Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Merry Christmas!

The tree is decorated and most the presents are wrapped, 

The dining room is even decorated this year. 

I'm looking time with my husband, family, and friends over the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow night we are planning to see the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights (boats are decorated in Christmas lights), we have tickets to see the "Festival of Christmas" at Lamb's Theater, and the weather should be nice enough for some beach time.  

Today I'm having a fat fest in the kitchen.  There was almost a pound of butter out to come to room temperature to make cookies, and (this is a first) I am rendering leaf lard.  

There is a local pork producer, Cook Pigs, in nearby Julien that is now selling pork retail.  It's pastured pork, that eats lots of acorns and avocados.  I have a roast in the freezer for Christmas dinner, and on a whim got some lard too (actually it was pork fat, it's not lard until you render it).  Lard is the newest healthy fat.

Most of the year, I make one kind of cookies... oatmeal cookies.  But Christmas just isn't Christmas without sugar cookies.  It's something I remember making every year with my mom.  This year I'm making 3 different cookies, and made all of the dough this morning. One of them I actually baked, the other 2 are refrigerator cookies that I can bake later to have a constant sugar infusion supply of fresh cookies.  

The cookie I actually baked are biscotti, using the Michael Ruhlman recipe.  These are not hard and dry like as most biscotti.  I added some bittersweet chocolate (about a half cup or maybe a little more), a scant 1/2 cup of toasted pecans, and a 1/4 cup of dry cranberries.  

I also made World Peace Cookies.  These are super chocolaty, with a nice hit of salt.  And really easy to make.  I didn't have Dutch process cocoa and just used what I had, natural cocoa. Dutch Cocoa is darker and has a more neutral pH (natural cocoa is slightly acidic) which can throw off some recipes, but the swap works just fine here.  Also, the cocoa needs to be sifted to get out the chunks, but don't use a can type sifter because you will never get the cocoa out.  Best to use a wire strainer.

And of course I made sugar cookies.  These are not your typical sugar cookies.  The recipe came from Harriet, who I think was a neighbor of moms at the house I was born at.  They are the only kind of sugar cookies I ever eat (I learned early on I didn't like any other sugar cookies). They are very thin and crisp, you don't want to put icing on them as they would get soggy.  I usually just decorate with chocolate chips and nuts, but sprinkles and colored sugars are pretty.  They are also hard to roll... The dough needs to be cold, and you should work quickly.   Here is the dough just after making, the one on the left is wrapped in plastic, the other is not... its very sticky at this point!

I think I will wait until mom is here to make them!  Just a couple of more days.

Sugar Cookies

2 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon lemon or almond extract
4 teaspoons milk
Decorations – sprinkles, nuts (slivered almonds are a favorite), chocolate chips, etc.

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.  Cream butter and sugar.  Blend in egg, extracts, and milk.  Blend in dry ingredients.  Make 2 large patties, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  

Preheat oven to 350oF.  Roll 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters and transfer to ungreased cookie pans.  Don’t re-roll the dough more than once (and I find the cookies made from the space between the cutouts are just as beautiful as the cut shapes).  Using parchment paper will assist with clean up.  Decorate as desired.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until just starting to brown.  

Ethan can't wait.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cooking for One: Fried Rice

December is finally here, and I'm telling myself that I can stop being Grinch-y about Christmas decorations and the like.  I love the awe and wonder of Christmas ... for about 2 weeks.  Yes, do a little shopping and planning, but my tree is not going up for another week!

Until then, life as normal.  Which often means dinner for one. I like to have proper meals, even when I'm alone. I don't really mind cooking for myself, I think it has helped me develop as a cook, to learn more about tasting and adjusting flavors. But there are limits on just how much time I'm willing to spend cooking for just me, especially the cleaning up part.  There are a disconcerting number of these meals that I cook in a 10" or 11" non-stick skillet:
  • Scramble (leftover potatoes, onions, something green, meat or bacon and/or an egg on top)
  • Spiced Chickpea and vegetables (I'll post this one soon)
  • Fried Rice
  • Scrambled eggs with veggies
  • Mini-frittata (well, this uses a 6" non-stick skillet.  Just like this, but just 2-3 eggs)
To make this happen, its very helpful to have leftovers.  Things like boiled potatoes, leftover chicken (or turkey) or sausage, plain rice, or pasta whatever.  The leftovers, combined with some fresh vegetables, allow me to make something completely different from night to night that's healthy and filling and tasty. When I don't have leftovers, beans or eggs or a sausage from the freezer often find their way into dinner for one.

I can tell you that I don't really have recipes for these skillet dinners  I'm going to show you what I do, and write something that looks like a recipe, but don't worry about following too closely. And I'm not worried that my tree is not up yet.

Fried Rice

Get everything out:  leftover rice (enough for one person), leftover meat (optional.. sometimes I'll use cashews or almonds if I don't have meat), aromatics like garlic, ginger, hot peppers (or can use red pepper flakes.. or not if you don't want spicy), onions, and an assortment of veggies so that you have a couple of cups or so when they are chopped.  I have zucchini, carrot, red pepper, and some leftover green beans for this batch.  Other things I like include mushrooms, broccoli, cabbage, kale, asparagus... pretty much what ever needs to be used up.  Plus an egg, some oil, and some soy sauce.

Start chopping.  Finely mince the aromatics, chop everything else. 

Get out a 10 or 11 inch non-stick pan, and heat some oil (a tablespoon or so, enough to coat the bottom) over medium high heat.  Add the aromatics, veggies, and rice.  Also throw in nuts if you are using. Let cook.  Stir occasionally.  You want things to brown a little. 

When the veggies are almost done, stir in the meat.  Then push everything to the side, and put a little more oil in the middle (by the way, I think I actually used chicken fat (schmaltz) here because I happened to have some left from roasting a chicken, but anything works).  

Drop the egg on the oil. 

Then quickly stir to scramble and cook.

When the egg is mostly cooked, mix everything together, and drizzle with soy sauce (I'm guessing a teaspoon or two).  Taste, you can always add more soy sauce if needed.

If you want to make this for 2, use a 12" skillet.  Although I'm guessing that this might make 2 servings for some people (those who don't swim for example).  

Fried Rice

Makes one big serving.

Oil or fat of choice (vegetable, olive, chicken fat, etc.)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ginger, minced
1 hot pepper, minced or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
½ small onion, chopped
2 cups (or so) of assorted chopped vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, summer squash, etc.
1 cup (or so) of cooked rice (brown or white)
1 egg
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste)

Heat oil in 10 or 11 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the aromatics, veggies, and rice.  Also throw in nuts if you are using. Let cook.  Stir occasionally -- things should brown a little.  If things are sticking, turn down the heat and add a little water. When the veggies are almost done, stir in the meat.  Then push everything to the side making a well in the middle. Put a little more oil in the middle then put the egg on the oil. Then quickly stir the egg to scramble and cook. When the egg is mostly cooked, mix everything together, and drizzle with a teaspoon of soy sauce. Taste, add more soy sauce if needed.