Posts Tagged ‘food’

Food waste? Thoughts for the New Year

January 1, 2014
It's what's for dinner

It’s what’s for dinner

 

I read somewhere along the way that Americans waste approximately 40% the food they bring into their homes (I’m not sure if the statistic is true but it brought home a point).  How much to we ‘over buy’ at the grocery if we have the luxury? One of my lame-ass New Year’s Day traditions is to clean out my refrigerator.  I was shocked to see what I tossed:  odds and ends of cheeses, a few science experiments, long ago expired milk (in defense, I did buy the smallest container available for one item and I just don’t drink the stuff).  I made a quasi-resolution.  I’m going to eat what is in my freezer, pantry, fridge before heading to the farmers market.  Yes, there will be some things that I need to buy but I was stunned what I had versus what I thought I needed to go buy.  Dinner/lunch for the reset of the week is above:  a pork roast done in the crock pot with balsamic vinegar, onions and honey.  Mashed potatoes.  I do need to pick up salad stuff (but trust me when I say that will wait until the snow has past!).  Also cooked for the week ahead? A chard/corn/cheese frittata for breakfast.  And with the exception of the cheese and balsamic vinegar? All locally sourced.

 

I have no idea how long this experiment will last: fresh vegetables are hard to find in New England this time of year.  It will be an interesting, creative experiment.  If anything, it might help me learn what I actually eat versus buy because “it was a great price”.  But right now I’m mourning the mac and cheese I could have made had I only been paying attention!

Ringing in 2014 with a Different Philosophy

January 1, 2014

From the onset 2014 looks to be shaping up as a challenging year.  Some is personal, some is professional some is just the fact that adulthood has more valleys than childhood (hey, let’s face it, even playing with Soviet Russian sharp edged cubes beats trying remember you are allowed to take 10 minutes for yourself).  A college friend of mine over at Mockingbird’s Nest did something in December that I thought was slightly insane: something new each day (including  the couch to 5K plan).  While I think the idea is GREAT, doing it in December is slightly insane.  But she is slightly insane plus her kids are 4-legged so she didn’t have to worry about the damn elf on the shelf drama but had the normal host of holiday insanity.

I’m not throwing down the gauntlet of insane challenges for 2014 (plus after the 5K turned into a half-marathon issue of 2013, I distinctly lack common sense).  My plans for 2014: work less, experiment more from the kitchen to pampering activities, write more, read more, pay down some of the damn student loan debt and walk a few road ‘races’, and figure out what is important and let everything else just go.  But the number one goal? Working less.  I’d be happy with a 45 hours week!  Oh, and Iceland.  I want to go to Iceland this year.

Wrap up of week one from #PhiladelphiaHalfMarathon trenches.

August 3, 2013

It’s August. I’m August adverse. Between the humidity, blooming and growing things and just haze, I prefer to spend the days curled up under an air conditioning unit. So far, we’ve had a few good days of low humidity. And let’s face it, a Boston summer, for all of our New England wailing about the heat is only a few really gross days.

I read a few “how to train for your first half marathon including one that was a couch to half-marathon that starts with “you should already be running 5-10 miles a week”. Ok, in my world, couch means COUCH. As in I don’t run. (I mean, technically I can’t run due to the leg length difference but I’m not interested in wallowing over missing the opportunity to run. I think it’s nuts.) So, somewhere I began thinking this might be an impossible task a la Robert Irving failing at Restaurant Impossible or something like that. Then I got mad at myself for thinking I couldn’t do it (I might fail but I’m not going to throw in the towel). I should mention by this point, I hadn’t made it out of my driveway. I’m that exercise adverse.

So I spent 2.5 miles thinking about why am I doing this? Insanity. Challenges. Raising money for charity. Check. Check. Check.

Then I REALLY started thinking about why am I going to do this: I should be able to walk this without stress. I’m out of shape for no good reason (read, because I don’t exercise and live off the American diet of on the go for far, far too long). I’m overweight. And I need a tangible goal to aim for (getting healthy is not goal that motivates me): like I will do a certain event. Side benefits: RunKeeper tells me exactly how many calories I’ve burned. I can translate that quite easily into “There is no way in hell I’m eating that. . . it’s 20, 30, 60 minutes of hell because of that choice.” A shift from my previous attempts of weight loss. I’ve found myself not craving sugar. Um. I’m not going to even try to figure out why. I’m sure there is some logical explanation: but the vending machine lost one of it’s best customers in the past two weeks. I’ve had to consume less caffeine to live (sell your stock in Coca-Cola).

End of the week stats: 8.52 miles.
RunKeeper animal status: Snail (I’m aiming for turtle).
Best advice: “Just make sure you do 3 walks over 11 miles. You’ve got to get over that hurdle.”

Shameless fundraising link.  One in 50 kids will be diagnosed with Autism (or on the spectrum).  I know too many people impacted by this disorder.  Research dollars are needed; please consider giving. Plus it supports my insanity.

The (mostly) organic, completely #glutenfree banana nut bread

May 15, 2013

For Christmas, a friend gave me a 5 pound bag of Jules Gluten Free Flour. She swore by it. I’ve had enough total failures in trying to find the “correct” gluten free flour for baking simple things like banana bread that I’ve all but given up. I’ve had that once in a blue moon craving for banana bread and thought, why not. I mean, worse case? I toss it after making it. This is a modified recipe from Simply Recipes.

4 medium slightly overripe bananas

1/3 (5T) melted Cabot unsalted organic butter

3/4 c of raw sugar (it’s a bit ‘less’ refined than the normal white sugar). Making it again, I’d debate about dropping it to between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup

1 medium egg beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c walnuts

The original recipe says your don’t have to use a mixer. For me? Meh. I’ll use a mixer the next time just for the simplicity of not have 3 kitchen tools, a bowl and a measuring cup to clean up.

Mash the bananas, stir in the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla. Blend. Sprinkle in baking soda. Mix in flour.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Mine turned out moist and a bit browner than normal because of the use of the raw sugar.

This recipe is a keeper for the foodie files.

 

 

#Chopped. It’s what for dinner (adventures in cooking).

May 9, 2013

A few weeks ago, I spent a day helping a friend traitor to the cause pack her kitchen for her move to Austin.  Since I’m one winged, the most I could do was clean out her fridge.  We started talking about all those parts of/left over items that you use a few times and they get shoved to the back.  We both can, shop farmers markets and generally try to minimize our carbon foot print (her husband makes a wicked beer by the way).  Fast forward to a get well soon gift from a college friend who knows of my love of canning and quirky gifts.  The result ? 2 jars of beer jelly (you read that right, beer jelly) from a Brooklyn company called Anarchy In a Jar.  I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed.  I like beer, I like jam/jelly.  But along  the lines of I like chicken and I like peanut butter cups, I’m not seeing how they work together.

The only thing saving me at the moment is the Food Network.  I’m sick of daytime television as I am recovering from this Bankart repair.  On a whim In a moment of insanity, I decided to do my very own Chopped challenge.  Mostly to alleviate the fear of opening the jar of beer jelly.  For the record, beer jelly has a heavy beer taste with a sweet undercurrent along the lines of apple juice (which makes sense since they are the top 2 ingredients). I didn’t know any of this before deciding to use what was in my fridge to make dinner using the beer jelly as the gotcha.

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

So there are my mandatory items: all selected before the opening of the jelly (or reading the label).  Knowing that jelly can be a bit sweet, I went with something salty to try to balance it.  I prefer a bit of a kick so went with the horseradish sauce.  The meat is from the absolutely fantastic 8 O’clock Ranch  (really, if you are in their delivery area and don’t buy from them?).  The walnuts and spinach are from Wegman’s.  The horseradish was rescued from my friend. I used the gluten-free soy in my fridge but needed the smaller one for the pic.

I created a marinade of the jelly, 2 tablespoons of horseradish and a tad too much soy (I had to cut it with 2 tablespoons of local honey).  It probably should have been a jar of jelly and 2 tablespoons each of the horseradish and soy.  I had to use the honey to kill a bit of the salt.

I seared the pork on both sides on a very hot grill pan  turning 4 times (these were completely thawed boneless chops).  In what would cause the Chopped judges to take off points for creativity, I opted for a variation of a spinach salad.

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

With the meat resting, I chopped the egg and added it to the spinach and walnuts.  I cooked the pancetta (points off, it was a bit saltier than I expected).  Then deglazed the pan with the vinegar (around 2T and 1T of Dijon mustard).

Frying pancetta

Frying pancetta

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

I tossed the warm pancetta into the salad to get a bit of a wilt, tossed in the dressing platted  I’m sure I would have been axed (I forgot a starch; you know how those judges are).  But a ton of fun when trying to figure out how to use beer jelly.  And yup.  I contacted Anarchy in a Jar to see where I could get a few more bottles.  I’m really not in the mood to start making beer jelly.  But it is a great base for fun cooking.

May 012

Really glad I was kicked off before the dessert round.  :)

My take away from AWP and a mini-Hollins reunion? Travel as a Need.

March 10, 2013

Yesterday, I listened to writers discuss their craft at the AWP convention. I jotted down snippets on a legal pad out of habit and in the middle of listening to a panel discussion on writing in translation (for a very cool and free literary journal check out wordswithoutborders.org). It really wasn’t about writing in translation but about bringing the writing to translation. I think. It’s not the fault of the presenters; they were muses at that point. I realized there was passion. Artists, in general, receive the stereotype of passionate. As some point, and with great apologies, I lost track of the discussion and realized what I was hearing was passion OF career, something that is and has been lacking in my world.

I’m done. Not in a suicidal rage done, merely done. At the point of exhaustion, I see what the causation. Living without passion is not living. It’s survivalism. I have a few things I have to get done (notably that pesky shoulder surgery in exactly 37 days not that I’m joyously counting down). And then I’m leaving. On a jet plane. Ok, there are some very real steps in between: sorting through a few decades worth of junk to what will fit into a small storage unit in the town my parents reside, figuring out the where I want to go, where I need to go and uh, how to translate “I’m deathly allergic to shellfish” in every language known on the planet. I plan on leaving in roughly a year after I’m done with my shoulder rehab.

I am a huge proponent of knowing needs versus wants. I need to travel. I don’t need Disney; I don’t need turn down service. I need my backpack, my passport and well, the aforementioned card that says please don’t serve me anything with shellfish. Travel, of me, is activism. It’s the part that allows me to say to the world “no, not all Americans are like that” and to hear “No, xxx really isn’t like that.” I need to see the world, to take in the sights, the smells and show, if even to myself, that the world is much better and far less hateful than media outlets make it out to be. Travel is my idealism. Travel is hard; there is nothing worse than being curled up in a hotel room, in a foreign country 14 time zones from home where you don’t know the language or anybody and are miserably sick (ok, there are a LOT of things that are worse) without a common alphabet in common to figure out what medicine you might be taking (Ah, Tokyo. I really want to visit you again!). There is nothing more wonderful than being surrounded by a gaggle for elementary school students in Hiroshima practicing their English in the shadow of the destruction your country created peppering you with questions because they’ve found a ‘real’ American from Boston (where apparently a Japanese player was playing for the Red Sox) to pepper with questions about baseball, Boston and lots of questions that were not on the list.

I know when I plan to leave. I don’t know when I’ll be back. But I know, for probably the first time, I will be following my passion. And (almost) everything else is irrelevant. Of course, all of this is completely dependent on my mother agreeing to cat sit world’s dumbest animal. Completely open to ideas on where to visit anywhere on the planet outside of Western Europe, good travel blogs and volunteer stops along the way.

52 ideas for 2013

December 31, 2012

Some will take 5 minutes, some a few months. . . . just a list of random things I thought I’d try to do in 2013.

1) Polar Bear Plunge
2) Read 50 Shades of Gray
3) Read Team of Rivals
4) Read In the Garden of Beasts
5) Read Fall of Giants
6) Read The Great Influenza
7) Read Book #6 (Title: TBD)
8) Read Book #7 (Title: TBD)
9) Read Book #8 (Title: TBD)
10) Read Book #9 (Title: TBD)
11) Read Book #10 (Title: TBD)
12) Read Book #11 (Title TBD)
13) Read Book #12 (Title TBD)
14) Participate in the SNAP challenge (one week, $25 all 7 days)
15) Run a 5K
16) Write a letter instead of shooting a long email
17) Walk the Freedom Trail
18) Go to a Red Sox/Yankees game
19) Participate in the USPS 3K challenge
20) Unplug from social media for a week.
21) Walk, run, jog 500 miles (I mean, I’ve got a YEAR)
22) Go to Walden Pond. (Such a bad local tourist)
23) Get over my fear of needles and go to the dentist
24) Take a yoga class
25) Volunteer 50 hours
26) Go to Northern California
27) Go to New Orleans
28) Go to Puerto Rico
29) Learn to cook tamales
30) Make an intentional collage
31) Go vegetarian for a week
32) Menu plan for a week . . . and follow it!
33) Bike 1000 miles (see the I’ve got a year note)
34) Walk away from an argument
35) Work a 44 hour week
36) Make sure all that dang adult paperwork is taken care of
37) Pay off the remaining credit card debt
38) Go to the MFA once a month
39) Go to NYC just to go to MOOD!
40) Walk the Freedom Trail
41) Prehab my shoulder in an attempt to avoid surgery
42) Organize guest room
43) Organize kitchen
44) Find new homes for orphaned socks.
45) Start to learn Spanish.
46) Finish my holiday shopping by October.
47) Hollins Hanukah II
48) Journal more
49) Sending my 2012 Christmas cards by oh, St. Patrick’s Day.
50) Go fall camping
51) Take a fun class at one of the zillion extension centers
52) Try to be more zen.

It’s all about the Piecaken

November 25, 2012

Looking for a strange new challenge to go after for a Thanksgiving potluck and a few hours of conference calls to do reasearch, I found an interesting concept: the piecaken.  Apparently, this trend has come out of the missionary community: I’m not sure what to say on that one either theologically or politically so I’ll let each of my 12 readers decide independently.  What I found was a decided lack of directions except for a list of “nots” and the idea to use pre-made cakes.  Look, if I’m going to bake a pie in a cake, the pie is going to be from scratch.

The concept is pretty self-explanatory: bake a pie into a cake; a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving.  After scouring the blogs, I decided that the one aspect made-from-scratch piecaken creators all lamented was a berry pie.  After playing with flavor profiles, I decided to do a coconut pie and chocolate cake.

The coconut pie was a breeze to make: the recipe didn’t say but I poured into an unbaked pie crust.   I made the pie the day before (tip from another blog) and cooled completely.

The next day, I made the cake.  I’ve made exactly one cake from scratch so I went with the tried and true Betty Crocker cake.  The only modification I made was to swap the 1/2c oil for 1/2c of water.  I figured the oil wouldn’t be needed based on the cake recipe and would help to figure out the baking time.  I poured roughly 1/3 of the cake batter into a well greased spring form pan (10”).  And then the tricky part: transferring the pie from the pie plate to the cake.    I removed the outer edges of the crust, flipped the pie onto a cookie sheet and flipped back.

Mine broke a bit but I was able to piece back together.  Pour the remaining cake batter over the pie and cooked until knife clean (70 minutes at 350 degrees).

I let the piecaken rest overnight (I didn’t want the cake to ball up when I frosted it).  I frosted with a simple butter cream frosting.

I hauled a cake weighing more than a newborn to a foodie potluck and viola, a piecaken for the ages.

Now, on to the next culinary adventure!

The Piecaken Adventure. . . Part I

November 11, 2012

I have no clue how many parts will be in this story.  Think of it as some free form epic poem.  I’m on a quest to make a piecaken for a post-thanksgiving potluck.  A few minor details:

1) I don’t bake.  Cook yes, bake no.

2) I have a torn rotator cuff on my non-dominant hand (that is for sympathy).

3) I don’t like pre-made mixes.  I mean, if you are going to make a piecaken, seriously? Mrs. Smith meets Betty Crocker?

4) I’m not wild about apples or spice cakes which hinders flavor profiles.

5) There seems to be a lack of information on how to make a piecaken compared to what not to do and how it is a bad idea to make a piecaken because how it points towards American excess.

Lucky for me, I have to make 2 pies for work this week for a going away party (I figure it’s a good way to test textures).  Right now, I’m searching for good cake receipes.  And really? Why is it the only information I can find on the piecaken how to is from people who use cake mixes?

 

73 days until the Presidential Election: Oreo Cookies.

August 25, 2012

Ok, I was going to start on Day 74 but that would have involved a tirade on trying to find lavender that can be used in cooking in Boston which would have become a long rant on various annoying things people do at grocery stores which is the exact OPPOSITE of what I’m trying to do.

So, expect 73 blogs (give or take) of things that are good about these 50 states, various territories, outposts and things that we have accomplished. Some will be silly, some serious and some historical. All will be written with my inherent bias of a white, lesbian native Midwesterner with a mild disability living in the Boston area.

But today, I choose to uplift the Oreo cookie. Why? It’s simply the best selling cookie in the US. It is proof that one can eat vegan and have a horrific diet. The Oreo, in its simplicity, can spar hours of debate on the proper way to eat an Oreo. I admit doing some light (read Wiki) research. Remember how people (read probably a parent or grandmother) used to try to pass off Hydrox as Oreos? Oreos were invented by Nabisco to compete with Hydrox. Who says copies can’t be an improvement.

Yes, I try to eat as much non-GMO, 100% locally grown food as possible. But let’s face it: there are days that demand Oreos. And water. Never milk. And keep in mind that there is a reason that in October, especially around the 3rd Saturday, orange colored but not flavored filling comes out in the Oreos. We all know who the Oreo gods side with during that game. You never see a crimson colored Oreo. That would, of course, be blasphemy.