Sunday, December 23, 2012

Chocolate pudding from scratch

I swiped this idea from Mark Bittman, modified to use some milk in place of cream, use the microwave, and (upon reflection) skip the raspberries he recommended. I'd make a double recipe for the full fam.  The version below will work for two or three eaters.

1 cup cream
1 cup 1% milk
2 ounces of dark chocolate
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt

Put the cream and milk together in a big measuring cup, and microwave on high for two minutes.

Cut the chocolate up with a knife into little pieces.

Mix the corn starch sugar and salt together in a cup or bowl.

Pour the cream into a pan on the stove, turn the heat onto medium, and add the chocolate.

Stir and stir until all the chocolate is melted.

Add the other three ingredients.

Stir and stir and stir until it gets thick almost like pudding ready to eat.  (It will be a little more liquid until it cools, but it should be getting close.)

Pour into little bowls or mugs because it tastes better that way.

You can add slivered almonds or bits of pecan if you are an adventure person like Nora, but not otherwise.  Or raspberries, like Mark Bittman, but I think the raspberries would be even better eaten other ways.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Regular spaghetti sauce with anything but spaghetti

Sometime very early in mom-life, I realized that children with forks could handle almost every kind of pasta better than than they could manage spaghetti.  Somewhat later, I realized that Susans with forks also benefit from this strategy.  

1 pound ground beef (Your mom strongly recommends for Laura's Lean or explicitly organic, on account of hormones and slime and ugh.  She even more strongly recommends the kind that's at least 90% lean, meaning no more than 10% fat.)
1 large jar spaghetti sauce
1 pound pasta (gemelli, rotini, fusilli, bow-ties, elbow macaroni, etc.)

Put the pasta water on to boil.

Put a dutch oven on another burner, turn on the heat high, and put the ground beef into the pan right away.  After a minute or two, start breaking it up with a spatula.

When the beef is all in little pieces, make sure you can get the lid off the spaghetti sauce.  If brute strength is not an option, try whapping the edge of the lid with the side of a knife a lot.

Go back to flipping and stirring the ground beef, watching for red and pink bits until there are absolutely none in sight.

If you took your mom's advice and got the lean beef, there won't be much grease in the pan. You can just add the sauce, stir a couple of times, and move the pan off of the heat.  If you didn't, go to the serpents' tooth directions below.

Put the pasta in the water and set a timer for the recommended number of minutes.

When the timer goes off, use a spoon to take out one piece of pasta, drop it in the colander, run cold water over it, and bite it to see if it's right.  

If yes, drain all the pasta.  

If no, cook another minute and check again.

Serpent's tooth directions
When the beef is cooked, if you didn't take your mom's advice and there's lots of grease, run the hot water in the sink until its really hot.  Leave it running while you put a colander into the sink and empty the beef pan into it.  Put the pan back on the stove, shake the colander once or twice, and then quickly toss the beef back into the pan.  Now you can add the sauce, stir a couple of times, and move the pan off the heat.

Put the pasta in the water and set a timer for the recommended number of minutes.

Remember the greasy colander?  Go back to the sink and run hot water all over the colander to get the grease off of it.  Now you can turn off the hot water. (If you turned it off before your mom said to, you'll get what you deserve and I won't even bother explaining about grease in sink pipes.)

When the timer goes off, use a spoon to take out one piece of pasta, drop it in the colander, run cold water over it, and bite it to see if it's right.  

If yes, drain all the pasta.  

If no, cook another minute and check again.

Baked Potatoes

Potatoes, large, labeled Idaho and/or Russet

Preheat oven to 400.

Wash the potatoes: not with soap, but with running water and your fingers in case some of the dirt that makes them into potatoes is still on the skin.

Put the potatoes in the oven on the rack, and use a fork to poke one set of holes in each potato.

Check after 45 minutes.

If you can see that the skin is a bit puckered, they're probably done.

To test further, you can:

  • Put on an oven mitt and squeeze one gently.  If it's feels soft like a baked potato, it's done.  If the skin is a bit hard, and feels like it's bending or breaking, it's definitely done.
  • Take one out and cut it open.  If it looks like a baked potato, with a bit of flaking of the white part, it's done.
Salt and pepper will make it better.  Butter or sour cream or grated cheddar cheese, better still.

Breakfast sausage in the oven

Other moms cook sausage in one frying pan while cooking eggs in another.  I would burn everything.  All the sausage you have ever eaten at home came from a hot oven.

Breakfast sausage links, usually labeled "original" or "old-fashioned" rather than "maple" or other odd things

Preheat oven to 400.

Put sausage in a glass pan in one layer.

Put pan in oven.

Leave for 15 minutes.

Then you can either cut it open to see if it's brown all the way through, or leave it in until it looks very dark the way Mom does it and you know for sure it's brown before you take it out.

Cooking it to almost black would have worrisome implications if you ate sausage more than once every three months. Used very sparingly, I think it's great.

Added Fact
If you switch the oven to broil after cooking this way, so you can do toast, expect the toast to get done extra fast because the oven is extra hot.

Added Idea
Look up how to cook bacon in the oven.  You need a cookie sheet and aluminum foil, and it's quicker than sausage. I don't have a method yet, but I've done it, and it's almost as good as pan-cooked and much easier to do it for six or more people.

Those spicy chicken bits in those lovely wraps

This recipe reconstructs one from the best cookbook I ever left at Kroger.  The original called for grilling the chicken, but that never turns out to be one of my options.  I should try using the broiler.

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut into slices about an inch wide (or thighs done the same way or store prepped chicken fingers)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
a pinch of cloves
a pinch of cayenne pepper

More oil

1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

spinach leaves
flat bread sandwich wraps or tortillas.

Check out the chicken and see if you need to do any cutting to get it the right size.

Combine the next seven ingredients in a glass or pottery bowl and mix well.

Add all the chicken and toss it around with your fingers until the stuff is on all of it and then wash your hands. Or use a spoon and spend three times as a long and still have to wash your hands afterward.

Cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Add a thin film of oil to a frying pan and heat until a tiny bit of garlic from the chicken bowl sizzles when you drop it in.

Add pieces of chicken, shaking each one a bit over the bowl to limit how much of the marinade comes along.

Turn them after a minute, and keep turning until they look really beautifully browned, maybe with some little black bits.  Then cut the thickest piece open to see if it's cooked-chicken color all the way through.  If not cook all of it a bit longer and test another piece.  (Someday I will amend this recipe with a better idea of how long to do this cooking.)

Move that batch to a plate, and do another batch the same way and a third if necessary.*

As soon as the last chicken is in the pan, pour the marinade down the drain and rinse the bowl well with water.  (This may not be necessary if Beau Weston is in another state at the time.  If you are sharing a house with Beau or someone else who will smell something good and want to try it as a sauce, it is essential.)

When the chicken is done, combine the cumin and yogurt, and then stir in the cucumber.

Make your wraps with a layer of spinach leaves, two spoonfuls of the yogurt/cucumber, and one of two of the chicken pieces.

* If the pan has brown bits stuck to it, that will actually make the food better.  If it gets completely black on the bottom and starts smoking, not so much.  In that case, between chicken batches, pour in a cup of water and use a wooden spatula to push along the bottom until most of the stuff comes off.  Pour all that stuff down the sink,and put the pan back on the stove until it looks very dry.  Then add new oil, and go back to cooking the chicken.  (BTW: adding water and scraping the pan is also called deglazing.  In lots of recipes, you keep the liquid in the pan and use it to make a lovely sauce.  Not this time, but it's useful to know.

Pork bits and carrots on spaghetti

This is pretty the only recipe I have ever made that needs actually long stringy pasta. There's a texture issue that matters. It's also my only sauce that is actually made in the microwave. It's fab.

1 pound pork boneless shoulder or boneless pork chops or pork loin (something you can cut into bits)
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch piec (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon "better than bouillion" or one bouillion cube
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water

1 pound spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated parmesan

Cut pork into 3/4-inch pieces, removing any fat that's easy to remove.

Mix pork, carrots, onion and garlic in 2-quart casserole.

Cover tightly and microwave on medium (50%) 9 to 11 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes, until pork is no longer pink and vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in bouillion, basil, and pepper.

Cover tightly and microwave 20-30 minutes, stirring every 6 minutes, until pork is tender.

After the pork has cooked 20 minutes  put on the water the stove and start heating it to cook the pasta.

When you're sure the pork is done, mix cornstarch and water thoroughly and stir into pork mixture.

Cover tightly and microwave on high 1 minute 30 seconds to 2 minutes or until mixture thickens and boils.

While that's happening, cook the pasta.

Drain the pasta fully, then mix in first the butter and the parmesan.

Serve pork and vegetables over spaghetti.

Turkey/Navy Bean Chili over Rice

Two notes
This is a five-hour project.  It's not a vast amount of work, and you can do lots of other things while things simmer, but you have to be somewhere in the house to do the "stir occasionally" part.  It's perfect for the first cold, rainy weekend of the year.

Also chili is very mild: spice lovers could include a chopped jalapeno when they sauté the vegetables and double the chili powder.  The recipe I started with did that.

 1 lb bag of navy beans
1 lb ground turkey
2 cups uncooked brown rice (six cups cooked)
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 green pepper (diced)
2 stalks celery (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
shredded cheese (optional)
chopped green onion (optional)
sour cream (optional)

Put the beans in a pot with a quart of water.  Bring to a boil for one minute, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and leave to soak.

After two hours, drain and rinse soaked beans, then set aside.

Heat oil in stockpot over medium high flame. Sauté onion, garlic, celery, and green bell pepper s until onions are translucent and the other vegetables are slightly tender.  Remove from pot and set aside.

Add six cups water, soaked beans, tomatoes and spices to the sautéed vegetables,. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for approximately 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

After the chili has cooked for an hour, put the brown rice and four and a half cups water in a separate pan, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Set timer for 45 minutes.

Brown the turkey in a frying pan.  Drain and add to the chili.

The chili will be ready at the same time as the rice.

Serve in bowls and garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions and/or a dollop of sour cream.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ingredients that are good

First, I'm loving Bon Appétit's Seal of Approval list.  Since reading, I've started buying King Arthur flour and planning to buy Scharffen-Berger chocolate the next time I see it.  And Barilla seems likely to become standard pasta.

And then, some things about ingredients:

Land-o-Lakes is a coop.  I buy their butter because I like locally rooted capital, even if local is a thousand miles away.

At the rate I use sugar, maybe I should buy the pour-box instead of the bag.

Basmati rice is nice stuff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuna-Pasta Salad

This actually started out as Grandma Charlotte's recipe, and I think she started out with a potato salad idea from The Joy of Cooking.

1 pound spiral pasta
1 cup Wishbone Italian Salad Dressing Accept No Substitutes
13 ounces of white tuna in water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup of chopped celery
1/4 cup of chopped up sweet gherkins
Anything else you like in a summer salad: canned corn, fresh cooked corn, green pepper, red pepper

Cook the pasta according to the package

While it cooks, do any needed chopping.

Open and drain the tuna, then empty into a large mixing bowl and break it into small pieces.

Add the mayonnaise, celery, gherkins, and anything else you like to the tuna and mix well.

When the pasta is done, drain it, then instantly shake up the salad dressing and pour it on to the pasta, stirring well to spread it around.  Let it sit for a couple of minutes for those flavors to blend.

Add the pasta to the tuna and again mix well.

Eat warm or chill and eat later.

That rice casserole

You know, the one that I made in the old light blue dutch oven that Grandpa Joe bought sometime in the early 1950s?  It's a fancy thing you can make to go with a very simple roasted chicken, and instantly have company dinner.  It's different enough that you need to make it three times to be comfortable with all the steps.

2 cups rice
8 tablespoons of butter (why it tastes so good)
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced up
A cup of sliced up celery (probably four to six stalks)
4 cups water
A tablespoon of soy sauce
A tablespoon of oyster flavor sauce (A Chinese cooking ingredient usually located near the soy sauce)

A frying pan and a casserole dish that holds two quarts or more.

Alternately, a dutch oven that can be both a frying pan and a casserole dish, plus a bowl to put some partly cooked things in so you can partly cook other things.

Preheat the oven to 350.

Slice up the mushrooms and the celery.

Put the rice in the frying pan and put in on the stove over medium heat.  Stir the rice constantly as it turns golden, about five minutes.  Pour the rice into the casserole dish.

Put two tablespoons of butter into the frying pan with about a third of the mushrooms and celery.  Cook until tender, maybe five minutes.  Pour that on top of the rice, and repeat the process two more times.

Combine the water, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Mix well, then pour on top of the rice and vegetables, and mix well again.

Cover and put in the oven.

Bake 35 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Before serving, use a fork to toss the rice lightly around so it's loose and fluffy.

This one also started out in The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, except that back then it had a lot more butter and it had onion and beef broth, where now it has two ingredients from Chinese cooking instead.

Pumpkin Pie

Shopping advice:
1. The recipe is on the pumpkin pie mix can.  Make sure you have the condensed milk and the eggs you'll need, and the pie crust is from Pillsbury and sold from a refrigerator case in the store.

2. The world wants you to make two pies at a time.  You can tell because the condensed milk comes in 11-ounce cans and you'll have a lot left if you make just one.  And you can tell because the pie crusts come two in a box.  And you can tell because you want two pumpkin pies right now while you're reading the recipe.

3.  If the recipe says to add sugar, it isn't pumpkin pie mix. It's just pumpkin.  You may be able to remember to add the sugar, but if you're my child, you shouldn't risk it.  Put down the can of pumpkin, and find the can of pumpkin pie mix that doesn't need you to add sugar.

Do what it says on the pie crust box.  Then do what it says on the pumpkin pie mix can.  Then enjoy.

Sesame Pan Bread

This single rise, three-hour recipe yields un-fancy bread that I think should be torn apart, rather than cut.  The recipe is for two loaves baked in cake pans.

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast (if you buy fast-rising, expect things to happen faster than I say below)
About 8 cups flour
2 cups water
1 cup milk plus a little more to brush on the top of the loaf
One egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup butter plus a little more to grease the pan

Oven Roast

Shopping thing: you have to figure out which beef roasts only work as pot roasts and which work as oven roasts. Pot roasts go in a pot with liquids and a lid on top to help them stay moist and become tender enough to chew.  Oven roasts are the kind that can be cooked pretty much dry in an open pan because they're more expensive meat that won't dry and be tough that way.  At Danville Kroger, the roasts just say "oven roast" or "pot roast" on them, so you know.  If you're elsewhere and don't have hints that obvious available, ask a butcher or someone standing next to you.  Or call someone who reminds you of Hermione and ask that person to look the information up on line.

An oven roast (pretty much any size)
Chinese hot mustard (My no-longer-secret ingredient)

A baking pan--like one you'd use for brownies or a cake, with sides
A meat thermometer (or a knife to cut the meat open and look at it)

Multiply the pounds of your roast by 20 minutes a pound, and then add 20 more minutes. That's how long it will cook.

That thing with the ground beef

1 pound ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup in a can with a pull-top lid
1/2 of a soup can of milk
1 cup of rice (can be white/quicker or brown/better for you)

A frying pan, a cooking pot with a lid, a big spoon or a metal spatula to stir with, a measuring cup, a stove

Saturday, November 24, 2012

That salad with the orange pieces

It was arugula, oranges, goat cheese, and dried cranberries, with a dressing made with olive oil, lemon, and orange juice concentrate.  I got the recipe from Williams-Sonoma. That is all.

Garlic and little potatoes (two ways)

Both recipes involve two to three pounds of little potatoes and two tablespoons of minced garlic.  My brown-eyed children have two different preferences about how they combine.

Molly's Way
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put the potatoes in a 13 x 9 baking pan.  If the biggest ones are close to twice the size of the smallest, cut them in half.

Combine the two tablespoons of garlic with three tablespoons of olive oil, and drizzle over the potatoes.

Roast for twenty minutes and then start checking with a fork. When they feel like they'll taste good, they will.

Rebecca's Way

Real chicken soup

Real cooking, where you put in a bunch of effort one day and then have food for several.  

Shopping tips:

1. If you don't already have spices, the list below could get expensive, but you can leave some of them out.
2. If you don't have a great strong spatula or spoon to use getting the chicken out of the pot, buy a chicken that has already been cut up or three or four pounds worth of pieces.  That'll cost a little more, but that beats dropping the chicken.

A whole chicken (preferably one with giblets, preferably 3 to 4 pounds)
1 pound of carrots
2 pounds of potatoes (either little ones or a few big ones)
8 ounces of mushrooms
A yellow onion
Minced garlic
Bay leaf
Better-than-Bouillion chicken
12 ounce package of frozen green beans--the cut up in one-inch chunks kind.

Saltines because you always have to have saltines

Necessary: A soup pot with lid (or a slow cooker), a knife, a carrot peeler, a strong spatula or metal spoon, a big fork
Helpful/optional: A frying pan (optional), a cutting board, a colander

See, you can tell it's real cooking because we're already at the break and not yet at the instructions.

Ten fast meals that are better than pizza

1.  Buy a rotisserie chicken and stuff from the grocery salad bar.

2.  Corned beef hash from a can, with mandarin oranges.

3.  Kraft mac-n-cheese, with peas (because mom always serves them with peas).

4.  Scrambled eggs with rye bread toast and orange juice (because mom pretends that counts as fruit).

Things to eat in the introvert cave

This is about strategy for eating reasonably well while working like a lunatic. It's about buying things that are super easy, and it's kind of about only having a couple people in the house.

1.  Buy a cabbage and cut it in half and then into ribbons.  Put it in the fridge in two or more containers. While working, put one beside the computer.  Later, notice that it's gone.

2.  Buy three or four apples and always have peanut butter.  When hungry, slice up an apple and put it on a plate with two tablespoons of peanut butter.

3.  Buy a bakery loaf of rye bread or some kind of bread with nuts and/or dried fruit in it, and five ounces of goat cheese.  When hungry, saw off a slice of one and spread it with the other.

4. Buy hummus and a red pepper and a cucumber and some blue corn chips.  Make the vegetables into spears and eat half of them with two tablespoons of hummus.  Put the other half in the fridge so you can do it again tomorrow.  Next week, notice the chips and wish you'd remembered to eat them with the hummus that's now kind of dried out. Eat them without the hummus, unless you're Beau and eating like a goat.

Roast Cauliflower

A head of cauliflower
Olive oil

Option 1: salt

Option 2: salt, cumin, cardomom, coriander, turmeric, cayenne

13 x 9 baking pan

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut the leaves off the bottom of the cauliflower so you can see the stem.

Cut the big stem off so you can see the florets.

Break up the florets into chunks the size of golf balls.  The ones that won't break you can halve with a knive.

Arrange the florets in the pan with the florets up, ideally with very little of the pan bottom visible (but it's not a big problem if some shows.)

Choose an option:

  • Option 1: Sprinkle the tops with about two tablespoons of olive oil, not worrying about covering everything.  Sprinkle the tops with salt.
  • Option 2: In a little bowl, combine two tablespoons olive oil, half a teaspoon each of salt and cumin, a quarter teaspoon each of cardamom, coriander, and turmeric, and a pinch of cayenne.  Use a fork or a tiny whisk to mix them together really well.  Dribble that over the florets.

Roast for 20 minutes, then poke with a fork.  If they feel like cooked broccoli feels on your fork, take them out.  If not, roast a little longer.  It's really nice if some of them have brown, slightly crispy bits on the bottom.

Murdered Pot Roast

Cook the roast for way longer than other recipes recommend, either by accident or on purpose.  Lovely caramelization (sweetness and bits of crispness) will result.

3 or 4 pound beef roast (can be a cheap one)
1 pound carrots
8 ounces of mushrooms
1 onion
beef better-than-bouillion
minced garlic
soy sauce

Slow cooker (big dutch oven could work: see notes)

Ingredients To Keep In the House

So, here's the standard stuff I keep around for cooking with...

In the pantry or a cabinet
Rice, pasta, cream of mushroom soup, canned tuna, whole canned tomatoes with no spice and tricky stuff added, tomato paste in the little six ounce cans, catsup, chick peas, flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda

In the fridge
Soy sauce, oyster sauce, hot mustard, Parmesan cheese, butter, minced garlic, Better than Bouillon chicken, Better than Bouillon beef, eggs, milk, sweet gherkins, mayonnaise

In the freezer
Broccoli, green beans, green peas, orange juice concentrate

In the spice cabinet
Olive oil, canola oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, sage, oregano, parsley, bay leaf, cumin, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper

Chana Masala (aka the chick pea thing)

My go-to vegetarian dish.

Olive oil
2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp each of clove, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, cardamom
2 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tsp salt, or to taste
4 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Optional: two Tbsp cilantro (I never have this in the house)
Optional: Yogurt to go on top
Optional: Brown rice to go underneath

Big dutch oven (in a pinch, start with a big frying pan, then switch to a soup pot when you add the chickpeas).

Mix together all the spices except the salt.

Film the bottom of a large saucepan or Dutch oven with olive oil, and place the pan over medium heat. 

Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Think twenty minutes or more, because the more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

Mouse Galore

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can milk
13 ounces of tuna (one big or two small cans)
1 pound egg noodles
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.

Put  noodles on to boil according to package directions.

In the casserole dish, mix the soup and and the milk.