Friday, October 30, 2009

Chili, Dahl, Squash, and baking

Happy Halloween!

The Food Report:
I spent most of the week eating the butternut squash chili. It was really good, and I even froze a few jars.

On Wednesday, I ran around like a crazy person and in my "down time," I chopped up the last of my cabbage (yes, from almost 2 weeks ago) for saurkraut. It's almost done chillin' on the counter. Total cost of 3 jars of saurkraut = $2.42

Then I made some hummus. This is the fourth or fifth batch of hummus I have made (yeah, I lost count), and I still have 1/2 of the $6.00 jar of tahini. So I have determined that it is cheaper to make your own.

I cooked my green-striped spaghetti squash. I showed you the outside here, and now here it is cooked and scraped out and ready for some tomato sauce.

Cost of the squash = 75 cents, cost of sauce (I actually just bought a jar this time) = $1.29. Total cost of approximately 3 meals = $2.18.

And I cooked lentil dahl. Another food blogger recorded the conversation she had with her husband about this meal. "Hi honey, I'm making dahl for dinner." "We're eating DOLLS?!" And I thought, that sounds a lot like my dad. But I looked at the ingredients and thought, well, I have almost all of that. Easy.

I took it in to work for lunch yesterday, and had almost the exact same conversation with a coworker...

One pound bag of lentils = 79 cents. Jar of Tumeric = $1.19. Total cost of a HUGE pot of dahl = $2.12.

I had 3 baby red potatoes languishing in my pantry. So I baked them up and served the dahl over top.

Yes, I know. Now you are thinking you know what my dad would say about the appearance of that meal too. It's actually quite tasty though, I split it up into 3 portions, and have frozen the rest.

In addition to the three dinner meals, I experimented with some baking this week.

I suppose I have to be honest. I am scared of the holidays. I have been trying to control my sugar problem, and have been doing really well on my own. For some proof, I'll tell you about last weekend.

I went on a short road trip with a friend. We decided to eat lunch/dinner at Chili's, because it was close. So we went in, and like all the other restaurants, they are having a 2 for $20 deal. She asked if I wanted to bother with that, and I said sure, but the dessert is entirely yours. She picked her dessert and kept asking, "Are you sure? Are you sure you don't want some ice cream?" And I kept saying, "No, I don't want any." The surprising thing was that it was actually true. I didn't want any. They brought her dessert out, and again she pestered me, "Are you sure you don't want any?" And I really didn't.

It was a proud moment for me, because I want to take care of myself and feel good. But it was also a reminder of how difficult it is to take care of myself so that I can feel good when other people pester me.

And I got nervous about Thanksgiving.

I was reading some food blogs and saw a recipe for pumpkin cookies. My thought was that if I can bring treats where ever I go, then people will leave me alone, and I never have to tell them that the treats are gluten and sugar free. The cookies sounded good, and I had all of the ingredients in my pantry, so I made them on Sunday.

What a disaster. They don't look like it, do they? But they tasted pretty awful.

But it was kind of fascinating because then I was watching Good Eats with Alton Brown, and he was making cookies. He explained why cookie recipes always say, "cream the butter and sugar." It's because the sugar crystals poke holes in the butter, expanding its volume, and making its melting point more stable. The cookies I attempted were a disaster because I didn't have any sugar to poke holes and change the butter.

No more cookies.

So I moved right on to muffins. Yes, again.

These are pumpkin muffins. I have another tweak I want to try with the recipe. So check back for that. Just to keep you hanging...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pancakes and Pictures

I walked into my office on Friday and saw this on my desk

I thought, wow that is so pretty. And then I ate one. And cried.

But that got me thinking. Food is pretty. I should share pictures with you. On Top Chef they are always saying that you eat first with your eyes, so come eat with me.

I made Chickpea Couscous with Quinoa. I figured some of you might not have ever seen Quinoa, so here it is.

And here is the final dish.

I tried the Larabars again. These ones have prunes, dried apricots, raisins, walnuts, and almonds. I baked these ones. Not the best idea. They burned really quickly.

I went to the farmer's market. Everything looked lovely. This is a spaghetti squash. I've never actually seen one with green stripes like this.

And here it is with the butternut squash for my chili.

I made saurkraut again. Here it is, hanging out on my counter and doing its thing.

And Sunday is pancake day.

Don't they look delicious?

Now that you have agreed with me, I'll tell you that these are gluten-free, sugar-free, egg-free, and milk-free.

Banana Pancakes
1 cup gluten-free pancake mix
1 tbs canola oil
1 tbs honey
1 tbs peanut butter
1 cup almond milk
1 banana, smashed

Mix everything together. Make sure the batter is thin and runny like pancake batter. If you need to add more milk or water, do it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Menu Plans

And thus we see...

I just like saying that. It's so much better than here's the point.

So thus we see why menu plans are so difficult for me. Oh, I guess the "and thus we see" should come after the explanation. Ok, here's the explanation.

On Oct. 7, I wrote about my menu plan for the week. My plans are bigger than my belly (which honestly baffles me, and should baffle anyone who has seen the way I eat). So during that week, I only managed to eat the Soup, the Stuffed Green Pepper, the Green Goddess Rice, and the Green Tomato Pasta Toss.

Much to my chagrin and shame and irritation (yeah, chagrin just doesn't say it all) the salad went bad. I did get one bowl out of it, but then it was gross.

The rest of that week's meal plan was extended into this week. I already posted the spaghetti squash and related recipes.

I like some savory with my sweet potatoes, so I don't go the brown sugar route. Here is my recipe.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Rub olive oil and salt onto the sweet potato. Bake the sweet potatoes at 350 until they are soft when you stick a fork in them. Gently pull the skin off and dump the potatoes in a bowl. Mash them with a fork. Add a teaspoon of coconut oil, a 1/2 tsp of curry powder, and a 1/2 tsp of chipotle powder. Stir.

And thus we see why menu planning doesn't work. I spend 2 weeks eating one plan, and now I am completely out of all my staples - like rice.

Menu Plan for week of 10/17
Rice and Peas Risotto
Chickpea Couscous
Butternut Squash Chili

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tomato Sauces and Squashes

I was driving down the road, and saw a beautiful 100 year old tree that has turned a spectacular yellow.

I drove a little further, and there was a brilliant red one.

And then I realized, if I go to the farmer's market this weekend (hopefully), I will see all apples and pumpkins. Gone are the peaches and the watermelon. Bring on the squash and some really good apples.

I could embrace fall. Slightly cooler, pretty colors, good food.

Except that somehow, we have skipped right from summer to winter.

Last week, we had the first frost. Fortunately I rescued my green tomatoes just the evening before, and cooked them up into the Green Tomato Pasta Toss that I mentioned last week.
It was tasty, but I made two little modifications, and after eating it, would make one other. So here is the new and improved recipe.

Green Tomato Pasta Toss 2
Green tomatoes
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Cheese (I actually used Asiago, although I'm sure the Feta in this original recipe would be delicious)

Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onion begins to turn translucent. Add the diced green tomatoes and continue to saute until they become soft. Some browning may occur, I think that makes it taste better. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and cook until wilted.

Pour over cooked pasta and sprinkle on the cheese.

Obviously the unfortunate thing about this recipe is that I won't get to modify it and see how it really tastes with the basil added until I have a batch of green tomatoes next year. Hopefully next year it won't be as large of a batch.

Despite the fact that I do not like how cold it has turned so quickly (we are sitting at 43 degrees right now. And honestly I think it is about that in my office as well...), I cooked the spaghetti squash as an appropriate fall meal.

Preparing Spaghetti Squash
Pick a good one. The size will determine how many servings you get.
Cut it in half lengthwise (meaning, start at the stem and move down to the blossom end).
Scoop out all the seeds and gunk.
Place seed-side down in a 9x13 pan.
Fill the pan with an inch of water and bake at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour.

When the flesh of the squash is soft, scoop it out of the rind with a fork. This will separate the spaghetti squash's natural strands, giving you "spaghetti."
Serve hot with tomato sauce. Or pesto, or any other kind of sauce you like.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
It seems like this should be a recipe that I keep a secret forever. But I'll share anyway. I lived in Italy, and while I was there, I learned to make a really good tomato sauce. There are variations to this, and so I'll tell you some of them.

Olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
Salt and Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan and add the minced garlic and diced onion. Saute until the onion turns translucent.
Add the chopped carrots and celery. Cook until they begin to soften, but try not to brown them.
Add the can of diced tomatoes and the can of tomato sauce. Add a little water too.
Stir and bring to a boil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped basil.
Stir and lower to a simmer.
Add the chopped zucchini and mushrooms.
Simmer and allow to reduce slightly. Taste and adjust spices.
Serve over pasta, spaghetti squash, rice, whatever.

You can omit all of the vegetables (carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms).
You can add ground meat - beef or turkey. Just brown in the pan with the garlic and onion. When it is brown on the outside, add the sauce, because it will continue to cook.
If you prefer a smooth sauce, you can puree the sauce either in a blender, or with one of those cool "boat-motor" tools (that's what Emeril calls them).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Muffins and menu plans

I've been slack. I have been eating, pretty good food too, and I haven't been sharing.

Here's the "menu plan" I've been working with this week. I do actually use those quotation marks to show sarcasm. I think I have commented before that I don't like planning. So this is just a vague representation of some of the things I might eat this week. And if I don't feel like it, I don't have to.

Soup - leftover homemade soup from my sick week last week
Stuffed Green Pepper - frozen leftover
Green Goddess Rice
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Spaghetti Squash, with homemade tomato sauce
Green Tomato Pasta Toss

Plus a few extra snacks
Lemon Muffins
Apple Cinnamon Raisin Muffins

I made the Green Goddess Rice on Monday. It was pretty tasty, however it is really bad as leftovers. The avocado turns brown, and it is really not as nicely flavorful. But I can recommend the recipe if you are going to have a party and eat it all that night. Or ... not a party... but you just happen to actually feed a family.

The lemon muffin recipe is simply a modified Orange Juice muffins recipe. I added lemon juice and lemon zest.

Apple Cinnamon Raisin Muffins
2 cups featherlight gluten free flour mix
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup apple juice
1/3 cup veggie oil
1 egg
1 cup grated apple
1 cup raisins, lightly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix everything, bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

I made my muffins this week in my mini-muffin tin. That means I baked them for 13 minutes, and they are my fav because the bottom part of the muffin gets a little crispy, and it's just delightful. Unfortunately they are only like that right when you take them out of the oven. So I had to eat a lot straight out of the oven.