intuitive cooking, sensible eating.

Dinner

Pasta Sauce

Quickly making pasta out of whatever is there can always produce an interesting process from its start to finish.  Naturally, one of the two most important parts of sauce – the base (the other, being time) was where I started with this dish.

Open the fridge, what is here that could add depth of flavor?  Bacon.

Step #1 fry up like four slices of bacon.

Next, see what vegetables you have.  Hopefully some onions, garlic, at least.  We did not even have carrots, which I lamented for about 10 seconds, and then set forth chopping up the mushrooms, onions, and celery.

Step #2 pull out bacon once it’s crispy, pour off some of the grease into your grease can, then put it back on and begin to saute the veggies over pretty high heat.

Hopefully you’ll have some sort of random cooking wine left laying around.  That would be nice at a moment like this, right?  What can add depth of flavor to this sauce without having to work too hard – so far, bacon and wine seemed obvious.  And voila’, a box of leftover Franzia from an event.

Step #3 deglaze the pan with some white or red wine – whatever you have.  You’ll loosen up all the awesome bacon browning and impart the aromatic nature of wine into the sauce.

What kind of tomatoes are these?  They’re canned.  Oh, I wish they were whole tomatoes, but this will have to do (crushed).

Step #4 pour the large can of crushed tomatoes into the pan, season with salt and pepper, add in a couple of bay leaves.  Toss in the bacon, chopped, to let it continue to make the sauce bacony.

OK cool, now to see what else there is which could be good in the sauce… Open the fridge again.  Oh great!  We still have parsley, and, what’s this?!  LEFTOVER BASIL!  Score!

Step #4 chiffonnade basil and chop up celery to be added when sauce is finishing up.

Now the old leaning into the fridge, poking around, seeing what else could be good.  What about some artichoke hearts?  We need to use those up.  I think that could work with bacon – kind of seems like I should have made a quiche with these things, but too late.

Step #5 drain & rinse hearts, rough chop, and put in with the herbs after the sauce is to your liking.

It is, indeed, ad hoc, or…. shall I say, ad hog.

Love!

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Polenta, Autumn, Heart

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I have to say, very few things hit the spot like polenta does.  Last night I was not sure what we would make, but Seth had a recipe he wanted to make that his mom gave him, so we decided to make it!  Upon close inspection, we realised we had no bread – the recipe called for the dish to be served on toasts spread with goats cheese.  I thought there was some polenta left, and so we decided to use that instead.

The recipe was a simple braise of carrots, onion, and mushrooms in water and white wine, finished with basil chiffonnade.  Seth worked on that, and I made the polenta.  Along the way, I thought that it could be interesting to spice the polenta with curry!  I have never tried that, and oh my god is it good.  I was just blown away by the richness of the final product, even though I did not use any stock!  DEFINITELY try it out with this topping, or something like a lamb curry or bolognese spiced with garam masala….  I love finding a new flavor profile within a base I love so much as polenta.  Oh, he wide avenues of creativity warm my heart so much lately.

Braised Carrots 

Ingredients

  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 8 carrots, thick hearty chunks of varied shapes & lengths
  • 1 medium red onion, half moons
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, rough chop
  • Water & white wine – about a cup of liquid total, adding more if things get too dry whilst cooking
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • bay leaf
  • 1/4 basil, chiffonnade

Chop up all your veggies, then melt the butter in a pan – preferably one with a lid.  Toss in the veggies with the butter over MH heat and brown them lightly for a minute or two.  Then deglaze with the wine, add water, the bay leaf, cover and let it braise for about half an hour.  Depending on the size you have cut up your carrots, it will vary the cooking time.  By the end, you want them to be fork tender, but not overcooked.  The liquid should reduce down at the end, so uncover it and let that clear off to glaze it all.

Curried Polenta with Goats Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 3+ cups water (add more during cooking if things get too dry)
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • bay leaf
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup  milk
  • 4 oz goats cheese (more or less if you like)
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  1. Bring water, wine, bay leaf, lemon, to a simmer and stir in polenta.
  2. Season with salt and pepper, curry powder.  Cover, and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes.  You can add more liquid if you think it’s too dry.
  3. Stir in dairy at the end (milk through butter)

Oh, and for good measure, you may want to consider poaching an egg and heating up some leftover polenta for your breakfast.  To die for!


Pro Bono Cooking

Usually I am paid to cook, but today (my day off!), I cooked for MYSELF.  It always feels so good to do, and I have to admit, I do not do it enough these days.  Sure, I make simple things, but I do not spend the day making things without recipes like I used to.  It is so nice to be freed from pages of measurements, and it took me a bit to notice how awesome that freedom of creativity truly is.  The intuitive chef has not left the building…

Cooking Day Off began by making my mom brunch.  We received a phone call in the morning saying my grandfather went to the hospital, so I went to out to do some errands in case my Mom would be going up to be with him.  I have only a bicycle, and it is hard to schlep things like gallons of soymilk, eggs, GINORMOUS jugs of vinegar (for daily egg poaching, of course), and loaves of bread that might be smashed.  When I got back home, she had not had breakfast yet, so she asked me if the Donnegal Diner was open for business.  It sure was!

Next, I set forth to deal with a classic Kitchen Manager fail: pulling product from the cold storage without specific plan or timeline for use.  I had this ground venison that I grabbed out of the freezer several days ago, thinking I would make something to use as a wrap filling, or a topping for creamy polenta.  On Thursday, my knees hurt so bad after paid cooking (bike accident, running in crappy shoes – now replaced), that all I wanted to do was buy something.  I do not feel like that very often, but took the opportunity to enjoy some tandoori chicken from Saffron.  I ate leftovers of that for lunch at work on Friday, and then ended up poaching an egg to eat after getting home at 8:30PM, with very sore knees.  Saturday and Sunday are the days I wake up at 5 AM to cycle and arrive at work, er, paid cooking within 15 minutes of 7AM, when my cooking shift begins.  I did that until 5:30, then until 4 on Sunday.  By Sunday evening I was Very Tired, and had my second poached egg in a wrap for dinner.  I LOVE these eggs, by the way.  My fantastic co-worker Amy has chickens, and so on Tuesdays she brings in a dozen for me.  They are multicolored and a adorable, and taste SO GOOD.

Sitting Is Awesome Food - cooking something that takes only 3 minutes that does not involve a microwave = eggs.

Eggs from Amy!

This left me with the going-bad venison in my fridge, a sweet potato and squash that will not cut up or roast themselves, several increasingly brown bananas, and a day off ahead of 6 days not off (paid cooking).  This means it would be smart to do some classic kitchen girl planning – a fantastic opportunity!

I sat for a moment creating my plan of execution: I would get the vegetables roasting, and then deal with the venison, which I wanted to make into something to be frozen and eaten on future busy days… what to do with it?  Should I make kofta patties?  Should I throw together some kind of chili to freeze?  ………TACOS!!!  While roasting vegetables, I would make taco filling.  Which then reminded me of the glut of CSA bell peppers I’d noticed earlier while the Diner was open.  I could make a surplus of onion/bell pepper mixture to combine with the venison, and also freeze some of that to use in something else later.  The bananas would obviously become banana bread, the last project, which I could throw in the oven and do other awesome Pro Bono Cooking Day Off activities such as: taking a nice long shower, doing/putting away laundry, cleaning up bedroom, looking up ideas for carving the pumpkins I bought today, and forcing myself not to work out so my knees will for sure feel awesome over the next six days.

I will simply post a slide show of what I made, and mention a few things about process/ingredients used/etc.

  • I decided to dice the veggies pretty small, add in some onion, garlic, and Pink Lady apple!  I decided to make this cold sandwich wrap filling slightly “Asian” (pardon my awful umbrella term there), so I just chopped it all up, tossed the mixture with olive oil, salt, pepper, a bit of sesame oil, rice vinegar, white miso, and some curry powder.  Set the oven at 400, then popped in the 13×9 metal pan until everything looked done – checking it periodically and stirring to ensure even cooking.
  • I also decided to cook the venison separate from the peppers and onions for a couple reasons.  One, I do not use venison often, an was unsure of its fat content.  I did not want to have the vegetables be totally soaked in fat while cooking, and if I did that, I could drain the meat in a colander to remove excess oil.  I also would be cooking too much of the onion and peppers on purpose, so cooking them separately would mean I could remove as much as I’d like to freeze, and then add in the rest to the meat.
  • At the last minute I decided to cook the bell peppers and onions with some minced garlic and a can of stewed tomatoes.  I thought that would be a nice addition to whatever I make with the frozen remainder, and make the tacos taste better.  The venison turned out not to be as fatty as I expected, and was frankly a bit dry, so I thought the tomatoes would add some moisture in a nice way.
  • For the banana bread, I did use a recipe.  I have enjoyed Simply Recipes for many years, and realised it had been ages since cooking anything based on her work.  My only tweak was in adding about 1/3 cup of greek yogurt to the mix.  I think adding some dairy to cookies and quick breads tends to be a good idea.
  • After cooking the mixture of roasted vegetables in the refrigerator, I added greek yogurt and some nayonnaise, salt and pepper, dijon mustard, chopped grapes, and a bit more rice vinegar.  It is really just a creamy vegetable salad that can be eaten on its own, or in a wrap like I do.  It’s just easy and only seems to taste better after a few days.  I love the combination of sweet and savory, so omit the grapes and apples if you like, or add in some bacon or tempeh or hard boiled eggs.  This is one of those concept recipes I love with infinite potential for flavoring.  It’s just so easy and nutritious – a nice change to make something en masse that is not soup for busy days.

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Here are some other recipes I want to make soon for wrap fillings, but could also be used for other purposes.  They are all fall oriented, because that is the current season, and I can’t think of any better excuse to eat more squash!!

Work Inspired

I work at Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo, MI.  I cook food there – it is a great job.  I get to work with some fabulous, smart, interesting people as we talk, banter, postulate, fantasize, rant, dish out the cynicism, sarcasm, jokes, political commentary, share music, talk about Classical music and listen to it (with Matt and Stephanie – fellow Classical music wonks), and, of course we talk about food a whole lot, too.  I love my work, workplace, and counterparts.  Oh, and the coffee is pretty damn good, too…

Anyway, we make this one thing called Chicken Pecan Salad.  I love it, but I tend to be opposed to consuming salads where the first ingredient is Mayonnaise.  The dressing recipe is fine – using mayo, honey, poppy seeds, cider vinegar – but I prefer to use Greek yogurt (which, interestingly, has seen a 2500% increase in purchases during the past 6 years – check out this article from The Atlantic regarding this topic.)

Right now, my body is intolerant of wheat gluten, so I picked up these flax and millett lavash wraps for my chicken salad.  I have not had any gluten free wraps aside from corn tortillas, and I thought it was pretty tasty!  I am going to try some gluten free bread soon, too, which I plan to review.  Hopefully I can eat fantastic local bread again soon – send good vibes to my body, it could use any additional love it can get 😦 Usually things like this make me laugh a whole lot, though, and sometimes, that’s super awesome.  Even if my body is doin’ its thang, at least I have The Internet to provide an endless source of entertainment (and music)!

Work Inspired Chicken Salad

Note: I did not weigh out or measure the amounts of things used, as I have been so lax in updating, I was sitting down to eat when I realised that this could, like, go on my neglected food blog.  I am estimating, so feel free to experiment and scale according to what are estimates.  Thankfully, chicken salad is one of those things where you can add slowly, so when you are mixing in the yogurt, perhaps smart small, add the other liquids, and then add more of the yogurt if it needs it…

Ingredients

  • Cooked, picked, chopped chicken – a mix of light & dark, of course!
  • Half a bunch of celery, diced
  • 2 cups of grapes, halved or quartered – it’s up to you
  • Half bunch of green onions, chopped or 1/3 a vidalia onion, or a mixture of both
  • Medium sized Pink Lady apple chopped small
  • I used 1/2 cup of Glad Corn because I wanted something crunchy in it, and I did not have any nuts – you could use that amount (or more to taste) of toasted pecans, slivered almonds, pistachios, etc.  Use what you like
  • Roughly 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Nayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup honey mustard (or plain honey – again, ADD SLOWLY if you use honey, since it’s going to be more intense than the honey mustard)
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsbp poppy seeds
  • Salt to taste
Mix everything together well – it’s fun to just use your hands for this part, honestly.  We do that at work (with gloves, of course) and it is the most effective for making a Ginormous Vat Of It.  In this quantity, you could use a kitchen utensil of choice 🙂
Other things that would be good in it: chopped pear, dried cranberries or blueberries, squeeze of lemon, use turkey instead of chicken (yes, I will make it this way for you someday), some roasted potatoes, grilled corn kernels sliced off the cobb, some chopped fresh herb perhaps.  Experiment, have fun!  I suppose this is why people love chicken salad – it’s so easy, you can make a ton, and it’s hard to screw up.  If only the rest of life were always like this.

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During dinner my family is reading this book called the Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder.  If ever I get on Jeopardy, this book will have helped.  Today we learned about Handel and Galileo.  This book has taken way longer than a year for us to finish (try four).  Apparently we have not been intellectually devoted in the past, but boy, sometimes things sure do change for the better.  I believe that now more than ever before, and I am grateful.
❤ Liz

spring……………end of summer

And here we are!  Lots of tomatoes, corn, too many herbs to make way too much pesto, cicadas, shorter days, cooler evenings, and fantastic things to cook.

So, given all my options, what sounded awesome?  Yeah, dude.  A BLT.

I used Sarkozy’s “The Other White Bread” and some maple turkey bacon.  Homegrown tomatoes, so juicy.  I put Fage yogurt on my sandwich instead of mayo, some honey mustard, and balsamic glaze.  Oh, and Clancy’s.

Sated and contented, I then I reinvented the wheel.

I think I might be back… Hope you all have been well ❤

 


O Hai… (Shrimp & Tomato Ragu with Herbs & Greens)

Well hello says the slacker blogger.  I have some exciting things going on lately, and I got so wrapped up in bicycling and job interviewing and making recipes for Dennis over at Blue Dog Greens….. ya know how it goes.  Anyways, I am going to post what I made for dinner tonight.

Tonight is a bottom of the barrel kind of day, as we are waiting for our new installation from Blue Dog (Wednesdays we pick our share up at the Victorian Bakery).  Last Saturday I woke up bright and early, and dropped off my first recipe cards to Dennis.  We are working together this summer to help everybody get some new ideas of what to make with his produce – I have had the pleasure of using so many fantastic vegetables from him over the years, and am well acquainted with creative techniques for using everything up before the next batch comes, by cooking it to eat right away, and to save for later (in the freezer for the Winter In Michigan).  I cannot wait to meet the new people who may be visiting my site!  Don’t be shy – feel free to comment or ask me questions.  I would love to know if anyone has tried my recipes, or has any of their own they’d like to share with me!  I am sure I’ll be around the booth this summer, so I look forward to meeting folks in person as well 🙂

This recipe features bounty from last week’s share: oregano and spinach, plus radishes and garden cress in the salad.

The kale and basil were sprouted and planted by my friend Chanterelle…more about her soon, I promise.  You’ll love her.

Shrimp, Potato, Tomato, Mirepoix Ragu with Herbs & Greens

Serves 4 very hungry people, especially if use it as a sauce for grains

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, half chopped roughy and half minced
  • 2 large carrots, one chopped roughly, one minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz or so of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 28 oz can of whole canned tomatoes, or fresh if you have them (I’d recommend getting good quality if possible – it really does make a difference)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup red wine (I used balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup chopped kale
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped oregano
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 2 cups shrimp (mine was just lazy cocktail shrimp, but you can use raw for sure)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled, diced, and pre boiled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Method
  1. Put the diced potatoes in a saucepan with salty water and bring to a boil.  Cook until fork tender, then drain and set aside for now.
  2. Heat up the oil in a skillet and begin sauteing the carrot and onion over medium high heat until the onion is becoming translucent or even slightly browned.
  3. Add in the mushrooms, garlic, some salt, pepper, and coriander. Saute for another 5 minutes or so.  If you are using raw shrimp (or any other meat/meat substitute) add that in now.
  4. Dump in the can of tomatoes, bay leaf, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir it up and bring everything to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 20 minutes – just let everything get married in there.  Adjust salt and pepper to your taste.  You can add in the potatoes, too, when you like.  I did this later on so they wouldn’t get overcooked.
  5. When things are looking all tender and stewed, you can toss in the greens.  I do this at the end so they don’t get super mushy, and remain slightly bright and vibrant.
  6. Serve over pasta, polenta, rice, with good bread from your local bakery (I hope!), or just eat it with ye old fork.

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Colder Weather Soup

90 to 50 in 24 hours?  Sounds like soup to me.  I have been craving mushroom soup ever since I had this amazing bowl of it at Room 11 in DC on Valentine’s Day.  It totally hit the spot that day, which was similarly cold on all levels.  I had a small package of dried morel mushrooms in the pantry, so I used them to extract broth for this recipe.  I would recommend using any dried mushrooms you can find to d0 this – it adds a depth of flavor that makes the soup even more delicious.

Room 11 Mushroom Soup

Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Dried mushrooms (save a few for garnis)
  • 16 oz mixed mushrooms of your choice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups boiling water for dried mushrooms
  • 4 cups stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley for garnish
Method
  1. Boil water and pour two cups into a bowl containing dried mushrooms.  Let them rehydrate (at least 5-10 minutes), then strain out mushrooms and reserve stock.
  2. Chop up the onion, garlic, and carrot – place in a bowl. Chop up all the mushrooms and place in another bowl.
  3. Melt butter in a large stock pot, and saute the onion, garlic and carrot together.
  4. Add in the mushrooms, then the listened seasonings, and let them cook into the sauteed vegetables for a bit.
  5. Add in stock, sauces, and bay leaves.  Simmer until the liquid has reduced about half.
  6. Puree with a blender, food processor, or immersion blender.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in some olive oil if you like.  Garnish with chopped paprika.