Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle


I first became familiar with Barbara Kingsolver's work when a friend recommended her wonderful novel The Poisonwood Bible. I was looking through the food/cookbook section at the library and was surprised to see a non-fiction book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I checked it out, not only because I know from experience that she is a great storyteller, but also because I was interested in her family's experience of a year of eating local food. Her family was hard-core dedicated.  They moved from arid Arizona to Virginia farmland, grew their own produce, and raised their own poultry. Pretty much the only non-local food that they consumed was coffee and wheat flour.

Brett teased that this book was hippie propaganda. I do admit that it was preachy at times, but everything it said made sense. Why shouldn't we know, or at least question, where our food comes from and how it was raised? I've never really thought about the bananas I buy every week traveling thousands of miles to get to my grocery cart. Am I okay with the fact that gazillions of gallons of fossil fuel was used to transport them? I like to think of myself as a pretty environmentally conscious person, so I shouldn't be okay with that. When Kingsolver talked about practically all produce traveling from California, I felt reassured. I thought at least I live in California, so it's not really traveling that far to get to me.

Newly educated on the intricacies of eating local, I was checking snow peas off my grocery list and just happened to notice the label above the bin that read, "Product of Guatemala." Guatemala?! Ugh. I still bought them, but at least I'm aware of where they come from now. At least I thought to look! Mushrooms- "Product of USA." That's not helpful. The United States is a HUGE country- I know, I've driven across it twice! I even looked at the free range eggs. Maybe I'll start going to the farmer's market. One thing is for sure, this book has changed the way I think about food.  I hope that after this thinking period, that it will start to change the way I eat.

I will never have a farm like Kingsolver has, and I definitely will never raise (and harvest) chickens, but I would like to have a garden and grow some food someday. If you look beyond the "hippie propaganda", this book is really about the joy of gardening, cooking, and eating. The fresh avocados our friend gave us last week were a tangible reminder that food doesn't have to come from the store. We can grow it!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Friendly Guacamole

I was planning our weekly menu and had a craving for guacamole. We hadn't made it in a long time and  Brett thought it sounded good too, so onto the menu it went. The next day, our friend just happened to give Brett some fresh avocados! What a wonderful coincidence! It reminded me of small town Arkansas where everyone brings everyone tomatoes from their garden. It is always so nice to receive fresh produce from a friend. Thanks Marie!

Our guacamole recipe came from my aunt Nancy and it is super easy and delicious. Thanks Nancy!

1 cup chopped tomato
3 avocados
1/4 of a chopped onion
1 minced jalapeno
1 T lime juice
1 tsp salt

I don't go exactly by the measurements, I just put what looks right. I definitely go easy on the tomato, but that's because I don't really like tomato. (We tried to make it once without tomato and it tasted weird, so just don't leave it out.)

It's hard to believe that I used to refuse to eat guacamole. I think it was the color and the mushiness that scared me. Who knows?  At least I came to my senses as an adult! It is sooooo yummy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Apple Turnovers

It has been about a thousand degrees here in San Diego for the past few days, and yet here I am posting about apple turnovers. These were delicious, but would be much better in colder weather.

With the last of our leftover phyllo dough from Election Night and, coincidentally, Inauguration Day we decided to make Apple Turnovers from Elie Krieger's The Food You Crave. We had all the ingredients on hand, and now that we are ol' pros with phyllo (or as Brett told me, "You don't freak out anymore"), it really came together quite easily.

I got the brown sugar and cinnamon measured and in a skillet along with some freshly grated nutmeg, while Brett thinly sliced the apples.  Some of them were so thin that he was holding them up to his eye to see if he could see through them. If I had been slicing they would have been much thicker and done quicker, but I probably would have had a bleeding finger.

When Brett was (finally) done slicing, I sauteed the apples in the sugar and spices until they were soft.  It is quite possibly one of the best smells in the world. Mmmmmm.

We prepared the phyllo with melted butter (even though the recipe says to use canola oil to cut out some of the fat.) And between the second and third layer we crumbled up some Vanilla Wafers.  Here I go again with my store brand follies. I have tried reduced fat Nilla Wafers and they are terrible. When I was at the store this week it was either reduced fat, mini, or store brand.  I went with the store brand. They are good, but do not taste like true Nilla Wafers. They kind of tasted like fortune cookies.

Once the phyllo was prepared we cut it into four strips and spooned a fourth of the apple mixture in little piles at each end of the dough strips. Brett did the honors of wrapping them up into little triangles. He compared it to folding up a paper football.

I brushed each turnover with more butter and then they went into a 350 degree oven.

They came out golden and flaky, with an ooey gooey apple center that was as hot as magma! We both decided to eat two servings. Oh well, no leftovers.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Strawberry Trick

My grandma was in California visiting for Easter and had a wonderful tip to share with me, which I am now going to share with you.

It is no secret that I love strawberries. The best strawberries in the world, as far as I am concerned, are from Manassero Farms in Orange County and I was so happy to see that my mom had bought a big crate of them for us to snack on during our visit. I usually just grab one, wash it, and eat it while holding the stem, but there are always a few juicy bites around the leaves that go to waste. I am also terrible (and dangerous) with a paring knife so when a recipe says to take the hulls out of strawberries, I usually don't.  This tip solves both of those problems.  All you need is a straw!

I thought that it would be easier to show you than to explain it in words, so I'm proud to present the first video ever posted on Foolin' Around in the Kitchen!

video
(Photography by Dad, music by Herb Ohta Jr.)

Dutch Babies

Another recipe that had been gathering dust since my bridal shower (4 years ago!) is for Dutch Babies. The recipe was given to me by a family friend, along with the pyrex dishes that we use ALL the time.  Many families have a special occasion breakfast and I can totally see why this is theirs. However, unlike many special occasion breakfasts, this one is incredibly easy, so it allows whoever is cooking to celebrate right along with everyone else. In typical Kim and Brett fashion, we made this for dinner instead of breakfast.

The recipe calls for a Tablespoon of butter in each dish, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that so I put 1/2 a Tablespoon (you could probably even put less if you want.)  While that was melting in the 425 degree oven, I got the batter together:
3/4 cup flour
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
That's it!  I stirred it up and it was quite lumpy, but that's exactly what the recipe said to expect.

When the butter was melted I sprayed a little cooking spray in there just for good measure, tried to distribute the batter evenly between the 4 dishes, and then put them in the oven for 15 minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised when I pulled them out of the oven!

We weren't exactly sure how to serve it so the first one just stayed in its dish and the second one got turned out onto a plate. 

We poured maple syrup and sprinkled powdered sugar over the top and it was delicious. They tasted a little bit like french toast but eggier. The texture was light and delicate, but it was rich and filling. We really liked it, and since it was sooooo easy, I'm sure we will see it again.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crusty Omelette Bake

Every day for breakfast I drink an Instant Breakfast.  I've been drinking them since high school and I think they're delicious.  On weekends Brett loves to eat a giant bowl of Cheerios, so I just make my Instant Breakfast as usual.  As you might guess, breakfast for breakfast is pretty rare in our household, but that doesn't mean we don't like breakfast, we just have breakfast for dinner on occasion.

This recipe came with my Longaberger pie plate.  Longaberger is well known for their beautiful baskets (pictured above) but they make ceramic bakeware and all sorts of other things too.  It's one of those recipes that, in addition to the ingredients, tells you what Longaberger tools you can use.  (Don't tell the folks at Longaberger, but I used a different mixing bowl, and it worked just fine.)

I started by taking a couple of large handfuls of thawed Southern-style hashbrowns and spreading them out in the bottom of a pie plate (that had been sprayed with cooking spray) and up the sides a little bit.  This baked for  about 10-15 minutes until the hashbrowns were starting to brown around the edges.

While that was cooling slightly I got to work on the egg mixture.  Really you could put whatever you like in your omelettes but I chose to follow the recipe.  5 beaten eggs, 1/2 a cup cubed ham, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup milk, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup broccoli florets and 1/4 cup of chopped green onion.  Some of you may be amazed that I didn't leave the broccoli out (Brett wanted me too) but I figured it was an easy way to sneak in a little bit of vegetables.

I poured the egg mixture over the hashbrowns and let it bake at 400 for 25 minutes.  When I took it out, the eggs were still a little runny, so I gave it a couple extra minutes.

We sliced it up like a pie, and ate it with ketchup on the side.

It was really good, but we both agreed that next time we'll leave out the broccoli.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mom Oops

As it turns out, I'm not the only one who occasionally makes mistakes in the kitchen, but then again, maybe it's genetic.

My mom was recently making her much loved White Chocolate Craisin Oatmeal Cookies and when she reached for the vanilla she accidentally grabbed the red food coloring.  They may look scary, but I've heard they still taste great.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Jambalaya

A family friend makes Jambalaya for big get-togethers and she gave me her signature recipe at my bridal shower. Even though I have had this Jambalaya recipe for four years now, I didn't get around to making it until last week.  Since Brett shrugged and grunted when I asked him what he wanted to eat that week, I made the menu.  He was not very excited about Jambalaya night.  I assured him that it would be similar to the Red Beans and Rice Soup that we make, only with andouille sausage instead of beans.

I was a little confused about whether or not the andouille sausage was already cooked.  It had the texture of pepperoni when I cut it into slices.  The recipe says to heat it through, but I let it go longer than that just to be on the safe side.  I also threw in some leftover bits of pre-cooked chicken.  I took the meat out and then cooked a chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, and a chopped green pepper in the same pot. (The recipe also calls for chopped celery, but I left that out.)

Once the veggies were tender, I put the meat back in, added three cups of chicken broth, and then did a major double take at the recipe. 1/4 cup of paprika!!  I didn't even have 1/4 cup of  paprika and I'd never seen a recipe that called for even close to such a huge amount.  What I did have a lot of was Cajun seasoning from Penzey's Spices.  So I left out the 1/4 tsp cayenne and the paprika from the recipe and instead added almost 1/4 of a cup of the Cajun Seasoning.  When that came to a boil I added two cups of rice and let it simmer covered until the rice had absorbed all the liquid and was cooked through.

The apartment smelled fantastic!  I think even Brett was starting to get excited, even though he didn't show it.  He was wary that it would be too spicy.  I went to have a taste to check if the rice was done and it was, "Oooooh it's good!" I yelled from the kitchen.  "Oooooh it is spicy though," quickly followed.

It was good, but we ate it with a giant glass of water.  I had to take a sip every two bites.  Our mouths were on fire!  Next time I'm going to half the cajun seasoning, I should have listened to my instincts, which told me a 1/4 cup was way too much.

I discovered a pretty good remedy to "put out the fire."  Popsicles!  I had one for dessert soon after the Jambalaya, and by the time it was gone, so was the spiciness.