Thursday, September 20, 2007

Corn Muffins

These were a great addition to last night's southern comfort meal: bbq tofu, Korean-inspired collard greens, and baked potatoes. The original recipe called for cornmeal--all I had was quick cooking polenta--and it worked well. Either could be used.

Corn Muffins
1 c flour
1 c cornmeal or quick polenta (not instant)
2/3 c sugar
1 tsp salt
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 c milk
1/3 c veg oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients; in a separate small bowl, combine egg, milk and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix until just combined. Pour into a muffin pan (12-count) and bake 15 minutes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007



Today I spent the afternoon in the kitchen, which was not a bad thing. Somehow, cooking usually centers my mind and the week ahead feels much easier to deal with. The added bonus is that most of this week's dinners are prepped and that means less time after work making food. I've read up on the once-a-month-cooking concept, but have not jumped on the bandwagon entirely; it seems to me that this method of cooking would be a bit limiting to me. I've got cookbooks on my nightstand and bookmarked foodie sites for constant inspiration—I'd change my mind far too often. So, I thought I'd start with once-a-week-cooking (kind of).

This barbecue sauce is from the book I Like You by Amy Sedaris. The original recipe must have made a barrel of sauce; my smaller version gives me almost 20 oz or so. Its name is Vulgar Barbecue Sauce....her reasoning was, it's so good it's vulgar. Who could mess with an amazing name like that? I plan to use this later on in the week with fried tofu, collard greens (from our CSA--never had them before!) and maybe some cornbread.

1/4 c butter (half a stick)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small poblano pepper, finely chopped (or regular green pepper)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp tobasco sauce
1 tsp chili powder (more if you like)
1 c apple cider vinegar
16 oz ketchup (not catsup...he he)
3/4 c brown sugar (white would work ok if you're out)
2 T worcestershire sauce
sea salt & pepper

Melt butter in a medium size saucepan, and saute onion, garlic, and poblano/green pepper. When the onion starts to look translucent, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to blend. Simmer this for 45 minutes, stirring every so often (otherwise, it will stick to the pan). Bottle in a jar or other container and keep in the fridge.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Ten Nectarines

I'm a big fan of nectarines, more so than possibly any other fruit. Nonetheless, when our last CSA delivery included ten of them I knew I wouldn't be able to eat all of them before they went bad (and I knew John wouldn't... he has an aversion to stone fruits). Fortunately, I found some fantastic instructions on how to freeze them for later use on ice cream, pound cake, etc.

The process itself was a breeze; no cooking or making sugar syrups. Biggest lesson learned? Nectarines are very delicate, and bruise easily. Once you've got a bruised part, it turns a dark color and gets mushy. I used fresh grapefruit juice for the fruit acid part (it was all I had on hand that would work) and cane sugar. I'll be reporting back when it's snowy outside and I'm still enjoying some nectarines.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spaghetti and Meatballs


When I asked John, what should I write about spaghetti and meatballs?... The response I received was “They're SO good..." And, simply put, that is the best way to describe this classic dish. I usually purchase a jar of marinara sauce, but this time I happened to have a bunch of fresh tomatoes. What to do? Make sauce, of course.

Slow-cooker Marinara Sauce
6 fresh tomatoes (peeled, seeded, chopped)
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 T tomato paste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
sea salt & pepper (to taste)

Cook onion & red bell pepper in olive oil until softened. Put this, the tomatoes, and rest of ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. You may need to add a little more water to this, depending on how juicy the tomatoes are; the mixture could dry out. After the full cooking time, puree the mixture (if you don't like chunks) in a food processor and keep warm. You could also add other veg to this, like zucchini or carrots.

1 lb ground beef
1 c fresh bread crumbs
1 T dried parsley
2 T parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 egg
sea salt & pepper

Mix and form into 1-1/2" balls. Brown in a skillet. Mix with marinara sauce in a saucepan and heat thoroughly until the meatballs are cooked through.

Serve over spaghetti!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bright Shiny New Toy

“Fear not the pressure cooker!” These very words wandered through my mind as I made my first, uh, pressure-cooked food item. Given to me as a birthday gift (thanks mom and dad!) this item really did feel like a new toy. Nothing to be afraid of--no one should ever have to run from a kitchen tool (except dull kitchen knives, they're certainly scary).

Our first playtime session together was cooking dried black beans, done in (total time) about 45 minutes. I was so worried the pressure would cause the cooker to explode in my face or blow up our building. However, all turned out just fine. They were the best black beans we'd ever tasted, surely surpassing the canned variety (not to mention at a fraction of the cost). The instructions I used were in the manual that came with the cooker, and it worked perfectly.

My second adventure was with chicken stock, and I swear this is the best way to make it. I've been converted.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock
bones & bits from 1 rotissiere chicken (no skin or icky fatty parts. yuck.)
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 small onion, sliced into quarters (leaving the skin on gives the stock a nice golden color)
a few peppercorns
1 bay leaf
enough water to cover the ingredients
(you could also add 1 tsp salt, but I prefer to add that later on when I'm making soup)

Put all ingredients in the pressure cooker, secure the lid, and put on the little topper. Once the little topper (or whatever it's called) on the pressure cooker starts to wobble, set a timer for 15 minutes. After this time period, remove the pot from heat, and follow your cooker's instructions for decreasing the pressure inside the pot. I run mine under cold sink water.

You'll need to strain this well, as you don't want weird chicken parts ending up in your stock (at least, I don't). Traditionally, cooks use a few layers of cheesecloth over a colander and strain it into a big pot or bowl. I, however, never have cheesecloth on hand and have found that the large fine mesh strainer I use to wash rice works perfectly. Let this strain for about 10 minutes or so, to ensure that all the liquids have drained. Discard the chunky parts.

Let the stock cool down. Once cool, I usually pour it into a container or two (measure it out so that you know how much is in each one), chill in the fridge and then stick them into the freezer. The stock could also be stored in the fridge for a day or two; my problem with this is that I'll forget it is there.

I haven't tried other versions of this yet, but I would think that this process could also produce a tasty vegetable stock or beef stock.

As Iowan as Apple Pie

Yes, count 'em: twelve apple pies! Yesterday at my parent's house was a flurry of apple peeling (Dad's job this year), slicing, pie crust making, and no doubt nibbling. The apples, of unknown variety, were plucked fresh from their orchard just in front of the house. No pesticides or anything; seriously all-natural. I missed out on all this baking (sniff-sniff, damn the six hour drive!), but thanks to Rae there are photos to share!

I don't have my mom's recipe for apple pie written down anywhere, but it is very intuitive and I think I can go on memory. Growing up, Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa would be doing this almost every summer with apples from various local orchards in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Basically, you need to start with a pie crust (purchased or homemade) and some peeled & sliced apples. Toss the apples with a mixure of sugar & cinnamon (and, if I remember correctly, a little cornstarch thrown in?). Place into the bottom pie crust and top with bits of butter. At this point, you could either use a top crust (and make pretty designs with a sharp knife or fork for ventilation) or, as shown in the pictures above, use a crumb topping. Bake until golden brown. One of the best by-products of all this is leftover pie crust, topped with sugar and cinnamon, and baked until done....delicious.

Mom usually stores these in the freezer so that we can enjoy apple pie in the dead of winter. Who wouldn't love that?