veggie tricks

plated

Since I last posted about plated.com, I’ve ended up cooking almost twenty dishes through them! I’ve also gifted plates to several people in place of making them meals myself. At this stage in my life, they are my favorite takeout place and my favorite-recipe-for-a-friend rolled into one.

I thought I’d post a couple tricks they used, ones I liked so much that I use on my own now.

Broccoli: My favorite part was their suggestion to break the broccoli off leaving longer stem pieces. The stem are delicious roasted! Toss the broccoli with olive oil, sprinkled with grated pecorino or parmesan cheese, and roast at 450 for ten minutes.

Cucumber ribbons: I had never tried this before but it was such an elegant way to serve cucumber. Plated had me toss them with a tahini dressing, but next time I’m going to try what my friend suggested on Instagram–salt and light vinegar. As a child I loved marinated cucumber but I had completely forgotten about it.

Citrusy Carrot Hash: Saute diced onions in olive oil for five minutes. Add diced carrots and three tablespoons water and saute them for ten minutes. Add the juice of one orange and one lemon to the pan, and let cook for two more minutes. Stir one tablespoon butter at the end. Delicious!

 

bulletproof chai tea

bulletproof _black_chai_tea

One month in and I’m black tea addict. It all started when a little girl named Joan began waking up at 5am every morning with the reliability of the garbage man. I needed something quiet to make, that I could have multiple cups of, that I could drink all day.

To make things more fun for myself at this grim hour, I decide to buy solidly indulgent supplies. First I bought a nice raw sugar, brown, grainy and faintly molasses flavored. And I bought two nice strong black teas. Still cheaper than a week’s worth of coffee, I did love loitering in the tea aisle at Whole Foods for awhile and browsing the dreamy marketing. Goodbye Twinings Earl Grey: you simply were not strong enough for me. I would love to get some of Cambridge’s MEM tea next time I’m at a retailer.

Then, last week, I went over to Bridget’s house for a playdate (in which the moms play and the children sit quietly and discuss health trends). She offered us bulletproof coffee, which I had never heard of, and it was delicious! Essentially buttered coffee with coconut oil, grass-fed butter, some cream, some cinnamon, all of it blended together into a latte-colored frothy mugful. Satisfying and quenching all in one.

Bulletproof was developed from the animals-fats-and-cholesterol-make-things-better school of thought, same idea as Nourishing Traditions or Nina Planck’s Real Food. (I probably don’t need to tell you that these theories attempt to fight the blame put on saturated fats from the ’70s that older adults are still espousing to this day. Ideas like “butter clogs arteries,” and “don’t eat too many eggs,” that have since been disproven.)

I would link to the guy’s website who trademarked the genius term bulletproof, but frankly: it’s ugly. And he’s a bit obsessed with butter. Let’s take this in moderation, shall we? This is something to have one cup of, in the morning, to begin your day satisfied.

My question was whether it would work with black tea. I tried it with a chai tea blend. It was quite good.

I would still like to be invited to Bridget’s regularly to have her coffee version, but this was very nice before a blustery Boston morning. My only thought is that you should make the tea stronger than you typically would–maybe three bags worth for 16 oz of liquid.

bulletproof_chai_teabulletproof chai tea

16 oz water steeped with three black tea bags or chai blend
Spoonful / 2 T unrefined organic coconut oil
2 T butter (grassfed if you can find it, kerrygold is everywhere these days)
dash of cinnamon
dash of cream

Blend, in a blender!

 

snacks

wholewheatwafflesblueberry_syrup

Making waffles for your household is a handy habit because they refrigerate well and they freeze very well. They are quite filling and you know exactly what went into them. I was raised to put peanut butter and cottage cheese on my waffles–sounds crazy but it is a remarkably balanced carb-protein snack. If you’re in the market for that kind of thing.

These have no sugar, so that means you can be extra enthusiastic about the maple syrup dipping.

Blueberry syrup was developed for this occasion. I scooped half a cup of blueberries out of the freezer, put them in the pyrex with the syrup and heated them both in the microwave. I wasn’t too convinced by the flavor but Lux thought it was the best thing ever.

Sugar Free Whole Wheat Waffles from Simply in Season, p. 297

2 eggs (beaten)

2 cups plain yogurt

Combine in a large bowl.

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine in a small bowl then stir into egg mixture. 

1/4 cup oil

Add and stir together until blended; do not over-mix or the waffles will get tough. 

Bake in a hot waffle iron.

lunch_for_oneindiana_syrup

plated, a review

My mom is both very generous and very tech savvy. She frequently laments that she does not live closer to help me out more. Thus it was not a shocking surprise but still a super pleasant one when I found a gift for four dinners from plated in my inbox. Mayhaps she had seen a recent Facebook post wherein I basically swore off cooking dinner until Joan was two.

plated_box

I immediately clicked onto their site and selected two dinners to be shipped for that Tuesday. Lamb burgers with a greek salad side, and broccoli chicken curry. I specifically picked two things that I wish I cooked with more frequently–lamb and curry.

Obviously I was immediately smitten with having everything neatly labeled and divided. I think the cooking channel has made us all long for that:

plated_ingredients

The only thing either dish needed from my pantry was olive oil, salt and pepper. Both dishes were designed to be prepped in about thirty minutes.

The whole family really liked both dinners and I particularly liked that the easy recipes taught me a few techniques. For example–the lamb burgers came with directions to quick pickle red onions, mix feta into the mayonnaise, and lightly toast the buns beforehand. All of these were easy things that completely upgraded the dish, things that I typically wouldn’t think to do. I had an aha! moment when I read “Wipe pan clean from burgers. Return to heat and briefly toast buns in the pan.” So simple, yet I never do it.

plated_side_salad

I love cookbooks, I read them all the time. I love trying new recipes. But I appreciated the user-friendly aspect of something like this. I think it’s perfect for people who say “I’m terrible at cooking.” Or for a young single guy who wants to cook at home, but has no idea where to start. You could do a couple weeks of this, and go forth feeling like you know what you’re doing and have some serious experience under your belt. For me, it helped me snap out of the “whaaat do I make tonight?” rut that I was knee deep in.

They ship to a surprising number of places (like, Pennsylvania, Iowa and California!) which makes them a potentially awesome Christmas present.

And for those of you googling this stuff–there is another service out of New York called Blue Apron. Here’s the skinny on a couple of the differences between these competitors. 1/ The menu for plated changes every week, and you can decide your order up to 24 hrs before it ships. 2/ Blue Apron is $3-5 cheaper per plate, but you do not get to pick the food, you just pick whether it is vegetarian or not. 3/ plated has an optional monthly membership that discounts each plate. Blue Apron is cheaper overall, but requires you to receive a certain amount of dishes each week.

I’ve still got two more dinners to order–I’m eyeing those potato goat cheese cakes for next week! This isn’t sponsored, just a personal review. BUT do note: if you use a referral code to sign up, you get two free plates!

dream big pot roast

If there’s one thing I hope you can take away from any time you’ve spent on this blog, it’s this: buy the Alice Waters’ cookbook the art of simple cooking. It is the seriously the best. Her recipes are so basic and simple and delicious, always delicious. Go write it on your Christmas list right now.

alice_waters_beef_stew

I bought this beef chuck because Whole Foods was having a sale and the meat-monger basically guilted me into it. I bought two pounds when I should have bought three, but oh well. The recipe also calls for cloves, savory, brandy, and bacon, but I oh-welled those too. Because I bought it before I was planning on using it, I heavily salted and peppered the meat, wrapped it in saran wrap and left it in the the fridge for three days. Alice is a big fan of this type of aging (though probably more the 24 hour-type than the three-day-type.)

This was so so so good. Joe and I were aghast at how good it was. As I was nibbling on corners of it, waiting for Joe to get home, I had visions of Sunday dinners and hosting friends with this dish. Anything seemed possible, all of a sudden. I think the clutch element is really browning all sides of the meat at the beginning of the recipe.

I use these concentrated “better than bouillon” stocks for all my chicken stock or beef stock needs. It is easy to keep them in the fridge and you never have to say, “shoot, the only thing I’m missing is chicken stock.” And, ultimately, they make better stock than most cartons. Available at all grocery stores.

I wish I had made mashed potatoes or grainy bread to go with it. I did make biscuits, they were a little on the rich side. I don’t think you could drink red wine with this dish, it’s so savory! Maybe scotch with soda?

Alice Waters Beef Stew-as-Pot Roast Recipe

3 pounds beef chuck, seasoned with coarse salt and fresh ground pepper (a day ahead if possible)
3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, chopped into 2-inch chunks
2 medium onions, quartered
2 whole cloves, stuck into a quarter of onion
2 sprigs each of thyme, parsley, and savory (I skipped the savory and used dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
a few peppercorns
3 tablespoons brandy (optional)
1 3/4 cups red wine
3 tomatoes, diced (fresh or canned)
a small head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 thin strip of orange zest
2 cups beef stock

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and cook bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, but not crisp. Remove bacon.

Brown the beef on all sides in the bacon fat. Put meat into a heavy pot or braising dish. Lower heat and pour off most of the fat from the skillet. Cook the carrots, celery, and onions with the herbs, bay leaf, and peppercorns until lightly browned. Add to the beef in pot/dish.

Raise heat of empty skillet and add the brandy, then the red wine. Scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot and reduce wine by two-thirds. Pour over the beef and vegetables in the pot.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, orange zest, and broth to the pot. The liquid should come up at least 1/2 of the way up to the top of the beef/vegetables; add more broth if needed. It does not need to cover the ingredients entirely.

Cover and cook at a bare simmer on the stovetop, or in a 325-degree oven for 3-4 hours until meat falls apart when tested with a fork. Check the stew occasionally to make sure it’s not boiling and there is enough liquid.

Let stew rest for a few minutes before serving and skim off layer of fat on top. Season to taste and serve, if possible, sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley and garlic.

note: the photo up top is right before I added the beef stock, put the lid on, and slide it into the oven.

the sip and see

thesip_and_seeIMG_1541blueberry_galettecoconut_breadIMG_1534

A couple weekends ago we had friends over for a sip ‘n see. A term stolen from the south (I think? maybe old south?), it means people are invited over to eat and drink and see the new baby. A typical party, except all we had to do as hosts was tidy up the apartment because the guests brought all the food and drink. In fact, moments before the 10 a.m. start time, the four of us were sitting in the living room, just peacefully waiting and twiddling our thumbs instead of dashing around getting everything perfect.

they brought:

  • Coconut bread and marmalade 
  • Blueberry galettes (these are pretty easy and incredibly elegant!)
  • our favorite Barismo coffee
  • mimosa ingredients
  • Bacon cheddar scones
  • a heaping fruit salad

Babies are at their best in the morning and it’s always nice to have a party at the start of the weekend when everyone has plenty of time to get errands done afterwards (it reminded me of Lux’s first birthday party). We loved having the chance to just sit around our living room and catch up with everyone (most of them from Joe’s graduate school days, thus some of our first friends in Boston). Our new apartment isn’t ideal for hosting dinner parties, but it is a great spot to lounge in the morning sun.

Food is love. If, as studies claim, experiences and memories ultimately render more satisfaction than possessions, my money is on the gift of food as the best gift you can give these days.

my kitchen wants…

lodge_cast_iron_west_elm

Ruth Reichl posted about how much she loves her 15″ cast iron skillet, and now I really want one. Ruth drives me a little crazy on Twitter (sample tweet: So still. Clouds stretch across the valley like a soft white ribbon. One red bird flies past. Fragrant black beans. Fierce salsa. Tortilla.) and yet, I still follow her! But her blog is the wisdom and writing that you’d expect from the former Gourmet editor in chief, especially if you’ve read any of her books.

I have the same hesitation she did—too much space and too heavy! But then whenever I have a big steak or want to make lots of pancakes, the thing I really find myself needing is big heavy hot pan. It seems like the kind of thing where once you buy it, it’s your daily staple. Right now I have just one petite cast iron pan. Maybe it’s time to go big or close-up shop altogether.

Photo from West Elm

in the weeds

finnish_bread

In which our young heroine finds she was given a real baby, a waker-baby. None of this magic sleeper-baby stuff, like always falling asleep while nursing (Lux) or sleeping 5+ hours by one month (Lux) or never ever spitting up (Lux). No, this time it’s a real baby who wakes up every three hours to the dot, and would like to be held all the time extra please, who hasn’t the faintest idea how to fall asleep and gets rather upset about it, who detects a whiff of caffeine in my breastmilk and can not abide it.

It will never be this overwhelming, I said to myself last Monday morning after Joe had left and Lux was begging to go to the playground and Joan was fussing. This is it. The pinnacle of overwhelmingness has been reached. The next time I have a baby, I’ll have a four year old and she will make lunch for all us. Right?

I see normal, I see the glimmer of it, though I think it might still be two months away.

lux_flour

I hate repetitive conversational pleasantries. I’ve probably heard some variation of “zero to one is the toughest” or “one to two is the hardest” one hundred thousand times. THE POINT IS PEOPLE, I would like to interrupt, IT’S A NEWBORN. I remember how I felt with Lux. I remember feeling overwhelmed. THIS is the pinnacle, I imagine I probably said.

There are times in the day I have to say to myself, quit it. She is a newborn. She doesn’t have to shape up. She doesn’t have to get with the program. She can do whatever she wants. I think I perhaps see her worst, through a glass darkly, at 6pm. I’m not seeing her, I’m just seeing all the stuff I haven’t gotten done. The absolute rumpus Lux has piled around me and throughout the entire apartment. The lack of dinner plans. The two emails (just two!) I was hoping to respond to.

But I see her best at 6am. She wakes up to the sunlight. She coos and stretches next to me and I wake up too. It’s quiet and everyone else is still asleep and we’ve made it through the darkness to this very second. I love that moment, a moment when I manage to open my eyes to the present instead of chasing something else in my mind, when I can watch her facial expressions and notice that her eyelashes flit out like a Disney chipmunk’s. When I wonder who she is right now and who she will be.

flour
My mom once told me that she took up sewing when we were young so she could point to something and say “here’s what I accomplished today.” That’s probably why I find myself in the kitchen, baking something that doesn’t need to be baked by hand, dancing a very fine line where Lux is engaged and Joan is briefly asleep but perhaps soon to wake, but will it be after the dough is safely pressed into pans, or before? Last week I found an index card I had scrawled on years and years ago. “Finnish bread” it said at the top, which sounds absurd because it was always “homemade bread” when I was younger. I asked for it weekly from Mrs. B, a Dutch woman who started helping out my mom around the time when there was four of us kids. Before I left for college I finally asked her to walk me through the recipe, and I made scattered notes on this index card. And after I put it in the oven the kitchen smelled exactly as it used to when she made it.
honey_toast

Toast with butter and honey? Who could forget this delicacy? And what about cinnamon sugar toast? My college cafeteria used to keep shakers of cinnamon sugar casually on hand by the salad bar (like, you can have salad, or you can have…cinnamon sugar!). Throughout the semester, on not so good days, I would make a neat stack of white toasted bread with cinnamon sugar and sit down with a cup of coffee for lunch.

When people come visit our apartment, and a rather lot of them have been lately, which is lovely, when they make it up to the 5th floor after the two heavy doors that noisily buzz them access, after the tiny rickety elevator that lifts them four floors, after the small red carpeted flight of stairs from the kitchen they found themselves in after the elevator—they often look around and call it a treehouse. The ceiling is vaulted like an old attic, the windows are mostly enormous, and the tops of trees are visible everywhere. A treehouse that smells like fresh bread.

I think of this as a very easy bread, hard to mess up, leaving you with basic tomato sandwich makings or, of course, steady toast supply. I sometimes abandon the dough for more than two hours, if babies demand. And I particularly like the short baking time–fresh bread so quick!

Makes Two Loaves of Mrs. B’s Homemade Bread
1 package active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 t from a bulk container)
2 cups whole milk (or skim)
1 cup whole wheat flour
4-5 cups white flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
Dissolve the yeast into 1/4 cup lukewarm water with your finger and let it sit for a bit. Mix together one cup of the white flour and all other dry ingredients. Microwave the milk for 1.5 minutes and then drop in the butter to melt.
Mix the bubbly yeast into the dry ingredients. Mix in the melted butter and milk. Add 4 or 5 cups white flour and mix it with a wooden spoon. Dump the dough out on to the counter and knead it for a bit, adding flour if it’s too sticky.
Leave the dough to rise for 20 minutes under a damp towel or a bowl.
Split the dough into two sections and drop them into bread pans. Let rise for two hours.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes.

Mint Iced Tea Lemonade

soak

I feel very serendipitous posting this recipe because I never thought I would have it in my possession. A rather simple combination, but I thought it was forever to be remembered as that “delicious iced tea I had that one time at your parents’ friends’ house.”

I had it at friends of Joe’s parents a couple years ago. We ate lunch at a table under a tree on the top of a sloping hill. I had several glasses of this and I remember the husband proudly saying he always knows someone is coming over when he smells mint soaking in the kitchen. Last Christmas, the same family published a cookbook, The Daily Feast, and the recipe was included!

teabags lemonade

A mix of black tea, mint, and a carton of lemonade. Ends up tasting like lightly sweetened, perfectly lemony iced tea.

I think of iced tea as a very savvy hostess thing. Like, at a certain stage in your life, you always have a pitcher of iced tea ready for guests. With the sheer laziness that has overtaken my life these days, it’s mostly just this and popsicles for guests around here.

thisafternoon

Lemon-Mint Iced Tea, from The Daily Feast

4 quarts water, divided

one big handful fresh mint leaves on stems, washed

5 black tea bags (or decaf, if you prefer)

12 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate

Bring two quarts of water to a bowl. Place the fresh mint and tea bags in a stainless steel pot. Pour the boiling water over the tea bags and mint and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Strain.

Add the frozen lemonade to the tea mixture. Stir in the additional 2 quarts water to make 1 gallon tea. To serve, pour over ice and garnish with fresh mint, if you have it.

 

 

Mother’s Day Requests

For Mother’s Day I asked for breakfast in bed and a New York Times. By the way, who is killing the monk seals? I didn’t find out because the Travel issue was hiding right behind it. I enjoyed this urbane man’s review of the Airbnb experience, Joe liked this essay on traveling alone.

Deborah Needleman is now editing the T Magazine for the New York Times. She was Domino Magazine’s editor and had a brief glorious reign at the Wall Street Journal’s magazine. I predict great things for the T issues of the future (which has in the past been very snobby and not all that stylish).

mothers_day

Buy a man a $2.50 frother at Ikea and it turns out he makes a damn fine cappuccino. I had no idea where this cappuccino came from when he flourished it in front of me, all I knew was it was much better than Starbucks (maybe because it was made with heavy cream! my favvvvorite). We’ve been using whole milk too. Takes about four minutes, done in a pan warming on the stove while your espresso pot wells up.