cook like a badass

French toast. Or what to do with leftover bread.

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Using up leftovers in a creative way is always challenging, at least in my house. My kids are deeply suspicious of anything they have seen before, even if they wanted to throw a party in celebration the first time it appeared. Being a constantly on-the-go individual, I love ready-made food at my fingertips. Makes me look like a bit of a genius, whipping up dinner in about 10 minutes. What about all the little bits that wind up hanging around in the pantry or the fridge? One can only make casseroles so often . . .

Bread is one of those things that winds up neglected. Not that it happens all the time; my family goes through bread spurts where I can hardly keep up. It’s the in between times when I face a half a loaf in the bread drawer, wanting to use it up before it goes off.

Three options, and there are likely more.

1)   Make bread crumbs. Slice that bread, cut it into quarters (roughly anyway), drop it in the food processor, and whir away. The resulting crumbs can be frozen to use whenever. I freeze mine in the fresh crumb state, but you could also oven-crisp them and freeze them that way.

2)   Make croutons. Best done with leftover baguette or other crusty bread. Cut into bite-size pieces. Toss with garlicked oil (or leave the garlic out of it) and sprinkle with a little salt, then bake at about 325 until browned and crisp. Cool completely, put in an airtight container, and freeze (or not) until you want to use it. My son is on a Caesar salad kick right now and these are essential.

3)   Make French toast (which the French call “pain perdu”, or lost bread.) Needless to say, this one is a favorite in my house. Hmm. I wonder if they purposefully leave leftover bread so I’ll make this?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp (or more) cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1+ TBS sugar (I like brown sugar in this)
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 4 slices of leftover bread
  • 1 TBS butter or coconut oil for the pan

TECHNQUE:

  • Mix all ingredients except the bread and butter together. I mix these directly in a 9x13 pan, since that’s the perfect soaking spot.
  • Lay the bread slices in a single layer in the egg mixture. Let soak for 2 minutes a side.  The egg mixture will be mostly soaked up.
  • Preheat the pan on medium-medium low heat for about 4 minutes. Add the butter or coconut oil and melt it until it bubbles a bit.
  • Add the bread to the pan, in a single layer. Cook for maybe 3 minutes a side, or until the bread is browned and crisped. You might have to adjust the heat a little.
  • Serve with bacon. Warm maple syrup. Fresh strawberries. Whipped cream. Chocolate chips. Go wild!

Having homemade bread crumbs or croutons ready to pull out of the freezer makes me feel accomplished. Using up leftovers makes me feel like a virtuous, frugal person. Small things - that make me feel badass. You?

 

 

 

 

PANCAKES!

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A favorite anytime food in my household, particularly for the kids, pancakes are one of those simple foods that are pretty easy to make taste okay – but not so easy to make taste GREAT. For me, the one important piece? Texture!

The trick to turning out perfectly fluffy pancakes every time is not beating the batter to within an inch of its life.  You don’t want a perfectly smooth, lump-free batter. This trick works if you’re making pancakes from a mix (please try from scratch sometime!) or from scratch. And who doesn’t love a cooking tip that involves less work? Check out this video for a fun tutorial!

PERFECTLY BADASS PANCAKES (recipe can be doubled)

Ingredients:

  • 2 c all purpose flour (can use ½ c ww flour if you want)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 TBS brown sugar (can use white sugar, or maple sugar if you have it)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c buttermilk (or soured milk, or ¼ c plain yogurt and ¾ c milk)
  • 3 TBS melted butter
  • 1 egg

TECHNIQUE

  • Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  • Whisk wet ingredients together in a smaller bowl
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients, then pour the wet ingredients in.
  • Mix gently (I almost fold the parts together) with a spatula (NO WHISK!) until the flour is incorporated but some lumps remain.
  • Preheat a non-stick skillet or griddle over medium –medium/low heat for about 4-5 minutes. Yes, use the lower setting and let it heat through that way! Brush with oil. Ideally you’ll test the heat by making a dollar-size pancake – should cook through in about 2 minutes on the first side.
  • Spoon ¼ c or so size scoops onto the griddle, spreading the batter out. It WILL be thick!
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then flip over and cook for another minute or 2 on the second side. You can play with the heat setting on your cooktop but you don’t want it to cook a whole lot faster than this – you’ll wind up with uncooked batter inside.
  • Serve with your favorite breakfast meat (if you eat meat), some gorgeous fruit, and warm Vermont maple syrup (from April’s Maple, of course!)IMG_6094

How to poach eggs

poached eggs on toast I love poached eggs. For a long time the only time I’d get them was as a special treat at a brunch restaurant (full disclosure – with hollandaise sauce as part of Eggs Benedict!) – frankly, I was scared of trying to make them at home. Something about the boiling water and getting the eggs just right (cooked whites, yolks runny) had me thinking this was harder than quantum physics.

Then a friend posted a picture of her poached egg breakfast. And I thought about the health benefits of eggs (too numerous to count) and the fact that if I figured out how to poach them, I could eat them with no added fat for the pan.

So I figured it out. There might be more niceties – people tell me adding vinegar to the pan will help with the setting of the white, or swirling the water into a whirlpool will make the egg a pretty shape – but the basics are pretty basic. Get a hold of fresh-from-the-farm eggs, find a good skillet, and experiment with the timing so you get it perfect for you! Check out this Tasty Thursday video for a tutorial . . . 

POACHED EGGS – technique. (ingredients? Eggs and water. Or salsa or spaghetti sauce. But we’ll stick with water here.)

  • Fill a small non-stick skillet about an inch deep with water and bring to a good simmer.
  • Carefully crack eggs into a bowl, working to not break the yolk.
  • Slip the eggs into the simmering water. Cook until the white is just set and the yolk is still runny, maybe about 3 minutes (? I have never timed it.) The yolk will have a thin film over it, and the whites will white through, not opaque – you can also slip a spatula underneath and lift the egg up as a unit.
  • CAREFULLY pour the water out of the pan. I use a slotted spoon to hold the eggs in place, then to kind of slip the eggs (one at a time) out of the pan – this way most of the excess water drains away.
  • Amazing served on fresh homemade ww toast – no butter needed at all. Yum.

 

How to cook rice!

Rice is pretty simple, really. It’s a staple all around the world, though for some cultures it’s sticky rice and others prefer more separate grains. The sheer variety of rice can be overwhelming. Brown, white, jasmine, black, purple, red, basmati, wild. Instant. Long grain, short grain, Par-cooked.  Organic, non-organic. . . . my head is spinning just writing this.

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But for most people reading this, you’re probably wondering about how to cook brown or white rice. Basic, simple. You’re probably cooking for 2-4 people. So here you go! (and the video is here!)

A little background:

  • Brown rice is rice that still has the bran and germ attached. It’s got more flavor (to me) and more nutrients (because the bran and germ have a bunch of nutrients in them), but it takes longer to cook and is chewier (which I like.) Any rice can be found in the brown “variety”.
  • White rice has had the bran and germ removed. It’s generally more refined-looking than brown rice. It’s got a more delicate flavor and texture.

Basic cooking technique:

  • 1 cup rice to 2 cups water (can use stock or some juice or wine to flavor it!)
  • Bring water to a boil in a saucepan (as opposed to a skillet)
  • Stir in rice, cover and turn down to a simmer. (I turn the stovetop all the way down) You can stir once or twice during cooking, but you don’t have to.
  • For white rice, cook 20 minutes.
  • For brown rice, cook 45 minutes.

1 cup rice will make enough for 4 people with some leftovers. You can double this recipe safely, but when you start really scaling it up the water to rice ratio changes a bit. If you like your brown rice less chewy, use an extra 2 TBS of water.

Peanut Sesame Noodles!

There are times when you need to get dinner on the table, and a jar of spaghetti sauce just won’t cut it. You’ve got a crisper full of veggies, some spaghetti (or other long thin noodles) and the ubiquitous peanut butter jar. This dinner, fast and easy, is so satisfying in every way. Check out this video for a tutorial! Gorgeous, creative, inventive, thrifty, and completely delicious. Give it a try and wow your family!

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Peanut sesame noodles

Adapted from Gourmet magazine

 INGREDIENTS:

  • ½ c creamy peanut butter
  • ¼ c soy sauce
  • ½ c warm water
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 2 TBS sesame oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (you can leave this out if you wish)
  • 1 lb linguine – this is a good recipe to use ww or whole grain pasta
  • 2 colored peppers (red and yellow, or orange – not green!), thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ lb asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces on the bias and steamed to crisp done
  • 3 TBS sesame seeds, toasted and cooled
  • optional: ½ bunch cilantro, chopped fine
  • optional: 1-2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced thin

 TECHNIQUE:

  • Put first 8 ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Cook linguine according to package instructions. Drain. Add the sauce immediately to the pasta and toss well. There will look like a LOT of sauce! That’s okay!
  • Arrange pasta on a platter. Decorate the pasta with the vegetables – it will look so pretty . . .
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds for the final touch.

 Good hot or cold or in between!

 

Snow Ice cream

March 20, 2014

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This spring has been crazy here in Central Virginia. Our poor maple tree has had buds on it for 3 weeks now, and the snow just keeps coming. White snow on red buds.  I prefer the normal temps, please, the 50s and sunny with only the occasional snow.

But this week, on Monday, we wound up with yet another snowstorm. (another one is scheduled for a week from now.) And I decided to make a fast simple dessert.

SNOW ICE CREAM!

Ingredients:

Clean snow

Maple syrup

 

Technique:

Scoop clean snow into a bowl. Drizzle with a measured amount of maple syrup (preferably Vermont maple syrup.) Too much will be too sweet, which, if you are my kids, you will tell me is impossible. If you heat it, you will melt the snow – so don’t heat it up.

 

Eat with a spoon.

 

Might be enough to make even me like spring snowstorms.

Make ahead lunch salads

IMG_5394 I don’t know about you, but every now and then I see these pictures on my Facebook feeds of these jars filled to the brim with pretty layers of salad. It made me think about how easy it is to make a bunch of salad ahead of time,  and then be ready at a second’s notice to grab a healthy lunch and go right out the door. So this week's video is inspired by those Facebook posts!

Two tricks:

1)   Do NOT for the love of anything you care for use a quart-sized jar. You would be eating salad for the rest of your life, just out of that one jar. You have to cram in the ingredients so they stay put, and you’d be surprised at just how much salad you can stuff into a pint jar, let alone one twice as large.

2)   Dressing first. Leafy greens last. This can’t be emphasized enough, especially when you go to eat your lunch on Friday. Wilted greens that have sat in dressing for a week? YUCK.

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Ingredients:

  • Whatever you have in your fridge. Really. I go for some combo of colorful, textured, veggies, protein, and then leafy greens. Maybe cheese? Nuts? Dressing is required, but this can be (also) whatever you have in your fridge. Make your own!

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Technique:

  • Get 5 containers. These can be pint jars (wide mouth is easiest!), or leftover ice cream jars. Or plastic containers. Those rectangular pyrex containers do NOT work very well. You’re looking for a container (5) that has more vertical volume than horizontal.
  • Put 2 TBS (maybe a smidge more, if you need to – but try it with less!) in the bottom of each container.
  • Add layers of ingredients, leaving the lettuce/leafy green for LAST. I try to put the stuff that works well marinated in the bottom – tofu or jicama or cucumber and then layer from there.
  • Last stuff as much lettuce as you can cram in there (I push it in with both hands and then quickly cap it, like trying to close an over-stuffed suitcase)
  • Fridge it.
  • Grab and go! I love pouring my salad onto a plate – it looks so cool and the lettuce is on the bottom and the dressing on top . . . mmm.
  • Crunchy, beautiful, healthy, delicious . . . GO FOR IT!

Healthy lunch that saves you money, looks gorgeous, and makes you feel accomplished? Badass. Be a badass. It's the small things!

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Lasagna, deconstructed

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Whether you spell it “lasagna” or “lasagna” or give up on the dictionary altogether and call it casserole, the fact remains that a lot of people think of lasagna as a complicated, time-consuming, messy dish. Delicious, yes, but one that requires the better part of a day to put together.

It doesn’t.

In today’s video, I break down the making of lasagna into 3 simple steps – and there is no large pot of boiling water involved. This is a master recipe, one you can doctor up (or not) to your liking. You can indeed make vegan, gluten-free lasagna, although this is not a recipe for that . . . I’ll tackle that one in the future.

So here you go. Lasagna, deconstructed.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 4-7 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (garlic is up to you!)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
  • 1 16 oz container cottage cheese
  • 2 oz fresh grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained and squeezed dry (optional)
  • 1 package lasagna noodles, either no-boil or regular
  • 1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 more oz fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • OPTIONAL: meat or mushrooms, more veggies like carrots, zucchini, onions

 

STEP 1: the sauce

  • (yes, you can use jarred sauce or your own homemade. But this is so simple and yummy!)
  • Pulse the tomatoes 6-7 times in a food processor, until broken down but still chunky
  • Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and salt.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.
  • TO MAKE A MEAT SAUCE: Cook chopped onions together with 1 lb ground meat (I use part beef and part bulk sausage) until not pink inside. Stir in the sauce.
  • TO MAKE A VEGGIE SAUCE: Saute onions and sliced mushrooms or zucchini together in a saucepan – if mushrooms, cook over high heat until the veggies start to brown. Stir in the sauce.

STEP 2: the filling

  • In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, cottage, parmesan, egg, and basil. Mix well. Then stir in the spinach.

STEP 3: The assembly

  • In a large baking pan (or 2 smaller ones – you’ll have to cut up the lasagna noodles to make them fit) layer 2 cups of sauce on the bottom.
  • Fit 4 lasagna noodles (or however many fit) in the bottom of the pan.
  • Drop spoonfuls of filling on each noodle, then spread it out (I use my hands, well-washed)
  • Top with a handful of mozzarella cheese.
  • Add sauce, spreading it out evenly over the layer.
  • Repeat until you are out of ingredients or out of space
  • FINAL LAYER needs to be sauce, all over the top of any noodles – the noodles need to be covered for this to work well.
  • Then sprinkle remaining cheese and parmesan cheese on top.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 15-25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and browned.

 

This freezes beautifully – I cut it into individual portions, wrap them well in foil and plastic wrap, and stash them in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 2 months. Easy tasty lunch!