December 31, 2010

Favorite Recipes of 2010

Here is a quick round-up of my favorite recipes posted this year on Master of Fine Eats. We started the blog in February and it's been fun to work with over the course of the year. Robbie and I are both hard at work on our MFA theses right now, so sorry that posting hasn't been quite as frequent. We'll try to remedy that in 2011. Thanks for reading!

February: Mole Enchiladas
May: SAABLT Wrap (inspired by a book of poetry)
August: Baked Eggs
September: Green Chile Season (not exactly a recipe, but there are directions for roasting green chile)
December: Briami 

December 17, 2010

Favorite Food Blogs

Well, winter break has begun and I'm back in Baltimore for a few weeks. I cook a lot less when I'm at my family's house, so recipe posting might be light (not that it hasn't already been! Sorry!) so I thought I would share some of my favorite food blogs. I've got a couple on the sidebar over there, but I read quite a few more since the last time that was updated. I like all kinds of food blogs, so this is a sampling of some of the ones I read. Not all of them are focused on eating on a budget, but if that's your interest, you should be able to find some good ideas below:

$5 Dinner Mom is mainly geared towards families, but the blogger, Erin Chase, has some great coupons and good, easy, recipes for weeknights. She also has great step-by-step instructions on meal planning and freezing food in advance, which are helpful for anyone who wants to save money on food.

Cheap Healthy Good was one of the first food blogs I read. The recipes are always delicious and not-too-complicated, and the calorie counts and estimated cost of each are posted alongside. I love the "Veggie Might" feature, I love the reader question feature, and Kris is funny, too. A good quarter of the recipes bookmarked on my browser come from Cheap Healthy Good; I cook from this blog constantly.

I've mentioned 30 Bucks A Week several times before, and they're always good for cheap and healthy eating inspiration. It's written by a couple who lives in Brooklyn; they post their grocery receipts weekly, so you know they're really spending $30 a week on food. I know I spend more than that and I'm only one person, so the blog always gets me thinking about what I'm eating and where my money is going.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks always has mouthwatering step-by-step photographs, which is really helpful if you're wondering what your meal should look like at every stage of cooking. Don't go here if you're looking for healthy food, though--Ree's style is much more comfort food, a lot of sweets, pastas, stuff like that. The photographs make every single thing look AMAZING however, so definitely don't go to The Pioneer Woman unless you've just eaten an incredibly satisfying meal.

The Kitchn is more of an aggregator of links and topics related to food. It's part of Apartment Therapy, and the editors post interesting stuff all day long, like where to find the best kitchen decor and what to make with radishes. They also have "theme" weeks, where much of the content is devoted to a specific topic: I really enjoyed "Holiday Cookie" week, where I found this recipe for honey-spice cookies.

Smitten Kitchen is one of the most famous (and deservedly so) food blogs. Great recipes, gorgeous pictures, and Deb has a cute baby.

Fab Frugal Food has, obviously, an emphasis on frugal recipes. Their recipes are never boring or pedestrian, though, which I appreciate as cook on a budget. I love their "Meatless Monday" feature.

Honest Fare is a beautifully-designed and well-written blog. It features a lot of versatility in terms of recipes, which I like. The Candy Apple cupcakes from October look incredible!

December 13, 2010

Briami: Roasted Vegetable Casserole



This is really delicious Greek dish I ate when I was babysitting the other day. I loved it so much I left the house of the family I was babysitting for and went right to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make my own. There were a myriad of recipes for briami online, but none of them seemed close to what I had just eaten, so I kind of made up my own version, adding the tofu for extra bulk and protein. You can easily omit the tofu if tofu is not your thing.

Briami
hands on time: as long as it takes you to chop a bunch of vegetables
total time: about an hour and a half

2 zucchini
1 small eggplant
2 small potatoes
2-6 tomatoes, depending on size (I had small ones and ended up using like 5)
1 block (package) of extra firm tofu
italian seasoning
olive oil
breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350, grease baking dish.
2. Slice the tofu into bite-sized blocks. I marinated it in some Italian dressing for a little bit (30 minutes?), but I think salt and pepper would be fine as well.


3. Slice all of the vegetables very thinly lengthwise (see pictures).
4. Layer vegetables and tofu in oblong glass baking dish; the order you layer them in is up to you, but I went with eggplant, zucchini, potato, tofu, eggplant, tomato. I think it would work well to distribute the tofu throughout the layers, as well.


5. Be sure to generously drizzle olive oil over each layer. I also used a sprinkling of Italian seasoning (basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, etc) over the layers.

check out the tofu peeking out from under the eggplant


6. Bake for 30 min at 350.
7. Take the briami out of the oven and liberally sprinkle bread crumbs on it, until vegetables are covered.


8. Bake for another 30-45 minutes. The idea is to really roast the hell out of this, so that the vegetable layers kind of melt and collapse into one another.

I am an incredibly lazy chopper/slicer of vegetables, so this probably would have turned out better had I spent a bit more time making the layers even and thin. I ended up slicing too much eggplant and that's why there are two eggplant layers, something I don't recommend. I do, however, recommend having  two tomato layers, so you may have to amend this recipe to include even more tomatoes.

This was a bit dry right out of the oven, but the flavors really begin to meld and develop over time, i.e. overnight. It keeps really well in the fridge and is perfect to heat up for a hearty winter lunch. I ate it for dinner sprinkled with parmesan and then for lunch the next day sprinkled with feta. 

December 3, 2010

What Should I Cook For My Class' "Breakfast Party?"

The class I'm teaching has its exam period on Monday from 8:00-10:00 am (I know, it's painful, especially for a Monday. The plus is that it's smack at the beginning of exam week and is forcing me to grade papers in a timely manner). My students and I decided to have a "breakfast party" while we finish up the last round of paper presentations. I told them I would make them something good, but I'm kind of at a loss as to what to make. I'm thinking some kind of oatmeal breakfast-bar-type thing or maybe mini quiches, but am open to suggestions.

What would you cook for breakfast for 24 tired and stressed freshman and sophomores? It needs to be easily portable!

*Addendum: I ended up making some cereal bars with rice krispies, raisins, brown sugar, flour, honey, and granola: basically mix and then bake for 20 minutes. They were just ok, but my students brought tons of good food, including doughnuts, Christmas cookies, and a 3/4 full jug of orange juice that had been used to make screwdrivers the night before.

November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving

How was your Thanksgiving?

Both Robbie and I attended an "orphan" Thanksgiving potluck, hosted by a fellow graduate student in the English department. I made a slightly soggy cherry pie and this spinach puff.  It was a fun night with great company and great food, including a really good Gooey Butter Cake (?), a perfectly roasted turkey, some terrific cranberry sauce and delicious butternut squash bread pudding.

check out my puff in the back corner amongst other great food

November 23, 2010

Tips To Make Cooking Quicker And Easier

It occurred to me that I have a few little tricks I use to make decent meals quickly and without a lot of fuss. Nothing groundbreaking here; these are mostly common sense. Still, they may be helpful to consider, especially if you're feeling culinarily-stressed around the holidays.

-Make grains in large batches: About once a month, I make a huge pot of brown rice. I then section it out into individual servings and freeze them in plastic bags, then defrost them as needed. This is great because I'm not always stuck waiting for rice to cook (it takes so long!) and also because I can defrost exactly the amount if rice that is necessary for the recipe I'm making (no waste!).

I also like to make a big pot of quinoa on Sunday nights so I can use it as a side dish or base all week.

-Buy preminced garlic: I have a feeling a lot of people will find this sacrilegious, but for me it's much easier to just plop some already chopped garlic out of a jar than deal with buying cloves and slicing them as needed. Cuts prep time quite a bit for me, as I use garlic very frequently, and a big jar lasts me months.

-Always have canned tomatoes in the cabinet: I buy canned tomatoes almost every third time I grocery shop, because I use them so often. They're perfect as a base for so many different things, including chili, pasta sauce, tacos, enchiladas, jambalaya, whatever. The store brand ones are often very cheap and already flavored with stuff like oregano and green chile, too.

-Don't be afraid to modify the recipe: If you don't have something you need, don't be afraid to omit it or substitute for something similar. This recipe tasted perfectly fine without onions, and this one was fine with extra spinach instead of kale. For baked goods, I especially like subbing for eggs with applesauce; the recipe always ends up really moist (use about 1/4 cup applesauce per egg). For an added bonus, it's vegan.

Have any similar time-saving tips? Anything you do to simplify recipes or simplify cooking in general?

On an unrelated note, here we are, your Master of Fine Eats bloggers, dressed up and clowning around at an event last weekend.

Photo by Yvette Lopez

November 14, 2010

In Which I Finally Make Frittata

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I am a big fan of egg dishes (see here, here, and here). Eggs are easy, healthy, and can be dressed up to taste really delicious with only minor time and effort.

I frequently come across frittata recipes on food blogs, especially on 30 Bucks A Week (they are always whipping up these incredible looking frittatas from random ingredients they have laying around. It's intimidating in a weird foodie way). I never had the oven-safe pan required to make one, though, until I recently bought a cast-iron skillet.

I like making brunch on the weekends, so I decided to try a frittata last Sunday morning and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it actually was. I sort of quickly threw this together after googling a few recipes, and it came out really well. It's easy enough that it doesn't feel like work, but tastes good enough that it feels a bit more festive (special? weekend-worthy? I don't know) for a Sunday brunch. I'm thinking frittatas could also be good for dinner, with a little salad and some some crusty toasted bread.



Spinach, Asparagus, & Feta Frittata
hands-on time: 10 min total time: 20 min

6 eggs (I used 2 eggs, 4 egg whites)
splash of milk
7 or 8 asparagus stalks, woody ends removed, chopped into 1 in pieces
handful of torn baby spinach
2-3 green onions, chopped
feta cheese to your liking (I used an herb blend)
2 glugs olive oil
chopped garlic to taste
an oven safe pan or skillet

1. Preheat oven to 450. 
2. Saute the asparagus with the chopped garlic and olive oil, about 5 minutes, until it turns a bright green.


3. Stir in the spinach and green onions, cook until spinach wilts.


4. Beat eggs thoroughly with just a splash of milk added, then pour into pan, making sure eggs are evenly distributed throughout pan.
5.  Sprinkle about half of the feta on top, then cook eggs and vegetables on low heat for 4-5 minutes.

6. Once the mixture has begun to set (but there is still egg liquid in the pan), add the rest of the feta and transfer to oven for 7-10 minutes.
7. The frittata is ready when the cheese is melted and the egg is set, but not browned; you can try inserting a fork or toothpick to see if it comes out clean. 


The feta that I used was extremely salty, so there was no need to add any more salt to this recipe, even after cooking. I loved this frittata so much I made another one the very next day, with tomatoes, spinach, and shredded Mexican cheese. I think the shredded cheese may have actually turned out better than the feta, and the tomatoes added some necessary juiciness. This would be easy to tweak by using different greens, adding onions or other vegetables, or changing the ratio of egg whites to eggs. 

November 9, 2010

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

This is an incredibly easy and surprisingly tasty recipe. I made it on a Friday night (when I was staying in, lame), but I will probably make this pretty frequently now that it's getting cold outside---just put the stuff in the crockpot in the morning and have a hot, spicy soup ready to eat when I return from class.

sorry for the lack of pictures. The blue stuff is blue corn tortilla chips

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
Hands on time: 5-10 minutes Total time: 3-6 hrs


1 can chicken or vegetable broth
1 can chopped green chilies (the teeny can)
1 can or jar of enchilada sauce (I used 505 brand)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can or package of frozen corn
2 cups water
3-4 cups shredded chicken (more, if you want it)
couple tbsps of garlic
cumin and chili powder to taste (at least a tsp each, I'd say)
optional: 1 onion, finely chopped and quickly sauteed in olive oil before putting it in the crockpot
optional: cilantro for garnish

1. Put the chilies, sauce, tomatoes, corn and chicken into the bottom of the crockpot.
2. Add the broth, water, and spices.
3. Cook on high heat for 3 hours or low heat for 6 hours.

If you wanted, you could add some pre-cooked rice or quinoa in there, as well, about a half hour before you're ready to eat it. I like putting tortilla chips in the bottom of the bowl before I put the soup in, then topping it off with some shredded Mexican cheese.

November 5, 2010

The Cooking Shit Storm of '10

So read this.
Two days later we have this, this and this.

The last one is the start of a meme, which might be the first and most interesting food related meme I've seen.
Some of my favorites:


"Jennifer Griffin Warthan Cooks Source says "That's what she says" a lot. A lot."


"Dionisis Souliotis Cooks Source is the reason we can't have nice things."


"Lauren Pedersen Cooks Source is the reason I use Rape Ax."


"Elizabeth Hentze Cooks Source is the reason you should hide yo' wife, hide yo' kids and hide yo' husband."


(Thanks to Roxane Gay @htmlgiant.com for the tip off).

November 4, 2010

Where I Take A Classic And Make It Classier




A staple for fall weather is soup, and nothing goes better with soup than grilled cheese.  I love all sorts of varieties of grilled cheese.  The coffee shop down the street makes a grilled cheese with grated cheddar, tomatoes, and onions.  It's delicious.  But it's a little bland.  Properly making a sandwich is an art, and making a grilled sandwich is high art.  The only time I've gotten into a physical confrontation with my mother, was over a grilled cheese sandwich (I wanted to butter both sides of the bread; she thought I was taking too long).  This recipe takes the grilled cheese and makes it a little more fancy in a southwestern sort of way.  Take the normal recipe (cheese and buttered bread) and add roasted onions and green chili.  Use the gooey American cheese slices and then you have something with a kick that tastes like a relleno.  Use ranch dressing or salsa to dip the sandwich.

Grilled Green Chili and Cheese
1 sliced green chili
2 slices of onion
4 slices of American cheese
4 pieces of buttered bread (one side or two, it's your decision)





Saute the onions and chile in the same pan that you're going to grill the sandwiches in.  When they are finished sauteing, place the buttered bread, butter side down, into the still hot pan. Place a cheese slice on top of each slice of bread.


  



When the cheese begins to melt, place the onion and green chili mixture on one slice of bread and place the other slice of bread on top of that.  Press it down a little bit to melt the two slices together.  Keep cooking until the sandwich is the way you like it.


November 3, 2010

Question




Do you ever not cook because you don't want to do dishes?  (I hate dishes)


November 2, 2010

I Miss Cooking

This has been by far my busiest semester in the 2 years I've been here at NMSU, and as a result I'm barely cooking, which makes me sad. I'm in Master's workshop (a class where we workshop our book-length theses), a nonfiction workshop, and an awesome lit class about girlhood. I love my classes and I feel like I'm learning and producing quite a lot, so that's pretty good, but it feels like something is sort of lacking.

Cooking is a big stress reliever for me, as well as being a means to creativity outside of the realm of writing, so I am really missing it. When I cook I use my hands, my sense of smell, my vision, my tastebuds---and I like using these things as a companion to and in addition to the constant thinking and analyzing I do in my academic life.

I've been productive as a student and as a teacher, but when I have a free minute, I want to lie down on my couch and watch Hulu. I don't want to do the huge pile of dishes sitting in my kitchen sink, or go to the grocery store, or chop vegetables. The only thing I've really made in the last week or so is a chicken enchilada soup that I made in the crockpot, so it hardly counts as cooking (I'm going to post the recipe sometime this week, so check back for that....it's really easy!!). Greek yogurt, Mexican takeout and a pot of quinoa have been my staples for the past couple of days, and I'm missing the variety of flavors I usually have in my diet.

Thanksgiving break is coming up in a few short weeks, so I hope I can find some time then to make a few really good meals. If I don't, I might go crazy (not to mention nutritionally-deficient.)

What do you do when you're too busy to cook? Does eating well when you're stressed matter to you? Are all graduate students doomed to a diet of boxed macaroni and cheese and Lean Cuisines?

October 25, 2010

Against Pumpkin: A Polemic

Each fall, I find myself getting annoyed with everyone's obsession with pumpkin. I read a lot of food blogs, and almost every single one has featured at least one post about how it really feels like autumn when you can start cooking with pumpkin. They then feature pumpkin recipes, including pumpkin yumkins (???), pumpkin tortellini,  pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin gnocchi---anything that can be remotely pumpkin-ized has been pumpkin-ized here in 2010.



Now, I do like some pumpkin foods. Pumpkin pie is in fact one of my all-time favorite foods. But I eat it on Thanksgiving and I eat it on Christmas and I keep my mouth shut about it at other times. From September to November, the pumpkin talk and the pumpkin love in the world is just overkill. Every coffeeshop or restaurant features "special" pumpkin goods, and I've just had enough. I don't want to hear any more about pumpkin lattes, pumpkin scones or pumpkin ale.

I can't believe I typed pumpkin that many times; the word looks totally weird to me now.

If you too are fed up with the pumpkin-centric world, tell me in the comments. Or, if you completely disagree with me and you can't get enough of pumpkin, tell me that too.

More posts later this week, including a feature on a soup party I attended this weekend, and Robbie on blackberry brownies!

October 14, 2010

MFA Controversies, Food Links, What Should I Cook For Workshop?

Recently there has been quite a bit of controversy in the lit-blog world about the value and necessity of MFA programs. If you're interested, check out some of the links:

-The MFA Question Mark on the Poetry Foundation's Harriet blog
-The Rumpus' take
-Montevidayo on Seth Abramson's MFA rankings, and then Montevidayo's MFA controversy roundup


Un-MFA related:

-Seven tips to stop wasting food.
-Got a food related question? Tweet it to Foodpickle.
-My question about how to eat more protein at breakfast was featured on one of my favorite food blogs, The Kitchn!
-I failed horribly TWICE when making this seemingly easy dessert. I will try again.


MFA-related again, but also related to me:

I am now blogging at the NMSU Creative Writing program blog; check it out if you're a prospective MFA student, or if you just want to know more about what we're doing and writing here in southern NM.

Also, I'm cooking for workshop again this Tuesday. Any suggestions on what might be good?

October 11, 2010

Quinoa Fiend Stuffed Peppers

So, I'm a quinoa fiend.  I generally try as hard as I can to eat as healthfully as I can, and I find that quinoa allows me to do that while also allowing me to make meals that actually taste good. It truly is a magical grain---a complete protein (I am also a protein fiend!), tasty, and versatile. It's also totally gluten-free, which is an added bonus for some people.

I like all the varieties I've tried including red, white, and black, and I also really like quinoa pasta. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a bit expensive (and can be hard to find if you're not in a bigger city), but it fills you up without making you have that awful stuffed-to-the-gills feeling you can get with pasta, rice, or other grains. I don't mind spending the extra money to buy quinoa, even on a graduate student salary, because its nutritional value and versatility are really valuable to me. I know that sounds so, like, organic and snobby, but it's true for me. At least with quinoa; there are a ton of foodstuffs I'm happy to take the cheap route on, like cheese or cereal. But anyway!

I seriously eat quinoa all the time: with eggs and salsa for breakfast, in salads, as a companion to chicken and shrimp, with stir-frys, mixed up with crunchy tortilla chips, salsa and melty cheese for lunch.

This recipe is designed to use up whatever random half-used-up vegetables and/or cheese you've got laying around. I used onions, black beans, tomatoes, and feta cheese, but you could easily add in or substitute zucchini, squash, leeks, spinach, whatever.  It's easy to manipulate the flavor here: this recipe can be tweaked to have more a Mexican, Italian, or Greek flavor, depending on the type of cheese and seasonings used.



Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
serves 2
hands-on time: 15 minutes
total time: 45 min


1 cup of quinoa (I used black here)
1/2 a can of black beans
1/2 an onion
1 small tomato
small handful of feta cheese
2 red or green peppers
couple tbsps of olive oil
salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Cook your quinoa. If you're using boxed, follow the directions on the box. If not, generally follow the rule of 2 parts water to one part quinoa. Rinse the quinoa then bring to a boil in a pot with two cups of chicken or vegetable broth. When the mixture is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer and cover until all liquid is absorbed (usually 10-15 minutes).

3. You'll also need to steam the peppers a little bit before you cook them in the oven. My lazy shortcut way is to slice the tops off, pull out the seeds, and microwave for about 4 minutes, until soft.

4. While the quinoa is cooking, dice your onions and tomatoes. You'll want to dice them smaller than what I did here (see picture). The vegetable pieces were kind of a little bit too big to put inside the peppers, but I am a lazy dicer. I hope you aren't.

5. Throw your onions in a pan with some olive oil and saute until translucent; then add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and seasoning (I used a Mexican one). Once this mixture is a little bit bubbly, add in the black beans. Cook for 3-5 minutes.



6. Once the vegetable mixture is done, add it to the cooked quinoa. Stir, and add in your handful of feta.

7. Carefully scoop the quinoa mixture into the peppers, sprinkle a little bit more cheese on top, and bake at 350 for approximately 30 minutes.



8. You'll want to let these cool before serving them, as they retain quite a bit of heat.

You'll probably have a good amount of the quinoa mixture leftover, which can be used in another meal....maybe as a side dish to beef or chicken, or rolled up in a burrito. The pepper I had leftover was equally as good the next day with eggs for breakfast, as you can see below.




For some awesome quinoa recipes, check out Rebecca Woolf's blog.

September 22, 2010

Green Chile Season

Roasting chiles in my grill pan
Fall in southern New Mexico means green chile.  There's chile roasting going on everywhere, which is an amazing smell that is hard to even describe.  If you drive around town with your windows down the smell is almost constant.  There is also the Hatch Chile Festival Labor Day weekend.  Me, Carrie, and a few other friends went to take part in the festivities.  They had all the typical fair food such as turkey legs and curly fries but they also had green chile ice cream which was amazing.  I entered a chile eating contest and got fourth place out ten or so people.  There's a video and more chile talk after the bump.


September 19, 2010

Lazy Weeknight Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole-ish Dinner

I created this recipe when I got home from class the other night. I knew I had some aging tortillas I wanted to use up, and I had just bought a rotisserie chicken, so I kinda threw this together and it turned out awesome! Less than 20 minutes from start to finish, full of protein, and delicious. Not the healthiest dinner ever, but it would be nicely complimented by a simple salad for a good lazy weeknight dinner.

I called it chicken chilaquiles because chilaquiles are traditionally eaten over/made with tortillas. This dinner really isn't that close to chilaquiles, though; I probably should have called it tortilla casserole or something like that. Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole-ish Dinner is alliterative though, so I had to keep it. Regardless, this dish is actually really good if you eat it over tortilla chips, so I guess the chilaquile name can stay.


I lost my camera, and this is the only pitiful picture I took on my phone. Sorry dudes.


Chicken Chilaquiles Casserole-ish Dinner

serves 2-3
total hands-on time: 7 minutes
total time: less than 20 minutes 


3 (ish) cups of shredded chicken
1 can black beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp garlic
8 or 9 corn tortillas, torn
most of a jar of salsa (I actually used green chile sauce, but salsa will work just as well)
sprinkle of Mexican seasoning

1. Put the garlic and the broth into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. I also put in a few sprinkles of a Mexican seasoning I have, but you can add salt, cumin, and chili powder if you don't have a pre-mixed seasoning.
2. Toss in the chicken and let simmer for a minute, then black beans, let cook for 5 minutes or so.
3. While the chicken and bean mixture is cooking, tear the tortillas into halves and cover the bottom of an 11 by 7 (greased!) pan.
4. When the mixture is finished cooking, spoon about half of it onto the torn tortillas. Spread salsa on top.
5. Add another layer of corn tortillas, then another layer of chicken & beans, then another layer of salsa. Sprinkle Mexican cheese on top.
6. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

September 15, 2010

Cooking for Workshop

All of the workshops here at NMSU are at night, usually from 5-7:30pm or occasionally 5:30-8 pm. Prime dinner hour. It's hard to sit for 2 1/2 hours and be critical and smart when you're starving, so for the last two years, our poetry workshop has had a tradition of asking each person to bring food for the class once each semester.

We've had quite the range of meals since I've been at NMSU. Pizza ordered ten minutes before class began (cough cough Robbie), cold gazpacho, banana pudding, PB&Js, enchiladas, zucchini bread, eggrolls, veggie platters from Albertson's, chips and salsa, candy; pretty much everything on the spectrum. It's always interesting to me to see what my classmates bring to share. I'm clearly into food, but I'm also really (creepily? is this abnormal?) interested in other people's eating habits: what other people like to eat, the effort they put into food, and what they might deem appropriate food for certain settings. I also think that class feels just a little bit more festive when you can pass cookies around the table.

It's important, of course, to not bring something too involved; you don't want people concentrating more on your food than on the work in front of them. Messiness is also kind of out; having to pass back comments with melted ice cream or something like that on them is not ideal.

Last night, it was my turn to provide food for my fellow poets. In the past I've made cornbread, spinach-bean dip, and pasta salad. I didn't have much time to actually make anything too involved, but I always want to bring something good and a little unusual, more than a bag of pretzels and a box of gingersnaps, you know? I find that finger-foods usually work well, so I brought sliced french bread, crackers, sharp cheddar cheese, apples, and hummus. I had also seen this recipe for Mint-Pea Dip and was looking for a chance to make it.  Mint-Pea dip sounds borderline gross, I think, but I promise you it's refreshing, delicious, and wonderful on bread. It consists of frozen peas, fresh mint, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese; that's all.

Photo courtesy of DinnerALoveStory.com

Everything seemed to be a hit, including the dip, which I was a little wary about. What would you make if you were cooking for a group in a classroom setting?

September 6, 2010

Things To Do With Summer Tomatoes aka I Hope You Like Basil

Tomatoes have been my favorite food since I was a little girl; I never go more than a few days without eating them in one form or another, and I always have them in my kitchen. To me, they're a staple (just look back at my previous recipes). Late summer is basically heaven for my tastebuds, as tomatoes are at the peak of their growing season, abundant in number and with the best flavor they'll have all year.

Tomato Salad: pretty much my favorite food in the world

Sunday Summer Tomato & Bread Soup
serves 4
This is a perfect soup to make on a Sunday afternoon. I meant to write this post yesterday and call it "Sunday Soup & Other Stuff," but I had way too good of a time at the Hatch Chile Festival and went to bed super early. Labor Day is really like Sunday take two, though, so I'm going to pretend "Sunday Soup" still applies. I went to the Farmer's Market (the one here in Las Cruces is really awesome) and bought 1.5 lbs of cherry tomatoes for $2.  I was wondering what to do with them when I remembered this recipe, which I adapted. I think you could easily make this recipe using regular tomatoes, as long as you seed them first.

1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp garlic
1 cup broth (vegetable or chicken, your choice)
2 tbsps olive oil
2 handfuls of stale bread
a bunch of fresh basil
salt
pepper
Italian seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prick each of the cherry tomatoes (I used both red and yellow) with a toothpick once or twice. In a roasting pan, add the tomatoes. Glug on some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper, and strategically place basil leaves.

I lost my camera, so this picture was taken on my phone

3. Roast for 20 minutes or so, or until tomatoes are slightly shrunken.
4. While cherry tomatoes are roasting, saute the garlic in 1 tbsp of olive olive in a soup pot, then add the canned tomatoes.
5. Add 1/2 a can (14 oz) of water, plus 1 cup broth. Bring to a boil.
6. Stir in some salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
7. Turn down heat and let simmer for 15 minutes or so.
8. When tomatoes are done roasting, add to pot. Then gently stir in the bread and some chopped basil.
9. The soup may need a bit more salt or Italian seasoning, but you should definitely serve it with fresh parmesan on top.

About to stir the bread in
I didn't have any stale bread, so I toasted some pre-sliced whole-wheat to put in the soup. This was not the best choice; baguette or Italian bread would work better here. I actually overdid it with the bread and my soup ended up pretty thick, so watch yourself with the bread handfuls. You'll want to make sure you still have some broth left by the end of the recipe.



This is an ideal summer soup, because it cooks up fast (not a lot of time sweating over a hot stove) and it's fairly light. According to Cheap Healthy Good, it has 402 calories per serving.

Tomato Salad
serves 1-2 as a side dish
If tomatoes are my favorite food, this is probably my favorite way to eat them. This simple salad is always part of my go-to meal, sometimes as a side dish, sometimes as the actual main dish. My grandmother would always make it for me when I came to visit as a child, and I continue to love it fiercely. I eat it year-round, but it is particularly wonderful during the summer, when fresh basil and tomatoes are both in season.

;


2-3 tomatoes, diced (works well with tomatoes of all sizes except cherry or grape)
glug of good-quality olive oil
glug of balsamic vinegar
5 or so leaves of fresh basil, chopped
salt
pepper

1. Dice the tomatoes and put into a bowl, being sure to get all the good juice in there too.
2. Glug some olive oil over them--enough to make them oily, but not so they're swimming in it.
3. Glug some balsamic vinegar over that--not too much, but to your liking.
4. Stir, then taste to see if the oil-vinegar ratio is correct; if not, add more of either one.
5. Add the salt and pepper and basil, stir again.
6. Let sit for a few minutes so the flavors can combine.

It's also quite possible to make this with dried or dehydrated basil, which I frequently do in the winter. Substituting garlic salt is delicious, as is adding in some chopped mozzarella. It's the best over bread (if you've ever eaten bruschetta, this is basically the way to make it), which you can then use to sop up the salty-vinegary-basily tomato juice when you've eaten all the actual tomatoes. Tomato Salad is also pretty healthful, as the main ingredient is your average 50-calorie tomato. Fast, simple, cheap, and flavorful.

September 2, 2010

Representation Of Food And Eating On Television

I love cooking shows or shows about food.  I don't really care what it is, I can stare at it for hours as long as I have potato chips and something to drink.  Anthony Bordain, Rachel Ray, Paula Deen, The-One-Guy-That-Eats-Crazy-Food, Alton Brown and Giada De Laurentiis are my favorites, but all for very different reasons.

August 25, 2010

Saturday Morning Links!
















Christmas burrito from Andele's

An interesting interview of Blake Butler about food, the body, and writing at We Who Are About To Die.




And this, a poem by Charles Simic, a favorite poet of mine. "I want to drown you in red wine like a pear." was my facebook status, a slight tweak on his line, and Carrie got really sketched out by it.

One For IHOP

We haven't really made a dessert here at MFE, and this isn't really one either, unless you put ice cream on it. This is an attempt at a dessert quesadilla, but it turned into something like Mexican Crêpes. That is actually catchy, I'll call it that.

Mexican Crêpes
or
Dessert Quesadillas
(serves 2-4)

4 tortillas
6-8 medium sized strawberries, thinly sliced
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
2 tbsp cream cheese
2 tsp sugar
chocolate chips
butter
powdered sugar

In a small bowl combine the cream cheese, the ricotta cheese and the sugar. Spread this mixture on just over half of each of the four tortillas. Cover that same half with the sliced strawberries and chocolate chips. Generously butter a pan on medium heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, add your first tortilla that's been smothered. After about one and one half minutes, fold the side without the cheese mixture onto the side with the cheese mixture. It's important to do it in that order because the toppings can easily slide off the tortilla and into your pan, making it less delicious. After about another minute and a half, flip the currently-half-moon-shaped tortilla over. Continue cooking the quesadilla until it's the desired color. Remove from the pan and add powdered sugar and sliced strawberries for a garnish.

August 22, 2010

Snacks & Links

Poetry Digest is a journal that publishes poems on cakes and cupcakes. Check out their past "issues," and submit by September 30th.

image from Poetry Digest

I love Ruth Reichl's (former editor of Gourmet) Twitter. Her tweets are highly poetic (almost to the point of ridiculousness) little culinary tidbits....a sample, from August 21st: Chilly morning; summer ebbing away. Last night's peach pie, fragile and fragrant on this bright morning. Each bite a tiny farewell.  Kind of over-the-top but pretty, right? I think her tweets are exaggerated in a totally good way; I really enjoy her own enjoyment of her meals and her surroundings.

Literary Food Porn is a blog that features "delicious descriptions of food from literature." It hasn't been updated in a while, but it's still cool to look at the excerpts they've posted, including two from Laura Ingalls Wilder (a personal favorite of mine since childhood. I'm still discovering ways that the Little House series contributed to the development of my psyche).

As the semester begins and I find myself having to stay on campus far into the evenings, I'm thinking about what I can eat to keep going. A packed lunch is pretty standard for me, but I also try to bring snacks that will tide me over during a 2.5 hour class or a long stretch of office hours. I try to eat healthy snacks, and when I'm at home I eat a lot of string cheese, greek yogurt, almonds, avocado spread on toast, granola bars, frozen grapes, etc.

I'm trying to think of more nutritious, portable (aka non-refrigerated aka non utensil-requiring) snacks I can keep in my bag so I don't have to resort to chips or pretzels from the vending machine or the campus store. Got any ideas? What do you eat as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack?

August 19, 2010

Because Cute Babies Are So Hot Right Now

So I saw this video of a baby reciting Tennyson today on Jezebel, which Carrie had originally shared on her Google Reader, and I proceded to watch it over and over again. It seemed like the mom was a little torturous, but whose parents weren't a little overbearing? It also got me thinking about how cute babies eating are and I quickly discovered more torturous behavior from parents. Enjoy.







August 5, 2010

I Cook To Trick Myself Into Thinking I'm Productive

I feel a really large (probably outsize) sense of accomplishment when I make a good meal, even when I haven't accomplished much else that day. I have been ostensibly working on my MFA thesis for the past few weeks, but after a few hours of writing (and websurfing...) at the coffeeshop, a nap, and various errands, it's hard to look back at the day and feel like I've gotten much of anything done, you know? I'm unemployed this summer and don't really have anywhere to be or anyone to hold me accountable for how I spend my time, which is something I'm quickly realizing is not the most productive way for me to work. So I've been trying to least create decent dinners, so that the pile of dishes in my kitchen sink is a concrete reminder that I've done something each day, at least as opposed to the myriad of Microsoft Word windows I've had open for the past 5 days.

Two dinners I made this week to convince myself of my productivity:

- Chili, Lemon and Basil Shrimp---quick, easy, spicy, good. I didn't bother with the lemon zest, just substituted a splash of lemon juice. I also used couscous from a box. I think it would also be good with white or brown rice.

- Five-Minute Tomato Pasta--- an awesome way to utilize fresh summer tomatoes, literally takes 5 minutes, ridiculously easy for the deliciousness it produces, lasts well in the fridge, and very cheap. I used quinoa pasta for more protein, but you can easily use dollar-store spaghetti, if that's all you've got; I also used spinach instead of arugula. And the recipe is written in a mildly amusing way, at least by recipe-writing standards.

Anyone else use cooking to convince themselves they've accomplished something? I know it's pathetic; I also know I'm going to be missing these long, hot, lazy(ish) days when I'm trying to frantically grade 27 student papers, complete my reading for my own classes, revise upwards of forty poems and eat something other than frozen taquitos once the semester gets going.

this doesn't really have anything to do with this post, other than it's the gorgeous new mexican sky
 I attempt to work under every day



On a different note, we've just been added to the Foodie Blogroll, check out the widget to the right!

August 2, 2010

Baked Eggs

I recently moved, and my new apartment has a teeny tiny refrigerator. Like, teeny tiny--a glorified mini-fridge, in my opinion. Barely room for a Brita filter, some yogurt containers and some vegetables, forget about beer, wine or condiments. I'm trying to get a new one, but in the process, I haven't been able to keep very much food around. I've been hanging around the house today, not doing much, not eating much (because there's not much available), and when I opened the tiny fridge to think of what to make for lunch, the first thing I saw was my dwindling container of eggs.

If you read this blog regularly, you might have realized I'm a pretty big proponent of eggs. I've made baked eggs a few times before, usually when I want some protein/something slightly substantial in my meal but am too lazy to prepare meat. They're super-cheap, easy, relatively quick, and highly customizable. Basically, you just bake an egg until the white sets. Today I made mine with some slices of tomato and a sprinkle of dried basil; I also made it in the toaster over (lazy again, but definitely easy). Here is how I prepared mine this afternoon, although I think baked eggs are really a good, quick, little meal for any time of day:

Baked Eggs
total time: approx 15 min
total hands-on time: approx 4 min

What you need:
eggs (as many as you want, but no more than 2 in a ramekin)
olive oil or butter
1-2 slices of tomato
whatever seasoning you like
a ramekin or small oven-safe bowl

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Oil the ramekin or bowl with butter or olive oil (or even PAM spray)
3. Place tomato slice in bottom of ramekin, sprinkle on seasoning.


4. Break egg into ramekin, on top of tomato.


5. Bake for 10-15 minutes (I did 13, but keep checking throughout), until the egg is set.
6. Add salt and pepper to your liking. I also added some parmesan and breadcrumbs (after I took the picture, though).

my two baked eggs, which I ate with toast and a salad
Julia Child recommends using cream in the bottom of the ramekin for baked eggs, but I haven't tried that yet. Mark Bittman, in his in-my-opinion- every-single-person-who-likes-to-eat-food-should-have-this-cookbook* cookbook, says to take the eggs out a little bit before they're completely done, as the excess heat from the ramekin can continue to cook them. He also covered baked eggs in his column in 2007, which is accompanied by an amusing video. Bittman suggests using cooked spinach, chopped meat, herbs, or onions in the bottom of the ramekin. In the video, he uses some big basil leaves that look delicious; I think baked eggs would also be great with fresh dill or tarragon, or maybe with cilantro and a little bit of salsa.

*Seriously, buy that cookbook. You won't be sorry.

July 30, 2010

Castle Life Is Tough

note: I'm posting this for Robbie because the internet is really expensive in Italy.


I’m at a castle in Tuscany that is also a sustainable organic estate. Almost everything we eat is organic and grown on site. They raise a heritage breed of pig called a cinta senese and the ham, sausage, and bacon they make from them is amazing. Basil is in everything. They make a great organic wine, in red and white. We do wine on the terrace every evening at 7 pm; dinner is at 8. Every dinner is four courses (pasta or soup, meat and vegetable, salad, desert) and every other Wednesday is a seven (approximately, they sort of blend together) course meal (raw vegetable, anti-pasta, pasta, meat and vegetable, salad, desert, liquor and/or cafe) or a pizza night. It’s all a foodie’s dream really. I’ve been taking pictures of all the food and it weirded out all the other guests at first, as we eat all our meals family style with the staff. Now everyone knows not to touch the plates until I’ve taken a picture.





I’m getting a lot of writing done as well as reading some books for pleasure, such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Tender Buttons. If I finish those I’ll likely start reading Brief Interviews With Hideous Men or finish reading Rock Springs, which I started at the beginning of the trip.

Before here I was in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain where I watched the World Cup Final and became obsessed with Kebabs and Patatas Bravas, which are french fries covered with mayo and ketchup.

Kebab + Patatas Bravas = Magic


Next Tuesday I’m taking an Italian cooking class with the estate’s cook, Graziella. She’s been a cook here since she was a child and her mother was the cook before her. Whatever the meal is that I learn to cook, I’ll cook it again when I get back and take pictures. I have a feeling it’s spinach ravioli.
Oh yeah, there’s a pool and a hammock in the shade.

Even though this is great, I’ve been traveling for about a month and have gotten a tad homesick. I composed a list for everyone to enjoy without me.

The things I (in)appropriately miss about America:

Free refills (Europe doesn’t even have fountain drinks)

30 packs (beer is only sold in 4 packs)

Happy Meals (no fast food in rural Italy)

Driving (on Sunday I waited 3 hours for a bus)

Green Chile (duh)

Free Wifi (the wifi here is 6 euro an hour)

Ice Coffee (espresso with every meal is not the same)

Cocktails (I drink a lot of wine and really miss a good G&T)

Tuscan Vineyard


July 25, 2010

Weekend Links

Here are some food and/or writing-related links I've recently found interesting:

Very extensive tips on becoming a more frugal food shopper/cook from the Kitchn. I definitely need to follow some of these.

How food gets gendered.

Maddie Oatman's food and writing blog.

Not so new, but a crazy-long, crazy-good collaborative poem.

I really would like to make this. I have made these and they're delicious.

July 20, 2010

Best.Salad.EVER.

So, I'm not really a big salad person. I love vegetables, but I don't like most dressings, and I abhor your typical restaurant "side salad" (wilted iceberg lettuce, two tomato slices, some pitiful shredded carrot and a big glob of ranch). I don't usually make salad for myself, except the occasional tomato-spinach-fresh mozzarella-olive oil-balsamic vinegar standard, basically the only salad I'll consistently eat. My boyfriend is on tour with his band right now, so I'm taking the opportunity to eat non-meat-based meals for dinner. After a couple nights of veggies and pasta, I decided to make this salad from a recipe I found in Women's Health magazine.

AND IT IS THE BEST SALAD EVER. It is meant to serve two people, as a meal, and I ate the entire thing by myself in one sitting. It's filling, delicious, and manages to actually taste amazingly healthy, fresh, and green. The flavors of the avocado, cilantro and lime blend perfectly, giving the salad an identifiable but not overwhelming Mexican flavor.  I can't rave enough about it; it really is that good. Seriously. Make this salad TONIGHT.



Avocado Black Bean Salad (from Women's Health)
serves 2, contains 247 calories per serving

Ingredients
2 cups lettuce (I used a basic spring mix)
1 avocado, chopped
1 medium tomato, diced
1/2 cup of black beans, rinsed
2 tbsp diced green onions
1 tbsp fresh cilantro
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
lime zest to taste (original recipe calls for 1/4 tbsp)
salt to taste
pepper to taste

1. Chop tomato, green onion, avocado and cilantro.
2. In a large bowl, combine lettuce, tomato, avocado, black beans, green onions and cilantro.
3. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, salt and pepper. I'm a very lazy lemon/lime zester, so I just made an amount of zest I thought looked ok and used it--you might want to use the prescribed 1/4 tbsp, or less.
4. Pour dressing over salad and toss well, making sure everything is coated.


If you're a cilantro hater, whether by tastebuds or genetics, you could easily leave it out or substitute another herb (maybe parsley?).

I think this recipe would also be delicious made as a chopped salad, a la this post on Cheap Healthy Good.  If you want more protein, you could also add grilled chicken, or if you want more veggies, maybe some cooked corn. I used the leftover 1/2 can of beans and cilantro with some tomato in a breakfast omelet the next day.

Avocado on FoodistaAvocado

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