Frittata for Twelve

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the inaugural gathering of our Cultural Supper Club, and mentioned that our next gathering would be for an English Sunday Lunch, with a walk afterward. Well, that didn’t quite materialize because it was a) way too hot to make a roast plus Yorkshire pudding and b) it rained, which ruined the idea of a walk. So we decided to keep the date, and get-together for Brunch. Which is neither supper nor representative of any one culture. But we missed each other, and we love to eat. So there you have it.

It was my turn to host, which I adore doing — especially now that we have space in our Rochester home. Prior to moving to Rochester, Mr. Batch and I lived in San Francisco and we each had shoe-box sized apartments — his was a 600 square foot one bedroom … mine, a 500 square foot studio. We both owned so little that it’s taken us almost 5 years to furnish our 1800 square foot home here! I set the table with the beautiful china that my BFF designed. And note the super-cool salt & pepper shaker set — a parting gift from Mr. Batch’s grad student who recently earned her PhD:

My contribution was freshly squeezed orange juice, to be enjoyed all on its own, or made into mimosas. I loved getting to use the small juice glasses from my childhood:

I put my electric juicer through the paces, and squeezed 1.5 bags (approx 12 pounds) of oranges, myself. I decided to go that route for optimal freshness, and as a cost-savings measure versus paying Wegmans to squeeze the oranges for me. 8 pound bags of oranges at Trader Joe’s cost $4. So all of that orange juice cost about $6 and 30 minutes of effort!

I put a small dish of herb-marinated mixed olives on the table, one filled with toasted almonds, and one filled with dilly beans I’d pickled last summer using yellow wax beans.  I anticipated those might pair nicely with the fatty, rich brunch foods to come!

My final contribution was a Frittata For Twelve (though we only had the four of us + three spouses), made with spinach, mushrooms, caramelized onions and shredded cheddar cheese (recipe below). I made enough filling to use in my personal “frittata” for the following two weeks. In other words, I incorporated half of this batch of filling into the Frittata For Twelve I served our Cultural Supper Club, then froze 1/4 to use another time, and then used the remaining 1/4 for my breakfasts that week. #nevergosmall

The other members of the group offered Sicilian Potato Cake:

A beautiful selection of fruits, nuts, cinnamon and yogurt (and she used those same beautiful crystal & silver serving pieces you may remember reading about the last time we met!)

And a pound and a half of bacon for our group! 🙂 🙂 🙂

It made for a lovely plate of delicious goodness:

Followed by a delectable bread pudding with whisky sauce and whipped cream!

Like last time, we sat around the table and talked and laughed for hours — what a delight! Before parting ways, we asked the spouses to take our picture:

We’re all traveling at different times throughout the Summer, but we’ll be back together next Fall with our next Cultural Supper Club! See the pictures below, for what Mr. Batch and I have been doing for activities, to try to burn-off the calories from all of this consumption!

But first! How to make a Frittata For Twelve:

This version has spinach, mushroom, caramelized onion and shredded cheddar cheese — you could customize this however you would like. Additionally, scale this for the number of people you are serving — you could certainly halve this, or make only a quarter-batch.

  • One 16-oz bag frozen, chopped spinach

Thaw and squeeze excess water from spinach.

  • One 10-oz container of white button mushrooms + One 10-oz container of brown crimini mushrooms or baby ‘bellas

Clean mushrooms, slice, and sauté with olive oil, salt & pepper and two cloves of garlic, minced. Add to spinach in bowl and stir to combine. Wipe sauté pan with a paper towel – no need to clean it thoroughly before caramelizing the onion.

  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced

Cook on low heat with olive oil, salt & pepper and two cloves of garlic, minced. Stir frequently, as the onions cook slowly and naturally caramelize and brown. Add to bowl with spinach and mushrooms and stir to combine. Set bowl aside to allow all contents to cool. Completely clean sauté pan if this is the one you will be using to make Frittata for Twelve.

  • 3/4 pound sharp cheddar cheese — grate.

Once spinach, mushroom, onion mixture is cool, add cheese and stir to combine. Don’t add when other ingredients are still warm, as cheese will melt and clump.

*Everything can be done ahead at this point and held in refrigerator. I set-aside 1/2 of this mixture to serve in our Brunch Frittata. Then froze 1/4 of the mixture for future use. And set-aside 1/4 of the mixture for my own “frittata” breakfasts for the week ahead.

When I was thirty minutes ahead of my serving time, I preheated the oven to 350F

  • Then cracked 12 eggs into a big mixing bowl and whisked them with 1/3 cup of Britta-filtered water (or you could use milk), 1 teaspoon salt and about 12 grinds of freshly cracked black pepper. I whisked all of these ingredients to thoroughly combine them.
  • Stir-in the 1/2 of the spinach-mushroom-caramelized-onion-shredded cheddar cheese you’ve set aside.

I heated my non-stick, oven-proof (in other words, completely metal … no plastic) large sauté pan and added 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil and swirled the butter and oil together to coat the bottom of the sauté pan.

I poured the egg-spinach-mushroom-caramelized-onion-shredded-cheddar-cheese into my hot, greased sauté pan and used a heat-proof rubber spatula to stir the ingredients, almost as if I were making scrambled eggs. I stirred the mixture frequently, scraping the bottom of the pan to bring the cooked egg to the surface and distribute the still-liquid-egg … and did this for about 5 minutes.

Once I noticed that the edges were starting to set and pulling away from the pan, I stopped stirring and put the pan in the oven. I baked the Frittata for Twelve for about 15-20 minutes until the egg-mixture was completely set. No jiggling, no liquid.

I let the Frittata for Twelve rest, out of the oven, for about 5 minutes. Then inverted a plate on top of the pan, and flipped the contents of the pan onto the plate. Then sliced into quarters, and each quarter into thirds. Oila! Frittata for Twelve!

Mr. Batch & I enjoyed all of the leftovers from the Brunch for a couple days. And I have loved having the frittata-filling for later in the week, and in the freezer for future weeks! As the tagline says, “Make a lot. Freeze some. Now go play!” Here’s what we’ve been doing to play:

Mr. Batch & I recently biked 25 miles for the local Tour de Cure ride, to raise money for diabetes research. We joined Team BioRad, who very kindly donated $75 per rider on their teams, nationwide! We rode along the shore of Lake Ontario and then through the fruit orchards and farms outside of Rochester. Along the way, we met several riders and supporters who have Type 1 & Type 2 diabetes. Very moving to hear their stories, lending a greater understanding of the impact of the ride and monies raised.

And it is finally Summer here! This week, I picked 15 pounds of strawberries! I baked with some of them (recipe for Strawberry Lemonade Cake forthcoming), we devoured many of them fresh, and I froze about half for future baking/smoothies/enjoyment!

 

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Tofu Chile Verde

When I left the restaurant industry and chef profession, I was fortunate enough to score a job with a British manufacturer of china dinnerware, made exclusively for  use in hotels, restaurants and catering companies. I had worked with the product when I was a pastry chef in a private dining club, and found it to be as wonderful as it advertised: “Tough as steel, but impressively lightweight.” Their beautiful patterns and innovative shapes and colors made the product a delight to work with, as it truly enhanced the dining experience and contributed to the trend in “eater-tainment.” My primary job was to plan their tradeshows — a natural extension of the skills I had honed as a chef planning banquets. I got to travel to the biggest shows to help set-up the displays and help staff the booth, working side-by-side with the passionate and super-fun salesforce. A unique opportunity to incorporate my background in speech communications as well as provide testimony, since I’d used the product when I was a chef.

During the first tradeshow I attended, I met one of the company pattern-designers, who had traveled from the UK for the show, and who would soon be relocating to the US headquarters where I worked. There was an instant connection with us. In no time, we were talking and laughing and sharing stories as if we’d known each other for years. Our friendship only got stronger once she moved to the states. I can’t begin to recount how much fun we had sharing a tiny office, and traveling to those tradeshows together. We whooped it up and giggled our way through Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, sharing hotel rooms in each of the cities, and staying up till all hours like kids at a slumber party. (Hover over images below to reveal captions)

That was back in 1999 and here we are, still BFFs after almost 20 years. There truly are few words to convey how fortunate I feel to have met her! We’ve been there for each other through dating and then weddings, career-changes, moves, welcoming her munchkins into the world, stressors and celebrations and the mundane … each chapter of life only strengthens our friendship and brings us closer. What hurts her hurts me and vice versa. Only she can make me laugh when I don’t even want to smile — she brings out the best in me. We aggressively defend each other and believe in each other, and we each think the other deserves the world. There has never been any jealousy between us, and only complete honesty. She is the sister of my soul, and a trusted caretaker of my heart. Befriending her is far and away one of the best things that has ever happened in my life!

Our paths have criss-crossed North America in a surprisingly parallel fashion, and she lives just two hours and one border-crossing away from Rochester now. We don’t see each other as often as we’d like, but I recently got to see her for a dinner, and a nonstoptalkandlaughfest that lasted way into the wee morning hours, just like old times. Oh! The comfort of being able to be transparent with your bestie! And the joy of getting to see her munchkins grow up! And to hang with her ultra-cool hubby!

I mention all of this not only to laud her amazingness and my good fortune to have her as my soul-sistuh. But also because we hosted a dinner party for 6 people the night after my return! One of the  guests was someone I was REALLY trying to impress — a colleague of Mr. Batch’s from his postdoc days, who is now a professor at Harvard!!!

How did I do this, you ask? And especially when I needed to find a menu suitable for 5 carnivores and a vegetarian?!?! Well, here we go:

The day before departing town, I did my grocery shopping. I froze my tofu slices (see recipe below). I also made Loaded Cornbread Muffins and froze them.

Before departing town, I thawed the tofu slices, first thing. Then cubed the pork for the Pork Chile Verde, and added the dry rub. Once the tofu slices were thawed, I squeezed the excess water from them, and then brushed them with olive oil and added the dry rub.

🎉   🥂 Then, I went out of town and PLAYED WITH MY BFF!!!!!!  💃 😎

Upon returning to town the next day, I finished making the Pork Chile Verde, and made the Tofu Chile Verde (recipe below). Both of these taste better the day after they’re made, so it behooves them to make them the day before. (Mr. Batch always says to me “I know how you like the behooving!” 🙂 ) Last, I made a batch of Roasted Sweet Potatoes.

The day of the party: I’m an early bird, and made a batch of Lemon Souffle Pudding cakes before work. But you could also make these the day before, if you are not a morning person! I thawed the Loaded Cornbread Muffins. Then, I set the table, and tidied-up the guest bathroom and went to work.

That evening, an hour before the guests arrived, I started reheating the Pork Chile Verde and Tofu Chile Verde (recipe below) on very low on the stovetop. I put my appetizers out: brie & crackers; a bowl of pistachios; a bowl of dried apricots & dates; and hummus and plantain chips. I pulled some butter and put it on the dining room table on a pretty plate, and lit the votives. Once my guests arrived, I popped the Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Loaded Cornbread Muffins into a very low oven.

Once we’d finished visiting over appetizers, I tossed salad greens with some Red Wine Vinaigrette that I always have on-hand in the fridge, and put the salad on the table for guests to serve themselves. Then, put the Loaded Cornbread Muffins into a cloth-lined basket on the table, to be passed. And finally, plated the Pork Chile Verde and Tofu Chile Verde over Roasted Sweet Potatoes, (with a dollop of sour cream for those who wanted it) and served all of that with a lovely Rioja red wine.

Following dinner, I passed my Lemon Souffle Pudding cakes, topped with a sprig of mint and some candied orange zest. And we continued to talk and laugh until the votives burned through all of their wax and it was time to go home.

I can’t recommend this dinner party menu enough. Much can be done in advance, which allows you to have fun with your guests. And the food only gets better while it warms lightly on the stove and in the oven! Unlike my first dinner party experience where everything got bone-dry and over-cooked! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Tofu Chile Verde – serves 4

Many years ago, a friend gave me the book Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein and his wife Joyce Goldstein.  She brought my attention to the recipe for Pork Chile Verde and I am ever-grateful that she did.  I have now adapted the recipe to make Tofu Chile Verde, for you vegetarians and vegans out there!

  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, sliced into four thick slabs

Line a baking pan with parchment, add thick slices of tofu, and then freeze for at least 1 hour.  Yes — you read that correctly — freeze.

While tofu slices freeze, make dry-rub:

  • 1 teaspoons oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can omit these for anyone sensitive to spicy-heat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small bowl, combine the spices and set aside.

Once each slice is completely frozen, pull pan and allow to thaw completely — about 1 hour.

Move tofu slices to clean kitchen towel (I find that a thin “tea-towel” works best). Working with one slice at a time, completely cover with dry section of towel, and press firmly on tofu to squeeze-out water. Once excess water has been removed, move tofu slices to a very lightly-oiled baking pan.

Continue until all slices have been pressed and excess water has been removed.

Brush each slice with a little olive oil or other preferred oil, then season with salt and pepper and sprinkle each side with a pinch of the dry rub. Return to very lightly-oiled baking pan, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours, or up to 48 hours.

Make Chile Verde Sauce

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 4-ounce can diced roasted green chiles
  • Half of a 14-ounce can plum or fire-roasted tomatoes (freeze the other half to make vegetable broth or for use in another recipe)
  • 1 10-ounce can Mexican green tomatillos. drained
  • 1/8cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

In a stew pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium heat and add the onion. Sauté the onion with a little salt until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes longer. Add the green chiles, tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro and veg broth. Bring to a gentle boil.

Insert immersion blender — or transfer everything to a blender — and puree.

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red vinegar (optional — but highly recommended)

Add salt, pepper, and vinegar (if desired) to taste.

Grill (or bake) Tofu:

I have a grill pan that I like to use when I think a somewhat-charred flavor will benefit a dish. So I used it for this dish and grilled the tofu slices. Then cubed, and added to the chile verde sauce.

To serve: put Roasted Sweet Potatoes in bowl, ladle Tofu Chile Verde over top. Sprinkle with additional chopped cilantro and a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

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Beet and Orange Salad

I lived in Portland, OR back in the early 90’s when it was still somewhat undiscovered. What an exceedingly cool, authentically funky, artsy, eclectic town … with lots to explore, providing wonderful stomping grounds for me during my mid-20’s.  Some of my happiest years are my years in Portland, and this was due in large part to the city, itself, and its amazingness. But also to my bosses/mentors and the staff at Higgins Restaurant. And to my fantastic roommates, with whom I lived in our adorable bungalow on SE 32nd & Stark, near Laurelhurst Park. Great, GREAT neighborhood, and many a good time with that crew.

Some of my favorite memories from that time are from the potluck dinners we hosted. My roommates’ friends became my friends, and we all enjoyed cooking and experimenting with cuisines, so the “Cultural Supper Club” was born. We would choose a country, then complete our research at nearby Powell’s Books for Cooks, and then indulge in delicious foods, wines and cocktails from around the world. Participants signed-up for appetizers, entrees, beverages and desserts, and over time we expanded the roles to include researching and making a presentation about the country and its customs — especially if they influenced the ingredients and dishes. As our group grew larger, we added the role of investigating and bringing music from the region. Each gathering was a wonderfully well-rounded, cultural immersion. Convivial, scrumptious and educational!

I’m thrilled to have found a group of friends interested in starting this tradition here in Rochester! Our group originally dined out, and enjoyed getting to know each other while exploring restaurants new to us, and letting others do the cooking. Knowing that we all enjoy cooking and experimenting with new recipes, we decided to get together for a potluck dinner one evening. Our host suggested we pick a theme, which turned out to be Indian foods, so we enjoyed lassis, biryani, dahl, coconut custards, and more. At the conclusion of our meal together, I asked if they would be interested in resurrecting the “Cultural Supper Club.” They were excited about the idea!!

Our first official gathering featured foods of Spain — YUM!!! We included the spouses who could make it, and had a rip-roaringly fun meal together! Jaws and bellies ached from laughing so much! Below are the pictures of each course, and a few of the gorgeous home of our hosts — a lovely restored farmhouse out in Honeoye Falls. They served everything using beautiful china, crystal and silver … and we were greeted at the door by our friend holding a large pitcher of sangria:

Tapas for our first course: Patatas Brava (Potatoes with Aioli), Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Stuffed with Bleu Cheese, Spanish-style Shrimp with Garlic and Pan De Horno (Spanish crusty bread) to use to sop-up the sauce!

For our main courses, we devoured Pollo al Ajillo (Garlic Chicken) and Paella, accompanied by my Beet and Orange Salad (recipe below):

We concluded the meal with a Spanish cheesecake Quesada Pasiega, served with strawberry jam, enjoyed with a lovely Spanish brandy Gran Duque de Alba. How lucky that one of our group had made a recent trip to Spain and brought the bottle back for our gathering!

Stay tuned for recipes and pictures from our next get-together, featuring a proper English Sunday Lunch, followed by an afternoon stroll! If you and your friends like cooking and experimenting, I highly recommend starting your own “Cultural Supper Club” — so fun!!! And please read to the end, for mention of another activity that I recommend for cooking and learning about food called Cooking Matters.

Without further ado, the recipe I created using Spanish flavors to make a Beet and Orange Salad. True to form, I doubled this to make a huge batch since I was sure Mr. Batch and I would like it well enough to enjoy for our Veggie Snacks the following week:

Beet and Orange Salad

6 servings

 

  • 1 pound of whole beets

Preheat oven to 375-F.

Coat beets lightly with oil. Wrap beets in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until cooked through, approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 minutes, and then peel and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Vinaigrette:

While beets are roasting, make vinaigrette. You want flavors to “marry” before dressing the salad.

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar

Whisk together ingredients above in a medium size bowl.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Stream oil slowly into vinegar-spice mixture, whisking constantly to make emulsion. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Vinaigrette should be on the tart-side.

Assemble salad:

  • 1.5 pounds oranges. I used Cara Cara Oranges from Trader Joes, but I think a mixture of Valencia Oranges and Blood Oranges would be lovely, as well.

Peel oranges, removing all white pith, and slice into rounds.

“Shingle” alternating slices of beets and oranges on serving platter, and drizzle 1/4 of the vinaigrette over. Eyeball this measurement — you want a fair amount of dressing glistening on the slices of beets and oranges:

 

  • 1/2  bulb fennel, shaved on a mandolin or sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 small red onion, shaved on a mandolin or sliced very thinly
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (from approximately 1/2 a bunch)
  • 12 Spanish green olives stuffed with pimentos, sliced

Combine ingredients in a small bowl, and add 1/3 of the remaining vinaigrette. Taste a spoonful that includes all components, and add salt and pepper, if needed. Add more vinaigrette, if desired.**

Mound salad in center of beets and oranges, and sprinkle a few more cilantro leaves, as garnish:

*For a less glamorous presentation, you can combine ingredients in small tupperware containers, and shake to distribute all flavors. Enjoy as a Veggie/Fruit Snack.

**Leftover vinaigrette keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks. I had it over shredded carrots, cubed avocado and thinly sliced red onion … and licked the bowl clean! 🙂

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

Well, this isn’t really a freezable dish, but here is what I’ve been up to for play! This week marked the last class in a 6-week program I volunteered with called Cooking Matters, created by Share Our Strength and sponsored by our regional food hub Foodlink, to teach kids about healthy meals on a budget, and to impart skills that will make them self-sufficient in the kitchen. Some of our kids had never opened a can — some had never even peeled a banana. It was humbling and heart-warming to help empower these children to eat more healthfully. If you like to cook and have the time to volunteer, I highly recommend signing up for the Cooking Matters course wherever you live:

And Mr. Batch and I have been out in our garden! Still hard for this Southerner to embrace a Spring that never really starts till late April! I’ve decided to join Mr. Batch this year, to help plant and weed. Here is some of what is blooming in our neighborhood and just a couple of shots from our yard:

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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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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?

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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.

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