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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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Laptop Lunches #113

Carrots, bell pepper strips, and grape tomatoes with spinach yogurt dip (Joy of Cooking), peanut butter granola bites; strawberries; smoked salmon mousse pinwheels (recipe below); and orange slices.

I love spinach yogurt dip. I just so rarely buy yogurt. But it's a super simple thing to whip up, so long as you remember to defrost the spinach and strain the yogurt, and in my experience it lasts about a week in the fridge (just pour off the liquid that may pool on top).

The peanut butter granola bites are amazing and so easy. You don't have to turn on the oven. Plus, they include oat bran and flaxseed, so you can feel virtuous about your dessert, even virtuous enough to eat them for breakfast with a glass of milk. Eventually I will get around to making my own granola instead of buying the overpriced, overprocessed stuff at the store. Until then, these will work.

I generally only make salmon mousse for parties, but I had some leftover smoked salmon (just a tiny bit), and it seemed like the thing to do to make pinwheels.

Smoked salmon mousse pinwheels
Serves 2-4

About 1 oz. smoked salmon
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese (or about 2 tablespoons of the regular kind)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1-2 tablespoons fresh minced herb of your choice (dill, parsley, and chives are all good choices)
Taco-sized flour tortillas

Puree salmon, cream cheese, and butter in a food processor (I use a Smart Stick chopper attachment). Mix in minced herb. Spread mixture on tortillas. Roll tightly. If making ahead of time, chill before cutting rather than after. Cut into 1 inch slices.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Lunchopolis #2

Homemade Vichyssoise (leek and potato soup, recipe below), slices from a mini loaf of homemade cornbread, grape tomatoes, fruit salad (kiwi, strawberries, mango, orange, and apple), baby carrots, and sun-dried tomato hummus in a silicone cup.

Having made the Vichyssoise last night, and having had the realization that, since it can be eaten either hot or cold, it was a great idea for packing lunch, I decided to break out the Lunchopolis set again. I still think the big container is a little too big--though I think it actually is perfect for a sandwich, cut in half, if you're a sandwich packer--but it worked out all right for today. I couldn't decide whether I liked the soup better hot last night or cold for lunch today.

Vichyssoise (adapted from the Joy of Cooking)
Serves 2-3

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned thoroughly, halved lengthwise, and thinly sliced
1 medium baking potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon stock paste or bouillon (chicken or vegetable; optional)
Salt to taste
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup cream
Snipped chives (for serving; optional)

Melt butter in a medium-to-large saucepan over low heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat, until tender but not brown, about 20 minutes. Add potato, water, and stock paste, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Puree until smooth (I use an immersion blender). Season with salt and pepper. Stir in cream and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve hot or cold, garnished with snipped chives.

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Laptop Lunches #112

This is actually from yesterday. I got distracted last night and didn't post, which is surprising because I was so impressed with myself.

Champagne grapes, a strawberry fan, honey roasted almonds, a chocolate zucchini muffin (The Muffin Tin Cookbook), smoked salmon and leek tarts (adapted from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2010) nestled among carrot slices, green bell pepper strips, and grape tomatoes, and apple and sharp cheddar chunks.

I was trying to make my Laptop Lunches box a little more bento-y than I ususually do, filling in the empty spaces. I think it worked better with the dessert cup than with the main course, but not a bad effort. I probably should have just stuck the tarts on a bed of lettuce.

Ah, the tarts. A while ago I bought some tulip-shaped muffin cups from Amazon.

Do you see the little line through the middle of each one? I figured that was some kind of fill line. Well, they arrived, and had a little instruction leaflet. These muffin cups double as tart pans. You just fold them along the line.

There was much excitement over this discovery.

Meanwhile, I'd been eyeing the recipe for smoked salmon and leek tarts for weeks on end, but kept telling myself it was too expensive to attempt. Then I discovered that Whole Foods sells trimmings from smoked salmon for a very reasonable price and that you can also get said trimmings in very managable quantities for one person (i.e. 2-4 ounce packages). Now, if you had a recipe calling for sliced smoked salmon, that wouldn't work, but this one called for smoked salmon cut into little squares, so that worked out perfectly. It said to use two four-inch tart pans, but as I knew from previous experience with their tart recipes, I knew I would get more than two shells out of it. Plus, I wanted to try these tiny silicone tart pans. So I set to work on their pat-in-the-pan tart crust.

It made six tartlets and one four inch tart. I was right.

And they baked up beautifully, and came out of their pans easily, as you can see with them cooling on my wire rack:

The finished product did not disappoint.

The thing about tarts is that generally one eats them at room temperature, making them ideal for my lunches. I notice that Amazon no longer has any of these tulip muffin/tart pans, which is unfortunate because I would easily buy more if they were available. But if you can find them, they're absolutely worth it.

I'm also super excited about a few new cookbooks I have, one of which is the Muffin Tin Cookbook, from which I got the recipe for chocolate zucchini muffins. They do hide the zucchini well, if you have vegetable-avoiders at your house, and do not involve complicated steps like making purees like some such recipes do (you just shred the zucchini and mix it in with the other stuff). I wasn't crazy about them, myself. They were fine, but I had hoped for something fudgier.

Meanwhile, I had lunch with a friend, whose equipment is worthy of envy:

Chicken curry and a plum. The lid has a fork attached to it, which is very clever, although you can't really see it in this picture. I don't remember what brand her lunchbox is. I'll have to ask her next time.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Laptop Lunches #111

Eggs stuffed with avocado, soy wrapper cream cheese pinwheels, carrot sticks and grape tomatoes with sun dried tomato hummus, champagne grapes, and roasted chickpeas seasoned with cumin and chili powder.

I think I needed to put more avocado in the egg to make them more green--as it was I definitely would have garnished this with an olive slice if I'd had one, because this is the wrong green, somehow.

I used the tumeric yellow soy wrappers for the pinwheels, with scallions, chopped pimento, and chive cream cheese for the filling. They were okay, but I much prefer tortillas.

Champagne grapes are like ordinary grapes, only tiny. Not sure what I was expecting--they were fine, but nothing spectacular.

But the roasted chickpeas--wow. I got the idea out of that Mom 100 cookbook I took out of the public library, and they're a winner! Easy, too, which is always nice. And they don't create tons of dishes to wash. I do think I want to adjust the seasonings. Stay tuned for my kicked up version later. This was probably too many of them for one serving--they're very filling.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Laptop Lunches #110

Assorted sushi rolls made with soy wrappers instead of nori (avocado and cucumber fillings), a condiment cup of soy sauce, honey-hoisin tofu (from Mom 100), and petit fours.

I rarely make sushi, mostly because it seems impossible to make in appropriate quantities for one person, but I kept passing the soy wrappers at the grocery store and they seemed to call to me, sort of endlessly, so...I took the plunge. I don't like soy wrappers for nori substitutes, because they don't stick as well as nori, and they're sort of thin--not exactly flimsy, but not sturdy enough to hold their shape well--but it was a nice change of pace.

The honey-hoisin tofu was interesting. It involved pressing out the water for a while between two plates weighted down with cans of beans, which gave it the texture of a pressed-and-formed chicken nugget. I think I like the marinated tofu I made a few weeks ago better. This is a recipe for people who don't like tofu, and I do like tofu. No big loss; the book the recipe came from, Mom 100, came from the public library, so I didn't shell out any money to discover this, other than for the food itself.

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Laptop Lunches #109

Leftover summer vegetable gratin (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2009), a lamb merguez sausage cut into thirds, leftover spanikopita triangles, and petit fours.

I'm not going to pretend this is attractive, or even as much of a nutritional powerhouse as it could be (and probably should be, all things considered). But it was easy and had treats. Right now, that's more what I'm going for than art. Medication is a weird and powerful thing. It was probably a good thing in my case but a few weeks of lethargy and no appetite makes you I needed cake. I do so love petit fours, and right now Wegmans is selling them in managable little assortments.

The gratin...well, it wasn't up to the standards I've come to expect from America's Test Kitchen. It was pretty when originally made, if not so gorgeous in this presentation, but that was about all it had going for it. It was super bland and despite all its instructions for leaching water out of the squash and tomatoes, fairly watery. I did like the carmelized onions, but they were overpowered by watery, bland squash and mushy tomato slices. So while I still think their cookbooks are worth every penny, I'd avoid this recipe if I were you. There are pretty and tasty things to do with the same ingredients--like the sqaush/zucchini and tomato tarts I made a few weeks ago.

Live and learn.