• Personally speaking….

    Just the thoughts and cookings of a software engineer that likes to make foodstuffs from time to time in the bay area of California.
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Inspired by Clara: Pasta with peas

Pasta with peas
Inspired by Clara’s Pasta with peas and her “Depression Era Cooking” videos, I reached into my 10 pound bag of potatoes and got to work. As I played with potatoes and onions, I thought back to what I remember growing up. What dish was my Grandma “famous” for? And what do I remember most from my mother’s cooking? After Mom grabbed her bowl, we talked about it.

Me: Know what I remember most about Grandma’s cooking? Delmonico steak with salt, pepper and garlic powder. (Grandma and I both are garlic fiends.)
Mom: That’s all?
Me: Yeah. Weird, huh? I know she could cook anything and remember all the family holiday gatherings where she would cook. But that was just ham and turkey and collards and whatnot.

We then talked about how amazing of a cook my Grandma was. But Mom said she didn’t think Grandma loved to cook. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember much? Near the end, Grandma and I would talk about cooking and it was mostly about sneaking ground turkey breast into Grandpa’s food or how versatile egg white omelets were. I’m going to try and get some clippings that my aunt got when we — well, you know… went through the stuff left behind. Most everyone was in Grandma’s head but maybe I can get an idea from what she clipped out and that will help.

Me: Mom, know what I think of when I think back to your cooking?
Mom: No, what? (I could hear the ‘uh oh’ in her voice.)
Me: Hamburger soup, tuna surprise*, succotash, hamburger helper, tuna helper, chicken helper — yeah, one pot meals.

* Tuna surprise is kind of like a tuna casserole cooked in a saucepan on the stove.

Now, back to Clara. I loved how she said she would ask what’s for dinner and get as an answer: “Pasta with garlic.” “Pasta with peas.” Etc. I had pasta, including a box that had a “use by” date of 2007 — oops, yes, that was tossed, sigh — and some potatoes. Like I said, I bought this 10 pound bag of potatoes cause I was crazy being frugal.

I wanted to get the consistency of a “hamburger helper” type meal because I want something that could hold its own on a plate with some sides. I got something more soupy, but I measured so maybe I can get closer next time.

Pasta with Peas ++
The ++ means I added more stuff… of course.

  • Olive oil
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 cups frozen peas (keep frozen)
  • 2 baking potatoes, peeled, diced
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Saute onions and potatoes in olive oil on medium heat till potatoes are softened. I think this took me about 15 minutes and I used a small stock pot. Add salt, pepper, water, peas. Bring to a boil. Add pasta. Boil for 10 minutes. Toss in parsley. Cook for 1 minute. This is where I added the carrots cause the pasta with peas was slightly soupy. Considering I ladled off about 1.5 cups, I’ll reduce the water amount next time. Maybe. The “stock” this all made was very good. I was heavy handed with the salt like Clara but Mom still added salt to her bowl. Ha.

Sauteed Carrots
I ended up dumping this into the Pasta with Peas at the end

  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper

I cooked the carrots in a skillet while I cooked the pasta with peas. The carrots kept browning too quickly on medium heat so I would ‘cool’ them off with a ladle of water from the pasta. I think it added a lovely flavor. I’m not a fan of carrots but these turned out nicely. I think they cooked for about 20 minutes sometimes covered and sometimes not. I tossed them into the pot of pasta right before serving and after the parsley. It added a nice color but since the carrots didn’t cook with the pasta, it had its own flavor but was somewhat familiarized with the ladles of water from the pasta.

Pasta with Peas (and carrots)
Nutrition Facts (via recipezaar)
Serving Size 1 (506g) Recipe makes 5 servings
Points 7
Calories 328
Calories from Fat 80 (24%)
Amount Per Serving %DV
Total Fat 9.0g 13%
Saturated Fat 1.3g 6%
Monounsaturated Fat 6.0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.2g
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 42mg 1%
Potassium 640mg 18%
Total Carbohydrate 54.6g 18%
Dietary Fiber 5.1g 20%
Sugars 5.0g
Protein 8.1g 16%

Some others that tried her recipe:

Laptop Lunch #7

Laptop Lunch #7

Yes. It’s been a while, but the leftovers inspired me to pull down the laptop lunch container. Clockwise, starting from top left: chopped up organic carrot, chickpea cutlets, sautéed collards, and spring salad greens. All items are vegan. I microwaved the cutlets and collards for about 1 1/2 minutes without a cover — just wanted it warmed.

I am sure that there is an etiquette book for cubicle dwellers that says something about the acceptable amount of aroma particles for food. I probably came close to the maximum. But, hey, I haven’t cooked popcorn at work so I can bring in some collards! Right! Right?

Cookbook Challenge: Chickpea Cutlets and Sauteed Collards

2009 Cookbook Challenge: Cook a new recipe at least once a month from one of my currently owned cookbooks. Each new recipe I cook and post from a cookbook in my collection “earns” me $5.

Recipe 1: Chickpea Cutlets and Recipe 2: Sautéed Collards from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook (Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero)

2009 Cookbook Challenge Total: $10

Chickpea Cutlet, Collards and Potatoes

Two recipes means $10 for the reward jar!

It’s amazing how many of my cookbooks I had to flip through to find some simple collard green recipes. I tweaked the collard recipe by adding 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the oil and garlic. I also cooked this in a small stock pot since the large skillet was going to be used for the cutlets. The potatoes are leftover pommes anna from Urban Vegan’s not-yet-published cookbook so doesn’t count for my resolution. Chickpea cutlets were good and I would make this again. The only tweak I did was to leave out the lemon zest.

Recipes can be found online, but I recommend buying the book or at least getting it on loan from your library. Chickpea Cutlets and Sautéed Collards.

I will be making more from this cookbook!

Pantry madness: Spice rack

I was searching for a way to get my spices under control. So often, I can’t find a spice, buy a new one, and then find the old one afterward. Such a waste! I had a 3-Tiered Adjustable Cabinet Organizer. Even that just allowed to hide the spices in the deep shelves.

Pantry in progress
Yes, Virginia, there are spices in there. After taking a lot longer than I thought, the spice racks are up. I liked how they were adjustable so I could do a few rows of short spices or not. I can do spices in alphabetical order or group by height or type. Not sure about that yet.

Spice rack
Here they are ready for spices! Now to fill them up! I set them up to the side like this cause I figured I could put something else up on the door. And these racks won’t hang hanging down things that will block the door.

Pantry in progress
Those are all the spices, plus there’s a basket that I bought when I got the spice rack. I’m figuring I can put my bags of dry beans there to keep them together.

Pantry in progress
The box is getting filled with non-vegetarian items for segregation for the omnivore in the house or donation. I started filling it up before I got the spice rack cause I was so tired of not finding anything. And all the expired items are surprising! I checked a few of my spices against McCormick’s “How Old Are Your Spices” application and was amused. The pantry became a combined pantry so there are a few people’s stuff in there.
Pantry in progress
I do worry about how the bottles will do with the door opening and closing. We’ll see with time. Speaking of time…. Time for me to get back to organizing! (Recycling pickup is on Monday.)

While on the McCormick site, I learned a few things about spice storage.

  • Members of the red pepper family, including paprika and chili powder, will retain their color and remain fresher longer when stored in the refrigerator. I never knew! I know not to keep my spices near the oven, but to keep them in the fridge?
  • Spices, ground: 2-3 years. Yeah? I’ve heard 6 months to a year.
  • Spices, whole: 3-4 years
  • Seasoning herbs: 1-2 years
  • Herbs: 1-3 years
  • Extracts: 4 years

Some Urban Vegan testers

Here’s some food porn from some recipe testers I did this weekend. They’re recipes from Urban Vegan’s upcoming cookbook The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes (publish date: late 2009).

Pommes Anna
Pommes Anna.

Béchamel Sauce
Béchamel Sauce.

Béchamel Sauce over Pommes Anna
Béchamel Sauce over Pommes Anna.

I was curious what the two would be like together and did a combination. Omni-mom really liked the sauce. I wasn’t feeling it.

I used a cake pan I found in the cabinet and later found it that it was my Grandmother’s. That really tugged at my heart. Miss you, Grandma. You were so accomodating of my vegetarianism. Thank you.


Local grocery sales with a little web help

Organic Produce Since I now have this goal of cooking at least one recipe from one of the cookbooks in my stash, I’m going to need to plan. This semester is going to kick my rear both in body and pocket. One of the wonderful things about keeping an eye on what’s in season is usually that’s what is on sale.

I usually look through the local sale circulars online but recently ran across mygrocerydeals.com which pulls circulars together for me — for free. I’ve tried some other sites that do this but they charge. When I first checked the site out, it only pulled the circular from one of my neighborhood stores. Now, it has a pretty good selection, including some circulars I can’t find online. Not sure how they do that!

According to their site, these seem to be the best buys, produce-wise:

  • Apple, Red or Golden Delicious, Virginia Grown or Organic, Kroger. $1.00/pound (Normally $[censored]/pound)
  • Asparagus, Farm Fresh. $1.99/pound (Normally $3.99/pound)
  • Green Beans, Farm Fresh. $1.99/pound
  • Cabbage, Kroger. $.39/pound
  • Greens (Kale, Collards, Mustard), Farm Fresh. $.88/pound (Normally $1.99/pound)

I wonder if I should hit Trader Joe’s then swing by Kroger and Farm Fresh on the way home. Trader Joe’s is about 10 minutes away. Kroger and Farm Fresh are in the same shopping center.

Now that I know where the cheap is, it’s time to pick the dishes!

3 ways to keep a resolution

Piles of Cookbooks
Taken in November. Image missing a few cookbooks I later found on another bookshelf.

Happy New Year! Ready for all the “Make a resolution?” questions? Oh, folks started asking you about it a week ago? Then I’m slacking!

1. Keep it simple. The list should be short and sweet. Focus on just a few things you wish to change for the year. Once you have your list, then go through each goal and make it specific and measurable.

2. Reward yourself. When you make the list of goals and break them into steps, include rewards for various milestones. Some that have resolved to quit smoking have put the money they would spend on cigarettes into a jar. At the end of a set amount of time not lighting up, they get to spend the money on something fun.

3. Share. Those that have a good support system, on average, do better than those without. Whether it’s a support group or family and friends, sharing with others will help you get and stay on track.

What’s my resolution? Not sure. It has to be simple. It really has to be simple. Next semester is going to be hectic. Next year has the potential of being a roller coaster ride. Besides, I usually do big changes other than at the beginning of the year (vegetarianism).

I know what I want to do — other than graduate in May — but think it’d be a little too crazy a goal with the crazy months incoming. We’ll save that one for after May or 2010. But, I do have a simple (#1), rewardable (#2), shareable (#3) goal I can do. Yes, the picture is a clue.

2009 Goal:

I resolve to not buy any new cookbooks in 2009. I will cook a new recipe from one of the cookbooks in my collection at least once a month and post it here. Inspirational hat-tip goes to 101 cookbooks. Each new recipe I cook and post from a cookbook in my collection, I will set aside $5. At the end of the year, I will use that money to — no, not buy a new cookbook. At the end of the year, I will use that money to buy camera equipment. (I have my eye on a lens that is less than $100. That’s only 20 recipes!) My support system will be you and the poor guinea pigs — no, the lucky few that get to come along for the gastronomic ride.

Some of the gotchas will be that I have quite a few meat-centric cookbooks, don’t like certain foods (like bell pepper), and will have close to no time from January to May. Some of the helpers will be that I’ve been trying new recipes (for Urban Vegan’s upcoming cookbook which I want to buy) so have experience, have some winner cookbooks in my collection (Veganomicon, for example), and love using food as a way to practice photography.

Bring it on, 2009! Bring it on.

Pottery connections

Kitchen Critters

A few years ago, my mom went out to Arizona to visit part of the family out there. Mom brought back a tile (bottom in the above picture) that my great grandmother made. It’s hanging in my kitchen. Since then, mom has bought me other Potter — Beatrix, not Harry — stuff (one is the top in the above picture). Quite a collection. Funny since I’m not much into “cute” stuff. But I’m much into family history and art stuff!

Wouldn’t it be neat to make a new tile? There’s a ceramic shop around here, or there was. I could paint a tile up — maybe? — and glaze it. Dunno. Just an idea. I have some of my grandmother’s ceramics around the house too but she never did a tile.

Quorn chick’n nuggets

Quorn Chik'n Nuggest

I’m not a huge fan of fake meat cause it’s usually tasting like, um, fake meat. I’ve had this package in my freezer for a while now and finally got up the nerve to try it. Let’s see, I went vegetarian again October 23, so this has been in the freezer since at least February, probably.

They crisped up alright. And the texture was similar to chicken nuggets. The flavor wasn’t exact, of course. It tasted like freezer burn chicken nuggets. Maybe that was because I’ve had them in the freezer for so long? Once I started dipping them in stuff, then they improved drastically. Would it fool someone? I don’t know. I don’t know if I would do that. The only person I would try to fool knows that I’m vegetarian so would know that I’m not fixing her real chicken. This would be more “realistic” (to me) if it were covered in barbecue sauce and/or kept wet with the dip.

No, not vegan because they contain egg and milk.

Will I buy them again? No, I don’t think so. Just not sure why I would. I’m flirting with veganism so the egg and milk would make them “out.” I also don’t think it’s “worth it,” you know?

Acorn Squash with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing

Acorn Squash with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing
Acorn Squash with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing. Recipe test from Urban Vegan’s upcoming cookbook The Urban Vegan: 250 Street-Smart, Animal-Free Recipes (publish date: late 2009).

This dish wasn’t that hard — once you get the darn acorn squash cut in half — to make but is a lovely presentation. I can definitely see serving this with a Fall meal like Thanksgiving. Also, I wonder since you slice up little serving bowls like this, what it would be like to tweak the stuffing for each “bowl.” Hmmm….

Acorn Squash
Usually I slice my acorn squash length-wise like above, but Dynise’s recipe called for the half-wise so you get a scallop effect. It was easier to cut length-wise. :: grin ::