Friday Food. October.

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My husband put together a fabulous heavy-on-the-vegetables dish, and we had many extra vegetables, so I played around with what was left, and what wasn’t going to last much longer and this is what I came up with for one of our holiday dinners last month.

Stir Fry Vegetables.
(c)2021

I heated up a wok with olive oil until hot. I would have preferred the carrots to be a bit thinner and longer, but with my daughter cutting them, she did them her way. They still tasted good. I threw in the rest of the snap peas, and then what was left of the grape tomatoes. I sprinkled in some lemon pepper and some chopped scallions to finish it off. 10/10 would make again.


Dinner included roast beef with gravy, potato slices roasted in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and basil, the above vegetables, and sliced challah bread.

Holiday Dinner.
(c)2021

Friday Food. May.

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Friday Food. May. (c)2021

The food pictured above, left to right by columns:

1. Caramel Cake for Mother’s Day, York Peppermint Patty, Rainbow Funfetti Cake Slice (just because).

2. Unicorn Cake Pop from Starbucks, York Peppermint Patty (yum), Tiramisu.

3. Chicken Paillard with Baby Potatoes and Blood Orange Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette (a cooking night on FB with my church, Brach’s candy egg (childhood memories of this candy, which is simultaneously the best and the worst candy ever), Homemade Meatball Sub.

Friday Food. December.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to create in the kitchen, but having quarantine foisting Thanksgiving on us let me make the entire Thanksgiving dinner which I hadn’t done in years. Although to be fair, I do a similar meal for Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Christmas.

This year we did a few things differently. For several years my sweet potato pie became sweet potato casserole, so I went back to the pie version, and it was really good and brought me back in time. We ate it both as a side dish and a dessert (on different nights).

Another dish I made was a new take on my mother’s candied carrots.

Leeks and Carrots. (c)2020

Here are the basics, but use your imagination.

  • Wash the leeks thoroughly. They are like children in that they have dirt in all the spaces.
  • Melt a stick of butter in a pan. Add the leeks in and saute them for a little bit.
  • Pour in a bag of frozen baby carrots (or cut your own carrots into baby carrot size).
  • Once the carrots are defrosted, add some fresh ground pepper, and then add about 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1-2 cups of orange juice (the amount depends on the size of the pan.
  • Let it come to a boil, then lower to simmer, letting it simmer for about ten to twenty minutes. It can really stay on the low heat until the rest of dinner is ready.
  • Serve it with a slotted spoon so the plate doesn’t get too soupy.

The second dish I made just last week. We had cooked chicken tenders in the fridge and because my son cooked them, there was no spice whatsoever on the tenders.

I cut them each into threes or fours and threw them in a wok on medium, adding about half a small jar of Korean BBQ sauce.

I trimmed the ends off of fresh green beans and broke them in half, and added them to the wok, mixing the chicken and the beans until they were hot and incorporated with the sauce.

This was also a way to heat the cold chicken without the microwave. I spooned them over jasmine rice (although any type of rice that you like is the perfect rice).

Chicken, sauce, and green beans in the wok. Almost finished. (c)2020
Closeup of the serving. (c)2020

One thing I noticed in looking back, I didn’t cook either dish with oil. Oil has its place in the kitchen especially in sauteeing, but I just used the juice for the first one and the Korean sauce for the second.

As the year comes to a close, start the new year with experimenting with your food. In January, I’ll have some basics to share with you – resources that everyone can use and adapt to their own style and family.

Friday Food. Inspire. May.

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​Being home in isolation has given many of us the opportunities to cook more, enjoying old favorites, trying out some new recipes, maybe experimenting a little. Before pork became less available, we had a delicious pork loin. For some reason, I like chutney with my pork. It works as a chunky sauce or spread on a sandwich, like that. We had some oranges that needed eating, so I  made an orange chutney. It was lovely even if I was the only one who ate it.

A week or so later, we had some extra ground chuck, a blessing that is not happening this week, so I made some homemade meatballs for the next time we had pasta, an old standby for our family. After following the recipe below, I froze the meatballs, and will cook them as described at the end of the ingredient list after thawing them.

A friend of mine in Oklahoma is sending me (in about ten days time) a culinary chain letter. She’s making a starter, sending it to me, and I will be feeding it and then sharing it as well as making my own Friendship Bread. I’ve never worked with starter before, so I expect that I’ll be sharing the process with you once it arrives here.

Lastly, if you go on Twitter and follow the hashtag #RecipesForThePeople, Chef Jose Andres and his family cook very good, very simple recipes. Our family made the Angel Hair Pasta with Sauce that you can find in my COVID-19 Food post. On the Twitter hashtag, you will also see regular people like you and me (not internationally known, popular chefs) offering their own Recipes for the People.

One note: Cooking is not Baking. Baking is a science. The measurements of baking soda, powder, salt are specific for a reason. You really need to be a professional level of baker to experiment with baking in my humble opinion. I am not a baker. Cooking however can be very experimental. You’ll notice in the two recipes that follow that there aren’t any measurements. For something like these two recipes (and my meatloaf that I can share with any request at a later time) is generally a pinch, equivalent to a tablespoon. How much garlic do you like? Use a tiny bit less. If mistakes are made, it’s still good. You’ll learn what you like.

Enjoy!

Orange Chutney (see photo)

2 medium oranges, sliced, diced and crushed

Add juice from the plate to the bowl

Dried shallot powder

French peppercorns, ground

Ground cumin

Honey (about 1 TB, maybe a bit more)

1 TB Blackberry preserves

Nutmeg, grated on a microplane

Mix.

Serve over pork or chicken or spread on bread for a tasty sandwich!
Meatballs

Bread crumbs (about 1/2 cup)

Garlic

Pepper

Onion Powder

Penzeys Frozen Pizza seasoning (or use a mix of Italian spices)

In a ziploc bag, thoroughly mix these ingredients. Add fresh ground beef and mix it into the meat.

Saute meatballs in olive oil in a saucepan until brown. Add sauce (or ingredients to make your own sauce) and cook for twenty to thirty minutes.

Add to your pasta, then add a salad and a loaf of fresh bread, and you’re all set for dinner!

Friday Food – April: Recipes For The People

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Chef Jose Andres, immigrant, restauranteur, activist, and advocate started a hashtag on Twitter during this quarantine: #RecipesForThePeople. He’s been posting recipes along with videos of he and his daughters cooking, showing how easy cooking for your family can be. It can also be fun, and a way to get closer to your family. One of the first recipes that I saw was Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. According to Chef Jose, it takes less than four minutes to make, and so I got the ingredients I was missing (we already had most of these basic ingredients in our pantry) when I went to the grocery store for my next scheduled trip, and had my son help me make it, along with help from Chef Jose himself (through Twitter-video!)

It was amazing!

It was fast; it was easy.

The whole family loved it!

You can find the link (along with his and others’ recipes) as part of the Food, Isolation Style post, but I will also include the direct link to his Twitter here with a list of the ingredients.

Chef Jose Andres’ 3 1/2 minute Angel Hair Pasta

Ingredients:

1 box (16oz) angel hair pasta

1 bag fresh spinach

Olive oil

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 large cans crushed tomatoes

Salt, pepper, sugar to taste

A larger pan than I used initially – LOL

My version of Chef Jose Andres’ 3 1/2 minute Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. (c)2020

Food, Isolation Style (Updated 4/29/20)

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Some people on Twitter, like Luis Miranda, Jr. and Chef Jose Andres have been sharing recipes online, and I will be sharing the two that I have plus adding to this post with others. I have several of my own recipes on the website; just put “recipe” in the search box and see what comes up.

First some tips that we are using in our house.

Wash fruits and vegetables really well. You should also wash the fruits that have peels that you won’t be eating because it still may have something on the outside that you don’t want on your hands or in your body.

Wash your utensils before food preparation.

Wash your hands, and then wash them again. It is equally important to dry your hands thoroughly. This is also a good year round practice.

Separate your meat, vegetable, and bread cutting boards. This is something you should do year round when there isn’t a global pandemic going on.

Grocery Stores are the Coronavirus Tipping Point

How You Should Get Food During the Pandemic (published by The Atlantic on March 14, 2020)

No, You Don’t Need to Disinfect Your Groceries. But Here’s How to Shop Safely

How to Freeze Vegetables While Preserving their Best Qualities

Hot to Make Substitutions for Spices, Herbs, Dairy, and Meat in Your Everyday Cooking

How Long are those Condiments in Your Fridge and Pantry Supposed to Last?

How Long Your Fresh Produce Will Really Last

Clicking graphic takes you to the source link.

Luis Miranda’s Mother’s Recipe for Pound Cake

Chef Jose Andres’ Recipe and Video for Fried Rice

“A Little Snack” from Chef Jose Andres using seaweed, rice, and Spanish anchovies

Chef Jose Andres #Recipesforallofus: 3 1/2 minute angel hair pasta in tomato sauce (I’m making this later in the week!)

Chef Jose Andres #Recipesforallofus: Sugar Omelettes

Chef Jose Andres Chicken and Cauliflower

Chef Jose Andres Brisket & Eggs (leftovers in the Andres’ house)

Chef Jose Andres Canned Green Pea FrittersChef Jose Andres Pasta, Eggplant, and Chickpeas

Chef Jose Andres Vegetable Lasagna (onions, eggplant, zucchini)

Chef Jose Andres’ Sausage and Cabbage

Chef Jose Andres’ Leftover Chicken with Vegetables

Chef Jose Andres’ Tuna Melt (of Sen. Mark Warner)

Chef Jose Andres Classic Spanish dish – “Migas” that uses old bread. Chef has added chorizo and grapes

Navajo Fry Bread

Crock Pot Lemon Italian Chicken with Capers

Hot Crash Potatoes

Chicken, Potatoes, and Green Beans Dinner (one pan. I made this and it was delicious!)

Disney’s Churros

Disney’s Dole Whip

Disney’s Cookie Fries

How to Cook a Ronto Wrap (Galaxy Edge at Home. YouTube Video)

Ikea’s Swedish Meatball Recipe

Apple Fritters

Three Ingredient Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies (perfect for lockdown)

Scone Recipe

Homemade Pizza Dough

Armadillo Cheesy Garlic Bread from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings Cookbook [posted with permission]

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Found this on Facebook when my sister shared it. It’s meant for camping and to do over a campfire, but I’m planning on doing this with my kids in the oven next week! I’ll show you how it turns out after! (c)2020

If you don’t have yeast, this seems like a good substitute. I got this from a Gish group on Facebook. If you know who to credit, please let me know. (c)2020

Easter Out!

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​Since my mother-in-law passed away, except for Thanksgiving which we spend with my sister-in-law’s family, we spend every holiday at home. We eventually get the dining room table cleaned off. We add a pretty table runner. No one drinks out of a can. Phones get confiscated, kind of. Each meal has its own traditions: Rosh Hashanah is roast chicken, challah bread, yams, apples. Halloween is pizza. Christmas is roast beef, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, caramelized onions, peas & carrots, dinner rolls, one year we had Yorkshire pudding. New Year’s are appetizers as is the Super Bowl. St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef and cabbage, mashed potatoes and carrots and of course, Irish soda bread. Passover is chicken, potato pancakes, carrots, matzo ball soup, matzo and butter, sometimes gefilte fish and/or chopped liver. Easter is roast turkey or chicken, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, carrots, and dinner rolls. We seem to eat a lot of carrots, don’t we?

Our oven hasn’t worked consistently for over six months. We got very lucky for Christmas that it did indeed work and we were able to eek out a delicious Christmas dinner as well as our yearly birthday cheesecake for my son. A few weeks ago we tried to bake cornbread as a side dish to something that I can’t quite remember. After the apportioned hour, it was still gooey. The oven, which had been set for 350 was only about 200 degrees warm, which was not enough to cook it. I scoured Facebook for directions on how long to microwave the cornbread and dinner was saved, but not before realizing we were going to have a problem.

From then on, we have been using our crock pot. Lasagna, meatloaf, roast (not quite roast but fully cooked and tasty) chicken. I intend to try bread in it, but I don’t have the energy quite yet, and either way, it’s Passover for the rest of the week.

On the Monday after Palm Sunday, I told my husband that it was decision time, so what would it be – fix the oven before Good Friday or eat out on Easter? He would fix the oven. He did his research online, found the part he thought was the problem, and went to order it. He thought it was twelve dollars; it turned out it was fifty. We already know we’re going to need to replace this oven in the near future. We’re waiting on a tax refund to see if it’s doable or if we need to go another year on crock pot/stove top meals (which have been working out okay to be honest, if a little more time consuming). We decided to eat out.

My oldest son would come home in the early morning from work before he went to sleep and then back to his next shift for our annual Easter egg hunt. I know they’re old, but they all play along and they get some candy, and I get some pictures and everyone has a fun time and some sugar high donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast. Then we’d nap and have dinner much later.

It felt weird from the moment we decided it. Would any place even be open? I know that Dunkin’ Donuts is open, and several places do a we’ll make the meal, you heat it, but we ignored the situation for a day or so more.Then I got two emails – Applebee’s was open as was Texas Roadhouse for Easter dinner. Hmm…not exactly what we were looking for, but who knows?

We finally settled on Cracker Barrel. We thought that would be the closest to eating at home. We’d allow everyone to get dessert if they liked to make it a little more special than a regular dinner out. I even got a salad. I also mandated no phones at the table. That worked for the most part. Not perfect, but what dinner ever is?

It was a lovely change of pace. I enjoyed it, and I’d consider doing it again, but I don’t know that I’d want to make it a tradition, but it worked out for everyone, and I was actually surprised how busy they were. I thought brunch time wold be busy, but we were there just before traditional dinner time, at around four in the afternoon, and it was busy. No one was waiting but it was crowded and the waitresses were constantly on the move. On our drive there, I was alos surprised at how many other restaurants were open and their parking lots relatively full: Friendly’s, TGIFriday’s, Panera Bread. Starbucks drive-theough was still buzzing, although the supermarket was closed and its parking lot was empty.

All in all, a grateful Easter celebration with most of the family.

It was actually kind of relaxing.

Happy Easter!

The Red Apron

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​What’s the one item in your kitchen you can’t possibly cook without? A spice, your grandma’s measuring cup, instant ramen — what’s your magic ingredient, and why?

From The Daily Post on WordPress

So many things that pop into my head with this question, this prompt.

The one thing I probably always, always, always use when I am cooking is my apron. I was never a fan of aprons. I thought they were old-fashioned and silly and ridiculous looking. They are also one size fits all, and one size almost never fits me. I would never wear an apron.

I think I’m conflating two or three Thanksgivings that we hosted. I picture different apartments, different guests, but I also seem to recall only cooking Thanksgiving on my own once. We moved away from our families, about two hundred fifty miles – lower cost of living, not as crowded, and while we usually returned home for some of the holidays, this one year we did not. 

I don’t know what made me buy the apron. In addition to it being one size fits all, it was red; my least favorite color.

A red apron. It was probably literally one of the last things I would ever own, let alone buy.

I first time I used it, it was smooth, and tied easily around my back. I adjusted the neck, and stuck my hands in the large double pockets in the front. I still thought I looked ridiculous, but hey, it was Thanksgiving – wasn’t I supposed to wear an apron as part of the festivities?

I began to cook. I don’t remember what we made other than a very huge turkey that barely fit in our small apartment sized oven. I’m sure there were mashed potatoes and a vegetable. There was probably a sweet potato pie – my favorite and this long ago I probably also followed the recipe more closely, so it was near perfect to my friend’s who taught it to me.

What I do remember is unconsciously wiping my dirty hands on my apron, and after two more times and some long minutes, I realized what I was doing, and I was never more grateful for a kitchen item in my life. That apron saved my clothes.

It was then that I realized that this one size fits all that never fits, actually went a little bit around my hips protecting my dark pants as well.

I nodded my head, and grinned, and I was really glad that I bought this red apron.

In the years since then, that apron gives me the illusion of being a cook. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am actually a good cook. I do food good. Breads. Sweet breads. Ginger cookies. I’m terrible at baking, which is why none of my kids get a homemade birthday cake except my middle guy – he loves cheesecake and asks for it every year, so that’s win-win for everyone.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve left my watch in the pocket; or my wedding rings from baking bread from scratch or my cell phone. The pockets are even big enough to hold my kindle that I use for some of the recipes.

I have actually brought that apron on vacation with me. I’ve brought it to my mother-in-law’s for Thanksgiving dinner to help out in the kitchen. I made three trips to visit friends – once to Denver and twice to Williamsburg, Virginia, and I brought it and used it both times. The first time I also brought frozen ginger snap cookie dough to make when I got there. After the last time, I wore it to polish silver for our special, fancy dinner, and it changed the color of my red apron in some places.

I was sad, but I can’t bear to get rid of it or replace it. After three years, it seems to have gained character from the stain.

The last time I wore it was probably Christmas dinner just a few weeks ago. Roast beef, butter, sticky marshmallows, and I think I spilled a soda.

I’m really glad I had that apron on.

50-8 – Summer in the City

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Then and House Rules for Now.

I have one very distinct memory of childhood that doesn’t come from a picture or someone else’s recollection. I am in a very small square kitchen with a few other kids – I want to say a bunch, but a bunch seems too many. We are standing around a small white stove – gas, of course, and there is an adult, but for the life of me I can’t remember which adult it was. I don’t think it was my mother or my grandmother so it may have been a neighbor or the neighbor of a friend. We wandered in those days. Someone was always watching and even if you couldn’t see them or if you didn’t know them, they knew you and your parents and your parents always found out.

The stove was next to a back door and just outside the backdoor was a strip of asphalt or more accurately a cement walkway between the door and the rest of the house, and a patch of grass. There may have been a fence, but that is less clear to me.

We’re standing around the stove, not too close, and the mom whoever she was, and yes, she was a mom, was wearing pants and a turtleneck. The whole scene is colorful in my mind, but I don’t see physical colors; I just know they are there.

The stove is lit with that blue flame that comes up from the pilot and the gas, and the tin foil of the Jiffy Pop is expanding exponentially. The pops popping faster and faster until the foil splits and the popcorn is ready. I know we had red juice to drink, probably Hi-C or more likely Hawaiian Punch Fruit Punch. To this day, whenever my kids are at a party and that is the drink of choice, I always steal some and it tastes just like summer in the city, eight or so years old, running out the back door with a cup spilling over our hands and the other hand carrying as much popcorn as is humanly possible.

My kids saw Jiffy Pop once and it was a fandom thing, but I might have to get one for this summer. They know precisely how to make microwave popcorn and for them that is their pop-popping memory, but there is something about the foil splitting that says it’s ready that really has all the feels.

As a kid, we were never the Kool-Aid house. We lived in a court so if the kids wanted anything they went home for a minute or two.

When I had kids, I wanted to be the Kool-Aid house, but that lasted all of three minutes. I babysat for a couple of kids when my son was young, and they were great kids. Really. But every time they would jump on my furniture, not a constant jumping, but a normal, excited, jump, once, no big deal, it would make me crazy. I had to walk away so as not to yell at them because even though I didn’t realize it was an anxiety thing, I knew that what they were doing was appropriate for their age. It just bothered me, and most of the time, I bit my lip and let them be kids, but it was hard for me. I know that some of that comes from my mother having a “formal” living room with plastic on the furniture that even when company was over, we weren’t allowed to sit on. That was for company. And so despite none of my apartments having a den, I still felt that my living room was more for adults than kids. We kept glass out, and decor because my son was really good about not getting into things. Other kids, though… And his brother and sister when they came along had no concept of don’t touch, don’t drop, don’t, don’t, don’t.

We’re always cluttered. We have toys and magazines and comic books and hair ties all over the place. We live in our house even if sometimes we feel claustrophobic from all the disarray. We’ve gotten most of it under control for my son’s girlfriend to visit – the dreaded popover. My daughter has a friend who lives a few houses down. He came by and didn’t knock but waited patiently for someone to hear the screen door open. He’s done that three times already. The other day, it happened: “Can I give M some water?” Sure. “Can M use the bathroom?” Um…okay. And so it begins. With or without the fruit punch, we might be the Kool Aid house after all; for at least one friend. It must be time for –

HOUSE. RULES.

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Happy Pesach

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Passover begins at sundown this evening. Some years there are conflicts. We travel to my mother-in-law’s more often than not for Easter or right before Easter when the kids are on recess, and so we’ll only observe Passover for part of the eight days. Even after my baptism, we continue to celebrate.

This year Easter was early and we aren’t able to travel to Grandma’s for recess because my oldest son is in school and working two and a half jobs so timing didn’t work out for visiting.

However, we will be home for the entirety of Passover.

To be truthful, I hadn’t really decided to celebrate/observe until I was in the grocery store shopping. I was supposed to get a roasting chicken and potato pancake mix for tonight’s dinner, but I could feel the D-A (depression/anxiety) clueing me in that it was going to be difficult to me for this holiday.

While I want to do Passover (even if we don’t usually do a seder), I could not feel the cooking.

I looked through my wallet and found the raincheck for chicken tenders. I heard the lightbulb click in my head; over my head.

Fake it.

No roast chicken, no standing over a stove frying latkes (we eat more latkes during Passover than during Chanukah), and that’s it. Fake it.

Chicken tenders, frozen potato pancakes, can of cranberry sauce, matzoh. Lunch – gefilte fish.

I can do this.

My point is simply that there are ways to get around those pokes that depression uses to try and bring you to lethargy and apathy. It isn’t a fail safe. There will be depressive moments. There will be times when you have to ask for family for more patience and support, but when it’s important, try. That’s all you can ask yourself.

I wanted to celebrate Passover. It’s important to me to continue these traditions, for my kids to understand their Exodus from Egypt. Even before the Eucharist, I’ve always talked about Passover in the present.

Why do we celebrate Passover, I’ve been asked. We were slave, and we’re leaving Egypt. We’re escaping. We’re crossing the Red Sea. We carry the matzoh with us. It’s happening in the past, the future, and now. it is within and without time.

History and heritage are important.

So is dinner.

Food is the lifeblood of culture and family.

Sometimes depression gets the best of me, but it can never win because I keep fighting, I keep moving forward, I keep keeping on.

I fake it unhtil I don’t have to anymore, and then I fake it again, but I keep going.

Happy Pesach.