Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Birthday Cake


I ran across this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Custard Cake sometime back, and have been anticipating any special occasion for my husband so that I could try it. It sounded very up his alley...

So I broke it out for his birthday yesterday, and it was a keeper! We'll be using this recipe again, definitely. I may even bake this in mini loaf pans to give away for some occasion, it seems like it would lend itself well to that. It's simple-yet-elegant looking, somehow neither custardy OR cake-y exactly, but scrumptious nonetheless.



We didn't have the type of pan called for, so I substituted a tube pan; also, I had some leftover cream cheese glaze languishing in my fridge, so I put that on top instead of the powdered sugar dusting. That all worked fine, though admittedly the kids did end up with stickier fingers than they might have...


I didn't stop the festivities to go for a particularly 'gourmet' picture, but here's our happy-making cake.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Menus

Failed Spanish tortilla* ≈≈ Flounder with lemon beurre blanc, couscous, green beans, apple cinnamon custard cake for hubby's birthday 
Strawberries-and-cream oatmeal ≈≈ Matzo ball soup, beets 
Leftover cracked wheat and/or grits ≈≈ Rice and refried beans, corn 
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Carrot soup 
Cranberry-banana muffins ≈≈ Pizza, salad 
Cereal ≈≈ Stir-fry 
Waffles with berries ≈≈ Ham, rolls, roasted Brussels sprouts, mousse cups
*I can never flip that dang thing! So it turned out to be potatoes scrambled with a little egg, like always.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Menus

Oatmeal with nuts and yogurt ≈≈ Mulligatawny stew
Cracked wheat, fried eggs ≈≈ Quiche, broccoli
Grits, fruit ≈≈ Pan-fried fish, sesame noodles
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, scrambled eggs ≈≈ Burritos, corn
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Baked potato bar
Pancakes, applesauce, syrup ≈≈ Chef's salad, popcorn
Cereal, fruit ≈≈ Sloppy Joes, green beans

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Menus (some more planned than others)

And yes, I have late, frantic, off-the-cuff dinners too: last night while rummaging desperately, I found some really freezer-burned Thanksgiving turkey chunks and then used them in the recipe that was there on the back of the box of farfalle.

(I actually was almost inclined to throw them out, they were so old-looking, but then I figured I should suck it up and meet my Lent goal of using unwanted food. And it went fine.) I was just amazed and glad that the generic pasta package my son had randomly grabbed for me from the basement literally called for leftover turkey...

Also notice our dinner-for-breakfast that day. I was not ahead of the planning curve, but knew that my kids would actually much prefer chili to any of my usual options, so I went with it.


Leftover chili and cornbread ≈≈ Turkey cherry pasta salad
Apple-cherry oatmeal ≈≈ Lentil-tomato soup, Utah scones
Cream of wheat, peanut-butter chocolate shake ≈≈ Crepes of some kind
Pancakes, applesauce ≈≈ Dhal makhani
Apple-bran muffins ≈≈ Chicken divan
Cereal, eggs ≈≈ Fish sticks, salad
Cottage cheese croissants ≈≈ Corn chowder

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday Menus

Strawberries-and-cream oatmeal ≈≈ Stir fry
Cornmeal mush, fried eggs, milkshake ≈≈ Greek minestrone
Pancakes, applesauce ≈≈ Potato casserole, green beans
Blueberry muesli ≈≈ Spinach quiche
Cranberry-banana muffins ≈≈ Fish sticks, carrots, parmesan noodles
Cereal, mangos ≈≈ Asian chicken salad
Fast Sunday ≈≈ Chili, cornbread

Monday, March 17, 2014

Edible π Pictures



I decided to tone down the ambition for Pi Day, and skipped a few of the pies I had possibly planned. It was a good decision -- I was a much nicer person, even pleasant, and I don't think our enjoyment would have been increased by extra pies.


I also delegated. I handed off fully half the pies to my husband and son, and they did a great job.


 And just to note, we tried out a recipe for lemon crumb which was a definite keeper! It used sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, and eggs in a crumb crust, but ended up with a cheesecake-like texture that we didn't expect. Mouthwatering.

Monday Menus




Leftovers ≈≈ Corned beef and vegetables
Blueberries and cream oatmeal ≈≈ Black-eyed peas, biscuits, green salad
Cornbread, mangoes, eggs ≈≈ Carrot soup, baguettes
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Mexican-flavored quinoa pilaf
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, peanut butter smoothie ≈≈ Pizza, cooked spinach
Apricot-date sourdough coffee cake ≈≈ Niçoise salad, popcorn
Cereal, dried fruit ≈≈ Yorkshire pudding, frozen mixed vegetables

Saturday, March 15, 2014

From the Archives: Mitsitam Feast

I was curious what I had posted exactly two years ago, and was thrilled to discover that I had recorded a culinary adventure I would otherwise have forgotten. Here it is, to relive and be re-inspired:




Peanut Soup

Wild Rice Salad
The peanut soup was close to ideal, but I had to go check on a child at one point and so didn't cook the base long enough.  In the end, it was hard to blend, though I'm pretty sure the nuts were supposed to be "tender" at that point.  But it tasted nice, had a good rich zest to it to start the meal. 

The wild rice salad was the least appealing-looking (mostly due to the fact that I had a starchy rice blend to use up rather than 100% wild rice), but S. and I actually thought it tasted the best out of the meal.  Refreshing and filling, good textural contrasts.  

Pork Pibil Tacos
When I was putting together the meat and ingredients to cook, the smell was so heavenly that I just couldn't wait for the tacos.  Though, it had a slightly bitter taste to it after cooking, I think from one of the oranges; and I was trying to use up some pork tenderloin but really, that's not the meat it called for.  It needed something cheaper, that could cook a long time and collagen-ize and be very tender.




I went with it anyway, but it does make me wonder how incredibly good it would be if it were done right.  I couldn't complain about the simple, fresh guacamole, though -- in fact, I could rave.  Put it all together, and everyone had seconds.

There was a cranberry crumble for dessert, which was way too sweet and not crumble-y at all, and it didn't help that a certain assistant misread the amount of maple syrup to put in the cornmeal topping and doubled it.  We're going to save it for a breakfast later and bake a fresh batch of cornbread to pour it over like syrup.  I think that will actually work very well, and am looking forward to it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Monday Menus (this Friday is Pi Day!)

Apple-date oatmeal ≈≈ African sweet-potato peanut stew
Rice w/ cinnamon and sugar, smoothie ≈≈ Lentil soup, biscuits, salad
Cracked wheat, fried eggs ≈≈ Tuna-noodle casserole, carrots
Cran-walnut muesli ≈≈ Chicken cacciatore
Coconut pie ≈≈ Quiche, along with apple, pumpkin, sour cream raisin, lemon crumb, and pecan pies
in honor of the irrational number describing the delicious ratio of a pie's diameter to its circumference :)
Leftover pie ≈≈ Chef's salad
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday Menus (and a little Lent)


Pancakes ≈≈ Leftovers
Strawberry muesli ≈≈ Baked potatoes, green beans
Cracked wheat, hot cocoa ≈≈ Split pea soup
Apple-date oatmeal ≈≈ Fish, garden salad, garlic noodles
Cornmeal mush, fried eggs ≈≈ Pizza, mixed veggies
Lemon-blueberry muffins ≈≈ Caldo verde
Cereal, canned fruit ≈≈ French toast


Lent starts this week, and I'll be doing my annual 'clean out the freezer' campaign, trying to limit my food purchases while I creatively use up the year's accumulation of forgotten, random ingredients. 

This week will be a little more difficult since I'm feeding guests twice, but I will at least be putting some canned collard greens from our food storage into the caldo verde. An item I feel glad and responsible to have on the emergency shelf, but not one that gets rotated often...

So, keep your eyes out for other oddities in this month's menus -- who knows, maybe there will be some new and pleasant discoveries!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Menus

We're heading back down to a nighttime low in the single digits later this week -- even homemade hot cocoa is starting to seem like poor recompense for the cold!

Leftovers ≈≈ Chicken-vegetable stir-fry
Apple-date oatmeal ≈≈ Homemade noodles, cooked carrots, garden salad
Hash browns, fried eggs ≈≈ Salmon burgers, fresh pineapple, cooked cabbage
Cream of wheat, hot cocoa ≈≈ Baked beans, rice, beets
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Polenta pizza, green beans
Cereal, scrambled eggs ≈≈ Minestrone
Fast Sunday ≈≈ Shepherd's pie

Friday, February 21, 2014

60-Second Book Review: Fear of Food, by Harvey Levenstein

I also recommend the wonderful review here; but I've enjoyed putting together this 60-second romp through a food book I recently read, Harvey Levenstein's Fear of Food: A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat.

About a hundred years ago, some of the food and nutrition headlines ran thus:

Flies are touching everything! Now we need individual packaging. Constipation is poisoning our gut! Now we need yogurt and enemas (or even yogurt enemas, a la Kellogg's Sanitarium). Outbreaks of food poisoning are coming from animal products! Now we need government inspectors and stamps of approval. Vitamins are discovered! Now we need to add invisible, nearly-magical substances to every food and drink we can.


Really, it's amazing how little has changed - at least philosophically - in those hundred years. Don't we still somehow feel safer and healthier if we eat yogurt and 'inspected' meat and personally-sized packs of vitamin-boosted or phytonutrient-rich foods?

What was really most interesting about Levenstein's research was not necessarily what foods actually are or aren't safe -- he's not a nutritionist, he's a historian -- but how the public gets told and shown what foods to seek out, how they make their purchase choices, and the various industrial and governmental agencies that have orchestrated and collaborated in the process.

But the hugest, hugest takeaway was that we're still running in the same hamster wheel. It's hard to overstate the odd sense of deja-vu you get reading through the fascinating vintage ads and scientific studies.

And Levenstein's final chapter? Lipophobia, or fear of fat. (See my prior post!) Will history laugh at us, as we laugh at the 1912 pamphlet stating that flies "kill more people than all the lions, tigers, snakes, and even wars"? Very likely...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Menus

Cereal ≈≈ West African peanut soup
Apple-cinnamon oatmeal ≈≈ Scalloped potatoes, green beans
Cracked wheat, fried eggs ≈≈ Red beans with sausage, rice, beets
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, hot cocoa ≈≈ Thai sesame noodles
Lemon-blueberry muffins ≈≈ Pizza, frozen veggies
Cran-orange strata ≈≈ Niçoise salad, popcorn
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Menus

Leftovers ≈≈ Triple-cheese noodles, green beans, apple-berry crumble
Oatmeal (I put my seconds of crumble in mine, mmmmmmm) ≈≈ Black bean soup
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, hot cocoa ≈≈ Tuna melts, carrots
Lemon-poppy seed muffins ≈≈ Corn chowder
Omelettes, berries ≈≈ Cream biscuits, artichokes, honey-mustard chicken, pecan chocolate mousse pie
Hash browns ≈≈ Asian chicken salad, popcorn
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Monday, February 3, 2014

Cheese Flan

Last week, I listed a 'cheese flan' on my menu, and said I would report back. For a long-anticipated first try, it did not disappoint. I also served roasted brussels sprouts, and there were NO leftovers of either one. 



The recipe calls for the eggs to be separated: the yolks go along with cheddar cheese in the bottom layer, while the whites are beaten and combined with Parmesan for the lighter, crustier top layer. The crust was sprinkled with green onions and bacon bits just like a quiche might be.










I'll need to tweak the quantity, because I didn't have the correct pan size at all, and it was spread a little too thin; but now that I've seen the result, I'm confident in doubling the recipe for this pan. It should be tall and mighty next time!







Note: the recipe came from The Great Green Cookbook by Rosamund Richardson. I haven't seen much else on the web like it, though a search for 'souffle tart' was the closest I came.

Monday Menus

Strawberries-and-cream oatmeal ≈≈ Stone Soup (it got delayed from yesterday)
Rice with cinnamon and sugar, tropical fruit mix, fried eggs ≈≈ Noodles with pesto, pear-walnut salad
Apple muesli ≈≈Salmon burgers, carrots
Cream of wheat, smoothie ≈≈ Caldo verde
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Pizza, side salad
Oatmeal-chocolate chip muffins ≈≈ Cobb salad, popcorn
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, scrambled eggs

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Menus

Oatmeal ≈≈ Pottage  (or, as my daughter Sage put it, we had porridge and pottage)
Cream of Wheat, fruit, hot cocoa ≈≈ Roasted brussels sprouts, cheese 'flan'*
Muesli ≈≈ Cajun pan potatoes, green beans
Cornbread, fried eggs, fruit ≈≈ Tuscan bean salad
Cran-banana muffins ≈≈ Potstickers for Chinese New Year
Cereal ≈≈ Leftovers
Fast Sunday ≈≈ Stone Soup, our Groundhog's Day tradition

*(Really more of a souffle/quiche hybrid, a recipe I've literally wanted to try since I saw it in a cookbook I got for my wedding. I'll report back on how it was, I'm excited!)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Flourishing: Distractions

I've been rather indulging myself this month, taking some bigger chunks of time to hibernate, read, and absorb rather than bringing anything up from my own deeps. I guess that's not a bad way to spend a frigid January full of snow days for the kids, and as a matter of fact, I don't feel guilty at all. I feel a tad sad for my empty blog, but not disappointed in my lower expectations.

As a compromise post, I thought I'd fill you in on a little of what I've been distracted by.

Most of my post-college life, I've turned away from fiction and have instead devoured nonfiction. I've attributed it to needing to fill a learning gap after finally finishing those 16 years of nonstop school; it's also been thrilling to choose my own subjects of interest and dig into them (as you probably know if you're my friend and/or a blog reader). But I was given a pair of books for Christmas, and I've since found myself unexpectedly and enjoyably engrossed in a military-science-fiction series. It has 13 books in the original series plus 4 or more whole sub-series, but I think I'll stop with these first two, since they really rather took over my life!

Also, Bejeweled 3. I should feel embarrassed by the amount of time I've spent on that game since my (ahem) daughter received it for her ninth birthday...but I don't. Plus, I'm pretty sure it's a lot like the Candy Crush craze I'm seeing on facebook, so I know I'm not alone. If you wonder where the rest of my deep flourishing posts have gone, they've probably been overcome by the Bejeweled 3 habit. (Not addiction, I promise! I spend about an hour a week, according to my stats. And unlike Candy Crush, it's completely free, no premium add-ons.)

On top of that, I've been slowly working through a book of logic puzzles as well as doing some lumosity training. It has felt good to spend some mental stretch time without an end purpose in mind, and I'm going to let it ride until I feel good and driven to pick up some meaty subjects again.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Menus

All sorts of leftovers ≈≈ Fish sticks, mixed veggies, rice
Oatmeal, pineapple ≈≈ Hash brown quiche, cabbage
Cracked wheat, hot cocoa ≈≈ Chili, cornbread
Butterscotch oatmeal ≈≈ Carrot soup
English muffins, fried eggs ≈≈ Chicken cacciatore
Rice pudding ≈≈ Chef salad, popcorn with a movie
Cereal ≈≈ Pancakes, waffles, applesauce, scrambled eggs

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reusing Food (Some New and Unusual Suggestions)

The quintessential food 'reuse' is banana bread -- which has always struck me as a slightly inefficient way to use up a small amount of bananas, though I'll eat it! -- but I'd like to propose a few others that you may not have thought of.

In no particular order, some kitchen items you don't have to just throw away:


  • Bacon grease
  • Juice from canned pineapple
  • Whey
  • Butter wrappers
  • Day-old (or unwanted heels of) bread
  • Leftover oatmeal or other breakfast-y cooked grains



We've stretched our food dollar for a long time by buying minimal meat. Of course, we do use jars of bouillon and stock, as well as large, cheap cuts of meat that I butcher into dinky portions myself; but one of the other real tricks I rely on is my can of bacon grease. We eat bacon every so often, and I keep the drained grease handy for sauteing some foods in instead of butter, or dolloping into soups as a flavorful substitute for ham. I feel like at least maybe it helps balance out my extremely expensive taste in olive oil...

I don't know why it didn't occur to me earlier that when I drained canned pineapple, I was pouring actual juice down the sink. I suppose because most other canned fruits are just packed in sugar water, which I'm happy to dump out. Now, though, I get out my ice cube tray and pour the juice in there. When it's all frozen, I store it in a ziptop bag and use it in smoothies. (Along with those bananas that didn't get eaten, right?)

I've mentioned my uses of whey in a post last summer, since I've been making a lot of homemade yogurt and straining it; it probably doesn't apply to most of my readers, but I find that I love using it in muffins and breads instead of milk. The baked goods seem more tender somehow -- I'm guessing the cultured, acidic whey is similar in effect to recipes that call for buttermilk. And it saves me buying the equivalent amount of fresh milk!

A friend mentioned saving butter wrappers to grease pans with, and so for the last year I've been experimenting with that. Even when there's barely any residue on the wrapper, it's often still surprisingly effective for simple jobs such as brownies. I don't feel like it's been a huge change, but I used to have to buy cooking spray regularly, and now I have a can starting to rust that's still mostly full. (I do take the shortcut and use spray for muffin tins, I decided that wasn't worth the extra time.)

Old, half-used, or even failed-and-fallen bread is one of my most versatile reuse items. For example, we often cube it up and make it into croutons. (I gave a daughter free rein last time we did this, and when I wasn't paying attention she used both a spicy Cajun mix and an abundance of cayenne pepper to season them...that was a fiery salad!) There's also strata or bread pudding, which is either a sweet or savory casserole composed of bread soaked in eggs and milk, with other delicious ingredients layered in. That's pretty ambitious, though, and rarely does my cooking energy coincide with stale bread -- if I'm not on top of things enough to use the bread while it's fresh, I'm probably not going to have the prep time for a strata. Luckily, the simplest and laziest way to use bread is to throw it in a food processor, crusts and all, and make it into crumbs which I store in the freezer. Besides the many obvious uses, one of my favorites is in a dumpling recipe, which is included at the end of this post.

I finally got brave enough to risk a batch of bread last year, and found that you can indeed substitute cooked cracked wheat, oatmeal, rice, or most any leftover breakfast grain instead of whole wheat flour in a loaf. As it is, when I make breads with whole wheat flour, I aim for a ratio of two cups of whole wheat flour to one cup of bread flour (it doesn't have to divide out perfectly, as long as it's close); and it's been successful multiple times when I've substituted equal amounts of breakfast leftovers instead of the whole wheat, as long as there's that bread flour in there to provide some structure to the dough. Depending on the moistness of the leftovers, you occasionally will find the dough stickier and have to knead in extra flour, but it hasn't been a huge factor for me. Some grains will make the loaf nubblier, some will melt right in, but either way I'm thrilled to not have to waste food on those days when I overestimate the oatmeal.

There are more that I can think of, but those are the most useful highlights. And, to round it out, here's my favorite dumpling recipe, featuring bread crumbs as an ingredient:

Feather Dumplings

1 c. flour

1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 T. melted butter
1/3 c. milk
parsley and pepper to taste

Combine the flour, bread crumbs, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. In another bowl lightly beat the egg, melted butter, and milk together, then stir into dry ingredients to make a stiff batter. Stir in parsley and pepper. Drop spoonfuls of dough on top of bubbling broth, cover, and steam for 20 minutes. (They expand a fair amount. ) Makes about a dozen dumplings. 


Our family always wishes there were more dumplings, because there are rarely leftovers, but it's pretty impossible to double this unless you have multiple massive pots of simmering soup to use.