Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

food porn

Last night’s supper was a resounding success–salmon with braised greens and citrus vinaigrette, with steamed rice (mixed blend, predominantly japonica).

It was also amazingly simple. The hardest part was browning the cut-up bacon before braising the greens. And did I mention healthy?

Salmon with braised greens and citrus vinaigrette

Salmon with braised greens and citrus vinaigrette

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Yesterday was the big appointment to discuss the issues related to my slightly elevated blood sugar. I was tense and worried, of course — because I knew exactly what she was going to say and I just didn’t want to face it.

Gotta pay more attention to my diet. Gotta lose the rest of this weight, or at least a good chunk of it. 40-45 pounds over the course of 8-12 months, basically. That won’t get me down to svelte but it will be down into a healthier range.

It shouldn’t be that hard. I lost almost 40 pounds a few years back, to get down to this size. I know what needs to be done and how to do it. But somehow this time, it’s hitting me in my insecurities and fears, down in the places where eating has been a source of pleasure and comfort over the years. It’s social glue. It’s a way to give and share love. A beer after a good golf match, a hot dog at the ball game, a brown toasty turkey for Thanksgiving dinner with all the family around, a wine country tour. And they’re telling me that all this is the enemy? (Note I’m not talking about things like pigging out at a buffet or eating an entire carton of Ben and Jerry’s at midnight after a bad day. I’ve done that, and it has its role, but I mean the ordinary pleasures of sharing meals and enjoying tastes.)

Well, no, the food is not the enemy and eating is not the enemy. There are things I used to eat freely that I have to think about and plan for, or maybe avoid because they’re not worth it. As I get older, there will be more of those things. That’s okay, there are plenty of good things left. The world is full of wonderful foods and flavors.

It’s not about giving anything up. It’s about finding the things I know are good for me, that build up my health and enhance my life. I know what many of those are, but I’ll have more to discover. As I focus on health and fitness, the rest will come.

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I’ve been copying the family recipes to give to the kids (specifically middlest in CA, who we visited recently). Trying to copy them, I mean. If all I had to do was copy them, I could have taken it to Office Max and used the photocopier.

The trouble is, I don’t really cook from recipes, exactly. They’re more like guidelines, or suggestions. In some cases they’re archaeological remnants of a recipe that used to exist somewhere, back in the days before blenders and slow cookers and in some cases even before electricity, modified and then modified again for modern use. But was the recipe ever updated? Of course not. I know how to make it — the actual text on the card is more like notes for a performance than an actual recipe.

So for each dish, I have to look at the ingredients list and see whether it even lists the ingredients I usually use, in the amounts I use. Then figure out whether I make it the way the directions say. If there aren’t directions, what do I need to add to make it make sense for somebody who hasn’t cooked much before? And how much does it make, anyway? Oh, and I suppose I’d better mention what baking dish or kettle to use. And what substitutions you can make. And how long to cook it. I mean, “until done” probably isn’t obvious to somebody who hasn’t made a cake before. And what about the family history that goes with, say, my grandfather’s recipe for chili (that I think is really Basque baked beans) that he got from the other sheepherders back when he was herding sheep in Colorado?

I got more done than I expected to, but not nearly as many as I had hoped. And Steven now has the only existing copy of that chili recipe with the directions and the story.

And I now have significantly more respect for anybody who has gone to all the work to actually put together a decent cookbook, no matter how uninspired.

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life goes on

We were in Detroit for the weekend, visiting Neil’s mom. She has advanced Parkinson’s and has been gradually declining for some time. Last week the staff noticed she was limping; an x-ray revealed a broken hip in a place where it couldn’t have a cast. The pain has been bad and it looks like it’s more than her fragile body can take.

While we were there, she wasn’t eating or drinking more than a few swallows, and she didn’t know we were there. Previously, she might not have recognized it, but she enjoyed the visit. By the time we left, she was pretty much unresponsive. She’s in hospice care now. They think 3-5 days, but maybe sooner. We’re flying back out on Sunday.

She’s 92. She has advanced Parkinson’s. There wasn’t a lot for her to recover to, though I know she loved every day she lived. She’s just that kind of woman. *sniffle*

In an attempt to cheer myself up, I posted my pumpkin bread recipe on my food page:
https://bonniers.wordpress.com/the-food-page/bonnies-famous-pumpkin-bread-which-originally-came-from-columbia-gas-in-new-york/ I will be baking two loaves to take with us. Lillian loved it whenever I brought it for her. I’ll think of her whenever I eat it from now on.

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making vichyssoise

At the cooking school Tuesday night, Scott showed us how to make vichyssoise, veal cordon bleu, and a peach tart. I was there for the vichyssoise, which I’ve loved since the first time I had it years ago at Scott’s restaurant (Bullfinch’s in Sudbury MA, just down the road from us). Vichyssoise, for those of you who’ve never had it, is a creamy cold potato-and-leek soup. I assumed that it had loads of butter and rich cream sauce to give it that rich taste, but it turns out I’m wrong. It’s got a bit of cream in it, but mainly it’s potatoes, and leeks.

One largish Idaho potato and one big leek make enough soup for two or three servings.

Peel the potato (unless you want flecks of brown in your soup) and dice it. Put the diced potato in a saucepan, cover with vegetable or chicken stock, and cook while you wash and dice the leek.

Add the diced leek to the pot and let everything cook until tender. Scott recommended not adding salt and pepper until just before serving, because the seasonings in the stock are often enough.

Drain the potatoes and leeks, reserving the liquid. Cool slightly before dumping into a blender. Add some of the cooking liquid. Puree, adding more liquid as necessary. Keep whipping long after it’s smooth — this is the trick to making it really creamy. Scott added about 1/3 cup of sweet cream to make it a little richer; you could also use milk, skim milk, soy milk (unflavored), etc. I was thinking a dollop of nonfat plain yogurt might work well.

Vichyssoise is traditionally served cold, but it’s good hot as well.

You can dice and cook cauliflower or celeriac with the potatoes and leeks for a slightly different taste. Add herbs or spices — I’m thinking curry powder might be a nice variation? I’m also thinking about trying it as a low-fat base for chowder.

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I’m looking for bread recipes.

I’m particularly looking for whole grain (any kind) yeast bread that can be sliced fairly thinly for sandwiches and isn’t too crumbly, but any and all reliable old favorites or exotic specialties are welcome.

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Some days, like today, I find that just taking time to think about food, and plan it, and give it respectful consideration, helps me not crave things. It’s sort of like that goals thing where talking about a goal was as good as doing it, I guess. Psychologically, thinking about food, playing with recipes, planning a thoughtful meal all satisfy the need.

So today I typed in one of my favorite recipes on The Food Page: Chocolate Nut Chews, a no-bake cookie that has been a family staple for years, ever since my mother found the original recipe. I’m thinking it was on the back of a peanut butter jar, but it might have been in Ladies Home Journal. It’s wonderfully rich and chocolaty, almost like fudge — enough to satisfy the worst chocolate craving.

Go ahead. You know you want to 😀

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I am currently contemplating a recipe for Roast Pheasant with Champagne Cabbage and Noodles, from Sarah Leah Chase’s excellent Cold Weather Cooking.

Wondering where one might get pheasant at this time of year, if one is not oneself a hunter with several game birds frozen in one’s freezer.

Wondering whether it’s worth opening a bottle of champagne just to cook cabbage, a food that usually disagrees with me. By the time it’s done cooking, it looks like it will be closer to sauerkraut than to cabbage, but then it might also be a really stinky mess.

Mostly wondering whether it will work with chicken, or whether the flavors will overwhelm the more delicately flavored chicken meat.

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