Saturday, January 26, 2013

I'm Here

Hi, all. I know I didn't post this week. Our semester hasn't started yet (northeastern schools and their insane schedules...) and so I didn't have to be on campus for anything, and it's unbelievably cold, so I've hunkered down to wait it out. This has been more difficult than you might imagine! I am now the owner of a space heater the size of a dorm mini fridge, which was kind of expensive, but my teeth have stopped chattering, so I'm going to say it's worth it.

I haven't forgotten you and I have loads of ideas--there's a recipe for edamame stuffed rutabaga cups that I'm dying to try as soon as I can find some rutabaga, for example. And falafel muffins with asparagus hummus. And macaroni and cheese cups with bacon and chives. And...well, you get the idea. Plus, the chill encourages cooking--helps to stay warm! So I fully expect to be blogging soon.

There's just one hitch here. My camera is on its last legs and may not stick with me. Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Laptop Lunches #136

I could have done better with the apple, but it's respectable, I think. It comes with cinnamon sugar popcorn, carrot sticks, herb dip, mini Club crackers, and a stuffed egg.

The popcorn was from the Goodies box, but there are a lot of different brands of cinnamon sugar popcorn. No need to give you a link. Amazon has at least half a dozen varieties.

I don't know when Keebler started making Club crackers in mini size, but I hope they keep doing it because they are really convenient! And very cute.

Nothing special, but it is reasonably healthy, mostly homemade, and on the cheap side. You can usually only get two of those three from a grad student!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Laptop Lunches #135

Garden veggie crisps, Effie's Oatcakes, herb dip in rectangular silicone cup (How to Cook Everything: The Basics), baby carrots, bell pepper strips, and red grapes.

The veggie crisps and the oatcakes were from December's Goodie's box. I have had the veggie crisps before many times, but the oatcakes were new. I liked them a lot--the texture is like shortbread, but the flavor is reminiscent of lightly sweetened oatmeal.

The herb dip was super easy and tastes amazing. I used a lot more dill than the recipe really suggested, however (as it said if you like a stronger flavor, you can add more).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Laptop Lunches #134

Leftover breaded pork chop (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2012), a mandarin orange, red grapes, braised green beans (recipe below), and buttermilk mashed potatoes (America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two 2011).

You'll note this post is tagged gluten free, which is kind of astounding for something breaded and fried, but it's absolutely true. The pan-fried pork chops in the 2012 Cooking for Two book use a dredging of corn starch, then a buttermilk-and-mustard mixture, then a cornstarch-and-corn-flakes mixture. No flour in sight.

It does, however, require me, as I cook dinner for one, to dirty up something like 12 dishes just preparing the main course: a plate for the prepped chops, on which to season them with salt and pepper, three shallow dishes for the dredging, a skillet, a wire rack over a baking sheet, another plate with paper towels on it, and a host of measuring cups and spoons. But that's the thing about America's Test Kitchen. You read their recipe and think, "Are they crazy?" But they give you a long, involved explanation for why involving lots of scientific language, and you say, "What the heck. I have all this buttermilk I need to use up."

Sidenote: Why, for the love of all that is holy, can I only find buttermilk in quart-sized containers? Do you know of any recipe on earth that involves an entire quart of buttermilk?

Anyway, you start, and you grumble, and score pretty hash lines nobody will ever see on the pork chops, and dredge, and set on the rack, and wash your hands, and fry, and transfer the paper towels, and time it for thirty seconds, flip, and time again, and then you, cursing the people of America's Test Kitchen, sit down to eat.

With the first bite you repent, and bless their names for all eternity. What's a dozen dishes between friends? They've given you something magnificent! And so the vicious cycle continues.

The recipe I'm giving you today does not involve dozens of dishes, but it is one I really, really like. For you northeasterners, a bulletin: green beans are not meant to be crispy and slightly bitter. They are meant to be melt-in-your-mouth soft and comforting, braised for hours with a ham bone, with hints of sweetness and salt. (The bacon-braised green beans pictured here are one of the few times America's Test Kitchen has failed me completely and utterly. They gave their explanation of all that was wrong with braised green bean recipes. It's just that they were disregarding almost everything I loved--the softness being one of those things.)

Trust me on this. The only real drawback to this recipe in my opinion is that there is no way to make it as a cooking for one or two kind of affair.

Braised Green Beans and Ham
Serves 8-12

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ham bone (about 8 oz. or so)
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1/4 cup brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat vegetable oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ham bone, green beans, brown sugar, some black pepper, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a slow simmer. Simmer until beans are softened, about 2-3 hours. Halfway through cooking time, taste and adjust seasonings.

Do not rush this. If you need to, cook them for an hour or more longer. You don't want even a hint of the memory of crunch in the beans. When they taste like something miraculous you cannot stop tasting from the pot, they're done.

This post is shared on:

Wheat-Free Wednesday

Full Plate Thursday

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Laptop Lunches #133

I didn't realize when I was doing this just how similar ham and cream cheese pinwheels are to the smoked salmon pinwheels I made a few weeks ago, but oh, well. I have them here with a simple lettuce and tomato salad (yogurt ranch dressing in cup), a sunflower butter cup, grapes, and a mandarin orange.

This is about the right size salad for me. I'm not really a huge salad person when the salad in question is green and leafy. But it's really hard to get much of a green leafy salad in these containers--this consisted of four leaves of baby romaine and half a roma tomato, plus a sprinkling of garlic croutons. Suffice it to say that since this took the place of what is usually a bit denser, I was starving in just a few hours.

The Sun Cups (sunflower butter and chocolate) came in December's Goodies box. The December box came super late and didn't have everything in it (I'm still waiting on one item). So for those keeping score, Goodies is rapidly declining in my esteem. Still, if they get the kinks worked out it could be a fun thing. Maybe. I liked it just fine--it was a pretty mild flavor compared to a peanut butter cup. I don't know how else to describe it.

Back to the daily grind.