“Friday” Food. June. Summer Salad

Standard
Summer Salad, photo taken by my daughter. (c)2020

I’ve put Friday in quotation marks since today is Wednesday and this Friday Food is a few weeks late. It didn’t seem appropriate to continue with business as usual last week. I’m slowly returning to writing and publishing.

I mentioned in my recent quarantine and baking piece that my daughter had some assignments from her FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class during the remote learning part of the school year. In my day, I say in my best Grandpa Walton voice, we had Home Economics and we cooked and sewed aprons. Same, she replied.

The recipe she wrote, shopped for and prepared was this delicious Summer Salad. She may have called it Strawberry Chicken Salad, but I can’t remember. It was easy and overall not too expensive. I let her get whatever she wanted for it since it was a school project and didn’t complain about the price. Besides, once she took her photos, she would be serving it to the rest of the family for lunch, much better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or frozen waffles that we usually scrounge up during the week.

Ingredients and Directions:

1 pkg. boneless, skinless chicken tenders. Cook in a skillet with olive or peanut oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, no more than 1 tsp. of each.

1 head of lettuce or 1 bag of mixed greens

1 container of grape tomatoes

(You can add one cucumber, but I honestly can’t remember if we did. I happen to love cucumbers!)

1 lb. strawberries

1 pint blueberries

Freshly shaved parmesan cheese

Croutons

Dressing – I chose honey mustard. (My daughter actually doesn’t use any dressing.)

Mix the salad together, add your favorite dressing and enjoy a light and satisfying lunch!

Enjoy!

Is It Really Quarantine If You’re Not Baking Bread?

Standard

About a week into quarantine, I told my kids that we’d make bread. They groaned. We had all the ingredients – at our first grocery run before isolation I got a bag each of flour and sugar. I don’t know why; it just felt like a staple I needed like milk, bread, and eggs. I just thought I should have it in the house as if I were Ma Ingalls and baked fresh bread every morning (which I do not).

The next week, I said it again. Hey kids, do either of you have any FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) class assignments? Let’s bake bread. They groaned. We did not bake bread.

Another week went by and my daughter asked to go to the supermarket; she had an assignment that she needed to prepare and photograph and submit for FACS. I cheered. We’ll bake bread! No, she said after she groaned; I’m making a grilled chicken salad. Fine, I said, but you need to make enough for all of us to eat lunch. She groaned again.

I watched people all over Twitter and Facebook baking bread. Some used regular rising yeast, some used self-rising flour, some used starters, mostly sourdough starter, a lot made banana bread. A lot. Why were my kids immune to the call of the fresh smell of baking bread. Sure, I could have made it on my own, but we can buy bread. I didn’t need fresh bread. I hated the kneading, and my dough was never smooth like in the photos or on the Food Network, and I wanted it to be a family project. Me and the kids, measuring and watching the dough rising, kneading like we used to do with playdoh, and then baking it at three hundred fifty degrees for thirty to forty minutes. Why wouldn’t they cooperate?

Five years ago, I would have had them. They’d put on the too-big aprons and they’d get flour on their faces, and they’d burn their fingers trying to pull bits of bread right when it came out of the oven. Five years is a long time in kid ages. My two youngest are fourteen and fifteen, and they had no interest in baking bread with Mommy.

We have to, I said more than once. Everyone is baking bread. Everyone, I whispered. Is it really quarantine if we’re not baking bread? They looked at me in that way that teenagers look at their parents – the face that is partly pity and partly embarrassment; and not of you, but for you. I let them walk away.

We were cooking at least I thought with a shrug. We made pasta, Chef Jose Andres‘ Angel hair with tomato sauce (he called it pomodoro), chicken Alfredo, meatloaf, homemade meatballs, lasagna, roast chicken, pork in orange sauce, even my own leek and potato soup.

And still no bread.

Until….

I have a friend in Oklahoma who made a starter and offered it to her friends, like a chain letter. You get the starter, you grow it, and then, after ten days, you bake your bread, and you share the rest with your friends leaving one cup for you to continue the starter or freeze it for when you’re ready. for more Hmm, I thought, sure why not.

About two weeks later, a small postal box arrived at my doorstop. My starter was here! This was day one, and the directions couldn’t have been easier: do nothing.

I can do nothing.

For ten days, I mix the starter in the bag and I feed it twice. At the second feeding it’s ready to divide and use.

I put on my red apron, I got covered with flour because really what choice did I have – that stuff gets everywhere! One of the best parts of this type of bread is that apart from the starter, I already had every ingredient in my house.

I mixed it smooth. There is no kneading; it has a batter consistency and it poured into the loaf pan easily. I covered it with cinnamon sugar, although I feel as though in the end I should have mixed the sugar with butter to give it a streusel-style topping. I will try that when I make this the next time, and I will definitely add my results in here with an update (but not for awhile). I baked the bread on Wednesday, and I still have a full half of a loaf left. I think my family hasn’t figured out where the bread is or it would be gone already.

Apart from the community of what seems like the entire world baking bread simultaneously, the act of baking the bread is its own therapy. It brings out the homesteading, the nurturing, the nesting that just naturally happens in days of trauma, especially this shared trauma we’ve been facing. This feels different, though, maybe not as natural as other moments, and there is a level of stress and an undercurrent of fear sitting on the surface; the unknown that awaits. Like a rising tide lifts all boats, bread rising is an act of faith. You can follow the directions, mix all the ingredients, knead and rise, and it works or it doesn’t. Sweet breads are a little different, but there is still the wonder of making something from your hands and then sharing that with the people around you, whether that is physically with your family or here online with the people who make up our community.

I got the starter and I followed the directions. I added the ingredients. I mixed. I poured. I spread. I baked.

It hadn’t taken much for the house to smell like a bakery. A little cinnamon and vanilla goes a long way. The smells combined with each other – the cinnamon mixed in with the vanilla – and then it spread throughout the entire house until it was just there; it was consoling, comforting. It calmed. It’s quiet work reassured that things are okay and if they’re not okay right now, they will be. They will be.

Twenty-twenty’s been a year, hasn’t it? We’ll get through it in our own ways and yet still together.

It will take time, but we’ll be okay.

And there will always be bread.

For anyone who wants to make this bread, this is the link for the ingredients and directions as well as a few photos from my baking venture.

Friday Food – April: Recipes For The People

Standard

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

Memorial Day BBQ – BBQ Chicken

Standard

We made this a couple of times in the past few months. I sauteed them, but I think they’d be great on the grill.


Recipe:

Mix the following ingredients together in a bowl:

About 1 cup of BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

1 TB Apple Cider Vinegar

2 TB Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup Brown sugar

2 tsp Orange Peel


Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Mix in some of the BBQ mixture, the amount is to your liking.

Saute the chicken tenders until fully cooked. I personally like them a little burned.

They came out wonderfully, moist on the inside, a little crispy on the edges.

Enjoy your summer!

National Tea Month (Jan) – Masala Chai

Standard

​Masala Chai is a black tea brewed with a variety of spices, and varies depending on the person making and drinking the chai. The word chai is simply the Chinese word for tea, although Western tea drinkers will often refer to this drink as Chai Tea or Chai Tea Latte, which is more than a little redundant.

Masala chai is originally from India and its surrounding environs.

There is no standard recipe for masala chai although all have four basic ingredients:

  • milk
  • sugar
  • cardamom
  • ginger

The recipe I used was adapted from this DIY Chai Spice Mix recipe and in addition to milk, sugar, cardamom, and ginger listed above, I also included allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

I put all of the fresh, whole spices into a blender and once they were blended and mixed, I added any powdered spices that I had. I followed the ratios of the recipe above.

My brewing recipe was as follows:

2 cups of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the masala chai mix, 3 black tea tea bags (you can also use loose tea, whatever your preference). I set the saucepan to medium and brought it slowly to a boil, stirring occasionally. One word of advice would be to cut off the strings from the tea bag. This may let the tea loose, but I found some bits of string slightly caramelized with the sugar, so I would avoid that next time.

Once the tea was boiling, I poured it into a Pyrex measuring cup and poured it through a tea strainer into a mug. There was a lot of sediment between the spices and the loose tea, but the strainer did its job and it was a delicious, warm cup of spicy tea for a cold, winter morning.

Masala Chai: Top, L-R: 1. Homemade chai spice mixture, 2. Putting all the ingredients in the saucepan on medium, 3. Just after boiling; Bottom, L-R: 4. Pouring into the Pyrex, 5. Pouring through tea strainer into the mug, 6. The final look in the mug. Mmm, delicious. (c)2019


– – –

A second method of brewing would be to make your tea as usual. Steep your tea bag, and add 1/2 tsp (or your preferred amount) of chai masala powder with any sweetener you like (or leave out the sweetener). Stir well and I would still pour through a strainer.

December – Holiday Season – Recipe

Standard

Cranberry Cheese Spread

I experiemented with this earlier in the year, and decided to have it for breakfast, spread on a croissant last week, and it was delicious. I think it works well as a breakfast spread or as an appetizer/snack on crackers or as a dip for breadsticks, pretzels or vegetables.

Ingredients:

1 cup softened or whipped cream cheese

1/4 cup craisins

Directions:

Mix until incorporated.

Options: To make a dip or larger amount, use the entire container of 16oz. whipped cream cheese (or softened 8oz. block) and add in 1 cup (or your preference) of craisins. Incorporate thoroughly. Chives can also be added for a different, delicious flavor.

Cranberry Cheese Spread. Recipe above. (c)2018

November – Gratitude – Recipe

Standard

The original of this recipe was as a pie, directly from a colleague who was born and raised in New Orleans. Sweet Potato Pie is a traditional Southern dessert, very similar to pumpkin pie, although I think a little bit sweeter. I was on a trip to Virginia a couple of years ago, and was ecstatic to find a sweet potato pie in the local McDonald’s alongside their apple pies. It was amazing! Even years later, I miss it in my northeast home.

My mother could not grasp the idea that this pie was dessert or that it is typically eaten chilled. For her, it was a side dish and that’s what it became in our house for Thanksgiving.

Over the years I’ve changed it, and sometimes when I can’t find the extra large Keebler graham cracker crust I will make it as a casserole. That is the recipe that I’m going to share with you this November.

I know that this is a fall type food, but I will eat this all year round.

​Sweet Potato Casserole

This started out as a pie, but then I got a little lazy, and it became a casserole. It is still pretty awesome!

Ingredients:

1 lg can of yams or sweet potatoes

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 bag of mini marshmallows

Directions:

1. Cook the yams on the stovetop. When hot, drain and return the yams to the saucepan and mash.

2. Add the stick of butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and mix thoroughly either by hand or with a mixer.

3. Transfer the smooth yams to a casserole dish. Cover with the marshmallows.

4. Bake in an oven at 350° for thirty-five minutes or until marshmallows are golden brown.

5. Serve as a side dish. Yummy.

October – Fall into Halloween – Recipe – Quiche

Standard

Apart from a hearty soup or stew, chicken or turkey pot pie, or creamy mac & cheese, I find quiche to be a really great, warm, easy to eat, easy to make comfort food. I think the common link of comfort foods is softness. Something you can savor and hold on your tongue without changing the consistency or the taste. Quiche is like that.

I’ve adapted this over the years, but the original recipe that I started with came from The Kitchen Survival Guide by Lora Brody. We bought this book when we first got married, and it was wonderful for teaching all the kitchen basics that neither of us knew anything about.

After putting either a non-stick spray or greasing the (8×8 or 9×9 square glass) pan with butter, there are different bases that can go on the bottom of the quiche. The original recipe called for bread. During Passover, I’ve used two layers of matzo, and just last week, I used two layers of Ritz crackers. So be creative, and use what you and your family enjoy.

I’ve also mixed all the ingredients and poured them over the base and I’ve layered each ingredient and then poured the egg mixture over. I think I prefer the layered version.

Put diced or chunked onions on the base. (1 onion)

Cover the onions with the cheese. I like cheddar, monterey jack, colby jack, mozarella. Any of those individually or any of them mixed with each other. (Use about 8oz. of cheese or how much you like.)

Put spinach over the cheese. If you use the frozen box of spinach, drain it well. You can use the whole box.

Combine 8 eggs (the original recipe called for six), 2 cups milk, 1 tsp. salt, 1 TB pepper. (You can add 2 tsp. garlic powder if you like that extra flavor and/or 1 TB dill weed).

Mix with a fork or whisk.

Pour over the layers.

Put the quiche in the refrigerator for one hour.

After one hour, put into an oven preheated to 325° and bake for 40 minutes. If you like the top a little more well done, you can leave it in for another five minutes or so.

Serve hot with salad or biscuits (or any bread/roll that you prefer.)

July: Sum Sum Summer: Recipe

Standard

Homemade Popsicles. (c)2018

One way to have fun and beat the heat is to make homemade popsicles. We tried this earlier in the week, and it was fun as well as refreshing.

I bought the popsicle makers for 99¢ at Wal-Mart. I’m going back for another one, maybe two. They’re an easy to use contraption. You could also use ice cube trays or silicone ice trays in different shapes. We found mini watermelon shapes in the dollar section at Target.

The flavors we used were Simply Lemonade with Raspberry, and Hawaiian Punch Fruit Punch. The latter is a favorite of mine from childhood. I almost never drink it because it’s just too sweet, but it has the perfect fruit punch taste, and it reminds me of being a kid in the summer heat.

What fruit juices or drinks do you recommend for freezing into popsicles?

June: School’s Out: Recipe

Standard

​For the past several summers, my kids have enjoyed taste testing. They’ve already asked about it this year, and school isn’t quite finished yet. I would go to the supermarket and pick out three to five new foods to try, usually exotic fruits that they didn’t typically get on a regular basis. I’d only get one of each and cut them into pieces for each of us to have a taste. If we really liked something, we’d go back to the store for more.

This is truly a great summer activity. Try new foods, offer healthy choices, add to our vocabulary, increase kitchen skills, and tick another day off the countdown back to school. At this age, the kids join me about halfway through wanting to return to their friends and schedules.

Not everything will go over well. My son desperately wanted anchovies. We ordered a pizza with two slices only with anchovies. The picture of his face is priceless and still makes me laugh. Just mentioning the word anchovy makes his whole face scrunch up. He did not like them at all.

Here is a list (below the cut) of some of the things we’ve tried, some we’re still thinking about fot this year, and suggestions for your own taste test day.

Continue reading