Lately – February 2017

Lately:

Things I’ve been reading:

  • The Bone People. About three people – a man, a woman, and a child – all damaged. Set in New Zealand. Really beautiful, really hard to read at points, and really wonderful.
  • Big Little Lies. I read this on a short vacation in Park City last weekend. I was in the middle of reading Underground Railroad, but switched to this so that I could start watching the HBO series. I thought I had read it already, but I hadn’t. (Instead, I’d read The Husband’s Secret by the same author.) Anyway, a quick, fun, suspenseful read!
  • The Underground Railroad. Currently reading. Isn’t everyone? I’m going to a book club for this book on Wednesday (in three days!) and I’m only 30% into it. I should not have deviated last weekend to read Big Little Lies. Sigh. Anyway, I’m into it, it’s not that I’m not into it. I was just feeling a little beaten up after The Sympathizer and The Bone People and not wanting to read something with torture and abuse. Hence the deviation. But I’m back at it, and maybe I’ll be able to read enough by  Wednesday.

Things I’ve been watching:

  • Big Little Lies. I’ve watched the first two episodes. I think it’s good. It’s so hard to watch things based on books I’ve read. So far, it has only minor deviations from the book. I think it’s good. Certainly good enough to have on while I’m cooking dinner!
  • The Putin segment of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I don’t actually usually watch these types of shows (I group this with The Daily Show, SNL, Colbert, etc.). But I always wish I watched them more, and on the particular evening I watched this, I really wanted some perspective and comic relief on the media.

Things I’ve been eating:

  • Many of the recipes from Cassy Joy Garcia’s Fed & Fit book, including:
    • Cold Cut Roll-ups
    • Basic Pork Tenderloin and Easy Parsnip Mash
    • Roasted Fruit Pops
    • Anti-inflammatory Smoothie (I added spinach.)fullsizeoutput_aa9a
    • Buffalo Ranch Bison Burgers and Braised Greens (Really enjoyed these, and have been eating the leftovers in a salad with roasted sweet potato chunks and leftover homemade paleo ranch dressing, also from the book.)fullsizeoutput_aa99
    • Plantain Protein Pancakes with Salted Raspberry Jam (Yum.)
    • Sausage & Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash with Rosemary Orange Cream Sauce (thought I would love this, but I think I could have cooked my acorn longer, and citrus-y anything is really hit or miss for me. The orange cream sauce was a bit of a miss.) (Photo is from before I cooked it. You couldn’t see any red after I cooked it.)fullsizeoutput_aa98
    • Lemony Kale & Sausage Soup (wasn’t sure I would like this because, again, citrus. But turns out it was delicious and the lemon wasn’t lemon-y tasting, just bright.)
    • Sweet Potato Breakfast Hash Casserole (quite a lot of prep but pretty good).a2e19108-4b8a-401e-ba8e-3a1021aea263
    • Buffalo Chicken Casserole (made for the Super Bowl, and made with spaghetti squash instead of potatoes, which I didn’t have. Very good.)

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  • And… HelloFresh! Dan and I tried it out for two weeks. We meant to only do one week (we had an introductory offer), but I forgot to cancel it in time. I have to say, all the meals were really, really, really good. Easy to prepare, not too time consuming. I’ve always sort of pooh poohed these home delivery dinner things, since I have no trouble prioritizing grocery shopping and making dinner. But. It was convenient and delicious. And I was able to make them all paleo/Fed&Fit compliant. We’re trying Blue Apron with an introductory offer next week 🙂 (but those will be more difficult to make paleo/compliant). Some photos:

Races I’ve registered for:

Fitness I’ve been doing:

  • Still CrossFitting at CrossFit Federal Hill. 3x week, except the past two weeks. I developed some fairly intense low back pain throughout January, and it got so bad a few weeks ago that I totally put the halt on everything. Then I saw a PT and met with the gym owner and gained back some confidence to keep moving but taking it easy. So now I’m back at it, with lower weights.
  • Still running 2x week. Yesterday, I did a 6-mile trail run in Patapsco State Park. I combined the Soapstone Trail with the Grist Mill Trail and road, then the River Trail, and returned on the Grist Mill Trail from the swinging bridge. Clio had a blast (so did I). It was near 70 degrees! I’ll be doing more trail runs to get ready for the half marathon. Fun!
  • Easy C1 yoga at CorePowerYoga in Fed Hill and Canton. This has been amazing for my back. I hadn’t been in a while, but have been 3-4 times over the past two weeks.
  • Skiing at Snowbird and Deer Valley in Utah last weekend.

So that’s that! I’m going to do a cooking class tonight with Baltimore Delta Gamma alumnae at Pier Point Restaurant. Looking forward to it!

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Oh hey there, 2017

It’s a new year! The kitchen looks pretty much the same. Here’s a little bit of what’s been going on:

I made posole on New Years Eve! I basically followed the recipe in my previous post except… I bought a 3.7 lb Boston butt from the farmers market that morning that was frozen and on the bone. I was mostly able to thaw it before cooking, but not enough to cut it up into chunks, so I just threw the whole thing in there and started trying to shred after about two hours. I cooked it for 3-3.5 hours total. Dan and I both thought it was okay while eating it. Then we remembered to season it with salt and add some lime and cilantro. Then it was really good. I forgot to take a lot of pictures, so I’ll share a couple pictures from when I made it 5.5 years ago, and a couple from Saturday. Sorry, my photography was just as bad then as it is now.

June 2011:

Look how clean my Lodge Dutch oven was! I think it was newish then.

NYE 2016:

Yep, that’s all I got. The red sauce was definitely darker this time. I didn’t use Anaheim chiles. I used… I forget. I’m sorry! They were just some dried chiles that I found at Harris Teeter a couple weeks ago. And, I think in future, I would prefer the pork chunks I’ve used before over the shredded pork I used this time. It made the stew fattier and heavier this time.

A couple nights before NYE, I made Greek turkey burgers and an arugula salad with tahini sauce from RealPlans (the burgers actually called for ground chicken, not turkey, but turkey’s what I had).

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The night before the last night of Hanukkah, we made latkes. My first time ever! We paired them with roasted vegetables and some leftover chicken thighs in mole sauce that Dan had made before.

On NYE morning, I sorta made a Benedict out of leftover latkes. Except without hollandaise sauce. And a fried egg instead of poached. Is that still sort of a Benedict? Okay, it was just latke piled with smoked salmon, sautéed spinach, sliced tomato, fried egg, and yogurt. It was delicious.

Yesterday morning (post NYE celebrating), I made the NYTimes shakshuka for breakfast for my friend who’d spent the night and me. No pictures. I had leftovers this morning (and a leftover latke – oof, a big full breakfast before CrossFit. Normally I don’t eat before my 5:30am class, but the gym only had a 9:30am class today due to the holiday, and I woke up starving, so had to eat). Ohhhh, and last night, Dan and I finally ate the remaining bone marrow that I bought from The Pigheaded Butcher many months ago. I also bought a ton of bones for broth when I bought the pork shoulder at the farmer’s market on Saturday, so I started a batch of bone broth last night. It’s been making the house smell real good all night and morning. I’ll strain and jar it in a couple hours. Bone broth for the new year!

And that’s it!

I’m going to clean out the fridge today. That’ll feel good. While watching Gilmore Girls. I’m on season 6. I do this every fall/winter. This is the season where Rory and Lorelei are not talking for the first half season. Not my favorite, but I’m  marching on :-).

And I’m going to have leftover posole for lunch. New Year’s off to a good start!

 

 

Plans for Posole

Posole(pozole) is traditional holiday food in some places in Mexico, as well as in New Mexico. I was treated to some white posole while in Albuquerque last week. I plan to make posole rojo on New Years Eve or New Years Day this year, which I’ve done before, but apparently not for several years. I had trouble finding the recipe I’ve used (which I recall, I cobbled together after looking at various other recipes), but I finally did! I wrote it in a Word document with a file name: my first attempt at posole 060611 (meaning it’s from June of 2011. I can’t wait to make it. I might make a few variations from what I have below, but I do recall it being quite good. I was pretty new at cooking then, as you’ll see. This is what it says:

My first attempt at posole

  1. Make a red chili sauce (2:45 pm)

I bought 4 red chilis.  I didn’t know enough about different kinds of chilis to even know if they were dried, even though they were thin and papery.  But I thought that’s just how they might be.  I googled peppers and have finally determined that they are dried California chilis.  Apparently, both California chilis and New Mexican chilis are Anaheim chilis, but when grown in California, they are more mild than those grown in NM.  After looking at a few posole recipes, I decided to cook and make a sauce out of the red chilis first.

Ingredients:

  • 4 dried red New Mexican or California chilis*
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ~ 2tbsp olive oil
  • dash of salt
  • two pinchfuls of oregano (all recipes call for Mexican oregano, but I don’t have that, nor do I know what it is)
  • 1.5 c. chicken broth

Steps:

Dice and sauté onion in oil in Dutch oven on the stove (over medium or low/medium heat).  (This time, I also diced and sautéed the top ¼ of a red bell pepper just because I had it and wanted to use it – it was going bad).  Slice open the side of each red chili then slice off stem and pour out as many seeds as possible and pull out the vein(s) if possible.  After onion is soft, add salt and oregano.  Add garlic and sauté for less than a minute.  Add chicken broth.  Add peppers and let them soak/boil in the stock for 15 minutes.  Move everything to a food processor and process until smooth.

Store extra in the fridge, or freeze.

Makes about 1.5-2 cups

2. To make soup:

  • 2 cups red sauce
  • 1 lb pork, cut into ½-1 inch pieces (most recipes call for pork shoulder, which I can never find… I’ve just been using pork loin chops)
  • 28 oz hominy
  • 8 cups liquid (mix between broth and water)

Steps:

  • Brown pork
  • Add 4 cups liquid (broth)
  • Bring to a boil, then decrease to simmer/low boil
  • Add hominy
  • Add enough more liquid to make it seem like enough
  • Add the red sauce after an hour
  • Cook for however much more time you have.
  • (Note: some recipes call for shredding pork… so you cook the pork for an hour or so and then shred it and then put it back in. I think you just have to cook the hell out of it to get it shreddable…?)

accompaniments:

  • avocado
  • cabbage or lettuce
  • cilantro
  • radish

*“Anaheims are the California produce industry’s name for the New Mexican pod type. When Anaheim chiles turn red and are dried, they are called California chiles. California chiles are mild in comparison to other chiles. Dried California chiles are a shiny dark red. They’re mildly pungent, ranging on average from 2 to 3 out of 10 on the Scoville heat scale.” (from: http://www.specialtyproduce.com/index.php?item=734&name=Dried_California_Chile_Peppers)

 

 

Chicken Pumpkin Stew

Last Sunday, Dan and I put up our holiday decorations. It was two days after Thanksgiving, which had been nice and filling, but not incredibly painful and indulgent. Nevertheless, I was in the mood for something filling but not super-heavy to round out the weekend and to enjoy after we set up our house for the holidays.

I wanted to use the small butternut squash from our Hungry Harvest box the week before as well as some of the pumpkin purée I’d made in October and have frozen in the freezer. I decided to make a pumpkin stew. I looked up a couple recipes for ideas but didn’t follow any particular one. On the stovetop in my Lodge enameled cast iron Dutch oven, I progressively added each of the following (all amounts ‘ish’):

  • 1 tbsp bacon fat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small butternut squash, after peeling, removing seeds, and cutting into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Ish.
  • About 1.3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • About 1.3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4? Cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
  • 4 cups homemade pumpkin purée
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth

I let it come to a boil, then put the lid mostly on and put it on low to simmer for 90 minutes. I then added a bit more chili powder and salt. I definitely should have added more spices at the beginning. It was tasty, but not spicy (or spiced-tasting).

We garnished with lime juice, cilantro, green onion, and Dan added some shredded cheese. We froze the leftovers and have been continuing to eat them. It’s thick and hearty without feeling too heavy.

And our house is decorated! We put on holiday music and got it done. Dan spent most of the time getting the lights on the outside railing while I put ornaments on the tree. Penelope had a blast hanging out in the box with the newspaper that had been used to wrap the ornaments.

Sorta-Miso Soup

Dan sent me a link to this Bon Appetit winter miso soup earlier this week. It’s recommended as a healthy reset soup (perfect for the week post-Thanksgiving), and the ‘recipe’ is more of a template than a recipe. Thank goodness, because I didn’t really follow it very well.

I hadn’t been planning to make it this weekend, but our farm box – which arrived on our doorstep Friday morning – had kale, shiitake mushrooms, and leeks, all of which were useful for this recipe. I didn’t do any other shopping for it, so just used what I had.

Which never includes fishy things like seaweed and katsubushi/bonito flakes. And the description of a broth with both those things in it tasting ‘like the sea’ was not anything I was interested in (though Dan would have loved it). Instead, I used the open box of beef broth I had in the fridge and some water (very different flavor). I used a lot of the kale from the farm box. I sautéed some of the leeks (we didn’t have green onions) and all of the mushrooms. And we had some udon noodles but no soba noodles, so we used those instead. I also added some ground ginger since I didn’t have any fresh and a bit of fish sauce just as a nod to Dan… I don’t think it was enough to actually add much flavor.

I also added tofu and soft boiled some eggs. I’d never soft boiled eggs before. Their consistency was great, but Dan and I wondered if there is a trick to peeling them.

Anyway, it was pretty good! Especially once I heated mine more to make it super hot and added chili garlic paste. Then it was temperature hot and spicy hot and made me so warm-feeling that I had to take my top layer off.

The ‘recipe’ was pretty easy and quick. The only downside was the number of dishes. There was the  pot for the broth, the pan for sautéing, a pot for cooking the noodles, and another pot for soft boiling the eggs.  But Dan did the dishes, not me, so that didn’t bother me too much :-).

The vegetables on the side you see in that second picture are roasted mixed vegetables, one of my perennial winter go-tos. Yum.

On another note, a link at the bottom of this recipe led me to information about a book called The Food Lovers Cleanse that BA is putting out on December 22. Does that mean they’re not doing it this year? That it will only be available through this book? Sigh. As I’ve mentioned before, I was really looking forward to it…

**Update**

A few days after we ate this, Dan sent me this link with common miso-soup-making mistakes. I do admit that I probably committed 1 (though I don’t know whether my miso is good or not), definitely committed 2 and quite egregiously (see mention of beef stock above), committed 4 (but was following the recommendation to sauté the mushrooms from the original recipe/template I used!), and committed 6 (even though the recipe/template I used told me not to… I actively decided just to do it). So. Okay. Guilty.

 

 

Pumpkin Puree

Making pumpkin puree has become an annual tradition for me, one that I use to celebrate the arrival of Fall. This year, I made it on October 4th, which was maybe a little early. It was officially Fall, but the weather was still pretty summery, and I had a little trouble finding the small pumpkins I wanted. However, it was also a rare weekend in town, and making pumpkin puree is an all-day event. I was only in town because Hurricane Patricia rolled through and messed up my weekend plans, and I thought I should seize the opportunity.

This tradition started in October 2012, which was the month Dan and I got married. We decorated the head table at our wedding with sugar pumpkins, and after the festivities were over, I decided to turn them all into puree. I froze the bounty and had delicious, homemade pumpkin puree that lasted me through Winter.

Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Jo Arellanes for LeahAndMark.com
Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Jo Arellanes for LeahAndMark.com

You can only sort of see the pumpkins in the photo above. It’s the only one I could find that even kind of shows them.

Anyway, I used then and continue to use The Pioneer Woman’s homemade pumpkin puree recipe. (Aside: I recently learned that The Pioneer Woman has a TV show, and I saw part of an episode while on a cross-country flight. Who knew. She wasn’t what I expected. Sweeter in person; more sarcastic in blog form. The opposite is probably true of me.)

This year, I bought six pumpkins, knowing that each additional pumpkin means that much more work, but also that much more pumpkin puree. The first step is to cut the tops off. One of the six proved much too hard to cut off. I swear it was like plastic. I also made Dan try. The knife simply did not cut into the flesh at all. So I put that pumpkin out on the front steps for decoration, and proceeded to use only five pumpkins. A week later, someone had smashed the poor pumpkin in the street. Whoever did it must have been much stronger than Dan or me.

The whole process took maybe five hours. And made me realize that the 30-year old food processor that my mom gave me is not as effective as my cheap immersion blender, so… I think it’s gonna go.

I now have pumpkin puree galore! From the picture above, it looks like I filled 8 quart-size bags. I’m not sure if each has a quart, though. I used a 1-cup measuring cup to scoop the puree into each bag, and only did two (albeit, overflowing) scoops into each bag.

While making the puree, I also roasted the seeds (somewhat following this recipe from Oh She Glows and adding Penzey’s Cajun seasoning). That night, I made some really delicious  pumpkin chili. Like, really delicious. Dan thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately, as I so often do (especially with soups and stews), I didn’t follow any specific recipe or document what I did. Just now, I Googled pumpkin chili to try and find a few that I could recommend, but you can do the  Googling just as well as I, and I don’t really know what to recommend. I’m sure it involved at least:

  • onion
  • beans (kidney, black, pinto probably/maybe)
  • maybe a final jalapeño from my rooftop pots
  • maybe bell pepper
  • pumpkin puree obviously
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • diced tomatoes

Anyway, it was good. And spicy!

I have since made pumpkin chili twice. Once was adapted from this Serious Eats turkey pumpkin chili recipe. It was good, but not as good as that first night. The second one was adapted from this recipe for easy slow cooker southwester 2 bean chicken from the gracious pantry (which my friend, Emily, shared with me over a year ago). Heavily adapted: I started with but did not fully use a slow cooker, I added onions, I only used a tiny bit of salsa (and only because I felt like I needed something to add a little more flavor at the end, and I don’t even know if it achieved it – I then added chili powder), I used three types of beans, and I added pumpkin, obvi. So. Anyway. Also good, but not as good. I’ll eat the last two servings of that batch this week for lunch – I only need two lunches this week because it’s a holiday week, so no salad jars this week.

In October, I also used some of the pumpkin to make Running on Veggies’pumpkin cranberry oat muffins, which were an attempt to use the pumpkin in a non-chili recipe, while also reintroducing some grains (which I’d been avoiding for months) but remaining mostly gluten-free. I thought they were tasty, but they didn’t really rise like muffins should, and I’m pretty sure that people enjoying non-gluten-free muffins wouldn’t choose these over those.

This past Friday night, I also made hamburgers with pumpkin puree, using Civilized Caveman’s recipe (without the honey drizzle). They were really good. I think it might have been the pumpkin pie spice more than the pumpkin puree, but who knows.

I’m not sure how else I’ll use the pumpkin this year. In years past, I’ve used it to make homemade pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, but since I’m still not really eating sugar and bread, I probably won’t be doing that. Regardless, I’m pretty sure that whatever I do with it will be delicious, because, pumpkin puree.