Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dirty Cous Cous

In my pantry today:

  • 1/2 c ground sausage off the tube
  • 2 c leftover cous cous
  • 1/5 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c broccoli slaw
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Because I am currently on a major “destroy all holiday leftovers” bandwagon, today I cleaned out the refrigerator and ordained the tupperware container of Leftover Cous Cous as tonight’s meal, along with its sidekick Open Bag of Slaw. And as I had mistakenly bought too many rolls of sausage for the New Years Day family potluck, this one seemed to insinuate itself.

Start your sausage off on M and flatten with spatula. Let it cook for a minute or so, then start flipping and breaking it up as finely as desired. Once it’s showing almost no pink, add the onion. Let it cook in with the sausage for about 2m, then add the broccoli slaw and mix together. Add your pastes and paprika and continue stir frying pan contents until the slaw begins to yield. Turn off the heat and fold in your couscous, adding salt slowly as you do. Serve once everything is hot, or put the lid on your pan and walk away. I’m not here to judge.


Chips Off the Old Stalk!

In my pantry today:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sea salt

It’s not just for the salad bar at Wendy’s. Now, I’ve never cooked with kale before but the nutritional information begs to have it added to my diet. The beauty of it begs photography. It seems like a win-win for a starving artist like myself. In fact, all I could do with it yesterday was the best starting point for cooking kale — chips.

Cut the stems out and arrange bite-size pieces of the leaves on parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, then put in a 350° oven for ten minutes. Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it myself, but durn. In ten minutes you’ll have light, crispy stipules rife with vitamins. While I de-stemmed the entire bunch, I only cooked one sheet pan’s worth of leaves (it was a first attempt, after all). That ended up being an excellent appetizer for us last night, and there’s twice the amount left, prepped, in a tupperware bowl in the fridge. Nom!

The Christmas Baskets

In my pantry today:

It never fails that these baskets — made for my brothers and myself — are an astounding hit every year under the Christmas tree. You most assuredly cannot tell, from eyeballing alone, the heft of this laundry basket (approx 50lbs of stuff). A photograph really only touches the surface of its depths. You know all those things at World Market or Big Lots you’d like to try but don’t have the disposable income to waste? SANTA’S GOT YOUR BACK! Now, this is not to say my folks are highfalutin and can slap together jaunty foodwealth like this so easily — it is a process in which three equal baskets must be compiled over the weeks or even months before the holidays. My parents are more-than-admirably steadfast in their goal of sibling equality. It is a labor of love, and one for which I will gladly go ahead and clear out some cupboards.

I imagine I’ll do something fun enough in the kitchen with all the leftovers accrued from the three Christmas dinners, and I cannot wait to start adding all of the random asides from this basket into my pantry. Let us all pause now to rub our collective hands together in glee. Amen.

Odyssey of The Salty Fucksticks

In my pantry today:

  • 1 bag of honey-wheat pretzel twists
  • 4 c crushed raw pistachio nuts
  • 1/2 c large rocks of salt
  • 1 bar of 60% cacao Ghirardelli baking chocolate

Also, aren't these cigarette pretzels I found on Google just adorable? No Smoking! No Salty Fucksticks!

Ok. So. I don’t really have any photo documentation of this process, but I cannot only commit to admitting my successes (or near-successes, depending) if I am to expect any genuine learning from my errors. And I like learning. So. Start out with a fantastic idea. Fashion a double-boiler from a sauce pot and large metal bowl, melt your chocolate. Mix your salt and nuts, and after carefully drizzling chocolate over the top halves of the pretzel rods then roll said rod in the pistachio-salt mixture.

Ok. So.

See that recipe up there? Don’t follow it. Do not use rock salt with rocks so large they barely stick. I mean they will stick. And perhaps it’s a blessing that they only stick so well; perhaps you might’ve thought to grind the rock salt into smaller bits beforehand the way you did with the pistachios. With that brand new food processor  in which you are currently besot with love. Well, congratulations and I wish you luck with all of your future first attempts; I, myself, live more by the graces of hindsight than I’d like to admit.

So. Upon tasting the first cooled rod of the two dozen or so now resting on parchment paper, I gagged and threw it back down on the counter. When the OMGSALTATTACK! ebbed and my throat reopened, the first thing that came out was a spitting curse from my lips: “SALTY! FUCK! STICKS! And that is what they were.

Next, they all journeyed together into a freezer bag. Where I punched them and was glad for it. When my knuckles quickly became sore, I transferred the whole mess into the food processor. I was sure I could do something with the pile of delicious failure before me.

And I had it! Make a simple toffee and turn it into an awesome toffee.

So. To make simple-as-pie toffee with some butter and sugar, you need a candy thermometer. Which I do not have. I cooked it diligently, the way I had seen my mother always do it. “This is working!” I thought with glee as my sauce pot churned what was surely to be a delightful Christmas treat. I was afraid to take it off the burner too early, but even moreso to burn it. I flipped a coin and went with God.

The first and most obvious flaw with this plan came to light when the hot toffee hit the ground pretzels and, of COURSE, melted all the baking chocolate off. Would this effect the setting? Crap. The 28x18x5cm and 3lb pan went into the freezer and I walked away.

And when I came back, of course it hadn’t set properly. I had most certainly taken it off the stove too soon, and not helping matters was the chocolate melted into it. I scraped it all off the pan and threw it back into the food processor.

This is where I am now — 2 dozen or so delicious toffee cookies and still a full gallon freezer bag of ground “salty chocolate pistachio pretzel toffee.” Once I cool off from my failure-shame about all this (Oh, how far I have come from that original fantastic idea!) I am certain the silver linings will be evident. Evident, and most assuredly delicious. Because it is really super good. Just nowhere from my imagination’s intent.

I am currently open to suggestions. Pretend we are on Iron Chef and your ingredient is announced: GROUND SALTY FUCKSTICKS! Already on the table are things like:

  • bake more cookies with it.
  • bake brownies with it.
  • put it on ice cream.
  • re-melt it into a single entity


Thank You, Bacon Grease

In my pantry today:

  • 2 tbsp reserved bacon grease
  • 4c cooked, sliced/cubed sweet potato
  • 4c cooked lima beans
  • 1 leek
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • .5 tbsp salt
  • 1.5 c chicken broth
  • Basmati rice

Your dinner will owe its life to that reserved bacon grease.

So start out with a great idea. I imagined a delightful meal of various colors and textures; not another pot of mush, y’know? Start your sliced leek out in the bacon grease at M. Realize that not only are your sweet potatoes overcooked, but holy crapballs so are the shouldn’t-be-at-a-rolling-boil lima beans. This is why — one reason of I am certain many — not to self-engineer a double boiler while something is cooking under the melting chocolate. Sigh and mix the beans into the pan.

Carefully fold in the sweet potatoes. Add garlic and salt. Let it continue cooking on L for a solid 20m. In that time, embrace the mush as just as valid as the more solid form you had originally envisaged.

Take the lid off the pan. It will be a solid block of fuck-I-can’t-throw-away-this-much-food. Add chicken broth. Make it a sauce for the rice — some of the lima beans are still visible in their whole form, and it is rife with flavor. Pretend you meant to do that and enjoy its deliciousness over rice. For it is delicious. Just unintentionally ugly.

10 out of 10

In my pantry today:

  • 1 XL sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp cashew butter
  • 1.5 c chicken broth
  • 1 leek
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp cardamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 box plain couscous

So like most people with families, I’ve been doing other, holiday-related business all damn day. When I walked blindly into the kitchen I automatically pulled something from that “we gonna go bad if’n you don’t cook us” list. Whenever sans plan, default to the produce drawer. Cupboard, in this case. I pulled out the highest ranking “bout to go” item and set about tinkering. Tinkering… for success.

Julienne your sweet potato while the finely-sliced leek is sizzling on M. Once the edges of your leeks brown, throw in the potato and seasonings; toss until everything is real friendly together then add the broth. Turn the pan up to MH and once it begins boiling, cover and reduce heat to ML. After leaving it the hell alone for twenty minutes, return to remove and reserve both the potato and broth. Put your cashew butter in the pan and slowly add the liquid back in, stirring consistently until you’ve got the consistency of that gravy people sometimes eat on their morning biscuits. Gently fold the sweet potato back in. Serve over plain couscous. I had no idea cashew gravy could be so meaty-delicious. I give this impromptu dinner experiment a 10 out of 10 (on that 1-10 scale I’ve never actually implemented in any real or consistent way).

Sweet-N-Savory Soup

In my pantry today:

  • 2 c leftover cooked matpe beans
  • 1 c broccoli slaw
  • 1 leek
  • 1 c unsweetened flax milk
  • 1.5 c chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 vegetable bullion cube
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Slice your leek and saute it on M in 1tbsp olive oil. After a few minutes, decide you should add that second tbsp of oil. Mix it around and add the slaw mix. Add your garlic paste and vegetable bullion and mix it around some more (until the cube is decimated). Throw in your liquids and spices. Bring to a boil the reduce immediately to the lowest heat setting. Let it slow cook until the broccoli in the slaw is soft. Serve with some garlic naan and laugh at the cold rain what has been done forecast.



Instead of naan, we split an unopened small container of white rice from the Chinese takeout we got night before last. Between the two bowls, it was a perfect amount of rice added to a soup that looks and tastes better for it.

*ALSO — Don’t forget to add a dash of fart powder to this. If I don’t list asafoetida in an ingredient list that otherwise smacks of potential flatulence, please take it upon yourself to know how not to be a gassy windbag.

Aubergenius! Or, “How I Lost My Auberginity”

In my pantry today:

  • 4 miniature eggplant, quartered
  • 1 ripe-n-juicy orange
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s lemon-pepper parpardelle
  • 2tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • garlic powder
  • salt

I’ve never cooked eggplant before, and to kick off the nervousness associated with any first-time event… these eggplant are adorable. Because they’re tiny. Suddenly omigod, do these pajama pants make my butt look fat? But seriously, calm down now. Quarter the little fancies and put them in a covered casserole dish. Cut your orange and squeeze so that they are sufficiently soaked. Drizzle with 2tbsp of balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with garlic and salt then refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Put the aubergines in the oven at 350° for 45 minutes. Cook your pasta to package instructions and toss with a tsp or so olive oil. Salt the pasta to taste. Then serve your hot purple nuggets (really, they should be more of a yellowish) straightaway-from-the-oven atop the parpardelle. Drizzle with the remaining orange-balsamic marinade in which the aubergine cooked and top with crumbled feta.

The eggplants were gentle. And, in fact, quite tasty. The sugars in the orange juice and balsamic vinegar caramelized just enough around the peel and into the pulp. Also, I would like to note that I do not like the cut of the jib of the eggplant peel. Sure, it’s edible… but nothing should come out of the ground tasting angrily pickled.

Li’l Matpe Cakes, or “U Rad!”


In my pantry today:

  • 3-4 c soaked-n-cooked black matpe beans (a.k.a urad)
  • 3 packets of Chick-fil-A salad croutons
  • 1 tbsp plain bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c safflower oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Asafoetida
  • Garam masala
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Leftover Basmati rice
  • Feta cheese
  • Sunflower sprouts ($4 Microgreens from the farmers’ market!)
  • Two packets of Zaxby’s Lite Ranch Dressing

First thing’s first — get a large bowl. In it, combine 1.5c of your beans (put the rest in the fridge for the not-too-distant future) and the following: egg, croutons, bread crumbs, salt, asafoetida and to taste: all above listed seasonings. Put the bowl contents into a food processor and pulse until the consistency-ish of what a ground beef meatball mixture.

It’ll be a little slimier in texture than that, for forewarning’s sake. But it will do the same thing as meatball mixture — make little balls! I made six, but feel free to experiment with ball size.  Heat oil until it’s at full M then add the balls. Press them a bit flat with a spatula. Let them cook until light-medium brown. Imagine Michael Jackson circa 1974; that color. Then flip them and do a double Jacko.

Remove them and put them into a covered dish (I put them on paper towels too). Put them in at 350° for 10m. While they’re in, mix the spices you put in the pattymush into your leftover fast food dressing packets (ultimately, this was about 2tbsp’s worth) and plate the rice. Remove the cakes. Arrange them artfully atop the rice, then also artfully top with sprouts, feta and a fork-drizzle of dressing.

Look here at how pretty this photo just prior to plating is. And see, now, what had happened was while I meticulously photographed this process from the beginning, we immediately dove into the plated results: food lust drove me from the camera and into the dish. I guess that means it was good?


I checked with my dinner companion. Her verdict: “I wouldn’t change a thing, except for maybe making them a little more moist.” And, dear readers, fear not: I had already edited this recipe before posting to exclude half the original amount of breadcrumbs used and adjusted the oven time. Watch those two aspects to ensure a moister texture!



Middle Easternish White Beans and SCIENCE!

In my pantry today:

  • About 2c. soaked-n-cooked white beans
  • 1 medium-large-ish yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic-ginger paste
  • Jar of roasted red peppers
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

So I did a little kitchen reconnaissance on Google concerning What The Hell To Do With White Beans. This recipe sounded good, and I figured I could whip something akin to it up. Because plain baked beans are boring. And too sweet. And I don’t have bacon or brown sugar in the pantry. But I have a lot of beans and a lot of rice. Nothing is impossible, and whereas I don’t care for the flavor journey of traditional baked beans I do still firmly believe that beans and rice don’t have to be boring.

Cook the onion in the ghee on M for about 10m. Add diced red peppers (to taste/I used a generous 1/4 c) and ginger-garlic paste. Transfer the whole mess to your food processor and make it a delicately chunky puree. Put tomato paste in the hot pot (turn heat down a little during this) to let it melt, then add the puree back. Mix it well and bring it back to a low boil. While it’s spit-bubbling, add the remainder of the spices and mix for a minute or so while low-boiling. Add your beans. Bring back to a low boil and turn off the pot. I am serving this tonight over, of course, Basmati rice.

Do you have a chronic illness? I watched this video last night and imagine hope the recipes on this blog get to adjust to a diet just like the one described therein. I took notes, people. Right now I am four months into a SNAP card not-really-a-battle-because-it’s-DSS-and-they-can’t-help-the-confusion; once I receive the ability to cook with a little extra help (that also validates my poverty!) I hope to switch more completely to a “Hunter-Gatherer” style diet. I once loved to cook because I loved to eat (and I’m Italian!). I want to cook now for my body. I have a friend with MS who is following a Paleo diet and seeing the positive results; when I watched the above-linked video I cried quietly while furiously scribbling words like “polyphenols.” I’ve recently learned how important what you put in your body can be (16lbs to go before I’ve lost 100!) and the clinical affirmation you’ll see therein is enough to stand me up like a soldier. I want to make myself better. I want to be able to sit in repose like everyone else. I want to make my “eyeball seizures” stop. I want my memory back. I want to be able to intelligently communicate with other people face-to-face again. My lucidity remains between my brain and fingertips, but it seems to wander off during real-time interactions. As per this video, the human brain literally shrinks in conditions like mine. I am not surprised; in fact, I am grateful for the explanation. Not knowing is worse, always. Be good to yourselves.