Category Archives: Food

Chicken day

The January/February issue of Cooking Light was full of chicken recipes. Yesterday I made two of them, one for last night’s dinner and one for tonight’s. This took nearly three hours in the kitchen–both recipes claim to take about 40 minutes, and there was some overlap while they were cooking, but cutting things up always seems to take me forever. Especially since I didn’t have boneless chicken thighs, and the potatoes had a billion eyes each.

Last night we ate Chicken and chorizo stew. (Minus the saffron.) Very tasty, even though it had potatoes in it. I was skeptical of the vinegar, but it brightened things up just like it does for bean soup. It’s a good thing we liked it, since I tripled the recipe (it’ll make a nice change from tuna and salad for lunches this week).

Tonight we’re having Moroccan chicken and butternut squash soup, seasoned with cumin and cinnamon. It’s supposed to have couscous in it, but I’ll make that this evening and serve it on the side since, to use the magazine’s phrase, I didn’t want to “starch up” my soup. I haven’t tasted it yet, but it smelled really good on the stove. Have to remember to chop up some fresh basil for it.


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Guacamole Day

I do not watch football. In fact, as I write this, I am sitting in the living room during the third quarter of yesterday’s game and am still having trouble remembering who’s playing. Don’t ask me what the score was.

As far as I’m concerned, the best thing about the Superbowl is the sales on avocados. I’m not alone: According to Wikipedia, “Guacamole has pushed avocado sales to 30 million pounds on two days a year: Super Bowl Sunday and Cinco de Mayo.” Someone did a good job on the marketing there.

I am happy with guacamole that is just avocado, garlic, and lime juice. But I have to admit, yesterday’s version with tomato, onion, and jalapeño was quite tasty, even of it looked like it was going to be mostly not-avocado when I started mashing it (J chopped up the other stuff hours before).

How do you like your guacamole?


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When life gives you lemons

At some point since I moved away from Texas, citrus trees started getting popular in the Houston area. My parents now have a few lemon trees, an orange tree, and a lime tree. These are very small trees–the orange tree is currently not much taller than me, which makes the giant oranges on it look monstrous. (It amused me to be eating oranges fresh off the tree in December. The only thing growing in my yard here in Illinois is the arugula.)

Anyway, the day we left, my dad picked us four lemons. Thankfully they weren’t seen as any sort of security threat, so they made it home safely. Then they turned into:

The chicken and the cake were fantastic and will go on the to-make-again list. The chicken in particular was very easy (and of course it was good, it has garlic and rosemary in it).

The cake was kind of crazy–you bake it, then once it’s out of the oven you pour a lemon juice/sugar mixture on it, and then when it cools you glaze it with more lemon juice/sugar. It was, however, very moist, lemony, and tasty.

The pasta was fine, but paled in comparison to the other two dishes.

This week, with the leftovers gone, I think I’ll be going through lemon withdrawal.

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About a year ago, I got J a book of about 2800 cocktails, which means for the past year we’ve been experimenting with a bunch of different things. We have made it through only a very small percentage of the book, but I’ve learned a few things:

  • as with tv, music, and many other things, our tastes are pretty much orthogonal
  • there is no reason to add sugar to a drink, ever
  • simple is just as good, if not better, than anything with half a dozen ingredients
  • especially since we’re unlikely to actually have everything required
  • I can’t tell if my martini is shaken or stirred


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Mmmmm, Cookies

Last weekend I made three kinds for Thanksgiving.

Cream cheese walnut cookies – basically a shortbread with guess what in it. These are my favorites. The recipe makes an excessive amount, so I’m going to freeze some and take some to work. Usually I freeze some of thee dough for baking later, but for some reason this time I didn’t. It didn’t look like that much dough until I started putting them away in a Tupperware, and then I realized the cookies were going to take over the kitchen. Maybe they bred while they were cooling.

Chocolate gingerbread – new this year. These have ground ginger, fresh ginger, cocoa, and chunks of chocolate. They’re nice and chewy. I did manage to burn a partially filled sheet, and those got pretty crunchy. I am not a crunchy cookie person, I’m a squishy cookie person (maybe if I didn’t eat so many cookies…)

Citrus cornbread – These were pretty good, but I made the wrong ones! I made the ones from Martha Stewart’s Cookies (which the other two recipes are from) instead of the Joy of Cooking. The MS ones are a shortbread, and the JC ones…aren’t. They also have a whole lot more cornmeal; the MS cookies have a barely noticeable amount. Oh well, lesson learned. They were still tasty.

What are your favorite holiday cookies?

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Pumpkin gnocchi

I haven’t been cooking much. Good thing my husband grills a lot. He made really good fries on the grill last night.

The other week one of my relatives posted a link to a recipe for pumpkin gnocchi in ginger-sage cream sauce. Doesn’t that sound amazing? And with no potatoes–just squash and a bit of flour.

She said it didn’t turn out well for her, and the recipe warned about the softness of the dough, so I ignored the bit about not adding too much flour and added a ton of flour. And didn’t bother making the dumplings the right shape since the dough was still very sticky, just dropped bits into the water with a spoon.

The recipe’s supposed to be vegan, but I used milk (along with some dumpling cooking water) in the sauce because that seemed like it’d taste better than making bechamel with water.

Aside from an excess of minced ginger in the sauce (next time I’ll use ground), it was good. The gnocchi didn’t stick together much even though I dumped them all in a tupperware as soon as they cooked, and they didn’t fall apart. It didn’t take long to make, either, since we already had cooked squash in the freezer.

Bonus: The leftover sauce is good on broccoli.

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It’s pasta and cheese month around here

In my last food post, I reported trouble with pudding. I’m happy to say that further attempts have been successful, and we enjoyed very tasty chocolate pudding this weekend.


The freezer has cleared out enough for me to put the ice cream machine bowl in. I anticipate something good next weekend.


Macaroni and cheese with squash in it (“Creamy, light mac and cheese”)

Pretty good–a bit bland, possibly partly because I subbed low quality parmesan for the romano, and not quite creamy, possibly because the squash to cheese ratio was too high, but I do like squash in my mac and cheese. Even if I’m not trying to hide veggies from kids. Next time I would buy romano.

I’ve got a recipe in a vegetarian Mexican cookbook that I like better–it uses cheddar cheese, and has chiles in adobo.


Quick Pastitsio

This was good. I subbed ricotta for the cream cheese, since we had a tub of frozen ricotta on hand. It ended up quite soupy–I know I doubled the flour when I doubled everything else–but was still quite tasty.

Also a bit on the bland side, but see ricotta vs cream cheese. And it’s not like I don’t read the recipes beforehand and see the lack of spices they call for, so I shouldn’t complain.


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Pudding, bbq, crockpot

The first time I made pudding was last Thanksgiving. It was pumpkin pudding, pretty much plain pudding with a can of pumpkin and pie spices, and it turned out wonderfully.

The second time I made pudding was Saturday. It was standard chocolate pudding and it did not turn out wonderfully.

The pumpkin pudding was so easy, and the directions for the chocolate were easy, it’s hard to see what went wrong. “Heat this, stirring” is hard to screw up, but it never set.

I think I didn’t cook it long enough for the cornstarch to work its magic. Sunday I reheated it with more cornstarch and that worked, though it ended up lumpy as the pudding at the bottom of the pot solidified.

This is going to require some experimentation. Tasty experimentation.


Lately my favorite thing to go out for in barbecue. I blame the Middle Eastern restaurant for closing. Friday we went to the Black Dog Smoke & Ale House for their brisket and pulled pork, and sat at the bar watching tennis. I need to remember next time to get a different bbq sauce than their house sauce, because it’s too spicy for me to eat a lot of it. Good, though.

I also had a good stout (this one, scroll down: Dieu du Ciel Peche Mortel Imperial Stout). Which had coffee in it. Very dark, very bitter, exactly how I like my beer.


Finally, the crockpot remains one of the best inventions ever.

Last week we had chicken and beans, and though the top layer of beans ended up a bit crunchy, the rest were delightfully soft. Some day I’ll get around to working out a way to make just the beans with no chicken.

Last night we had pot roast with eggplant, which turned out nicely. Beef has got to be the easiest thing to do in the crockpot. Chicken tends to dry out on me but I don’t think beef knows how to do that.

I like to cook, but “put ingredients in, ignore until dinner time” has a lot going for it.

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Culinary Misadventures

Let’s start with the tilapia. I was never a big fan of fish, but over the past several years I’ve kept trying it, and gotten to like a lot of it. (I could eat salmon every day.)

At some point I tried tilapia, and hated it–it doesn’t have much flavor on its own, and worse, it tasted like dirt.

But I kept seeing recipes for it. And it wouldn’t be so popular if it always tasted like dirt, right? Maybe I’d just had a bad batch.

Wrong. Or at the least I got another bad batch. I googled for “why does tilapia taste like dirt” and the theory is bad farming conditions. If the water is dirty, the fish absorbs the flavor. Isn’t that a lovely thought?

Then there was the frozen lettuce. (And milk, yogurt, strawberries…but those are ok frozen, or thawed.) A couple people suggested lettuce soup. This might have been ok with younger lettuce, but it brought out the bitterness in mine. Adding vinegar helped with that. It might have been better as cream of lettuce soup. There was supposed to be a potato, but we didn’t have any. Just olive oil, onion, various herbs, some bell pepper, the frozen lettuce, and water. I’d be willing to give this another try the next time my lettuce freezes.

And finally, I tried to make peach mojitos, and straining out the peach solids proved to be impossible. They ended up a little chunky. At which point I gave up on being a decent cook for a while. Unfortunately my husband brought chicken breasts home from the store yesterday. I wonder what horrible thing I can do to them…


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Chinese Food

I’ve said a bit in various places about the food on our trip to Beijing. Short version: It was great. The best Chinese food I’ve ever had. (Not a surprise, right?) And I managed to feed myself with chopsticks, most of the time.

We ate at a Muslim restaurant, a Schezuan restaurant, had Peking duck and hot pot, went to a congee diner, two noodle shops, and a mall food court where I watched a guy making noodles from scratch, and got some fruit at the supermarket. At most places we had so many different dishes that I only tried a few bites of everything except the non-fish seafood.

 Notable items:

  • Tofu skin. (Skin like on pudding, not skin like they skin it after they kill it.) Not bad, kind of like noodles.
  • Really good tofu in general. Mine always ends up mushy even when I drain it well.
  • Chrysanthemum greens, which were a bit peppery. I want to see if I can find them here.
  • Taro-battered pork ribs from the Schezuan place. Mmm.
  • Pork belly. Yummy, but wouldn’t want to eat it too often.
  • Sea cucumber. Like eating a fishy soft mushroom-textured thing that disguises itself to unwary tourists as a spiky eggplant. Side note – the Wikipedia article links to a book of 1,000 translated Japanese haiku titled Rise, Ye Sea Slugs! Here is my contribution to this body of literature:

    O sea cucumber,
    I wish you were an eggplant.
    It would taste better.

  • Durian. It was neither as horrid-smelling nor as wonderful-tasting as I’d heard. Got it at a dessert spot in a mall; it came with vanilla cream and green tea ice cream. Eating plain durian while breathing tasted like onions and garlic, while not breathing tasted like guacamole, and with the vanilla sauce just tasted sweet.
  • Snakeskin fruit. Outside it looks like a pangolin. Inside it looks like and has the texture of garlic cloves (with big brown seeds in them). It tasted like slightly acidic fruit candy.

One more haiku:

Poor fishy sea slug.
Even chrysanthemum greens
won’t make you taste good.

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