oops

Sorry, I missed getting the usual two posts in the last couple weeks. I’ve been busy with life..

Theo chocolate, Fremont beer flight, Seahawks superbowl parade, bacon, oatmeal, and citrus salad all from Agrodolce brunch, boring salad for work lunch, Rattlesnake Ridge trail, and center: ad hoc soup with a poached egg
Theo chocolate factory, Fremont Brewery beer flight, Seahawks superbowl parade in Seattle, bacon, oatmeal, and citrus salad all from an Agrodolce brunch, boring-ish salad for work lunch, Rattlesnake Ridge trail, and center: ad hoc soup with a poached egg

Stock Sunday

It’s that time again, about every quarter, my freezer starts to get too full of vegetable scraps, at which point I take ’em all and make some stock. In today’s case, I didn’t happen to have any leftover meat scraps that would have made it into a 4, 6 or 8-hour+ long process. Pffft. Unless you have no day job, or work from home, even the vegetable stock process requires a good chunk of time at home, even though it’s not active tending. This is certainly a recipe for the “60 Minutes – Multiday” folder, due to the freezer, and the collecting of scraps over time.

6 re-used yogurt containers of veggie scraps in the freezer? Time for stock Sunday!
6 re-used yogurt containers of veggie scraps in the freezer? Time for stock Sunday!

When my brother heard I make my own stock, he remarked “how…Depression Era..” I used some wee sage sprouts in the ‘miscellaneous herbs’ category from an herb starter kit gift from same brother this time. Haw.

Vegetable stock
Makes about 4 cups, after 2nd boil for 45 minutes

Ingredients:
5, 32 oz reused yogurt containers of loosely packed frozen veggie scraps*
3 Liters (around 9 cups) boiling water
arbitrary amount of miscellaneous fresh herbs (8/18/13: green onions, oregano, crushed garlic cloves and parsley)
olive oil

Steps
1. Consolidate vegetable scraps in a mixing bowl, and separate out any onions, garlic, celery, herbs and mushrooms.
2. Boil water in percolator.
3. Optional step but tasty: in large stock pot, sauté onions, garlic, celery, mushrooms and miscellaneous fresh herbs in olive oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes or however long to sweat them.
4. Add remaining vegetables to pot and pour in boiling water until vegetables are just covered (approximately get to 1:1 ratio of ingredients to water).
5. Bring almost to a boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes. Skim any scum off the top occasionally.
6. Pour boiled contents into a mixing bowl with colander, remove spent ingredients with colander.
7. Optional: return liquid to stovetop and boil down to desired more-concentrated volume; I boiled it for another 45ish minutes.
8. Pour liquid through second strainer, and let cool.
9. Chill to use immediately, or freeze stock (I like using an ice cube tray, then transferring after frozen to ziploc bags and labelling with a sharpie).

*I avoid saving the following vegetables, as they have too heavy a taste, or tend to dye the stock a scary deep red: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages (includes brussel sprouts), and red beets. I like using clear plastic yogurt containers, or at least with a clear top so you can tell what’s inside once it’s frozen.

Storage Note: the stock should keep in the freezer for 4-6 months.
Meatification tip: Veggies take around 2 hours, the rest goes: simmer +3 hours for chicken, +5 hours for pork, +7 hours for beef or veal. I tried beef once and it felt like forever since I boiled it down after removing the spent veggies in the last hour. I am never doing that again, too tedious, for similar flavor. One time my house accidentally smelled of curry for 3 days after..
Usage tip: when you use these for a recipe, you may want to salt a little more to taste, since it won’t be as salty as commercial stock.

Saute, boil, skim, strain, boil, freeze.
Saute, boil, skim, strain, boil, freeze.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
1 of 5 stars.
The novelty herein lines in the additional 1/3 of my freezer that is now empty, and 5% now has some free, homemade stock ready for use in soups, roux, cooking rice, risotto, and other things. That, and I like giving my vegetables a second life before they go on to the food/yard waste for their third life as compost.

I measured the stock as I poured it in the ice tray, so I know this freezer ziploc of stock will be 2 cups in liquid form.
I measured the stock as I poured it in the ice tray, so I know this freezer ziploc of stock will be 2 cups in liquid form.

Likelihood of Repeat: 100%
Stock-making has become a chore-Sunday routine every several many months. I see no likelihood of dropping it.
Lesson Learned: from making this, and other items destined for the freezer (like too much soup), I have learned that it’s useful to keep a sharpie nearby in a kitchen drawer for easy labeling of ziplocs.

References:
Salon.com on How to Make Stock
Alton Brown’s chicken stock recipe

Red Rice Rainbow Chard Salad

I had some leftover red rice from a meatball dish, and did a simple ad hoc salad out of it. In case you’re feeling uninspired in simple salad-making, here’s what I did, approximately:

Ingredients:
3 stems rainbow chard, stems stripped and leaves chopped into ribbons
1/4 c Red rice ( I think it was Bhutanese), cooked
red onion, minced
1/4 of an orange bell pepper, diced
5 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tsp Rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp Lemon juice
half an avocado, sliced with a little lemon juice (not shown in picture)
for croutons:
1 leftover dinner roll or other bread, stale
1 dash of garlic powder
salt & pepper
a dash of dry basil, and/or oregano
Note: time needed depends on (a)if the rice is leftover and already cooked, and if (b)you made croutons ahead of time.

Steps
1. After chopping other ingredients, cube bread roll, mix with olive oil and other spices listed above, bake in toaster oven (or oven) at 300 for 20-30 minutes, checking halfway through.
2. Place everything but the croutons in serving container in separate portions (see picture) until ready to eat (except I put the vinegar and oil atop the onion to neutralize it a little), mix in croutons, and enjoy.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars.
Yum, how novel to eat red rice in a salad! The addition of this, and omission of balsamic vinegar made it feel like a new salad combo.
Likelihood of Repeat: 90%
Due to work and other appointment time constraints, I was forced to wolf this down in about 15 minutes, in which time I decided it was very tasty, although I would have liked to have had more time to savor it. I added the avocados on a whim, motivated by the ticking time bomb of avocado ripening, but it really pushed the combination over to officially tasty.
Lesson Learned: Unless bacon is in play, avocado always wins.

RdRice_Chard_Salad

Paleo Meatballs

On request of my ‘roommate,’ I tried this recipe from Easy Peasy, for paleo meatballs. It’s almost identical to the ones I usually make (which, by the way, get rave reviews by same roommate -beef, not turkey per the URL), except without breadcrumbs, a few more spices (oregano, basil), and added spinach. Never parsley. Boo parsley. It is only better than cilantro, which is the worst. Funny that anyone needs a paleo version of meatballs.. I followed the second option for directions that Angela mentioned: fry, then bake.

mince, mix, meld into balls, mmmmheat, and mmserve!
mince, mix, meld into balls, mmmmheat, and mmserve!

Paleo Meatballs

Ingredients:
1lb. grass fed ground beef
1 egg
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2tsp salt and 1/4tsp pepper)
1/2 small onion, minced (I used minced red onion here)
1Tbsp spinach (optional)
1Tbsp fresh parsley (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, scramble egg and combine remaining ingredients, mix.
3. Using a spoon, shape into meatballs. I tried for small ones, a little bigger than the diameter of a quarter. That’s the way I like my food portioned –meatballs, or cookies, or whatever.
4. The original recipe said that for a little crunch if you’re up for an extra step, heat a pan with about 1 Tbsp olive oil and brown on both sides, then bake 10-15 minutes until thoroughly cooked. This pan fry step made the house smell really tasty, plus, it led to..
5. Extra credit: sauté/ wilt some fresh vegetables in the remaining meaty-oil mix on the pan. I did this with spinach and a little minced garlic.

I served this with a side of barbecue sauce, a spring mix salad, garlic sautéed spinach, atop some leftover garlickified quinoa (see: fry up lots of minced garlic, add leftover cooked quinoa until warm), and atop some red rice I found in the back of the pantry. Of course, you could also eat it with pasta, or zucchini pasta, or just baked in barbecue sauce..

meatballs: not vegetarian.
meatballs: not vegetarian.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 2 of 5 stars
I may have never tried this exact rendition, but it sure did feel familiar.
Likelihood of Repeat: 40%
The other eater seemed to like them. It seems in the past that any time I make meatballs, no matter how much I tried to make extra, we didn’t end up with much left, so that’s a good sign. However, I still believe that the ones with breadcrumbs taste better, so I’ll probably only make these ones on specific request, or for my gluten-liberated friends. It might be worth trying without the spinach next time.

New standard review note!
Lesson Learned: Shaping meatballs always takes a little more time than you imagine, and don’t plan for leftovers.

Quinoa, for breakfast?!
Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Blend

An old classmate of mine has been keeping a blog too, Monica’s Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, which includes plenty of food talk. It seems she’s on a new year health kick and has been trying some different food habits. Below is my rendition of the idea I got from her. It plays right into my urge to reinvent my breakfast routine, since the old irish-oats-in-rice-cooker-overnight-plus-toppings drill has started to feel stale.

Coconut_Quinoa_Collage
The viscosity of the coconut milk threw me for a loop: the top looked like whipped cream! Yum! Also: made a total mess of the pot since I kept turning up the heat and letting it boil over. Oops.

I haven’t specified the portions of the toppings below, as I’m sure every one has their own preference for ratios.

Coconut Quinoa Breakfast Blend

Day 1: with pear, et. al.
Day 1: with pear, et. al.
Day 2: with apple, &c.
Day 2: with apple, &c.
Day 3: before heating and adding toppings, transported via mason jar.
Day 3: before heating and adding toppings, transported via mason jar.

Ingredients:
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup quinoa
Toppings: take ’em or leave ’em
cinnamon, to taste (~a dash)
salt, to taste (very little)
sliced almonds
pecans
dried pineapple
dried cranberries
granola (for crunch)
honey
flax seed
chia seeds
pear, sliced

Steps
1. Boil coconut milk and water on high until almost boiling, add quinoa and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 20-30 minutes.
2. While cooking quinoa, lightly toast almonds and pecans, grind flax seed with mortar and pestle (to release the nutritional oils), and slice the pear.
3. Scoop out some quinoa, top with your choice of toppings, and enjoy! Toppings could certainly be simpler, I just got carried away on a day off. I think it might even be good with a little jam on top.

Note: chia seeds are hella expensive. I scavenged some from my house, since it turns out my “roommate” bought a bag a long time ago. I think it’s safe to say that more than a teaspoon of either flax or chia seeds may be too much. I have read that said chia seeds have magical ‘make-you-feel-full’ properties. Beh. I also panicked a little after 20 minutes when the whole mix still looked watery, but after I’d eaten a small bowl (straining out some liquid), I found that the rest of the quinoa left on the stovetop had absorbed the water, so it worked out fine.

Interestingly, my first bowl of this I found I needed to drizzle honey on top, but by the next day, some sliced apples were enough sweetness for me. I packed a little mason jar of this for breakfast at work, and found it turned out to be too filling! How surprising. I tampered with the portioning to half the amount I would normally eat for oatmeal, which means I ended up eating it for breakfast for four straight days, but, no complaints, once I got the portions right (a little quinoa, lots more fruit and nuts).  [Insert lecture here extolling the virtues of quinoa as a healthful false grain, vs. a regular ‘evil’ carb. Then insert lecture on the economic issues of quinoa, driving up the prices so that those who natively ate it as a staple in the Andes switch to more fattening staples. That leaves me, the overthinker, sort of leaving it at a wash for now..]

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
5 of 5 stars The endless possibility of topping variations is quite appealing. I’m interested to find out how much fat I just added to my breakfast routine..
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% Yum! I’m definitely going to try and make oatmeal in coconut milk too, especially since I’ve got some coconut milk left over in the fridge. This combination inches me closer to the USDA MyPlate guidelines.
New standard review note!
Lesson Learned: oy! Don’t let the [coconut] milk boil over! Related lesson: I am really bad at cooking staple grains on stovetop. That’s what my robot butler, a.k.a. rice cooker, is for.

What do you do for breakfast? How do you keep it interesting?

Day 4: with berries and bananas. Still tasty, and very filling. The chia seeds started looking scary fuzzy, but no ill effects so far..
Day 4: with berries and bananas. Still tasty, and very filling. The chia seeds started looking scary fuzzy, but no ill effects.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

At my day job, it is the office tradition to bring in treats when it’s your birthday. I spent the first four years feeling indignant about this, and evading it since I’ve always been gone on my birthday. However, I have finally come around to it, figuring at least I am not forced to eat mediocre cake I don’t like on my birthday. I was quite late in the delivery too, but felt it an opportunity to take a stab at this hot chocolate cookies recipe I saved over the holidays. Like people who have a favorite animal, once friends and family find out I like hot chocolate, I was gifted enough hot chocolate to develop diabetes –which is where this recipe randomly found online comes in as another way to use it up.

This is the neatest picture of the finished product. Note the funky one hiding in the back -that was one of my marshmallow-inside attempts.
Hot chocolate cookies: this is the neatest picture of the finished product. Note the funky one hiding in the back -that was one of my marshmallow-inside attempts.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

makes 24 large cookies (I did a half portion of this, full portions for 24 cookies is listed below)

Ingredients
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup hot chocolate mix
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 3/4 cup flour (i think I had a mix of whole wheat and white flour, or some miscellaneous powder found in my pantry..)
1 cup chopped milk chocolate chips
1 cup Marshmallow Bits (didn’t have those delightful dehydrated ones, just used chopped up regular marshmallows)

Steps
Preheat oven to 350
Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream butter and brown sugar together with whisk for about 1 minute until combined. Add in hot chocolate and continue mixing.
Add in eggs and vanilla and continue mixing until incorporated.
Add in salt, baking soda and flour. Mix until just combined.
Finally, add in milk chocolate and Marshmallow Bits, stirring until evenly mixed in.
Drop by heaping tablespoon onto lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Bake for 9-11 minutes, until edges are set and slightly golden. Top with marshmallow bits in last 2 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.
*Store airtight for up to 3 days.

mix, clump, bake, enjoy.
mix, clump, bake, enjoy.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
4 of 5 stars
This is the first time I tried this recipe, so besides it still having the basic steps of a chocolate chip cookie, it was quite novel indeed. The marshmallows were really entertaining to see in the oven too, since they got all puffed up. The end result made me sad since the marshmallow puffiness collapsed, and made the cookies appear quite messy, but it was still fun to have an outside addition that made it more ‘hot chocolatey’.
Likelihood of Repeat: 65%
This is definitely worth trying again when I have dehydrated marshmallows in stock, although maybe by then I will no longer have these 4 canisters of hot chocolate powder to deal with. It also seems like a good seasonal recipe to ring in the Fall. I also tried being clever by encasing lumps of marshmallow inside the cookie dough for a marshmallow inner filling, but those did not turn out as well. I think they just ended up melting into their component sugar parts..

HotChocolateCookies_Complete
nom nom nom. double-processed foods: are they twice as tasty?

The original recipe also called for an electric mixer, which I thought was unnecessary, although it also had a recipe for delicious frosting, which others may want to try. I used to be fond of saying that chocolate chip cookies are the only cookies worth making, and I’m afraid some days I still feel that way (especially if you put walnuts in them). This was no exception, but then I was unable to explain why I couldn’t stop eating the cookies when they came out…
The office kitchen space rating is: yum. As in, it disappeared pretty fast –but that’s not such a high bar..

P.S. Thanks to my friends who have gifted me hot chocolate in the past. It is a good thing to never run out of something you love to drink.

Maple Lemon Seared Salmon

Around when I first started working where I do now, there was a year when there were funds for healthy incentives in the workplace, and my office spent part of it on a subscription to Cooking Light. This recipe is from one of those issues, the April edition of Cooking Light, 2009. Every time I make this, I wonder that I don’t make it more often, as it cooks up so darn fast, you need to have your salad and starch staple ready before you even start pan searing it. It’s in the “Less than 30 Minutes” folder, and it’s even good for you!

Salmon with Maple-Lemon Glaze

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I am often lazy and use bottled lemon juice..)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray (I usually skip this one since my skillet is pre-conditioned)

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add fish to bag; seal. Refrigerate 10 minutes, turning bag once.
3. Remove fish from bag, reserving marinade. Place marinade in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute.
4. Heat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. I use a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle fish evenly with salt and pepper. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add fish to pan, skin side up, cook 3 minutes. Turn fish over. Brush marinade evenly over fish. Broil 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.

*I use the same amount of marinade whether I’m making one little fillet, or a larger, hulking one. The king salmon last night was not as flavorful as the sockeye I think we usually get, so keep in mind that the type does matter for the taste.

Note: Careful not to overcook! I originally misread this recipe to indicate cooking both sides for 3 minutes, then broiling, when in fact it meant for you to put the salmon in the oven to broil directly after the first side is on the pan 3 minutes. Well, maybe everyone else is smart enough to have that figured out the first time.. Anyway, it was a relatively simple but delicious dinner atop the usual spring mix salad with craisins and walnuts, with a small side of quinoa. It also goes well with a fresh side of those charred green beans I posted about in December. Don’t degrade it with some lame defrosted peas like in that Cooking Light link’s photo! Boooo.

There were so few steps, I only had one collage for you!
There were so few steps, I only had one collage for you!

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating:
1 of 5 stars
I’ve made this plenty of times since 2009, it’s in the regular rotation. However, I haven’t consistently gotten just the right crunchy glaze on combined with extra fresh fish, so that part is always a delightful novelty to eat.
Likelihood of Repeat: 100% See above. Out here in Seattle, there’s no shortage of salmon to buy -although much of it seems to come from Alaska- but I still have yet to try another recipe that’s trumped this one. Let me know if you find one. I pretty much stock cider vinegar in my house solely for this recipe, and the maple syrup is probably used more for this than the rare waffle. I guess part of the reason I don’t make it more is that when you have so much fresh fish out here, it’s blasphemy not to get fresh fish, which means a store visit and cooking the day of, and I’m not so willing to do that. On the other hand, the cast iron pan often spits little bits of oil at me, and I say it’s totally worth the occasional burn for some tasty caramelized fish.

Half-way Homemade Mini Quiches

MiniQuichesCollage
Defrost dough, mix egg, pour, bake, enjoy.

Picked up another recipe from A Beautiful Mess for mini quiches (original recipe is here, I added a couple things). Tried it yesterday during the Seahawks v. Saints game.

puff pastry (I took out a piece and set it in the fridge in saran wrap to defrost overnight instead of having to add 30-40 minutes’ lead time from the freezer)
3 eggs
2 Tbs half and half
salt + pepper
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/8 cup chopped ham
1 Tbs chopped scallions
1 tsp dried thyme
Butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, ham, scallions, thyme, salt and pepper. Buttered 2 large ramekins (4.5″ diameter). Cut puff pastry into large squares that will slightly hang over once placed in the baking dishes. Fill 2/3 full with the egg batter. Fold the edges in toward the center. Sprinkle on the cheese and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the egg looks set.

MiniQuicheComplete
The final product.

Today’s Trial Recipe Rating:
Novelty Rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a brand new combo to try, and the ease of using defrosted puff pastry really appealed to me. However, as I made it, it reminded me more and more of the baked eggs I’ve been baking the last few months, which involves very similar ingredients, minus the pastry and scrambling and whip up faster. The novelty also wore off quickly as I ended up timing it for a post-lunch snack, but me and my partner were still full from a delicious late lunch.
Likelihood of Repeat: 20%
I had to wait a day and reheat before I could finish a whole ramekin, and the whole thing really turned out to be very heavy on the pastry side, and it felt like most of the egg mixture disappeared. Adding some fresh tomato and basil made it feel renewed a little, but I will be looking for other methods to finish the leftover puff pastry in the freezer, probably something involving jam..
If I did try it again, I’d up the egg ratio, add tomatoes, and maybe roll out the pastry more so there’s less of it to balloon up and take over. This is definitely a carb-rich recipe.

Do you have other favorite combos for puff pastry? Let me know.

MiniQuicheCompetingSteakFrites
the competition in my stomach that made it there before the quiche: steak-frite lunch on spring mix salad.

Food-related Entertainment: the Intersection of Food & Pot News

Yes folks, perhaps you’ve heard about Washington State’s legalization of pot sales, or as I like to call it, the decriminalization of low-level pot possession. While I’m not a big proponent of use myself, I stumbled on an excuse to post about it here this week, as this is actually food-related:

Sweet pot dreams dashed for Capitol Hill cupcake mogul?

Welcome to government bureaucracy confusion, would-be pot business owners. Even the relatively successful owner of a local cupcake franchise in Seattle managed to file the wrong paperwork. I wait with bated breath to hear more as the new fun adventures in government pot administration, and corresponding business compliance unfold.