personal blog

Amazingly, it's possible to eat decent home cooked meals while you have a demanding little child in the house. I've just had to get good at thinking up dishes I can make in a few minutes, with little advance prep (read: using whatever we already have) while dirtying as few dishes as possible. These all fit the bill.

Poached Pears
My go-to fancy dessert. This is the least fancy it gets: peel a pear, cut in half and remove core. Put the halves in a skillet, in a little puddle of water, and add some mulling spices. Cook, covered, until pears are tender. Serve with ice cream, chocolate sauce, or whatever you've got.

Roast Chicken
Buy a rotisserie chicken for $5. Done. OR: Buy a raw chicken for $4. Remove giblets, rinse, season if desired, put in covered baking pan with a little water for an hour or more at 350.

Wilted Spinach
(My vegephobic husband likes this. I can't explain that.) Mince a clove of garlic and put it in a skillet with a glug of olive oil. Then add a whole bag of baby spinach and cook over low heat, turning often, for a few minutes or until the leaves are mostly wilted. Stop before they turn into mush. If desired, add a little balsamic vinegar or Herbes de Provence.

Goes great with that pulled beef/pork from Costco. Buy a 39-cent box of cornbread mix. Mix it with milk as directed, and pour into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake as directed. The paper means there's nothing to wash afterward.

Carrots with orange butter
Going to try this one tonight. The night before, let half a stick of butter soften while you're making dinner. Zest an orange, and mix the zest with the softened butter and a tablespoon of orange juice. (Eat the orange at dessert.) Put it back in the fridge for tomorrow. Then, steam some carrots and serve them with orange butter on top.

Buy frozen ravioli. Cook as directed. Toss in a skillet with olive oil and some dried sage or whatever you've got. Serve with a vegetable.

Steam some asparagus. While it's cooking, melt a little butter in a pan you're going to use for something else. Add a little balsamic vinegar, then pour the butter/vinegar over the asparagus in its serving dish.

Ice cream soda
For this you need a fruity italian soda like what Target is selling now. Or sparkling juice of any kind, or do it the old fashioned way and use root beer. Pour the soda over a scoop of ice cream.

Cauliflower & dill
Steam some cauliflower. Toss in a skillet with melted butter and dill.

Green beans & basil
Steam some green beans. Toss with olive oil & dried basil.
To food by Beth on 2010-03-10.
There are 10 meals (5 dinners, 5 lunches made from their leftovers). I'm posting pictures with recipe reviews on flickr. Check back throughout the week! (Want to play along?)

experiment: meal #1 Meal #1: (dinner) Rotisserie chicken with roasted vegetables

meal #2 (lunch): chicken portobello wrap Meal #2 (lunch) Chicken Portobello Wrap

meal #3 (dinner): shrimp fajita Meal #3 (dinner) Shrimp Fajitas

Meal #4 (lunch): fajita bowl Meal #4 (lunch) Fiesta Rice Bowl

meal #5 (dinner): pasta bowl Meal #5 (dinner) Pasta bowl

meal #6 (lunch) italian quesadilla Meal #6 (lunch) Italian Quesadilla

meal #7 (dinner) spicy shrimp & asparagus stir fry Meal #7 (dinner) spicy shrimp & asparagus stir fry

meal #8 (lunch) peanut noodles with shrimp Meal #8 (lunch) Peanut noodles with shrimp

meal #9 (dinner) roast pork with vegetables Meal #9 (dinner) Roast pork with vegetables

meal #10 (lunch) pork wrap Meal #10 (lunch) Pork wrap

Hey folks - when I'm done with this week, what next? Are there other grocery-list-based meal plans I should try? I liked that this one uses quick & easy recipes, uses its own leftovers, and is healthy and high in protein. Where can I find more like this? (Don't tell me to make my own! I have a sick baby to nurse and a bathroom to remodel!)
To food by Beth on 2009-12-31.
Hello blog! Remember me? I'm Beth, your author.

The baby is doing great! Thanks for asking. There are lots of photos of him on flickr.

I had a good Christmas, including a looong train trip adventure with the baby, and my new year's resolution is to remember everybody's birthday. Not everybody, exactly, just people I know. I hope I can remember all of them.

I'm also going to come up with one novel idea (that is, an idea for a novel) each month. This way, when NaNoWriMo comes around again, I'll have 10 ideas to choose from.

I've also signed up with an online personal trainer to provide ass-kickings via email. She's already sent me my workout plan for January and it's a doozy. I hope I can keep up!

Oh, and I almost forgot. My latest project is cooking along with this meal plan - it's nothing fancy, just five dinners and then five lunches made with their leftovers. I actually did the grocery shopping and am planning on making all the meals, even the ones with shrimp in them. There's 40 grams of protein in most of the meals, so even though they'll only make up half my calories for the day (really, Men's Health, what is this, a crash diet?) I'll be in good shape, nutritionally, to withstand that crazy workout plan.

It's been good talking to you, blog. I'll let you know how the food thing works out. Maybe I'll show you pictures too! I just saw "Julie & Julia" and you know how suggestible I am.

To food, my boring life by Beth on 2009-12-30.
It's that time of year again, when the potato plants die off and you stop panicking over dead plants to remember, oh yeah, that's what potatoes do this time of year. (In zone 5, anyway.)

I served homegrown potatoes with dinner tonight and rather than boil and mash them with milk or roast them so the corners turn crispy, I wanted something that would keep the potatoes moist and let them retain as much as possible of their own flavor. So here's what I did:

  • potatoes (mine were Yukon Gold)
  • scallions, maybe 2 of them (green and white part) for a scant quart of potatoes
  • olive oil, a few tbsp
  • butter, a few tbsp
  • a sprinkling of salt

The procedure is simple: after cutting up the potatoes (with or without skins), put them into a pot with an inch or so of water. When the water boils, keep the lid on, and you'll be steaming your potatoes! If you have a fancy steamer basket, go ahead and use that instead. This is the same procedure I use to steam green beans and other veggies, too.

When the potatoes are soft - 15 minutes if you cut them small, test with a fork to be sure - drain the water and add the butter, olive oil, chopped scallions, and salt. Crush coarsely with a wooden spoon - you don't need to mash the potatoes, just rough 'em up a little.

Serve with leftover scallion bits on top. Yum.
To food by Beth on 2009-07-31. 0 Comments
1. Archer Farms "Indian-inspired" meals from Target. I never thought I would stoop to buying groceries from Target, but look! For $4 you get rice, curry sauce, a side dish, and some over-sweet chutney. It feeds two people heartily. (We add our own meat or veggies to the curry sauce, and cook extra rice, but the total cost is no more than $8 for dinner for two.)

2. High-waisted skirts like this one. I don't know what suddenly made me stop hating this style and start loving it. Maybe the fact that it looks AWESOME on me. (I made my own with Vogue 8425.)

3. Text adventure games! I never liked these as a kid because I could never guess what to do next. Well, either my brain grew or they started writing 'em better, because I devoured three of these things recently and found them intriguing and intelligent and not impossible to play.

First I played Everybody Dies, which starts out all "go east"/"go west"/"it's boring here" but gets interesting after you die the first time. As far as I can tell there's only one ending, but the puzzles are fun and I found the story stuck in my head for hours afterwards, which I think means it's a good story.

Since Everybody Dies was the 3rd-place winner in the Interactive Fiction Awards, I then went and played the first-place entry, Violet. This is an awesome game for procrastination from your nanowrimo novel and/or paid writing projects. In it, the major puzzle is battling procrastination so you can write, because bad things will happen if you don't. (I played this game while waiting for a call back from someone I was interviewing for an article, which is the freelance writer equivalent of "my code is compiling").

4. You see where this is going. After playing about three games in two days I was flooded with ideas for text games I could write. Like one based on my nano novel! Or one where you don't move in space but you can travel through time! or one where you're asleep and have to destroy your alarm clock so you can get back to the quest in your dream where you need to get to the airport that is also a mcdonald's!

Want to play along with the Beth's Craziness game? (the metaphorical one, not the inevitable text adventure) Just apt-get install frotz inform inform-doc. Tell me how yours comes out.

[psst zcode linux ... just trying to help out the googlers]
Here's an interesting idea, from Michael Pollan's latest:

...we need to recognize the value of farmland to our national security and require real-estate developers to do “food-system impact statements” before development begins.

That's a very interesting idea. It would keep suburbs from sprawling over their food sources; it would keep farmland close to where people live. It would mean you can't go around whining that you can't buy local because no food is grown locally.

Or at least, it could be a start.

Read the rest: it's an open letter to the next president about how rejiggering our food system will fix many of the problems we're facing in energy, security, and public health. (Optimistic? Yeah, probably.)
To food by Beth on 2008-11-02. 0 Comments

Putting dinner in oddly-shaped containers is fun!

Left: pan-seared brussels sprouts and potatoes in olive oil, butter, and salt.

Center: salad with spinach, mozzarella, and roasted tomatoes

Right: whole-wheat pasta with roasted tomato sauce (from a jar) and grated cheddar.
To food by Beth on 2008-04-01. 0 Comments
mayan hot chocolate

Last night I sent Marty a recipe for peanut lime noodles, and he responded with this one for Mayan hot chocolate. Amazingly, I had all the ingredients on hand (except the whipped cream). I did run out of milk and have to substitute a little goat's milk.

2 cups boiling water
1 chile pepper, cut in half, seeds removed (with gloves)
5 cups light cream or whole or nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or
3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sugar or honey, or to taste
l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine
Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.
To food by Beth on 2008-03-29. 2 Comments
tomato justice

Irrelevant photo: "Tomato Justice" at the faire

Remember when I mentioned a new project I'm working on? The time has come to unveil it.

I'm now writing a blog about an actual topic (other than me) for an actual audience (other than me). Presenting ... the Sustainable Food Blog!

Don't worry, I'll still be blogging here. Now, go! Enjoy!

To food by Beth on 2007-08-19. 0 Comments
more Royal Burgundy beans

My garden still looks puny compared to the neighbors, but it's making food. I've still got a favorite lettuce plant making me salads, and now I've got beans!

I don't know how they got this big without me noticing. The purple beans above are a variety called "Royal Burgundy". In a nearby bed, and harder to see, are the similar-shaped green beans of "Provider". Back in the corner I have "Light Red Kidney", which has much bigger, lumpier pods.

Meanwhile, the tomato plants still have tiny green tomatoes, getting bigger every day. The late-planted zucchinis are getting big for being so young; with luck I'll have fall crops of all the usual summer veggies. I also planted a second and final round of beans (provider and LRK) and Ashworth corn. Both are supposed to mature early, so I expect I can harvest those in September or October.

green tomato

The garden's not working out super well as a substitute for trips to the grocery store (I'd hoped we could get most of our veggies from our own garden) but Chris and I are learning a lot about how to grow a garden for next year. And since most of our crops are heirloom varieties that breed true, we'll be able to save the seeds from our hardiest plants to use in next year's garden.

Here's to next year, and to late crops of early vegetables!
To food by Beth on 2007-07-27. 1 Comments