Thursday, December 16, 2010

what's cookin'

Okay, so posting recipes weekly was yet another idea emerging from my diluted sense of time. Fostering a more realistic relationship with the big T is my resolution for the coming year, and yet I am realistic enough (or cynical?) to know that it'll take more than one year to overcome 26 years of unpunctuality, procrastination, over-commitment, under-sleep, etc.

In case anyone was holding his or her breath, though, here are a few recipes I've tried lately:
-baked spaghetti squash
-potluck picnic dinner (potatoes, beans, etc.)
-pumpkin muffins
-creamy potato crab soup
-Thanksgiving leftover casserole
-cranberry pesto
-stuffing frittata
-leftover deluxe squash soup
-Kristin's minestrone
-zucchini pie
-plantain pancakes
-pumpkin pasta
-soba with peso and tofu

Spaghetti Squash (did anybody else miss for most of your life the connection between its name and its perfect ability to replace pasta with veggies? another wonder food revelation.)

-half and seed squash, bake at 350 30-45 min 'til desired texture (I'm not a big fan of al dente so I bake mine closer to 45 min)
-scrape squash strands out with a fork and toss with chopped artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh spinach, and cashew sauce

T3, El3, Er2, Ch3

Cashew Sauce

Blend the following:
-1 c soymilk (or almond, rice, etc.)
-1/3 c raw, unsalted cashews
-1/4 c nutritional yeast (I bought mine in the bulk bin area of Sprouts/Sunflower)
-3 T Braggs Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
-2 T melted butter

T2 (although it gets extra credit for being mostly raw), El3, Er2, Ch2

Potluck Picnic dinner: mashed sweet potatoes (I just boil the living daylights out of them and bring on the butter-- perfection!), crockpot beans, cabbage salad, cornbread muffins

Baked Beans

Put the following in a crockpot until they're yummy (the recipe included instructions for the long process of using dried beans, but I used canned so really you could throw it all in a pot and heat until warm) :
-3 c dried beans (I think I used 3-4 cans of beans, plus one of green beans)
-2 1/2 c veggie or chicken broth
-1/2 T salt
-1 6 oz can tomato paste
-1/2 c molasses
-2 T dry mustard
-2 cloves garlic
-1 chopped, sauteed onion

T3, El3, Er2, Ch3

Cabbage Salad

-1 small head cabbage, shredded
-1 carrot, shredded
-1 green pepper, chopped
-1 small red onion, chopped (this is WAY too much for me-- I maybe used 1/4 of an onion and still found it overwhelming, but I guess it just depends on your tolerance of raw onions)

Combine the following and mix into cabbage salad:
-3 T mayo
-2 T apple cider vinegar
-1 T sugar
-1/4 t salt
-4 slices bacon, crumbled (I omitted this, but surely it would've made a tasty addition)

T2 (nice and light, but the only "mayo" I had was Miracle Whip which is so awful that I found it distracting and couldn't truly enjoy the other ingredients), El2, Er1, Ch1

Kristin's Whole-Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Combine dry and then wet and then throw them together, let sit for one hour, and then bake at 400 for 20 minutes

-2 c sugar
-3 c whole wheat flour
-1 1/2 t baking powder
-1 t baking soda
-1 t salt
-1/2 cloves or allspice
-1 t cinnamon
-1 t nutmeg

-1/2 c oil
-3 eggs
-1 1/2 c pumpkin puree or 15 oz can
-1/2 c water
-1 c raisins (I omitted these this time)

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3 (this was such a yummy dessert to us-- we popped them like cookies)

Thanksgiving Casserole in Fried tortillas

(Get Martha's Green Bean Casserole recipe here.)

Okay, this is silly to post as a recipe because only the week after Thanksgiving would any of us have these dishes lying around, but honestly this concoction left an indelible impression on my food memory-- such the perfect combo of flavors-- that I must record it for my own sake.

Thanksgiving casserole was simply an effort to clean out tupperwares of leftovers: green bean casserole, turkey, corn, mashed sweet potatoes, and a little mashed potatoes and gravy all made their way into a dish and baked until bubbly. They were all delish prior to being combined, and even yummier after. I spread tortillas with cranberry pesto and filled them with this casserole and then pan fried them in coconut oil until browned. ARRRRHHG! So good.

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Cranberry Pesto

Nobody eats leftover cranberry sauce, right? Nobody even eats fresh cranberry sauce, right? Somehow I still felt obligated to make some, and thus pesto was born of the remnants.

In a food processor, pulse
-1/2 cup cranberry sauce
-1/3 cup grated Parmesan
-1/3 cup toasted walnuts
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1 or 2 chopped cloves of garlic until just combined
- season with salt and pepper
Use as a dip for chips; toss with hot rice, pasta, or roasted potatoes; or spread onto leftover turkey sandwiches.

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Stuffing Frittata

(Get Martha's Cornbread Sourdough Stuffing recipe here.)

We had an enormous vat of leftover stuffing that received no attention from impulse eaters for several days. Oprah to the rescue! Here's her recipe for stuffing frittata.

In a large ovenproof skillet, sauté 4 packed cups (about 1 bunch) chopped Swiss chard (I used kale and collard greens, ain't no thang) in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine chard with 3 cups stuffing and 3 eggs; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet over medium heat, add stuffing mixture, and spread out evenly. Cook, shaking the skillet from time to time to ensure frittata isn't sticking, until golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes, then place skillet in a 400° oven until frittata is firm, 10 minutes more.

Loosen around the edges, then invert onto a plate. Serve with lemon wedges. (I didn't think it needed lemon cuz already so flavorful and moist and wonderful)

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Squash Soup

I used my very last Thanksgiving leftovers (roasted acorn squash slices) to make a simple soup by pureeing with chicken broth and throwing in all sorts of fun leftovers from my fridge, like pesto and other veggies (before blending). A big splash of coconut oil is essential, in my opinion, in transforming it from baby food into a rich, gourmet soup.

Kristin's Minestrone

-1 c dry white beans (I used one can)
-7 c water (I just added water to desired thickness since my beans didn't need soaking)
-1 c carrots
-2 c cabbage
-1 clove garlic
-1/2 c frozen peas
-1 can green beans, rinsed and drained
-1 can tomatoes, with liquid
-4 oz pasta
-2 t salt
-1 t basil
-2 t parsley
-3 T cream
-3 T parmesan cheese
-2 T butter
-2 T olive oil

I loved using those last four ingredients-- see, I am not afraid of fat, as long as it is a whole food fat, and a little of each goes a long way when used together. Yum!

T3, El3, Er2, Ch3

Zucchini Frittata

Sautee until soft:
-1/2 cup julienned sweet red pepper
-1/2 cup chopped onion
-garlic cloves
-2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

Combine in bowl:
-3 eggs
-1/2 cup milk
-1 lb thinly sliced zucchini, or veggie of choice
-1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
-1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper

-Combine it all in skillet, cover and cook 7-10 minutes until set and serve in wedges

T2, El2, Er1, Ch1 (truthfully, I threw in many more veggies than the recipe called for, so the egg and cheese kind of disappeared... I just never learn!)

Plantain Omelets

-If plantains are still firm, score skins and boil 20 min, then remove peels before mashing. Mine were so ripe that I peeled them and they mashed just like bananas-- procrastinating saved me a step!

-4 mashed plantains (or green bananas)
-1/2 c spelt flour or whatever whole grain flour you have
-1 t baking powder

-the recipe instructs me to roll them into balls and then flatten into pancakes, but my dough was WaaaaaaaaaY too sticky so I just dropped dollops onto the coconut oil-greased griddle and served them for dinner as "banana pancakes" with hot pink smoothie sauce. My kids were in heaven, completely ignorant to the fact that I'd conned them into eating fruits and veggies for dinner once again. (I've also been adding red cabbage and red bell pepper to my pink smoothies with no compromise to the flavor.)

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Boil 2 c chopped fresh pumpkin (or one can) for 15 min 'til tender; reserve 2 c water. Blend pumpkin with that 2 c reserved water and set aside.

-10 cloves garlic (Seriously, this is not overdoing it at all-- too often a garlic clove gets tragically lost to our taste buds but not today! I sautee this many cloves for most recipes and it complements other flavors perfectly.)
-2-4 T butter or oil
-20 sage leaves (I used a combo of fresh sage, thyme, and rosemary, but dried herbs would work, too)
-crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper to taste
-add pureed pumpkin, 1 t cinnamon, and 1/2 t nutmeg
-add 1/2 c half-and-half

T3, El3, Er2, Ch3

Cold Soba & Cucumber Salad with Parsley Cilanto Sauce and Teriyaki Tofu Triangles

-Cook 8 oz soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles, but any will do)
-Peel a large cucumber, quarter it lengthwise, and cut into narrow strips
-Food process 3/4 c parsley and cilantro leaves with 2 T natural nut butter, 1 T lemon juice, and pinch of salt

T2, El3, Er1, Ch2

Cut 16 oz firm tofu into thin triangles (cut the tofu height into fourths all the way across), drain and blot well on paper towels and marinate each side 10 minutes in the following:
-2 T Braggs or reduced sodium soy sauce
-1 T olive oil
-1 t sesame oil
-1 T honey or maple syrup
-2 t rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
-1/2 t grated fresh ginger or ground ginger
-2 t hoisin sauce, optional

Pour the tofu and marinade into skillet and cook on med-high, stirring frequently, until tofu browned on both sides. Serve with soba and parsley/cilantro pesto.

T3, El3, Er3, Ch3

As we have company in town starting tomorrow, I can just kiss healthy new recipes sionara until next year, which is okay because I have lots of other posts needing some tlc! In case you don't hear from me before then, Merry Christmas! Hope it's your best yet!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Thanksgiving, etc.

Actually, since I bothered uploading my pics chronologically, let's address that "etc." before the Thanksgiving part.

November was fun.

Charlie is talking more (and every word he learns replaces screams, so this is more a celebratory development than usual). His most frequently utilized words are "uhhhhhh!" and "pee!" for "up" and "please," both of which are exclaimed in pursuit of being picked up. He'll occasionally say "away" for putting his poopy diapers away in the trash and both "nuh" and "biky" while scouring the house for a beloved nuk/binky. His very most favorite phrase is "bye Da," which he uses not only after forcing slobbery farewell kisses on Kyle/Kyle's helmet, but also as a greeting or farewell to anyone. All affection (and no sense), that kid.

Are you jealous that we have gorgeous outdoor birthday parties in November? Living in a desert, mornings and evening are a bit chilly, but afternoons are balmy and blissful. Below, you see Erik about to score a strike on that unsuspecting stack of cups. He tends toward the less-than-coordinated side when it comes to anything athletic, so I was pleasantly surprised at his skill/luck.

They had all the carnival spoils about, including an inflatable castle jump house, giant bubble station, face painting, carnival games, and an opportunity to redeem tickets for cotton candy and popcorn...

... which became our lunch, along with cake and ice cream. That's cool, that's cool. I'm determined not to be that health freak mom that packs carrot sticks and whole wheat crackers for party snacks and denies her kids second helpings of birthday cake. Okay, I did deny them seconds.

Here's Ellie with her NEW bff/fiance Carter. Actually, though this Carter is also cute, she's not THAT petty. She remains perfectly loyal to Carter Paul and bugs me all the time to set a date to visit him.

Is it an alligator attacking a penguin or a penguin who ate a rogue alligator, or some strange hybrid? (Or just a quirky kid?)

Below is perhaps the greatest evidence that both Erik and Charlie have matured in recent months. Yup, I can no longer assert that each encounter between the brothers is a violent one, as two exceptions have now been captured and published (and might end up framed, just to remind me...).

There has been joy in more than one quarter since Charlie took up hugging as a pastime.

If only he'd give up some other beloved pastimes.

(I never thought I'd be that mom who only photographs her baby nearly-naked and slathered in food filth. Turns out meal time's the only time Charlie's far enough from the lens to get a clear shot (aka not being held).

Another trip to the Arizona Museum for Youth was overdue. Their rotating exhibit this time was all NASA.

This room was actually a super cool black-lighted area filled with glowing stars and planets that gave even me a thrill. Though I have sworn off elaborate birthday parties, I confess it got my wheels turning for an outer space party next May...

We took Noelani to Cafe Rio (the only one in AZ is not far from her house) for a belated b-day lunch. There she shared with me news of her belated birthday gift to me. But this was no ordinary gift, and certainly put the burrito I gifted her to the depths of shame. It is so unbelievably exciting I can hardly type it. Let me just spell it, as I made her do for me twice, just to make sure I'd gotten it right. Okay, here we go: D-I-S-N-E-Y-L-A-N-D! No really, I mean it! DDDDDIIIIISSSSNNNNEEEEYYYYLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNND! It will probably be in January or February, so count on hearing more about that. But shhhhh, it's a secret as far as the kids are concerned.

P.S. Cutest. This actually isn't the best pic of Makakoa because you can't tell how bright and beautiful his brown eyes are, or see his darling, toothless smile. At least there are the chubby cheeks!

Kjerstin and Mish saved Thanksgiving this year by braving Utah storms to spend the weekend with us! We were spectacularly grateful they came, and not just because they spared me the pain of cooking T-giving dinner solo.

On Wednesday, Kyle's Indian friend and his sister came over and she spent hmmmm seven hours (!!!) whipping up an incredible and completely authentic feast for us! She was so sweet to tutor me all along the way because, hey! The way to Kyle's heart is certainly through his curry bone. But the seven hour part...

Anyway, Charlie was pretty impressed with the spread.

And then there was Thanksgiving. Mish was on pie duty, and we went as close to scratch as is reasonable (meaning nothing canned, boxed, or ready-made) this year. What you see below transformed into pure pumpkin-y pie goodness under Mish's skillful hand. She also crafted a strawberry-apple pie that was other-worldly. I guess we were too full and happy to photograph them out of the oven, but holy yum. My mouth is watering at the memory of that pie. (The pumpkin pie was so good that Mish ate nothing else the next day. Until she retched it all up, that is. But I think she said it was worth it.)

I believe Ma had given me a few turkey-gut-sorting demos over the years, but somehow plunging your hand into the head (or was it the butt?) of a raw, dead animal and removing unidentifiable body parts requires a more active form of learning in order for the lesson to stick. I was a complete novice and required both physical and emotional support from Kjerstin throughout my first experience in turkey prep. Having transformed into a mostly vegan chef over the past months, this act was rendered a little more repulsive than I expected. I can't say I've missed handling raw meat.

But then, three hours later, BAM! We had ourselves a gorgeous, crispy, and perfectly moist dead bird. Seriously, this bird was lip-smacking good. Perhaps the cup of herb-infused butter I shoved between the skin and breast had something to do with it? And next time, I will not be so intimidated. It was pretty simple, just like everyone assured me.

Martha has a better picture (that will show up in a later post) that is actually so hypnotizing-ly good that I couldn't get the image or idea out of my head for days. Green bean casserole has always been a family fave. Only thing is, where were those green beans? I'm not actually sure if there really were certifiable veggies hiding under all that cream of mushroom and french fried onions.

I'm not meaning to dis the traditional green bean casserole. Like I said, it's always been a favorite. However, fresh green beans, fresh mushroom sauce, and fried shallot rings officially constitute my new favorite green bean casserole.

I used frozen cranberries to make a simple sauce. Nobody eats the cranberry sauce anyway, from my experience. (Revamped into pesto, however, the story changed! More in later post.)

Mish was a wise woman to recommend frozen Rhodes rolls. They tasted homemade and saved us a load of counter space and sanity.

Buttery, mashed sweet potatoes might be my fave. I was introduced to them at a Williams Thanksgiving dinner and haven't been able to stop making and devouring this dish regularly ever since.

Kjerstin made super creamy, chunky, flavorful mashed potatoes which were almost as essential to the festivity as the bird who gave its all.

Martha's sourdough cornbread stuffing recipe (followed loosely) was a winner in my book. Then again, what wouldn't taste good drenched in liquefied turkey lard?

Acorn squash made a pretty side dish, but couldn't compete with potatoes and gravy, so I'll skip it next time.

Kjerstin's first attempt at turkey gravy turned out perfect! This was another intimidating task, but she conquered!

This was more of an after-thought (otherwise it would've been doused in cream and salt), but corn makes Mish happy, and we aim to please.

Every Thanksgiving dinner of my memory has been delectable and supremely satisfying, and yet, preparing a feast for hours upon hours with my own bare hands truly does make food taste better. Kjerst and I were ridiculously proud of ourselves for pulling off the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, and every single dish was perfect. Really, nothing went wrong or yucky in the least. We loved it all!

But some people were especially fond of the turkey.

And even the turkey legs, in a manner that would surely make my Chinese, bone-cleaning mother proud.

And some people were just plain scary about the turkey.

And then it was over. But not really, because I still had to make the leftovers appetizing for the next week or so. Also not really because Thanksgiving is about more than just the grub, right?! Just to prove it, we spent the entire next day shopping!!!! Weeeeeee that is always a thrill. And then living it up at a Christmas light display and setting up the Christmas tree and stuff. Oh right, but Thanksgiving. Ahem.

I have actually been working on increasing my level and breadth of gratitude lately. I believe it just may be the key to experiencing relentless happiness. I have tried to replace feelings of dissatisfaction with reminders of my happy and abundant situation because I do live a charmed life, after all.

This year, I am grateful to be exactly who I am. I was born with every advantage one could reasonably desire, I was raised in a perfectly loving family, and now I have the privilege of trying to raise my own. Of course my life is far from perfect, but I've discovered that that's mostly the result of my own imperfections, not my circumstances or faults of those around me.

I am especially grateful to know that I am needed, not just by my immediate family members, but by God. I know He's put me here in this place of privilege not just to experience richness of life, but also to perform a particular mission that's important to Him. I am so honored and ecstatic to continue in this work. Even if, for now, that means diffusing endless skirmishes and washing peed-on bedsheets for nights on end...

Smiles and frowns between them, I am happy and I am grateful. It is good to be me.