Saturday, October 8, 2005, 08:34 PM - breakfastMenu
Today isn't very exciting, foodwise. We had oatmeal for breakfast. Breakfast was at noon, so we skipped lunch and went to a "Japanese" restaurant with some friends for dinner.
Recipes (and other commentary)
I used rolled oats. Steel-cut oats are vastly superior, but I haven't figured out how to get steel-cut oats in Albany. In San Diego you can just go buy the bob's red mill Scottish oats or the McSomethingorother's Irish oats. In Brunswick we could also get some variety of Irish oats that were steel-cut. In Albany you can get oatmeal with all sorts of different labels on the container, but I haven't figured out that there is any difference but the label. No matter what variety of oat it claims to be (even when a brand has 3 different varieties next to each other on the shelf), it's always just plain rolled oats.
But whatever I end up with, I just follow the directions on the package. That's not true; I usually forget to follow the directions, and it's not rocket science so it doesn't matter. Today, by some miracle, I do things in the order specified on the package. It doesn't matter as long as you use more or less the proportions they tell you. Then add cranberries. You have to buy a bunch of cranberries when they sell them around Thanksgiving and Christmas and freeze them so you have a stash to draw from during the rest of the year. Cook the oatmeal and cranberries until the cranberries start to pop and juicy cranberry goodness ooooks out into the oatmeal. Then serve.
I like to put a dusting of brown sugar over the top. It melts from the combination of heat and residual liquid into a crusty sugary coating. It's like a poor man's creme brule, only with oatmeal instead of creme. For some reason this makes me happy. I just like the texture. Don't bother with brown sugar if you're just going to mix it in and not have the nifty texture.
I made the mistake of ordering soba. It was a big disappointment. We went to this restaurant once before, about a year ago, and it was really amazingly yummy. They seem to have modified their menu. I think it might have been Americanized to cater to people who don't really like Japanese food. It used to automatically taste yummy; now they serve bland stuff with a bottle of seasoning on the side just in case you are the sort of person who likes food that tastes like something. Prepackaged stuff on the side is never as good as food that's just made good in the first place. Why, oh why did they change? And they don't have zaru soba anymore. I think it's a bit of a stretch to say they have soba at all. It was mostly flour... the noodles were white with flecks of what might have been buckwheat... they didn't taste like soba, they tasted like flour. So sad...
I'm going to have to learn to make soba. Only I really don't have an appropriate kitchen for it here. Maybe I'll give it a shot sometime, though. Then again, I am visiting San Diego at the end of October and can hitch a ride to chopstiX. Somehow eating bad soba made me very homesick for the real thing. I've always wondered how people could stand living places without 24 hour burrito joints within a reasonable drive from their house. Now I must also wonder how people live without a good noodle house.
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Friday, October 7, 2005, 10:30 PM - sandwichesMenu
Today we split a mung bean cake for breakfast and ate out for lunch. For dinner, we had patty melts with leftover carrot soup.
Recipes (and other commentary)
Mung Bean Cake
You can get mung bean cakes at your local asian market. Yes, even if you live someplace like Albany with teensy tiny asian markets with sufficiently small selections that you have to bring ingredients with you from San Diego to cook with. So there is no excuse not to try mung bean cakes. They're little pastries with a sweet pasty filling. It's not too sweet, though. If I had to choose between a chocolate donut and a mung bean cake, I'd take the mung bean cake.
Salad and Tortellini Soup
We went to a restaurant called Maggie's that is across the street from the laundromat. It's Italian. Everything around the laundromat is Italian. There's a pizza place and a deli as well. All 3 will make you the same assortment of sandwiches. The only difference is the deli will sell you bread or various Italian food imports, the pizza place will sell you pizza, and Maggies will sell you soups and salads and has indoor seating. The salad was mediocre, the soup was yummy.
We've been making a lot of patty melts lately. I'm not sure why. I think possibly because we haven't felt like using much tofu lately, and there are only so many varieties of fake meat. One of them is the Morning Star Farms patty, which is really good. And possibly because I just discovered grilled cheese sandwiches recently. I never knew about them before. When I was growing up, a melted cheese sandwich was made by sticking cheese on bread and microwaving it. A melt is different in that it is cooked in a frying pan and the bread is buttered. That didn't go over well during the all-fat-is-bad period and I think many moms of my mom's generation tried to kill the grilled cheese meme. Not maliciously, but because they thought it was in our own best interest. However, grilled cheese is better than just melted-in-a-microwave cheese.
1. Slice some bread. I used rye bread from the Italian deli mentioned above.
2. put thinly sliced cheese on all of the slices of bread. I used cheedar, although I've been told Swiss is the classic thing to use.
3. If you have onions, cook them up in olive oil until they're nicely carmelized. You can cook the patties with them at the same time if you have a big enough frying pan, or you can do them in series. We were out of onion, so instead of cooking up onion I just heated the patties and put a mixture of dried onion flakes and chopped garlic on half of the pieces of bread. Put cooked patties on the same pieces as the onions. Normally I put the patties on before the onions, but I don't know if it makes any huge structural difference. Then flip the pieces of bread that just have cheese on them onto the pieces of bread with the onion and patty on them.
You should end up with something like this:
4. Butter the top of the top slice of bread, then very carefully flip the entire sandwich over so it goes butter-side down into the frying pan. The frying pan should be heated to medium heat on the burner. You might smoosh the whole thing a bit with a spatula, if you feel like it. I don't know if it makes any difference or not, but sometimes it feels like the right thing to do.
5. Butter the side of the bread in the pan that is facing up. When the cheese closest to the pan starts to melt, flip the sandwich so the newly buttered piece of bread is down. You'll notice when you do this that little bits of onion will fly all over the place; I haven't developed a technique for dealing with this yet, but as long as most of the onion gets onto the plate in the end, it's all good. Smoosh it with the spatula a little more. Why? It feels right.
6. When the cheese looks to be all melted, transfer the sandwich to a plate and eat.
The bread should turn a toasty golden brown color. What happens here is that the cheese ooks into the bread, and sticks to the patty, and so the patty sticks to the bread, and it just makes this big gooey yummy unified sandwich. When you do it in the microwave, cheese and bread are distinct.
Thursday, October 6, 2005, 07:23 PM - soups, flatbread, high falutin'Menu
For breakfast I had cottage cheese; for lunch, apple-onion blintz; and for dinner, carrot soup.
Um... about like you'd expect. Open container, spoon some into a bowl, salt and pepper to taste.
This looks impressive, but it was just a leftover fest. For leftover pancakes, see yesterday. I also happened to have apple-onion something-something sitting in the fridge from a few days ago.
To make apple-onion whatever, you'll need a granny smith apple and either one normal-sized onion or two small onions. This recipe made enough for 2 people to have with dinner and one person to have lunch.
Cube a granny smith apple. You can use a different kind of apple if you like, but it will be way too sweet. The cubes should be about a centimeter on each side. I didn't bother to peel it, but you might if you have way too much time on your hands and are particularly anal retentive (even I wouldn't peel it). Cut the onion into slivers. Throw everything in a frying pan with a bit of salt and olive oil and cook it until you feel like it's done. I didn't use a very high heat; the onions didn't carmelize or anything. Things just sort of heated up and sweated a little. Don't let the apples get too mushy, but you want them to be tender.
To construct your blintz, wrap some apple-onion mixture in a pancake. Put a slice of swiss cheese on top. Microwave until it's a good eating temperature. If the cheese doesn't get mostly-melty, zap it a little longer, or cut thinner slices next time. Any semi-hard to semi-soft cheese would work here; you want some flavor but anything really sharp would probably be too overpowering.
We're both still sick, so today was scrounge-around-and-eat-whatever's-left day. We'll probably have to break down and go to the store tomorrow. There were 2 carrots, 3 parsnips, and ginger in the vegetable drawer.
Put some water in a pot. I dunno how much water... maybe 4 cups? I don't know, 2+ servings worth of water. Make something up. Put the pot on the stove and turn it to high. Once everything is in and it's boiling, you'll want to put a lid on the pot and turn it to low.
While the water is thinking about boiling, prepare the carrots and parsnips. You can treat them the same way. Clean them then cut them into wheels and dump them in the pot. I try to make them roughly the same size. This is easy if it's just carrots (which it could be) but parsnips sometimes get much wider on top and much narrower on the bottom, so you'll want to do something about that when you chop them to make the pieces consistent. You could just leave the pieces wildly different sizes, but they won't cook as evenly. I'd care less if i was going to let it ooook a really long time, but carrot takes a long time to cook anyway and I don't want hard chunks in my soup.
Then I added a finger of ginger; this particular finger was about 3 inches long. Be sure to peel it well, because the peel get's really bitter and you won't be able to fish it out. I suppose you could use powdered ginger here, but I wouldn't have any idea what amount. We also added some frozen onion. I don't know how much, maybe a cup? Half cup? An eyeball's worth? It's soup; it really doesn't matter as long as it's yummy. Just make something up!
For what it's worth, if I were making non-scrounging carrot soup, I'd use about twice as much carrot and a decent sized onion. To get more bulk, we added a bit less than a cup of pea/carrot frozen mixture and about a cup of frozen carrot. Yep, we definately have to think about buying groceries at some point.
Season with a bit of salt, nutmeg, and cinnimon. Then let it ooook for about half an hour. The carrots should be ready to fall apart. I blended it with my happy new immersion blender that I got for my birthday. If you don't have an immersion blender, you could transfer it to a normal blender to blend it, or you could probably even moosh it with a potato masher. Or you could even have it un-mooshed. At this point you're going to want to taste it. Just dip in a spoon and see if it's seasoned properly. I had to add more nutmeg and cinnimon to get what I wanted.
At this point, if we weren't sick i would have added about a cup of cream or milk. However, milk products usually disagree with head colds, so I left it out and it was still pretty good. Since we otherwise didn't have any protein, i served it with hardboiled egg. I don't know that it went together as well as it would have in a different soup, but the egg was yummy and the soup was yummy.
Wednesday, October 5, 2005, 07:24 PM - comfort food, flatbread, breakfast, sandwichesMenu
I don't guess i'm getting off to a very good start here, what with having the same thing two nights in a row just as I start the blog. Then again, I am sick, so I have a good excuse. Today, for breakfast, I had leftover pancakes with peanut butter and jelly. For lunch, I had egg sludge sandwiches. I had some goldfish crackers for an afternoon snack. You can't beat goldfish crackers when you're sick. They have extremely high placebo value. For dinner we had ochazuke, but with broccolli added.
1. Have already made pancakes and leave them lying around in the fridge. Since I made the pancakes before I started the blog, I should elaborate.
Since the kitchen here in Albany is about the size of a walk-in closet, there isn't much storage space. That means making things out of boxes instead of making things from scratch. Yummy varieties of flour take up way more space than a little box of mix. Plus the mix means you don't have to have egg on hand, or flour, or baking soda, or milk. These things take space, not to mention the ability to foil the clever plots of egg-booby-trappers.
I wanted these pancakes to be versatile, so I made them more like crepes so that the leftovers could be stuffed with savory filling and covered with sauce some night. That hasn't happened yet, but it might if I get over this cold before the pancakes go away. For nice faux crepes, just add half again as much liquid to your pancake mix.
Preheat a frying pan to medium heat. coat the pan with butter or spray it or oil it or whatever you like. I use an 8-inch frying pan. It holds maybe a 1/4 cup of dough, poured in circles so that it thinly covers the bottom of the pan. I'm not 100% sure if it's a 1/4 cup, because i don't have a 1/4 measure. The 1/4 measure is in a flour canister in San Diego because it seemed convenient at a time... So I use a 1/3 cup measure and don't fill it all the way. I might use less than a 1/4 cup. Who knows? After the dough dries out (you can tell because the surface isn't shiny anymore) I flip it to cook the other side. Because it's thin the other side doesn't take very long. Then put the pancake on a plate and repeat the process until you're out of dough. Voila!
2. We used peanut butter and jelly because we had it on hand. I don't like syrup because it's too sweet. Sometimes I make a berry topping, but that's for another time.
Egg Sludge Sandwich
Egg Sludge is basically just egg salad, but with a cooler name. I don't make egg sludge. It scares me. It's yummy, but it scares me. Deep down, I know it involves mayonaise. Yuck! I can eat it as long as I don't see the mayonaise go in.
Your best bet is to woo someone who is willing to make egg sludge for you. I found mine wandering around in the rain several years ago and offered him a ride home. See how it payed off? He made me an egg sludge sandwich today and I didn't have to look at any mayonaise.
We made extra rice yesterday because we felt like crap and thought we'd be in need of more comfort food. We made Ochazuke the same way as yesterday, but today we used broccolli instead of peas and carrots. We used up the furikake this time. Next time we're trying a different variety, which is almost identical except the ingredients come in different proportions.
Tuesday, October 4, 2005, 06:53 PM - comfort food, breakfast, sandwichesMenu
Today was culinarily uneventful. Breakfast was supposed to be cold pizza, but someone (not me) boobytrapped the eggs so that getting the pizza out of the refrigerator made the box of eggs fall on the kitchen floor. So instead, breakfast was scrambled eggs on rye bread. Lunch was cold pizza.
We're both flirting with a bit of a cold... not enough to be completely dehibilitating, but enough to make us feel like we couldn't make anything grandiose for dinner. Comfort food was in order. So we made ochazuke. It was yummy.
Scrambled Eggs on Rye bread
1. remove cold pizza from refrigerator, catching container on egg box so that the egg box falls to the floor. Make sure before doing this that there are only as many eggs in the container as you would like to have for breakfast---in this case, 2 eggs. The eggs should crush enough that you don't want to just stick them back in the fridge, but not enough to get raw egg all over the floor. yuck!
2. Roll your eyes and return pizza to the refrigerator.
3. Get a clean pan--I used a wok because everything else was in the dishwasher and I didn't want to wash anything while holding 2 raw eggs in one hand to keep them from making a mess.
4. Separate the egg from the eggshells. Put the egg in the pan and the eggshells in the garbage disposal. You might want to wash your hands at this point, because you don't want raw egg contamination.
5. In the pan, scramble up the eggs with whatever's handy over high heat. When the egg starts to solidify, turn the heat down (or off, depending on how thick your pan is).
6. Cut slices of rye bread. You might toast them if you have a toaster, or zap them for 15 seconds in the microwave if you don't. Dump eggs on top.
7. Salt and pepper to taste. Eat.
1. Have already ordered a pizza a day or two ago, and have left leftovers in the refrigerator.
2. Remove pizza from refrigerator. Eat.
1. Cook rice the way you'd ordinarily cook rice. We used brown rice, which we're still a little afraid of. We used 2 parts water to 1 part rice. We're still experimenting with brown rice and haven't quite gotten it down. The package said to use more water, but that made it really soupy. 2:1 was still a little wetter than I like my rice, so next time we'll probably use less.
2. Pick a vegetable. I don't think this is particularly authentic, but we used frozen carrots and peas. Throw the vegetable in a bowl, microwave it. Put the rice on top.
3. Add some sour plums. Sure, there are other things you could use, but I've become addicted to sour plums. They're good eats.
4. Put some nori and sesame on top. We have a jar of stuff that's a mixture of nori, sesame, soy, and rice powder. I could tell you what it's called, but that would involve standing up, so you'll just have to go to your local asian market and poke around. If you can't find the prepackaged mixture, just shred up some nori and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. It should work just fine.
5. Add green tea. You could add any tea you like, depending on your mood, but green tea is most appropriate.