Orange Blueberry Bread

Next week is Administrative Professionals Week. As much as that may seem like a cheesy Hallmark holiday, may I please encourage all you working folk out there to do something for your administrative staff? I’ve been an Executive Assistant for over 10 years, and it is behind-the-scenes-helping-others-look-good-organizational-planning-and-forecasting work I (usually) enjoy. However, it is, by and large, thankless work.

Just for a single appointment to “hold,” and for the executive to be prepared for it, requires several things to go seamlessly. Now imagine all that has to be done for a successful trip: airline reservations, car services, multiple appointments, restaurant and hotel reservations — all of this in cities that are sometimes unfamiliar to both assistant and executive.

Sadly … and I choose that descriptor intentionally … well-executed in-office meetings and out-of-town trips often go unnoticed and unrecognized. Attention is usually only brought to the assistant when mistakes are made or when things go awry.

So please take a moment before the end of the week to write a thank you note, get a gift card, do *something* to recognize the staff that keep you looking good and equipped with all you need. I assure you that a small gift for your administrative staff is money extremely well-spent. Good support staff are worth their weight in gold. “Thank you” and recognition go a lllllllooooooonnnnnnggggg way! 

Looking for ideas for something homemade? Perhaps you might bake a loaf of Orange Blueberry Bread to take to your office staff — or for anyone who deserves a “thank you” and a little recognition:

Orange Blueberry Bread

Yield: 2 loaves or 1 fluted Bundt® cake. Recipe can be halved to make just 1 loaf.

Preheat oven to 350-F.

  • 2 sticks (1 cup / 8 oz.) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Minced, grated or microplaned zest of 2 oranges (approx 2 Tablespoons)

Cream together in a large bowl — stir together, incorporating some air until light and fluffy. Can do by hand or use a mixer.

  • 4 eggs

Add one at a time to butter-sugar-zest mixture above, stirring well after each addition

In separate, smaller bowl combine:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

I don’t sift the flour, but stir these ingredients with a fork, to break-up lumps. I’m efficient like that — easier to wash a fork than a sifter. 🙂

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-zest-egg mixture. Stir only enough to combine. You don’t want to incorporate more air into the mixture at this point, as you will begin to develop the gluten-strands from the flour, which will result in a tough bread versus a tender one. 

  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup sour cream + 1/2 cup low fat milk; or 1 cup low fat milk; or 1 cup whey that you have leftover from making homemade Greek Yogurt from last week’s post; or any combination of these liquids. Adding something sour like sour cream or buttermilk or whey will give the bread another dimension of flavor. I like how sour helps balance out sweet … all about the balance in life!)

Stir half of the liquid into your batter. Stir only enough to combine.

Add other half of dry ingredients, stirring only enough to combine. Finish with other half of your liquid, stirring only enough to combine.

  • 1/4 cup orange juice — squeeze the oranges you zested (above) or use store-bought juice

Stir into batter, and reserve the rest of the freshly squeezed juice for glaze (below).

  • 2 cups frozen blueberries (or fresh). If using frozen, do not thaw — add frozen. I picked mine last summer and am VERY excited to get out and pick more in just a couple months!

Stir berries into batter.

Line 2 loaf pans with parchment paper (or grease and flour the pans, or grease and flour 1 Bundt® pan). Distribute batter into pan(s).

Bake in a 350-F oven for 60-70 minutes. Insert wooden toothpick or skewer to test for a moist crumb (versus liquid batter). Loaves should also be slightly browned and pulling away from edges of pan.

Allow to cool about 15 minutes before removing from pan(s).

Glaze:

While loaves are cooling, pour remaining juice from the 2 oranges you zested into a small pan. If using store-bought juice, add 1/2 cup juice to a small pan. Add 1 Tablespoon sugar. Simmer on low, until volume of liquid is reduced by half. You should have a lovely medium-thick syrup after about 10 minutes.

While loaves (or Bundt® cake) are still warm, brush with glaze. Slice and enjoy warm. Or later, once cooled. I betcha you guessed — these freeze and thaw beautifully, so make 2 loaves … one for now and one for another time.

As the tagline says: Make a lot. Freeze some. Now go play!

Mr. Batch and I have been burning the candle at both ends recently — all good stuff though. Hover over the images below to reveal the captions. His first PhD student has successfully defended her thesis, and we couldn’t be more proud!

I attended the Easter service at Third Presbyterian Church, where my parents sang in the choir over 40 years ago when they completed their grad studies here in Rochester. That afternoon, we joined friends for an Easter dinner together. Coconut cake recipe forthcoming.

And we’ve undertaken a huge plumbing project to replace the galvanized steel pipes in one of the bathrooms of our almost-100-year-old house. Galvanized steel rusts from the inside out, which meant water couldn’t get through the pipes and into the sink for running water, nor could it get out to drain away. Luckily the plumbers were able to go through the ceiling and one wall (versus busting up a beautiful tile floor in the bathroom), but there is dust EVERYWHERE and our kitchen is fairly useless. Cold cuts, grapes and raw veggies, anyone? 😜

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Greek Yogurt

A few weeks ago I traveled back to my home state of North Carolina to join my brother and visit our parents for a week. Prior to heading to Wilmington, NC where I grew up and where my parents still live … in the same house they bought in 1976! … I spent a day in Charlotte and Raleigh, reuniting with friends who I hadn’t seen in many, many years. I got to visit and catch-up with a childhood friend who I’ve known since we were 5 but hadn’t seen for over 11 years! I laughed and told stories with a former co-worker who I hadn’t hugged since I moved to California in 2004!  Spending time with my family was just great. My brother and I are making efforts to visit, together, more frequently.

As I age, I cherish more deeply time spent with loved ones and people who I care for. Time … so precious … and, as I approach mid-life, I realize …  so limited.

I’ve had difficulty trying to put into words how wonderful and meaningful this entire visit was — hence, my delay in publishing this post. Maybe my feelings were influenced by the 70-degree days, filled with sunshine, which were so welcomed after the wind storm and blizzard we’d had in Rochester just a week before my visit. Perhaps it was the dogwoods blooming, with their delicate white blossoms buoyed up by the breezes, peeping over pink azaleas, and in between the longleaf pine trees. Possibly it was the reunion with one of my favorite college friends, who epitomizes  Southern hospitality … gracious and kind, who has a charming heart of gold and is one the BEST storytellers I have ever known. I was swept right back to the our days sitting in our dorm rooms, talking and talking and talking some more. Undeniably, it was the food … drool at the pictures below from an oyster roast I attended while visiting. Not pictured is the lunch from one of my brother’s and my favorite hometown restaurants — thankfully still open, and in its original location, to boot! Heart-warmingly, it was the haircut and visit with the woman who has been cutting my hair since I was 13.  Now a member of the family. So much love there.

Oh … for the gift of more time to be able to visit with so many more people. Hometown friends who I didn’t know well in grade school and high school, but who I’ve grown to love via their Facebook posts and our exchanges. My friend who I met in Raleigh, but who has thankfully since moved to Wilmington and who I usually meet at “our coffee shop” during each of my visits. Our usual cuppa and gab session wasn’t in the cards for this trip.

I have returned to Rochester with a very full heart. Yet, at the same time an ache for my Southern roots. A longing for North Carolina and my people, and the food, and the Southern ways. Since I’ve been back, the Indigo Girls song “Southland in the Springtime” has been on my mind and frequently in my humming. If you don’t know it, have a listen. I’ll close with these lyrics from the song, some pictures (hover over the images to reveal captions), and a recipe for homemade Greek Yogurt (below):

And there’s something bout the Southland in the springtime
Where the waters flow with confidence and reason
Though I miss her when I’m gone it won’t ever be too long
‘Til I’m home again to spend my favorite season

When God made me born a Yankee He was teasin’
There’s no place like home and none more pleasin’
Than the Southland in the springtime

In Georgia nights are softer than a whisper
Beneath a quilt somebody’s mother made by hand
With the farmland like a tapestry passed down through generations
And the peach trees stitched across the land

There’ll be cider up near Helen off the roadside
And boiled peanuts in a bag to warm your fingers
And the smoke from the chimney meets its maker in the sky
With a song that winter wrote whose melody lingers.

Oyster Roast:

And it wouldn’t be a Southern get-together without a table of desserts a mile long!

Visit with friends/former co-workers:

Wilmington is known as the City of a Million Azaleas!

Mr. Batch didn’t join me on this trip, but he sent the winning caption for the early Easter dinner: “Looks delicious! And quaint, what with the rabbits, eggs and flip phone!”

Speaking of Mr. Batch, that guy loves yogurt! I’ve started making homemade yogurt, after I read about this technique. One time, I strained a batch through coffee filters, to remove the whey and make Greek Yogurt. Mr. Batch liked it so much, that he bought this nifty strainer, and now making Greek Yogurt really couldn’t be more simple!  Stay tuned for recipes I’m developing to use the whey!

Greek Yogurt:

Turn on oven to lowest temperature and turn on light. Remove rack, so that only lowest rack is in oven and there is space for a stock/soup pot.

  • 6 Tablespoons of Plain Greek Yogurt with live, active cultures

Set-out on counter to come to room temperature while you prep milk

  • 2 quarts milk — I use organic, fat free milk (and my yogurt culture is also from fat free Greek Yogurt)

Heat milk gently, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching, until temperature of 180-F is reached. I use a candy thermometer that clamps to the side of my pot, but you could use an immersible instant-read thermometer, too.

Once milk reaches 180-F, immerse pot into ice bath to cool milk. **Turn off oven, and keep light on.**

The pot of hot milk is so hot that it will melt all of the ice and heat-up the water in your ice bath pretty quickly, so I usually change the water in the ice bath at least once, and add more ice. I stir the milk with the rubber spatula as it cools. What I’m trying to avoid is the “skin” of cooked milk on the bottom of the pot.

Once milk cools to 110-F, remove from ice bath. Stir a ladle-full of 110-F milk into your 6 Tablespoons of Plain Greek Yogurt with live, active cultures that you have set-out on the counter to come to room temperature. Try to stir it as little as possible while incorporating the milk. Add 1 or two more ladles-full of 110-F milk until you have a very thick “yogurt-soup.”

Stir that “yogurt-soup” into your pot of 110-F milk and stir briefly to distribute throughout the batch of milk. Try to stir as little as necessary. Then cover the pot and put into the still-slightly-warm oven, and place covered pot as close to the oven light as you can (see below).

Shut oven door and do not open for at least 6 hours. The oven light provides enough heat to incubate the yogurt. I let my yogurt incubate for up to 8-9 hours. When I remove it from oven, I have pot full of thick yogurt:

To make Greek Yogurt, gently add it by the ladle-full to this fine-mesh strainer and then put in refrigerator for 4-8 hours. The duration of the time you strain it determines how much whey you strain out … and, thus, how thick your final yogurt is:

(below) Strained yogurt — thick Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt. With the whey reserved on the side. **Before you consume all of this delicious homemade yogurt, reserve another 6 Tablespoons into a container and store in the fridge for your next batch!**

I Googled what can be done with whey and came up with this list. It tastes like buttermilk to me, so I’m currently developing recipes that use whey in place of buttermilk, milk or sour cream. Mr. Batch says that cookbook ought to be called, “Yes, Whey!” 🙂  Stay tuned for Orange Blueberry Bread, where I used whey instead of buttermilk/sour cream! Sooooo tasty!

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Black Bean-Brown Rice Veggie Loaf

I have recently started listening to podcasts while I cook each week. As I mentioned before, I am a slow adopter to technology, and have been pleasantly surprised at how simple it is to download a podcast to my phone, pop my phone into my pocket, pop my earbuds into my ears, and cook away while getting edu-muh-cated. So I’ve recently been listening to several episodes of the TED Radio Hour during my Sunday cook-up.

Since cooking is such a sensory experience — taste, smell, vision, and even hearing (sizzling butter, for example) — I thought The Five Senses sounded appealing. The blurb about the episode summarized: “… TED speakers explore how our brains make sense of sensation, and how our minds manufacture ‘reality.'”  I was particularly captivated by the segment “How Can Going Blind Give You Vision” by Isaac Lidsky, who gradually went blind at 25 due to a genetic disease that caused the cells in his retina to die-off. Here is an excerpt of his talk that I found especially insightful:

… What we see is not universal truth. It is not objective reality. What we see is a unique, personal, virtual reality that is masterfully constructed by our brain. … Sight is an illusion. For instance, a landmark appears farther away if you’re wearing a heavy backpack. … You create your own reality and you believe it. … Sight is just one way we shape our reality. We create our own realities in many other ways.

Let’s take fear as just one example. Your fears distort your reality. Psychologists have a great term for it: “awful-izing.” Fear replaces the unknown with the awful. … [Since I began confronting my fears], whenever I feel afraid, I ask myself, “What precisely is my problem? And what precisely can I do about it?”

… Going blind taught me to see. It’s a learned discipline. Choose what reality you want to live for yourself. Hold yourself accountable for every moment, thought, detail. See beyond your fears — they are your excuses, rationalizations, shortcuts, justifications. Your surrender. Choose to see through them. Choose to let them go. *You* are the creator of your reality. With that empowerment, comes great responsibility.

He concludes his talk by describing the reality he chose to build — rather than a life that was ruined by going blind, he “built a blessed life.” He describes how going blind helped him learn to see. And finished with Helen Keller’s quote, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.”

As I listened, I reflected on times in my life I have felt fear. I’m not sure when I became so afraid of failing that I wouldn’t attempt anything new, but this fear presented itself frequently during my years in culinary school, and it was almost paralyzing for me. If I didn’t know how to do something (and there was a LOT I didn’t know how to do), I would convince myself I couldn’t, and would call for rescue before making any attempts. I’ll never forget the night in 2nd Year Dinners when I looked at the “to do” list I had been assigned, and hearing the familiar voices of doubt telling me, “You’ll never finish all of that.” Surprisingly, a new, little tiny voice peeped up and encouraged, “Why don’t you just try?” So I did. And what do you know, I finished the “to do” list. I overcame fear that night … and in the coming shifts throughout my career as a chef … and found a new reality of “I’m capable.”

I won’t lie — to this day, I still feel the initial hesitations of fear when starting unfamiliar tasks. I usually start my “to do” list with the things I don’t want to do (which are usually because I don’t know how). I find that I have the most energy at the beginning of the day, so I schedule the things I don’t want to do at the beginning, and I always hear that same little voice encourage, “OK … let’s just try to get this done and see what happens.” Once I start, I almost always finish the tasks, and they are almost never as hard as I fear they might be.  I think that’s why I resonated with the podcast — especially the “awful-izing” and the distortion to reality that fear can cause.

I recently read an article describing seven things people do who are effective at getting tasks accomplished.  The first tip is to start your day by “eating a frog.”  The article went on to explain the origin of the phrase: “Mark Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. Your frog is your worst task, and you should do it first thing in the morning.”

I never thought of it from that perspective, but that works as a motivator, too.  Speaking of eating … this week, rather than making veggie burgers, I tried a veggie loaf for Mr. Batch. Not too different from Black Bean-Brown Rice Veggie Burgers … just shaped and baked differently:

Black Bean-Brown Rice Veggie Loaf

6 portions

Cook the brown rice:

  • 1 cup brown basmati rice, rinsed
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup salsa — I used Trader Joe’s brand “Salsa Autentica”

In 2-quart (or larger) high-sided pot, bring water, salt and salsa to a boil and add rinsed rice. Bring back to a boil, then down to a low simmer and cover pot.  Cook for 35 – 40 minutes. Taste-test for tenderness at end of cooking time — may need another 5 minutes of cooking.

Once tender, pull off heat but leave pot covered for 10 minutes. Then remove cover and fluff with a fork. Allow rice to cool.

Make the veggie loaf:

Preheat oven to 350-F

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup salsa — I used Trader Joe’s brand “Salsa Autentica”

Mix together beans and salsa in a large bowl. Push off to one side. Add cooled cooked brown rice.

  • 1 cup corn kernels (I used frozen corn kernels that I thawed, but you could use drained, canned corn)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stir ingredients together and taste — for seasoning of salt & pepper, as well as for salsa. If so desired, adding remaining 1/2 cup of Trader Joe’s brand “Salsa Autentica” so that you use-up the entire jar.

  • 2/3 cup coconut flour (if you are not eating gluten-free, you could substitute all-purpose flour)
  • 2 eggs

Add ingredients above to rice-bean-corn mixture in large bowl and stir to combine.

Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, and press rice-bean-corn mixture to distribute evenly in pan. Bake at 350-F for 30-45 minutes. Loaf should be slightly browned and puffed just a bit.

I cut this into 6 portions, and served with a slice of ultra-thin sliced cheese on top, and slices of avocado and sliced green onions — and steamed brussels sprouts, carrots, and a bit more corn on the side. I froze one portion, and will let you know if it holds-up to freezing and thawing alright:

As the tagline says, “Make a lot. Freeze some. Now go play!”

We’re still hibernating a bit as Winter clings on, and Mr. Batch is teaching this semester which keeps him extremely busy. So I don’t have a lot of playing to report. But this week, I started a different type of volunteering with a nationwide program called Cooking Matters, which is administered locally by our regional food bank Foodlink. For six weeks, my team and I will go to a classroom of 3rd graders to teach them healthy recipes and cooking skills. I was a little leary of how to interact with kids since I am not a mother and don’t have a lot of experience with kids. I’m pleased to report it was a GREAT experience, and I look forward to coming weeks:

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Almond Thumbprint Cookies with Sour Cherries

Rochester got hit by Blizzard Stella this week — dumping 26.7″ — the third worst snowstorm in recorded history. Mr. Batch and I are the unusual Rochesterians who like snow and Winter. Probably because we’ve only been through five of them! We still think snow is pretty, love the change of seasons and the hibernation that cold weather brings, and don’t mind shoveling … forces us to exercise when the weather inspires otherwise.

Before moving here, we got fantastic advice: Embrace the Winter. Don’t resent it. Pick a sport or activity and get out into it. Though we haven’t found that activity yet, we LOVE walking around different parts of the city to see how they look covered in snow: up to Highland Park and through Mt. Hope Cemetery, to name a few:

I grew up on the most southern coastal tip of North Carolina where we frequently wore shorts on Christmas. I’ll always remember the first time walking through Ellison Park here in Rochester, and finally understanding the lyrics to the Christmas carols I grew up singing: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and “Marshmallow World.”

And just when I was reveling in all of the beauty and replaying holiday songs in my head with new comprehension … in the distance I heard jingling. ***Sleigh bells!!!*** I turned over my shoulder, and there was a horse-drawn sleigh coming toward us!!!!  So that’s what sleigh bells sound like, and that’s how a sleigh glides along in the snow!!!

Through our years here in Rochester, Mr. Batch and I have had opportunity to go out on frozen lakes, which has been another mind-blowing event for this Southern girl. I’ll never forget standing out on frozen Lake Placid in the Adirondacks and thinking “I’m standing on water!  We’re walking on water!” (hover over images to reveal captions)

And then there was the year when temps hovered for a month below zero, and our friends Lynne & Allen invited us to walk on frozen Irondequoit Bay with them. It was just uhhh-mazing to li’l ol’ me:

Possibly one of my favorite parts of the snow in Rochester, is that the city plows the sidewalks! Not only is it a fantastic service (thank you, tax dollars at work!) but watching the workers clear the sidewalks is always fun! Our favorites are the steam-punk looking tractors:

This tiny truck, which seems more like it brushes and then throws the snow out of the way, is also fun:

To this day, I get excited when I hear the prediction of snow. It’s almost a visceral response, that I equate to having grown-up in an area where snow is SO rare. I remember once in 2nd grade, a fellow classmate yelling out “It’s SNOWING!” And all 30 of us audibly gasping and running to the window to gawk in wonder. This mysterious, frozen precipitation swirling out of the sky that we’d heard about, but rarely experienced.

One of my closest friends is a New Englander, Erika, and she feels the same way about snow as I do, which I think is promising that even she still likes it. She gave me valuable advice when we first moved here of what snow boots to buy, long underwear, water-proof gloves for shoveling, mini-shovel and other items to keep in the car in case we got plowed-in or stuck, etc. After she saw how well I “took” to snow, she surmised, “I always knew you were a misplaced Yankee!”  So true!  😉

With all of this said, even *I* am looking forward to Spring and Summer. I am getting excited to get out and pick fruit in the nearby orchards. And to preserve and freeze the produce from the nearby farm-stands and farmers’ markets. Opening bags of frozen raspberries and slices of peaches and smelling their intoxicating perfume (even when they’re frozen!), brings me *right* back to the summer months. So I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been doing with what I “put away” last year.

For breakfasts, I’ve been enjoying my “frittata”, made with G&S Farmstand broccoli that I blanched and then froze, and pesto that I made from the Lovely Lisa’s basil from her garden, and served with a Slow-Roasted Tomato half (also made with tomatoes and herbs from her garden):

Kevin West’s Sour Cherry Preserves, made with cherries I picked at G&S Orchards, shaped into a heart (awww) and sent on a pancake with Mr. Batch to work on Valentine’s Day:

A lovely salad made with yellow wax beans from the Rochester Public Market, pickled into Kevin West’s Dilly Beans — added to chopped red cabbage, tomato, green onion and cucumber. We poured just the brine over the salad and it was scrumptious — no oil (low fat!!!) needed:

And on the day of Blizzard Stella, I thought it was time to rectify the cookies I’d made that spread so unexpectedly:

I’m pleased to now present a workable recipe for Almond Thumbprint Cookies with Sour Cherries:

Yield: 36 cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar

Stir ingredients together in a large bowl and beat air into the mixture to make it light and fluffy. You can do this by hand or with a mixer.

  • 2 egg yolks (egg whites reserved, in a separate bowl)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons almond extract

Add to butter-sugar mix and beat until light and fluffy

In a separate bowl, combine the following dry ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almond meal (I buy this at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Add dry ingredients slowly to butter-sugar-egg mixture, stirring only enough to combine (don’t incorporate more air into mixture at this point).  Cookie dough will be stiff. Roll into walnut-sized balls.

  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds, fine-chopped by hand or in food processor

Dip cookie ball into egg white and then roll in chopped toasted almonds. Space about 2″ apart on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350-F for 15 minutes, rotating pan half-way through baking, to ensure even baking in case your oven has hot spots. Lift a cookie to check for doneness — if cookies are not golden-brown on bottom, might bake for another 5 minutes.

Once cookies are out of oven, press the back of a spoon or small scoop into each mound, to make indention. Then, once cookies are cool, fill with sour cherry preserves or other favorite jam … or even lemon curd. Yum!

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Moroccan Meatloaf

My word for 2017 is “redesign.” Though this is hardly a new activity for me.  You may remember I wrote a “Reflection” devoted to how I’ve redesigned myself through several careers, picking up fantastic skills with each job, that my next employer has always benefited from.  I started changing careers back in the mid-90s before it was professionally acceptable. Consequently, through my years of interviewing, I’ve gotten a LOT of questions and criticism about switching jobs, and have even been labeled by a family member as “never satisfied.”  Sometimes my insecurities get the better of me, and I buy-in to those judgments. But on my best days, I don’t look at myself or my decisions through their lens. I prefer to think of myself as ever-evolving. Narrowing-in on what it is that makes my heart sing. My friend Cassie calls me “adventurous.” And I really like that version of my story! Curious. Willing. Open to trying something new, to see if it fits.

Earlier this year, I mentioned that I’m redesigning myself into a freelance grant writer.  I’ve fallen so in love with telling my stories here on BatchBitch.com, that I’m trying to make a “go” of telling more stories. Grant writing is all about story-telling … conveying the stories of nonprofit organizations to funders, to see if the missions of the nonprofits match the priorities of the funders. Grant writers are matchmakers, of sorts. Thus far, I like that aspect.  Trying to write a compelling story of why the funder ought to find the nonprofit attractive. And researching evidence to make the story even more intriguing.

It’s not without its struggles, though. Writing, and the creative process, has very high highs, and very low lows and the voices of my insecurities have been a bit louder these past few months than I’ve experienced in awhile. And nonprofit organizations don’t always have sustainable programs, which means that no matter how compelling the story, they aren’t always going to get funding.  Resulting in rejection, which can be a tough pill to swallow and has led me to question myself and my redesign.

And then along comes my friend Lynne, to encourage me to not to feel like I have to make a permanent decision. To approach grant writing and other professional endeavors with a sense of exploration, to see what they’re like and to see if I enjoy them.   Come to think of it, she, too, uses the word “adventure.”  And so does my friend Stacey, and my friends Rachel, Gloria and Erika.

I was reflecting on all of this as I cooked for our little family this week. Redesigning. Adventure. Exploring and trying something to see if it will work. And I’m pleased to report the results below with my recipe for Moroccan Meatloaf. I’m MORE pleased to be able to publicly thank my friends for their support. And validation. Bless the validation and encouragement of friends!  (To bring you a giggle, read this article about friends and validation.)

But back to cooking and recipes … If you haven’t tried it yet, wait no longer and make a batch of Smitten Kitchen‘s Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint. It is DELICIOUS and you will want to eat the entire batch:

I made it for our Veggie Snacks one week, and Mr. Batch and I liked it so much, that I redesigned it a bit, and incorporated it into this recipe:

Moroccan Meatloaf — a redesign of Smitten Kitchen‘s Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint

Serves 5

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat and add garlic and spices. Stir frequently and cook for about 3 minutes, until you begin to smell the seeds and spice toasting. Give thanks for your nose and sense of smell. 🙂

  • 3/4 teaspoon harissa (I bought mine at Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Add harissa and lemon juice to pan, and stir to combine. Cook for about 1 minute more on low heat, stirring frequently.

  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and grated on a box grater (or in a food processor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Add to saute pan, stir to combine, and cook on low for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. You want the carrots to expel their natural water content, so as not to make the meatloaf “water-y” as it cooks.

Allow cooked carrot-mixture to cool.

  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • One 6-oz. container of crumbled feta
  • 1 pound of ground beef (or ground lamb, or a combination of the two)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • several grind of freshly cracked pepper

Combine these ingredients in a large bowl, and add cooked carrot-mixture. Shape into a meatloaf and bake at 350-F for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut into meatloaf to make sure it is cooked throughout.

I ate this with boiled potatoes, roasted baby zucchini, roasted onions and steamed broccolini.  I kept 2 portions of the meatloaf refrigerated, and then froze the other 3 portions to thaw as I was ready for them:

 

To keep the dish vegetarian, you don’t need to cook the carrots, but you certainly could. I cooked 1/2 cup of dry quinoa and 3/4 cup brown rice, separately. Then combined the cooked grains, and added the rest of the ingredients above (minus the meat, of course) and got five very generous 1-cup portions for Mr. Batch’s lunches this week:

 

If you leave the feta out of each version, they become #dairy-free, and the meatloaf becomes #paleo.

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Lamb Biryani Meatballs

I’ve been learning new-to-me software recently: SalesForceIQ (formerly RelateIQ), Asana, Slack, Box and Dropbox. All powerful and fascinating for this Gen X-er, who also happens to be a slow-adopter (quit snickering, Mr. Batch!) All of it makes it possible for me to do Virtual Assistant work for a company based in San Francisco, which has been a wonderful addition since mid-February. So far, it’s part-time and short-term — I’ve got my fingers crossed that it might last awhile.  Interesting stuff having to do with digital currency and blockchain technology.

As I experience how effective and efficient this software helps me to be, I continue to marvel at it all … the interwebs … and how much I use internet technology in work and life. I was just giving thanks for FaceBook, Instagram and texting for their help facilitating connections. And thinking back on my years with computers.  My family was among the first, at least in our hometown, who bought a personal computer back in the 70s.  Like good frugal parents (see last post), they bought an Apple II Plus during a visit to see my grandmother in Delaware, a state with no sales tax. I didn’t “take” to it much, but my brother and father had hours and hours of fun programming it and playing command-driven “Adventure” games.  Those games offered NO graphics!  Hard to imagine/remember, isn’t it?

When I was a Senior in high school, I took a Computer Math class from a fantastic … that can’t be emphasized enough … FANTASTIC teacher. He patiently taught us to write programs to solve math problems on TRS80 computers. I think the language we used was called “Basic.” I loved that class, with its logical, sequential process documenting cause and effect. He taught us “If-Then” statements.  Such as, “If X = 5, then go to Line 10.” Those were seminal in shaping how I continue to organize and plan — both in work and personal life — to this day.

Like many, I felt insecure in high school … as if I didn’t really “fit in.” Sometimes I still feel that way, but that’s a blog post for another time … hahaha! I remember my Computer Math teacher saying to me once, “You know, when I give assignments, I receive 25 of the same answers, with the program laid-out in the exact same order. And then I get yours.  You get to the same answer, but you always write a different program, in a different order, than the rest.”  At the time, what I heard him confirming were my fears: “You’re weird.”

It wasn’t until years later when I was under the tutelage of my mentor that I told her this story, and she very kindly remarked, “No!  He wasn’t saying that at all!  He was saying ‘You’re creative!'” Ah!  What a relief to have a new framework for this story! And what a gift she was (and is!) for so many reasons, including that she was a *model* for creativity. She taught me to look at recipes and tweak them here and there … make substitutions … figure out where rules could be broken … or at least bent.  It is with this model that I post a reprise of my Lamb Biryani meatballs.

And I do so, using WordPress software, that I’ll use to post over the internet. How cool!

Lamb Biryani Meatballs

Yield: 34 – 38 meatballs

The herb-spice flavorings in this recipe were inspired by Food & Wine magazine’s recent recipe for Hyderabadi Lamb Biryani.

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 pound ground beef
    • you could certainly use 2 pounds of ground lamb, or 2 pounds of ground beef. This is what I had on-hand from our local farm that offers pesticide/fertilizer/hormone-free, pasture-raised meats, Aberdeen Hill.
  • grated & chopped zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 of the lemon (approximately 2 Tablespoons)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 20 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • leaves from 3 sprigs of mint (approximately 8 leaves), chopped
  • leaves from 20 stems of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • two inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled, grated & chopped
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large yellow onion, fine-diced
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

IMG_4694
Ingredients for Lamb Biryani Meatballs

In small pan, heat a tiny bit of oil and add a smidge of the mixture. Cook all the way through, and then eat, to taste for salt- and spice-content. If you would like these to be a bit more seasoned or a bit spicier, add another 1/2 teaspoon of salt or another 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, and re-test and taste.  Adjust all seasonings to your liking.

Roll into large walnut-size meatballs and place on large, parchment-lined baking sheet.  I used the parchment to keep them from sticking to the pan, and for easier clean-up. I’m guessing you could easily omit the parchment, and bake them on an ungreased pan.

IMG_4695
Lamb Biryani Meatballs, ready to be baked

Bake at 350-degrees Fahrenheit for 15 – 20  minutes.

I enjoyed these with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Oven-Braised Leeks, and a spinach salad that I ate with a little feta and sliced avocado. Leave off the feta and you have yourself  a Paleo meal!

As the tagline says: Make a lot!  Freeze some!  No go play!

I kept three portions in the refrigerator, and froze the rest to pull and enjoy another time:

It’s been cold and rainy here, so our fun has needed to be indoors. We watched the Oscars and are thrilled for Moonlight!!! And this weekend, I made bagels!  Not nearly as hard as I thought they’d be!  I used this recipe and am excited to make tweaks and try again!

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Paleo Pork “Katsu” Over Noodles with Gingered Bok Choy

We rarely ate-out when I was growing up. Going to McDonald’s was a BIG deal. And when we did, we always got the food “to go” and ate it at home. We already had drinks at home, my father reasoned. I remember asking for a milkshake during one trip to the golden arches, and my father turning me down, reminding me that he had already paid for the 2-liter of soda at home.

“I’ll pay the 42 cents for the milkshake,” I offered (aging myself with that price!)

“You’re missing the point,” my father replied.  And home we went, sans beverages provided by Ronald, the Hamburglar, Grimace and the rest.

It took me years to appreciate this practice of deliberation over dollars spent. Short-term refraining leading to long-term gaining. We were the family that stood-out as buying clothes from Sears during the era of The Official Preppy Handbook when the little alligator and the polo player were just everything. We kids learned to “drive stick” in our 1966 VW bug that my parents owned for 23 years.  This, while living in a neighborhood where Porsches, BMWs and Mercedes were commonplace. There was even a red Ferrari!

We used items until they broke or wore out. Our wardrobes were comprised of the same clothes for years, regardless of fashion-trends. As I dressed this morning, I was thinking about the purchase of my pants over five years ago from my favorite San Francisco store. That I still make decisions based on practicality and durability — my trusty black trousers … versatile, for dressy outings *and* more casual settings.  In fact, I frequently make the joke that my primary motivation for trying to maintain my weight has nothing to do with vanity — mine is financial.  If I put-on weight, I’d have to spend money on new clothes!

Mr. Batch and I are currently tightening our purse-strings as I redesign myself into a freelance grant writer, working pro bono at this point. We are deeply grateful to be able to survive on one income for the time-being, as I “trim the fat” in our budget. I’m making homemade yogurt, vanilla extract and apple cider vinegar. Cooking dried beans versus buying canned legumes.  Turning down the heat and putting on layers + holding a hot water bottle. I reflect on how fortunate we’ve been to have a period where we didn’t need to save those few cents. And how grateful I am to my parents for raising me in an environment of budgeting and careful evaluation of pennies spent. Returning to my roots.

And …. appreciating delicious recipes that taste as good as if we had eaten out, when in fact, they are easy to make at home. Here’s how I made restaurant-quality Paleo Pork “Katsu” Over Noodles with Gingered Bok Choy:

Yield: 4 portions

To stretch our food dollar even farther, I bought half a pig from local McDonald Farm last Fall. The price per pound was $4.40 for this organic, pasture-raised, humanely treated pork — which is far from the $18/pound for just  a pork tenderloin from them.  Thus far, I’ve been very pleased with the decision to have a freezer full of various cuts of pork to thaw and cook-up. For this recipe, I stretched our food-expense even farther by slicing 2 thick-cut pork chops in half, resulting in four portions (better for my waistline, too!)

Then, I put the thick pork chops between two sheets of plastic-wrap and used my rolling pin to pound them thin.

I cracked an egg into a bowl, added 1 Tablespoon of Brita-filtered water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and whisked with a fork until it was foamy.

In a separate bowl, I mixed 1 cup of almond meal (I buy this at Trader Joe’s) with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper. *If you are not following the Paleo diet, you could season some all-purpose flour or use Japanese panko breadcrumbs.

Then, I melted a small spoon-full of coconut oil in a non-stick saute pan.

Using one hand, I dipped a pork chop into the egg wash and then transferred it into the bowl of seasoned almond-meal. Then, using the other hand, I dredged the pork chop on all sides through the seasoned almond meal and then placed the pork chop in the hot oil in the pan. Using alternate hands keeps your finger-tips from getting clumped with egg-wash-dredging.

My pork chops were thin-enough to be able to cook entirely on the stovetop, but if yours are a bit thicker, you could finish cooking them in a hot oven.

 

Meanwhile, in my big ol’ wok, I made a batch of Steamed Baby Bok Choy. I modified this just slightly to add some minced fresh ginger, as well as about 1/4 cup of coconut aminos to the aromatic bath in which I steamed the baby bok choy. You could substitute soy sauce for the coconut aminos if you don’t follow the Paleo diet, or aren’t avoiding gluten.

 

And on a separate burner on the stove, I boiled a bag of Sweet Potato Glass Noodles in salted water. I found these in the Asian section of our local grocer for 99-cents/bag! The only ingredient is sweet potato starch, which makes them Paleo in my book!  Mr. Batch and I have loved discovering these for their flavor,  chewy texture, and price! Once these were done, I tossed them in about 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.

 

To serve: I had some sautéed mushrooms on-hand, so I added some of the Sweet Potato Glass Noodles to a bowl, topped them with sautéed mushrooms and cut-up Gingered Baby Bok Choy, and then poured some of the saved cooking liquid from the bok choy over the noodles.

I added another splash or two of coconut aminos, and then the sliced Pork “Katsu.”  DELISH!  Light, yet very filling.

As the Tagline says: Make a lot! Freeze some! Now go play! As this applies to the recipe above, the “breaded” and pan-fried pork chops could be made in many batches, and frozen, then thawed & reheated another time. Will they be as crispy?  No, but when you’re tired or in a hurry, you’ll be grateful to have them at the ready, and they could be “re-crisped” in a hot saute pan with just a smidge of oil after thawing.  🙂

I have no pictures of what Mr. Batch and I have been up to when we’ve recently played! He is teaching this semester, which means there isn’t a ton of time for playing. We have been going to see the Oscar-nominated movies on Friday evenings: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea, Hidden Figures, the Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts, and we’re hoping to see Lion this weekend!  Do you have a favorite?

Like what you’re reading?  Never miss a post!  Scroll up and to the right, and you’ll find a “Subscribe to Blog Via Email” box where you can enter your email, and you’ll get an email-notice to approve your subscription. Let’s get that number up to 100 regular readers!

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Carrot Ginger Soup

I once read a book called “Oh, Fudge!” by Lee Edwards Benning — an entertaining history of the old-fashioned favorite, complete with 18 master recipes AND an entire chapter devoted to “Fudge Failures and How to Remedy Them.” This chapter *even* includes recipes to incorporate your failed fudges, if they are unfixable … shall we pause for moment to bless Lee Edwards Benning’s heart?!?  She starts the chapter with this quote from John Keats:

“Don’t be discouraged by failure. It can be a positive experience. Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterwards carefully avoid.”

Benning muses about failures: “On the one hand, failure need not mean flop. Instead, we may just end up with something other than what we expected.”

I had opportunity to employ this mindset on Super Bowl Sunday just recently. Headed to a party later that evening, I tried a new recipe for almond “thumbprint” cookies that I filled with some homemade sour cherry preserves I canned last summer, using cherries I picked with the Lovely Lisa.  I was shocked when I opened the oven to find the cookies had s-p-r-e-a-d like this:

(Note to self – more careful evaluation might be needed on the *best* times to try a new recipe!)

The cookies were *delicious* … just visually unappealing. I’ll salvage the recipe and adapt it to make chewy almond drop cookies, sans fruit filling — stay tuned. For the party that evening, I took a page from the “Oh, Fudge!” book and chopped up the cookies and folded them into softened, store-bought vanilla ice cream, that I served with a couple of extra spoons full of sour cherry preserves. I meant to make Almond Macaroon Ice Cream with Sour Cherries, dontchaknow!

This seems to be a recurring theme in my life these days. My endeavors frequently lead me to places I wasn’t expecting. I’m challenged to “go with the flow” almost daily, which doesn’t come naturally to the planner in me.  But I’m finding that if I pause for a few minutes / hours / days, that the outcomes aren’t bad … in fact, they are often good … just not what I expected. Here’s to making lemonade from lemons!

And a recipe for Carrot Ginger Soup, that could be vegan or Paleo, depending on the broth used.  This recipe is quite heavily inspired by John Ash’s “Carrot,  Orange, and Ginger Soup” from his book “Cooking One on One.”

I added celery for more fiber, and removed the aromatic spices. I also removed the exact measurements. I’m a fan of using a whole item such as a whole onion (versus 1 cup of onions). You’ll find that my recipes aren’t exact (unless they’re for baked goods) because they don’t rely on the chemistry of ingredient-interactions. Want the soup to be less onion-y? Add only half an onion … the soup will still be edible. Don’t want to add the celery?  By all means, leave it out … but adjust the amount of broth if you want to keep this a thick, pureed soup. I hope you’ll have fun with my recipes and others, and make them your own!

Carrot Ginger Soup

Yield: 8 servings — make a big batch, then freeze anything beyond what you would eat in 3 days — this freezes and thaws beautifully.

  • 1-1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery hearts, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped

*Note that I don’t specify exact sizes. Chop these into as similar a size as you can, for even cooking. This soup ultimately gets pureed, so pretty shapes and exact precision aren’t required – yay!

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (or ghee or coconut oil … whatever oil you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a deep pot and add the onions, carrots and celery. Sprinkle salt over vegetables and cook for about 5 minutes. The salt will draw-out the natural water content of the vegetables so that they “sweat.” Stir occasionally and continue cooking on medium-low for another 5-10 minutes, until vegetables look translucent.

While those vegetables are “sweating,” prep the following:

  • Minced zest & juice of 1 orange
  • 2 – 3″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

Add ingredients to vegetables in pot and stir to combine. Cook for about 3 minutes on medium-low, stirring frequently. These ingredients cook quickly and you don’t want them to scorch.

Start by adding 6 cups of broth to the vegetables and raise the heat to simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes and then puree. I puree the soup using an immersion blender, but you could also transfer the soup to a standing blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasoning, and add more broth if you want to thin the consistency. I ended up adding all 8 cups, and mine is fairly thick:

Serving Suggestions: This soup has a ZING because of the ginger and garlic!  I like having this with pork chops and broccolini for a Paleo meal. Mr. Batch ate his with Autumnal Salad of mixed grains and broccolini. Great soup for Winter, but could be served chilled with a swirl of sour-cream-thinned-with-buttermilk in the Summer!

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Arepas with Corn and Green Chiles

Mr. Batch and I moved to Rochester, NY from San Francisco almost 5 years ago, and we like living here very much! Even the snow!  We very much miss our friends who are still in San Francisco, and miss hiking in the Marin Headlands and several aspects of life on the Left Coast.  We REALLY miss good Mexican food. Tacquerias and good burritos — and baskets of hot corn chips, straight from the frier, served with freshly made salsa. Olé!

With that said, discovering local specialties to Rochester has been just great!  How fun to find out that Rochester was home to French’s Mustard and Ragu pasta sauce!  Nearby Le Roy, NY is the birthplace of Jell-O! Probably the most well-known Rochester dish is the “Garbage Plate,” a trademark of Nick Tahou Hots, that traditionally includes macaroni salad, home fries, and 2 hot dogs or cheeseburgers topped with mustard, onions, and their famous meat hot sauce. When we first moved here, I was asking a friend about “plates,” as they’re commonly referred to, and what they’re like. He started his description with, “Well first you have to choose your ‘unders’ and then your ‘overs.'” I snickered at those terms, but continued with my query of where he suggested we go for the best “plates.” He enthusiastically advised Bill Gray’s (a hamburger/hot dog joint that lays claim to having “The World’s Greatest Cheeseburger”). “They put *meat* in the meat sauce!” he exclaimed!  I almost fell out of my chair at this point, what with the “unders” and “overs” and the qualifier of meat in the meat sauce!  When we drove to get our first “plate,” we passed by one of the competitors to Bill Gray’s called Don’s Original, whose slogan is “Where quality predominates!”  Mr. Batch asked, “I wonder what else they considered?”

Speaking of “hots” (as mentioned above in Nick Tahou Hots), we’re still unclear on why Rochesterians refer to hot dogs as “hots.” We’ve also heard cheeseburgers and hamburgers referred to as “burgs” and “cheeseburgs” here, but neither of those terms is as commonly used as “hots.” One day, while enjoying some Abbott’s Frozen Custard (their plain vanilla is simply heavenly), a car decked out with advertisements for nearby suburb “Pennfield Hots” pulled up, so I gathered my courage to ask the driver, “What’s a hot?” He replied, “A hot dog.” “Why don’t people use the word ‘dog?'” I inquired. I never got my answer, but I did get a strange look from him, which made me laugh. 🙂  One food product that Rochester calls its own is the “white hot,” a type of hot dog composed of a combination of uncured and unsmoked pork, beef and veal. The lack of smoking or curing allows the meat to retain a naturally white color. When ordering, Rochesterians distinguish between a “white hot” and a “red hot.”

Sometimes Rochesterians don’t realize a dish is a local specialty, such as “Chicken French.” We heard waitstaff list “Chicken French” as a special in restaurants, and would hear our friends refer to making it. Feeling self-conscious that we were not “in the know,” Mr. Batch finally Googled the term and we were pleasantly surprised that Wikipedia has a page for it, and describes it as, “A chicken entree entree that uses a breaded, egg-dipped and sautéed chicken breast, with a sauce created from sherry, butter, chicken stock, and lemon. The dish is popular in the region surrounding Rochester, NY and is served in Italian restaurants.”  We laughed, “Of course, Chicken French is served in Italian restaurants! How did we not know?!?!”

My favorite local food story is about Salt Potatoes — another dish that most Rochesterians have no idea is regional. My friend Melissa mentioned that she would bring a batch of Salt Potatoes to a picnic. “What kind of potatoes?” I asked. “Salt Potatoes,” she replied. Still not understanding, I asked, “What’s that first word you’re saying before ‘Potatoes?'” “SALT,” she enunciated. “What’s a Salt Potato?!?!” I inquired. “They’re the first potatoes harvested — that you buy in a bag that also has the package of salt in the bag, and you boil them.”  Bewildered by this concept and that I had apparently been passing by this product, unaware of its existence, in our local grocery chain Wegmans, I asked, “Because you can’t be trusted to salt the cooking water according to your taste?!?!” Wiki to the rescue again: “As the potatoes cook, the salty water forms a crust on the skin and seals the potatoes so they never taste waterlogged, as ordinary boiled potatoes often do. The potatoes have a unique texture closer to fluffy baked potatoes, only creamier.The standard recipe calls for one pound of salt for every four pounds of potatoes.” She had no idea these were regional and that other people around the country had never eaten (nor heard of) Salt Potatoes. “When you kept questioning my words, I thought I was having a stroke or something,” she teased. “You DO eat turkey for Thanksgiving in your part of the country, right?!?” 🙂

So … back to the Mexican food we miss from San Francisco … as well as foods from Venezuela, El Salvador, Columbia, and more … I have gotten pretty good at making dishes with those flavors and ingredients at home since we have yet to find Rochester restaurants that replicate the many Latin cuisines we enjoyed while out West.  Mr. Batch’s lunches this week turned out to be pretty tasty, so I thought I’d share what I did:

Arepas with Corn and Green Chiles

Yield: 8 – 10 Arepas (cornmeal pancakes)

  • 2 cups Masarepa (dehydrated cooked cornmeal) — I found this in the Latin section of my grocery store
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Combine ingredients in medium-sized bowl.

  • 3 cups warm water

Add to cornmeal mixture and stir to combine.

  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 4 Tablespoons canned, diced green chiles
  • 1 cup corn kernels (I used fresh corn kernels, but you could use frozen or canned, drained corn)

Add to cornmeal mixture and stir to combine. Allow mixture to rest for at least 5 minutes.

Heat electric griddle or nonstick skillet over medium heat and add a scant Tablespoon of grapeseed oil or coconut oil (any oil that has a high smoke point) and swirl to distribute across cooking surface.

Shape cornmeal mixture into patties approximately 4-5″ across and 1/2″ thick and cook over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Once browned, flip and cook 2-3 minutes on other side until browned. Transfer to parchment-lined pan to cool.

*If not vegan, can add 1 cup grated cheese.

*These are best fresh off the griddle, but can also be kept in the refrigerator or freezer and re-heated.

I served these with Black Beans, Cumin-Scented Roasted Vegetables, and Guacamole (all recipes below). I also added several Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, which I had made last summer and frozen.  

 

Black Beans (or you could certainly substitute canned, drained & rinsed Black Beans)

Yield: 5 servings

 

  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and inspected for any duds or small stones

Soak beans overnight in 4 cups of filtered water. The next day, drain and rinse the beans again and add them to a pot, along with:

  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 jalepeno, quartered (Mr. Batch likes spicy foods, so if you don’t, reduce the amount of jalepeno)
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon of tomato paste
  • several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 cups of filtered water

Bring to a boil on stovetop, and then down to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours. After an hour, taste beans for tenderness periodically. Mine weren’t completely tender until almost all of the liquid had evaporated or been absorbed. They were soft and the skin pulled away easily from the bean.

Remove onion, garlic and jalepeno.

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Add, and stir into beans and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. Then taste beans and adjust seasoning to your taste.  Drain any excess liquid.

 

Cumin-Scented Roasted Vegetables

I love roasted vegetables of all types!  I like how roasting concentrates their flavors, by reducing the natural water content. I love the mild caramelization that happens. Mostly, I love how easy the preparations are — throw trays of them in the oven and stir them periodically and … ta da … yumminess!

I roast my vegetables at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and usually do little more to them than roast on a sheet pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper. I start checking them after 15 minutes, give them a stir or a flip for even cooking, and either take them out at that point or leave them until they have cooked through and are lightly browned/caramelized because of the direct contact with the metal baking pan.

For these brussels sprouts, mushrooms and onions: I spread a hearty glug of olive oil over the sheet pan, spread my vegetables, flat-side down, and sprinkled them with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon of ground cumin over each type of vegetable. I roasted for about 25 – 30 minutes, total.

 

Guacamole

Yield: 5 servings

 

  • 1 avocado — ripe & soft
  • 1/2 of a large jalapeño, minced (I scrape the seeds out of mine before mincing.  If you prefer more spicy-heat in your guacamole, keep the seeds before mincing — or half of the seeds)
  • leaves from 15 stems of cilantro, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 large green onions, white & green parts, sliced
  • salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in bowl, and use spoon to mash-up the avocado.  Taste and adjust all ingredients according to what tastes best to you.

Like what you’re reading?  Never miss a post!  Scroll up and to the right, and you’ll find a “Subscribe to Blog Via Email” box where you can enter your email, and you’ll get an email-notice to approve your subscription. Let’s get that number up to 100 regular readers! 

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Veggie Burgers with Farro, Mushrooms & Cheese

I don’t know about you, but I could use a laugh or two!  It’s grey here in Rochester, and the news is full of contention. I’ve been wanting to share some funny tales for awhile, but none of them are long enough to turn into stories. So I thought I would bring some cheer to you all, with little snippets of humor and fun. Hope they bring a grin to your face and sunshine to your day:

Before Mr. Batch got his current job, he was doing a lot of traveling while interviewing. He would text his final goodbyes from the airport gates as the airlines boarded his planes. “They’re starting to board,” he would write. “Elite members … first class … business class.”  Then he would continue, “Stupendous class … better-than-most class… I’m waiting for them to board my group: peasant class.” Years later, from a different airline that boarded by precious metal categories, he joked that, “We’re pewter class!”

Mr. Batch and I were eating lunch one day. As we were cleaning up the table, Mr. Batch picked up my can of soda — mistaking it to be empty, when it was still 1/2-full.  In surprise, he dropped the can and some of the tasty beverage poured out.
Mr. Batch: “Wow!  I’m so sorry!  THAT was a misjudgment of mass and momentum!”
Me: “Wow!  One of us obviously has a Ph.D. and the other one would’ve just said, ‘Sorry, I spilled!'”

When Mr. Batch and I started dating, I wrote an email to my family to tell them about him and the dates he had taken me on. I wrote, “Mostly we spend time biking around San Francisco, which is tons of fun. We also went hiking recently on Mt. Tamalpais and then, after sunset that evening, attended an astronomy lecture in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars led by a UC-Berkeley instructor.” To which my brother replied, “Oh man, I wanna do that stuff! If it doesn’t work out with you two, can I have his phone number?”

I was complaining to my friend Max that I had put-on weight after Mr. Batch and I started dating, to which Max replied, “Well, when you catch the bus, you stop running!”

This next one isn’t so much funny, as it is insightful. This same friend Max and I worked together for a short time. He would encourage me to take a break for lunch, which is not in my nature. He told a story: “There are two wood-cutters — one who chops more wood than the other. Do you know why?  Because he *stops* to sharpen his axe!”

Some “butcherings” of words throughout the years, that have made their way into my family’s vernacular: “Balsmatic” vinegar (instead of balsamic), as requested of me when I used to wait tables. “Dilapidated” woodpeckers (instead of pileated) and “Sasquatch” camellias (instead of sasanquas). Used in a sentence such as, “Hey Mom, is that one of those dilapidated woodpeckers in the tree near the Sasquatch camellia bush?”

A few years ago, Mr. Batch and I stopped to ask directions. As we started to follow the directions, I murmured, “OK … they told us to turn left here, and then …” To which I heard Mr. Batch reply, “I have to admit, ever since we started dating, I’ve stopped listening to instructions!”

And one last one to bring you a dash of joy: When Mr. Batch and I got engaged, we hired an artist to draw caricatures of us to use on our wedding invitations. On her first draft, the artist captured me perfectly, but we decided that Mr. Batch looked more like a mariachi band member than himself. The next morning when the alarm went off, Mr. Batch greeted me with “Ola, Señorita!” I replied, “You amaze me! How do you go from unconscious sleeping … to awake and instantly funny?!?!”

I hope this recipe for Veggie Burgers with Farro, Mushrooms & Cheese also brings you joy!  These are heavily inspired by the New York Times Cooking recipe for Farro with Mushrooms. Modified slightly, and then adapted to make into veggie burger patties:

Yield: 12 veggie burgers

  • 24-oz package of mushrooms (I used “baby bellas” — baby portobellos — but you could use crimini or white button … or a mixture)

Wash the mushrooms thoroughly, and remove the stems and set the stems aside. Slice the mushrooms and set aside to dry.

  • Reserved mushroom stems from above
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 or 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 or 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • several grinds of freshly cracked pepper

Combine ingredients in sauce pot and bring to a boil, and then down to a simmer. Simmer on low for 30 minutes, then taste, adjust seasoning, and strain.  **Alternatively, use store-bought vegetable stock. Or make, using veggie scraps from your bag of “ends-n-nubs” you are storing in the freezer from previous cooking sessions.

  • 2 cups of farro

While the vegetable stock is cooking, put farro in a bowl and pour enough hot water over the farro to cover by an inch. Set aside.

  • 3/4 cup dried mushrooms, rinsed
  • 2 cups boiling water

Place the dried mushrooms in a large Pyrex measuring cup or bowl, and pour in boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Clockwise from upper left corner: farro soaking; homemade vegetable stock using mushroom stems; dried mushrooms reconstituting in boiling water; “baby bella” mushrooms, to be sliced.

Drain the reconstituted dried mushrooms through a strainer set over a bowl and lined with a coffee filter, to catch the mushroom-flavored liquid without letting any grit/dirt pass through. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer, then add the mushroom-flavored liquid to the reserved vegetable stock from above. You should have 6 cups, total (add water if necessary). Place in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt to taste.

Rinse the  reconstituted dried mushrooms in several changes of water to remove any additional grit. Chop coarsely and set aside.

  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped onion
  • sliced mushrooms from above
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until they begin to soften and sweat. Add salt and pepper, to taste, the garlic and rosemary. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about five minutes.

  • Strained farro from above
  • Reconstituted dried mushrooms from above

Add the farro and reconstituted dried mushrooms to the mushroom mixture. Cook, stirring, until the grains of farro are separate and beginning to crackle, about two minutes.

  • 3/4 cup dry white wine

Stir in the wine and cook, stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Add all but about 1 cup of the vegetable-mushroom stock from above, and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 50 minutes or until the farro is tender; some of the grains will be beginning to splay. Remove the lid, and stir vigorously from time to time. Taste and adjust seasoning. There should be some liquid remaining in the pot but not too much. If the farro is submerged in stock, raise the heat and cook until there is just enough to moisten the grains, like a sauce.

*For a vegan side dish or main course, you could stop here.

Allow mixture to cool.  Once cool, stir-in:

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (though we’re trying to avoid gluten, farro has gluten, so I chose all-purpose flour versus coconut flour for this recipe)

Using wet hands, shape into patties and place on parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake at 350-degrees F for 30 minutes, rotating pan 180-degrees after 15 minutes, for even cooking in case your oven has hot spots.

These patties have a chewy texture, because cooked faro is almost “spongey” in texture, plus the added cheese. Freezing them and then thawing them made them a tad bit chewier, just FYI.

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