CreativEating

Try it, you might like it!

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

10 Commandments of Food?

A Quora member recently asked, if there were ’10 Commandments of Food,’ what would they be? The one with the most votes (over 250) I found relatively delightful and also puzzling. (you can find the original post here) What are your thoughts? Do you agree or perhaps (scandalously) disagree? Is there a list on that post that you prefer? So here they are…

  1. Honor what you use. For every piece of food, every ingredient, every vegetable, slice of meat, herb, or spice, someone had to work, an animal had to die, trucks, vans, trains, and boats had to move. Every celery stalk and every pork loin has made a permanent impression on this planet. Honor the men and women who worked for your food, the animals who had to die for it, by giving everything the best treatment, thinking about how you can make it better, and by not wasting or throwing away food items.
  2. Don’t lose touch with your food. Tongs and other contraptions only serve to keep you away from it. Losing touch, figuratively and literally, yields worse dishes. Touch your steaks, your salad, everything. Learn how it feels, smells, looks, and tastes.
  3. Try something new every month. Follow foreign cultures and preparations. Your life will be richer and your food better, even when you’re preparing common staples.
  4. Before you use the tool learn to do it with your own hands. Buying a julienne peeler is nice and can save you hours over the course of a lifetime. But only by learning how to cut, mash, grind, sear, saute, and whisk with your hands will you keep touch with your food and get the best results.
  5. Cook for others. Enough said.
  6. Use fresh where possible, canned where necessary and frozen when desperate.
  7. Taste everything. Repeatedly.
  8. Let your food items come to room temperature before throwing them into pans.
  9. Work clean and clean as you go.
  10. When cooking, taste. When baking, measure.
I do have a few things…. of course… to say
#2 & #4 
There’s a lot of food touching in here for my germaphobe friends. I do appreciate the sentiment, and part of touching is part of #1’s appreciating. Especially with meat. Meat is something we get so creeped out by in modern life but if you eat it, you should touch it. Wash it, season it etc with your hands. But this also creates A LOT of hand washing to touch my steak and my salad… so careful with all the touching.
And seriously, I don’t think I’ll be ‘searing’ or ‘sauteing’ with my hands… because I don’t like being burned in a fire. I’m not sure what tool other than a simple spatula would make this easier. Mashing by ‘hand’ I’m guessing is w/ a simple mashing tool rather than beater etc. which does make better mashed products (rather than potato puree) But the cooking ones? Just confused. Though seriously — julienne-ing something is a pain the butt. I would love a julienne peeler. (feel free to sponsor this purchase please)
#6
I also, personally, think he has #6 wrong. I’d go “Use fresh where possible, frozen where necessary and canned when desperate.” Canned food loses nutrition and gains salty flavors often. I wouldn’t touch a canned green bean or pea to save my life. But frozen? Frozen peas are lovely! Bright green, nutritious, delicious. I’m curious as to what foods he things can better than freeze actually…. I can’t think of any.
#8
I never do this. I should, but I VERY rarely do. Sometimes with butter and eggs… but usually not.
#9
Really? Work clean is one thing, cleaning as you go sucks the fun out of it and makes me manic. And if you cook, you shouldn’t have to clean!
#3, #5, #7 & #10
YES, THESE.
*Other Favorites from Quora Answers*
Embrace failure.  It’s the only way you learn what not to do (for the next time).
Never fry bacon while you’re naked.
Cooking isn’t just for the ladies!
Fat is flavor. Do not fear it.
Be ready and willing to improvise.
Open a bottle of wine (don’t cook without a glass).
Savor your leftovers!
*My Additions*
11. Take joy in the creative process of cooking and the service to others of the food you prepare. There are few (if no)  things more core to our existence than creativity, food, and community.
12. If you can’t cook, learn to make 5 things you’re really good at in order to participate in your family or community, and in order to be more self-sufficient.
13. Accept compliments and suggestions graciously
What are your objections? What would you add?
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Hurricane Eating & Preparedness #Sandy

Just a short post to say hello from hurricane land. Here in DC we’re at home (technically I’m working from home, while the boyfriend gets the day off to read fishing blogs etc). I’ll try to take photos of dinner, which he is preparing, and update this post. But our plan for the day/tomorrow is as follows:

 

Breakfast: With Electricity (yay!)

Egg, bacon, cream cheese bagel sandwiches with fresh berries (raspberries and blueberries) on the side

Lunch: With or w/o electricity capable

Ham sandwiches with a side of banana or carrots and our favorite, buffalo flavored pretzel chips

Dinner: With or w/o electricity capable (thanks to great planning by the dude)

Pre-cooked crumbled spicy chicken sausage tacos w/ lettuce, cheese and chips & salsa

 

Other ready to eat hurricane prep items

Water (we’ve got one bought gallon and 2 pitchers we filled up, just in case. You never know)

Candles & flashlights/headlamps (w/o power our house will smell like the inside of a cheap version of Yankee Candle)

Snack foods that require no refridgeration: bananas, apples, fixings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, granola bars etc.

A plan for cold foods: we have a cooler and have been storing up extra ice. The hope is that any power will only be out shortly so we can just keep the fridge closed (and we set it to the coldest level last night to chill it out as much as possible) and wait it out, but we’ll do what we need to.

 

Stay dry and safe out there. We’re lucky this storm missed hitting DC directly, but it looks like parts of NJ and NY are really facing some brutal winds and surf. Hoping all have moved to higher ground, and stay wary of down power lines etc.

Ginger Tea-infused Soba Noodle Stirfry Salad

Yes, that title is a mouthful, but it’s the most accurate thing I could think of. And clearly “accuracy” is so important in my “a little bit of this”, “a little bit of that” kind of cooking. ANYWAY, this was probably one of the best dishes I’ve created this year, so get excited. AND it’s vegan. AND if you use rice noodles instead (and are of course careful about the sauce thing), it could be vegan and gluten free… what??? And still delicious? Even good for lunch the next day? How can it be? Magic. Or tea-infused grains. Or both perhaps.
So, What you need:

  • Soba noodles (or any other noodles you want to use in your asian fusion made up dish)
  • 3+ tea bags (I used Lemon-ginger… which made the noodles taste more like ginger than lemon, but try whatever kind you like! Orange tea or green ginger tea would also be really tasty. Use whatever teas you don’t want to drink!)
  • Lettuce and other crunchy raw veggies (for the salad base! Cabbage would work too. I used romaine and cucumbers)
  • Vegetables of all kinds for stir frying (mushrooms, carrots, peppers, onions, jalapeno, celery, snap peas, broccoli etc)
  • A lime (or 1/2 a lime… if you have one of those around)
  • Olive Oil and/or sesame oil (sesame oil adds some flavor but isn’t necessary)
  • Minced garlic
  • Soy sauce and/or your favorite asian themed sauce (I used literally something named ‘stir fry sauce’… very high class. One day I’ll write about how to make a sauce… but not today)
  • Sneaky optional ingredients if you have them: worcestershire sauce (used it), cilantro (didn’t have any on hand), ground ginger (just a sprinkle)

Ok, you’re ready.


Step 1: Make the Tea-Infused Noodles

Boil water like you normally would for making the noodles you’ve chosen. I selected soba noodles (made from buckwheat) because they’re delicious, quick cooking, and have a great texture. But you could certainly use another type of noodle if you liked. Heck, you could probably even use run of the mill spaghetti and make it work here. If you go with a rice noodle, this can be made gluten free friendly, which is always a bonus.

Add the tea bags to the water when it reaches a boil, and wait at least 2 minutes. You want the water to all be pretty tea-flavored. Then toss in the noodles. Leave the tea bags in while the noodles cook.

Cook these until they’re done (according to the directions) and then strain. Give them a light rinse in cold water, and set them aside. I put the soba noodles in a bowl  (rinsed and strained) with the 3 steeped tea bags under them just in case more tea flavor would seep out. May not have done anything, but who knows. That’s what I thought made the most sense at the time for whatever reason.

Step 2: Chop all of the Veggies

You heard me. Get to it. Lettuce and crunchy veggie salad base? Chop and get on a plate. Stir fry veggies? Chop into bite sized bits. You know the drill. This takes awhile but is totally worth it to have a variety of veggies on your plate. No one wants 2 veggie stir fry – snore. A little bit of everything you have in the fridge or freezer is the way to go.

I also highly recommend the jalapeno. Deseeded and chopped up, 1/2 a jalapeno is perfect in this dish. The ginger noodles can be a little sweet so this is wonderful with that.

Step 3: Plate the Crunchy Veggies

And maybe the noodles too… you want to be ready when your stir fry is done. So get that chopped lettuce, and maybe cabbage or cukes ready to go.

Step 4: Stir fry the Veggies

Using a wok or your trusty cast iron (obviously what I used) you want to stir fry the veggies. You can start with medium to medium high heat, your oil, minced garlic and harder veggies like carrots and celery and perhaps onions and peppers. After these have a few minutes to get ahead in the cooking, toss in your sliced mushrooms and jalapenos. Let those stir fry up. Then toss in the softer veggies you want to steam a little, broccoli and snap peas in this case. You may want to cover these for short periods of time, just 30 or 45 seconds at a time. Due to the high heat some veggies will get a little lovely char to them, while the softer veggies should steam to a cooked yet still with a little crunch which is great for this salad.

DO NOT overcook your veggies. When in doubt, undercook. Mushy veggies on soft noodles on lettuce isn’t very appealing. When you think you have about a minute left, add your sauces & any additional spices (a splash of soy sauce, splash of worcestershire, and as much of your stir fry sauce of choice as you wish, small pinch of ground ginger or perhaps pinch of cayenne if you didn’t have the jalapeno but like it spicy) to the pan and toss everything around. Again, careful about that overcooking thing. When it’s done, pull it off of heat and plate.

Step 5: Plate

Pile the noodles on the lettuce etc. if you haven’t already (don’t go overboard, with all those veggies you don’t want too many noodles on one plate, trust me). Then scoop stir fry veggies on top. Garnish with a lime slice or two and a few sprigs of cilantro (or just squeeze the lime on and toss on a few sprinkles of chopped cilantro on top if you’re not trying to impress anyone with your presentation and just want to eat your dinner like a normal person)


Enjoy! The tea-infused noodles really add flavor to this dish, so there’s no need for extra sauce or seasoning for the lettuce etc which is great if you’re trying to watch your diet. Sauces can be cruel in regards to sugar and sodium. But tea? Tea is as low cal as it gets for flavoring and was remarkably tasty. I was pretty impressed myself. This also made a wonderful lunch the next day. I put the stir fry on the bottom, then lettuce then noodles (to keep everything from getting too soggy) and then heated it up a little and stirred it up at work. It’d also be good just cold, but was really a treat at room temp/slightly warm too. VERY filling, hearty, healthy and made my week. Try it and let me know what you think!

For your entertainment…

From two of my favorite cartoons Toothpaste for Dinner (which is not a diet I recommend) and Natalie Dee (fun fact: they’re a couple… I hope their child starts making comics too one day)

 

Cobb Salad (The Catch-All of Salads)

I love a good Cobb Salad… mostly because while I find lettuce boring, cobb salads are full of fun and interesting ingredients to fill your bites with flavor. And of course this fits OH so well with the idea of creative cooking because you can throw nearly anything into a cobb salad. For example, we didn’t have any bacon but we did have some left over ham (from a casserole I made last week), and some eggs that needed hard boiling before they went bad… easily incorporated. So this was my most recent take on the Cobb Salad (including a creamy lime dressing)…

What you need:

For Salad base:

  • some type of lettuce/green
  • tomatoes (optional)
  • cucumbers (optional)
  • corn (optional… frozen, canned, off the cobb)
  • chicken breast
  • hard boiled eggs 
  • onions
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • black beans (optional)
  • carrots (optional… we opted out due to plate space)
  • ham (or bacon… optional of course but delicious)
  • avocado (on everything please)

For Dressing (obviously you can use whatever dressing you like… this one’s lime southwestern):

  • 2 tbsp cream cheese/neufchatel (super fun to say and type!)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream (I used low fat)
  • 1 lime (well more accurately juice of 1/4 to 1/2 a lime… but you can’t buy 1/2 a lime obviously)
  • cumin
  • cayenne or hot sauce
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 an avocado (mashed)

Step 1:

Caramelize those onions…. so slice them up thin and toss them in your cast iron with a little bit of olive oil and a pad of butter. If you’re keen on it, you can toss in a pinch of sugar to help this process, but I’m kind of meh about that. Caramelizing onions does take a bit of time, around 45 minutes, but it’s super worth it. My favorite simple explanation of how to do this is from Simply Recipes … I’d recommend checking that out if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

Also, if you don’t have hard boiled eggs, you can do this at the same time. It takes about 15 minutes to get the water boiling, then cook the eggs (10 minutes of cook time). Then cool the eggs in some ice water before the salad arranging ensues.

Step 2: 

Cooking the chicken is easy peasy. Salt and pepper each side if you wish, or not. Like squash, I actually pretty much dislike white meat chicken. BUT The Kitchn saved me from this distaste. So I follow the method they use here except I really just skip the flour stuff. It’s not necessary to do all that really, they stay moist and awesome without it. In short, you sear each side for a few minutes in olive oil, add a few tbsps of water or wine to the pan, and cover for 25ish minutes (depends on the thickness of your chicken)

Step 3: Heat up anything that’s frozen or unpleasantly cold. For me, that was frozen corn, and left over ham. For you that might be frozen peas, or black beans (if yours are cold and you’re opposed to such a thing) etc.  I shamelessly use the microwave for this.

Step 4: Ok, dressing time. Get a bowl or even a mug out first. Scoop in the cream cheese, and if it’s not softened, throw that in the microwave for about 15 seconds to do that. Then scoop in the sour cream (you can also use greek yogurt here). Now come the yummy parts… lime, cumin, cayenne! Squeeze in the juice from 1/4 or so of the lime at first. You can add more later, but it’s easy to over lime (at least in my opinion)

To that cut up about half of an avocado (put the other half on your salad!) and mash it up into the dressing. Seriously though, why are avocados so delicious and lovely? Anyway, pretty much your dressing is done. If it’s too thick, add a splash or two of olive oil and blend. If not spicy enough.. you know, add spices. Do what your taste buds tell you. I didn’t LOVE my dressing but it was a nice change of pace from the typical ranch.

Step 5: Chop the rest of your veggies and assemble salad! Just scoop all your tasty ingredients, caramelized onions and all, right on there, chop that egg and chicken and get them on top and eat! As you can see the BF and I enjoy different toppings (he flat out refuses to eat raw tomatoes much to my dismay, while I really dislike hard boiled egg yolks… ew chalky) but here they are all shiny and scrumptious! But here are both just in case you like pretty salad pictures as much as I do…

And if you’re like me and always make too much of everything – this can be made for lunch the next day at the same time which is a double win in my book. Enjoy! And let us know what your favorite salad toppings & dressings are (and how to make them if they’re fancy like candied walnuts or something).

What happens when you have a food related twitter feed…

Sometimes these kinds of things run back to back and make you know that with one, you can never ever ever have the other.

 

Wild Rice Pilaf Stuffed Acorn Squash

Oh my – time flies when you get sick and don’t blog! Sorry for the delays!

I bought an acorn squash over a week ago and finally got to cooking it. I will admit – I’m not a huge squash fan. I find the texture a little weird, and the flavor mostly nonexistent. But it’s fall, and so squash cheaply abounds in all it’s takes-an-eternity-to-go-bad glory, which is enough for me to buy and cook it. USUALLY I’d roast an acorn squash open faced with lots of butter, brown sugar/maple syrup, cinnamon, and nutmeg. BUT dessert squash defeats a little bit of the point. So I tried something else to some success.

Things you need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • Cup of wild rice (actually I use a ‘brown rice medley’ from Trader Joe’s that I particularly like for it’s mixed texture… but really you could use any rice. I’d suggest a hearty rice though for sure)
  • Chicken broth (enough to make your rice, usually double the amount of dry rice you make, more or less)
  • Carrots, onions, celery (more = more flavor), any other veggies you wish (I threw in a few mushrooms too and some frozen peas for good measure because I love them)
  • Garlic, salt & black pepper, olive oil (always unless you’re making dessert)
  • Almond slivers (optional, but like in the other greens recipe, they worked well in the pilaf. Could sub pine nuts or sunflower seeds too)
  • Savory herbs of your choosing (thyme, rosemary, celery seed, oregano, parsley, tarragon… I used the first three, about a pinch each… could have used more)
  • Butter (of faux butter like Earth Balance)

As an aside, we also made some sauteed spinach (with bacon, worcestershire sauce and mustard) on the side… but that’ll be another blog sometime…

Ok, Step 1: Cook the wild rice. Wild rice is tough and resilient, so no worries about over cooking it really by cooking it in the broth on the stove top and then piling it in the acorn squash to roast up. If you’re nervous about mushy rice (clearly you have some anxiety issues, but that’s ok, we all have our things) you can cook it about 30 minutes and then pull it off of heat.

Step 2: Chop. Chop some more. Chop the onions and carrots and celery, and any fresh herbs (put any fresh herbs chopped to the side, away from the veggies which we’re gonna saute)

Step 3: While you have the knife and cutting board out, cut through that acorn squash too. Be careful – they’re hard vegetables and you don’t want to push so hard you slip and cut your fingers. A tip – cut a small slit in the squash with the tip of a knife and then use that slot to press into to cut all the way through. You can cut an acorn squash up and down along a ridge or right across the middle more horizontally… no matter.

When that’s all done, you gotta take out the inside. Like a pumpkin, the inside is a little mushy and weird and full of seed (you can roast these later if you wish like pumpkin seeds too). I use a grapefruit spoon for scraping out all the weird slippery strings and that works great.

Step 4: When your rice is about 10 minutes from being done cooking (either fully or to your desired partial cooking if you have that rice anxiety), turn your oven to 400 degrees, and turn a burner on medium with your trusty cast iron (or less trusty other pan if you must). In the pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, teaspoon (1 clove) minced garlic,  your chopped veggies and your almonds if they’re raw (like ours were… seriously, raw almonds… silly). Saute them until the onions start to get clear and then turn off the burner.

Step 5: Mix up that wild rice pilaf. Add the cooked rice, sauteed veggies, and herbs to a bowl and fold together. Taste test. If it needs more herbs, salt, pepper, a dash of worcestershire or soy sauce, some Mrs. Dash, a hug, whatever – add it. You know what tastes good in your mouth, own that. You want your pilaf to be scrumptious. When you’re at a loss for what it might need, I rely (guiltily I assure you) on chicken bouillon and add it teeny bit by teeny bit. A little salty (often MSG laden) powder goes a LONG WAY.

Step 6: Place your acorn squash halves on a baking dish (so you know, acorn squash are fat and hard to fit in normal pans… silly nature). Add a tablespoon or so of butter (or non-butter)  in each half as well as a sprinkle of salt and pepper and maybe some dried herbs for good measure. I was running out of butter, so I used less butter and a little olive oil with the dried herbs and rubbed that into the squash. It didn’t make much a difference in flavor to do this though so it’s probably easier to just add all the unnecessary herbs to the pilaf and skip all that olive oil rub stuffs.  Pile rice pilaf on top of that, pressing in a bit so you can get a good portion in the squash.

Step 7: Cover lightly with foil, pop in the oven for about 45 minutes. Some other recipes have you make the acorn squash, then fill it with pilaf… either way. I like that they all cook together. Seems right to me.

Step 8: Remove from the oven, plate (we sprinkles some chia seeds on top for fun) and enjoy! TADA – fancy looking dinner with normal ingredients and SUPER good for you. I’d suggest drinking some wine with it to balance out all those vitamins… no need to be extreme.

Happy fall eating!

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