Monday, July 30, 2012

sunday sonker

if you've got three bowls, a whisk, 20 minutes and some fresh fruit on your hands, you can make a sonker (sonker n. a type of berry pie or cobbler. Editorial Note: This appears to be specific to the area near Mount Airy, N.C)

i had some fresh nc peaches and a pint of strawberries in the frig so that's what i used, but you can use any fruit you like (there's even a sweet potato version!).

the process is easy.....melt a stick and a half of butter in your oblong pan (mine was an enameled cast iron 8 x 12). then in a large bowl, put 3 cups flour, 1 T baking powder, 2 cups sugar and 1/2 t salt. whisk these together. in a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups milk, 1 t vanilla and 3 eggs. whisk well then add to dry ingredients, stirring until no lumps remain. pour this batter into your pan with the melted butter (the butter will rise to the top) and then sprinkle on your fruit. it will look something like this:
put the pan in your preheated 375 degree oven and let it bake for about an hour. check to make sure the middle section has cooked all the way through. take it out and it will look something like this:
doll it up with instagram and it can look like this:
this recipe should serve 12-15 generously.
(serve with either whipped cream or ice cream. or both)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

bringing (or is it "taking") your lunch to work

one word.

okay, two words.
bento box.

bento box "after"  (hello kitty chopsticks not included)

do you know about these amazing little inventions already? they will change your life. or at least your lunch life.
here's why: if you have even the tiniest bit of a hankering for a bit of daily creative expression, and you're growing tired of "jimmy john's #6, no mayo, add peppers"...this one item is all the help you need! 

google "bento box" images, or plug it in to a pinterest search, and you'll be amazed at the variety of goodness one of these can hold.
here's a blog devoted to all things bento.
there's even ideas for kids' lunches here.

today i packed mine with some jasmine rice, leftover tempeh and rapini from last night...and a small compartment of spicy peanut sauce that i made last weekend. come 12:30 when the smells of freshly nuked lean cuisines came wafting through the halls, i smiled knowing this little box was waiting for me in the frig downstairs. not terribly artistic in appearance, but i'm learning.

vegan day no. 3

broccoli rabe...rapini, whatever you want to call it - it's GOOD. 
a peppery-flavored (as opposed to bitter) green that you'll find often in italian recipes (remind me to share one with you for an appetizer that will make your guests forget all about the main course they were promised) but can easily be adapted to other cuisines. this one seems to veer a little further east.

spicy tempeh with broccoli rabe

here's the original recipe. the changes i made were - substituting udon for the wheat pasta and omitting the fennel and adding some nuoc gam (vietnamese dipping sauce) when serving, to make up for the flavor deficit.

here's the cubed tempeh (the udon noodles are cooking in the background)

and the sauce we will steam the tempeh cubes in (soy sauce, tomato paste, oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, veggie broth....)

so we sauté the tempeh in the sauce for a few, then cover and steam 8 minutes.

add tempeh to udon noodles in large bowl:

wipe out pan and saute rapini with some garlic until bright green, add a bit of balsamic, then add to bowl with udon and tempeh

toss...add some nuac cham, and get out your chopsticks!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

tofu salad. the one tofu recipe you MUST try.

drain your tofu

treat it like hard boiled eggs
(add mayo, mustard, dill, pickles, minced onion,  chopped celery, s&p.)

tuck some in a pita with tomato and lettuce.
better than eggs.
better for your arteries.
won't offend your office mates.

what more could you ask for?

they call these "sweet potato burgers"

i made these today after deciding to give veganism another go round (i was going to say "decided to take another stab at veganism, but somehow that just didn't sound right). please refer to the photo at the link as my sandwich is woefully assembled. you see, i was really, really hungry and there are times (albeit rare) that function trumps form. and this was one of them.
sandwich styled by a very hungry person. i.e. NOT styled

they were yummy. i put mine on a roll with garden tomatoes, avocado and dijon. daniel made his with A-1, lettuce, tomato and onion, and SWORE it tasted like a real hamburger (i have my doubts about that).

here are the basic steps in picture form:

bake potatoes
rinse beans (2 cans)

puree beans and potatoes together with seasonings

put panko in a dish
form and coat patties
saute in oil 

until golden, crispy brown on booth sides

hope you try them. black bean burgers up next....

Thursday, July 19, 2012

mac 'n five cheeses

my sister's mac 'n cheese is like no other. anyone who's had it talks of nothing else for days. so of course i asked her for the recipe - in the hopes of gaining the same accolades for myself - and learned there really wasn't one. figures. so i interrogated her about the process (béchamel-based, no eggs, always baked), what cheeses she used (always a bit of bleu) and why she avoided others (mozzarella adds little more than stringiness)....then i had to go home and try to come up with my own version. here's what followed:

i chose cavatappi pasta because it's tubular...and twisted...and grooved (thereby tripling its cheese-sauce-grabbing capabilities.) i think i've read somewhere that of the grocery store pasta varieties, de cecco is the best. 

the five cheeses i used this go-round were: fontina, gruyere, cheddar, bleu and parmesan. here they are all grated and crumbled:

i cooked the past al dente...

...made the béchamel (LOTS of béchamel as this dish needed to serve 24 people) and added the cheese (not pictured) and stirred until the cheese melted

 then i combined the pasta with the sauce 

 and stirred (gently)

 this is what it looked like before i spooned the gloppy gooey mess into casserole dishes and topped with buttered panko crumbs:

after 30 minutes in a 350-degree overn, it looked like this:

and then it was gone.

ingredient ratios

for every pound of pasta (cooked in salted water), you will need 5 cups of béchamel, and a pound and a half of cheese (i know, i know, just don't think about it.)

to make the sauce: melt 1/2 cup butter and add 3/4 cup flour. then stir and cook over med heat until slightly browned. add 5 cups milk and cook (stirring) until thickened.
add 3 T dijon, 1 t salt, 1/2 t fresh ground pepper and 1/4 t cayenne and stir some more.
now throw in your cheeses, stir until they're melted and the sauce is done!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

simple changes part II

after three (or is it nearly five) years in the same place, we decided to drag a few of the many pieces of "art" down from the attic in order to fill the blank walls in the newly dubbed "guest room".

these are pieces composed by the kids, as well as pieces connected to our past (bedtime rituals, former homes: pinnacle, overbrook, new hampshire and vermont....). 

and although i do believe blank walls are the answer to most decorating woes (in the same way that silence is golden)...these are two - of our fifty-two - that i would now deem, 'better than said gold'.




Saturday, July 7, 2012

smells like.....

last weekend i decided to plan out a week's worth of menus and post them on the frig so that ANYone could see what we were having for dinner that evening, and perhaps quite possibly begin the preparation for said meal if their schedule should allow.

(that's right, i'm just now figuring this little device out after 30+ years of cooking for our family of 10)

so i pulled this little jar of goodness out of the frig while gathering the ingredients to make a certain dish from one of the three cookbooks i keep on my shelf at all times - ('hot sour sweet salty') for its inspiration and editorial content alone - thinking it was one of those required (it wasn't. check out the dish it DOES belong to here) when one of #7's friends asked what it was...i told her it was rice powder.
then i opened the jar and we each took a sniff.
what is that??
i told her it contained not only rice, but kefir lime leaves and lemon grass.
but still we couldn't identify that familiar smell.
so i told her to go ask the others.
in less than 90 seconds she was back.

"Fruit Loops! it smells like FRUIT LOOPS!"

sure enough, it does.

ps  the "certain dish" made tonight was a winner. we made the vegetarian version and even our carnivores gobbled it up.