Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just a quick plug for the new MPH book, Saving the Seasons:  It looks gorgeous, scrumptious, and full of new ideas!  If you're looking forward to learning how to put up food, I recommend a look into it!

87.  Lentil-Barley Stew, pg. 107

Another rainy day, another soup.

I doubled this recipe to serve a crowd of 9 (just to be on the safe side), and we had plenty of leftovers.  Pairs nicely with a salad, and I even pulled out Simply in Season to make Rhubarb Muffins (with rhubarb fresh from the garden!)

A quick few notes on what I did differently.  Towards the end of the saute time, I added three cloves of minced garlic.  Then, I added a few cubes of veggie bouillon with the water, and then didn't add either the salt or garlic salt.  I actually used less water than what it called for, as the pan looked like it would overflow if I used the full amount -- I probably used about 10 cups instead of 12.  Also, when I added the lentils, since I was using wheat berries instead of pearl barley, I went ahead and added the berries, since they take a little longer to cook.  Other than that, I made the recipe as written.  The smells that gradually filled the kitchen (alongside the cinnamony-muffins) were delightful!  The meal was heartily eaten, and the stew was a hit!

Overall: 4 out of 5  Great for larger groups, and a solid meal even on its own.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back Again

Now that the two wedding-dessert-fiascos are past, my mind is settling and I'm here to review a few recipes that have been tested recently.

84.  Pakistani Kima, pg. 131

Perhaps surprisingly, I've been familiar with this recipe since high school, as my school's cafeteria tried their hand at this kima occasionally.  I was never a huge fan of it then, but a Pakistani student assured us it was nothing like his mother's ... which left me with hope that my turn at making it might be more successful.

I'll admit I change the recipe fairly dramatically -- instead of beef, I used about 1 1/2 c. garbanzo beans.  Instead of a regular potato, I used a sweet potato, and as I didn't have any peas or green beans (the peas are starting to set on in the garden, though! :)), used about a cup of frozen corn.  The peas or green beans would have given the dish some much-needed color, but we just had to do without for now.  I kept all the seasonings the same as written, which I really think is the kicker for this recipe.  And, really, as long as you like curry, you can tweak this dish in the vegetable arena as much as you like and still really enjoy what turns out.

I served yogurt alongside, since my curry mix is pretty hot.

This recipe was pretty quick to come together, and it definitely was good.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Get yourself a good curry powder and make this!

85.  Zucchini Bread, pg. 82

We're heading quickly into the days of too many zucchinis.  Are you lining up your recipes already, trying to figure out how to not let a single one go to waste?  I'm not.  For two reasons:  the freezer and this recipe.

I generally am a huge fan of sweet breads, especially fruit and vegetable versions.  Last summer, when our zuke supply was unrelenting, I made this bread at least once a week, and also shredded some by the quart to put in the freezer for winter soups...and...bread. :)

I like this recipe because it's fairly simple to pull together.  I typically add about 1+ c. of chocolate chips for an extra antioxidant boost.  (Right?)  I only have 9" pans, which are fine -- you'll just get a squatter bread and might want to check for doneness starting around 50 minutes.

Overall:  4.5 out of 5  Yum...and it's vegetables!

86.  Easy French Bread, pg. 63

I realise most people have it within their realm of realism that there is the occasional mess-up when making a recipe.  I don't have this realism for myself, and when I came to this self-proclaimed "easy" recipe, I figured I would fly through pulling it together and it would turn out normal and right.

Well, I'm mixing it up and, having decided to halve the recipe, was just mentally cutting each ingredient measurement in half before dumping it in.  Except the flour.  I forgot.  I dumped in 2 c. white flour and 2 c. wheat flour before realising what I had done...and why the dough seemed inordinately dry.  After I gave myself a moment to be angry, I dumped the dry dough onto my countertop.  I tried kneading in some extra butter which helped a little bit...but not enough to reclaim the dough.  So, I did what I could, but it was a tough dough.  I still let it rise, baked it, and have been eating it.  The flavor is pretty good, but it looks positively sad.  I really hate messing up on recipes because Food is one thing I really enjoy doing time and time again ... bleh. 

Overall:  Not sure.  Maybe if I try it again, I'll adjust.  (Or, has anyone else made this?)

Until next time...which, hopefully, will not be 2 weeks from now...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I am a person who has struggled to live in the present.  I tend to live in the future, anticipating that the next big thing will be the right fit for me.  Occasionally, even, I will take amazing experiences from my past and push them into my future, in hopes that they will occur again.  One of those things is moving back to my desert home, New Mexico.  Having (realistically, now) loved 80% of my short 2 years there (versus my 50% over 2 years in Lancaster), I keep trying to re-write NM back into my life.  While not physically there, I mostly long for the things I knew there:  the towering Sandia mountains, the ease of public transit, bike paths along the Rio Grande, and then, of course, the food.  Red and green chiles, fresh tortillas, beans and more beans, Frito Pie (picture: a small bag of Frito chips cut open and chili, cheese, and sour cream dumped on top...and eaten out of the bag), and the list could go on. 

So, yesterday, when I was skimming through MWL, and came across my first recipe, refried beans, I had visions of what could very well come together in my kitchen.  After we ate our meal, a lone, bittersweet tear sat in my eye.  It is good to "come home" in brief moments at the dining room table.

82.  Mexican Refried Beans, pg. 101

I started the beans cooking, promptly forgot about them, and went to work outside in the garden.  Awhile later, I came back in, smelled singeing beans, and raced to save them.  They were save-able, and a near disaster was averted.  (This very disaster has happened to me at least 3 times in my life...why is it so easy to walk from a pot of cooking beans??)

I cooked the beans by themselves, knowing that I would want to sauté the onions by themselves later.  After the beans are done cooking, reserve about a cup of their liquid, but dump the rest out.  I don't have a potato masher, so I just plopped them into my mixing bowl and let the paddle take care of it.  (If you have neither, my host mom from a stay in Ciudad Juárez mashed her beans with the bottom of a drinking cup.)  While they were mashing, I sautéed the onions with a teaspoon of cumin and about a 1/4 t. cayenne.  I am of the stubborn opinion that refried beans aren't really refried beans unless they have at least some cumin in them.

Use an amount of oil/fat that you're comfortable with, and when you add the beans, you can always add some of their cooking liquid to thin it out a bit.

I also added about 8 or 10 cherry tomatoes from the freezer for a little extra something-something, but the beans were delightful in taste trials before that addition.

Overall:  4.8 out of 5  If you have the time to make your own refried beans, this is a great starter recipe for you.  Do it!

83.  Navajo Fry Bread, pg. 83

Hellloooo, amazing-tasting-fried-dough.  So do you see where we're headed now?  Do you see the final dish?  Are you drooling yet?

I divided the recipe to get two servings -- 1 1/2 c. flour, dash of salt, just under 3/4 t. baking powder, 1/2 c. water, and just under 1/4 c. milk.  So simple.  While, yes, you will need to knead this dough, try not to overknead it -- I've made a tough fry bread in my time by overkneading.

For frying, I just used my high-walled frying pan, and made sure the bottom was well-covered with a mix of oil and shortening.  When I first learned how to make these from a Mennonite Navajo woman in Farmington, NM, we, of course, used lard and lard only.  Which is fine, if you're into that. :)  (The picture of the three lovely ladies shaping fry bread were my co-horts in Service Adventure in 2002/03 -- Gail (Guengrich) Miller, Anja (Baumgart) Phillips, and Ellen (Bradshaw) Goodman.)

I stretched my dough with my hands, holding the dough up in the air and rotating it so that it's more or less the same thickness.  Definitely punch that hole in the middle -- helps the middle part cook thoroughly.

After we fried them, then came assembly into Navajo Tacos.  Fry bread, then the beans, then lightly steamed corn, (cheese if you want it), lettuce, and salsa.  (Or see page 146 for other ideas.)

Overall:  5 out of 5  The meal was silent, except for sighs of delight after bites.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You may have been concerned, with this long silence, if I had, in fact, survived the cupcake making.  I did.  Proof:
Meanwhile, in my recovery, I've made a few dishes to update with.

79.  Carrot-Cheddar Casserole, pg. 227

A dairy-lovers dream.  Chock full of milk (I used some leftover cream from the cupcake adventure), super cheesy (used a little bit of cream cheese, also leftover from cupcakes, as well as some herbed cheddar), topped with Cheez-Its...And mix that all with some sweet, mashed carrots.  Pretty good stuff, though I'm not sure it could ever classify as "healthy", unless you're on an all-dairy diet. 

Overall:  3.3 out of 5  I would rate it higher, but felt guilty while eating it ...

80.  Cream of Carrot-Cheddar Soup, pg. 204

Mmmm another carrot and cheddar combo...I had extra carrots that needed to be used up :)  Apparently, I over-ordered a little bit for the cupcakes, but better safe than sorry, right?  Especially when it's for someone's wedding!

I'm a sucker for "cream of" whatever soups.  So, I was pretty excited about this one.  I had a few sweet potatoes on hand, so I decided to sub them for the regular white potatoes.  Shredded the carrots and and potatoes in a food processor (what a time saver!) and dumped everything together.  I had neither Tabasco or worcestershire on hand, so used a spicy steak sauce instead.  Since I was using sweet potatoes, I nixed the added sugar.  (And carrots are so sweet to begin with...not sure why it would need to be in there at all.)

After adding some Old Bay Cheddar (seasoned with Old Bay spices) and milk, the soup was ready.  It was a little disappointing.  Not as thick as I expected, or as creamy.  I'm thinking that it might be good pureed -- breaking up the veggies would make a thicker soup.  Spice-wise, it was okay, but I needed to add more of the hot sauce to be satisfied.

Overall: 3 out of 5  Average, as written, but could be improved upon.

81.  Three-Flour Bread, pg. 60

Nothing like realising at dinner time that there's no bread in the house for your husband's lunch for the next day.  Suddenly you have a choice:  save yourself the trouble and go to the grocery store and buy the most nutritious loaf you can find (while resolving not to feel guilty) or change your evening plans and whip up a batch.  I go back and forth between these options when I find myself in this situation (it's happened a couple times.)  Sometimes, when I'm too tired, I will just go to the store and buy a loaf and resolve to make the next bread.  This time, I decided I had it in me to do some aggressive kneading.  And to even branch out beyond oatmeal bread, no less!

So ingredients started getting dumped in my Kitchenaid.  I left out the dry milk and upped the soy and wheat germ, and added about a 1/4 c. of potato flour and 3 T. vital wheat gluten.  Otherwise, I mixed just as written.  I put the dough in the oven with the light on, hoping to slightly speed up the 2 hour rising time.  At about an hour and a half, I took the dough out and shaped the loaves.  They rose speedily, and after about a half hour, I was happy with their size so I slashed them down the middle and set them in the oven.  Now, I'm not sure I completely understand the 450 start temp, considering it takes my oven longer than 10 minutes to reach 450.  Anyways, it worked out, and I still turned the oven down to 350 after 10 minutes.  The bread looked really lovely, and baked high and light.  It tastes wonderful as toast, and it's definitely worthy of being made again!

Overall:  4.0 out of 5  Solidly tasty.