Sunday, July 15, 2012

Iiiiiiii'mmmmmm mmmmeeeelllltttttiinnnnnggggg, mmmmelllltttinnngg.   Frak it's hot, hotter than it's been for a century.  Today the mercury (yes I am fully aware that no one uses mercury anymore, just bear with me here, k) topped 106 degrees.  So guess what I'm cooking for dinner tonight.  NOTHING, are you fraking insane?!  Did you not just read where I said it was 106 FRAKING degrees?!  Seriously!
 Sorry, I think that was the heat talking.  I DID make dinner, I just didn't do any cooking today.  Yesterday I woke up at the butt crack of dawn.  why, i have no idea, but it was cool and I was awake so I figured I should probably get out of bed and get some shit done.  One of the things I got done was roasting up a couple of bunches of beets that I got in my CSA.  I washed and trimmed the little red orbs, tossed them in olive oil then stuck em in the toaster oven at 375 for about 40 minutes.  When they were cool enough to handle I peeled them (under running water to minimize pink fingers) and threw them in a bowl in the fridge for later use.  They didn't stay there very long.
   Today when I got home it was 90 degrees in my house. And 2 of my kids were starving after having slept all damn day at day care.  Dinner needed to be quick, and it needed to be cool.  Salad to the rescue.  And not any ole' salad.  Butter leaf lettuce, shaved carrots, roasted beets, and herbed goat cheese, all dressed with arugula pesto. Wait, what's this you say?  I've not mentioned the pesto? well fuck me running, I'm sorry, let me back track a little.
     Arugula pesto, Arugula pesto, wherefore art thou, arugula pesto? Did you know that pesto doesn't always have to be made out of basil?  Well if you didn't catch on until just now, you're actually pretty thick. Sorry, but it's true.  Anyway, arugula is a very seasonal spring green, sometimes called rocket, with a spicy, peppery, bitter, nutty flavor.  See how this could make a tasty Pesto?  So into the food pro it goes, with garlic, a spring onion (just cause i had some) and some pine nuts.  Turn on to low then stream in the olive oil until it's smooth and creamy.  Mine came out very buttery and spicy, almost tastes like guacamole. 
   So I tossed my salad (he he he) with the pesto.  I do believe that beets and goat cheese have never been so happy before.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My (veggie) cup runneth over

I, of course, got the prettiest one
   Hole-ly crap, I am drowning in vegetables.  The inside of my refrigerator looks like a tropical jungle with every shade of green possible.  All because I joined a CSA.  And because I just know you'll ask, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  And because I know you'll ask again, here's how it works.  You pay a local farmer upfront for a share of the harvest through out the summer.  Or at least that's how it usually works.  The CSA I joined is a little bit different.  While they do prefer people to pay in advance, they give the option of paying once per month with cash or plastic, OR (and here's why I joined) weekly with foodstamps.  For a mere $21 a week I am provided with a beautiful canvas bag overflowing with goodness.  Local, Spray free, seasonal, fresh, and mutually beneficial.  This particular CSA is run by Global Gardens, part of the Idaho Office for Refugees.  All of the food is grown, in and close around the city, by refugee farmers tending small urban farms.
Week one
    Last week I was graced with: 2 head of lettuce, a bag each of spinach and arugula, bunches of radishes, scallions and cilantro, a small bunch of kale, and a good sized head of bok choi.  This week it's: 2 heads of lettuce, bunches of radishes, carrots and cilantro, a small bunch of turnips, some collard greens, 2 purple kohlrabi, a bag of spinach, a tiny bag of broccoli and some young garlic.
   They also have arraignments with other farms so there are a few optional add ons.   For $60 per month you can get 10 pounds of naturally raised meat (beef, pork, or a mix), for $9 per week you can get 4 pounds of organic fruit, and for $6 per week you can get all natural frozen pizza dough.  I signed up for all of the above.

Week two
                                                     I am really enjoying cooking with all of this fresh goodness.  This is my first year of making a real effort to eat seasonally and I am really enjoying it so far.  I was so excited to find out there was going to be bok choi in the bag last week.  I LOOOOVE bok choi.  Naturally, I made stir fry.  ok ok ok, I can't really call it stir fry, 'cause there was very little frying involved.  Thai style veg and tofu is more like it.  I tossed the scallions, some garlic and ginger, and a wee bit of red curry paste in the pan for a quick fry.  Then I added brown sugar, coconut milk, tofu, broccoli, zucchini, red pepper, bok choi,  and radishes.  At the very end I snipped in the cilantro and served it with rice and sriracha.

this little guy nearly became stir fry

I even have the proper utensils to eat it with

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Just say NO to prepackaged convenience food Pt 1

The Massive Meatball Making Marathon

At some point this week a hair brained idea made it's way into my head, and since I live alone with my kids, there wasn't anyone around to talk me out of it. The thought was, "Why do I feed my kids crap?" Seriously, why do I buy things that I know to be inferior. Convenience? Yes. Because my kids like them? Yes. Cost? Well, probably not. Because I am not capable of making those things myself? HELL NO! So I got it into my head that I am going to move away from buying these prepackaged convenience foods. Frozen meatballs, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and the like. So when I went to the store and there was a large package of ground beef marked down, it was like a sign. So I picked it up, along with some ground pork and some lean chicken sausage. Then, because it would be silly to make meat balls and not eat any of them, I got sliced provolone and hoagie rolls for meatball subs.

So here's my "recipe" though I use the term lightly.

All lined up in rows
  • 2 Lbs Extra Lean ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 ln Extra Lean chicken sausage (and let me just say something about the chicken sausage, it was PREMIUM, the meat was minced instead of ground and it smelled super flavorful, I will use that brand again)
  • 1 cup seasoned whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1-2 tsp thyme
  • 1 or 2 handfuls of finely chopped spinach

Mix well, roll into golf ball sized balls and place on a greased sheet pan, leaving about an inch between meatballs. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then turn them over and bake an additional 5. Makes Approx 64 meatballs

I kept out 14 to feed my kids dinner tonight, so in the end I put up 50 meatballs for future use. These meatballs are larger than the frozen ones you can buy at the store so I think that will see us through 5 meals. And the best part is, I know what went into them and was able to choose ingredients to make them healthier than the prepackaged variety.

Bonus content: Vegetarian "Meatlessballs"

I was going to buy some veggie meatballs for myself until I thought "well that would be pretty darn stupid". So I didn't, cause I hate being stupid. The problem then became the fact that I had no idea how to make veggie meatballs, and all of the recipes I was finding online called for things I did not have. But the name of this blog IS "making do" so that's what I did. I threw some lentils and some brown rice in water and overcooked them a bit so that they would mush up a little. Then I added an egg, about half a cup of breadcrumbs, thyme, garlic powder, and some Penzy's Mural of Flavors, a little blob of the veggie base I use and the rest of the chopped spinach. Then I mixed it and rolled it into balls. I had a whole pan's worth rolled when I remembered that I had about a quarter pound of maitake mushrooms in the fridge that needed to be used. So I put them back in the mix, minced up the mushrooms and mixed everything all over again. The whole batch made about 36 "meat"balls. I used half a bag of small lentils and probably as much rice. I only used one egg because that's all I had left, I think I probably would have use 2 if I could. These meatless balls have a great flavor but would not hold up to being simmered in a sauce.
I promise these are much more than balls of grey goo

Bonus bonus content: This meal's ata girls: the bag of spinach in the fridge, the half bag of lentils on the shelf, the eggs from one of my nurses, and my fancy shmancy mushrooms

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring Time in Boise

is not as glamorous as springtime in Paris, but MUCH less snooty.  It brings wildly fluctuating temperatures, hoards of pissy geese, and the return of the Capital City Public Market, aka That Farmer's Market that fraks up traffic downtown every Saturday morning.
   I've mentioned before that Beastie is playing T-ball this year.  His games are in Boise (we live 20 miles away in Nampa) and half of them are Saturday afternoons.  At some point I realized that it's pretty silly to drive into Boise, just for a one hour t-ball game, so I started looking for things we could do while we were in town.  The top of my list was the farmer's market.  We've gone three weeks in a row now, and each week I come home with more.
This is just what made it home....
   This week's haul include: A bag of pink lady apples, a bunch of radishes, a bunch of red spring onions, a bottle of basil infused Kombucha, and some fiddle head ferns.  The things that didn't make it home were some vegetarian Sambusas eaten for breakfast, Parmesan bread sticks eaten for a snack, a glass of horchata, a glass of organic root beer, and a blueberry handheld pie.

See how pretty?
I was pretty excited when I saw the fiddle head ferns.  I've heard, seen, and read that they are a prized ingredient with a super short season.  How could I pass them up?  So I got a modest half pound, and my brain started into overdrive thinking about how I would use them.
The makings of a fine meal
  Right away I thought of stir fry, so I set about gathering up any other fresh vegetation that might be tasty.  What I found was radishes and spring onions.  Some people might look at me funny when I mention the radishes, but those people just don't know how mild and sweet radishes get when they are cooked.

  While some brown rice was cooking I blanched the ferns and marinated some tofu in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a little bit of red pepper.  I then stir fried the tofu and onions.  When the onions were nice and soft I added the ferns and the radishes.  Those cooked for another 5 minutes, then at the last minute I added the last bit of a jar of terriyaki sauce I had in the fridge.
A bowl of spring
The result was a fabulous meal, seasonal and fresh.  The fiddle head ferns were mild and slightly chewy.  The kids liked their curly-q shape and gobbled them right down.  It's a real shame that their season is so very short, I may have to get more next weekend, if it's not too late.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not-so-extreme couponing

   Extreme couponing is SO not my bag.  I am far too lazy and too busy to spend all that time organizing coupons, searching the sales, and storming the stores at the butt crack of dawn to get 15 boxes of minute rice for $2.  Not to mention the fact that I have no pantry space to speak of.  I don't care how good the price is, if you don't have space for it or can't use it before it expires, it's NOT a good deal.  Not to say that I don't need to save some scratch, I just do it in a different way.
   About once a week I stop by one particular grocery store, either before I pick up the kids or on our way home.  Now, this chain isn't known for it's low prices, quite the opposite.  I don't do my regular shopping there, I go there for one reason, the Clearance.  Most grocery stores have things that go on clearance from time to time, products that are out of season, discontinued, dented or near their expiration.  This store seems to have more products than average go on clearance.  Meats, cheeses, fresh pastas, sauces and salsa's, canned and boxed goods.  In the case of the perishable goods they're marked with coupons stuck to the front of the package that has been put on clearance.  All you have to do is find them, kinda like an easter egg hunt.

Look at all that red in my basket!

   I usually start at the back of the store, with the fresh meats.  Bacon, sausages, microwave meat entrees and side dishes, pork, beef, chicken, and sea food.  This trip I got 3 packages of breakfast sausage, one package of bacon, one meat entree and one mashed potato side dish.  A lot of these items can be frozen, so the expiration date becomes a little less important.

   From there I head down the isle with the lunch meats, cheeses, fresh pastas and fresh sauces.  I bagged, 2 packages of lunch meat, 3 packages of fresh pasta, 4 packages of american slices, 2 tubs of cream cheese (that I have a very tasty plan for) and a tub of pesto.  One of the packages of pasta didn't have a coupon on it, but I picked it up because they were buy one, get one free.  That means I got 2 for the price of one, AND still got a dollar off.  These can also be frozen, whoot!

It's a cardiologist's worst nightmare

    After I've picked up what strikes my fancy I head for the back of the store again.  In the back corner there is a shelving unit and a couple carts.  These are where you will find the non perishable clearance.  This time there was quite a bit of asian sauces.  I got 2 jars of duck sauce, 3 jars of satay sauce, 2 jars of chinese BBQ sauce, and one jar of kobe steak grill sauce.

Did someone say "Stir Fry"?
     I did pick up a few things that weren't on clearance, but they were on sale.

Carbs carbs carbs
     Checking out reminds me of another reason I don't bother with the whole couponing craze.  Using all those coupons and dealing with store policies often means multiple transactions.  Ugh, not something I'm eager to deal with when I have 2 wriggling, whining kids climbing all over me and touching everything else.  Certainly can't argue with the results either!

Hells yeah, saved 50%

   And as an awesome bonus, the coupons generated at the register were actually ones I would conceivably use.  That never happens!

Stupid upside down photo :(
 Bonus "Making Do" content...  I took some broccoli cheese soup out of the freezer before leaving the house anticipating it to be a soup kind of day.  Now, this soup was a bit disappointing the first time, just not cheesy enough.  While digging through my fridge I found exactly what that soup needed.  Half of a cheese ball!  Yep, as weird as it sounds, I cut up half of a cheese ball I had no other plans for and stirred it into my heating soup.  It thickened it, bumped up the cheesyness and creamyness, and the the almonds were actually a nice compliment.

Cheese Ball Soup!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A different kind of tortilla

   Siiiiigh.  Yet another post that i didn't think about till AFTER all the cooking and eating was done.  Breakfast this morning was Tortilla Espanol.  Tortilla seems to be a funny word.  In Mexico a tortilla is a flat round bread, in Spain a tortilla is a baked omelet, kinda like a fritata.  A tortilla Espanol is potatoes and eggs, baked into yummyness.
  I started with 5 or 6 small yukon gold potatoes, sliced kinda thin.  I tossed them in an oven safe skillet with garlic powder, onion powder, Mrs. Dash and lots of salt (which totally defeats the purpose of the Mrs. Dash lol).  Sautee till relatively soft, stirring only occasionally so you get some nice brown on the potatoes.  Then I beat 7 or 8 eggs and poured them over the potatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I turned down the heat and turned on the oven to 350.  I let the eggs start to set on the stove top till the oven was up to temp then popped that sucker in and let it bake till the eggs were set and a knife came out clean.  I think it was in the oven for about 20 minutes.  I cut it into wedges like a quiche and served it to my famished children.  I slathered my own with a large amount of hot sauce and inhaled it.
   In making this I used up the rest of the potatoes in my fridge as well as the rest of a dozen of eggs.  I like meals that do that, a LOT.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cowboys and Ninjas

   Beastie is now five, the little stinker, which means my time will never be mine again.  Five happens to be the starting age for most extra curricular activities.  From now on my life will be classes and activities and games.  Currently it's T-ball.  If there's anyone out there who doesn't know what T-ball is, let me explain.
   T-ball is a version of baseball for the five to six year old crowd where the ball is batted from a stand (the tee) instead of off of a pitch.  There are no outs so everyone bats and no one rides the bench so everyone takes the field.  Games last one hour or three innings, whichever comes first.  That's one hour of "watch the ball. No, not the plane, the ball", "run, run, run, run, run, STOP", and "you can pee after you've run home."
   Everyone who had ever played an after school sport or who had kids who did or who even knew someone who knew someone who did knows that snacks are involved.  Snacks are ALWAYS involved.  And guess who was up for snack duty for the very first game of the season.  Yep, yours truly.  So from our first parent meeting I had about a week to come up with a semi-healthy after game snack.  After a bit of waffling I decided on Cowboy Cookies.
   Over the past week I've been asked several times, "What exactly are Cowboy Cookies?"  The short answer is "Whatever you want them to be."  The long answer is more my own opinion than anything else.  Cowboy Cookies should be hearty, and when I think of a hearty cookies I think of an oatmeal cookie chock full of all sorts of goodies.  Mine included coconut, shredded carrots and chocolate covered sunflower seeds.  Here's my recipe...

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups oatmeal
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chocolate covered sunflower seeds

Cream the butter and the sugars together.

Add the eggs and vanilla.

Mix together the dry ingredients.  Add to the butter and sugar mixture.

Add the carrots, coconut, and sunflower seeds and mix.

Roll cookies about the size of ping pong balls.


Place about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350˙.

Om nom nom.

  These turned out pretty darn good.  The batch made about 50 cookies, enough for each T-baller to get 3 along with a box of milk and still have some left over for me and my other kids.  I was really surprised how much the carrot just kind of disappeared into the cookies, I easily could have doubled the amount and it would not have been too much.  Just the right kind of snack to refuel after the game.

  Beastie's team was the last to be added to the line-up so they got stuck with Black while all the other teams got colors.  At some point one of the team moms suggested the team name be the "Ninjagos" which I guess are lego ninjas (I am soooo out of the loop).  Think I'll just call them the Ninjas instead.  Go Ninjas!