Stacked

Tofu-vegetable stack

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn't look all that small!

Through the magic of small plates and camera angles, this doesn’t look all that small!

This dish is labeled as a “Meatless Main.”  It also gives its calorie information as 175 calories per serving.  Now, unless you’re going to have a rather substantial side dish or you’re saving ample room for dessert (good move) or you’re using MyFitnessPal and you find yourself with no more calories left….this is a side salad.  That’s how we served it.  We had frozen pizza with this as a side.  I wound up eating less pizza because this was here, so that’s good.  Anyway, I just wanted to point out for you that this is meatless, but it’s probably not much of a main dish as is.

On to the more interesting things.  Can you really grill tofu?!  Yes!  You definitely have to drain it to get it nice and dry.  The recipe says to split the block crosswise in four and the picture looks like big slices of tofu, so I took that to mean that you were supposed to cut it horizontally to make, in essence, wide patties of tofu.  This made sense from a grilling standpoint.  My tofu was wider than your usual block and not quite so tall, so I just cut it once.  If I cut it into four big slices, there’s no way they’d have the structural integrity not to fall through the grates.  Plus, only two people were eating, so why bother?

D is silly

D is silly

The veggies also grilled very nicely, and the dressing was awesome.  I took some liberties with the dressing.  I only had a little bit of parsley, but I have an herb garden in my window that’s producing basil, thyme, and oregano.  I chopped up some basil and oregano and added it to the little bit of parsley I already had.  That was delicious.  It took on more of an Italian flavor.  I really enjoyed the earthiness I got from the oregano.  Fresh oregano is really pretty awesome, but who wants to bother, right?  Right.  So I definitely recommend getting creative with your fresh herbs.  And here’s the real bonus to getting creative with your herbs…and this is kind of a fat kid move…the dressing is very good on frozen pizza.  How do I know?  Are you going to make me say it?  I dipped my pizza in it.  I figure fresh herb, fresh lemon, and olive oil dressing on pizza is the classy version of dipping it in ranch dressing.  Whatever.  It was good.

So please enjoy this side salad or very small main dish or pizza dip.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Well, once you notice the lemon wedge for scale, you really do see how small this is.

Stir fry for days

Shrimp and Scallion Stir Fry

over those pesky rice noodles

over those pesky rice noodles

Stir-fried noodles with eggplant and basil

eggplant and basil in the dead of winter.  decadent!

eggplant and basil in the dead of winter. decadent!

Stir-fried turkey in lettuce wraps

It has kind of a birth of Venus thing going on, doesn't it?

It has kind of a birth of Venus thing going on, doesn’t it?

So many stir fries in this issue.  If you add up the stir fry feature with the winter green sautees, that’s a whole lot of warm veggie glop on top of rice, pasta, or something.  These three are quite representative of all of the stir frying going on in issue #69 in that they are all ok, but not great, and all low calorie (until you start adding noodles and such…).

The Shrimp and Scallion Stir Fry can literally be summed up just by reading the name of the recipe.  See, there’s some shrimp and some scallions and you stir fry them.  Still with me?  Oh, and there’s garlic.  I served it over rice noodles because I’m still trying to get rid of those suckers.

The Stir-fried noodles with eggplant and basil was very good, if somewhat impractical.  I like to try and cook seasonally and Everyday Food usually supports that.  They’ve got a whole “in season” section and everything.  But then they have a chicken sandwich with zucchini on it and a stir fry with eggplant and basil in this issue.  Oh, and the chicken salad with basil too.  On one hand, I can’t complain.  It is definitely awesome to taste basil in the dead of winter.  It almost makes me believe that summer is coming, which it obviously isn’t.  It’s currently 28 degrees outside and it’s March 23rd.  There just won’t be an end to winter.  So buy some basil!

The Stir-fried turkey in lettuce wraps was good, but I still don’t care for lettuce wraps as a concept for the same reason that I don’t like hard shell tacos, too messy.  I know.  I know.  Polly Prissy Pants over here.  Also, when you make lettuce wraps, you have to spend so much time delicately removing each lettuce leaf carefully, carefully, so carefully….dang it!  It tore!  Then what do you do?  Make a very tiny lettuce wrap?  Give up and start over?  These are serious questions folks.  So the flavor of this recipe is quite good, but it’s not good enough to make me like lettuce wraps.  Oh, and yeah, that’s iceberg lettuce.  I know I’d get better results with a fancier lettuce, but I’d be angrier when the leaves tear because of the extra money.  So…kind of a catch 22.

In conclusion, if you need a stir fry, go to your EF collection and grab #69.  Whew!

Superb owl (hat tip to Stephen Colbert, MFA)

This meal was a loosely structured attempt to make a vegetarian version of a traditional Super Bowl feast.  The centerpiece was supposed to be the beet chips from this issue of Everyday Food.  As it turned out, those were the weakest part of the meal.  I’ll get the usual formalities out of the way, so we can move on to talking about much tastier things.  If you stick with me, there’s an awesome recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu at the end of this post.  We just have to talk about these loser chips from the magazine real quick…

Beet chips

"Barbeque chips"

“Barbeque chips”

This turned out to be a ton of work for very little return.  I need to find another recipe.  I have faith that beet chips can be made at home.  I used to love the beet chips at a bar in Urbana, IL, Crane Alley.  They served them with a goat cheese dip that was just unreal.  I’ll be honest, though.  I think those were fried.  That might really be the secret here.  Don’t send the oven to do a deep fryer’s job.  I busted on the mandoline for this one.  I followed the instructions where you stack cookie sheets on top of each other in the oven!  I tried to follow the instructions about taking them out when they “changed color” and believed them when they said they would be crispier as they cooled.  They didn’t.  These were, for the most part, soggy little discs of beet that took forever and created a ton of dishes.  Sad trombone…  But I’m keeping the faith because those handful of chips that actually were crisp were really tasty.  I sprinkled them with smoked sea salt to approximate the taste of barbeque chips.

Buffalo-wing style cauliflower

"wings"

“wings”

Ok, let’s move on to the real stars!  I made a recipe that I’ve been dying to make since I first got on Pinterest.  The buffalo cauliflower.  Yes, Pinterest fans!  That one!  What a cool recipe.  You basically batter some cauliflower florets with a buttermilk batter, bake them in the oven (while wishing they were deep fried…), then toss them with buffalo sauce and serve them with blue cheese dressing.  Is it good?  My word, yes.  Does it taste like buffalo wings?  Don’t be silly.  Of course not.  It tastes roughly like roasted cauliflower with a tangy buttermilk pancake wrapped around it, all doused in buffalo sauce.  If that sounds good to you, you’ll like this.  If not, just make wings and move on with your life.

Slow cooker BBQ Tofu

"barbeque sandwiches"

“barbeque sandwiches”

Here’s the real winner, and I feel very awkward saying this because I’m not really one for self-promotion.  This is my recipe for slow-cooker BBQ tofu.  It is a modification, adjustment, and reimagining of two recipes.  One is a BBQ tofu recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites.  I made that recipe straight-up one time and found it lacking.  I thought the tofu itself was really good.  The slow-cooking gave it a kind of roasty edge.  The sauce tasted too ketchuppy, and it tasted like it wasn’t done yet.  At the same time, the tofu definitely couldn’t have been cooked any longer without ruining it.  The other recipe is the smokey onion tofu marinade from Bean by Bean by the impossibly-named and impossibly wonderful Crescent Dragonwagon.  By marinating the tofu pieces overnight in her marinade, slow-cooking the sauce for some extra time on its own before adding the tofu chunks, then finishing them all together, this winds up being, quite honestly, my favorite BBQ sandwich.  I crave this stuff.

I feel I have to say a little more about my changes to the sauce recipe.  As I said before, when I made it the first time, it was ketchuppy.  What it was really missing was smoke.  Well, that’s a difficult one for a tofu slow-cooker recipe, right?  I added in smoke wherever I thought I could find it.  The Dragonwagon marinade uses liquid smoke.  I added liquid smoke to the BBQ sauce.  I also added a couple chopped chipotles in adobo, aka smoked jalapenos.  Those adjustments finally brought the smokey flavor.

It is with much trepidation that I release my baby out into the wild, but here it is.  The recipe that I’ve given the most work and the one of which I am the most proud.  Serve it at a Super Bowl party and make the veggies/non-veggies fall in love with you.  Or keep it all to yourself.

Slow-cooker barbeque tofu (adapted and adjusted from Not your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites by Beth Hensperger (Harvard Common Press: 2009))

The first step is to marinate the tofu pieces.

Smokey onion marinade (adapted from Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing: 2012))

  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • cloves from one head of garlic
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 drops liquid smoke
  • 3 16-oz blocks of extra firm tofu (no need to drain), cut into 1-inch cubes
  1. Combine all ingredients except for the tofu in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.  Pulse to break it up then process until it’s ground as fine as you can get it.  This is a sloppy, liquid marinade with little bits of onion in it.  It’s going to leak out of the food processor on to the counter.  Just a heads up.  If you have a very intense blender (I don’t) like maybe a vitamix, you could maybe do this in the blender and prevent that mess, but a normal blender will not break up an onion.  You don’t lose enough marinade to make this a big deal.
  2. Place the tofu in a nonreactive dish or large ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it.  Cover and refrigerate, trying to remember to turn the chunks every once in a while, overnight.  Crescent says you can let this marinate for up to 6 days(!)

Now that you have the tofu marinated, I’ll give you the rest of the recipe

  • 2 c ketchup
  • 1/4 firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped fine
  • 2 T cider or red wine vinegar
  • 1 T spiciest brown mustard you can find
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t citrus herb seasoning salt from the December 2011 Everyday Food, see this post (actually recipe calls for lemon pepper seasoning, which I’m sure is fine)
  • 1/4 t Angostura bitters
  • 1 t liquid smoke
  1. While the tofu is still marinating, get a jump start on the sauce.  In a medium bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce, chipotles, vinegar, mustard, paprika, garlic powder, citrus seasoning salt, bitters, and liquid smoke.  Stir to combine.
  2. Coat the inside of the crock with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour sauce into crock.  Cover and cook on low for 1 1/2 hours.  Stir the sauce well.
  3. Brush excess marinade off of the tofu and add it to the crock.  Just the excess.  Some bits will cling to the tofu pieces and that’s absolutely fine.  Cover and cook on low for another 4-6 hours, until very hot and fragrant.
  4. Serve on rolls.  I like this with raw onions and pickles.  I think it needs a little sharpness and snap.

Well, now I’m starving.

 

Needs a little protein

Brown-rice salad with spinach and tomatoes

Green vegetable stir fry

Thanks, feta!

Thanks, feta!

Kudos, tofu!

Kudos, tofu!

Here are two recipes that just need a little something to save them from themselves.  The first is the brown rice salad.  It’s not some great elements: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, dill, a nice dressing, and some nutty brown rice.  Know what it’s missing?  Some kind of protein, preferably of the dairy variety.  It’s got cucumbers and dill, so it’s already vaguely Greek.  In steps feta, and it’s perfect.

Then there’s the green vegetable stir fry.  So so good.  So so so little going on besides vegetables.  Leeks, snow peas, bok choy, celery, ginger.  I served it on brown rice, and that helped.  Again, it needed protein.  Delicious cheese didn’t really seem right (not that it ever seems wrong), but tofu was perfect.  Please take a second look at those cubes.  I have a slightly (read: extremely) anal trick for stir frying tofu.  Cut the tofu into cubes.  True cubes with nearly equal sized sides.  Heat up some vegetable oil.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them every 3-4 minutes.  I turn them by knocking them over on to another side and paying attention to which sides are brown and which are white.  This way, it all gets evenly fried.  You have to be willing to sit with a pair of tongs and gently bob tofu cubes on to their sides by a quarter turn.  If that sounds like madness, just stir them…like the lout that you are!  Either way, the tofu adds the protein and makes this a satisfying meal.

Something has happened with this green veggie stir fry that hasn’t happened with this blog in a very long time.  The recipe is not online.  Sonofa!  So I’m going to do you a solid and give you the recipe, adapted for to add the protein and brown rice that it needs.

Green vegetable stir fry (adapted from Everyday Food issue # 69 January/February 2010 p. 91)

  • 2 medium leeks (white and green parts only), halved lengthwise and rinsed well
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 head bok choy (3/4 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 c snow peas, trimmed
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • coarse salt (omit if using normal broth or substitute a little soy sauce when you serve it)
  • 1/4 low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • cooked brown rice for serving
  • block of extra firm tofu, drained and cut into perfect 1-inch cubes
  1. In a non-stick skillet, heat 1 T of the vegetable oil on medium-high heat.  Place the cubes into the hot oil and turn them a quarter turn onto a new side every 3-4 minutes, browning them evenly.  Pay attention to the first turn, you may find you need more or less cooking time to brown the cubes.
  2. In the meantime, cut leeks into 2-inch pieces; separate layers.  Heat another large skillet (your biggest, widest saucepan is a good choice here) or wok over medium-high heat until hot.  Add another 1 T oil, swirl to coat skillet.  Add half the ginger, half the garlic, and half the leeks.  You’re doing the veggies in two batches because they are going to lose a lot of liquid.  Stir until the leeks begin to soften, 1 to 2 minutes.  Increase heat to high; add half the bok choy, half the snow peas, and half the celery.  Season with salt or soy sauce, if using low-sodium broth.  Stir until vegetables begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add half the borth; toss until snow peas are bright green, 1 minute. Transfer veggies to a platter or big bowl.
  3. Repeat all of that stir frying with the remaining ingredients.  Remember that’s: ginger, garlic, and leeks, then bok choy, snow peas, and celery.
  4. Serve over brown rice with pan-fried tofu cubes on top.  Season with soy sauce, as desired (as they say in cookbooks)

Parchment Aplenty

Issue 69 had a feature on using parchment as a cooking method.  It had full meals, main dishes, sides, and even breakfast in a parchment.  So, here we go.

The first recipe I made was for a dinner party with the lovely neighbor.  I made the Chicken with Mango and Ginger.

Image

Not being a huge fan of spicy foods, I went easy on the jalapeño on my packet.  Somehow it managed to impart a small amount flavor without much heat so it worked well for me.  The ginger infused the chicken breast and the mango kept it nice and juicy.  (Warning: the mango also made the entire packet pretty juicy so be sure to serve it with something that can absorb a lot of liquid — I went with coconut rice.  It was a good decision.)  This was a delicious recipe and I will most likely make it again in the future, especially when I need a tropical escape!  I also think I might start pairing chicken and mango more often, grilled for example, or in a sandwich.  Yeah, it’s a good match.

Next, I made the Eggs with Mushroom and Spinach.

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I’m not going to lie to you.  I didn’t think this one was worth the effort of cutting the parchment (let alone any of the actual packaging of the ingredients into said parchment.  To be fair, I did make this recipe on a day when I had chills and aches set in by mid afternoon (yep, the flu) so I may not have been a totally unbiased opinion on that day.  I definitely didn’t feel any desire to finish eating my packet.  I maybe made it through half.  It was really plain and more or less boring.  And when considering the effort put into fixing it, it just wasn’t worth it.  I think I’d skip the parchment next time and just make a scramble.  So much easier and the separate parts would work a bit better together that way.

Needless to say, after coming down with the flu, I didn’t do much cooking for a while.  I ate soup.  Soup from a can.  Because I didn’t have the energy to eat anything else.  And after the flop that was the eggs with mushrooms and spinach I wasn’t particularly tempted to make another parchment recipe.  But I did.  I made the Potatoes, Leeks and Carrots in Parchment

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It may not look that thrilling, but it tasted pretty decent.  This was another instance where I would normally have just roasted these vegetables together, because vegetables are more delicious when roasted.  But! This is the light issue (hence all the parchment) and by using steam trapped in the parchment to cook these veggies, they stayed pretty flavorful and required much less fat than when roasted.  In fact, the fat was optional in this method of cooking, so it has its perks.

Finally, I made the Broccoli, Asparagus, and Snap Peas in Parchment.  And as a bonus, I also made the Herbed Orzo.

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This is probably the one parchment recipe that I think really benefits from this cooking method.  Each of these vegetables is still super flavorful when steamed and don’t necessarily require anything added to make them awesome.  We liked it so much that we made it two days in a row.  Try it.  Trust me.  

The Herbed Orzo was slightly less exciting, but still an alternative to rice or potatoes so it might be a good thing to add to the mix.  The main issue with this recipe is that I found out after I made it that the bear doesn’t like dill.  And of course, I had decided that the main herb flavor would be dill… I ate a lot of orzo that week.

And now, G will fill you in on the final parchment recipe! Go G!!!

Thanks, B!  I’m winding this one up with the Salmon with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

There's fish under there somewhere...

There’s fish under there somewhere…

This was definitely good and certainly easy enough.  I like cooking things en papillote (that’s French for “No, G, not papillon.  You’re thinking of the dog…or the Steve McQueen movie.”), but I will admit it makes me slightly nervous.  I don’t think I’d be able to make B’s chicken dish without ruining it by busting open the packet and checking it.  But I grew to love the method by making a very similar dish from a Rachael Ray recipe.  She inelegantly calls it Spanish Fish in a Sack.  You’ll see that recipe is much more involved than the one in EF here.  I think this recipe is a good, simple option.  The wide pieces of peel are a nice touch.  But…if I’m bothering to make parchment packets, I’m probably going to go with the Rachael Ray fish sack.  It’s just too good. 

In which polenta turns out to be cornmeal

pork tenderloin with swiss chard and polenta

mmmm....pork.....

mmmm….pork…..

polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms

Yes, grill your polenta!

Yes, grill your polenta!

Right off the bat, let me say that these two dishes were magnificent.  And for so few calories.  I said in December that I was anxiously awaiting some healthier fare, and this issue has been great.  368 calories for the pork tenderloin and a scant 261 for the wedges.  Well, mine was probably a bit more than that.  I have toddler, so I have whole milk in the house.  But that’s it.  The broth and pork and chard all come together to make something savory that tastes much more rich than it is.  Then the polenta just makes it so gooey.  It’s really comfort food.

A note about the polenta.  Did you know that polenta is yellow cornmeal?  I think I hear some chuckling coming through the tubes, and I think I deserve that.  I had always bought boxes or bags of “polenta” or “quick cooking polenta.”  This recipe calls for quick cooking polenta.  I reached into the pantry and discovered that I had maybe a 1/4 cup of polenta.  Gasp!  What to do?  D offered to go to the store.  I started googling how to make polenta thinking that someone had a neat trick.  Alton Brown had a recipe…for polenta.  It used yellow cornmeal.  At that point, I was slapping my forehead.  I got out my canister of yellow cornmeal and looked in.  Yeah, that looked a lot like polenta.  My polenta was always just ground finer than that.  Kind of like the difference between instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal.  Not since I found out that ponies were not baby horses have I felt quite so dense.  Another note: this recipe is not a good candidate for quick-cooking polenta.  Quick-cooking polenta comes together almost instantly.  I’ve never had to stir it for more than a minute before it seized into a mass.  This recipe has to cooking the polenta for 25 minutes.  Try that with quick-cooking polenta and you’re going to be chipping that stuff off of the bottom of the pot with a pick axe.  So use cornmeal!  Tada!

The polenta wedges are a great way to use up the leftovers.  Broiling the wedges seemed kinda weird.  Here I was taking blobs of polenta and grilling them(?)  To accomplish what, exactly?  To accomplish a wonderful crispy crust and a gooey interior, that’s what.  Sold?  Me too.  As for the rest of the recipe, the note about only 2T of heavy cream making the whole dish taste luxurious made me roll my eyes, but they were right!  It really did.  Also, I used button mushrooms instead of cremini because of cheapness, and it was delicious.  Use whatever mushrooms you like.

Surprising baby food

Spinach frittata with green salad

Yes, we are definitely in the "healthy issue."

Yes, we are definitely in the “healthy issue.”

Braised collards with tomatoes

It's a good thing, y'all!

It’s a good thing, y’all!

Black-bean and brown-rice cakes

Surely if I add enough bread and sauce, this will taste like something....

Surely if I add enough bread and sauce, this will taste like something….

No one needs to tell me how lucky I am that my son is a great eater.  It is a huge relief and a blessing.  He doesn’t always eat a ton of what’s put in front of him, and it sometimes takes him three tries to really get to like something, but he is a pretty adventurous eater for a toddler.  I’ve been told many times by doctors and other professional types that this will ratchet back and he will go through a picky stage where he’ll only want mac and cheese.  But I’m enjoying this adventurous baby while I’ve got him.  Which brings me to the point of this post, these were three recipes that I served my little guy and didn’t think he’d really like them.  Spinach, collard greens, and black bean burgers with cilantro sauce don’t typically show up on the kids’ menu.  D and I liked one of these recipes very much, one pretty much, and one we were super pumped that the baby could eat it for us.  🙂

The braised collards were out-G.D.-standing.  They take a legitimate three hours plus, but that’s mostly just time on the stove.  I was lucky enough to buy pre-washed and pre-chopped collard greens, so this was just a matter of cutting up an onion and smashing some garlic cloves for me.  And the taste is wonderful.  I’m not really one for soul food.  I’m just not.  I lived in Georgia for a year when I was a kid, but I never developed a taste for it.  I don’t cook southern style stuff (which D actually really likes…sorry sweetie) and my affinity for Everyday Food plays right into that.  With the exception of the occasional BBQ summertime menu, Everyday Food keeps well above the Mason-Dixon line.  D was actually very surprised to see this one.  I believe the exact quote was “This is Everyday Food?  Ham hock, black eyed peas, and collards?!”  Well, to quote the great Scarlett O’Hara, “Fiddle dee dee!”  This is a delicious meal.  The slow cooking melds the flavors together beautifully to make a mild dish.  This is wonderful comfort food.  I will definitely make this one again.

Now the one we pretty much all three agreed on: the frittata and green salad.  The green salad was what it said it was.  Let’s leave it at that.  The frittata was nice.  It uses more egg whites than egg yolks, which leaves you in the difficult position of either doing something with all of those extra egg yolks or just throwing them out.  B suggested I make mayonnaise or orange curd.  These were fine ideas.  ….  I threw the yolks out a week later.  If you can think of something to do with the yolks or if you don’t mind pitching them, this is a fine recipe.  Or you could be a little less health-conscious and just leave them in.  I won’t tell.

All three members of my little clan loved the frittata on the first day.  J ate it up with minimal ketchup.  D and I both enjoyed it.  We had an extra one for dinner for J the next day, and I was dismayed to hear that he didn’t like it until D told me that the texture got really rubbery when he reheated it.  Maybe that’s because it’s mostly egg whites?  I don’t usually have a problem reheating egg dishes like quiche.  I’ll blame the egg whites.  Yet another reason to sneak those suckers back in there…

Last and least (depending on who you ask), the recipe that J loved and the adults haaaaated: the black bean and brown rice burgers.  Wow.  It’s not that they’re bad.  They’re not.  They’re just so bland.  Yes, even with all that jalapeno and cumin and the yogurt-cilantro sauce.  They tasted like refried beans.  We put them on rolls, added a bunch of the sauce, more cilantro, some red onion.  It tasted like…refried beans on a roll with a bunch of sauce, cilantro, and red onion.  J could not disagree more with this.  He ate all of our leftovers.  I want to say he ate these something like three or four days in a row.  He even ate one of the ones with jalapenos in it (we made separate burgers for the grownups) when my mom mistakenly fed him one.  He liked that one, too.  More power to you, J.

What a difference a year makes

Quick chickpea curry

A study in greens and browns...

A study in greens and browns…

I have a habit of writing in cookbooks.  My mom has a friend who will straight up cross out a recipe if she thinks it’s no good.  I don’t go quite that far, but I will put a discreet “x” near the title.  I write myself all kinds of notes on what was good and what wasn’t.  I don’t think I’ve done this for any of the recipes I’ve made for this blog.  I guess the blog is one giant collection of my notes on recipes.  Anyway, I almost always include a date on the note.  Not sure why.  Will I look back and say “Oh, I thought it needed more salt?  Well, that was in 2009.  Everyone was  salt-crazy in 2009!”  Not likely.  I suspect I do this because it’s fun to look back on what I was cooking and think about what things were like and how they have changed.

This recipe has one of those notes.  It’s dated 1/7/13.  First of all, I made this recipe again on 1/7/14.  That alone is pretty eerie.  I wrote “can sub 1T cumin &1T chili powder for the spices.  Serve w/ sour cream or yogurt.”  I like what I did there.  I took an Indian dish and made it kind of vaguely Tex Mexy.  I remember it being really good.  What really makes me smile is knowing the context of that quote.  I had a barely two month old son in the house.  I was lucky to be cooking at all.  I’m sure I went to make this, couldn’t find curry powder, and decided in my sleep deprived state to just add spices that tasted yummy.  The woman who wrote that note probably wasn’t showered.  She was facing the rapidly approaching end of her maternity leave.  She just lost a friend to cancer days before.  Her hair was falling out.  Yet, with all that, she cooked for her family.  She didn’t just cook, she cooked creatively.  She made it work even without the obviously key ingredient (It’s called “chickpea CURRY”).  I’m proud of that woman.

I’m also proud that I’ve learned some personal strategies to keep getting dinner on the table.  Often with the correct ingredients!  This recipe does hold up with the correct ingredients.  I’ve got a chana masala recipe from veg web that I like better than this recipe.  I think it’s richer in tomato flavor.  But this one is nice, especially with that cinnamon stick.  The recipe is really a blank slate.  It’s chickpeas and aromatics.  Why not a Greek version with oregano?

On behalf of G circa 1/7/13 and G circa 1/7/14, I hope you have fun making this recipe your own.

Space Coyote?

Spicy Chard with Ginger Sauté 

Find your soulmate, Homer.

Find your soulmate, Homer.

Kale with Tomato, Garlic, and Thyme Sauté

Kale turns out to be delicious once you boil the weird out of it.

Kale turns out to be delicious once you boil the weird out of it.

Beet Greens with Bacon

points for bacon and pasta...

points for bacon and pasta…

On page 22-23 of this magazine, there are four sautés.  They just kind of look like blobs of dark green stuff, so it’s difficult to tell at first glance what you’re supposed to do with the “in season winter greens” pictured.  Just eat them?  A quick glance at the under 100 calorie nutrition information for all of them should tell you that, no…you’ll starve.  In steps the bubble on page 23.  It states, “Enjoy the sautés as sides, toss with pasta for a main course (the chard’s great with Asian noodles), or serve on crostini.”  I said, “Ok, bubble.  I’ll buy it.”  So I made the kale, the beet greens, and the chard.

I’m going to get the less than awesome experiences out of the way first so I can end on a high note.  Ok.  The bubble said (and when has a bubble ever lied to me?) that the chard is great with Asian noodles.  I still had a good amount of rice noodles in the pantry from the beef salad way back when.  I asked for suggestions on how to get these things out of my house, internet, and the silence was deafening.  Deafening.  Either we are all at a loss for what to do with rice noodles or someone has the secret and she’s keeping it from me.  *narrows her eyes…*  Easy peasy, I’ll toss the spicy chard with ginger sauté with the rice noodles.  Here’s the important word in that recipe that you must pay attention to: “spicy.”  The recipe has two sliced jalapeños in it.  There’s no mention of seeding them, removing the ribs, or anything.  That’s two jalapeños and to balance that out?… chard and ginger.  Fun fact about chard and ginger: they do jack squat to cool down jalapeños.  I made this recipe as written and it was physically painful to eat.  And I love spicy food.  I put it on the rice noodles thinking, “Here we go.  The noodles will cool it down.”  Nope.  At this point, it was either throw it out or start doctoring it.

Paging Dr. P. Nutbutter!

I added a pretty considerable amount of peanut butter to the sauté.  Maybe a 1/4 cup.  It was still spicy, but not punishing.  As the final touch, I served it with diced mangoes and pineapple on the side.  Finally, after all that, we ate dinner.  Whew!

The upside: if you’re going to make this recipe, I highly recommend making a peanut butter-based sauce to put on top.  I added a 1/4 cup of peanut butter.  I could also see a mixture of peanut butter, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar, not unlike my beloved Sesame Noodles.  You will also want to serve this on noodles.  I also recommend serving it with a cooling side.  If I did this again, frankly, I would also use only one jalapeño and take out the seeds and ribs.  Or coat your mouth with wax like Homer does before he eats the Guatemalan insanity peppers.  Upside to that plan, you get to meet a space coyote.

Then there’s the beet greens with bacon, which has the opposite problem.  It’s pretty boring.  Maybe the problem is that I tried to make all of these sautees into main dishes when this one should really just be a side dish.

With that out of the way, we have an unqualified winner of a recipe to report: Kale with Tomato, Garlic, and Thyme.  This one is as quick and easy as it is delicious.  Sauté some veggies, boil some kale, boil some pasta (I think I might have used the same water), and toss it with salt, pepper, and oil.  C’mon!  Also, with the nice garlic and thyme, plus the intense green flavor of the kale, this prevents this recipe from becoming one of those dreaded Everyday Food pasta with no sauce recipes.

Thank Goodness for the January/February Issue!

You may have noticed, we fell a little behind on the writing again.  Ugh.  Who knew so much writing would be required for a blog? Anyway, as usual, we have been cooking in a timely manner, just not updating you on all of our adventures.

So, let me introduce the Jan/Feb 2010 issue!  The Light Issue.  Lots of lean meats and veggies in this one.

I started the year off making the Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula.

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As is often the case with the EF pastas, it seemed a little dry.  I don’t think this would have been an issue if I had doubled the roasted vegetable recipe.  The vegetables were pretty delicious. Roasted garlic, shallot and tomato make a nice, savory combination.

I say, go ahead and make this, just double the veg!