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March 12, 2013 / beatricebunny

chopped: Relocation Edition

I am trying to use up all of our perishables before we move.  The results should be interesting.  Tonight’s dinner reminds me of the crappy spaghetti sauce I made when I was first learning to cook.  It has a little of this, a little of that.  My hope is that I have enough experience now to make this into something tasty instead of something weird and gross.  Tonight I am using: chicken stock, ground lamb, onions, garlic, oregano, shallots, hot sauce, tomatoes, black beans, bay leaf, smoked paprika and, of course, spaghetti.  It’s kind of like the basket on chopped except I have to eat my own creation.

A lot of cooking is understanding the basics and then adjusting the seasonings.  Lamb is red meat.  Red meat can be used in a basic meat sauce or a bolognese.  Some liquid is best for deglazing the pan and usually with red meat I’d use wine or beef broth, but chicken broth is just fine as well.  Canned tomatoes and black beans are usually paired in chili, but we have eaten a lot chili lately, and I didn’t want that flavor profile.  But tomatoes and cannellini beans are a pasta thing, so I felt like I could do something similar with black beans.

We ate the meal, which was really good.  I’m sure there will be more outre dishes as we get closer to moving day, but this was simple and good and perfect for a rainy night.

February 27, 2013 / beatricebunny

Hot Toddy

On a cold night, I love a good hot toddy.  The traditional hot toddy is a simple, simple drink – hot water, a shot of scotch, honey, lemon, cloves, and cinnamon.  Or, if you are a local bar whose drinks I normally enjoy, hot water and bourbon (let’s just say I was disappointed).

My hot toddy recipe is so far away from the traditional recipe, but really, I should come up with another name for it.  But I’m lazy and I think it captures the essence of a hot toddy – plus, it isn’t just bourbon and boiling water, so I win.

First, I don’t actually use plain water.  I make my toddy with white lemon decaf tea.  If you are cold or you have a cold hot tea is a great soother, as are hot toddies.  Combining the two makes me a genius.  I pop a cinnamon stick into the kettle with the boiling water, so in that, at least, I remain traditional.

Next comes my choice of booze.  There are a couple of ways I go with this depending on what I have on hand, my mood, or the tastes of the people I am making hot toddies for.  Most often these days I choose Jack Daniels Honey whiskey (2 oz) or an ounce of Jack’s honey whiskey and an ounce of Early Times Fire Eater.  If I’m sick, I might go ahead and put a shot of each in.  My friend Amber gifted my with homemade limoncello for the Christmas this year. Her lemoncello is the absolute bomb, and it has also been featured prominently in our toddies.  If I use it, I definitely do not put two shots of anything else in, even if I am already in my pjs and only have to find my way from the recliner to the bedroom.  Since her delicious concoction is not for sale, I will assume that y0u are just going to using lemon juice.  Don’t skip it.  The lemon is a really important part of the flavor profile.

Next, I add additional honey.  We buy ours at the West Nashville Farmers Market from bees who have collected local pollen.  While I remain skeptical that there is any health benefit from local honey vs. non-local honey, I am not skeptical that it is delicious and that it is not full of weird random chemicals.

So, basically, my Hot Toddy Recipe

  • 6 ounces near-to-boiling water
  • 1 Stash lemon and white tea tea bag
  • 1 Shot of Jack Daniel’s Honey Whiskey
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • Honey to taste
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Boil water with cinnamon stick in it.  Turn water off and let cool to just below boiling.  Brew tea in mug per tea bag directions (transfer cinnamon stick to mug).  Once brewed, removed tea bag.  Add whiskey.  Remove cinnamon stick.  Stir in lemon juice and honey.  Serve hot.  Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.


February 26, 2013 / beatricebunny

Black Bean Soup

I made an old, but favorite recipe for friends the other night.  I primarily learned to cook from the Moosewood Cooks at Home cookbook.  This simple, basic pescetarian cookbook totally changed my life, and sometimes I really enjoy revisiting the recipes in it.

The black bean soup recipe from the book is simple, quick, and uses a lot of canned ingredients, make it a good winter meal.  Obviously, we can substitute fresh ingredients if you have them.  The original recipe is here.

I’ve made a couple of changes (naturally).  I skipped the sun dried tomatoes.  When I was younger, they were a luxury that I couldn’t really afford, and now, I just find them too sweet.  I replace the ground cumin with whole cumin, which I toast lightly, and then grind myself.

Sometimes, I only blend half the soup as the recipe calls for, but most of the time, I blend the whole thing until creamy, making a kind of vegan black bean bisque.  I love it like that.  (Obviously, your topping may make it no longer vegan, your choice.)

I like mine topped with Greek yogurt, more cilantro, and a little spicy diced pepper.

February 9, 2013 / beatricebunny

Lazy Cooking Update

Lazy Cooking Update

The turkey recipe turned out really well! The veggie broth was really rich after four hours in the Dutch oven with the bone-in breast. I forgot to mention that I also used half a cup of white wine vinegar in the broth. It was such a nice touch- my husband raved about the broth, and the impact of the vinegar especially.

I love a little vinegar in winter comfort foods, the sourness just adds something really nice to them.

February 8, 2013 / beatricebunny

Lazy Cooking

I’ve been torn between wanting to make something new and wanting to make comfort food.  It’s cold.  It’s dark.  It’s February.  Comfort food makes me feel good.  But, cooking is a creative outlet for me, and I itch when I get in a rut.  So tonight I am trying to find a balance between those two things.

I went to the grocery store this afternoon and just wandered around thinking about what I wanted to it.  Something classic.  Something that wouldn’t take a huge amount of prep on my part (because I have had a serious headache all day, and cannot deal with much), but something that would be interesting and delicious.  The secret, to me, of not eating out too often is to ensure that meals at home are special, interesting, and engaging.

Turkey breast was on sale, so I bought half a turkey breast and some classic veggie counterpoints – pearl onions, carrots, and potatoes.  Because I am feeling lazy (headache) and because I can, I bought baby carrots and fingerling potatoes along with the pearl onions.  These options mean that I did no chopping.

I preheated my oven to 300 degrees, seasoned my turkey breast with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and Penzeys Fox Point seasoning (this stuff is seriously the bomb), seared the turkey breast in my dutch oven (fat side down first).  I let the seared turkey rest and then heated the pearl onions until I could smell them, then added back the meat, carrots, and potatoes.  I added 4 cups of veggie broth, adjusted the seasonings, and then popped it in the oven.  I should have fall off the bone turkey in about 4 hours.

This won’t be the most awesome or complex thing that I have ever made, but it should be tasty comfort food with plenty of flavor.

January 31, 2013 / beatricebunny

Hot Cocoa

I love hot cocoa.  It is the perfect, sweet, satisfying winter eve drink.  I mentioned in my last post that I tried almond milk for the first time ever last weekend, and really liked it.  In addition to using it in brussels sprouts soup, I also used it to make hot cocoa.  I am not, generally speaking, a “five ingredient” cook.  I like layers spice flavors on top of each to make something complicated and fun.  My hot chocolate is no exception.  I don’t really have a recipe, maybe a description closer to an old Joy of Cooking ‘”recipe.”

I usually start with around a cup of milk per person, so this weekend, I started with two cups of almond milk.  If I have it around, I prefer really good dark chocolate or unsweetened chocolate.  If I use unsweetened chocolate, I add sugar to taste.  (Yes, I taste as I go, even making hot cocoa.)

Next comes the tricky part.  One of the secrets to sweetness is salt.  I usually add at least a pinch of salt to my hot cocoa, but a lot of chocolate products are already salted.  I find a pinch is still a good idea, but YMMV.

That’s the base.  You heat the milk on medium heat, watching constantly, stirring often.  Add the chocolate, (sugar), and salt.  I usually add a dash of good vanilla extract and a whole cinnamon stick.  if the chocolate is good and dark, I add cayenne pepper at this point too.

Do not let this mess come to a boil.  Just stir, stir, pick up the kettle off the heat to keep it from boiling.  Turn down the heat.  Once warm and the chocolate is melted, you can stop here – this is damn good hot cocoa.  I seldom do.

Is it a cold night?  Do you want a little boozy-booze to warm it up?  I do.  My favorite are: Whisper Creek Cream Whiskey or Fire Eater.  Fire Eater is a sipping cinnamon infused whiskey.  It’s Fireball for grown-ups.

Want something sweeter?  Change up the top, no cayenne or vanilla.  Think about the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add a good raspberry liquor or an Irish creme.  Hiram Walker’s Gingerbread Liquor doesn’t go amiss here (keep the cinnamon and nutmeg, of course.)

You can add marshmallows.  Personally, I prefer homemade whipped cream.  My recipe: 2 cups of whipping cream, 3 cups of powdered sugar.  Mix in  the stand mixture.  Stop before you make butter.  Any of the above seasonings can go into the whipped cream (okay, not the cinnamon stick, grate that up).

Grab a big ass mug and a good book.  Indulge.

January 29, 2013 / beatricebunny

Brussels Sprouts Soup

Saturday night, I made a fantastic recipe for Brussels Sprout soup.  The recipe came from poet Daniel Nathan Terry.  It’s simple, vegan, and delicious.  It also uses almond milk, which I had never had before.  It is some tastiness (and in fact, I used it again Sunday night to make fancy hot cocoa).  Not only is the recipe delicious, but it will also make a great base for more playing if I decide I want to experiment.

The basics:

Four cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed
Four cups vegetable stock
1 cup unsweetened, plain, Almond Milk
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, and hot sauce to taste

Simmer Brussels Sprouts in broth until tender (but still bright green). Blend with immersion blender until smooth while still hot in pot. Add almond milk, and bring back to simmer. Add salt, pepper, fresh grated nutmeg, and hot sauce (to taste preference). Blend again. Serve immediately.

I served the soup with crusty garlic bread.

The soup is surprisingly sweet.  I expected a bit of bitterness from the sprouts, but there was none at all.  The hot sauce balances the sweetness nicely, and the almond milk provides a solid base.  Unsurprisingly, like most soups, it was even better Sunday afternoon.

This is one of those soups that makes you feel better after eating it – like the Green Soup recipe I highlighted here and here, this is such a great recipe for creating a sense of health and vitality.  I had my quarterly meeting with my nutritionist on Friday, and we were talking about “cleansing” meals.  She told me that she is trying to convince clients not to do cleansing fasts, they are unhealthy and not particularly useful, but she loves these kinds of soups that provide tools to our bodies to make us feel good.

Plus: delicious!