Mom, I’m STARVING

I’ve been a little late to the bowl bandwagon. This is, in part, due to my reluctance to pay $8.50 for a bowl of rice, beans, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole with some chicken on top. Plus you have to drive there and go inside. And stand in line.

I can’t replicate the pleasure of driving to upper Peach Street to pick up a fast meal for dinner. If that’s your gig, then I get it. I’ve stopped at Chick-Fil-A on more than one occasion on the drive back and forth to my daughter’s evening tennis lesson. I’ve spent the same amount on a salad with grilled chicken on top. I rationalize it because I didn’t have to go inside. Nor did I have to listen to a teen tell me how she was STARVING during the 20 minute drive home. Home, where there was nothing but a chicken that needed roasted, but would take about 40 minutes.

And she was STARVING. Which meant she would head straight to the snack cabinet faster than the dog can get to his food bowl when I put leftovers in it.

Since I don’t want to engage in mortal combat using a sleeve a crackers against a STARVING teen, I’ve discovered the burrito bowl can be made at home. This is a genius staple because you can hide leftovers in it. No meat? No problem. The rice and beans can provide the protein.

Rice bowl for dinner. I didn’t have any black beans, so I substituted Italian white beans.

The rest of the ingredients are pantry staples – rice, canned corn, salsa, black beans, and a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. From the fridge you need lettuce – I like romaine hearts – sour cream or plain yogurt, a lime, cheese, and cilantro (both optional). If you have barbecue sauce, that’s great too. Just toss the leftover chicken, beef, or pork in some barbecue sauce, and you have a whole new layer of flavor. You’ll also need an avocado, or guacamole.

Then, in the time it takes to cook rice (or buy the 90 second microwave kind) and open a couple of cans – you can have dinner. And the STARVING teen can make it herself. And go back for seconds.

Happy meals,

Marnie

Marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Basic Burrito Bowl
This burrito bowl will come together in less than 15 minutes if you use microwave rice.
Course Main Dish, Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Cook rice according to package directions. Remove from heat and stir in your favorite salsa. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of lime juice, if desired.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the sour cream or yogurt together with the chipotle pepper with some adobo sauce and ground cumin. Taste and add about 1 teaspoon lime juice. Stir.
  3. To assemble, place a layer of rice in the bottom of each bowl (this serves 4). Top with lettuce. Sprinkle with corn, beans, protein (chicken, beef or pork), and avocado pieces or guacamole. Add more salsa if desired or chopped tomatoes. Drizzle chipotle sauce on top. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.
Recipe Notes

Instead of salsa, you can substitute Ro-Tel tomatoes with lime juice.

The amount of lime juice you use will depend on your taste. Chipotle adds lime juice and cilantro to its rice base. If you want to be true to its taste, add lime juice to the cooking water for the rice or squeeze fresh lime juice over microwaved rice. Stir in cilantro, if desired.

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Laughter helps get a rise in the kitchen

A sense of humor is helpful in the kitchen and life, especially if you are going to take risks in both. I may not have it immediately in the moment – something I should consider working on – but generally within 24 hours I can find a laugh.

Often in January I like to tackle kitchen projects that just aren’t on the menu in July, like breads. In part because I love tearing off a hunk of warm bread to accompany a big bowl of soup in the winter. Slather it in butter or dunk it in olive oil – I don’t care. It’s just very comforting.

Of course, bread isn’t one of those devil-may-care projects. It requires yeast, a living organism, water, and flour. Salt is optional for some, I prefer it in mine. I like to feed my yeast with a little honey to give it a boost. All of this seems pretty simple, and if you bake bread for years it probably is, but if the proportions, temperature, or yeast is off – well, you’ve got a lump of baked paste.

I’ve made a few of those this week.

There are a few things that can go wrong with bread. One is temperature. Bread likes places where it is warmer than 70 degrees, which it typically isn’t in my house in January. When I make bread in late spring, summer, or early fall, this isn’t a problem. But in the dead of winter, I am usually stashing the bread next to the heat registers.

I should put it along a south-facing window, which is above a heat register, so that it gets the warmth of the sun. But that would require the sun to shine. Which it hasn’t done, except for a few hours here and there, since sometime in November.

But we are a people who adapt to our weather conditions. So the bread goes into the bathroom in center of the house. I have to warn visitors and my daughter not to kick the bowl on the floor over. Most people don’t expect to find a bowl of rising bread in the guest bath, I guess.

I baby my bread. I put warm, damp cloths on top to provide heat and moisture to those little yeasty guys doing the hard work.

Unfortunately, my little yeasty guys weren’t working. Perhaps they went to Mexico for the winter.

Or, I could have read the expiration date on my bag of yeast (yes, you read correctly; “bag” of yeast). And it would have told me that it was a year past its “best by” date. So I imagined my little yeasty bakers were using walkers by now. Or had retired permanently.

I’m a big fan of King Arthur Flour for recipes and ingredients. I went there to order more yeast, and a few other essentials, parchment paper and a kit to make a coconut cake. Everyone considers ingredients for coconut cake essential, right? The parchment paper and the yeast didn’t add up to qualify for free shipping (about $8), so I bought the $25 coconut cake kit to bring my order up to qualify.

I did not major in math.

And the shipment arrived – in two boxes. Which was fun. Except that both boxes contained the same order – so now I had lots of yeast, parchment and two kits to make a coconut cake. Only the kits didn’t include coconut. I really need to wear my glasses when I order stuff online.

So I called King Arthur to tell them about the double order. The first question she asked was whether I was charged twice, which I hadn’t. Then she told me FDA rules prevent returns of food stuff. So I could keep it. So now I have enough yeast to start my own bakery. And I can make 2 coconut cakes – only I have to go to the store to buy the coconut, butter, and powdered sugar to frost the coconut cakes.

I should have ordered the scone pan.

Anyway. I hope King Arthur is laughing about this.

On the subject of a free second order … I order my hair color from Madison Reed. Have for about a year as a blonde. Before that, for a year as a brunette. Loved the color. Had no problems with the color. It was easy. I could even make a coconut cake while coloring my hair.

But this last order – my platinum blonde (10 NA, for those in the color biz) turned beige on a Wednesday night. Or, as my daughter noted, my hair color matched my skin color.

I called, e-mailed, and online chatted Thursday morning. Of course, the kind colorist explained it was my fault. I had done something differently. Only I hadn’t. But they nicely offered to send me, overnight, a new kit. Please send them a photo with the lot numbers of the color and developer. I did. The new box arrived Friday.

I followed the directions. And my hair turned – beiger. Only I don’t think that is a real word. It was kind of khaki. And then I looked at the lot number. It was the same as the one on Wednesday.

I did not have a sense of humor about this. I kid no one about my preferred hair color. It is not natural. I like it that way. The platinum is sort of the white/silver I would like it to be, but it is not. Hence, the hair color – a 10.

I do not want to be an 8 or a 9. I want to be a 10. Maybe 11 even, if there is such a color. But a 10. And now I was maybe an 8.

So I called Ambridge Rose, where Jamie cuts my hair, and Char fit me in. I would like to say they got my hair color back. After 2 hours, Jamie was close. Whatever was in that Madison Reed batch would not come out. She bleached. She toned. She colored. But there remains some copper where there should be ash.

My hair needs a rest before it can be adjusted again.

Like making bread, I need to be patient. I need to accept that hair, life, dinner – doesn’t turn out exactly the way I want it every time.

And I need to remember to laugh a little more about it. So I imagine, my little old yeasty guys with their walkers hanging out waiting for their wife to get out of the salon with her white/coppery pink rinse.

And then I head back into the kitchen to master my bread recipe. Because tonight is a soup night.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Garlic, Kale, Tomato Soup
Course soup
Cuisine American
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course soup
Cuisine American
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove any extra outer papery layers from the head of garlic. Take a sharp knife and cut the top off to expose all of the inner cloves. Or you can cut the head in half. Remember this is a head, not a clove (1 piece). Place on a sheet of aluminum foil that is large enough to cover the garlic. Drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Cover garlic up, like a packet. Place on a baking sheet or in a small pan. Bake in oven until soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Open garlic packet and allow to cool.
  2. In the meantime, in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients (4 quart) over medium to medium-high heat, add olive oil. Then add the chopped onion and saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  3. Add about 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and the chopped kale. Saute over medium to medium-high heat until the kale begins to caramelize, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Squeeze in the roasted garlic. Stir. Add stock and tomatoes. Bring to a low simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste. Adjust seasonings. Keep on low heat until ready to serve. This soup will benefit from about 30 minutes to an hour to allow the garlic to permeate the soup.
  5. Serve with hunks of fresh bread and a salad.
Recipe Notes

Salt: The amount of salt you add to soup is going to depend on how salty your chicken or vegetable stock is and whether your tomatoes are salted. I like to buy a low-sodium stock, or make my own, and no-salt added diced tomatoes. That gives you total control over the final soup. I suggest tasting before adding salt.

 

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Failure is Part of the Recipe of Life

People often ask if I have failures.

Yes. I do. Sometimes more often than I would like to admit.

Today, I will admit to a couple in the kitchen last week. I’ll admit to some personal ones in another blog later this week.

What do I do, then, with stuff that doesn’t turn out?

Depends. If it is a total disaster, it goes into the waste bin. If not, it may be recycled.

Most of the disasters happen when I bake. And usually it is when I am not following the recipe, precisely. I do like to wing it now and again. With more than 40 years of baking experience, I generally know most of the chemistry. So I know what a batter looks like for a cake, what the texture is for a pie crust, etc.

The oven and your pans, however, can play a real role in the success for failure of your baking adventure. If your oven temperature is 25 degrees off, high or low, even a minute or two will make all the difference between overcooked and raw in the middle. The first time I made the recipe, I had the oven temp at 400 degrees, like the recipe stated. But I have a convection bake setting, so after 12 minutes, they were borderline burned. The second time, I set the timer for 10 minutes and the temperate at 375 degrees. When the timer went bing, they middles were sunken. So I walked away … and forgot for 5 minutes. Once again, overdone.

On the third time, I checked after 10 minutes. Middles still sunken. This time I set the timer for 2 minutes – barely enough time to pour a cup of tea and sit down. Bingo. Twelve minutes was perfect.

So what did I do with the less than perfect ones? Burned and chocolate, even slightly burned, isn’t repairable. They went into the waste can. The batch that we baked, but just not runny in the middle, I turned into cake pops. Essentially just crumble them up in a food processor, add frosting, roll into balls, and dip into chocolate. I also could have made a chocolate trifle, with layers of chocolate sauce. crumbled cake, and whipped cream.

It’s a lot of work to rescue a failure.

Earlier in the week, I was working on no-sugar baked goods made with almond and coconut flour. One was sweetened with oranges that simmered for two hours and then were pulverized in the blender. The other was sweetened with applesauce.

Both were dreadful. Just awful. They represented an entire afternoon of time, some very expensive ingredients (almond flour, olive oil, and a dozen eggs aren’t cheap), and wishful thinking.

Failure happens to anyone who tries. To anyone who dreams, “what if?”

If you keep at it, sometimes you get that perfect molten lava cake. And you get to eat it, while wearing PJs, on the couch, with the remote, and with as much ice cream as you like.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmedia.com

Print Recipe
Chocolate Lava Cakes
These are best served about 15 minutes after coming out of the oven with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
cakes
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Servings
cakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees (375 degrees if using convection bake). Coat 6 ramekins with cooking spray. Place on baking sheet.
  2. You will need 4 bowls for this. One will need to be large enough to mix all the ingredients together.
  3. In the first bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, add chocolate and butter. Cook, uncovered in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. If not fully melted, return to microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Don't cook too long or the butter and chocolate will separate. Let sit for about 5 minutes.
  5. In a third bowl - this one large enough to hold all ingredients - and fourth bowls, separate eggs, discarding one white. The yolks go into the larger bowl with the sugar. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until light, frothy, and the sugar has dissolved into the eggs. Stir in vanilla. Beat the two egg whites until light and fluffy.
  6. Add melted chocolate/butter mixture to the eggs. Then stir in the flour. Don't beat it. You want to stir until the mixture is glossy looking. Then stir in egg whites.
  7. Pour mixture into the prepared ramekins. You can refrigerate this now if you won't be serving soon. If you refrigerate, take the ramekins out of the refrigerator long enough so the batter comes to room temperature before baking - at least 30 minutes (and depending on the temp in your kitchen, up to 2 hours).
  8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. The tops will be puffed, but not cracked. The ramekins will have some shimmy left in the batter if you move them, but won't have an indentation in the middle indicating raw batter. I check mine after 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack. Set timer for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges of the ramekin. Invert each onto a wide spatula, then flip over onto a plate to serve. These are best eaten while still warm served with ice cream or whipped cream.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking From My Home to Yours."

Use your favorite chocolate that you like to eat, bittersweet, milk, or semi-sweet. If you are using the milk chocolate, use just 4 tablespoons of the sugar. If using semi-sweet, then 5 tablespoons. Bittersweet gets all the sugar.

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Simple Skillet Supper: Pork Chop with Cranberry, Onion Compote

My brother’s favorite meal – when he had a choice – was pork chops. He especially liked the Shake’N Bake barbecue kind. In the decades since then, he’s become a much more masterful chef. One of his specialties these days is a leg of lamb.

A leg of lamb, of course, takes a fair amount of time to prepare. It is best for a Sunday dinner with company, not a weeknight with your spouse and/or children.

Ah, but pork chops are perfect for a winter night’s dinner in a hurry.

Because I love food, and would travel to many parts of the world to taste it, some people think dinner is something easy for me. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and there would be an inspired dinner before me. In my life before parenthood, I would spend evenings and weekends gleaning magazines and cookbooks for menu ideas. I’d put together a menu for a week. I’d shop the menu. Cook the menu. And praise be the menu.

But then I had a baby. That was more than 14 years ago. I’ve had the occasional menu since then. Usually when traveling with family, friends, or at the beginning of the year as a New Year promise.

Post-parenthood, knowing what I will do tomorrow night is a challenge. Indeed, knowing about tonight is a challenge. Tonight I need to pick the dog up from the vet at 6:30 p.m. He’s had surgery and the animal hospital is on the other side of the county – so the drive, pickup (with care directions), and return home will be 90 minutes. My daughter came home from school and wants to go to a basketball game at 7 p.m. – smack dab in the middle of dog duty. Because the dog was having a tumor removed, I couldn’t plan. Or wouldn’t plan. It was a paralysis. If I focused all my energy on wishing Bobo to successfully come through surgery, then I didn’t have any brain power left for dinner.

And so it goes.

So tonight, like many nights, comes from the cupboard. I do keep pork chops and chicken breasts in the freezer. You can defrost them under cold running water relatively quickly (pork chop more easily than chicken breasts because they often are thinner).

I don’t care for processed foods, like Shake’N Bake. But I do get the convenience and some of the taste qualities – in this case a sort of sweet and sour in the barbecue flavoring. Saute some onions and add some mustard, vinegar, honey, and dried fruit (or a jam such as apricot or plum and skip the honey). Top the pork chops with this and suddenly your ordinary becomes extraordinary in less than half an hour.

I will explore other options for easy weeknight dinners in columns ahead. In the meantime …

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@marniemeadmeadia.com

 

Print Recipe
Skillet-Roasted Pork Chops with Onion and Cranberry Compote
This is a fast and easy weekday dinner.
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Pat pork chops dry. Rub with 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil (for both). Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium- to medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and saute until soft and slightly caramelized - this can take 8 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.
  3. Stir in mustard, vinegar, cranberries, honey, and thyme. Remove from heat. Taste. Add more salt and pepper, if needed.
  4. Return pan to heat and add a drizzle of olive oil and 1 pork chop. Cook for about 2 minutes, and flip. Cook for another 2 minutes. If these are thin, they should be done. Repeat with second pork chop, adding any additional oil if needed.
  5. Plate pork chop and top with the onion compote.
  6. Suggested serving side: Roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Recipe Notes

To keep the pork chops from curling, take a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife and clip the fatty edges of the chop in about 3 places (evenly spaced).

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