Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nachyo Averages Nachos

Dear Tofurkey,

Before I head of for the wilderness of a foreign land (because you know untamed Tokyo is...), I decided I must impart my nacho wisdom to you and all our adoring blog fans. These nachos alleviate ailments great and small. They cure loneliness, bolster spirits, and banish plague, leprosy, incontinence, impotence (these claims have not been evaluated by the FDA or any other agency and individual results may vary).

The secret to awesome nachos is to make the world's best sauces to go with them. Now, I cannot teach how to make the world's best guacamole. It's an innate spiritual thing. But I can give instructions, that with practice, will get you so close that the lay nacho-eater will probably not notice the difference.

Take a couple avocadoes and scoop them into a bowl. Add some very small dice red onion, at least the juice of one lime, lots of cilantro leaves, some diced jalapeno (fresh or pickled) and some salt and pepper. Mash it up. Taste it. If it's awesome, you're done. If it's not, dry your tears and add more of these ingredients until the balance = awesome.

I also made a tomatillo sauce for this that Angel and Jen couldn't stop raving about. In a baking dish, I put six halved tomatillos (sliced horizontally, not vertically), half a red onion, a serrano pepper, and a bulb of garlic. I roasted these forabout 30 minutes at 400. I added them to my awesome Vitamix blender (it will change your life [Vitamix, if you give one to Tofurkey, I bet we'll do whole posts about them and you'll make more money back in free advertising!]). I added a peeled lime, some cilantro leaves, some jalapenos, and some salt and pepper. Blend on high.

OK, but those are just the dressings. We also used some good red salsa and Greek yogurt in place sour cream. But come on! What about those awesome nachos, you ask? Well, as I explained, the sauces are half the battle and can be made ahead of time.

For the nachos, I put a couple bags of chips in the bottom of a baking dish. I try to use different color, organic chips made with different things. The two flavors and colors make the nachos beautiful and tasty. On top of this, I add ground beef or turkey cooked with seasoning. This, I know, will not be your thing, but I highly recommend it. You could substitute shrimp, maybe tofu (but I wouldn't; tofu is anti-nacho for me), or beans. I make my own seasoning which consists of lots of chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper with some cumin, oregano, and red pepper flakes. After the meat is cooked, I add a cup of water with this mix and a bit of potato starch. This works much better than the packets in the store and allows you to season however you like.

Once this has cooled and there's no liquid left, I put these on top of the chips. Then I sprinkle over it black beans and fajita onions and peppers. Now grate cheese (I like sharp cheddar but mixing cheeses is also good just take not: the awesomeness of nachos is in proportion to the amount of cheese) over top of this. Then sprinkle corn over this and put it in the over until the cheese melts. Pop the broiler on for just a bit if you like a crust.

When you take them out, they will look ready to eat but hold yourself back to add sliced olives. Use a spatula to put some on a plate and add fresh diced tomato and spinach or lettuce. Now add sauces and there you have it. Anti-sadness on a plate.

I tried to take a picture of the nachos still in a pan, but they are so good, I can't ever think of anything but eating them when they come out so I only have pictures of my plate and Angel's. If you're me, the chips in the pan are enough.

If you're Angel, and your boyfriend may not have preserved the crisp in every chip in the pan, you need extra chips, artfully arranged as gravestones in a nacho cemetery.

Use this recipe carefully. Side effects to anti-sadness, no-plague nachos may include weight gain and uncontrollable desire to make them again and again.


Husband Rocks Weeknight Indian (Food)

Thank you, Husband 

Dear Turkey,
The other night I was holding my baby and I absentmindedly told my husband to make something for dinner using red potatoes, naan (sometimes I make my own but this was from Wegmans), onions, cukes, and tomatoes. In other words, all of things that were going to go bad that needed to be used up. Usually, this is my area of expertise, and my husband's area of expertise is using just enough of something so that the dish is perfectly flavored...leaving random amounts of things in the fridge...hence my area of expertise. In fact, if I was a congressperson, I would definitely be on the House Appropriations Committee, because my area of expertise is doling out exactly the right amounts of everything (be it portions, cookies, bananas, or shampoo) so that everything that is supposed to be used up by the end of the week is used up in its entirety.
Anyway, in just a few minutes this is what my husband whipped up:
1. Naan: baked in the oven on a preheated stone at 400 degrees for three minutes.
2. Red potatoes and onions: diced, cooked in a hot cast-iron pan with a little oil, chipotle chili powder (the spicy kind), tumeric, cumin, salt, and pepper, until crusty brown.
3. Raita: plain fat-free yogurt with tomato, cilantro, and cuke cut up in it, with cumin and salt.
4. Tamrind chutney: tamrind paste, honey, minced ginger.
I piled all of it up on my naan and ate with with a fork and knife. So good.
I moss you,

Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Put Da Shrimp In Da Coconut

Dear Tofurkey,

Your tomato jam, pickles, caprese all look wonderful, more so than anything I have pictures of. I have not been diligent about writing in part because I have not been diligent about cooking, but when I have, we always forget to take pictures before we start eating so take that into account when looking at what I can offer.

I'm glad to read that you have at least a Mom CSA (picking your own is always more fun anyway). I know I really miss it when we can't go to the market (even though there's one almost every day of the week here and we just go to the Saturday one). If we weren't leaving for Japan on Friday (which is kind of overwhelming), I would get cucumbers at the market to make some of my own pickles. I LOVE homemade pickles and can vouch for the awesomeness of yours, some of which are still in my fridge because I ration them.

So what I have to show you is coconut shrimp. It's something I make when I don't know what else to make because it's fast and we usually have all the ingredients at home. It's a healthier, non-battered and non-fried version of what you'd get at a lot of restaurants these days. Sometimes I use chicken, but that is contraindicated for you. I would not recommend tofu though.

To make it, I use frozen raw shrimp that I defrost, devein, and peel. Then I mix a bunch of unsweetened, flaked coconut (which is tricky; sugar is everywhere, beware!) with some garlic powder, salt, maybe some chili pepper, coconut oil, and some honey (whose present is proportional to the awesomeness and inversely proportional to the health; make your choice). Then I crush up some garlic in it and warm it in the microwave and mix it all up. Then just put the shrimp in a pan and layer them with the mixture and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. If you like it crispy on top, you can broil them for a bit, but be careful or you won't have dinner!

Angel loves these. Next I will share nacho secrets. Stay tuned.

I moss you,

Friday, September 21, 2012


Dear Turkey,
As you know, we always plant a garden. Even during the summer of 2008 when we were in Wyoming with the Forest Service, we made my mom come over and water it (and boy was it amazing to see when we got back after two months...even in the middle of the night; we ran out to see it as soon as we arrived), much to her dismay (at least we paid her in canned  goods).
This summer, however, all we grew was eleven acres of grass that we paid our little neighbor to brush hog at the end of the season (don't ask me what the going rate is -- you don't want to know). Sad...but I guess you could say that we were concentrating our energies on growing something even more impressive. In fact, right now that impressive little person is 97th percentile for height and off the charts for weight.
Another sad thing: since we moved, we are far away from the regional market. However, I've been exploring some of our local markets (I especially like Hamilton).
To solve this problem, enter Mom, aka Grandma. She has a giant double-wide garden made out of telephone poles and magic dirt (if you've seen it you will know what I mean). She even has her own CSA. The cost: free. Members: us. Delivery times: whenever she tells us to go out there and pick some chard before the bugs get to it. So, finally, I know what it's like to have a giant box of arugula (my favorite - no problem)/kale/yellow pear tomatoes (she got those seeds by accident from the seed company)/"what are those called...heirloom beets?"/whatever else happens to be ripe. It's been really fun but I think my husband will be happy to take a break from kale, even if it is a super-vegetable.
Here is one of our last meals from the Mom CSA, at least for the summer harvest: caprese with lemon-basil and sliced cukes that escaped the pickling:

That blurry thing on the left is my husband's fork (he just couldn't wait)
I moss you,

Friday, September 14, 2012

Another Batch of Tomato Jam...With Bonuses!

Dear Turkey,
So I just had to make more tomato jam, because 30 jars was not enough! But I won't bore you with how I made it (NB: only boring people are bored). Instead, I will tell you what I did while it was cooking down (not including laundry or nursing my baby).
Bread. This isn't a very good picture because my bread was SO BIG it didn't even fit in the frame of my (crappy) phone. (NB: Dear Cell Phone Companies: this little blog would love to do a giveaway of free phones with really good cameras [as long as it was rigged].) Here's how I made it: I took 2c of warm (my mom says "wrist temp") water and mixed it with about half a capful of dry yeast and 1T sugar. Then I kneaded in flour (any kind will do, I used white) and 2T salt with my hand until a ball formed. I kneaded it for about two minutes right in the bowl, adding a little flour if it got sticky. Then I let it sit in the bowl uncovered, just like it was, until it rose visibly, about 1-2 hrs. I baked it on an un-pre-heated baking stone with parchment on it at 475 for 5 mins and then 450 for 30 mins, until it got all golden brown on top. I usually make smaller loaves, but sometimes the nice crack crust and drama (or melodrama) of a big loaf is just satisfying.
Then I switched my laundry and stirred my tomatoes...oh I wasn't going to talk about that...
Oh Yeah

Delcious Pickles

That My Mom Grew

From Cucumbers
There are lots of ways that I make pickles. Yesterday I sterilized the jars (always do that or my husband will be mad...I guess he doesn't think botulism is a good way to lose that nagging baby weight). Then I cut up the cukes and STUFFED them as tightly as I could into the jars, because they will shrink. However, there needs to be 1/8-inch of headspace in order for the lids to seal. Then I put about 1T of minced onion on top of the cukes in each jar. Then I heated up 32oz of distilled vinegar (only use Heinz -- shameless product endorsement -- giveaway opportunity -- I hope you are reading this, Heinz People -- I voted for John Kerry!), 32oz of water, a scant 1/2c pickling salt, about 3c of sugar, and a few tablespoons of: celery seed, mustard seed, corriander, and tumeric (if you don't have whole spices, ground will still taste good -- your water will just be a little cloudy). I brought it to a boil and tasted it to make sure that was how I wanted my pickles to taste. Then I used a ladle and a funnel to fill my jars (leaving the ubiquitious headspace), making sure the spices were evenly distributed..I counted them...just kidding, put on the tops, and processed them for 10 mins (the next day, make sure all jars are sealed, crank the lids down, and write the date on them with a sharpie).
Thank you for listening. This post was brought to you by the people who held my baby while I was being so productive.
I moss you,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tomato Jam

Dear Turkey,
Thank you for sharing our canning exploits for posterity. Here is my canning adventure from Saturday:
First, let me say that, if you have a baby, you need, in addition to people to help you can, people to hold your baby far away from all the boiling pots of splattering liquid. Luckily my mom's friend, upon the first drop of our delicious tomato jam touching her lips, offered her services. Yes, it is so good that even retired people will hold the world's most adorable baby for an afternoon in exchange for a few jars (it's bring your own jars, by the way).
We have been making tomato jam since 2008, and it's probably our most popular canned item. It's also the biggest production, since it sets up by cooking down instead of with pectin. That means several hours of boiling tomatoes (which also means that it really isn't worth sterilizing the jars until it's almost done, if you use a water bath, or your water bath will be boiling for many hours for no reason; in other words, wait until it's almost set up, them turn on the water bath and then do the jars right before you fill them). This recipe was inspired by Mark Bittman, although we've changed it quite a bit.
Here's what we did for a peck of tomatoes (8 qts. just picked from your garden [which if it's been a good year like this one will take five minutes] and washed):
1. Roast 3 sweet onions (peeled and sliced) and 3 heads of garlic (peeled) in a little olive oil at 425 until soft and a little golden (about 30 mins).
2 Combine that with 10 cups of sugar and 20 teaspoons of salt (can you tell we multiplied a smaller recipe?).
3. Add the tomatoes, quartered and cored.
4. Simmer, stirring, for as many hours as you can (it goes faster if you divide it in a few pots -- it took me about 3 hrs).
You will know it's done when it changes color to a nice dark red and gets sticky.
Then add chili oil to taste (usually about 1-2 tablespoons for each 6oz jar of finished product -- this recipe may yield 25-30 jars that size).
Fill sterilized jars leaving 1/8-1/4 inch headspace and process for 10 mins in a boiling water bath.
Since this is a canning project with oil, I wouldn't reprocess jars that don't seal; if that happens, just freeze that jar or eat it right away in the fridge.
This is how it looks when you first start cooking it

Then you can see everything starting to break down after an hour or so

Yay. One of my great pleasures in life: jars full of stuff that we grew
I moss you,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Millions of Peaches (Peaches for You)

Dear Tofurkey,

Well my world travel has brought me back home, finally and only for a time. Thank you for picking up the large amount of slack left in my absence. I endeavor to make it up and then some during my next bit of world travel. While I can't cook much in Japan, I think I could find some inspiring food pictures to send back.

From this trip, I return with pictures of us (surprise! OK well not for you, but maybe for our tiny public of adoring fans). Yes, Turkey and Tofurkey got to can together as part of the world travel. Other than that, I don't have much to offer since Canada is not exactly a culinary paradise.

These peaches looked delicious, even though they were seconds. As I'm allergic to peaches (no, that's real, even though you didn't believe me for years), I have been eating them this summer because they're just so delicious. I just wait until I'm ready to be uncomfortable for awhile.

This peach extravaganza and canning jubilee gave us the opportunity to teach Angel how to can and also let me refresh my memory. I don't know if I'd go out of the way to do it for myself, but maybe when I have my own garden I'd want to can my stuff. It's actually not that hard and pretty fun. Here's what I learned:

    1. Sterilize the jars (especially if you have a particular husband whose diet-angst makes him more particular)
    2. Peel peaches. This step is a bitch (excuse me even tinier tiny public but it's the best word for it). I think we can safely conclude that you DO NOT want to refrigerate your peaches before you peel them. If they are room temperature, you just boil them for half a minute and rub the skin off. If you refrigerate them, pray to God for the end to be near because this will not be easy
    3. Make a simple syrup flavored with whatever you like (vanilla beans works for us) and put the sliced peaches in a jar and cover with the syrup.
    4. Boil the jars so the lid gets sealed.
    5. Store and feel satisfied

I'm sorry that I can't offer anything I made while in Canada because I was just enjoying my time away. However, I believe I proved with this trip to Canada that I make the best nachos on the planet. As evidence, I cite my friend David, who lovingly permits relentless teasing of his persnicketiness. David, while a fully grown adult, does not like when you combine lots of foods together; a casserole is David kryptonite. In fact, he will sometimes look like a toddler in a restaurant as he separates the entrees and side dishes on his plate into distinctive regions. In short, Mexican food is hell to David. If you can still read through your tears (because I know that's a tragedy), read on. I did not take a picture of the nachos I made while in Canada, to which I subjected David, but shortly after, he asked for the recipe. I mean, wow, right? So, I will make nachos and takes pictures and share my nacho-making secrets (even though I am NACHO bitch {sorry again tinier tiny public}) so that you and all our public (tiny and tinier) can enjoy them. And maybe you can try them out and add your nacho-making suggestions and we will create Los Mas Supremos Nachos Para Siempre!!! It could be like that article on chocolate chip cookies in the New York Times, only less researched.

That's all for now,

P.S. Diets, while not bad, are sad for cooks. Chicken is not bad at all
P.P.S. I capitalize nouns, verbs, and all the important stuff, but do not capitalize prepositions and conjunctions. That said, I've never really known either.