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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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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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 remedy 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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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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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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Cabbage Salad with Mint and Avocado

How many of you remember the TV Show “Sesame Street” being “sponsored” by a letter and a number?  The show would conclude with, “Sesame Street has been brought to you by the letter P and the number 5.” Remember?!?!  Childhood memories flooding back to you?  🙂

In that spirit, today’s blog post is brought to you today by the letter “W” and the number “1.”  “W” is for “willingness.” I was inspired to write about willingness by a question/comment I received recently about prepping several days’ worth of food in advance — wondering how the pre-portioned containers of food stay fresh?

I gave that a lot of thought, and the word that came up for me was “willingness.” Food cooked daily … and fruits and veggies peeled and cut daily … are fantastically fresh, natch. In an ideal world, I would have that much time, energy … and probably most importantly interest … in cooking daily. But a good “Plan B” for me is to cook and prep in quantity — sacrificing optimal freshness, yet *still* preparing deliciously tasty food (in my husband’s and my opinion … grin!)

The compromise for optimal freshness I’m willing to make is to have food “at the ready” for me to grab and go. Otherwise, I am likely to make less healthy choices. And more expensive ones. If I can easily grab a peeled tangerine — even one peeled a few days ago and put into a sealed container, which is still plenty juicy and tasty — I am more likely to do so when faced with the choice between that and a free cookie at work.  But if the tangerine needs to be peeled and then I have to wash my hands, I’ll choose the cookie every time.

Likewise with cooking after work. I get up at 5am almost daily. This routine is leftover from my days as a professional pastry chef when my workday started at 5am, which meant my alarm went off at 4am! I take care of several tasks and “to do’s” prior to departing for work, and then, like all of us, work a full day. By the time 5:30/6pm rolls around, all I want to do is eat. So if I have to chop, stir-fry, bake and steam foods in order to do so, I bet I’ll choose to stop at Chipotle and let them handle it.

Thus, I cook about 5 days’ worth of different types of veggies on a Sunday and mix and match them into lunches and dinners. I cook between 5-10 portions of various meat and vegetarian proteins, but only leave 2 or 3 portions in the refrigerator and freeze the rest. I find it just as easy to cook 10 chicken thighs as it is 3 or 4.  My engineering father reminds me that this is “economy of scale cooking.”

When I cook this way, I stack the odds in my favor that I’ll eat *these* foods, versus indulgent treats at work and/or frequent meals out. But trust me, by the weekend, I’m more than ready for someone else to cook — and clean-up! So … I get a break, and we eat out.  And we feel very fortunate to be able to do so!

Which brings me to our sponsored number of “1.”  You guessed it.  One time I am willing to cook … in big batches … per week.  With the intent of having leftovers to pull from the freezer on weeks when I am uninspired, which has been the case this week!  Some people say they can taste when food has been frozen, even if it is for a brief period of time. We’re lucky that we don’t fall in that camp, so this week I’ve been mixing and matching previously-frozen veggie burgers for Mr. Batch’s lunches, and mixing and matching previously-frozen Juiciest Baked Chicken Breasts and baked pork chops with various starches, veggies and sauces. As the tagline says, I made a lot. Froze some. And this week I’m just playing!

Would love to hear areas where you’re willing to compromise!

I created this Cabbage Salad with Mint and Avocado to use-up some odds and ends of veggies and herbs I had in our veggie drawer. And I really like how it turned out!  We’ve eaten this as our Veggie Snack each day, but you could make one recipe of this and take it to a potluck or picnic.

Yield: 10 servings

  • 1/2 head of cabbage (mine was originally a large green head of cabbage), sliced thin
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced thin
  • 12 colorful mini bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin (alternatively, 1 thinly sliced red or orange bell pepper)
  • 1/2 of a red onion, small diced
  • 20 leaves of mint, chopped
  • 20 leaves of parsley, chopped

Toss all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, to combine.

Make ahead: pre-portion into 10 containers with covers. Each day, add 1/8 of an avocado to each container and a splash of apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar (or coconut vinegar, or lemon or lime juice … whatever you like), as well as a little salt and pepper.  Stir to combine. We find that just the vinegar is flavorful enough for us, but if you prefer a vinaigrette with oil, by all means add that, instead.

Make and serve immediately: add 2 avocados, cubed, to the cabbage-mixture and stir to combine. Add a few splashes of apple cider or white balsamic vinegar (or coconut vinegar, or the juice of a lemon or lime … whatever you like), and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and several grinds of freshly cracked pepper.  Stir to combine, and taste and adjust seasoning as you like.

In case you’ve been missing seeing what else I’ve been cooking in big batches, here are some shots from this week. Hover over the images to reveal the captions:

I leave you with a sign I saw recently and loved. Addresses another area of willingness! SMOOCH!

 

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Italian Veggie Burgers with White Beans and Pesto

“There are, it seems, two Muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, “It is yet more difficult than you thought.”  This is the muse of form. It may be, then, that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work; and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”  — Wendell Berry

Mr. Batch and I have been talking a lot about what we want for this new year 2017 —  what we think our real work is, and what makes our hearts sing. At the core is the intent to be kind. To heal things. To inspire with optimism. To rebel against meanness.  And most of all, to LOVE.

“Amor vincit omnia.”

Translated from Italian: “Love conquers all.”

Sending love out to you all!  And sending up my wish that we are all able to keep this phrase in our hearts today and in the coming days!

 

Italian Veggie Burgers with White Beans and Pesto

Yield: 9 burgers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  • Cook 1 cup of quinoa (Cook according to package directions. I brought 2 cups of salted water to a boil, added 1 cup of thoroughly rinsed quinoa, and simmered, covered, for 12 minutes. I tasted it to make sure it was tender, then drained any excess water. Then allowed it to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Then fluffed with a fork.)
  • 2 cans of white beans, drained & rinsed
  • 3 hearty Tablespoons of pesto (Mine was homemade last summer and frozen. I did not add any cheese before freezing.)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Stir all ingredients above together in a large bowl.

Remove 1/3 of mixture and puree in a cuisinart/food processor.  Add pureed portion back to large bowl and stir to combine.

*Taste the mixture at this point to see if you would like to add more pesto, cheese or salt. 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour (I use this to avoid gluten. If you are not avoiding gluten, you could use all-purpose flour. Perhaps try increasing the quantity to 1/2 cup — coconut flour is quite fibrous and absorbs a lot of moisture)

Add to the ingredients in the large bowl and stir to combine.

Shape into patties, and place on a parchment (or foil) lined baking sheet.  Tip: Wet hands will help with forming the patties.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, rotating pan 180-degrees after 15 minutes (for even-cooking in case there are hot spots in your oven).

I kept 5 of these in the refrigerator and froze the rest, for use another week.

I served these over a bed of vegetables that I roasted with olive oil and Italian herb mix (zucchini, yellow onion, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes). For even more fiber & nutrition, I steamed some brussels sprouts and added them to the mixture of veggies.

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

Keeping in the spirit of delicious Italian foods, I made a tiramisu-inspired cake to celebrate Mr. Batch’s birthday!  The two recipes that I consulted are this one to make the cake, and this one to make the filling and frosting.  We loved indulging in some sugar-y, gluten-y goodness!

We enjoyed an Ethiopian dinner out at a new-to-us restaurant: Addis Ababa

And I got to see a friend of mine from my culinary school days, when she and her son came to look at R.I.T.  How do my friends have children old enough to go to college?!?!?  🙂  We had a lovely Cambodian lunch at The Soup Spoon:

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Warm Butternut Squash Salad

As y’all know, I send Mr. Batch to work each day with a homemade lunch. Usually a banana that he eats around 9am; a veggie burger made with mixed grains and placed on top of a bed of vegetables and starch; and a fruit snack and a veggie snack that he eats in the afternoon.

He has confessed to me that there are times when his lunch calls to him by 10:30am. And I confess to y’all that I completely understand!

So, he bought himself this Kitchen Safe!

He puts his containers of food inside, and as the website says: “Once the timer is set, and the button is pressed, the safe will remain locked until the timer reaches zero.  No overrides!”

Which worked well … until we switched to glass food containers, which no longer fit in the Kitchen Safe.  🙁

Never fear!  That uber-intelligent Mr. Batch figured out a work-around!  Now he locks the glass containers of food in his desk drawer.

And puts the KEY in the Kitchen Safe!!!

I heart that guy! So dadgum creative!  Swoon!

He claims he doesn’t care for roasted winter squash, so I gave some roasted butternut squash the red carpet treatment …. glammed it up … and  created Warm Butternut Squash Salad.

I love how the caramelized butternut squash tastes when paired with the salty feta, sour lemon, grassy parsley and cool mint. He’s been loving it, and I hope you will, too!

Yield: 6 servings

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 -inch pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, olive oil and salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them in a baking dish for 30-40 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool slightly.

 

  • 1/2 of a large red onion, small diced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon (approx 1/8 cup)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

*Leave out the cheese, and it’s vegan and dairy-free! And Paleo!

Combine the squash, onion, chopped herbs, feta and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.  Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

For leftovers — this salad keeps beautifully in the fridge.  Reheat slightly, to serve warm. If you prefer, you can hold a little of the lemon juice on the side and then add when you reheat in the microwave.

I served this for myself with sliced Juiciest Baked Chicken Breasts and some cabbage that I sautéed with onion, fennel and a bit of grated fresh ginger. Trade out the chicken for some tofu, and you’ll please your primarily-vegetarian fans in your house!

 

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