Category Archives: What we made for dinner

Wednesday Roast

Every week I say this is the week that we will make all our meals. We’re not there, but we are wasting very little of the food I pick up at the store. The biggest loss is lettuce, but we give that to the girls for treats.

Today I stopped at the Alameda Marketplace for produce. My friend’s husband is the produce manager at Alameda Natural Grocery (I think I might have his title wrong). M is full of information about fruits and vegetables. His grocery brings in organic produce from within a 100 mile radius. I picked up some beautiful chard and lovely spinach ($3.49 a bunch; price is dictated by lack of frost which spinach needs to grow abundantly) as well as lovely Dancy mandarins and blood oranges. I also took home one of Mary’s organic chickens from Baron’s Meat & Poultry.

At home, Lentil and I did some power nursing while I tapped into the Food Network’s afternoon programming. Programming that is focused on women — Rachel Ray, Giada de …, Paula’s Home Cooking. Really, there’s not a lot to do when you’re nursing for the third or fourth time that day. I haven’t mastered the knit/nurse yet and, oh hell, there’s only so much loving gazing upon your nursing babe that I can do. So, I watched Giada de …’s show (I can never remember her name and generally refer to her as Giardia which is so wrong). She make a garlic and citrus chicken that looked fairly straightforward but nicely flavored. I haven’t roasted a chicken in years as Mister has made it his mission to master the roast chicken (damn, his roasts are GREAT). But if we’re going to cook our food, then I have to pick up some of my old favorites and try out some new recipes. In addition to the chicken, which turned out a little dry (I had a smaller bird than de … listed so I altered the time by about 30 minutes and could have cut another 5-10 off), I made a pearl pasta side (pasta and chicken broth) and added chard. One of my inner monologue decisions is that we need to have more vegetables so, like my mother, we’ll have a vegetable and a salad. I’ll sneak the vegs in wherever I can.

It turned out well. The sauce from the chicken flavored up the otherwise bland pasta (I added some fresh orange juice to brighten up the chard), and the chicken itself had pretty nice flavor. Altogether, a successful night.

Oh, and despite my no ice cream edict, I had a Nina cookie from Feel Good Bakery. Ooh, chocoloate, chocoloate chip, and walnut. Yum. I chose what looked like a morning bun but was more like a morning pull apart world of goodness for Mister. Sigh.

Brisket and Baby

Marin Sun Farms gave us brisket two shipments in a row. Mister made a version of beef Bourgogne while we were up in Truckee.

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I loved it. It was full of winey mushrooms and carrots that my picky nephews ate (sort of). He pulled out Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited for me while I browsed one of my slow cooker books.

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In the end, I went with his recipe but used the timing from one of the slow cooker recipes. It was incredibly easy though the slicing of four onions was hell on Lentil and me.

Slow cooker on for 7.5 hours (I added another 45 minutes or so because the brisket was too big to evenly fit in the cooker and had to be flipped). Yum. Yum. Yum. Tender, flavorful meat. Yum. Yum. Yum. It wasn’t stringy, it wasn’t tough. The simple recipe let the brisket be brisket, taking in the onion flavor mixed with the fat of the meat.

It might not be proper, but I might toss in more carrots next time (Schwartz’s recipe does not include carrots but I added a couple).

The Beauty of Food when one is ill: Bon Appetit!

Mister and I instituted a new budget that includes food purchases. Then we got sick. Today, six days in, is the first in three that I’m not running a fever and don’t feel like hell. Still, my snot is chartreuse and I’m coughing with vigor so all is not perfect, just on the mend.

Our house is damn cold owing to one heater vent in the living room and no insulation anywhere. I’d left the portable electric heater on all day yesterday in our bedroom but the room was still frosty (imagine if the heater had been off). Mister proposed sleeping in the living room so we set up camp with me on the couch hacking away, Lentil in her Amby floating in space, and Mister on the aerobed on the floor. After five nights in the living room (or was it six?) I moved us up to Lentil’s room because she has the awesome sofabed. Not that the aerobed wasn’t comfortable, but I like not being in the draft of the living room floor.

During my time on teh couch, I surfed around looking for new recipes to work on our weekly menus. I found a recipe that was fantastic looking, so fantastic that Bon Appetitit included it in its best of blog list. Now I have no idea where I started, but I made this big pancake, also known as a Dutch baby, yesterday. I’d like to make these herb canneloni but Mister is the pasta maker. Sassy Radish has this snappy looking pepita brittle, but what she also posted … dark chocolate cherry muffins. Muffins? Really? Let’s call them what they are: cupcakes of love.

Also on my list of mmmmmmyummy from the blogs?

Go forth and cook!

In a Pickle

In August, Aunty Cake’s super husband the Green Grocer picked up a flat of superb pickling cukes (organic, of course!) for me to voila into pickles. Aunty Cake had an interest in helping, so the two of us made bread and butter chips as well as dill pickles for hours that day.

If only I could remember from whence the recipe came, but …. we doubled the spices and I advocate for apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar** because it adds a sweet tartness conducive to bread and butter chips. The chips themselves came out crisp and delicious. Merry Christmas. 🙂

The dill pickles, on the other hand, need tinkering. More dill though we doubled the dill and garlic allotment from the recipe. We snipped off the tips of the pickles to help with soaking and we blanched the garlic so it wouldn’t turn a nasty color but ooh, dills are tricky bastards. The finished pickles aren’t as crisp as I’d like and the vinegar is a little painful to the palette. I’ll try again next summer. Ideas for fixing the buggers: halving the pickles; bigger jars (half gallon instead of quart); more dill; blend the vinegar. We’ll see.

Mmmm… I can smell my Bakesale Betty chicken pot pie nearing readiness.

**White vinegar in the wash will brighten your clothes and should eliminate the need for dryer sheets. Okay for white or color washes.

Also good for diaper pails: add a little white vinegar and water to the bucket to help control odor and staining. Dump the whole thing in the wash and do one spin before adding detergent.

Big Bad Berry Gang

The jamming bug bit me hard a few years ago though I didn’t start jamming and canning until last year when I took a class at June Taylor with my friend Barbara. I’ve made a few batches, including plum jam with our friends the O’Reillys, and with Barbara as well as on my own. This summer, Barbara and I made a peach-nectarine conserve with fruit from Blossom Bluff Orchards. Wowee zowee. 2008 is all about jams and homemade for holiday gifts in December.

While on the becoming-annual trip to Ashland and Portland, we stayed with our friends Pia and Jonathan and their daughters. The jam bug bit Pia this year. We thought it would be great to go berry picking and then make jam. Off we went, with Natalia and Amy, to Alebeke Farm to pick some marionberries and maybe raspberries, too.

Marionberries, if you’ve never seen one, are like blackberries but are longer (oooh, and sweet), about the length of a thumb.

Word of warning people: 36 pounds of marionberries and 8 pounds of raspberries is a big, time-consuming yield. You can see the boxes in our cart. (You can also see me looking big, not fashionably pregnant, just big pregnant.)

Wise folks would start the jamming process immediately, but we went to the store to buy 40 pounds of sugar (we used nearly 25) and other doo-dads, took naps, ate dinner.

And started jamming at 9pm.

At 9pm, we are laughing and singing and taking rib shots from Jonathan and Amy. Why? Because 44 pounds of berries requires a lot of lemon juice. When we did calculations, it seemed we would need close to 60 lemons (I’d originally purchased six thinking it extravagant). Lemons, at 9pm in the middle of downtown Portland, cost $1 each. Forty-four pounds of berries cost $66. Hmmm.

A few hours, and several jars later, Amy left (smart!) and Natalia valiantly made a third trip to the grocery store for more jars.

In all, we made 54 jars of jam — marionberry, mix of marion and raspberry, and raspberry — primarily of half-pints but about a third were pints. (The photo doesn’t show all the jars.)

We finished at 2am.

I think this shot of Pia shows what happens when you go too long. If only I’d taken a picture of my feet, which were as puffy as soaked kitchen sponges.

(The jam is fantastic.)

Gazpacho!

Five pounds of tomatoes (okay, $25) later, I have gazpacho. I more or less made it up, omitting the bread that most recipes require.

I put in:

4 cucumbers

1 red bell pepper

four cloves garlic

4T olive oil

leaves from one bunch of cilantro

salt

2T chardonnay vinegar

Blended everything in chunks and batches. I have three more bell peppers I couldn’t find this morning (still in grocery bag) that I may toss in tomorrow along with another clove of garlic to enhance the kick. It is delicious. Had a bowl this morning. Yum! 🙂

Blue Corn Cornbread

Cornbread

I have had a bag (just under 2 cups worth) of blue cornmeal from Full Belly Farm sitting in our backing cabinet for a couple of months. Then I moved it to the counter. Then back to the drawer because I felt it was mocking me with its unused presence.

Memorial Weekend, while in the pie frenzy, I also made cornbread. I used Full Belly’s not very informative recipe (cutting the sugar by 1/3) to make a beautiful batch of bread. It had a nice, nutty flavor and rough texture. I could have cut the sugar a little more, but any more sugar added would have been Marie Calendar sweet. Not my kind of cornbread. I prefer it rustic, warm, with a little butter or honey added.