Friday, February 29, 2008
A Thanksgiving-Esque Comfort Food Bento (from my archives / older blog). I have about a dozen different Bento Lunch Boxes or Kits, and this is the Zojirushi brand "Mr. Bento." Each container stacks on top of the other and are housed in a thermal jar which keeps the food quite warm, or quite cold.
Braised Southern Greens (Emeril)
Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
Homemade Corn Muffin (Small Batch Baking)
Verdict: Always delicious
Skill: Moderate. Takes some time to braise greens properly.
Repeat: The greens appear almost weekly in my house.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It's a Trader Joe's evening. Well, actually, it was a TJ's evening last night, also. I had a variety of vegetables from Trader Joe's (not my usual habit -- TJ's produce is not known for its shelf life. Fruit and vegetables seem to rot by the time you get home from the store, don't they?) and a fresh batch of herbs from my own garden, so I quickly roasted an entire pan of assorted vegetables for dinner, and kept the rest for the remainder of the week.
Poking around in the fridge tonight, I pulled out the roasted veggies, as well as a few other TJ's staples I usually have on hand, and came up with this very tasty concoction.
1 Truly Handmade Flour Tortilla
1 slice of prosciutto
1 slice of brie
1 roasted asparagus spear
3 roasted mushrooms
I grilled the prosciutto so it had a bit of crispiness to it first (and it slightly greased my panini pan that way. I barely buttered the outside of the tortilla, and layered in the prosciutto, vegetables, and topped with a slice of brie. I grilled it until grill marks appeared the cheese melted. Sliced, and served.
Monday, February 25, 2008
A) I am not into chocolate that much, really (chocolate ruins a good croissant in my humble opinion); B) I bought them to make a romantic Sunday breakfast with my boyfriend (who definately thinks chocolate elevates a good croissant and who never fails to remind me that he spent a summer in Paris and had one every single morning, with *THAT* girlfriend, the beeyotch); C) I have not been presented with the opportunity for a romantic Sunday breakfast with said boyfriend because D) we have not spent a summer in Paris and E) we seem to just automatically get up and go get coffee and work on our business and we don't make the time for B. She was the Queen Bee, apparently, whereas I'm the Worker Bee. But I've lasted a lot longer. Going on 7 years. Time for MY damn trip to Paris.
So. One of the observations made at Trader Joe's Fan (a web site dedicated to review of all things TJs) was that what they really need is an UN-chocolate, plain version. And huzzah, they listened! Not only do they now make a plain version, they made it MINI. 8 to a box! Yay! Which reminds me of the comedian who does the "hot pockets" routine ... what's his name? He makes fun of mini muffins. "Oh yes, I'll have 1 mini muffin ... or maybe 12."
I digress again.
Because I care about all of you, and your baking needs, I decided to fall on the grenade and buy them, and make them, and let you all know how they turn out, so you can plan your future purchases accordingly.
TJ's directions are:
Step 1, take frozen croissants and place them on a parchment lined or buttered baking dish, and leave out at room temperature for 7-9 hours (best overnight, for morning baking). This will both thaw and "proof" the dough. The box promises me this: "You will be astounded by how much these grow!"
Step 2, for a shiny croissant, brush with a teaspoon of beaten egg. Because I like to do things like that, but don't like to break a whole egg necessarily, I keep a little container of egg beaters in my fridge. Also, a quail egg would be terrific. No wasted egg. Or use a teaspoon and then eat the rest of the egg. The box doesn't say this. These are all valuable tips from me. Did I astound you with these tips?
Step 3, "Bake for 15-20 minutes until quiite brown. Light brown croissants will not be thoroughly baked!" (that's what it says, and it uses yet another exclamation mark, so Elaine Benis may have written these instructions).
Step 4, cool for 10 minutes.
So what we have in progess here, is step 1, about to go sit inside my toaster oven overnight, because somehow I think that will be more hygenic. The pan is a little pan from Daiso for $1.00, which happens to be perfect for my toaster oven. The standard paper clip is for scale.
Check back with me in the morning! Watch me oversleep and not make them, and come home to a balloon dough wad in my toaster oven. That's so me.
Oh, and this is the bad news: 1 croissant is 150 calories, 3g protein, 16g carb, and 9g fat.
I swear to you, if these come out no better than Pillsbury Crescent Rolls, I'm going to be UN. HAPPY.
... after 17 minutes bake time, the butter was sizzling.
They stuck to the parchment paper a bit. I'd spray the paper next time. After breaking one open ... the interior was moist and soft, the exterior was very flaky. They were actually a bit too hollow, more like puff pastry, but they were excellent, and it was delightful to have a hot croissant right out of the oven.
This bento lunch is humble fare -- some roasted turkey, salted edamame pods, tomato soup, and greek yogurt. But, the whimsical little face which greeted me was a chocolate soot sprite. I love all things Studio Ghibli -- especially the soot sprites. Cute, but how does it look when you get to work, you may ask? Surprisingly, not much changed. He faded just a tad, but was otherwise completely intact. Greek yogurt is sturdy enough to hold up to decorations. The method for making the perfect soot sprite is to dot the eyes, first. Soot sprites are cross-eyed for the most part, so I used a squeeze bottle of chocolate sauce and dotted the pupils close together. Then, drew two circles around those, to make the whites of his eyes. From there, it's just a matter of quick jagged lines to make the body, and I was all set.
I took him to work, admired him, and then I ate him.
(Originally posted in my Flickr set)
Friday, February 22, 2008
One of her posts called The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Sandwich -- grilled cheese on rye with whole chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, and Dijon -- inspired me to adapt something similar for my own tastes. It was, in a word, excellent.
I stuck to the recipe pretty faithfully except two minor things: I used a Panini press instead of a frying pan, and, I used a light butter spread on the outside, instead of obscene amounts of butter, because I don't think the sandwich really needs any more than that -- although it would be good either way.
I generally stick to a recipe very closely the first time out, and then adjust in the future if I want to change it (except for obvious subs required by allergies, etc). I think any shared recipe deserves that much respect. In that regard, I always find it really funny when people write in comments about someone's recipe and say something like "Thanks for the Beef Stew recipe! I didn't have beef, so I substituted chicken chunks, and, we don't like tomato sauce, so I substituted Cream of Chicken Soup, and I didn't add onions or garlic, I added carrots and celery instead. It was okay, I guess. Not the best beef stew I ever tried. Probably won't make it again, but thanks for sharing it." Wha---?! I'm serious, you read stuff like that ALL the time.
On the flip side, the other posts that crack me up, are from the very bossy cooks themselves, who will accept no substitutions. I read a recipe for Mini Party Cheeseburgers from the 1950s. The woman posting said "This was how my grandmother made them, so you must use THESE condiments, and NO substitutions AND I MEAN IT, BECAUSE OTHERWISE IT ISN'T MY GRANDMOTHER'S RECIPE." Alrighty then!!!
Here is The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Sandwich, and now, one of mine, too!
Whole Chili Pepper
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
I love packing an attractive and well-rounded "bento box" lunch. I have a collection of a great many different style Japanese Lunch Boxes, and belong to a host of photo sharing groups on Flickr, which gives one great inspiration for packing a portable meal.
Very often, my packed Bento Lunch Jars are for breakfast and lunch, together. The model you see here is a "Mr. Bento" jar which contains four seperate containers which are generally leak proof, and slip into an outer jar which retains heat, or cool, exceptionally well. From time to time, I'll post pics of my Bento Lunches, which are always, ALWAYS more interesting than what I can buy at the cafe in my office building.
Pineapple, Pom Seeds, Tangerine and Lime Salad
Tomato Basil Soup
Pretzel Crackers and Soft Cheddar Cheese Spread
Greek Yogurt with Key Lime Curd
I am a manufacturer's dream. If I see "new" on a shelf, I gravitate right toward it. I saw these crackers, new, and got a box. Now I wish I'd bought them all. After Ak-Maks for health and "a plain canvas" these may be my favorite cracker ever. They are like a soft Ritz cracker, buttery, but one side is a thin pretzel skin. Not like the hard pretzel skins you can buy (I adore pretzels for some reason, not the thin skin crackers). They are called Pretzel Flips. One side cracker, one side pretzel. It's like the thinnest coating, like the thin crackly coating you get on a freshly baked brownie. I love them.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Oh. My. God.
The website promises a sample is available, although I can't tell if that's if you're local to Oregon (where the product is made), or by mail order as well. I purchased mine from a roadside fruit stand in Northern California. Try the sample or buy a bag online, and don't blame me, either, if it makes you fat.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
8 Oreo sandwich cookies
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 of white chocolate chips or bark
Crush the Oreo sandwich cookies in a small food processor (I used my bullet blender) until completely crumbed (filling and all). Set aside a generous tablespoon of crumbs. Soften 2 tablespoons of cream cheese and stir into the blender cup of oreo crumbs until thoroughly combined, dark, and glossy. Form into small balls immediately, and place on a plate to chill. When chilled, melt the white chocolate chips in a shallow dish. Quickly and carefully dip and roll the chilled truffles in the white chocolate, and place back on chilled plate. Dust the tops of all dipped truffles with the reserved cookie crumbs. This is certainly optional, but I made no attempt to make my dips round and perfect looking -- the heat of the chocolate was melting the truffle somewhat and I prefer the rustic, more natural look. The crumbs aid in the rustic look. Chill again until ready to eat. Makes 8. I ate 2 before the photograph. Absolutely fantastic.
I'm thinking this is one easily adapatable recipe for a variety of needs and tastes.
- fat free cream cheese or neufchatel, instead of regular cream cheese
- sugar free oreos instead of regular oreos
- Trader Joe's Ginger Joe Joe's would make an excellent ginger truffle
- A lemon sandwich cookie would be delicious, with lemon zest on top
- Any favorite cookie frankly, would make a wonderful truffle
Skill: Great for making with children
Repeat? Unfortunately, yes. I see these truffles in my co workers' future.
Friday, February 15, 2008
I wanted to eat without waiting for the sprouts to roast (my method of choice) and so I elected to pan fry them in the same method one would shred and pan-fry cabbage. Same great flavor as roasted sprouts, but much much quicker.
HOT SPROUT SLAW
4 cleaned, thinly sliced brussels sprouts
1 slice bacon
1 knob of butter or lite spread
1 splash of olive oil
Schezwan Pepper Salt (or your spicy salt of choice)
Render one slice of bacon in a hot skillet. Add a knob of butter or spread, and a lite splash of olive oil, if you feel you need a bit more fat than the bacon provided (I did). Meanwhile, you will have cleaned the outer leaves from 4 sprouts and discarded the stems. Shred as for slaw, and add to hot skillet. I cooked half immediately, turning and toasting until it began to barely brown. I added the remainder of the slaw and cooked just until wilted and soft. In that way, I had a serving of hot sprout slaw in which some of it was warm, crusty and well browned and some was tender and butter. Best of both worlds. Season liberally with salt and pepper, or, as here, Schezwan Pepper Salt. I finished with a splash of lemon juice.
Pan Fried Cod
I seasoned and floured one fillet of cod, added it to the same pan as the sprouts, and quickly sauteed until well browned, adding copious amounts of lemon juice. Finished with salt and pepper, and serve atop the sprouts.
Skill: Monkey Simple
Repeat? Definately on the Sprouts, but I'm done with fish for awhile
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
She sighed heavily, and often, and spent much of the dinner hour with her head leaning against one hand, or chin in her hand, scowling off into space.
In short, she was your basic teenage girl (16 or 18 tops), full of disgust and angst, and she was sitting next to me in a Fresh Choice restaurant, where I’d popped in for a simple plate of salad and a bowl of what they call Build-Your-Own-Pho (but it isn’t Pho -- it's a horribly Americanized version, and yet, it is healthy, low-calories and tasty in a certain way).
What was remarkable to me at first was that she chosen to sit next to me at all. I’d selected a table in a corner of the restaurant, and in a sectioned off area, where virtually no one else was seated. It was blissfully quiet, there were 5 tables vacant in every direction. Not a kidney-bean or crouton-throwing toddler in sight. I set my salad and beverage down on my table, and went to fetch cutlery. When I returned to the table, she was seated at the table immediately next to me. I had a small table for 2 against a wall, so when I say right next to me, I mean that literally – right next to me on the same bench seat.
Why does this happen? You have at least 20 tables, and you choose the one less than 12 inches from another person? Same thing with parking lot spaces. Not a car around, but someone will decide to park next to me, to keep me company.
She was eating a bowl of soft serve ice cream, eyeing the front of the restaurant, and ignoring me completely. I sat down at the table after briefly considering moving, but thought it was probably unnecessary. If she was eating ice cream, she was finished with dinner. Right?
What transpired during and after dinner made for quite an interesting evening. As my boyfriend would say "Oh no. All the sudden you’re involved?" Which is what he says anytime I insert myself into a public situation that may draw attention to us which we may regret (like offering to help someone who has fallen down and that person ends up screaming at you that aliens are stealing her memories, or that all Eye-Talians have made deals with the devil and that's why one should NEVER eat pizza [true story]).
All the sudden I was involved.
What I learned over the next several minutes -- from her -- can be condensed as follows:
Her boyfriend works at Fresh Choice.
She works at Wal-Mart in the Snack Bar.
He has a car. She doesn't.
He works days and early evenings.
She works late night and early mornings.
They only get to see one another a few hours between shifts, or, if she visits him at work.
She visits him at work. A lot.
This bores her.
This thrills him.
Everything about her job is lame.
Everything about his job is lame.
She likes pudding. A lot.
She doesn't like soup.
After I sat down and began to eat, these details unfolded. Her boyfriend stopped by several times to bring her something to eat or count down how much longer she had to wait for his break.
"10 more minutes, baby girl, and I'll be on break."
"8 more minutes, babycakes."
"6 more minutes, boo boo."
I found him charming and fascinating. He wasn't a prize in the looks department, but he was clean and enthusiastic and clearly madly in love with this malcontent of a girl (a first Girlfriend for him, of that I'm certain -- he was still far to eager to please and woo her), and in all likelihood was jeopardizing his job by checking on her so often, permitting himself to be distracted.
Finally, he was there, to have dinner with her. I eavesdropped on most of their conversation.
I'm on break! Finally. Do you want more than ice cream?
I wanted pudding. There wasn't any. Why don't they refill the pudding?
Sorry baby. I'll go check for you. ::He leaves::
I found more pudding! They have not put it out yet.
::She eats it silently::
Is it good?
It's okay. What is THAT?
It's soup noodles from the Pho and then I put the chicken noodle soup over top of that.
Why not just eat Chicken Noodle Soup?
Because this has like, way more noodles this way and it's way better.
Are you tired baby? Do you want more than just pudding?
Yea, I guess. I'll take some soup like yours.
You got it! ::He leaves.::
Here you go. I loaded you up. Soup, noodles, some bread and pizza, and a potato.
I also got you some cornbread while I was up.
I don't like cornbread.
Oh this is aweseome, you'll love it. It's like --- it's like cake, not bread.
Is it good? Do you like it?
Yea. It's good. Whatever.
What time do you go to work tonight?
11, same as every other night. Why do you always ask me that?
Because sometimes you go to work at 10. I want to know how long we can visit and if you need me to take you to work.
Oh. I guess you're right. I better call.
::She calls:: Yea, Megan, do we go at 10 or 11? 10? Oh. I'm glad I called. Bye.
I work at 10.
See?! But that means we can't visit very long tonight.
Whatever. Is there any more pudding?
I'll see if they put it out yet. ::He leaves.::
It's not out yet. You didn't eat the soup.
It has too many noodles.
Oh, I'll go get you something else. Do you like Chili? Or spaghetti?
WHY WOULD I WANT SPAGHETTI?! THAT'S LIKE TONS MORE NOODLES. GAWD.
OH, SORRY BABY, SORRY! He actually waves his hands back and forth rapidly to try and un-do this foolish suggestion of his, to turn back time and not get her riled up. I can see he's an expert at this time-continuum thing.
He returns to his own dinner and eats quickly, gulping. His break time is rapidly dwindling, and he has spent the majority of it catering to a sullen, ungrateful girl. He looks up from his plate and notices she has her chin in her hand and she looks very sleepy.
What he does touches me. He stops eating, puts down his fork, and reaches across the table with his hand, and gently pushes all of her loose hair back and away from her face on both sides, tucking it behind her ears. She doesn't react to this, and keeps staring off into space. He is gently smiling at her.
I wish you didn't have to work tonight. You look tired.
My job is lame.
You could work here!
Your job is more lame. Working around food all the time.
But you work at the snack bar -- you're around food all the time too--
Whatver. I don't want to work here.
We'd see one another more often.
We'd be working. I couldn't sit and eat or anything.
I guess not. Do you want more pudding before I go back on?
Yeah. Wait. No. I'll get more ice cream. I"ll wait here until you're off. I got dropped off.
After he went back on duty, I smiled at her and said
Lot of time to kill before work?
I guess. Like 2 hours sitting here.
Do me a favor.
Be nice to that boy. Really nice.
He is so happy you are here.
He doesn't care. It just means we don't have to go out.
No, he is happy you are here, waiting for him, keeping him company.
He cares alot about you. I can tell.
Just be nice to that boy. You have a keeper.
What makes you think I'm not nice?
I'm not saying you're never nice. I'm saying, and take this from an old broad who has been down this road before -- this hour, this restaurant, this is valuable. This is special ---
Special?! It's freaking Fresh Choice and I'm so tired of it. I hate sitting here all the time waiting for him to get off work. I'm bored of it.
I can tell. But this is what you have. This is when you can see one another, and he's making it the best he possibly can. Why not do the same for him?
Are you like a teacher or something?
No, and this isn't an after school special. It's not even any of my business. But I can see things you can't.
Like what? ::she turns to me and looks more involved than she has all night.::
How thrilled he is that you're his girlfriend.
He touches you alot. Kisses you. Gets up and waits on you hand and foot. He had 30 minutes for his dinner break, probably worked what, 6-8 hours?
He spent 50% of his dinner break serving you instead of visiting. Or Eating.
He takes care of you.
He thinks you're pretty.
Oh for sure. He was fingering your hair. Even now, look at him.
What? (she turns and looks for him)
He's watching over here, watching us talk. Wave! ::we wave::
Everytime he walks by, he looks over to see what you're doing.
That doesn't mean he thinks I'm pretty.
Sure it does. He's watching you and watching over you. He's not embarrassed you are here. He wants people to know you are with him. He is very sweet. Girl -- you're lucky.
So be sweet back. He's making this hour as fun as he can -- for you, and he's the one working. You should do the same for him.
Be glad to see him.
Well you're the only one who can tell.
Smile at him. Thank him.
Blow him a kiss, but don't get him in trouble.
Blowing a kiss. LAME.
Oh you're completely wrong. You do it. Trust me.
Oh no way.
Do it. Listen. One of two things is going to happen to the two of you.
You'll be together in 10 years, or you won't.
Well that's brilliant.
And if you ARE, you're going to look back and laugh about how often you had to eat at Fresh Choice on his dinner break, and remember how much pudding he got for you, or when he got in trouble for kissing you, or when you snuck out extra rolls in your purse. All this stuff, you'll remember it and it will be a very happy memory.
And if you are NOT, you may be with some guy who doesn't take you out, doesn't pick up his garbage, doesn't remember to pay the bills, doesn't do squat for you, and you'll think, gosh, I remember when my first boyfriend worked at Fresh Choice, I'd meet him every night and he'd bring me soup, and pudding, and take care of me, and ask me if I was tired, and act like I was a princess. You'll wish you were right back here, eating more pudding. I bet this guy spends his last $10 bucks on you instead of gasoline.
I can't make the story more interesting. You can't tell a teenager what she has to look forward to. Never works.
I know, but I just can't tell you what this means. How sweet it is to watch him, and how much you'll look back and remember this kid, and wish you had been nicer to him. Don't blow this by being so confident you don't take care of him, as much as he takes care of you.
Blow him a kiss next time he walks by and looks at you.
Lame, but okay.
::She does it.:: He breaks into a huge grin and waves. He makes a detour comes by her table and quickly kisses her. He says:
Just 2hours until I'm off. We'll have like a whole hour before you work. I'll take you to work tonight, okay?
Okay, thank you. That would be really nice.
She looked at me for approval. I smiled, nodded and left. Last thing I heard him say:
"You look so pretty when you are smiling. I'll go get you some more pudding. They just put it out."
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
A fellow Bento Enthusiast came to my rescue with her tip for cooking steel cut oats the night before. Others piped in with a crock pot method, which I now use.
CROCK POT LAZY OATS
- 1 cup of Steel Cut Oats
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 and 1/2
The night before, add 1 cup of steel cut oats (rolled oats or quick oats are not recommended; they become gummy) and 4 cups of water, and salt, to a smallish crockpot. Cook on low overnight. In the morning, scrape down the sides of the crock pot and throughly mix in the foam, water, and oats*. Add a modest amount (less than a 1/4 cup) of 1/2 and 1/2, and stir to blend. Serve, topping as desired.
LEFTOVERS FOR THE WEEK
For the leftovers, pour the warm or hot oats into a buttered loaf pan, cover with cling film, and refrigerate. The "oat loaf" will solidify very quickly, and I've kept it for as long as a week, with no ill effects or loss of flavor. Each morning thereafter, simply slice off a thick piece of oatmeal, place in a microwave safe dish, and microwave until hot and bubbling. The oatmeal will return to the loose and creamy consistency -- I promise. Top as desired.
*There will be some loss of product on the sides of the pot -- this is just the nature of the beast. I tried using a crock pot liner once -- it was a disaster. I lost more than ever.
My toppings of choice are light butter, Fat Free Half and Half, Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, dried currants, and chopped nuts. Yes, I know that Splenda is poison. I need Sugar Free baked goods, and use it, and Splenda Granular, for just about all baking. I make very few desserts and when I do, I use Splenda. No apologies. As for the half and half, it's surprpising palatable to me because they have the consistency right. I wouldn't serve it to company, but a tablespoon or so for thickening a sauce or to top my oatmeal is fine. No apologies for that, either.
Have a good morning. -- Kate
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Let’s make trout and roasted vegetables for dinner, shall we?
Into the pan goes just a few each of baby cut carrots, red small potatoes, brussels sprouts, yam, and spring onion, with one thyme sprig and a bit of olive oil, for a quick saute. After they’ve turned just a bit golden, they’ll be taken from the fire and added to my toaster oven to continue to roast, while I prepare the fish.
I’m sorry, that I have to cut your head off, I really am. Next, we’ll trim the gills and fins, and remove the head. We’ll also cut three or four gashes into the sides, for seasoning.
Dredge the cleaned trout in seasoned flour. I used Dixie Fry. I’ve never understood why we take this step. My mother did, my grandmother did — and so I do as well. Why do we dredge the outside of a fish in flour, to create a crust, if we are not going to eat the crusty skin? It gets peeled off. Am I missing something here? Does it really flavor the flesh that much? Comments appreciated.
We’ll saute one side of the fish for 3-5 minutes, in a bit of olive oil and butter, until one side is brown and crusty. Flip it over, add another knob of butter and a few sage leaves, and saute the other side for 3-5 minutes, basting the fish with the sage butter (inside and on top).
As the fish is nearly down, take the roasted vegetables out of the oven, where they've become brown and toasty.
Plate the vegetables, trout, and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon.