October 10 -- beans and rice
Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 05:14 PM - comfort food
menu
I had cold pizza for breakfast and I sort of forgot about lunch because I'm still feeling sick and napped all day. Dinner was plantains, beans, and rice.

recipe

Plantains, beans, and rice (you're on your own for cold pizza)
Dice plantains and cook them up with garlic in a pot. Add a can of beans. And add some rice... you're on your own for quantity; we eyeballed it. Fill the pot up with water so it covers the stuff in the pan by a couple of centimeters. Add seasoning... I think we started with cumin and paprika and decided to add a cajun seasoning blend to avoid thinking any further. Heat to boiling, put on a lid, and turn to low. Come back in 20 minutes and eat.


October 9 -- Pizza
Tuesday, October 11, 2005, 05:09 PM - soups, breakfast
I've been irresponsible the last couple of days... I didn't forget to eat, but I forgot to update the blog. Here's what I've recovered.

Menu
breakfast: fake sausage wrapped in pancakes
lunch: soup
dinner: pizza

recipes

pancakes with fake sausage
We used up the last of the leftover pancakes. We wrapped fake sausage in them. It was the kind of fake sausage that comes in a tube and you have to brown it in a frying pan. It's good stuff.

soup
1. Put some water in a pot.
2. add a bunch of onion, carrots, and cellery.
3. if you don't want it to ook forever, you can throw in bullion if you want it to taste like broth sooner.
4. add some spices. We used salt, pepper, oregano, and basil.
5. Cook it until it boils, then turn it down to low and put a lid on and ignore it for half an hour or so.
6. Add frozen fake meatballs and noodles and let cook for about 8 minutes. These were pretty thick noodles; if I were using a thin noodle I might let the meatballs go for a while then add the noodles later.
7. enjoy.

pizza
We both felt sick and didn't want to cook so we ordered tomato broccolli pizza. I've had bad experiences with broccolli on pizza, but this time it worked out well.

Soba
Saturday, October 8, 2005, 08:34 PM - breakfast
Menu
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)

Oatmeal
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.

Soba
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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Melts
Friday, October 7, 2005, 10:30 PM - sandwiches
Menu
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.

Patty Melts
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:

bread
cheese
onion/garlic
patty
cheese
bread

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.

Carrot Soup
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.

Recipes

Cottage Cheese
Um... about like you'd expect. Open container, spoon some into a bowl, salt and pepper to taste.

Apple-Onion Blintz
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.

Carrot Soup
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.




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