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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I will definitely not be finishing the cookbook project I started in October of 2013. It was a fun challenge at the time, and I do still find the idea of cooking through a cookbook inspiring, but I think America’s Best Vegetable Recipes was just not the right book. For one thing, the book had sections of recipes for vegetables I can’t find locally. For another thing, the book had a whole chapter of aspics. Ultimately the project’s demise came about because I don’t enjoy cooking the way the book’s 1970 audience did. I prefer my vegetables fresher with fewer processed ingredients and an emphasis on flavor.

What I am most inspired by now is permaculture and the notion that my yard could be full of the sorts of fruits and vegetables that most want to grow in this spot. As I learn more about this way of gardening and I see more examples of people growing abundant food I am most struck by how challenging it would be to prepare and eat it all. My yard isn’t close to any kind of food production yet! The squirrels still get all of our fruit and my most daunting harvest challenge is how to use some herbs. However, it seems to me that if I want to aim for a healthy and productive garden I better start practicing how to cook and eat the produce that grows here. This means visiting farmer’s markets and eating seasonally as I continue to figure out what will grow best on my small plot of Earth.

Watch this space for more ruminations on gardening, seasonality, and what it means to eat locally. Maybe with actual photos!

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There are enough potato recipes in this book to make a separate, potato-only cookbook. I love that in the 1970’s potatoes were still considered a wholesome vegetable and not the little starch bombs we are supposed to believe about them today. To us modern folks I say stop demonizing the potato! Just maybe don’t make it the only vegetable on your plate.

That said, you are going to want to make this Swiss Potato Pie on a regular basis. It’s a great dish for brunch or as a dinner side dish. It even impresses guests, as we learned when our after-dinner guests showed up while we were still eating. Our leftovers disappeared and we looked like we meant to share (but we really didn’t).

Swiss Potato Pie: peel, dice, boil, and cool potatoes. Cream softened butter, add egg yolks and sour cream. Add cooked potatoes and stir (by hand, do not use your mixer for this step) to coat. Salt generously. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into potato mixture. Pour into a prepared pie pan.  Top with shredded swiss cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake 30 minutes or until set in the center.

A tip: I have heard that even the tiniest drop of egg yolk in your egg whites can prevent the whites from forming stiff peaks. Be sure to separate your eggs gently and thoroughly wash any shared beaters or bowls before whipping the egg whites.

20 down, 646 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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Remember that cookbook project I started a while ago? Yeah, me either. I chose a vegetable cookbook because I often have trouble remembering to incorporate vegetables into my diet, but I guess it’s not magic. I still actually have to remember to plan, cook, and eat them!

Last week I made two recipes from the book (I’ll post about the second one separately). This recipe, Italian Stuffed Peppers, is actually one that I had made way back before Lent started but forgot to post about. So I made it again.

This is a good one. It requires having several ingredients ready before assembling, but the good thing is that you can do those way ahead of time. Use leftover rice if you have some. Boil your peppers when you buy them instead of just before dinner. Leftovers keep and reheat well for lunches, too.

Italian Stuffed Peppers: cut tops off bell peppers (I used red), scoop out seeds, cook in salted boiling water for five minutes, drain and set aside. Cook ground beef and onion, drain and set aside. (If you don’t have prepared tomato sauce on hand, toss some canned or diced fresh tomatoes in with your beef mixture.) Cook rice, set aside. Combine rice and ground beef mixture, some parmesan cheese, and tomato sauce. Season to taste. I added Italian herbs at this point since the recipe didn’t call for them and my mixture was kind of bland. I think the recipe assumes you will be using jarred pasta sauce. Spoon the mixture into your peppers and stand them up in a muffin tin or pie plate. Spoon more sauce over the peppers and top with more parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

19 down, 647 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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Don’t let the photo fool you — these two dishes were separated by two months. During the holidays I was useless for keeping up any kind of routine, and I feel as though I am only now starting to come out of the stupor. Does that happen to anyone else? At any rate, tonight I made the tomato casserole and figured I may as well catch up.

Kale Casserole: cook fresh or frozen kale, drain. Boil and peel 4 eggs, chop. Make a white sauce with butter, flour and milk. Add cheese and season with salt and pepper. Stir in eggs and kale. Pour into a casserole dish, top with bread crumbs tossed in melted butter. Bake.

This would have been a pretty decent one dish meal or hearty side dish, but I under seasoned it.

Tomato-Green Bean Casserole: mix herbed stuffing mix with melted butter, set half aside. Combine stuffing mix with sliced tomatoes (the recipe calls for canned but I had fresh), canned green beans, sugar, seasoned salt, and oregano or basil (I used oregano). Top with remaining stuffing. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered.

This was yummy, but I think they must have wanted me to used a different kind of stuffing mix. I also didn’t really see the point of the sugar or seasoned salt. With the oregano it tasted a bit like pizza.

18 down, 648 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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Food

 

With over 600 recipes left to go there are a ton of options available for dinners. I know that by the time we’re close to the end we’ll have only molded salads and salsify (where can I even find that?) left, but for now I’m enjoying the variety. This week I tried the Chow Mein Cabbage and French Onions and Rice. We enjoyed both of these.

Chow Mein Cabbage: shred cabbage, chop celery, green pepper (I used yellow) and onion. Melt butter and saute veggies all together for 5 minutes. Add salt. The recipe recommends adding soy sauce, but we found it to be unnecessary (thus calling into question the whole chow mein concept of the dish).

French Onions and Rice: boil 1/4 cup of rice for 5 minutes and drain. Thinly slice 3 yellow onions and saute in butter until yellow. Add rice, cover, and bake for an hour. Top with paprika and parmesan cheese.

The onions were so delicious and sweet that I will probably make this many more times. I didn’t really get the role of the rice, though. When I first saw the recipe I thought it would be mostly rice — like mujadara — but the rice ended up being almost unnoticeable. Next time I’ll either leave the rice out completely (making a sort of onion relish) or add a lot more (making it more like a rice side dish).

16 down, 650 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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Tonight I hosted a dinner potluck and I contributed two main course dishes from the cookbook. They went over pretty well, but I didn’t love either of them (the cake I made was much better).

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham: brown cubed ham in cooking fat then add flour to make a roux. Add milk, potatoes, salt and pepper and boil til thick. Pour into baking dish and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. I have never found a scalloped potatoes recipe that I have liked. This one was just ok. It didn’t make much sauce.

Seven-Layer Dinner: in a greased casserole dish layer sliced potatoes, sliced carrots, sliced celery, raw ground beef (I was skeptical, but it worked), chopped onion, chopped green pepper, and canned tomatoes, seasoning every layer or two. I topped it with dried basil. Bake for 2 hours. I stirred it before serving. This tasted good but wasn’t beautiful, and it made my house smell like a pizzeria.

14 down, 652 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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After a few weeks off to eat up some leftovers and take a little vacation to the mountains, I’m back on track with the cookbook project. Tonight I used a salad dressing that I made up weeks ago but never managed to fit into dinner. The longer something sits in my fridge the more skeptical I get about it, but the dressing wasn’t too bad.

Cucumber Salad Dressing: to an 8 oz bottle of pre-made bleu cheese dressing add mayonnaise, grated peeled cucumber, grated onion, lemon juice, and a few drops of green food coloring. This dressing kept for weeks in the fridge. It would have benefitted from some fresh herbs (maybe dill) and certainly didn’t need the food color.

Country Sweet-Sour Cabbage: sauté peeled chopped apples and sliced onions in cooking fat. Add some water and half a head of cabbage, shredded. When tender, add vinegar (I used cider) and brown sugar (I didn’t have any so I used molasses). I let this mixture cook for quite a while until it caramelized. Before serving season with salt & pepper and add some butter. This was delicious.

12 down, 654 to go.
(more about the Cooking the Book project)

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