Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Strangely Delicious Apple Lentil Salad

I am inevitably attracted to strange recipes. Some of them turn out to be keepers (like the rusks) and some are just. . .strange. But this Apple Lentil Salad is actually popular. I did take a picture, but I know it looks. . . .strange. Does anything with legumes photograph well? But really, everyone who has eaten this salad loves it, so I'm sharing it with you.

Apple Lentil Salad (from Simply in Season with very minor tweaks)

Cook and cool:
2 potatoes, chopped (peeling optional - I don't peel)

Soak in hot water for 15 minutes:
1 c. lentils

In large pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil.
Add and heat until bubbly:
2 Tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. salt

Add drained lentils and fry briefly.
Add 1 3/4 c. water and cook lentils until tender. Cool, keeping liquid.

1-2 tart apples, chopped
1/4 c. lemon juice or cider vinegar

Combine lentils with apples and potatoes and add:
1 small onion, minced
handful fresh parsley, chopped

Serve at room temperature. Can be made ahead and keeps well. Delicious served with toasted bread and cheese.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Flowers are Blooming (but alas, only on my needle)

It is indeed snowing outside and blowing so hard the snow is not even settling charmingly on the trees. Sighhhhhhhhh . . . a perfect time to remember the little flowers I stitched a few days ago.

Now that my sis-in-law has her birthday flower, I can reveal them. The yellow one with the black yarn center went to her, and I was on such a roll that I made the blue and white one for myself. I'm picturing it on my denim jacket with my yellow linen skirt, tanned legs, and by gum, my pretty yellow slides. Please God, soon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Dishcloth: 1972 Tracksuit Edition

I love this bright dishcloth which finished up 3 odd bits of yarn. I've cast on for yet another scrappy dishcloth because I'm having so much fun playing with the colors. The pattern is here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Packing Snow

Finally after a few weeks of melting, the snowmageddon has turned into packing snow!

So my husband and daughter built a snowman one afternoon and came in breathlessly looking for something to make eyes and mouth; luckily I had a carrot. But what's a modern family with no coal pile or wood pile to do for the rest? I seized the little plastic food from Aunt Shana, clapped it in a plastic bowl, and handed it out to the excited builders (my husband is an architect - this is loosely in his line of work, see).

I am posting about this because it was a handy solution to a problem that I'm sure will come up again as my children get older and climate change gets more dramatic (and tonight 4-12" of snow is predicted, for pity's sake).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dark Days Week 14: Italian Stew (or, What to do When Rice is Not Local)

I consider recipes for ideas, but pressed towards the suppertime rush, I was just planning to make my Dark Days meal by the recipe and shamefacedly apologize for the rice in it. (Unfortunately, I still need to confess that I used a non-local onion: I have looked hard, but there are no more root-cellared onions and I haven't figured out a reasonable substitute. But next year? I'm going to buy a truckload when they're in season and freeze their butts. Yes, I am irritated.)

But I got an idea: I cooked and chilled polenta (or mush, as my forebears called it) and broke it into squares to replace the 3 cups of cooked rice in the Bounty Rice from Simply in Season.

Here's the recipe as I made it. Everything is local and organic except for the dried herbs and (drat it) that onion; well, the cornmeal wasn't organic, just local.

Italian Stew

Brown together in a large pot or Dutch oven:
a few slices bacon, chopped
1/2 lb. ground beef
1-2 onions, chopped

Add and stir. Get it hot.
4 c. canned tomatoes and their juice (break 'em up with your hands if you want)
several teaspoons Italian herbs - I used basil, oregano, marjoram
something hot, if you wish (I used red pepper flakes)
salt and pepper to taste

Stir in gently:
4 c. shredded cabbage
3 c. cooked, chilled polenta in 2" pieces

Allow to cook together for a few minutes, so that cabbage is still crisp tender. Some of the polenta will dissolve, but some will be lumpish.
Stir in, again gently:
1/2 c. plain yogurt

Sprinkle top with 1 c. grated cheese (I used a local raw milk smoked cheddar) or sprinkle individual servings. This will be rather soupy after all.


We really liked the stew. My almost-2 year old had three helpings! We ate ours with a green salad of watercress, arugula, butter lettuce, and shredded turnip topped with homemade French. This is standard to our table right now because the greens are so available. I think the Italian stew would be nice with a hearty bread too, to dab up the juices.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Curry and Rice

Because I was the songleader in church, I needed an easy Sunday dinner. So I thawed a container of Red Lentil Coconut Curry (recipe from Simply in Season) on Saturday. Also on Saturday, I made a winter cabbage salad. On Sunday morning, I put the curry in a covered casserole, put 1.5 c. jasmine rice and 2.5 c. water in another covered casserole. I set the oven on timed bake for 350 degrees for 1 hour, to end just as we walked in the door from church.

When we got home from church, all I needed to do was set the table and put some coconut and raisins in little dishes to garnish the curry.

I did a little experiment with the jasmine rice: I wanted to put some cardamom pods in the water, but in my hasty rummage, all I could lay my hands on was whole coriander. So I put in maybe 10 whole coriander. It was not enough to make the rice fragrant, so next time I will double it or give myself more time to root through my spices in the freezer.

Updated for Beth:

Red Lentil Coconut Curry (from Simply in Season, with some modifications)

At some point while something is simmering, cook 2 cups lentils (red preferred, but I have used whatever) in 4.5 c. water.

In large pot, saute:
1 large onion
coconut oil or ghee

Add and reduce heat to low. Cook and stir constantly for 3 minutes, being careful not to let spices and onion brown:
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. minced ginger root
2-3 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp EACH termeric, cumin, pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves

Add and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often:
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 c. tomato sauce

Add the cooked red lentils and their water to the pot.

Add and cook over medium just until tender - 10-15 minutes:
partial or whole head cauliflower, in florets
1-2 sweet potatoes, chunked (can use carrots if you want to freeze it)
1/4 head cabbage
(vegetables are flexible - can add peas at end, or edamame or sub regular potatoes or squash for the sweet potatoes)

Serve over brown rice with toppings like nuts, raisins, coconuts or pineapple; good with Indian chutneys on the side too.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Valentine Rose

Because Sunday is full already, my valentine and I went out for sushi the next day. And the sweet waitress gave me a rose left over from the previous festivities. My favorite part of getting flowers is rearranging them after a few days. Once they're past their first beauty, I am freer with the scissors.

The original bouquet is in my flashy Nehi bottle, saved carefully from a trip South after reading about the "Negroes drinking the more vivid flavors of Nehi Cola" in To Kill a Mockingbird. When I taught English, I loved whipping it out when we got to that part of the story.

I planned to put the rose in the little vase, but once in, it looked just silly. So I floated it instead. Lovely.

And then I put the baby's breath by itself in the little glass vase - so much prettier on its own than as "filler."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Purple Eggs

When you save the juice from pickled red beets, then you get to marinate hard boiled eggs in it for at least 12 hours. And then you have purple eggs! Which also taste delicious.

I've also had mustard eggs at a local restaurant, chopped atop a spinach salad with mushrooms and sunflower seeds, and I recall vinegar eggs from the movie Dances with Wolves. But I wonder: could you marinate hard boiled eggs in any sauce? I can think of some I want to try: dill pickle juice, curry paste, some kind of Asian soy sauce dressing. . .

Have I lost my mind or does this sound good?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

South African Rusks

I have some South African extended family members and they have turned my father on to Ouma's Rusks. The rusks are similar to biscotti, but better. Idly paging through a cookbook left behind by a tenant, Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, I saw a recipe for rusks. I was skeptical about the taste after enjoying Ouma's, but the directions included drying the rusks for 12 hours in the oven. I am a sucker for a strange recipe, so late one night (I'm not telling you how late), I set to work.

Turns out, the rusks are comparable to Ouma's and way better than homemade biscotti. We all love them and though the children are encouraged to dunk them, they do eat them plain, so they are good snacks. Rusks are moderately healthy, not too sweet, and scented my house for a full two days after they were finished (must be the long overnight bake). I hope you try them, and like them, too.

Rusks from Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant

Mix together in a large bowl:
2 c. white flour
2 c. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine wet stuff:
1/2 c. melted butter
2 eggs
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond extract

Pour the wet stuff into the dry and stir until you have a soft dough, similar to biscuits.

On a well-floured surface, roll or pat the dough to 1/2" thickness and cut into rectangles (they suggest 2x4")

Bake at 400 on greased baking sheets for 25 minutes. Then pile the rusks together on a baking sheet and bake at 200 for about 12 hours. They should be very dry and hard. Keep in an airtight container - they'll keep for weeks.

Suggested variations (which all sound tempting to me!):
Oatmeal raisin rusks: reduce white flour to 1.5 cups, add 2 c. rolled oats and 1/2
c. chopped raisins
Almond rusks: Add 1 c. chopped almonds and omit cinnamon
Peanut rusks: Add 1 c. chopped peanuts
Anise rusks: Omit cinnamon and almond extract and add 2 tsp. anise extract
or anisette

My midafternoon cuppa. In honor of the rusk, I made bush tea.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dark Days Week 13: Squash Soup with Fresh Pasta

After reading about other Dark Days' adventures in pasta making, I finally gave it a whirl. I used Alice Waters' wonderfully precise recipe from The Art of Simple Food (recommended by SouleMama) and I talked on the phone to my dear friend while I made it. Without an apron. Witness the results and learn from me:

Getting ready. Going to freeze the egg whites for something else.

The flat sheets of dough, well-floured inbetween.

The cut noodles - I have to run them through my fingers to flour and separate them - really really fun.

I used local whole wheat pastry flour, local eggs, and non-local white flour to make the noodles. Then I made a pureed squash soup with local organic squash, cream, onions, and chicken stock, plus far-away champagne, cumin, nutmeg, and ginger. Into this, I put the fresh pasta. I've made this soup before with cheese ravioli, and with the right patience, I would make fresh ravioli with local feta.

We ate it with a gorgeous SOLE salad of purple lettuce, and emerald green watercress, shredded turnips dressed with homemade French made with my own local ketchup and topped with simple homemade salt and pepper croutons.

I took pictures of the salad, but it turned out they were all blurry - could have been the 4 year old bumping me as she explained why her name is on post-its all over the house ("so you won't forget my name, Mom") and I was too hungry to fiddle with any more pictures.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Halloween Recycled

For some extra oomph to our dress-up suitcase, we get out the Halloween costumes. Genevieve was a bear and Ben was a tiger. When J came to play last evening, they roared around in great fun. J wore a tiger headband that came from Genevieve's first birthday party - the theme was animals.

The tiger is still clutching his cleaning cloth from when he "helped" me clean the bathroom.

A further note on thriftiness with Halloween costumes: so far I have not asked my children what they wanted to be for Halloween. I procured the costumes at a price and place I could manage (the crazy shopping that accompanies holidays gives me the heaves). I'm already planning that Ben will wear the bear costume this October because it will be close to his size and since we own it, it's the cheapest costume I could get.

Lest you pity my children, I'm sure they will figure out that they could request a certain costume in the years ahead. And because I'm banking on their creativity and thrift, I'll just lead them to the scrap bag.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday Dinner: at Church

Sunday Dinner was a breeze for me yesterday. Once a month in the winter, our church meets for a Soup & Bread Meal after the service. Volunteers cook a soup (chili yesterday), and the rest of us bring bread and fruit, assigned by our last names. With the chili in mind, I baked 18 double-corn muffins on Saturday, and had a lovely dinner with dear friends. Just our place settings to wash at home and a lost cloth napkin to wonder over. . .

How Thrifty is My Hot Cereal?

Well, I felt smug because I bought my own bulk grains for hot cereal. I thought surely I beat Bob's Red Mill for price per pound. I did the calculations and lo, my cereal is not as cheap as I thought it was. Ahem.

Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Cereal, in bulk from their website is $1.75/lb.

Suggested retail elsewhere puts the price at $2.55/lb.

My cereal is $1.48/lb.

Well, I'll finish the winter out with my thrown-together blend, but maybe next year I will start the winter with a big bag of Bob's and not fiddle with stocking separate grains, mixing them, and then grinding them in my blender.

For the record, anyway, here is a frequent winter breakfast for my family.

Bring 4 cups water and a little salt to boil. Grind 1 and 1/3 cups whole grains such as rye, spelt, quinoa, barley, buckwheat groats, amaranth, and millet in the blender until mostly powder with maybe a few nubbins.

Pour the grains slowly into the water, stirring, and stir frequently for the first few minutes. Cook on low, covered, for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve as you would any hot cereal. In our house, we like it with milk, some brown sugar, raisins and nuts. This amount usually feeds my family of 2 adults and 2 small children; to adjust amounts, keep in mind that you should grind 1/3 cup grain for 1 cup boiling water. You really can use any whole grain and some people might also use legumes or beans for protein - we don't care for that taste and anyway, we get a complete protein from having the cereal with milk.

I consider myself a thrifty consumer, so I should know by now that I must always, always do the calculations. I should not assume that, for example, big stores or chain stores are always cheaper. . . that on sale at one store is cheaper than another store. . .that buying a bigger size of something means it's cheaper. . . that organic or local is more expensive. . .

Have you been caught by any of these stereotypes?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cutting Board and Candles

Because the snow makes it so cumbersome to go anywhere, I'm getting caught up on my work. I love that!

I'm taking good care of my newish bamboo cutting board, oiling it with mineral oil.

And just for the thrifty record, I found 2 Christmas clearance candles when I swooped through my drugstore before The Blizzard. $.49 each, originally $4.99 each!!
My husband was not as impressed as I'm expecting you to be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Little Sewing Projects

I didn't plan to have three quilts in progress now, but I do. Quilts are enormous projects, so I turned to some quick fixes to satisfy my need for some closure.

First up was some attention to my Genevieve. I felt like I said no constantly to her yesterday and I resolved today would be different from my end.

I told her to choose a decorative stitch from my Bernina, and then we sewed a decorative edges on plain cotton batiste hankies. I had blue thread in the machine for another project (you can just glimpse the pattern envelope behind my machine). It tickled me to watch her pick the stitches, bypassing flowers and hearts for geometric shapes.

When her mom-attention tank was filled up (whew), I turned my attention to other sewing. A few weeks ago I chose and cut out 11"x17" flannel pairs for baby burpcloths. Last night, in a quick 15-minute snatch before dinner, I sewed them together with a spot left for turning. While talking weather with my dad on the phone after dinner, I turned them right side out. This morning, finally, I topstitched them. Now I have two baby shower gifts for little sweetie girls coming up.

In life before children, I would have sewed these in one fell swoop, but now I have to seize pockets of time. I feel even more victorious for getting things done in such midget bites!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Coping with Snow: Knitting and Baking

Outside is a blizzard, an actual blizzard. Adding more snow on top of the two feet we already had. Beautiful, but I'm trying not to think of the next few weeks. . .

Inside, I tried a new recipe from Nigella: Oatcakes. They are very simple - just oats, water, lard, salt, and soda, and they remind me most of crackers. Apparently there are variations on oatcakes among the Scots, so I might try another one just for kicks. I'll feed these to the children when they wake up from their naps.

Of course I ate a few, but my *real* snack was a cup of green tea, a clementine, and some very dark Ghirardelli chocolate.

And I finished a dishcloth for myself - the one I was using had turned Victorian orphan grey and sprung a hole besides. So I am pleased with my bright new one. And here are the directions as I know them in my head - my apologies if I don't have the right knitting terminology. My grandmother taught me how to knit these and they are my quotidian, knit-in-my-sleep handwork.

I use Sugar and Cream cotton yarn and size 7 needles.

Cast on 4 stitches.
Knit 4.
Slip 1, knit 1, yarn over, and knit the rest.
Repeat this sequence until you have 40 to 50 stitches (depends how big you like your dishcloth - I usually make mine 45+).
Now, to decrease: slip 1, knit 2 together, yarn over, knit 2 together, knit the rest of the row.
Repeat until you have 4 stitches left.
Knit 2, cast 1 off. Repeat until you have 1 stitch left (this is where my dishcloth is in the photo). Cut the yarn so you have a long tail. Feed it through the final loop and tighten. Using a big sewing needle, weave the tail into the corner, being sure to go back and forth. Trim end closely. Done!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dark Days Week 12: PA Dutch BBQ

You know how each region has its take on barbequed meat? Well, here's the PA Dutch version! More ethnic food for Dark Days. It's from the Mennonite Community Cookbook , but I called my mom and got her slight adjustments because her version is what I grew up on. Called simply "barbeque", it's ubiquitous at potlucks and picnics. Fortunately for me, Martin's Potato Rolls fall within my 100 mile radius (normally when I say local, I mean made/grown in my county).


Fry together in a little oil if needed, until hamburger is brown:
1 pound hamburger
1 chopped onion

Mix together:
1/3 c. ketchup
1.5 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. vinegar
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt

Pour sauce over meat and onions in skillet. Simmer about 20 minutes and serve on rolls.

We ate our barbeque sandwiches with German slaw (also known as pepper cabbage). I used cabbage, spring onions, and parsley, which were local and organic. From Mennonite Country Style, this version freezes well. I also made oven sweet potato fries with plenty of salt and pepper.

A little thriftiness:
Instead of simmering the barbeque on the stovetop, I popped it in the oven where the sweet potatoes were roasting at 425. Worked fine. Then I also warmed the buns by wrapping them in a dishtowel and setting them just under my oven's vent. Also worked fine.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Thanksgiving Flavors

This is not one of the easiest Sunday dinners in my repertoire, but my collection of cornbread was starting to take over my freezer and I do adore Thanksgiving flavors.

On Saturday:
#thawed cornbread
#made cranberry applesauce (like applesauce only with a bag of cranberries thrown in - sweeten until it's how you like it - tart, in my opinion)
#made creamed chicken (from More with Less - using leftover Thanksgiving turkey!); put in casserole with glass lid for easy re-heating

On Sunday morning:
#mixed up the cornbread dressing (also from More with Less - saute vegetables in the dutch oven, throw the rest of the herbs, cornbread, and stock in - set on timed bake
#cut up cauliflower, add water in pot

At Sunday dinnertime:
#turn burner on under cauliflower - steam it, sprinkle with sumac
#nuke creamed turkey in the microwave
#set cranberry applesauce and cornbread dressing on the table

I must say, cranberry applesauce is a workhorse in my winter cookery. My grandmother taught me to make it and it's so easy (I cut up 4-6 apples without coring or peeling, dump in a bag of cranberries and and maybe a 1/2 cup water and let it cook for a while, then put it through my Foley food mill, add sugar and taste). Its bright tang goes well next to roasted root vegetables, turkey soup, split pea soup, and anything served with cornbread. Try it! You'll like it!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Baking

Outside, about two feet of powdery snow and still snowing.

Genevieve on the sliding board at the park.

It's too deep to be fun for Ben.

Inside, I'm baking. And wishing I had more outside plans ruined by the snowstorm so I could really notice this gift of time. But the baking is very much inspired by the snowstorm, so I'm feeling nicely snowed in.