Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Laptop Lunches #132

Smoked salmon pinwheels (recipe below), deviled eggs with a bit of an excess of paprika, water crackers, sweet potato salad (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two), kiwi slices, and a little cup of chocolate covered orange peel.

Usually I say I have stuffed eggs; this time I really deviled them. (I do not know when "deviled eggs" became the default term for stuffed eggs, but I do know that they are almost never spiced up with hot sauce the way they're supposed to be if you call them "deviled.")

I really liked the sweet potato salad. It's a pretty simple recipe as well as having nice colors and flavors. I will probably make it again.

Now, onto today's recipe for smoked salmon pinwheels. This is really the kind of thing northeastern people would eat, and I've been trying to embrace more of the local flavors. I had leftover smoked salmon from a typical bagel-and-cream-cheese thing, and it seemed like a good idea. They went well with the crackers.

Smoked Salmon Pinwheels
Serves 1

2 thin slices smoked salmon
About 3 tablespoons cream cheese (I used veggie cream cheese, but you could also use plain or chive and onion)
About 2 teaspoons minced red onion
About 1 1/2 teaspoons minced capers

Mix cream cheese, onion, and capers well in a small bowl; set aside. Arrange salmon slices into a rectangle on plastic wrap. Be sure to overlap the slices slightly. Carefully spread cheese mixture onto salmon rectangle. Starting with the thinner side of the rectangle, roll into a tight log (use the plastic wrap to help with this). Cut into bite sized pieces, trimming either end of the log off so the pinwheels will sit flat in your container.

Note that you will end up with some trim ends. I suggest turning them into mousse by chopping them up very fine and adding more cream cheese as necessary to bind together. (Serve that with some crackers or a slice of toast.)

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Laptop Lunches #131

It's amazing what you don't notice until you look at your camera later, such as a streak of meatloaf glaze smeared over the left side of your box. Oh, well.

Poached pears with a bit of syrup, a poppyseed tea cookie sitting atop a bag of decaf English breakfast tea, glazed spinach meatloaf (recipe below), herbed mashed potatoes, and creamy peas with goat cheese and bacon (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009).

I have never been a major fan of peas. Peas were one of the only veggies that had me running away as a child. Legumes and I don't really get along too well. But since they are high in fiber, I've been trying ways to convince myself to eat them. I found this recipe and thought it sounded promising. It is an improvement on peas, that's for sure, and I ate them, but they're still peas, and I was left wondering why I bothered to use an ounce of goat cheese on peas.

I love meatloaf as a user-upper of random things you have around, and adapted a recipe also in the America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009 book to suit what I had around. Meatloaf is also excellent for packed lunches if you plan ahead--bake them in silicone cups and you can have any shape you want this particular meatloaf was baked in a square silicone cup). Don't be daunted by the longish ingredient list--it's really pretty simple. If you're not in the mood for glazing, don't bother with that part; it's still good and looks pretty nice with the flecks of green for the spinach.

Also, a helpful tip about the tomato paste for the solo cook--next time you have a can, drop it by the teaspoon onto waxed paper on a cookie sheet and freeze, then plop the frozen balls into a freezer bag. Doing this has really been a real money and time saver, since I would often end up with half a can or more of tomato paste just lying around going bad in my fridge, and having it premeasured means I don't have to wash a teaspoon.

Glazed Spinach Meatloaf
Makes about 8 muffin-sized loaves

For the loaf:

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup frozen chopped spinach
2 garlic gloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons water
1 slice white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
1/4 pound 80 lean ground beef
1/4 pound ground turkey (you can substitute 1/2 pound extra lean ground beef for the beef + turkey)
1 large egg
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:

3 tablespoons ketchup
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook until fully heated through. Increase the heat to medium high and add garlic, thyme, and tomato paste, and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Stir in water and cook until nearly evaporated, about another 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, parsley, soy sauce, mustard, pepper, and salt. Mix in meat. Set aside.
4. Using either the chopper attachment of a handheld blender unit or a food processor, process bread crumbs with vegetables.
5. Mix meat and veggie mixtures together with your hands, then press into silicone baking cups of your choice. Arrange cups evenly on a baking sheet.
6. Bake until the center of the loaf registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Time varies according to the size and shape of your silicone cups, but for me took about 15-20 minutes.
7. Remove meatloaf from oven and preheat broiler.
8. Simmer all glaze ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick and syrupy, about 3 minutes. Spread glaze over loaves and broil until bubbly (only a few minutes). Remove and let rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Laptop Lunches #130

Leftover chicken pot pie with crumble topping (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012), cucumber slices, orange bell pepper strips, mixed fruit, and various cherry tomatoes with yogurt ranch dressing.

Don't be fooled by America's Test Kitchen. This is not chicken pot pie. It is basically chicken and dumplings, if the dumplings were crunchy instead of soft and fluffy. It was better than the description makes it sound, but I don't think I will make it again. (And again: two servings? Seriously? It's at least four.)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Laptop Lunches #129

Beet/herbed goat cheese/walnut salad, some peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets, cucumber slices, yellow bell pepper strips, baby carrots, yogurt ranch dressing, a peppermint chocolate square, and a mandarin orange.

I wish the beet salad thing was better than it was. I had high hopes, and was even willing to spring for goat cheese (a quite pricey proposition most of the time; however, I finally did find it in a small enough package (about 2 ounces) to make it worth a try). But it wasn't all that great, unfortunately. I do, however, still love goat cheese.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Laptop Lunches #128

I had choices today between a picture that was crooked or several slightly blurry ones. (I need, among other things, a new camera.)

Honeycrisp apple slices alternating with sliced lacy swiss cheese, some original flavor Bobby Sue's Nuts, a mandarin orange, M&M's, strips of yellow bell pepper, celery sticks, baby carrots, spicy 3-pepper hummus, and some mini pretzels.

The nuts were from my Goodies box. They're really nice--not terribly sweet, but with a good kind of sweet-savory flavor. Worth a second try.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Laptop Lunches #127

This is actually from yesterday. Since I had a 1:00 appointment for coffee, it didn't seem like it made sense to eat the usual lunch; instead I had a kind of brunch at around 10:30. As such, I packed breakfast-like items: Potato stars with ketchup, cucumbers and assorted cherry tomatoes, turkey sausage links with a fried egg, and pummelo chunks.

I may or may not have planned this meal entirely around the potato stars. I love tater tots and hashbrowns and things, and when I saw these in the freezer section, they kind of spoke to me. They are, essentially, tater tots, but in fun star shapes. Also, for reasons I'm sure I would need some other kind of scholar to explain, these baked up much better than tater tots tend to--nice and crispy outsides with soft insides. True, they were room temperature when I ate them, but I'm actually perfectly fine with tater tots at any temperature but cold.

I used an egg ring to fry the egg, which didn't work out quite the way I wanted, but it still tasted good. I need to learn how to properly use an egg ring, I think.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Laptop Lunches #126

Lighting is a challenge this time of year. I think you see the shadow of my arm in the lower left corner.

Honeycrisp apple slices, Biscoff spread, honey glazed almonds, yellow bell pepper strips, celery sticks, leftover mozzarella sticks with cherry tomato garnish, carrot sticks, and yogurt ranch dressing.

I love Honeycrisp apples. They really don't need anything, but I wanted to try the Biscoff spread that came with the Goodies box. I had seen it in the store, but never understood what it was--apparently, pureed cookies of some sort, with something to hold it together. It's given as an alternative to peanut butter sometimes, and I guess it would work that way to some extent, but I think there's a nutritional difference worth noting between peanuts and cookies. I thought the Biscoff spread was just okay. I would prefer peanut butter.

Now that I'm looking at this, I see that everything is very horizontal in this box. It probably would have been nice to have something oriented vertically, but there is an orderliness to this, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Laptop Lunches #125

I'm back! And so glad not to be eating canned goods!

Today I have squares of lacy swiss cheese with something called "wine biscuits" (more on that below); chunks of pummelo; orange bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, and mixed cherry tomatoes with yogurt ranch dressing; squares of quinoa-crisp dark chocolate, and Emerald's tropical flavored trail mix.

I subscribed to something unusual, a new startup company, Goodies. They are not compensating me, so I can say whatever I want! Basically, it's the same principle as the Foodie Penpal program, but you don't have to send anything to anyone and the boxes come automatically once a month, with a variety of trial-sized things. November's box included these American Vintage Wine Biscuits in white wine, shallot & cayenne flavor. They suggested they should be eaten with cheese. What with the cayenne, I thought they might be on the spicy side, but there was just a hint of a kick. I really liked them. They were very unusual--kind of the texture of shortbread cookies, but savory. They went well with the swiss. I'd definitely try their other flavors.

I saw the pummelo at the grocery store yesterday, and it seemed like a good thing to try. It was huge, like a cantaloupe, and had the appearance of an enormous, green grapefruit. You can't eat the (very thick!) rinds or pith, but the segments themselves are amazing--like the most naturally sweet grapefruit you've ever had. I loved it. It was a bear to cut up, but having had experience I might try it another way next time. Definitely give them a try if you run across them.

The dark chocolate quinoa bar, by Alter Eco, also came with the Goodies box this month. It is vaguely reminiscent of a Nestle Crunch bar, with better chocolate and quinoa crisps instead of rice. I liked it, but not so much that I'm likely to try to find it again.

The trail mix is also nice, but I can only take such things in very small doses. Not liking raisins, most trail mixes are off limits to me, but this one has no raisins, just nuts, coconut, and dried tropical fruit, alongside granola chunks. I picked it up for my long train ride back here after Thanksgiving, but there was no way I was finishing it. My favorite part is the glazed walnuts. I'll be trying to figure out if I can find something like that just on it's own!

This lunch also gave me the chance to use some of my new silicone cups. These mini ovals are a really convenient size.

If you're still with me, I thank you for your patience--I know that was a long hiatus, but we really got hammered for a while. I very much appreciated Thanksgiving dinner this year--so great to have fresh food. I noticed today that my focus was much better on this than what I have had to eat for a while. Lesson learned here, definitely. Even the dissertating must make time for proper nutrition.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some News

Much though I'd love to say you'll get an update to this blog soon, I'm on lunch blogging hiatus until after Thanksgiving. You wouldn't want to see what I eat anyway; the food in our stores is sparse and very picked over and good luck getting any fresh produce now, in the wake of a hurricane and a noreaster.

Signs of the apocalypse?

In any case, I'm going to a conference and then to spend some time with friends for the holiday. I'll have more to say about lunch after that. In the meantime, I may do a few posts on equipment. I ordered some new muffin cups in new shapes, both practical and just pretty.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hurricane Cookies by Candlelight

Things have been interesting out here on the coast. I am at the campus library, which is the only place with power, more or less. Last night I made cookies by candlelight, mostly to have the oven on (gas) to keep warm. You won't have any pictures of them, but you may have the recipe:

Hurricane Cookies by Candlelight

1/4 cup of butter, softened
1/4 cup of peanut butter or chocolate peanut butter or a mixture of both (that's what I had, actually, a mixture)
1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If you have a mixer and power, mix the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and egg until creamy. If you don't, do the best you can with a spoon by candlelight. You'll need to shine your lantern into the bowl to make sure you don't have any big lumps of butter. (Some little tiny lumps are okay.)

Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well. Shine the lantern in again to be sure it's not got any streaks of dry flour. Mix in chocolate chips.

Shape into balls of about 1 1/2 inches and dip tops into granulated sugar. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Do not flatten.

Bake about 10 minutes. You are welcome to open the oven a lot to feel the warm air puff out, but be aware that it will take a little longer to cook that way. The cookies are done when you shine a lantern on them and they don't look all liquidy in the middle, or when golden brown (which you will see if you have actual lights on). Remove from oven. (Leave oven open for a while to let the warm air out into your apartment.) Allow to cool on baking sheets for about 4-5 minutes. You may then eat some, and cool the rest on a wire rack, then transfer to a sealed container to eat for breakfast the next morning.

Stay safe and warm out there!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

No Free Lunch? Ha!

I have been traveling again, and tomorrow I'm going to eat a free lunch on campus. But I haven't forgotten you. Mango-quinoa-bean salad awaits us soon.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Laptop Lunches #124

Yesterday I tried something out that failed miserably. I did end up packing my lunch in a tiffin, and I photographed it, but I am still debating whether it is worth showing to you. I made beef lettuce wraps with sides of marinated tofu, cut apple, and a hard boiled egg. It was fine, but I have a few thoughts on how to significantly improve the recipe on the beef lettuce wraps. So I guess we'll all just wait and see.

And then today's lunch photographed sort of blurry for some reason. I had some problems with lighting in my kitchen; the dark season is upon us again. But lest you think I've fallen completely off the lunch radar, I decided to go ahead and post it. This one, at least, I was pleased with, minus the blurriness.

Fresh tomato and cucumber salad (Betty Crocker's Cooking for Two), marmalade chicken (Eating Well Serves Two), broccoli stir fry with ginger and sesame, and purple rice (recipe and instructions below).

The tomato and cucumber salad was fine, although I don't think it really went with my Asian meal--maybe with a nice slice of crusty Italian bread and some proscuitto and fresh mozzarella next time. Mmm...

I've never attempted purple rice, though I've eaten it many times (as happens when you befriend Koreans). This turned out slightly darker than I had hoped, but that's easy to remedy. Purple rice is far more interesting with something as lacking in color as white meat chicken than white or brown rice, though it tastes more or less like a mixture of the two. Purple rice is black and white rice, cooked together. Just mix a bit of black rice in with the white and cook as usual (I use a rice cooker, which makes it truly simple). Nonetheless, here's a recipe for those who need more guidance.

Purple Rice
Serves 2-4

Rinse about 1 tablespoon of black rice in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear and put into your rice cooker's 1 cup measure (or into a regular 1 cup measure). Fill the measuring cup the rest of the way with white short or medium grain rice (I use Calrose rice), and rinse again if you want (I don't bother to rinse the Calrose rice myself). Dump into a rice cooker and add water to the line for 1 cup. If not using a rice cooker, add two cups of water to the pot you are using. Here is what mine looked like before I added water:

Cook. If using a stovetop, bring to a low simmer and simmer, covered, and do not stir, until the water is absorbed and rice is tender, which should take about 20 minutes, give or take a few. The rice cooker will, of course, just stop when it's done.

Viola! Purple rice with no artificial coloring to astound and amaze your family and friends.

Or just to cheer up a boring looking meal.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lunchopolis #3

Today, the Lunchopolis set made sense, because this was pretty light and bulky. I have tofu salad (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011), black olives, half a honeycrisp apple, and some little yellow heirloom tomatoes of some sort.

I don't actually like bean sprouts. I don't know why I went ahead and put them in, but I did. Other than that, this was a reasonably good salad--red bell pepper, shredded carrot, snow peas, scallions, and broiled tofu in a spicy sesame-peanut dressing. I probably won't make it again, though.

I love honeycrisp apples. Around here it is closing in on apple season, which has me excited. What do you like to do with apples?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Laptop Lunches #123

Cherry tomatoes, snow peas, and carrot sticks with yogurt-ranch dip; a small apple cut in half (to make it fit in the box), taco casserole (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012), and slices of nectarine.

The taco casserole was surprisingly low brow for America's Test Kitchen. I liked it and it was pretty easy, but I was a little taken aback at the list of ingredients. Their recipes usually involve re-inventing the wheel; this one involved mixing Ro-Tel tomatoes with canned refried beans and laying it in with cheese and seasoned ground beef, then topping it with crushed corn chips and more cheese before baking it for about ten minutes. The only nod to the sort of thing one usually gets with America's Test Kitchen is that they required you to use real seasoning for the beef (not just a taco seasoning packet, but chili powder, cumin, and ground coriander) and wanted you to put fresh chopped cilantro on top. Otherwise you might find such a recipe on the label of a can of refried beans. But it was really very good. I liked the way they spiked the refried beans with the Ro-Tel and bottled hot sauce. That was good enough on its own to make a great filling for vegan burritos.

This is turning out to be one heck of a week. I'm taking tomorrow off other than a dissertation defense I have to attend, because I am well and thoroughly burned out and already have a work-related meeting scheduled for Sunday. Lunch has been the bright spot in an otherwise dreary existence.

Sidenote, though: I really do love college freshmen. In the end, all the stress is worth it for getting to be a part of their transformation into confident adults. Here's to new students! (But stay out of my parking space, will you?!)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Laptop Lunches #122

Salmon cakes with homemade tartar sauce (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012) wedged in with a wheel of Babybel cheese; carrot sticks, red bell pepper strips, and snow peas with a cup of yogurt-ranch dressing; and chunks of nectarine.

Making my own tartar sauce is something I've done before, although what I call "tartar sauce" is usually just dill pickle relish mixed into mayo. This was so much better. I had to buy capers for the first time to make it, but I think it was worth it. The salmon cakes were good, too, although I am still uncertain whether I think buying fresh salmon and then chopping it up into little pieces is truly the best use of fresh salmon.

I haven't fallen off the wagon here, incidentally; there are just a lot of opportunities for free lunch in the early weeks of the term, so fewer packed lunches. This was for a lunch meeting where we just get free cookies (and ultimately my lunch meeting got cancelled at the last minute, so I didn't get any cookies, sadly).

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Laptop Lunches #121

Terra chips (Stripes & Blues); grapes; pinwheels made from tortillas with whipped chive cream cheese, spinach, and roast beef; and carrots with yogurt ranch dressing for dipping.

'Tis the season for lots of free lunches on campus, so this is kind of a rare bird.

I love Terra chips in all forms. These were a new one. I kept passing them and saying to myself, "You should not pay $4 for a bag of chips!" But if something calls to me for months I do usually give in. The Stripes & Blues are candy striped beets, red sweet potatoes, and blue potatoes, and they're fabulous. I think it counts as a vegetable, don't you?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Laptop Lunches #120 (Plus New Utensils)

I have new utensils! But more on that after lunch.

Some macaroni and cheese snacks from Hot Pockets; carrot sticks; a mixture of banana slices, red grapes, and blackberries; colossal black olives; and a cup of tomato hummus.

I'm not impressed with the Hot Pockets snacks. They were very bland. I have some recipes for turning macaroni and cheese into finger food that I intend to try in a few weeks. I don't know whether it is a commentary on the food supply or my cooking that no matter what tempts me in the realm of prepared foods, it seems like I can make something better myself. Oh, well.

Onward! New utensils! My Laptop Lunches lunchbox utensils (from the 1.0 set; I never did acquire a 2.0 set no matter how much I drooled over them) had broken. I was using too-small cocktail forks and spoons. And then I saw this in a store downtown and had to have it.

I found this set online, too. It's relatively inexpensive, but so cool! I tried to demonstrate in the picture above the way the chopsticks unscrew so you can fold them up, but then I decided to take more pictures of that:

The whole set fits into its blue case:

And the whole case fits into the utensil slot in the Laptop Lunches box, but I just stuck the fork and spoon in there today. It's very pretty and very clever. Not bad for the $9.50 I spent.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Laptop Lunches #119

I'm tempted to call this What Not to Do.

A golden kiwi, a quarter of a chocolate chocolate chip muffin, cucumber lettuce soup (Good Food F-A-S-T), and some quartered Love Beets (sweetfire).

Golden kiwis should probably only appear in conjunction with regular old green kiwis for contrast, because they just look washed out here.

The soup was promised to "taste like the essence of all things green." Also, it could be made ahead the night before and served cold. The green cup in my Laptop Lunches lunchbox has a lid, so I figured that would be all right. It didn't spill, but it tasted like cucumber-flavored buttermilk. Also, unlike the picture, it turned out to look like slightly greenish buttermilk, instead of a nice, spring green. I like cucumber soup but I'll keep looking for an appropriate recipe.

It's a good thing I wasn't all that hungry at lunch today.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Laptop Lunches #118

Granny Smith apple chunks, sliced Love Beets (sweetfire), a fresh date, a slice of star fruit, a mini white spinach lasagna, mixed color mini tomatoes, a cup of yogurt-ranch dressing, and baby carrots.

Lesson #1: Fresh dates are very boring. They're a bit like plums in texture, but have very little flavor. If you want to use them for something, they're probably better for cooking. On the other hand, if you are looking for mild, boring things for sensitive palates, they are a good choice. But fresh dates will only be available for a month or two, so act quickly!

Lesson #2: Mini lasagna is a whole lot easier than it seems. I made a few mini-loaf sized lasagnas as directed by America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011, and employed a similar technique with a few square silicone baking cups while I was at it. The square baking cups should be pretty easy to find; I bought them from the local Michael's but you can find them online, too. I wouldn't recommend trying it with other shapes, but I can't stop you!

Basically, you either break up no-boil lasagna noodles into smaller pieces (as I did here) or you cut regular lasagna noodles after you boil them (which is too much trouble but probably slightly neater). If you score the no-boil noodles with a knife first, though, you have better control over breaking them. Make the tiny lasagna just as you would the larger kind. Don't worry if your noodles have to overlap ever so slightly or if you leave tiny gaps--just get the basic idea--but don't have them overlap too much.

It's pretty simple and keeps together well in a lunch box.

Meanwhile, in the continuing saga of the mysterious anaphylaxis, I have been prodded and pricked and had a great many vials of blood drawn for testing. The verdict is that I am not actually allergic to anything, but have a strangely functioning immune system that sometimes goes into overdrive in response to a virus. I've been going to the doctor a lot and you've not seen so many lunches from me lately, but I'm hoping to be posting more now.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Laptop Lunches #117

More of yesterday's Thai mango salad, stuffed olives, sun-dried tomato hummus in the cup, a glazed kiwi muffin (Muffin Tin Cookbook), strawberries, and sugar snap peas (to dip in the hummus).

Kiwi muffins are a very good idea someone else should surely have thought of before Brette Sember (who wrote the Muffin Tin Cookbook). They're a lovely tart-sweet flavor and I've enjoyed eating them for breakfast the past couple of days. They are oddly light and I fear I overcooked them trying to get them golden, but if you can get past the whiteness of the muffins, they're definitely worth it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Laptop Lunches #116

Thai mango salad (Good Food F-A-S-T), a taro Choco Roll sliced in half to fit in the container, a few slices of starfruit, Asian-style turkey dumplings with dipping sauce in the metal condiment container (Muffin Tin Cookbook).

It's been a while--nearly a week! I've been focused on unsnarling the fifth chapter of my dissertation and absent-mindedly eating bologna sandwiches, of which you did not need pictures. (I very rarely buy bologna, but it is a nice treat now and then, as it used to be my favorite thing when I was five. And I do still make my bologna sandwiches with mayo and American cheese on white bread, although now it's real American cheese, not Kraft singles, and it's high-fiber, whole grain white bread, and I use light mayo and add lettuce and tomato so I also get some veggies.)

The mango salad involves carrot, mango, and zucchini matchsticks in a lime juice and jalapeno based dressing, topped with slivers of lime rind. It actually tastes pretty good but if I were to make it again I'd want more jalapeno--or at least to add the seeds.

The dumplings actually make making your own dumplings a relatively simple proposition, but they do look a little weird because they are shaped like mini-muffins.

Not bad overall.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Laptop Lunches #115

Its amazing to me. I took more pictures of this particular lunch than almost any I've ever made, and every single one of them turned out blurry. Oh, well. I do, at least, have good photos of my pasta salad, so you can look below for that.

A nectarine, the last of the peanut butter granola bites with strawberries, a variation on Ukranian crab salad with pasta (recipe below), Sweetfire Love Beets, and a Babybel cheese wheel.

The summer I was 18 I went to Ukraine, to a village outside Kiev named Vishneve. There I ate borsht and fried chicken (unbreaded) and a whole lot of brown bread. In surrounding villages I ate strawberry dumplings and roasted pork and strangely flavored cakes. In Kiev I had the best pizza I've ever eaten and was somehow persuaded to visit a McDonald's where they used fresh cucumber slices instead of pickles and charged extra for ketchup. Everywhere I drank tea sweetened with beet sugar and ate something called "Vodka mountains," a chocolate that looked like a mountain and was, so bemused locals told me after I'd had about six in a row, laced with vodka. I loved the food in Ukraine, but nothing compared to a simple crab salad made with crab, hard boiled eggs, and onions in a mayo-based dressing. If anyone can get me a recipe for that, I would be very grateful--I ate nearly a whole big bowl of it when I first encountered it. (And again, the locals laughed at me.)

The flavors of crab, egg, and onion are the basis for this salad, which for some reason is perfectly in focus from the night before:

Ukrainian-Style Crab and Pasta Salad
Serves 2-3

1 cup small veggie pasta shapes (I used tomato-carrot mini farfalle by Barilla)
1/2 cup shred-style imitation crab meat
1 scallion, white and green parts, sliced thinly
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1/4 cup light mayo
1/4 cup romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. Mix with imitation crab meat, scallion, and hard boiled egg. Add mayo and cheese and stir gently. Taste and adjust seasonings.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Laptop Lunches #114

Carrots, sugar snap peas, and orange grape tomatoes with spinach yogurt dip; Caesar salad stuffed eggs (recipe below); strawberries, orange slices, kiwi slices, and champagne grapes; and crab stuffed tomatoes on a bed of romaine (recipe below).

Before I get to the recipes, I want to share my excitement with you at finding these tiny square silicone cups:
They're so perfect for tight corners! I just wish they came in other colors. It seems like all of Freshware's baking cups are in red and black. Oh, well.

On to the recipes!

Caesar Salad Stuffed Eggs (adapted from Rachel Ray's recipe)
Serves 1

1 hard boiled egg, peeled
1/8 teaspoon anchovy paste
Dash of garlic salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
A few drops of Worcestershire sauce
A splash of lemon juice (about 1/8 teaspoon or a little less)
Enough light mayo to bind (a little less than a tablespoon, usually)
A bit of chopped romaine lettuce (see illustration below)

Slice egg in half lengthwise. Empty yolks into a small bowl and mash together wtih anchovy paste, garlic salt, and black pepper. Mix in cheese, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and mayo. Stir in lettuce. It's hard for me to explain how much lettuce, so I'll just show you here:

Stuff into eggs. Sprinkle a bit of parmesan and some finely chopped lettuce leaf for garnish. Viola!

You'll swear you're eating Caesar salad in egg form.

Finally, the stuffed tomatoes.

Crab Stuffed Tomatoes
Serves 1

2 small tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes--just regular tomatoes but quite small)
1/4 cup shred-style imitation crab meat (this will pack down to about 1/8 of a cup when mixed)
Enough light mayo to bind (about 1 tablespoon)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut off tops of tomatoes carefully with a small serrated knife (I use a steak knife). Gently cut out the core of the tomato. Scoop out the core and the seeds with a demitasse spoon. I tried to photograph this but my camera gave me fits trying to take a picture of the unstufffed tomato--this is the best I've got:

Here we have pictured a tomato with the top removed as well as a hollowed out one.

Mix remaining ingredients well in a small bowl. For some reason that photographed beautifully, although I'm not sure it needed illustration:

Pack mixture into tomatoes.

Now, if you have tomatoes that want to roll around all over the place and not sit up like good little tomatoes, you can do one of two things. One, you can carefully slice a tiny bit off the bottom so they sit flat, or two, you can stick them on a bed of lettuce wedged into a small container. Do whatever makes you happy.

That made me happy.

You can use this technique to stuff a variety of fillings into tomato cups--egg salad, tuna salad, ham salad pimento cheese, spinach yogurt dip, etc. As I currently have tomato plants producing oddly-sized smallish tomatoes, you'll probably see this sort of thing more than once from me in the coming weeks.

If there is a lesson for today, it is this: Having tiny spoons on hand is a big help. Befriend the tiny spoons!

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