46. Summer Squash with onions and tomatoes

(a repost from the delightful days of summer. sigh.)

 

So, the GoSun, that magical looking tube with the shiny sides, makes food. I have proof now.

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To ease into all the hubbub, I cut up a yellow squash, green onions, and cherry tomatoes, enough to fill the long tube but not over fill it. I spritzed it with veggie oil spray and put a generous shaking of italian seasoning on it, and in the tube it went!

I’m quite pleased with the result, which was more like steamed than roasted after a little over an hour in medium sunshine. Next time, I will angle the dish toward the sun better, as well as add a bit more on the salt-and-pepper side of spices, but overall, a rousing success.

In other news, my friend N is thinking of holding a meatball competition, to have us all make and try different kinds of meatballs (meatless and meat-ful)… any favorite meatball recipes? I have one from a previous commenter but more are always welcome, the weirder the better!

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45. G’s Sourdough Bread

I know, I’ve made seventy gajillion kinds of bread lately. Call it a brief infatuation with the ol’ stand mixer… and a long-standing love affair with bread.

Recently, a student where I work gave me some sourdough starter that he and his mother have had since they lived in California years ago. He told me how to use it, how to keep it happy or let it go dormant in the fridge, and I was incredibly excited to try it out. I had a recipe from a blogger (thanks, Roast Smoke and Malt!) and a container of back-up store-bought yeast just in case, and I had a looooooong summer day to let it all rise and get perfectly puffy.

For the most part, I’d say it worked! I put a little bit of butter on top that I expected would melt in and become indistinguishable but instead it made for that weird discoloration, so maybe don’t do that, but the bread itself was wonderful – I ended up using back up yeast and adding enough flour to get me back to the same consistency after I added the activated yeast-in-water, but I still gave it an insane few hours of rising, probably close to 6 all told, and the final product had that sour tang to it that makes sourdough distinctive. I want to give it a chance to rise overnight next time, but for a first attempt, this certainly isn’t bad.

Dough hooks are your friend with this bread, as with so many – I would love to hear if people have a great success with handmade, not mixer-made, doughs, but I feel like having the mixer is my game changer.

Sourdough is such a cool food because it’s a bit like also having a pet (a pet you kill in the oven… perhaps not the best analogy after all) because you have to keep the starter alive, feed it, put it in the fridge to go dormant, etc. I like that I met G, who I hadn’t run into at work until that day, and got to share his life story by taking some of this starter. I hope to someday figure out a preferred recipe and grow the starter enough to give it to others myself!

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The second loaf, which rose beautifully.

44. Potluck Tomato Zucchini Dip

This recipe didn’t come from anything, though it did go to a potluck, and it was part of my ongoing efforts to clean out my cupboards. Unfortunately, these sorts of things don’t always go perfectly… So a girl has to improvise.

I expected I was making something like these, a zucchini dish that would be more like a side or a hot veggie dish. I started with a big can of diced tomatoes with oregano, garlic, and basil in them, two large zucchini, and half a small log of garlic herb goat cheese. I imagined pinterest-worthy food. What I got was surely delicious but not fancy… which I guess is what to aim for!

I roasted the zucchini and didn’t count on how small it would be after that! Mixed with the cheese and the cooked tomato, it looked like a cheesy dip but not at all like a fresh, zesty hot side. I think I needed more veggie volume to make that work. Still! When I put it onto a cracked-pepper triscuit, I realized it still had great potential as a party dip.

At N’s house, I foregrounded that I might have made a disaster food, but people liked it! So… this might not be the thing to aim for when you are trying to make a fancy dish, but if you just want something delicious and veggie-ful, try it out!

Zucchini Tomato Surprise Dip

 

  1. Cook 1 can of herbed diced tomatoes in a pan on the stove top; add a little olive oil if you want.
  2. Slice and roast zucchini, at least two large ones. (If I did this again, I’d also cut them into quarters and make every slice at least 1/2 an inch thick. Grease that pan!)
  3. When tomatoes begin to thicken, add cream cheese or herbed goat cheese. When zucchini have roasted for 30 minutes, mix all ingredients together and serve on crackers or pita chips.

43. Childhood “Loaded”Mashed Potatoes

As a kid, I was fascinated by state-changed foods. I thought that pancake batter puffing into soft, thick cakes was magical; liquid to solid was pretty common. More strange still was solid to liquid, when my mother and I would make mashed potatoes. I couldn’t imagine how those hard, brown lumps turned into the fluffy cloud-like mashed potatoes I loved.

When I was 10 or 11, my parents instituted a rule when I had to cook a meal every week during the summer – it was both to teach me, keep me busy, and help my mom a little. One of my first variations on my mom’s normal recipes was my idea for “loaded” mashed potatoes: namely, normal mashed potatoes full of onions, bacon, and cheese. I clearly have been a girl who loves rich food for a long time.

So, Husband and I were making salmon with potatoes as a side the other evening, when I realized I wanted mashed potatoes – salmon with a little mashed potato on the side was just EVERYTHING for a moment there. So, I boiled a bunch of sliced fingerling potatoes, fried bacon with shallots, and poured it all into my newly-acquired stand mixer. At first I was worried that leaving skins on the potatoes was going to ruin the look, but when I threw a bit of cheddar and a pat of butter in with them, the potatoes whipped up wonderfully. They were thick and had chunks in them, which isn’t nearly like the bright white potato-flake mashed potatoes of my thanksgiving memories, but they felt hearty and flavorful anyway.

It’s this kind of memories that are coming back when I cook more – sure, I love me a pile of take-out chinese food (hello crab rangoons) but it doesn’t hold as many home memories as getting in the kitchen and putting something together. My family only ate out as a treat when I was growing up, probably for money reasons, and while my young adulthood has been filled with eating in restaurants, I am really reconnecting to the way time in the kitchen calms me, employs the problem-solving parts of my brain, and saves me money.

No formal recipe for loaded mashed potatoes; I just recommend boiling the cut potatoes at least 20 minutes, and add proportions of “baked potato ingredients” to your mixer as you feel led.

What recipe have you re-discovered lately? Do you remember specific kitchen moments when you encounter a familiar ingredient or craving? Feel free to comment and tell me about it. 🙂

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So important to boil them long enough… then you get to go wild.

Cranberry Almond Granola – Homemade Christmas Gift!

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I get hits on this blog because of the title, like anyone, but one thing seems to be a little deceptive – people come here looking for those soup mixes and cookie mixes that look cute in mason jars and are nice presents for people. The recipe for the cookies or the soup comes with the jar, so I guess “recipe in a bottle” is a reasonable thing to search if you want to make those as gifts!

This year, though, I did give one gift in a jar: granola. In college, I learned to love granola for the thick crunch of it, the fact that it masked some great fiber and fruit under a cereal-like exterior, and it livened up my vanilla yogurt. I figured out that the difference between oats and granola was just a few mix-ins and some careful baking, so I tried it. My homemade granola, straight from the grubby dorm kitchen, was delightful and made our institutional walls feel a little warmer when I was sharing it with friends.

Using pinterest, I found this recipe, which seemed like a great start. I used all whole unsalted almonds and dried cranberries instead of blueberries, but I used coconut oil for the fat and maple syrup for the sweetness, and mine came out delectable. I’m using it in my mother and father’s Christmas gifts, and I still have some at home for when we return from our travels. It’s a food I associate with being far from home and trying to make it on my own, but it’s pretty nice to share it with the people who got me to the place where I could feel independent and strong. Christmas with family when you are all adults is a nice time to acknowledge the many roles that you’ve had in each other’s lives, and to celebrate those places.

40. Khadija’s avocado bread!

Avocado is a food I learned to appreciate in adulthood – while I like it, it tends to be a social food in that you need to make a dip or a salad or something communal in order to share it, and after a few weeks of fairly solitary eating, I had an avocado I didn’t want to eat with a spoon but which needed to be eaten.

Thus, here is my first post about a fellow blogger! Khadija posted the singular recipe for avocado bread on the exact day I had an avocado poised on the brink of ruin, and her multi-lingual recipes are documents and clear, while being easy enough for even me to follow. 🙂

I worried Husband would think the bread was too “avocado-ey” but he’s grabbed it as his go to savory bread for the past few days. My mixer made the soft avocado and olive oil incorporate nicely into the bread mix, which is otherwise a pretty standard yeast loaf. it rose less than I wanted, but I was also impatient and I really want to make it again with an extra hour of rising.

Tune in in two days and I’ll be covering another blogger’s zucchini bread recipe with an exciting replacement for eggs that I wasn’t sure was going to work… 🙂

 

38. L’s Lazy Day Lasagna

So, lasagna and I have a complex relationship. On the one hand, I am transported by ricotta, sauce, and noodles – the whole thing screams comfort and is an ideal dish for hiding layers of good veggies. However, I seem to manage to mess it up: watery sauce, too crunchy noodles, pans that don’t neatly fit all of my noodle layers.

L, one of Husband’s friends from Americorps, sent me a promising recipe for lasagna for a “lazy day”, and in my perusal of pinterest I discovered an irresistible variation: the lasagna roll-up. With the roll-up, I got the same tasty fillings but hopefully I could manage the baking stage better? The challenge appealed to me. (I have no pictures of it, sadly, but next time I make it, I’ll update the page!)

As always, I made some tweaks to L’s recipe, but the big one was trying “whole wheat” lasagna noodles giving to me by a friend last week. These noodles came out chewier than average noodles, but I appreciated that when I was spooning filling onto the noodle, rolling them up, and filling a casserole dish with them. I even put pepperonis on top!

I would do the roll-up again, and I enjoy the simplicity of L’s recipe, but I’d encourage you to tweak this the second, third, or fourth time you make it – I made it again with a spinach/alfredo/chicken filling and it was lovely! So it goes when revamping and making recipes your own.

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An example of past lasagna messes… delicious but definitely messy.

L’s Lazy Day Lasagne

 

6 ounces lasagne noodles

¼ tsp dried oregano, crushed

one 15.5 ounces can spaghetti sauce

one cup cottage cheese

one 6 ounce package sliced mozzarella cheese
cook noodles in boiling salted water following package directions; drain. Add oregano to spaghetti sauce. In greased 10x6x1.5 inche baking dish, make layers in order half each noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese slices, and spaghetti sauce. Repeat. Bake in oven at 375` about 30 minutes. Let stand 10 min before serving, serves 4.

37. M’s Spicy Peanut Soup

M was one of my favorite people at school – she was a year ahead of me and thus graduated after my first year, but no one really replaced her in my second year. She was one of the most driven, down-to-earth people I met – she was committed to writing in a way that I rarely saw, even though her classmates were all trying to become writers as well. Her work was unique and rooted in the places she’s lived all over the world. I enjoyed sitting on old couches with her during poetry readings and listening to what was going on in her long novel project. When I found out last month that she was going to have this same novel published this year, I was hardly surprised: it just makes sense.

It’s almost summer break, which is a wonderful opportunity for me to get back into writing. I am hoping to channel M when the school year is over and my work becomes writing the novel I’m working on. As I was thinking about her and her drive, I remembered this recipe she shared with me: it was a soup that tasted pretty much exactly like peanut butter, but which was actually chock-ful of vegetables, chicken, and spice.

To remake it I pulled veggies from the fridge that had seen better days: a sweet potato, two onions, a pile of scrawny carrots, and a pile of nearly-too-old celery. I cut it all up into small bits and sauteed the whole pile in 2 tablespoons of butter. I boiled some chicken, two breast pieces, and then I added all the boiled water into the veggies and pulled the chicken into pieces with two forks. I added half a cup of peanut butter and a small can of tomato paste to the veggies, and mixed till it looked velvety and… well, like peanut butter. I finished it with a tablespoon of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and the pulled chicken bits.

The result was strange – the peanut-ness permeates everything, including things like celery, which is definitely not a normal flavor combination in the States. However, the earthy tingle in my throat from the hot sauce after I swallowed made the soup feel complete, like all the flavors were actually perfect together. I recommend giving it a shot, either with your own veggies or with the original combination suggested by various peanut stew recipes on the internet. I am using this soup like productivity fuel, as I hope to write as well and as often as M does.

While I couldn’t find the original version I used years ago, here’s the version I worked from this time: African Chicken Peanut Stew

32. C’s Banana Bread

When we were kids, my mom would make banana nut bread that she gave to the neighbors for Christmas. She also made some for us, thankfully, but I remember that while she wouldn’t necessarily stand at the fence and chat for hours with our neighbors, that one time each year she ventured over with foil-wrapped loaves and shared with them. My mother taught me how to have neighbors, which I’m now learning in my own house, in a new city, where that can sometimes be a challenge.

I really don’t know how to make friends with people just because they live next door to me, it turns out. What I do know, however, is that the outside of banana nut bread, when done right, is chewy, not really crunchy or soft but instead almost caramelized. It’s the best part of the bread, though obviously the moist interior is as good or better than any fancy-store muffin or sweet bread you can find.

From my kitchen, I can see my neighbor’s dog tearing around the square of lawn like a banshee. From my kitchen, I can see my other neighbor working on his truck, or another neighbor grilling some dinner. From here, I can take the overly ripe bananas that have somehow survived Husband’s fruit obsession and mash them with other foods, creating the pasty mixture that browns up into that enviable chewy crust. 

This particular recipe isn’t my mother’s; I found one online, substituted pecans for walnuts, and made a brown butter glaze to make sure the top was extra rich. It turned out thick and sturdy, able to hold up in a toaster, and because I had only one banana ready, I added applesauce and so it’s a two-fruit treat.

C’s Banana Bread

2 Bananas, very ripe (or one banana and one little single-serving tub of applesauce)

2 Eggs, large

1 1/3 cups All-purpose flour

1/4 tsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp Baking soda

3/4 tsp Salt, fine grain

2/3 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Pecans

5 1/3 tbsp Butter, unsalted

Combine sugar and butter; cream together. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix the baking powder, baking soda, and flour in a separate bowl. Add slowly while stirring to the butter mixture. Mash bananas and add with the pecans to the mixture; put into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.

 

If you want to brown butter, here’s a technique to use; I added sugar to mine once it was done, to make a glaze, but I just eyeballed it and would suggest you do the same. http://www.thekitchn.com/basic-techniques-how-to-brown-77018

31. E’s One-Pan Pasta

E and I were both a little puzzled by the lack of community when we each moved to a new town for graduate school. We lived in apartment buildings next to each other and met through school; Husband was far away and E was single so we became each other’s frequent companion for grocery trips and long walks and chats about everything new that was happening to us. We were around each other so often that one jokester in our program told me that I didn’t have a boyfriend, that I’d just given E a boy’s name in my phone and texted her constantly.

One of my cherished memories was that she and I would each struggle to cook for one; we had many favorite foods but no recipe is anything but cumbersome in single-serving quantities. Instead, we’d each make large batches that we’d eat on for days, but for a little while, we would also box up some of whatever we made and trade: she’d get some spicy peanut soup and I’d get shepherd’s pie; she’d get mushroom enchiladas and I’d get sweet potato-topped pizza.

After graduate school, E moved to the neighboring state, and came to the wedding as one of my bridesmaids. Her eye for color and style was essential as we prepped the barn and set out all the decorations. Husband’s grandmother couldn’t stop telling me how beautiful E was that evening – from her stylish glasses down to her strappy shoes, she had created a wonderful bridesmaid ensemble. All my girls picked their own dresses, just sticking with the theme of “some kind of green hue” – the result was eclectic perfection.

She sent me a simple recipe for one-pan pasta, which I’d never tried. I use two pans usually: the pot for boiling the pasta, and the frying pan for sizzling up some homemade tomato or alfredo sauce. This pasta looked so good and light that I made it as a side with a different recipe, Chicken Scampi, and it was truly a breeze: chopping the tomatoes, onion, and garlic takes a bit of time, but as long as the onion pieces aren’t thick, don’t worry about dicing them small: as they boiled, they became almost noodle-like and added to the bulk of the pasta. I didn’t have shredded parmesan, so I cut a sizeable hunk of garlic-and-herb goat cheese, maybe 1.5 ounces, and stirred it into the pot – the slight amount of remaining water swirled through the soft cheese and made a very light coating sauce. With the scampi, it was extra good, but I’d eat it by itself (as I’m sure E does; she’s a vegetarian and is always finding delicious, filling ways to avoid meat).

I do wish E still lived close enough for me to bring over a bowl of steaming noodles, but it’s nice that she shared the recipe with me – a long-distance form of food-sharing.

E’s One Pan Pasta

12 ounces linguine

12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1 onion (thinly sliced)

4 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

4 cups water

 

Combine into a big pan, boil mixture, stir frequently, until water is nearly evaporated. Add shredded parmesan cheese!