Category Archives: Food

BLTTs and Fall Fun

On the way home from work the other night, I was grumbling about having to make tofu for dinner. I keep looking for good tofu recipes, but we always end up falling back on stir fry. I didn’t want to do all that chopping only to end up with a meal that’s only ok.

Luckily, when I walked into the house the bowl of tomatoes caught my eye. I’d been meaning to have BLTs ever since the tomatoes started getting ripe. I ended up slicing the tofu into thin slabs and frying it in the bacon skillet once the bacon was done (best tofu ever). The bacon, lettuce, tomato, and tofu sandwiches turned out quite tasty.


I still plan my life in semesters. Here’s what I’ll be doing this fall:

• Writing, of course. I’m working on a short story to be finished this month, I plan to write a novella in November, and I have various things in various stages of revision to finish up and send out.

I also have a new story coming out in November: Fictionvale is publishing “Alpaca Tricks” in their mystery issue. This was a fun story to write. I watched a bunch of alpaca obstacle course competitions on YouTube.

• Tennis. I rejoined the singles league I was in a couple years ago. I’ve been playing doubles all summer, and the Thursday workout we go to is mostly doubles, so playing singles is tough. Tennis courts get really big when you have to run back and forth across them for over an hour.

• Painting. I signed up for an introductory acrylic painting class. Then it was canceled because no one but me registered. They moved me to the second session. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll either try to switch to a drawing class or find some tutorials online.

• A Coursera class called Designing Cities that covers the history of cities, current urban issues, and possible future cities. In addition to being interesting, it might be a good source of story ideas.

Some recent posts from my writing group’s blog:

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Minestrone & beer bread & radish greens

Saturday was a rainy day, so I made soup. Minestrone, which I remembered to start just in time to quick-soak the beans and still have dinner ready by 7. Barely.

Minestrone, to me, means “vegetable soup with kidney beans and tomatoes and maybe pasta”. I added potatoes instead of pasta, which made it too thick, but the other definition of soup is “giant pot of things that need to be used before they go bad”. J laughed at me for asking him to buy cabbage, because I keep complaining about all the cabbage we’ve been having.

I wanted rolls to go with it, but there wasn’t time to make yeast bread, so I flipped through the Joy of Cooking and ran across a quick beer bread. It’s half white flour and half wheat, plus some oats. I threw in some of last year’s dill and fennel seeds. It turned out really nice, if a little too sweet.

Let me interrupt this food post for a garden update. Yesterday, I took advantage of a break in the drizzle to weed my garden and thin the beets, chard, and radishes. They, and the lettuces, are up and growing. Also, several volunteer dill. (I have a feeling we will have dill forever now that I planted it once. I’m just fine with that.) And the chives are huge and getting ready to bloom. The lettuce is still too small to eat, but when I thinned the radishes I discovered they have already started making radishes. The beets have not started making beets. I still need to go buy tomato and eggplant plants.

Back to the food notes: I was not about to compost my baby beets, chard, and radishes, so I chopped up the radish roots and tossed them into a skillet with all of the greens and a bit of olive oil and soy sauce and some chopped fresh chives. We each got about half a serving of very tasty veggies.

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Spring (almost)

Random weekend thoughts.

It’s starting to feel like spring. I’m starting to get out of the house.

It’s light enough now that I can sit on the deck for a little after work. I have to wear a coat, but it’s worth it. Seriously: I’m nature-powered.

(And it was light enough before they stole my hour. Insert semiannual rant here.)

Saturday I pulled my bike out of the garage and make sure it’s working. It’ll be time to start biking to work soon. I wanted to go for a ride, but of course it started raining at exactly the wrong time. Sunday I biked to the library, and it waited to rain until I was on the way back, half a block from home. Nice thing about biking is I notice more: white snowdrops, bright yellow crocuses, red cardinal on bare branches.

At the time I’m writing this, biking to the pool Monday morning is still up in the air.

I also finally spread compost on the front vegetable bed. Last fall, I covered part of the bed with a huge pile of compost, but since the chard was still growing, that half of the garden had to wait. Finally got around to it this weekend. And while digging up the old rotting chard roots, I discovered that two of the stems have tiny green leaves on them. So I left them. Maybe they’ll grow.

Pretty soon it’ll be time to plant new things. I need to review my seed supply and see what I need to buy. Chard, for sure.

In non-outdoors related news: I bought a sewing machine. It does a bunch of stitches that I don’t know why I would ever use them, and it has a needle threader that thoroughly confused me when I was trying to read the threading diagram until I realized I could ignore it and thread the needle myself. And a cool thread cutter on the side that means I don’t have to keep hunting for scissors. Also, a huge button for reversing (the button on the bottom right in the photo). I will never forget how to backstitch with this thing.

Brother Sewing Machine LS-590

Yesterday I played around with the stitch length and width and thread tension dials to see what would happen, and tried out half the stitches. Also speed: it goes scary fast and makes the whole table shake.

Next weekend I can start a new tote bag, since I also got fabric for three projects: two more tote bags and another pair of pajama pants (which we’re making in class now). Next week I have to go back to the fabric store for t-shirt fabric for the second part of this class.

This also required lots of moving boxes around in the basement so I’d have space to set up the ironing board (no, I don’t iron) and Jeremy’s old card table.

Saturday, dinner was Red Wine Pinto Beans with Smoky (Maple) Bacon, which was really good. Next time I’d use less red wine. And preferably, not maple bacon, but that was what we had. I also made whole wheat biscuits to go with it, which I haven’t made in a long time. I love bread and bread-like things, and I don’t eat them much, so these biscuits were awesome.

Also, the usual writing stuff. Revised a couple flash stories, submitted stuff, wrote more on a longer story, wrote more on the current novel, did some exercises. Etc., etc.

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Filed under Food, Garden, Life, Sewing

Recipe: Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

We have a few pecans, courtesy of my parents and their tree. I was trying to decide what to do with them, and as often happens I thought of dessert. Specifically ice cream. Then I thought about what would go well with pecans in ice cream…and came up with something amazing.

Cherry Pecan Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mix a little less than 2 cups of milk [1], a little more than 1/3 cup of the juice from a jar of maraschino cherries, and 2/3 cup of sugar [2] in a big bowl. Use an immersion blender until the sugar dissolves or you get bored.

Add 2 cups of cream [3]. Dump into the ice cream maker.

After about 20 minutes, add 1 cup chopped pecans, 2/3 cup chopped dried cherries, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips. After about five minutes it should be mixed up and you can freeze it.

[1] Most recipes call for whole milk, but 2% is what we have in the house, so that’s what I use.

[2] This is half the sugar the recipes in my booklet call for. The cherry juice adds plenty of sweetness.

[3] The recipes call for 3 cups, but cream is sold in 2 cup containers, so I use an extra cup of milk instead. The good thing is this makes the ice cream lower fat, but the texture isn’t as creamy (shocking). So feel free to use an extra cup of cream and one less cup of milk. I won’t tell.

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Thanksgiving week dining

You’ll never guess what we had for dinner on Thursday.

Since then, the turkey has turned into turkey divan, turkey potpie, and turkey sweet potato hash. (And there’s still straight turkey left.)

The first two turned out a little runny, but still tasty. And we own bowls and spoons, so that worked out fine. I’ve never made turkey divan before, and didn’t find a recipe that quite matched what I remembered, so I merged a bunch of recipes together: white sauce with sour cream mixed in, broccoli and frozen peas, topped with a little shredded cheese and served over rice.

The hash, my breakfast experiment, was good. Diced turkey, diced leftover baked sweet potato, onion, chopped orange pepper just because I had some, chopped fennel and chives ditto. Made a nice side for a fried egg and meant that yesterday I had turkey for all three meals.

In non-turkey tastiness, last weekend I made pumpkin lentil soup. It was very good–though I probably should have grated the ginger as called for since the immersion blender left some chunks–but works better with an extra protein at the meal. Like cheese and crackers. (Everything works better with cheese and crackers, though.)

J made awesome cranberry sauce from the newspaper (thank you, Associated Press). It included dried apricots and cherries, orange zest and juice, port, and balsamic vinegar. Amazingly good.

And finally, I made a cheesecake for the first time ever: pumpkin hazelnut cheesecake. The hazelnut is all in the crust and for once I didn’t mind the existence of the crust. The crust would probably be really good on its own cut into cookies. Someone seems to have given the recipe a one-star rating because she couldn’t find hazelnut flour: I just ground up hazelnuts in the food processor. Man is a tool using animal.

This week: More leftovers, and then turkey soup!

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Kitchen Gadgets

There’s a kitchen gadget meme floating around, one of those long lists of items where you bold if you use the gadget, italicize it if you don’t, strikethrough gadgets you got rid of, color blue if it broke, color red if it started a fire, change font to Wingdings if you don’t know what the gadget is…

It got me thinking about gadgets I have loved and lost.

My bread machine comes to find first. When I lived in Boston I started baking my own bread–it was tasty, cheap, and therapeutic. Then I moved to a horrible spider-infested basement apartment in Maryland with no kitchen. It came with a sink, an electric burner, and an electric griddle. Maybe a microwave unless I bought that. J, being an awesome then-boyfriend, got me a bread machine.

That bread machine got a lot of use for years. If you’ve ever heard J or me joke about fish bread, that’s from the instruction manual for the timer section–it warned not to use the timer if you were making bread with perishable ingredients like milk, eggs, or fish. I never did find a fish bread recipe.

The bread machine evenually entered an old age where the kneading part worked and the baking part didn’t, which made the whole come home to hot fresh bread thing not work any more. So it’s no longer with us.

Then there’s the garlic press, which one day simply snapped as if I had suddenly been given super strength. We haven’t replaced it, even though we use a lot of garlic. Chopping isn’t difficult, and knives are easier to clean than the garlic press was. Maybe if we replaced it I could find out if I really do have a garlic-press-breaking superpower.

I also killed a vegetable peeler, but at least that one broke at a joint, and we have another one. Likewise the cheap popover pan that still works as long as you don’t turn it upside down and dislodge the no-longer-secured popover hole thingies.

I can’t really think of a kitchen gadget that I want and don’t have. Maybe that electric griddle from my old apartment. Mmm, pancakes.


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Chicken: The good and the raw

I still get Cooking Light on paper, though a) there’s an iPad version and b) the recipes are generally available free on their website. Call me a Luddite, but it’s nicer to browse through a paper magazine. I’m building up a huge collection of back issues, though.

From recent issues, I’ve tried some chicken recipes and a quick bread.

Champagne-browned butter chicken (Oct 2012)

This was good. I even ate the mushrooms, because they were drowned in the sauce. The recipe is fussier than what I usually like to make: there are quite a few browning steps before the chicken and potatoes (and mushrooms) go in the oven, and then once it comes out you deglaze with wine as usual (I used white wine rather than champagne) and also brown the butter in a second pan and then combine them to make a sauce.

The chicken took forever to cook–this would work nicely in the crockpot up to the sauce-making step.

Maple-stout quick bread (Oct 2012)

J likes maple, I like stout, so trying this was a no-brainer. It was tasty, though surprisingly reminiscent of banana bread. However, the loaves didn’t bake through, so the middle was pudding-like. I swear I stuck a knife in them and it came out clean, so I’m not sure how that worked.

Chicken with honey-beer sauce (Sept 2012)

This got made because J came home from the grocery store with chicken breasts for me to cook, so I flipped through issues until I found something quick and appealing. I wouldn’t have expected that beer, soy sauce, mustard, and honey would be tasty together, but I was happily surprised.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet figured out how to get boneless skinless chicken breasts to cook all the way through without cutting them into pieces. Presumably a lower temperature would work; maybe our cold oven is balanced by a hot burner. At least this isn’t an actual problem.

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Apples and A Feast of Ice and Fire

We’ve been picking ripe apples for a few weeks. J made applesauce while I was in Kansas; he made more last weekend and we froze some. Our apples are too tart for me to eat, but they make fabulous applesauce. He also chopped up a bunch and froze them. I see apple crisp in my future.

Continuing with the my husband is awesome theme, he gave me A Feast of Ice and Fire, the official A Song of Ice and Fire cookbook. It might sound gimmicky but it looks like a good cookbook; there are many many recipes I want to try. Recipes are divided by geography (the Wall, the North, King’s Landing, etc.) and each includes a quote from the books referencing the dish and a gorgeous photo. Some of the recipes come in two versions: a medieval version (with quote and source) and a modern version. Last night I made Roast Aurochs with Leeks; although I used the crockpot rather than the oven so it was more like pot roast. Also, the recipe calls for bison or beef, as it would be extremely difficult to obtain the flesh of an extinct mammal. I also skipped the pepper sauce because pot roast doesn’t need sauce. It was still quite good. Could have used more leeks (we didn’t have enough).

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Popovers, tandoori, artichokes…not all at once

We’ve made a few new things recently.

J made cardamom popovers, filled (after baking) with marscapone and some spices. The popovers would have been great by themselves. The marscapone was almost too heavy for them.

Last weekend, I made tandoori chicken. Not a great accomplishment (it’s just marinated and grilled), but it’s the first time I’ve ever grilled anything, so that was kind of fun. And the grill still works.

I was tempted to eat the marinade with a spoon. It’d be a great dip: yogurt, fresh ginger and garlic, various spices. The raita (yogurt, cucumber, mint) alongside was also good. Need to make that again to use more mint.

This weekend we had steamed artichokes. My parents used to make them, but I never have. (This is what happens when J makes me do the grocery shopping. We get different kinds of produce.) Nothing fancy there; I’m not sure why I haven’t considered buying them before.

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Recipe: Fresh Mint Ice Cream

Last year I planted three kinds of mint–apple, lemon, and lime–in the hopes that it would spread and keep weeds down. It’s doing quite well, especially the apple mint, which is now beginning a war with the day lilies. (Sometime this year I’ll add peppermint and/or spearmint to the collection.)

So we have a lot of mint available. Some of it got used in a mint chutney from the Joy of Cooking, which I used on leg of lamb. A bit got turned into mint juleps Saturday for the Derby, which I won’t bother with again next year (not a bourbon fan to begin with).

This weekend I made mint ice cream, which seems to be the best use for the mint so far (though I’ll probably have tea far more often). All the recipes I found online required egg yolks, so I just adapted the standard vanilla recipe into…

Fresh Mint Ice Cream

2 large handfuls fresh mint leaves
2 cups milk
.5 cups sugar
2 cups heavy cream

Put the mint, milk, and sugar in a sauce pan. Heat it over medium until warm but not simmering. Let it steep for several minutes, stirring often, until the sugar’s dissolved and the milk tastes minty.

Pour into a bowl through a strainer. Press all the liquid out of the mint leaves and discard. Refrigerate the milk overnight.

The next day, add the cream and pour the mixture into the ice cream maker. Let the magic happen.


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