juice
lime juice
one jar of yeast

Lots of pickles, pepperocini's and jalepenos
2 jars of spicy brown mustard
2 bottles each of Srirach and Tapitio hot sauce
Ketchup, ranch, thousand island, blue cheese dressing, italian dressing, worcestershire sauce, 

nutritional yeast
panko bread crumbs
lots of unbleached white flour
lots of whole wheat flour
white sugar
brown sugar
corn starch, baking soda, baking powder
2 bags semi sweet chocolate chips (I'll probably just eat these in handfuls)
plenty of herbs and seasonsings - including our new favorite, hungarian paprika, my favorite red pepper flakes, and peppercorns

What This Means:
1. Roasted cauliflower with my homemade "Dirty Vegan" salad dressing (1 dinner)
2. Red curry sauce with steamed carrots, cauliflower and celery
3. I will beg Anthony to make a big pot of chili (I will save the remaining celery, onion, beans and tomatoes for this purpose) (6 meals)
4. Cacio e pepe (spaghetti noodles with fresh black pepper, Romano and Parmesan cheese) (1 meal)
5. "Apple pie" oatmeal (probably 3 meals)
6.  Dressed up mac and cheese (2 meals)
7. Pita bread and hummus (3 days lunch at work)
8. Some kind of basic white/french bread probably
9. Bagels! (to use up all the damn cream cheese! breakfast for one week)
10. Ants on a Log (without the ants because I don't have any raisins) (afternoon snack at work for one week)
11. Baked potatoes with butter, sour cream and pepper (2 dinners)
12. Peanut Butter cookies (dessert after lunch for 2 weeks)
13. Pumpkin curry soup (to get that damn can of pumpkin out of my cupboard)
14. Quesedillas with beans (pinto or black), sour cream, diced canned tomatoes and cheddar cheese (2 dinners)
15. I could even experiment with adding dried chile spices to tomato sauce for a makeshift enchilada sauce.

What I Will Buy
1. One dozen (cage-free brown) eggs 
2. A few cups of brown jasmine rice
3. Two bunches spinach
4. Spaghetti sauce (maybe - with the menu above I might not even need to rely on spaghetti!)
5. Bagels (since I'll probably be too lazy to make them. I can get them day old from the cafe next to the bus station)
6. Milk - for my new favorite dinner rolls, for roux, and for oatmeal
7. Maybe a box of cereal if I can't use all the milk for cooking

Based on my internal intuition grocery calculator, I can probably get these four items for a total of $13, which will leave at least $15 to "save" for the few days before payday in case we run out of coffee)

Then I can Make:
1. A giant green salad with carrots, celery and broccoli and feta (lunch at work for four days)
2. Greek spinach stew (6 meals)
3. "Hippy Mash" - (Anthony's homemade special breakfast: diced potatoes cooked with onions and seasonings (bell peppers too if we have them), then scrambled with eggs and cheese) (2 weekend meals)
4. Fried egg hash brown sandwich (My homemade breakfast: a fried egg between layers of hash browns (2 weekend meals)
5. My new favorite dinner rolls (Anthony brought me home a surprise bread machine recently!), which I can toast and eat with salad)

Here it goes!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tater Tot Casserole

The first time I made this, Anthony and I ate half of it right away.  Which was really something because my casserole dish is very large (a 13x9 I think, instead of the usual 11x7).

It quickly became one of my Foundational recipes - I make this at least once a month.  It's filling, it's fun, it's satisfying, and it is very versatile - like lasagna, I use Tater Tot Casserole to use up whatever veggies are abundant.

 I have no idea how I came upon the recipe at Snarky Vegan (I'll let you head over there to view the original recipe).  The moment I saw it, I knew I had to make it.

That was May 2011, and since then my roux-making abilities have increased greatly.  Here are the guidelines I use and some pictures!

Grease a casserole dish
Cook a lot of tater tots
Shred a lot of cheese
Make a roux (step 3 of this simply recipes mac and cheese recipe)
Steam veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, greens, whatever
Finely chop veggies like onions
Shred veggies like carrots

Mix some of the roux with the veggies in the bottom of the pan
Layer cooked tots on top, and pour the rest of the roux over everything
Top with shredded cheese

Cover with foil, and throw into a pre-heated oven at 350/375.
Cook for a while (15 minutes?) until the cheese is melty
Remove foil and cook longer if needed to evaporate excess moisture


Monday, January 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies!

It's important to me to have a sizable repertoire of low-fuss awesomely good recipes.  Also, when I find something I like, my devotion and loyalty are like nothing else on earth. 

Enter what is perhaps the ONLY peanut butter cookie recipe I will ever use for the rest of my life.

These cookies turned out so good, I have no reason to experiment with unknowns.  I'll let you head over to Simply Recipes for the recipe, which I made verbatim with no deviations* like I do when I'm cooking.  It has all the hallmarks of being a good recipe - it is exactly what you'd expect a Peanut Butter Cookie recipe to be, and if you're any kind of baker, you will already have the ingredients on hand.  If you don't already have all the ingredients on hand, add them to your "Things I Should Always Have on Hand In My Kitchen" grocery list.


*I ended up refrigerating the dough for 12 hours because I was too tired last night after making Black Bean Burgers and Spinach Rice Casserole.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Easy Macoroni and Cheese

Back in my "days of yore" (single, living alone for the first time, 2007ish), macaroni and cheese was one of the first things I chose to learn to cook.

Until I recently discovered how to make a roux, or cheese reduction sauce, this cheesy heart attack of a meal was my go-to-recipe when I could afford all the dairy it calls for!

I didn't note down the original source of this recipe, but when I googled the aptly named "Triple Cheese Mac Attack" I found one reference to a yahoo foods recipe at a site called 'strong and healthy living'

"Triple Cheese Mac Attack"
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ cup Swiss cheese, shredded
1 (7-ounce) package elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cottage cheese, sour cream, egg, salt, garlic salt, and black pepper. Add cheddar and Swiss cheeses and blend well. Cook macaroni as directed on package and drain well.

Add cooked macaroni to cheese mixture and blend until well coated. Add macaroni mixture to a greased 2- or 2½-quart baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes.

My changes
If I have ricotta on hand, I'll use some of that instead of cottage cheese.  I add 1 Tbsp of Sriracha, and use garlic powder instead of garlic salt.  You can leave out the swiss if you don't have any.

I love this recipe because you pretty much just throw everything together.  Since it's just cooked noodles with a lot of cheese, it's also hard to mess up this recipe.