Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hagen Daas Acai Berry Sorbet

Aside from the freakishly smooth scoop there in the picture, this is actually a pretty accurate image. It's a deep reddish-purple, and it's trying it's best to be as smooth as sorbet should be, but acai is kind of gritty the way pears are, and that comes through in the sorbet as a bit more texture then you may be used to. I was expecting this, having become recently obsessed with acai to the point of paying a dollar a seed to grow my own, so it didn't bother me.

The carton describes the flavor as something between blackberry and sweet blueberries, and I guess that's accurate, but it's more then that, too. At first, it tastes like mixed berry, and then as you keep eating it, it starts tasting like there's bananas and apples in the flavor too, and in the end, it has a flavor all it's own, something not like the usual fruits we eat here in the US of A. But it's yummy and I love it, and I was hard put not to eat the whole thing last night.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake Icecream

by Ben & Jerry's
There was only one little tub left last night when we went grocery shopping, and I grabbed it without a second thought. I had it for breakfast like all good single post-college girls do, and it was pretty amazing. Thick and creamy like I've come to expect from Ben & Jerry's, smooth and perfectly balanced-- it tastes like pumpkin without tasting like a vegetable, it tastes like nutmeg without tasting like only nutmeg, it tastes like cheesecake without tasting like cream cheese like so many icecreams with that word in the title do. The gramcracker swirl is sweet and crispy, and I'm still amazed at how well Ben & Jerry's uses black magic to keep their pastry-type swirls from getting soggy.

It's limited edition, as all seasonal things must be, but it's a good one. It'll go down next to the Festivus Icecream in the History of Food I've Loved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Super-Veg Gratin

No pictures again, because it didn't last that long. I take it as a compliment, and as a need to take pictures before I tell people it's ready.

Anyway, here's what I did:

Butter a 13 x 9 in baking dish. Use a piece of bread and tear the buttered remains up to make breadcrumbs; mix it with five crumbled saltines.

Slice up four potatoes very thin-- if you have a mandolin or one of those box graters that can do narrow slices, definitely do that; I only have a moderately sharp knife, and that takes forever and left me with a blister where the edge of the handle hits my first finger. Keep the slices in water until you're ready so they won't go gross.

Slice up carrots the same way. I used one of those monster carrots, and it equaled about two or three good sized normal carrots.

Finely chop 1 red pepper, 1 stalk of celery and it's leaves, 1 onion, and 4 cloves of garlic.

Grate 1/3 of a block of sharp cheddar and mix it with an equal amount of parmesan-- shaky-cheese is fine.

Open a carton of potato-leek soup and one of veggie broth.

Heat the oven to 450 or 475 (mine runs cold, so I did 475).

Get layering! Like so:
- Layer of potatoes topped with salt and pepper
- Layer of carrots
- Layer of mixed veg and garlic
- Layer of cheese, topped with salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary
- Repeat. Mine repeated another whole time, and then a third layer of potatoes to cover the top.
- Mix half the broth with all the potato-leek soup and pour it over the layered veg.
- Top with the bread and more salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary. Butter if you want.

Cover with foil and cook on a cookie sheet to catch drippings for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the foil and cook until the veggies are all uniformly soft. Let it sit for ten minutes until it stops boiling and sets up a little, then dig in! Even when lava-hot, it's really yummy and has a texture something like the inside of a pot pie.

First Pomagranate of the Season

picture by my good friend Rachel, featuring the hands of my other good friend Jaqui.

Usually I don't get the year's first poemgranate until winter-- somewhere near Christmas when they show up at Wal-Mart and other such cheap and publicly-accessible stores. But because of the Farmer's Market mentioned before, I got to have a wedge of a lovely shiny-red pom for breakfast. They're messy to open and kind of a pain to eat if you don't chomp the seeds (which I don't because I think they're too hard to chomp and bitter and clash with the tenderness of the fruit, as well as leaving nothing for me to plant), but they're so tasty and so... what's the word I'm looking for here? Histoical? Loaded with centuries? It's the sense that they've been around for almost as long as people have, the knowledge that they were common in the first civilizations man inhabited, the idea that they're sacred to Goddesses in the old stories that tell of the turning of the seasons...

I think not in straight lines but in clouds of ideas and references, and pomegranates, perfect and shiny and so loaded with little rubies, are more surrounded by ideas then most things, and the first one I get to eat of the year is like a sacrament-- it's absorbing the fall that fell when Persephony went underground and ate the same seeds as me, it's remembering all the times we sat around campfires eating poms and drinking tea brewed on an open flame, it's hoping the spring will come and it's enjoying the coming winter. I'm early this year, but it's still the same, and it's still wonderful, and I love them.

As soon as these seeds are dry enough not to rot, I'm trying again to sprout viable seedlings so I can still have poms when the food system collapses entirely.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

St Augustine Pier Farmer's Market

Wednesday mornings are for the Farmer's Market. I don't get to go as much as I'd like because it's far enough from my house that I can't bike, but we're hoping to change that in the future. With food costing more all the time and us not getting any less poor, the market lets us get super-fresh veggies for way cheaper then we can at the supermarket.
Here's what thirteen and a half dollars gets you in the second-ish week of October: 3 huge red sweet peppers (2$ for one at Publix last I looked), an eggplant big as my face, three big vine-ripened tomatoes, two giant yams, two equally giant carrots, a pomegranate and a really fantastic-smelling apple, and a stalk of fresh lemongrass (which is sitting in water and I'm hoping will grow roots for me). And a mollasses cookie I already ate. Everything was huge. I mean, look at this carrot! --->

We're going vegetarian tonight because we're out of meat, but with veg like this, who needs meat?

In addition to this, H got three huge portebellos, a pound of green beans, three cloves of garlic, a shallot, a massive 1$ stalk of celery, sweet potato bread and a cookie, and C got an avocado as big as a grapefruit, three yellow tomatoes, a pound of grapes, a pint of strawberries, two pounds of apples, a pomagranate, a loaf of rye bread, sweetpotato bread, and another cookie, and neither spend more than 20$. We're eating well for the next few days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Experimental Halloween Candy Flavors

Also known as 'seasonal'.

I love experimental candy. The fact that it's out of the norm, the fact that it's limited-time-only and I may never see it again... I look forward to the candy holidays because of this one simple thing. I just finally got my hands on a tiny bit of un-spoken-for money, and C and I indulged in some sampling of the standard brands pushing new flavors at us for Halloween.

Snickers Rocky Road: Meh. The marshmallow-flavored nougat is really just non-flavored, and almonds are harder than peanuts. And it's almost too sweet. I miss the slight saltiness of the regular Snickers nougat.

Hershey's Pumpkin Spice Kisses: Yum! They taste like the pumpkin spice fudge at Kilwins, only not as dense. Not too sweet, and they're orange with white inside, and distinctly nutmeggy rather than cinnamony, and I like it much better that way.

Hershey's Candycorn Hugs: They're so cute with their yellow bottoms and white tops and orange insides! They smell like butter cupcakes. The taste... I don't know. Not like candycorns, more like butter cream frosting flavor (not like actual butter cream frosting). And the texture was weirdly chalky, not at all like a regular Hug-- but all the ones in this bag seem to have gotten really soft and hardened up again, so it might be that. I'll give it another try when they all go on clearence November 1st and I go binge on cheap candy to hold me over until Easter.

Le Cafe

The other day, before a day of thrifting for Halloween costumes, H, A and I went to Le Cafe right on A1A where Fran and Tam's used to be.

It's a tiny place, only about five or six tables and a three-stool-bar, but it had that old timey charm that seems to be leaking out of St Augustine these days. Most of the people who were there were older, the sort of people you'd see in a Diner, if we had one anymore, and there was a steady stream of customers, so I think they were well-regarded.

I had the turkey and swiss croissant (4.50), A had the ham and swiss croissant (also 4.50) and H had the Croque-Monsieur, which is a fancy sort of grilled cheese (3.99). The food was not huge, but it wasn't tiny, either, and perfect for breakfast. Croissants make dangerously good and remarkably filling sandwiches. Afterward, we got the crepe with nutella, whipped cream and vanilla icecream, and it was devine.

There's a variety of crepes available, but none of them savory like A says were available all over Paris, but the crepes themselves are tender and fluffy and not at all rubbery like alot of small places make them. And nutella makes everything amazing, especially when it's warm.

They have breakfast all day, a small selection of icecream that can be made into milkshakes, smoothies, bagels, paninis, build-your-own sandwiches, belgian waffles, and the most adorable and tasty-looking single-serving quiches that I'm trying next time.

Cash only
Open 7:30 am to 5 pm, closed on Sunday

Monday, October 13, 2008

Variation on Mom's Stew

My mom makes a great slivered beef stew. It's on old recipe from the cookbook her mom gave her when she married my dad, and it was old then, so I'm guessing it's a 50s housewife sort of recipe. I was craving it last night, but all we had was chicken, so I used that.

Slice the chicken into narrow strips*. Dredge about half of them in flour.

Brown them in olive oil or butter in the soup pot so all the flavor stays in one place; remove them to clear way for the veggies. They don't have to be cooked through because they'll finish in the soup, but make sure they're browned. The flour will come off, and that's fine; it helps to thicken the soup into a stew later.

Add a little more oil and cook the onions (one or two, roughly chopped) while you chop the veggies: three or four potatoes; two carrots or a handful of baby carrots; a handful of broccoli; a green pepper; a handful of fresh mushrooms.**

Throw all the veggies in when the onions have started to caramelize. Throw the chicken and their juices back in.

Add chicken broth. I used more of the leftover broth from last week, about 20 oz, and topped it off with water-- the pot should be about three quarters full, a goodly portion of stew. Add in a few bay leaves (I usually do one for each person eating it) and more salt and pepper.

Boil it for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the hard veggies are all soft enough that you need a spoon to eat them. If it doesn't thicken up on it's own, make a slurry of flour and cornstarch and the hot broth, and make sure it's smooth before you add it back to the pot so it doesn't make a clumpy stew. Cook a bit longer to give it a chance to thicken, then serve with biscuits.

What're the chances of me not using garlic? I know, it's crazy, but my mom was never much of a garlic-cooker, being nowhere near Italian, and this is her recipe, so no garlic. It makes a savory, lovely stew that's good for several days.

* This would also be good with bone-in chicken or turkey. Just cook them longer.
** Peas would be good here. Maybe beans. Really, just use whatever veggies you have. It's a fall and winter recipe, so it does best with sturdy, stewable veggies-- tubers, roots, cabbage, broccolis, that sort of thing-- but any will do. If you use a lot of softer ones, cook for less time, or pre-cook the hard ones a bit before adding so the soft ones dont' become mush.

Apple-Onion Chicken with Mashed Potatoes

Yeah, I really need a new camera. Anyone got a hundred-ish dollars I can have?

Today, a nice fall offering of chicken stewed with apples and onions, done thusly:

Put potatoes on to boil.
Put onions and a peeled, chopped apple or two, and a chunk of slivered cabbage on medium heat and cook up with some olive oil.
Add the chunked chicken-- this was two large breasts, somewhere around two pounds.
Add a half cup of apple sauce and a half cup of apple butter, salt and pepper, a little butter, and some red wine vinegar.
Stew it all until it's cooked way down and the chicken is cooked all the way through. It'll be something like a chunky applesauce, and never really thickens up into a gravy, and should be tart and sweet and spicy.
Serve with the mashed potatoes.

We've made this all together in a crockpot with a pork shoulder, and it's lovely that way, too.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Three Meals: Pepperoni Pasta, Dugger Casserole, Chicken and Rice

I don't have pictures of these because I just can't look at another cellphone picture-- and because they didn't last long enough to picture-fy.

1. Pepperoni Pasta
Make ground turkey into Italian sausage by cooking it with tons of garlic, fennel seed, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. Hardly takes any time and makes a really good base for everything.
Cook bowtie pasta to your desired doneness.
Sautee an onion in the same pan. Add chopped pepperoni and a basic tomato sauce to the 'sausage', leaving it a little on the dryer side-- it should be mostly meat and pasta, with just enough sauce to hold it together.
Add grated parmesan. Can be made with cooked chicken, in addition, though we left that out this time.

It's the closest we can get to Timballo since they closed down Johnny Corrino's here, and one of H's favorite one-pot-and-one-pan meals.

2. Dugger Casserole
We've been watching these Duggers on TV for years now, watching their family grow to over twenty and watching them build their own giant house. This is their famous family favorite, which we made in honor of their newest special.
Cook up ground turkey with salt and pepper, and layer it in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
Top it with a whole bag of tater tots.
Mix a can of cream of mushroom with a can of cream of chicken and a can of evaprated milk, and dump that over the whole thing.
Cook for an hour at 350.

Tastes remarkably good, and has a rice-and-chicken-casserole sort of texture. Next time, we're adding peas and carrots and maybe a topping of cheddar cheese.

3. Chicken and Rice
One of my mainstays for when I'm cooking for myself.
Rice cooked with chicken broth (mine is left over from the Orange Rice from the other day).
A chicken breast, chopped and cooked with olive oil, chili powder, adobo, salt, pepper, cilantro and oregano. Add corn right before it's done and cook until the juices soak in.
Throw on top of the rice, and top with cheese.

Works with any chicken, veggie burgers, beef, pretty much any meat or meat-like, so long as the seasoning is basically tex-mex. Also really good with salsa and sour cream, but we're out of both right now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Acorn Flour!

I found this post about making acorn flour. We've got billions o' acorns up in this block-and-a-half street I live on, as I discovered when I gathered a bunch for crafting last year, and I think I'd love to give this a try. Mostly because of the following:
a) acorns are so pretty-- the shape of them is something that speaks to my hobbity soul, and the color of these inside is like saffron (i wonder if it'll stay yellow?)
b) people who lived here before Europeans lived off the things, and so can I
c) it's this huge resource that isn't getting used. I mean, this is an Arbor Day Tree City, and most of those trees are oaks.

I'll keep you posted, yeah?

Orange Rice and Chicken

Damn, I really need to get a camera better than my phone...

Anyway, last night's dinner was Orange Rice and Chicken with Extra-Sharp White Cheddar.

Orange rice is made the same way as yellow rice-- this was a medium and a large bad of Mahatma Yellow Rice-- but instead of water, use chicken broth and add veggies. Directions are like so:

Boil a chicken.
This one was a big meaty one, but any chicken will do. Fresh broth is the best broth as far as flavor, so we always get the meat and the broth from the same place. Put the chicken in the pot with pepper and garlic, and boil for at least an hour.

Make the rice.
Add the rice and the broth into a big sturdy pot, and cook according to directions, but with less broth than recommended, because the veggies add extra water. If I'd followed directions, it would have been seven and a half cups and that a) wouldn't have fit in the pot I had, and b) would have been really really mushy.
Add one onion, one green pepper, and one can of fire roasted tomatoes (that's why it's Orange and not Yellow Rice).
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until it's done like with normal rice. It'll probably burn; something about yellow rice makes it always burn, and the few times when it hasn't, it also wasn't good. I know paella is meant to burn, so maybe that's why. Anyway, just becareful you don't scrape up the burned bits if you don't want that, and it enhances the flavor of the roasted tomatoes either way.

(If the meat isn't falling off the chicken yet, refill the pot and let it boil longer while the rice cooks-- you've got somewhere around a half hour before the rice is done, and you'll get a second batch of broth you can jar up and save for later in the fridge.)

Pick the chickens.
When it's ready, pull the chicken out of the pot and debone it like a vulture as soon as it's cool enough to touch, picking out all the little bits of meat. There's really great pockets of tastiness on the backs of the hips (oysters), the shoulders above the wings, and the back. Anything that isn't gristle and skin can go in, and things like thighs and breast are better if you keep them in sort of big chunks.
Toss the bones, or save them for more stock, but I think they're pretty spent by this point if you've double-boiled them like I do.

Mix it up.
This is easiest in the pan that you picked the chicken in-- once the bones and bits are out, dump the rice on top of the chicken and fold it all together.

Top with the cheese, and eat it all up.

With this much rice, it makes enough for five people to eat twice.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Today's Tea: Genpi-Cha and Cinnamon Sunset

I drink a lot of tea. I mean, really alot. It's not unusual for me to drink an entire pot as part of breakfast, and then make another that I nurse all day long, hot and cold. I'm a fan of teas I don't have to remember to take out of the pot because of this fact. Since I drink so much, I've got a really huge collection, and I start combining them when I get bored.

Today's tea is Genpi-Cha Diet Tea from J-List and Harney & Sons Hot Cinnamon Sunset.

The Genpi is a base of nice oolong, which is my favorite level of oxydation, and is spiked with barley tea (mugi-cha) and various japanese herbs meant to help with weightloss and energy. The H&S is black tea with cinnamon and orange, and smells kind of like Big Red-- or like every grocery and craft store this time of year.

I've had them both separately, and I like them both, but the Genpi starts tasting more roasty and chicory-ish they longer it sits, and starts taking on more and more of the barley tea flavor that I'm not all that fond of-- it tastes to me like tea that's been made with a poorly-rinsed coffee machine, and I don't like the flavors of tea and coffee together. When I drink it alone, I keep adding fresh water to it to keep that flavor minmized. The Cinnamon Tea is STRONG. On it's own, it just takes over everything, and all you taste is the cinnamon, which tends to make it kind of flat and one-dimensional, so I usually only drink this tea with something else to minimize and mitigate it.

Together, the two teas counter eachother's weak points and make a nice aromatic tea that doesn't get bitter, warms you a little without burning your face off, and has the dietary goodness of the Genpi and the sugar-level-balancing of the huge dose of cinnamon. It makes a nice red-brown tea that smells and tastes like fall.

Fruit-Topped Waffle

For dinner last night, I made waffles on our ancient but sturdy second-hand Belgian waffle maker. Apparently, waffle irons have gotten bigger since that was made, because the recipe that the box said should make 4 came out as 8, so there were leftovers for breakfast this morning. Usually, I eat waffles with butter and jam or with peanut butter and honey, but today I wanted something more substantial. This is what I wound up with.

The fruit topping is 1 red pluot that I've had sitting in the fridge for almost a month (we won't even start on how scary it is to have fruit last a month like that) that needed eating and a handful of frozen cherries. The pluot was a little hard, a little bland and poorly ripened, and starting to dry out a bit in the fridge, so I chopped it into the pan and added a tablespoon of butter and a few tablespoons of brown sugar-- less than a quarter cup, just eyeballed in. I cooked it all together until the pluots had softened and the cherries had almost dissolved, and then dumped it on top of the toasted waffle.

Yum! Way better than the fresh pluot had been! It came out a little tart, a little plummy, just sweet enough (which is nowhere near as sweet as pancake syrup), and a little buttery. The pluots were tender without being mushy, and the sauce was almost like a home-made fruit syrup. I was going to add cinnamon and ginger, and didn't even have to-- there was enough flavor already. This combo would make a nice jam. I think it would work just as well with peaches, plums, nectarines, all cherries, pretty much any of the drupes. It'd be good with nuts. And I keep wanting to throw herbs in, but that will take more testing-- maybe fresh thyme? Basil? Anise would be good...

Review: Blue Dragon Royal Thai Green Curry

This is one of those heat and eat sauces-- this one picked up at the Scratch n Dent Grocery, so who knows which store it originally came from. The instructions say to add chicken or shrimp raw, and let them cook in the sauce to get the best flavor. I added chicken, as well as onions, green peppers and a last left-over potato to make it stretch further, and simmered it until everything was done through. Served it on a heaping pile of lovely Basmati rice.

It's a tasty, sweet-hot sort of curry, with that distinctly Thai smell and flavor-- lemongrass, keffir lime, coconut milk, ginger-- and it's pretty close to the way it tastes at restaurants, though perhaps a bit mellower and uniform of flavor. The heat is there in the first bite, but never got too much (and I'm kind of a sissy when it comes to heat, so that's good, though my room mate who likes heat said it was spicy enough for him, so I guess it's some sort of magic chili that can be mild and spicy at once. or it's the coconut milk and rice.), and went really well with both the veggies and the meat.

I think, until I can figure out how to make my own Thai curry, and when I can't afford to go to a restaurant, this is a good one. Though next time, I'll get two packs to serve five, as it's really only meant for two to three.


Semi because i sort of made it up as I went. It's a fall-time sort of pasta made of all the random bits we had laying around before we went grocery shopping. So without further ado:

Start with onions.
I had one left, a yellow from a batch that was remarkably hot and oniony, so, knowing that I'd be making most of it from olives, I decided to caramelize the onions, and did so in olive oil over medium heat while I chopped up the rest. If I'd had fresh garlic, it would have gone in here, too.

About a cup of mixed olives, seeded and chopped.
I don't use canned olives any more-- I mean, if even Winn-Dixie has an olive bar, why not get real olives? These were a mix of Garlic-Stuffed and Lemon-Stuffed green olives and oil-cured Kalamatas. Minced them up real small and dropped them in as soon as the onions were sweet and browning.

Sliced mushrooms and white beans.
I used about five or six good button mushrooms, and tossed them in with a drained can of cannellini beans.

Salt, just a little. Pepper, alot. Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley, Garlic Powder, all dried. Fresh Sage and Basil from the garden (mostly sage, the basil's almost done, but the sage is going crazy now that it's cooler and dryer).

I used a can of Basil, Oregano and Garlic chopped tomatoes, half-drained because I didn't want it soupy. I think I might use the fire-roasted ones next time, if we have them. With fresh ones, it'd be more spring-ish.

Basically, just to let all the dried herbs soften up and to bring all the flavors together, as well as to cook it down a bit.

Our last nub of parmesan, about a half ounce or an ounce, grated and mixed in right at the end.

Dropped on top of some whole-wheat spinach pasta.

Fed all five of us, though there were no seconds and the portions weren't huge; I was expecting three or four to be home. Ah well.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Swedish Meatballs

C bought beef for the first time in months, and I wanted to do something special with it, so I made Swedish Meatballs. Mmmm, food meant for much cooler climates...

This was roughly two pounds of beef. To be entirely authentic, it should be half beef and half pork or veal, but all we had was beef and it wasn't planned, so I went with that.

Start by setting several pounds of potatoes to boil. We used red potatoes because we all like the skins. While they're cooking, make the meatballs.

To make the meatballs:
thawed raw ground beef
+/- 2 slices of bread, soaked in milk until really squishy, or a 1/2 c to a cup of bread crumbs, also soaked in milk until squishy-- about an equal portion of bread and milk
1 or 2 eggs
salt and pepper
mustard powder, allspice and nutmeg, about 1 tablespoon, 1 tbsp, 1/2 tbsp, more if you like them strongly seasoned
1 finely chopped onion, and it can be cooked ahead of time, but is just as tasty mixed in raw

Mix it all up. A fork or spoon will get it started, but to really make it uniform, take off all your rings and dive in with your hands. Gross, but faster and makes a much smoother and better mixed base, and you need to use your hands to make the meatballs anyway.

Ball them up into smallish meatballs-- about and inch and a half across. Go ahead and ball all of them up on a plate before starting to cook them.

Fry them in butter until cooked through. I usually plop them down and drop a lid over them so they start to cook on the top while the bottom is cooking, and so the moisture stays in. There'll usually be one that sort of falls apart-- sacrifice it to the flavor gods and make sure it's cooked through. This batch cooked in three installments, but I have a pretty big frypan.

Remove them to a paper-towel-covered plate to sit while the rest are finished. You may need to remove fallen onions from the pan between batches; put them aside and you can throw them back in when you make the sauce.

To make the sauce:
Once all the meatballs are done, add a tablespoon or so more butter and a few tablespoons of flour, and make a nice roux-- that sounds scary, but really you're just sucking up all the leftover meat-flavored grease with the flour. Cook it until it's just a little brown, sort of tannish. Then deglaze with beef broth or any other broth you have. I used veggie, which makes a lighter flavor sauce, but is still tasty.

Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens up into a gravy-like consistency. You can stop here, or, if it's tasting too bland, you can add a half-cup of sour cream and some mustard powder. (I actually added too much mustard, but it's still tasty, just... mustardy).

Make your mashed potatoes as you normally would, and serve meatballs and taters with the sauce, and add a dollop of lingonberry jam or cranberry sauce if you have it.

This made enough for all five of us to eat six meatballs and a huge heaping of potatoes apiece.