Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soup and Veggies and Veggies and Soup

The concept of eating 5 servings of vegetables each day is starting to wear thin. It is not that I don't like vegetables, I do in fact. It is just hard to eat that many each and every day. Each day starts with a serving of vegetables first thing out of the chute. There is nothing like cold collards or cucumbers and bell peppers to break the nights fast, but if I don't get the first serving early, then I wind up forcing myself to eat squash as a late night snack. It is just easier to go ahead and jump in feet first each morning. I will confess though that leftover broccoli, sautéed onions and a dash of Parmesan Cheese over 1/2 cup of grits is pretty decent. For the record a collard omelet is a really bad idea!

Tonight I put a huge pot of soup on the stove right after we had finished supper. Once again thinking about how to incorporate the 5 servings, I opted for a vegetable dense soup. I found this in an extremely old Weight Watchers Cookbook I have from sometime in the late 70's? Early 80's? I have no idea what edition or the name of the actual book. I don't remember the actual size of the book either. Over the years is has lost covers and pages and is a shell of what it once was. Funny thing, I don't even remember using it a lot, but I must have for several pages are well splattered. ( I know this book is old because it is broken down into unlimited and limited vegetable servings as well as exchanges)

Everyday Soup

1 small head of cabbage, coarsely chopped
1/4 small onion diced
dried onions to taste
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1 carrot
1 cup green beans
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup yellow squash
1 cup diced celery
4 cups water
4 beef or chicken bouillon cubes
salt and papper to taste

The instructions are very basic. Toss everything in a pot and cook on low until it is all soft and soupy. Consume 3/4 cup daily as one of the 3 required vegetable servings . ( What is this 3 servings? I am choking down vegetables right and left)

What I did differently: I actually used all of the vegetables the recipe called for, but did not use dried onion. I put 2 small yellow onions and did not chop mine because I like things in a soup to have a chunky consistency. Mine were in pretty hefty julienne slices. I did use a can of whole tomatoes because they were in the pantry, but crushed them with the potato masher before adding them. Instead of the bouillon cubes I chose to use chicken stock for my soup liquid. I used a little salt but no pepper. . In addition I made a little bouquet garni of herbs that were on hand, a little thyme and marjoram and a bay leaf. I think it cooked on low for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. I did not eat any tonight, but am pretty sure I will have a cup in the morning for breakfast.

I will have it just as it is, with no embellishments, but when it is part of lunch or supper, i am guessing I will top it with a dollop of light sour cream and some habernero sauce. I will be sure to post how it tastes both alone and amended. I have no idea how many servings this is. Just guessing there will be at least 8 servings, maybe more. Picture to follow tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Hot Place Is Freezing Over Tonight?

Wow! I don't know what to do right now. I suppose I should act normal like tonight is just business as usual, but in reality I rarely cook 2 nights in a row. Not that we eat out every other night, but I mean the process of actually planning a meal and following through. We are in a weird place right now. Son3 is in the high school band and gets in much later than The Hub. So much later that by the time he arrives, The Hub has already had something to drink along with cheese and crackers. He still wants supper but generally wants it to be light, but Son3 is starving and wants MEAT and salad and MEAT and rolls and MEAT and green beans and MEAT. I seem to be doing a lot of grilling and salads and rolls and really nothing else. Well, for the past couple of nights we have had a real meal, planned ( Hey! I count it as thought out if you begin thinking before you physically start cooking) and cooked. ( With love? With consideration? With gas?)

For the past couple of days I have indulged my Pinterest interest ( addiction) and followed pin after pin of good things to eat. Now I appreciate cookies and cakes and even cake pops ( though I do beg you people to quit pinning so blooming many of them) but I have been on a vegetable quest. As I mentioned a while back I am trying very hard to eat 5 servings of vegetables each day. I know it is good for me and I actually like most veggies, but I find eating that many means I either have to have salad or crudite' for breakfast. I am getting used to it, but lettuce and morning coffee are not kissing cousins. ( And trust me on this, collard greens are just not a good way to start the day, even if you are like me and love collards) On days like today, I need an additional serving of two at night for the fifth and final serving of the day. I have been eating a boatload of broccoli and cauliflower and asparagus and green beans and just needed something different Enter the new Pinterest rave of the day, Oven "fried" zucchini with a caramelized onion dipping sauce. I started tracing down its' internet origins and though the credit was given to a blog, it seems it originated at a King Arthur Flour site.

So here is the recipe Baked Zucchini Sticks with Caramelized Onion Dipping Sauce
Compliments of ( stolen from) King Arthur Flour

For the Caramelized Onion Dipping Sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 medium sweet onion, about 1/2 pound, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp prepared mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

For the Zucchini Sticks:
3 medium zucchini, unpeeled, cut into 3"-long stick
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp oregano
1/2 cup flour
olive oil spray
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the dipping sauce:
Melt the butter in a medium frying pan over moderate heat, and add the sliced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, then caramelize. This should take between 10 and 15 minutes. The lower the heat, the longer it takes, but the less likely you are to burn the onions.

Once the onions are a medium brown, remove from the heat and add the vinegar.

Place the onions and vinegar into a small food processor. Add the honey and mustard, and process or blend until smooth.

Add the mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste, stirring to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.

To make the zucchini sticks:
Place the zucchini sticks in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with the tablespoon of salt. Let the zucchini drain for 1 hour or longer; rinse and pat dry.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and spray the parchment with olive oil.

Set up your zucchini dredging by placing the flour in a shallow bowl, the eggs in another shallow bowl, and the panko, parmesan, and oregano in a third shallow bowl. Dredge sticks in the flour, then egg, then roll in the crumb mixture. Place the sticks on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake sticks for 12 minutes, turn over, and bake for an additional 8 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Serve immediately, with caramelized onion dip.

I admit I did not puree' the onions for the dipping sauce. It would have just created one more dish to wash and I am not always about washing unnecessary dishes. It would have changed the consistency of the sauce but not the flavor. I was not fond of the sauce at all. I love caramelized onions and the flavor of them but thought it got lost in the honey/cider vinegar mixture. They overpowered the delicate caramelized onion flavor. I think if I do it again I will use champagne or white wine vinegar, which would be a much more subtle flavor. I would use about less than half of the honey it called for and would use a coarse grained mustard instead of the French's stuff. But I may never make it again for 2 reasons. It just takes too long and too much stirring to caramelize onions that should be blended anyway plus the zucchini sticks were fantastic just plain. I will eat zucchini but it is (was) no where near one of my favorite vegetables. It was outstanding! They are a tad of a pain to make. Well not really a pain but it takes a while to coat them because you have to do them one at a time or you get this big gloopy mess.

I put them together a little differently than the recipe called for. First I peeled mine because I did not look at the recipe when it talked about leaving the skin on until it was a moot point. I put the salted naked sticks in a colander with a breakfast plate on top of them to speed the sweating process a little. When I thought they were sufficiently de- juiced, I put them on a clean tea towel and covered and pressed them with another clean towel. It really did the trick of blotting them on both sides at the same time. I debated about the flour step but decided the King Arthur company had just added it to feature their product, so I put the bare strips in the egg wash and them one at a time rolled them in a shallow bowl filled with the panko, parmesean and the oregano. I strongly recommend the wet hand/ dry hand method of coating them. After using my right hand only for a couple of the strips my had visually looked like a bears paw. I washed the goo off my hand and then used right to dip and left to crumb. I did not have to wash until I was finished. Now for the best part of this whole recipe...Since you spray olive oil on parchment paper lining the pan, there is virtually no clean up and I am all about limiting dirty dishes.

I will put this in the vegetable rotation and can see this becoming at least an every other week menu item!

Now for a really important question. Do any of you happen to know who the patron saint of photographers is? I really do need to petition him/her before Christmas. If I am going to taking pictures of food I at least need a better camera than the one I am using . Of course I can shoot, talk and text all at the same time, so why would I want anything more?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interested in Pinterest?

Pinterest has become the single biggest time bandit of my life. It is addicting to see all the stuff I would never run across in my normal internet browsing; to see all the things I will never make, do, or see and to occasionally find something I will actually use in my walking around 3-D life.

For any of you who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a website that acts as a digital bulletin board. Remember how before the computer age we would see something we liked in a magazine or a newspaper and would cut (tear) it out and stick it on a cork board with a thumb tack, or a straight pin ? Well this is a similar thing except it is a global assortments of everyone's favorites, lumped into one huge massive site. It takes forever to even get through the tip of the Pinterest iceberg. I should know! I have spent countless hours when I should be sleeping looking at the plethora of interesting things I had no idea were available for my taking. For instance, it had never occurred to me to core an apple and insert a tea light to use as table decorations in the fall. Now I know and will use it somewhere. In addition to the boatloads of decorating and craft ideas are tons of recipes. One for something called Monkey Muffins has hit with a bang this week, so I thought why not try it.

Monkey Muffins from Pinterest but originating on The Pioneer Woman blog

Since this recipe is per muffin only you will decide "how much" the recipe calls for. I started mine with 6 frozen uncooked dinner rolls ( You know those you get in the frozen food aisle with about 2 dozen frozen rolls that look like white mutant eggs) If you have a fabulous dinner roll recipe you love to make knock yourself out and make it. If you had rather take an easier step and eliminate the whole yeast rising thing use biscuit dough, either homemade or canned

Take out of the freezer and let thaw. Take out a muffin pan ( regular size) and do a quick swish with Pam ( I did not do this step and really wish I had cause clean-up is going to take more than a little elbow grease) In the bottom of each muffin cup you are going to use put a thick pat of butter and one teaspoon of granulated sugar. Follow with about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled evenly ( yeah right!) over the sugar. Tear the thawed rolls into three parts and kinda roll them into 3 balls. (Easier said than done for the dough is very sticky) and put on top of the goodness in the muffin tins. Cover and let rise for about an hour. When the dough is risen put one more pat of butter on top of it, another healthy sprinkle of sugar ( 1/2 teaspoon or so) and a light sprinkle of cinnamon ( literally a pinch) Bake at the recommended temperature for your recipe, can or package ( mine was 400 degrees) until they are nicely brown and cooked through. While freshly hot and just out of the oven top each muffin with a healthy teaspoon of sweetened condensed milk over the top and let it ooze all over the hot bread. When they are cool ( Who am I kidding? These things need to be eaten warm) loosen the edges with a knife and serve with either steaming hot coffee or ice cold milk.

And the verdict is these are pretty delicious as is but there are a couple of things I will do differently next time. First I will put the still in a can condensed milk in a water bath in the crock pot for about 1 hour on high and then reduce the heat to low for 15 or so more hours. When it is done I will have this thick caramel to put over the blazing hot muffins. I thought the plain condensed milk was a little too milky and "raw" tasting. I will also add some toasted pecans on top of the caramel, but that is a personal thing. I do love pecans. I think I will try another batch and use ground cardamon instead of the cinnamon just to see how it tastes. Don't get me wrong, the cinnamon was excellent, but the cardamon would give it a Swedish flavor and could be outstanding. When I try it that way I will probably use toasted almond slivers rather than pecans.

I will also try it with biscuit dough some morning for a quick biscuit. I will let you know the pluses and minuses of all the different ways.

Now my biggest problem is what to do with one can minus 6 teaspoons of condensed milk. Any Suggestions?