Friday, March 29, 2013

More Moby Dick

Dear Turkey,

Here is another keeper of a quote from Moby Dick (click here if you're wondering what I'm talking about):

For, say they, when cruising in an empty ship, if you can get nothing better out of the world, get a good dinner out of it, at least. And this empties the decanter. (Chapter 101)

I couldn't agree more, Herman. I usually spend all afternoon thinking about dinner, and all night thinking about breakfast. And it doesn't have to be fancy. Grilled cheese on this week's bread that your husband made (with tons of butter -- just turn your head when he puts it on to remain ignorant of just how much he uses). The cheese wasn't even homemade. The pickle wasn't even homemade. Neither was the Cadbury Egg that I had for dessert, but it made my evening. 

Happy Passover (Jewish joke)
I moss you,

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fluffy Sandwich Bread

Dear Turkey,

In the past year, my parents' house has undergone a transformation from "my parents' house," where you bring your dirty laundry from college and ask for money, to "Grandma and Papa's house," where all kinds of magical things can happen (and you still ask for money). 

I loved sleeping at my grandparents' houses when I was little, and, like today, I especially loved breakfast. My mom's mom would make homemade bread with homemade jam and tons of butter. By the time I knew her, the jam was freezer jam and the bread was from frozen dough from the store, but it still tasted homemade. 

Well, Deceased Family Members, I hope you are proud and/or jealous of my homemade bread (and jam). I made sandwich loaves this week because we are going to have grilled cheese for dinner (I am ashamed). You will see that I pretty much used the exact same ingredients that I've been using lately for my hard-crust country loaves. But the different treatment of the dough yielded a totally different product/smell/burn on my hand that is now blistering. 

Light and Fluffy Sandwich Bread:
In a bowl, combine
1/3 c sourdough starter (optional)
2 c warm water
1 T yeast
1 T sugar
1 T salt
Enough flour to form a sticky but cohesive dough, probably about 3 or 4 or 5 cups

Knead with hands until a ball forms, about 3 minutes. Rise, covered, in a warm spot until the dough has at least doubled. Divide the dough into two well-oiled (I used olive oil because that was what was on the counter, but butter would obviously be good, too) loaf pans. Drizzle with plenty of oil (or butter) and salt. Rise again until at least doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown on top. 

You can see my parents' vintage Jenn-Air range that they have been saying they are going to get rid of for years. 
It's easier to let the loaves cool  before removing them from the pans.
But, if you are hungry, if you have to get home for baby bedtime, and if you have skills and a metal spatula, you can remove them and cool on a rack.

Well, Grandma (not you, Mom), I may not have seven kids, live on a farm, or have a birth-date before the widespread usage of antibiotics, but I can make a mean bread that makes my house smell just like yours.

I moss you,

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gain 4 lbs With Tofurkey

Dear Turkey,

Pretend you're me. You just had another stomach bug and lost 4 lbs. Your husband keeps telling you he can snap you like a chicken. You have three boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios that your mom got you from BJs. What do you do? 

Okay, okay, I'm not really asking you what YOU would do. It's just a little rhetorical device so that I can tell you about another one of my traditions: every Saturday I bleach my towels; every other Saturday I bleach my sheets. If I don't, I die: tradition. 

Oops, not that one -- bad fingers! This tradition really is something that I grew up with: Jewish guilt -- oh, stop, bad fingers! For real: one of my mom's friend's daughters "invented" this recipe for 4H when she was like 10 years old. If you don't know what 4H is, you are fired from my blog audience. I don't need you. 

Sometimes, children have infinite wisdom:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Bars:
In a pot, melt
1 c peanut butter (natural works just fine)
1/2 c all natural light Karo Syrup (joke)
4 T sugar
Turn off the heat and stir in 3 c cereal of your choice, except Grape Nuts.

Spread this into a big pyrex brownie pan. Don't bother washing the pot. Next, melt
2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c light Karo Syrup
4 T sugar
4 T butter
Do the same thing with 3 c of cereal. Cool and slice.

I am ashamed.

Take it from me, those 4 lbs will come right back.
Sometimes kids really are brilliant. I mean, chocolate, corn syrup, AND sugar...what else do you need? Oh, yeah, butter.

I moss you,

Saturday, March 23, 2013

It's Spring...In My Mind

Dear Turkey,

Traditions are important. For example, I just invented the family tradition of cinnamon rolls, and my mom promptly went out and bought a cinnamon roll pan. That's service.

However, some people might define my most treasured "traditions" as "quirks," or, perhaps, "neuroses." For example, every week, I clean the house. If I don't, I die: tradition.

Here is another one: we have long winters here. So, after about February 28th, I like to pretend that it's not winter. I stop wearing real coats and shiver inside my hoodies instead. I don't wear boots, and then I have wet socks all day. I don't scrape the ice off of my windshield, and then I run into -- never mind, Honey.

I do the same thing with food. Although we don't live in a food desert, we do live in a spring-affordable-produce-desert. In other words, my over-budget grocery bill of $106 last week yielded such a scanty number of grocery bags that I could bring them into the house from my un-scraped-off car in one trip. While holding my baby.

So, just like I pretend that I can wear a hoodie and no hat or gloves in a March snowstorm, I pretend that strawberries are in season, and that I'm not irreparably damaging our atmosphere by buying evil-non-local-produce-that-doesn't-even-taste-that-good.

But, at least in my neurotic brain that's frozen from not wearing hats, there isn't much that a little yogurt, granola, and honey can't make taste kinda like spring.

I moss you,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Those Lingering Pears

Dear Deb P.,

Since we are friends now, I'm going to be honest with you. This post will offend you. See, I took your beautiful Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake and Tofurkey-ified it. So you might just want to stop reading right now and go polish your beautiful countertops or something. 

I had the proverbial problem of the lingering pears:

You know what I mean. It's March. Nothing is in season except kale. You can't justify buying strawberries yet, but nothing is really good, not even grapes. You bought pears one more time, but they have been gassed into oblivion and they're just not exciting. Okay, people in Florida don't have this problem, but work with me here.

I remembered making a delicious chocolate pear cake from your blog, so I looked up the recipe. But then I made it easy. So easy you can make it before your baby crawls away, pulls himself up on your wood furniture, and starts eating the varnish. Almost.

Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake (I Am Ashamed Version) (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

In a bowl, combine:
1 stick butter, soft (butter a pie dish with some of it first)
1 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1/4 t salt
1 T baking powder
3 eggs from your friend who is going to give you more because you are running out (although even eggs aren't in season right now)

Okay, Deb, close your eyes for this part: stir everything until the butter is mostly broken up and incorporated. Don't over- mix (it's like you're pretending that you're making muffins or scones instead of cake). Smoosh the dough into a buttered pie dish.

Sprinkle with about 2/3 c bittersweet chocolate chips.

And then slice those pears right over the top. Don't peel them. Heck, don't even wash them; I don't care (but do take that sticker off, since, if you live where we do, you won't find any produce right now that doesn't come with a sticker). Don't even bother arranging them; your baby is running away.

375 degrees, 45 minutes.

You'll probably still like it even though I didn't cream anything, or even get out the mixer.

Mazel Tov,

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cinnamon Sticky Buns

Dear Mom,

Before you feel sad that I didn't use The Famous Family Heirloom Cinnamon Roll Recipe, let me just say that I am WAITING to do it with YOU for a Family Bonding Project. Plus, my husband had been talking for months about how, when he finally finished his diet, he wanted me to make these specific rolls to celebrate. So just sit back, relax, and enjoy this blog post while you fantasize about handing down the time-honored tradition of The Family Cinnamon Rolls.

Actually, these aren't really cinnamon rolls at all; they're cinnamon sticky buns. The dough is light and flaky, almost like a croissant, and I was surprised that it was so easy to make and handle. Even though they aren't really cinnamon rolls, they still made my house smell like the mall, in a good way.

Cinnamon Sticky Buns (adapted from The Bread Bible):

In a big bowl, combine
1/3 c sourdough starter (optional)
1 stick butter, soft
3 eggs
2 T sugar
1 T yeast
1 t salt
1 2/3 c flour

Knead with your hands until a ball forms and the butter is almost totally incorporated. Cover and rise in a warm place 30-60 minutes.

On a piece of wax paper, with plenty of flour on both sides of the dough, roll out into a rectangle, about the size of a big magazine. Then, pour one stick of melted butter over the rectangle. Sprinkle 6-8 T of sugar and 3-4 T of cinnamon over the butter. Roll the whole thing up into a log and chill it for at least 10 minutes (it was really that easy; plus, I learned my lesson about not skimping on the flour like I did last time).

  Then slice the log and place the slices in a buttered baking dish. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

In order to counterbalance the cinnamon sticky buns, we had a nice healthy dinner. We started with these tasty squash nuggets from Peas and Thank You.

These are a really fun and different way to eat squash. The serving suggestions on her recipe all sounded good, too.

Then we had wraps:

with big tortillas, spinach, arugula, cuke, red pepper, provolone, and Brianna's Poppyseed dressing -- a really good combo invented by my husband.

In conclusion, Mom, I am still looking forward to making The Famous Cinnamon Rolls with you, because you can see that they are, really, totally different (except for the butter, salt, sugar, and flour). You can pass on the timeworn traditions to me, after an invigorating bout of the timeworn traditions of shopping and lunch.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Yes, I Am Obsessed With Scones

Dear Turkey,

So I had some creme fraiche in my fridge, because we were going to make chipotle/cherry/creme fraiche waffles, but the creme fraiche was expired. Why do we keep buying creme fraiche and never making the waffles? It might have something to do with the fact that we don't have a waffle iron.

For someone obsessed with scones, the logical thing to do with creme fraiche is, well, you know. I looked online at some recipes, and most of the ones that didn't also call for heavy cream (since I didn't have that) were pretty similar.

Creme Fraiche Scones:
In a big giant bowl that you had to take away from your baby, because he loves bowls, combine:

2 c flour
1 c creme fraiche
1/4 c sour cream (or any amount of both "creams" to make 1 1/4 c)
1 T sugar
1 c mini chocolate chips
2 1/4 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

With your hands, knead just until a ball barely forms. Smoosh into a round disk about an inch high and bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until JUST starting to brown around the edges. Slice like a pie and serve.

That powdery stuff on top is the extra flour that I didn't knead in; I just dumped it on top. I think that it's better to work the dough less and have a little flour left over. It tastes good on there.

Remember how I told you that my favorite coffee shop makes really good scones? Well, I was there the other day and, I was right, their scones are better than mine. But they also cost like $3. For one. I think that I'm getting closer to their secret with the "solid" creams that I used here. Although butter makes scones flaky, it also makes them heavy, and soured creams make them a little tangy, unlike liquid cream.

I moss you,

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Oh Yes I Did...

...make empanadas with:

15 oz (one can) pumpkin
15 oz (one [smaller] can) sweetened condensed milk
Brought just to a boil and then cooled
With 1 c mini chocolate chips stirred in

Makes 10

Baby Pudding

Dear Turkey,

When we came home from the hospital with our beautiful baby, we also brought home four packages of Silk.  They were from that handy fridge in the maternity ward that is full of delicious free food. Well, that was almost a year ago, and I finally decided that I wasn't going to take them with me for an emergency-I'm-making-breastmilk-and-I'm-hungry snack after all, even though I had planned on it in my mind just about every time I left the house. They became part of the architecture of the fridge, which scared me, and they were about to (finally) expire. 

So I went on the Silk website (which has lots of tasty-looking recipes, actually), and found a recipe that called for a lot of Silk: chocolate pudding.  

Here they are, one final time; my fridge misses them.
Chocolate Pudding (adapted from
In a pot, combine:
1/3 c cocoa
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1/4 c cornstarch
3 c milk or non-dairy milk, chocolate or non-chocolate

Bring to a boil and then simmer, whisking frequently, until it starts to thicken, about 10-15 minutes. Then add 3 T butter and 1.5 t vanilla.

Put in beautiful wine glasses that the person who owned your house before you, who is a chef, left you in the cupboard. Chill until set.

I moss you,

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

More Empanadas!

Dear Turkey,

Yesterday was a special occasion: Empanadas Part Dos. Yes, I ate all of the other ones already. This time, little sister Veggie Nugget and I made enough filling for about 100 wrappers. We still made the old standby flavor, and we added two other flavors (I invented them yesterday morning while I was waiting for my oil change [I do some of my best thinking and writing at the car place]). 

As you know, when you make empanadas, you need to start with:

the obligatory ingredients picture.
The first filling:
Cut up three big sweet potatoes and drizzle them with plenty of oil and salt. Roast them at 450 degrees until very tender and starting to brown. Mash them up (with the skin) with one small bunch sage (minced), 16 oz sour cream, and about 1 c diced shallots and garlic sauteed in lots of oil and salt (I just cooked a bunch of it and then split it three ways for each filling).

Beautiful sage. You can see what a lazy mincer I am. 
 Second filling:

While you have the oven on, cube and roast 2 lbs of butternut squash (with plenty of salt and oil) until browning and very soft. Combine with about 2 c of cubed queso blanco, juice of one lemon, 3 regular-size cans of black beans (rinsed and drained), some more sauteed shallots and garlic, and several T cumin.

Stuff and bake on parchment on a stone at 375 degrees for about 20 mins -- until golden brown.
A note about the spinach filling: I simplified it this time and I liked it better. I also think that the spinach didn't get overcooked this way. After sauteing the shallots and garlic in plenty of oil and salt, I removed 2/3 of it for the other fillings. Then I added 2 lbs of frozen spinach, 24 oz cottage cheese, and the juice of one lemon. I just warmed it until the spinach was thawed. This filling was a little liquid-y, which made it harder to stuff, but it was worth it. 

My freezer is happy now. 
There are so many other kinds of empanadas that I want to try, like hash browns/eggs/salsa, and pear/nutella, but my freezer is full. My breast milk collection is feeling very cramped in there.

I moss you,

Monday, March 11, 2013

What I Ate for Dinner

Dear Turkey,

I am psychic.
Would you like to know what some people in my life are thinking right now?
Okay, here goes:

My baby: Breast milk, breast milk, breast milk.
Honey: What is she going to nag me about NOW?
My mom: Do I really have to make a casserole EVERY time I go to their house?
You: Wow, that lunch looked really good. I wonder what Tofurkey had for dinner last night.


Everybody's favorite bread, homemade strawberry jam from organic berries that we picked, stinky French cheese.

What I am thinking: Fat, salt, and sugar. What's not to love?

I moss you,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spring is Here!

Dear Turkey,

Now that Spring is here,

just kidding,
my mom made another one of her famous egg casseroles. It's recently become a tradition for her to make one after our weekly ten-mile run (Mom, are you reading this?). Sometimes she even brings one over to our house.
This time, she sauteed an onion and 4 cloves of garlic in some butter. Then she cooked some tiny red potatoes in butter and a little vegetable broth until they were barely tender. Then she wilted a pound of spinach (all of these can be done in the same pan, without washing). She mixed together 8 eggs, 1 c whole milk, 2 c Parm Reggiano cheese (secret ingredient), salt, pepper, the potatoes, onions/garlic, and spinach.
She put it in a buttered (can you tell this is the key word here) pyrex dish and baked it for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. At least that's what I think she did. I was running ten miles and making breast milk at the same time.

So I was good and hungry when I got back. 

Which is why I ate ALL of these pieces by myself.
And then, to celebrate Spring, I had a Cadbury Egg for dessert.

I moss you,

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Warning: This Post is NOT About Food

Dear Turkey,

If you were me yesterday or the day before, you would appreciate a warning on all of my other posts that said: Warning: This Post IS About Food, since looking at pictures of food was, for once, not my idea of fun.

Now that I'm all better (Dear rest of my family: I am SO sorry. On the bright side, at least we weren't all sick at the same time so I can do your laundry and stuff), I still want to tell you something. And, if you think about it, it is kind of about food, especially if you are me.

So there is this thing called Moby Dick Big Read. It's from a British university. Every day for 136 days, they released audio (along with artwork) of one chapter of Moby Dick (they're all done but the audio/artwork is still available). Some of the readers are famous (like the Prime Minister), and some are not. Their whole argument is that Moby Dick is the greatest American novel, but nobody reads it.

I read Moby Dick before, in college, and I loved it. But, listening to a few chapters a week while I pump breast milk at work, I REALLY love it. And, this is my new favorite part (you'll see why). If you really read it, I think it will surprise you, because Melville is so awesome, and he has surprised me tons of times:

But far beneath this wondrous world upon the surface, another and still stranger world met our eyes as we gazed over the side. For, suspended in those watery vaults, floated the forms of the nursing mothers of the whales, and those that by their enormous girth seemed shortly to become mothers. The lake, as I have hinted, was to a considerable depth exceedingly transparent; and as human infants while suckling will calmly and fixedly gaze away from the breast, as if leading two different lives at the time; and while yet drawing mortal nourishment, be still spiritually feasting upon some unearthly reminiscence;—even so did the young of these whales seem looking up towards us, but not at us, as if we were but a bit of Gulfweed in their new-born sight. Floating on their sides, the mothers also seemed quietly eyeing us. One of these little infants, that from certain queer tokens seemed hardly a day old, might have measured some fourteen feet in length, and some six feet in girth. He was a little frisky; though as yet his body seemed scarce yet recovered from that irksome position it had so lately occupied in the maternal reticule; where, tail to head, and all ready for the final spring, the unborn whale lies bent like a Tartar’s bow. The delicate side-fins, and the palms of his flukes, still freshly retained the plaited crumpled appearance of a baby’s ears newly arrived from foreign parts.

Listen to the whole chapter here.

Image Courtesy of Moby Dick Big Read: Scrimshaw 2012 by Jonny Hannah
And, really it is all about food in the end, even for Melville:

When by chance these precious parts in a nursing whale are cut by the hunter’s lance, the mother’s pouring milk and blood rivallingly discolor the sea for rods. The milk is very sweet and rich; it has been tasted by man; it might do well with strawberries.

I guess someone who wrote her MA thesis about Childbirth Motifs: Sacred and Profane would be into that.

I moss you,

Monday, March 4, 2013

What I ACTUALLY Ate Today

Dear Turkey,

I was going to tell you about the delicious meal that we made last night. Ahem. That my husband made: 

Spring rolls with bean threads, mint, cilantro, carrots, cuke, and peanut sauce.
My husband taught me something (I learn something from him, and my baby, every day, but I like to consider myself the Spring Roll Factory and I didn't know this): when you cook the bean threads, leave them in the pasta water in the pot while you make the spring rolls. Don't drain them unless you have leftovers to save in the fridge. They are so much easier to work with, and, most importantly, washing the pot is SO much easier. 
Another standby: slaw. Tofu, cabbage, radishes, rice vinegar, lime, sugar, salt, cumin. We call this Mexican Slaw because of the cumin. When we use chili oil we call it Asian Slaw. 
But actually what happened last night was that our baby was sick. And then I was sick. And I threw up. According to my grandmas, when you throw up you eat toast, or cream of wheat, and that's what I always ask for.
The usual Sunday Sourdough: 1/3 c starter, 2/3 c water, 1.5 c flour, 1 T salt, 1 t yeast. Cool rise. 475 degrees for 5 mins, 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Toasted and buttered by your husband.
Soy hot chocolate with cinnamon foamed by your husband. 
That will cure what ails you.

I moss you,