Monthly Archives: February 2012

Raspberry Beef MexiSoup (or, “Not Every Experiment Works”)

In my pantry today:

  • 1lb beef stew meat
  • 2 c fresh raspberries from your backyard
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can of corn, drained
  • 1  14 oz can beef broth
  • 1 packet au jus mix
  • 1 packet onion gravy mix
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
  • 3 c frozen crowder peas
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c minced kale
  • 3 tbsp diced onion

My apologies for another recipe with which I have personal ethical and medical concerns — but in this case, various gravy and seasoning mix packets saved it. Again. I’m talking to you, rescue chili. Why don’t I cotton to using many of these packets? Delicious, yes. Sodium content? Abhorrent. I might as well just call recipes that use more than one of these types of packets “salt soup.” A little salt soup is always called for before the game ends if there is need for thickening and/or flavor. This is ultimately what happened, and I am not proud. But dinner? Really, really tasty.

Start a frozen packet of beef stew in the crock pot on L with raspberries, garlic paste and beef broth. Upon coming back the next morning, the rest of the ingredients were added after the meat was found sufficiently flavored and back-of-a-teaspoon smashable. Once all the kids were in the pool, the crock pot was covered and left on L for another 6 hours.

When served, this soup was topped with minced kale leaves that had been massaged with a smidge of safflower oil and mixed with diced onion. It was an excellent dance of color and flavor… and then a terrible texturturous turn. Seeds. Raspberry seeds. Oh no, why didn’t I remember that fruit sometime had those? And why hadn’t the slow cooker made them any less like industrial gravel? So the raspberries that were meant to save the stew meat instead betrayed said stew. And me. And it was, for that, a shame upon my house. Without the spitoon rocks, this would easily have gotten 4 spoons.

I did learn that minced massaged kale and onions are a great meal topper, so isn’t that what really matters here?

Living the Dream: Cube Steak Style! (or, “What a Crock!”)

In my pantry today:

  • 4 big slabs of cube steak
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 packets au jus mix
  • 1 packet onion gravy mix
  • 1c Dad’s leftover-from-frozen Christmas gravy
  • 3 c water
  • 1 c kale chips
  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Yesterday, during the meatsplosion, I immediately set today’s dinner up in the crock pot; today finds it the best cube steak I have ever eaten. Well, >burp< found it, that is.

I will start by saying that I feel kinda weird cooking with meat now — how a few months of gradual dietary changes have culminated in feeling like meat is a long-lost ex lover coming back for CDs is beyond me. A lot of the weight I’ve lost is due in part to eating a lot of protein, which for most of my life I believed came only from delicious animal flesh. And speaking of animal flesh:

First thing’s first — take Dad’s Christmas roast beef gravy out of the freezer and put it in the crock pot on H to begin it’s thaw and move to the other counter. Dice your onion then crush ‘n slice your garlic cloves. Mix your three sauce packets with three c water. Put all that noise in the crock pot and leave it on H for about an hour, then turn to L and leave for 24 hours. Wait until tomorrow to put that carrot in to avoid a total mushpit.

The next day’s dinnertime you’ll just need to slice and boil, then smash and butter your potatoes. I’m a big fan, both for texture and convenience, of leaving the skins on; there isn’t much simpler than making mashed potatoes so why complicate it with more knives and poor fine motor skills? Slice your carrot and put in the crock pot to cook on L while the potatoes boil. When the potatoes flake apart upon sticking a fork in their boiling starch-water, it is time to drain and smash. Milk and butter make the smashings fun and delicious — add just a smidgepinch of salt here.

Put your meat and gravy on top of your potatoes then top with kale chips (visual interest and nutrition!). You’ll have already made kale chips, right? From what I understand we should all be eating that green on the daily. This recipe gets 4 spoons — it was close to a 5 spoon moment, but, well, cube steak can aim only so high.

Cashew Curry Chicken Soup (or “Meat the Parents”)

In my pantry today:

  • 1 lb chicken tenders, cut in thirds
  • 1 c fresh spinach, diced
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 tsp safflower oil
  • 3 tbsp cashew butter
  • 3 tbsp leftover sweet potato bisque
  • 2 packets chicken gravy mix
  • 4 cans vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

So my mom reads my blog (hi mom!), and when I happened to see my parents this past weekend I was met with the usual amount of love and, also, an entire cooler of meat. “If I see one more post with ONLY beans…” says mom. So consider this the dawning of the age of Aquarius — if by “dawning of the age of Aquarius” I mean “MEATSPLOSION!” Granted, we all know I am no pure vegetarian… and I don’t see a complete eradication of animal products from my diet happening. I mean, just cutting out dairy is still a very tenuous journey: I am Italian and that would mean giving up Parmasean cheese. That will never happen — it is good on everything.

But back to the cooler full of meat. In addition to our apocalypse supply of dried beans, I now have all this to work with:

  • 1 package boneless pork chops
  • 1 package stir fry beef
  • 1 package beef stew beef
  • 1 family size package of cube steak
  • 1 family size package of chicken tenders
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 NY Strip steaks

This warranted a full hard cleaning out of the freezer because all of this would need to be portioned, packaged and frozen. Can anyone chime in with an agreement here if you’ve ever met my Mom and Dad? Because I need to profess their awesomeness and my subsequent gratitude in this harsh world for such a lucky break, and I need confirmation on this from outside sources so that when Mom inevitably reads this she knows this isn’t just meat-related lip service. They have done so very right by all of their offspring, and then they occasionally top it all off with things like a cooler full of meat Dad purchased from his post-retirement job at the grocery store.

I admit to being a little overwhelmed by the amount of animal I put in the freezer yesterday, but as kismet had it I was making dinner for non-vegetarian friends so I got to cut out most of one of the animals present. I saved one meal of chicken tenders for the house, then had ample left to feed five people.

In a large stockpot on M, start your onion and mustard seeds out in safflower oil. When the seeds begin popping, turn the heat to MH and add your hunks ‘o chicken and garlic paste. Toss everything to coat then let the chicken spend a little time staying still. Flip after a minute or four. Cook until the outsides are showing brown faces then remove everything in the stock pot to a large bowl and set aside.

Return the pot to the burner and reduce heat back to ML. Put in the cashew butter, slowly stirring in a can of broth until it’s become a proper gravy. Then to this proper gravy, add the two packets of chicken gravy you’ve whisked with cold water and the bisque. Turn the heat back up to MH and bring to a low boil as you add the other seasonings and continuously stir. Once everything tastes peaceful, stir in the chicken, onions and minced fresh spinach. Bring everything back to a very low boil then reduce heat to L, cover, and walk away until the chicken is done slow-cooking in the goodness.

This is a recipe that received so much praise I can’t help but consider it more than deserving of 5 spoons: a rating most certainly clinched by a new acquaintance’s conclusion, “Going down it felt like… it… hugged all of my organs.”


Discovering Quinoa

In my pantry today:

  • 1 head cabbage
  • 1 c quinoa
  • 2 c vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp safflower oil
  • 1 vegetable FlavorBoost® packet
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 1.5 c water
  • 2 tsp parmasean-romano cheese

Put safflower oil and mustard seeds in the bottom of a stock pot and put on a burner warming to M. While that’s happening, dice your head of cabbage and set aside while rounding up your other whatnots. This should be about the right amount of time to let the mustard seeds warm and begin snapping to a rhythm only they can hear. Add cabbage, toss thoroughly. Shake on seasonings, glob out the FlavorBoost® and garlic paste, then pour in water and squirt your fake plastic lemon. Toss a bunch to make sure everything is distributed, then cover and let steam do it’s job. Cook quinoa in broth instead of water since it’s the first time you’ve ever dealt with that stuff and you don’t know how much help it might need. Marvel, then, at its surprising deliciousness: yes, that nutritious and that tasty. Top with a sprinkle of Parmasean and proceed to the NOM factor. 4 spoons.

Chili Rescue and the Subsequent Mission

In my pantry today:

  • 1/2 c ground mild pork sausage
  • 1 c soaked kidney beans
  • 1 10oz can chili seasoned/fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 extra large (aka “big ass”) tomato
  • 4.5 c water
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp asafoetida

First thing’s first: drain those beans you set to soak last night and boil them for a solid 10-20m. This is a “better safe than sorry” rule that should be applied especially to kidney beans before they go on a date with your slow cooker. Phytohaemagglutinin may be a word I dare you to say aloud and not sound butternuts, but it is not a toxin I wish upon anybody.

Once you’ve taken care of the “making sure not to poison yourself” thing, go ahead and dice your onion and tomato while your ground sausage browns. Open the can of tomatoes and pour the whole mess into that jar of garlic paste that has about 1tbsp left to live. No one can fit a hand down into that jar to get the dregs, so shaking it up with delicious liquids is the way to go. Pour it into the crock pot over the diced onion and tomato, then put 1/2c water in and shake it up again for official chili entrance. Scrape everything you can off the sausage pan and dump it all in too.

At this point I hope your kidney beans have been properly boiled, for it is time to drain them and put them in the crock pot. Add 4c of water and all seasonings, stir, cover. Walk away.

…Now, when you come back you’ll have added too much water, which greatly decreases the flavor while increasing the soupiness — neither of which are things you want of your chili. If I hadn’t already written so much of this post, I’d probably sweep this under the rug with my other mistakes. Because it is shameful to go out to Food Lion at 7:30pm for:

  • 1 packet McCormick chili seasoning
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 14.5 oz can organic yellow corn, drained

To be fair, the chili powder I’d added previously was old and flavorless. To be shamefully fair, I flat out added too much water at the onset; this is due in part to how badly I burned the crock pot the last time I used it. Oh god, did I say that last part out loud?

Now. After adding all that extra hullabaloo and bringing it back to a boil for 30m, this is still just a 3 spoon chili. Maybe 4. After the last burnt-chili-crockpot experience, followed by this really too overstressed one maybe I just perceive too acutely the taste of failure; I am learning that the taste of failure is mostly in my mind and is applied to the dishes I cook in proportion to the shame I feel when they don’t instantly reach 5 Spoon Status.

Due to my self-imposed Three Shame Strikes™ rule, I am officially now on a specific mission to reach some sort of chili zenith. Don’t worry (I tell you all as I imagine going off to battle) I will triumph, for it is merely chili and I have opposable thumbs.

No-Bake Minced Berry Cheesecake (Or “Why My Tongue is Disabled”)

In my pantry today:

  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 6 oz non-dairy whipped topping
  • 3/4 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 tsp imitation butter extract
  • 1 prepared graham crust
  • 1 c minced strawberries
  • 1 c halved blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar

This one’s easy, especially with a food processor. I can’t justify constant sweets but what else can I do with all the healthy, color-rich berries in my fridge before they spoil? Specifically, these berries still had a few more days before skin-wrinkling, so the clock was ticking on doing anything that didn’t include throwing them into a smoothie. Soften cream cheese, then put it in the food processor with whipped cream, confectioner’s sugar and extract. Blend until smooth then pour into a pie shell you didn’t have to make (in some cases, not having to do the work makes things even more delicious). Gently massage a 1/2 tsp of white sugar into the berries you had meticulously sliced and top the pie. Let the whole shebang set in the freezer for as long as and as hard as you want your pie. Mmm. Pie.

Now, this is one of those big steps for me: I do not like berries. I don’t really much care for any fruit, truth be told. This is an obvious conflict of interest between my health and tastebuds, but by and large I imagine the taste regions on my tongue are a little skewed. My sensory reactions to things began to change around 2003, and for a long time the inside of my mouth (tongue included) was numb. What do these two things mean?

1. Sometimes a delicious meal set before me tastes entirely like dish soap. This won’t happen often, and it certainly wouldn’t deign to be a predictable occurrence.

2. So in the same vein of being able to set my hands in frying pans because I had no functioning pain receptors, once I downed an entire bottle of habanero syrup as a party trick. Because I am a vainglorious idiot. I didn’t feel it, but I did wake the next morning with acid burns that had removed part of the top layer of my tongue. Again, I couldn’t feel any of it; I just don’t really show off that particular muscle in public, which is a perfectly fine outcome by our culture.

What, you ask, do these things have to do with my ever-increasing distaste of fruit? I’m not a doctor (in case you weren’t certain) but I’m guessing the front and middle of my tongue is a little more out of the game than the “sour” receptors. Sour things curdle my face the way a shot of whiskey hurts a teenager’s disposition. I do not like them, condone them or want to see them in my home. And berries are sour as hell. Unless overly sugared or thrown in a smoothie, I want no part of most fruits. Don’t worry, dear readers — I love vegetables enough to cover the fruit thing. And there’s a box of powdered sugar ever at the ready in my cupboards.

And despite the whole “fruit” issue, this still earned 4 spoons.

Sweet Potato Bisque and Tempeh Fingers (Or, “Tempeh, Tempeh!”)

In my pantry today:

  • 1 package Lightlife organic tempeh
  • 1 large and 1 medium sweet potato
  • 1 small onion
  • 2.5 oz jar of Bronco Bob’s Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp ginger garlic paste
  • 4 tsp vegetable ghee
  • 2 tbsp safflower oil
  • 1 tsp cashew butter
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3.5 c water

Slice your block of tempeh into 1/4″ slices and put in a cold pot on the stove. Mix Bronco Bob with the vinegar, sesame oil and 2 tbsp soy sauce and pour over the slices; turn the burner on L, cover, and let it sit for a few minutes then turn each slice and let sit a few more. Add 1c water and turn the stove to M. Bring the marinade to a low boil then turn off stove, toss the slices and let sit until cool enough for Tupperware. I done did this a few hours in advance of their cooking, so they were transferred to Tupperware and allowed to continue cooling in their juices with a trip to the refrigerator.

Peel your sweet potatoes and slice into a series of large, thin discs. Slice your onion nearly as delicately and cook that on M in 2 tsp of hot ghee for a minute or so, then add your sweet ‘tater slices and 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste. Toss, coat, then pour in 1/2 c water and a tbsp of soy sauce and cover. Leave on M and walk away until everything begins to caramelize, then return to spread that wealth to the masses and spatula-chop (not mash) the minions. Add another 2c of water, 2 tbsp soy sauce  and return the lid. Bring to a boil until water is reduced and all solid pieces are soft. Remove from heat upon final smashings and stir in a tsp each of ginger-garlic paste, cayenne pepper and cashew butter.

Now, move the entire mixture to the food processor and puree until smooth. Return to pot and add 1 can of vegetable broth. Let simmer while you get the tempeh in order:

Warm 2 tbsp safflower oil in the deep-bottomed frying pan and when at full M, add patted-dry tempeh slices. Sear until edges crisp then turn heat to L and continue flipping until the first one breaks in half. At that juncture, remove all slices to drain on a paper towel. Go make yourself a bowl of soup while that transpires.

Top bowl of bisque with 1/2 tsp vegetable ghee for a fancy highfalutin experience. When tasted by an outside party, this bisque got an immediate “Slap Yo Mama Good” reaction. This means five spoons. The tempeh, honestly, only gets three spoons… but some extra potential points still exist in that little soybean cake; I am interested in its ideas and would like to subscribe to its newsletter.


In my pantry today:

  • 1.25 c moong dal
  • 3 medium-large red potatoes
  • 2 leaves of kale, minced
  • 1/2 large red onion
  • 1 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 14.5 oz cans vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1.5 tsp vegetable ghee
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp asafoetida

What’s a great animal-free meat substitute when there’s no tofu and no beans have been soaked? Dal! Moong dal can be cooked in 10m at a boil, so when the mood for a comfort-style meal hits too late to arrange a primary protein, these little orange beads can wink their collective eye. Or maybe not, because if they could wink then they would be coming from some kind of animal and I’m really trying here, guys.

Start the big deep-bottomed frying pan out on cold M with ghee, and when at full M (with the ghee having dissolved into tears at the hellfire below it) toss in the chunks of onion. Stir for just a moment, then add your thinly-sliced chunks of potato. Put in the garlic paste and stir until everything is coated. Add the almond milk, stir then sprinkle kale on top and cover. Let it come to a boil for about 5m, then return to add seasonings and grieve for that blisteringly gorgeous green on the kale that won’t last until chewing. Stir, then add the vegetable broth. Cover and let return to a boil on MH. Go take a load off.

It’s important to note that I cooked my moong dal beforehand, but they could probably be put in the big pan at this point. Oh well. I just added them after the potatoes were soft, and no flavor factors seemed tested. In fact, the ultimate judging of this dish was no test a-tall: 4 spoons.

Beanie-ahini (Now With Entire Tree Limbs!)

In my pantry today:

  • 2 c cooked white beans
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1 leaf of kale, minced
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 packets Swanson® Flavor Boost™ (Vegetable)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp yellow curry powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 spring dried rosemary, ripped mercilessly from its home in a public median
  • 1 c uncooked Basmati rice

I felt like dicing things up into tiny slivers today, and I made it so to the best of my ability. Put your meticulously slivered garlic in your giant pan with the olive oil and turn the cold burner to M. As it warms, dice and add onion and stir. Let that cook for about five minutes (or until sizzling sounds begin to happen) while you dice your pepper. Add and toss everything with turmeric until bright yellow seeps across the stainless steel surface. Add 1 tbsp water when/if pan begins to dry out to buy time while you pick up that bundle of kale you just brought home and regard it thoughtfully. End up choosing only a single stalk and dicing the leaves — it has been decided that this dish is more about the tahini than the kale, and it must be approached carefully so as not to allow kale the spotlight.

So just sprinkle in that minced leaf as visual interest, stir. Fold in the white beans with your other seasonings as well as the trademarked Flavor Boost™ before adding in tahini a tbsp at a time. Thin out the sauce with a little unsweetened almond milk and, upon satisfactory meld, top with spring of dried rosemary and cover. Let cook on L for a couple hours for best results, then serve over Basmati rice. 4 spoons!

Hamming it Up in Hamtown, or “Who Needs an Entire BAG of Bones?”

In my pantry today:

  • 1 meaty hambone, ceremoniously frozen after its Christmas gifting from Mom and Dad
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can “Italian” flavored diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 oz can green beans
  • 1 15 oz can corn
  • 1 15 oz can chicken broth
  • 2 c leftover cabbage
  • 2 tsp asafoetida
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 4 c water

Oh, the meaty hambone! It’s from one of them-there high-end holiday hams, so it’s definitely not got any such sort of canned or “poor” taste. As someone who falls under the poverty line I find this increases the flavor, and only serves to justify my “Mostly” form of vegetarianism.

Put everything in a big pot. Cook it for a day or more on L after bringing it to occasional slow boils. Make sure you also stir at intervals while inhaling deeply of its promising odor. This particular pot has been on the stove for two days and will be quite proud by that at dinner time.

5 spoons. One can nearly never best a good hambone.