Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A foody day

Not a "foodie" day.  That spelling implies someone who refuses to use McCormick's spices or store-brand chicken broth and believes that the only salt worth using costs no less than eight dollars an ounce.  And... that ain't me.  No, it was a foody day because I spent all afternoon barefoot in the kitchen.  I wish it was Monday so I could use my really great Nomday pun I thought up, but oh well. 

Jason and I feel as if we've been in a food rut lately, eating a lot of the same stuff over and over.  I was getting really, really bored with cooking, and although he never complained, I know Jason was getting bored with my cooking too.  I've still got a lot of cookbooks from before we went Paleo, so I decided to flip through one and see what kind of recipes were acceptable or at least easily adapted.  I shouldn't have been surprised to find several.  Yet more evidence that it is not hard to find good recipes, if you've got even a shred of creativity (and if you're not creative, there's still plenty laid out--all you have to do is find them).

Oh, I also found a bunch of Paleo snack recipes (by Googling "Paleo snack recipes") and decided to try a new one today.  I documented all the fun I had in the kitchen today, and now I shall share.

First up--Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies!  This is not a new recipe for us; Jason found it months ago (here, scroll down a bit) and we've made it several times.  Sometimes we leave out the coconut and use more chocolate chips (usually that happens when we forget that we're out of coconut AGAIN).  Either way, they're delicious.

This is where I will say, if you plan on going Paleo or Primal, get yourself one of these:

Hello, beautiful.

Food processors are SO USEFUL.  We use ours far more often than I thought we would, and I honestly thought we'd use it plenty.  We did learn that it's worth the expense to get a good one, rather than those piddly little 2-cup "food choppers" you can get for thirty bucks at Target.  This thing ain't messing around.  It weighs as much as the dog and runs quieter than the dishwasher.  (I suspect this is because it pulverizes things so quickly the food doesn't have time to bang around and cry for help.)  We also have a food dehydrator, which we don't use quite as frequently, but it's also nice to have, especially when you find flank steak on sale for $5/pound and really want to make some jerky.

Anyway.  Moving on.  I made the cookie dough and spooned it out:

I was working with just a wooden spoon and some rather unwieldy chocolate chunks, so I had trouble getting them all to come out the same size.  So I just dug some dough out of the overachieving cookies and stuck it onto the little runty cookies, so they'd all be about the same.  Sort of like No Child Left Behind, only with baked goods.

And that is as close to a political statement as you'll find here.

Once the cookies were all evenly-matched and indistinguishable from one another, I stuck 'em in the oven and they came out looking like this.


You like that baking sheet?  It's a stoneware one that I borrowed from my sister about a year ago.  I could have sworn I returned it, but I guess not.  Apparently either a) she thought I returned it too or b) she knows I still have it and just hasn't needed it.  Either way, I've been using it for cookies because it does a bang-up job.

You know what is the great thing about this recipe?  The bowl practically cleans itself.

I guess "great" is relative to your opinion on licking the bowl.

Between the coconut oil and the oil from the nuts, there is almost nothing left in the bowl after everything's spooned out.  Also, the dough doesn't stick to the spoon, so it's easy to ball it up and drop it in even, round clumps (if you're not an idiot like me who can't eyeball cookie clumps).

Anyway, while these cookies are not especially sweet, they are far more satisfying than sugary flour-based cookies, thanks to the nuts and healthy fats.  And you still get a chocolate fix, which is basically required.

Next up?  Crackers!  Recipe.  I did not do shrimp, just the crackers, and I ended up using a little over 1/2 cup sesame seeds, rather than the full cup it called for (you can buy 'em in bulk at the Asian market!  But we don't have an Asian market out here in the corn so I just got the little tin at Kroger!  It was only 2 ounces!  So that's what I used!), and I added a little bit of olive oil.  Still worked.

Have you seen that Family Guy episode where they drink a case of ipecac to see who wins the last piece of pie?  Yeeeeeeaaaaah.

I will admit, this did not look promising.  It smelled a little weird and was a pain in the ass to roll out.  But I persevered, seasoning with these guys:

Hello, friends!  Next time I'll glue you on with butter or something.

And it all came out looking like this.

And they taste REALLY good.

So, these guys took me about an hour and a half, between getting all the crap together, educating the cookies, washing the food processor, bravely forging ahead with a questionable recipe and washing the food processor again.  (I'm sorry, Town of Plainfield.  I used a lot of water today.  I mean A LOT of water.)  And then it was time to cook dinner!  All three recipes (burgers, salsa, salad) came out of a regular cookbook (one of the many editions of Better Homes and Gardens, a recent one).  In the end I decided on Greek-seasoned turkey burgers with Greek salsa and warm tomato-and-feta salad over spinach.

As an aside, canned chopped olives look revolting.


Really, really revolting.


Sorry.  Anyway, they taste good, and they go into nomalicious Greek salsa, which looks like this:

Dear Lord in Heaven.  I love food so much.

Wanna see how trashed my kitchen was after my weirdo cooking bender?

Not too trashed at all, really, but I still would like more counter space.  A girl's gotta dream...

Oh hey, you know how people always think salad's not filling?  This is why.


That's an entire 10-ounce package of spinach, wilted down in some butter.  Once that water's cooked out, you realize just how little there is to a bunch of leaves.  And this, my friends, is why a good Paleo salad will always have protein and fat.  If it's just vegetables, you're gonna be hungry again as soon as you take a pee.

We, however, were having PLENTY of protein and fat with our vegetables, in the form of this dinner.

Ohhhhhh my.


That, dearest ones, was a very, very satisfying dinner, and a big step out of the rut we've been in lately.  My stomach is still very, very happy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eat Like A Caveman: Stuffed Peppers with Breaded Squash

This afternoon, I wandered into the kitchen on a mission to make dinner.  I had an eggplant in the fridge and I wasn't afraid to use it.

Until I cut it open, that is.  I do not have a vast well of knowledge in regards to cooking eggplant, but I'm fairly certain it's not supposed to be brown and spongy in the middle.  So I was forced to improvise, and this is what I came up with.

Oh dear heaven.

The squash was not exactly an improvisation.  I've been cooking summer squash (and zucchini) like that a lot lately.  It's super-easy and delicious and more satisfying than a plain vegetable of a similar portion size.  The stuffed peppers, however, were completely thrown together with things I had in the fridge.  Nothing unusual in there, but they are so tasty.

For the peppers:

1 lb ground beef  (haha, I just typed "beaf." That was weird.)
1 onion, chopped
minced garlic in an amount you find appealing
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 can drained diced tomatoes OR a few fresh tomatoes if you've managed to get your lazy behind to the farmer's market anytime in the last couple weeks (I haven't)
1 can tomato paste
various fresh or dried herbs with an Italian slant (I was feeling braindead so I just used a handful of fresh basil from the patio pot.  In retrospect it could have also used some parsley, oregano, thyme and/or sage.)
 up to 4 pretty-colored bell peppers (only stuff one pepper per person, unless you have piggy guests)

Throw the beaf (haha) into a medium-hot pan with the onions, garlic, and a glug of olive oil.  Stir up the meat until it's thoroughly browned and crumbled up.  If it seems a little wet, drain it.  If you used 96/4 like me (or if you used bison like an even more awesome person), you probably won't need to.  Add the salt and pepper, tomato, tomato paste, and the herbs, and simmer for a few minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if you feel like it.

Just a note:  this is the most basic of all basic tomato sauces.  It can be adapted to fit a thousand applications.  It is nothing earth-shattering.  My apologies if you were bored stupid and now wish to throw boogers at me for being so lame as to put a plain old tomato sauce recipe on my blog.


Take those pretty-colored bell peppers and slice them in half vertically.  Pull out the veins and seeds, but for God's sake leave the stem on.  Peppers are so pedestrian, they need all the aesthetic help they can get.  Slice that stem in half with the rest of the pepper and all of a sudden you have ART.  Rub a bit of olive oil on the cut edges of the pepper, and rub some oil into the bottom of a glass baking dish.  Bonus points if the dish is pretty, too.  Fill each pepper half with the meatsauce (there will probably be some left over; save it for more peppers, or put it on spaghetti squash, or just eat it with a spoon like Jason did when he got home because he was flipping starving and couldn't wait for dinner) and plop the whole assembly into a 350-degree oven for 20-25 minutes.  The peppers should come out nice and hot but not exactly cooked.  You want there to be some crunch still.

You know how to further elevate it from "dinner" to "ART?"  Stick a tiny freaking basil leaf on it.

Now that breaded squash.  It's not bread at all.  It's almond flour. To make it:

1 medium yellow squash or zucchini, cut into large dice
1/2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
1/4 cup almond flour
garlic powder

Melt the butter in a medium-hot pan (normally I'm indifferent about cooking surface but this really wants something non-stick, whether it's teflon or well-seasoned cast iron or whatever you use).  Cook the squash for about 5 minutes, giving it a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Scatter half the almond flour over the veggies, along with some more salt and pepper and a dusting of garlic powder.  Toss to coat (stirring just doesn't work, sorry).  Scatter the rest of the almond flour; toss it again.  Turn up the heat a few degrees; we want to crisp up the breading a bit, but we don't want to burn it.  Keep tossing the squash every 30 seconds or so; try to make sure it turns so each side gets browned.  Serve it nice and hot and try not to stuff it all in your mouth at once because it is DELICIOUS.

And I leave you with this artistic shot of some admittedly poorly-browned breaded squash.

It's not really browned.  It's really just kind of beiged.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Just a little stitch

Before anyone says anything, I do not participate in the use of mind-altering substances.  I never have, I never will, no I'm not lying.  But I had this turn of phrase pop into my head a few weeks ago and I couldn't let it go.  I cracked up every time I thought of it.  I can't help it.  Puns amuse me like you wouldn't believe.  It surely can't be normal.  But I digress.  Here's a pun!  There's even a voice that goes along with it!  (It sounds a lot like Towelie, if you're curious.)

I had to stitch it.  Every now and then I get crazy-inspired to do a bit of embroidery.  My technique is kind of "eh," but whatever.  I do it because it's fun.  I knocked this off in just a couple hours while Jason was watching the Women's World Cup and doing computery stuff.

I'll shut up and just show you the stitches.

Two steaks.  They are high.  The steaks are high.  You see what I did thar?

Extreme close-up!

I love this little guy.  He's so adorably stoned.

I didn't mean for him to be wonk-eyed, but it worked so I left it.

And now it's out of my head and on a piece of muslin, so I can let it go already. 

Back to your regularly scheduled programming.