Mea Culpa

Like clockwork, each year, ten days after the celebration of the Jewish new year, comes the day of atonement, Yom Kippur.  From sundown the night before the sundown the night of, we fast, think about and atone for those we’ve wronged and forgive those who have wronged us.

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In a conversation about this with a friend who was raised Jewish but has recently converted to Islam, we debated the merits of this system.  Every religion has a way of making up for sins- Catholics use weekly confession, for example- and in every religion you can embody the idea or you can just give it lip service.  It’s very easy to be a jerk all year (all week) and then say you’re sorry one day a year (once a week) and then go back to being a jerk again.  Or you can take the idea to heart, really examine how you’ve been living and try to make positive changes.

I use the day as a time to reflect on the last year:  what was I proud of in my behaviors and responses?  What was I not as proud of?  What did I want to pretend I didn’t do?  If something stands out as particularly egregious, I’ll apologize to the person I’ve harmed.  I’ve spent a lot of time studying the ideas of guilt vs. shame and the role of forgiveness of yourself and others and I think that Yom Kippur can serve as a time to really examine and differentiate between those.

Of course, for the last several years I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding so I have been excused from fasting.  I still thought and was careful but I ate.

It is traditional to have a somewhat sparse but filling, non-celebratory dinner both before and after the holiday.  The break fast meal is generally dairy.  This year we’re planning to break our fast with a meal at a new dumpling house ( I am so. excited.  See this post for why) which, while not the same place as referenced in that post, may be able to rival it.

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For the night before, I went simple.  I made Mushroom Popover Pie which I found on a recipe card send to me by Jewish Women International, a great organization to which I donate every year.

photo 2I served it with a homemade challah.  It is Shabbat, after all.  It’s not pretty but it is yummy.  And not decadent at all, which is somehow fitting.  It’s a recipe by Mollie Katzen and can be found here.

photo 4So, on this Yom Kippur Eve, I wish you time to reflect upon your year.  I wish you the ability to see the positive and the negative and to have the strength to change what you dislike.  I wish you an easy but significant fast and I wish you peace.

Finally, as someone I know and admire in the blog world says, I wish you enough.

Endless Summer

As many of you know, I adore the idea of growing my own veggies and food.  As those of you who know me know, I am far too lazy to do this.  Weeding, planting, maintaining… not going to happen.  So I rely on the kindness of others.  Such as the lovely K. from Cocktail Farmers.  I’ve mentioned her before because she is my supplier of sungold tomatoes.  I never have photographs of these little beauties because I simply scarf them all down, sometimes in the car on the way home after seeing K.  They are like vegetable crack- sweet, bite-sized and addictive.

The last time I saw K., she also gave me this gorgeous tomato:

IMG_6508Don’t know what it’s called but oh, wow, was it good.  It was so good that I sliced it up:

IMG_6509And ate most of it with just a sprinkle of salt.  The rest I made into a sandwich.  I used Nashoba Brook Bakery’s Harvest bread, with just a bit of mayo and salt.

IMG_6510Oh my.  Summer in every bite.

My HipstaPrint 995575301It was so good (and so were the sungolds), that I am considering looking into growing small tomato plants inside my house, year round.  Is that even possible?  Off to google it….

BBQ U, day 3 – hello Texas, and graduation

After Tuesday’s successful rib extravaganza, I was feeling a lot more confident about grilling, and J and I decided that we should divide & conquer with recipe preparation, if we were chosen to do any cooking.  Day 3’s theme?  Secrets of tailgating.

Day 3 menu:

  • Shrimp grilled on sugarcane with dark rum glaze
  • Fire-eater chicken wings
  • Scotch whisky-smoked salmon on a cedar plank with grilled mini-bagels
  • Burger bar:
  1.           Wagyu cheeseburger sliders
  2.           Lamb burgers with goat cheese
  3.           Barbecued pork burgers
  • Hill Country brisket with cola barbecue sauce
  • Wood oven mac and cheese
  • Smoked coleslaw
  • Smoked cherry crisp

J was pretty interested in the pork burgers with smoky slaw, mostly for the coleslaw recipe – he’s got more than a passing interest in coleslaw and has done some experimenting with recipes over the last few years.  (This year, we’re even growing cabbage to make that experimentation easier.) I was sort of tired, so I flirted with idea of not getting involved in one of the dish preparations and just watching everyone’s efforts instead.

J went off to start the pork burgers and slaw, teamed with a father & teenage son team from Colorado, while I stayed in my seat, listening to Steve.  Because it was day 3, Steve was throwing out all sorts of “extra” cooking projects for anyone who was interested, and brought out a special grilling rack for jalapeno poppers.  Suddenly I was much less tired.  One, because I love jalapenos.  Two, because we have quite a few of the plants growing in our garden and they produce a lot of peppers, and there is only so much salsa I am interested in making in a season.  Making a jalapeno popper appetizer would wipe out a large quantity of them without me mincing them to death.  My hand shot up.

I was joined by Larry from outside Fort Worth, TX, who was also part of a father-son team (although Larry’s son Bill was about my age) and as coincidence would have it, an avid jalapeno popper lover himself, with the grilling experience on this dish to boot.  My graduation from BBQ U was assured.

Because this was an “extra” recipe, there was nothing in our recipe binders about how to prepare them, but we were still given a tray of prepared possible ingredients including cheese, bacon and cilantro and a pile of whole jalapenos.  Larry & I quickly decided to use the corer that came with the grilling rack to hollow out the peppers, stuff them with cheese, cooked bacon & cilantro, and then grill them.  Bill lent a hand by heading outside to cook the bacon, while I chopped cheese & cilantro.  While we worked, we chatted about what we’d prepared so far – Larry & Bill had been on the team that did the clams the day before, which they chose because they had absolutely no experience with grilling seafood.  Other people had the same idea we did – try something new while the possibility of professional help was just a few feet away.

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The corer that came with the grilling rack had the unfortunate tendency to rip the jalapenos apart, so we decided because there were more peppers than space in the rack that we would split the torn peppers down the middle to create boats, filling those with cheese & cilantro and wrapping the bacon around them.  The only flaw in this plan is that there were no toothpicks available.  (Really.)  Larry’s solution was to put the ends of the bacon up near the tops of the pepper boats so that as the cheese melted the bacon would stick. We decided that any of them that didn’t look good would be eaten immediately, to cover out tracks.

We weren’t assigned a grill, so we took one of the gas grills that was unused and started cooking.

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The poppers cooked really fast, so we ended up lowering the heat and moving them around before Steve even got over to check on how we were doing.  As the cheese melted down into the vertical peppers, I stuffed more into the top.  The temperature on the patio was about 95 degrees and it was hazy because of the Colorado Springs wildfire, so that plus the heat from the grill meant that those peppers were not the only thing roasting.  And we struggled with the pepper rack, because the peppers kept tipping over, falling onto the grill & spilling ingredients because most of them did not sit low enough in the rack.  Still, Larry & I persevered:

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The experience did teach us that Larry’s method – creating boats wrapped with bacon, and secured with a toothpick (when available) was probably a better solution and also didn’t require another specialty grilling tool.  Not that having a lot of tools is ever a problem, in my opinion, except if you have issues with enough storage space.

We plated our finished product (after sampling several, “just to be sure” while we were out cooking, and also to make sure we got some, since we were attracting a lot of attention with this project) and put it out on the newly-expanded presentation table.

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Meanwhile, J had prepared the smoky cole slaw:

Smoky slaw on the smoker - photo courtesy of Rob Bass, Countryside Food Rides

Smoky slaw on the smoker – photo courtesy of Rob Bass, Countryside Food Rides

J, who can be critical of his own cooking, thought he might have used too much salt in the slaw.  If he did, I didn’t notice – it was really good.  At the time the dishes were presented, however, the pork burgers weren’t done.  The teenaged half of the father-son team J was working with could get grill marks on his food that were a work of art, (see the photos of the angel food cake from the day 2 post – that was all him) but they took a little bit longer to do.  No matter – it just meant that the burgers would still be warm when we were all picking from the display table.

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Hill Country brisket, smoked cherry cobbler

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Shrimp on sugarcane, fire-eater wings

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The Professor approves

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Salmon – about six different ways; these folks got really creative

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Shrimp close up

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Hill Country brisket that was every bit as tasty as it looks.

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Beer can chicken – another “extra” project

But before that could happen, we had to take our final exam, which consisted of Steve asking us one question before handing over our certificates. The beauty of this final exam was that if you didn’t know the answer, he gave you a hint or let one of your fellow classmates help you with the answer.  Do you know how much easier my high school science classes would have been if that had been allowed?

Our overall experience with BBQ U was fantastic – we met some really nice people and made some new friends, we learned some new information and tried cooking new things, and best of all, I was not the first person to flunk out of BBQ U.  We had a lot of fun and now understand how it is that people come back again and again to attend BBQ University – the resort is beautiful, the people who take class are interesting, and Steve changes it up every time so that you can always learn something new.

Of course, there is a dark side to attending a cooking class where so many grills and smokers are available to try, and you’re surrounded by people who are avid barbecue enthusiasts and want to debate the merits of a given grill with you.  Sometimes you come home from work a few days after the trip to find this on your sun porch:

Weber performer

Weber performer

Which then makes your deck look like this:

Grills on deckThanks to Stella Carolyn for allowing me to blog about my experiences.  If you have an overwhelming fascination with vegetables, you can find me over at Cocktail Farmers where I detail our aggressive suburban vegetable garden efforts and my struggle to unload our excess produce.  Or you can just keep reading here, because Stella Carolyn usually gets a fair amount of it and turns it into something amazing.

Copy Constant

One of my favorite people in the world writes one of my favorite food blogs in the world, The Hungry Hippo.  Her resolution for 2013 is to make more of the recipes from the cookbooks she owns.  These are cookbooks I love and I will sit for hours and browse them when I visit her (I can do this because she’s the one playing with my kids while I do).  She posted this recipe a few weeks ago (from a Parisian cookbook, no less!) and I could not wait to try it.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin

Ingredients:
2 cups of broccoli
2 cups of cauliflower
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of flour
1 1/3 cups milk (I used whole)
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup cheese (according to the Hippo, the recipe called for gruyere, she used 1/3 C cheddar, 1/3 C parm and I used what I had in my fridge.  I think it was jack and cheddar, maybe?) plus some extra for sprinkling
about 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)
salt and pepper
sprinkle of nutmeg (I skipped this)

Directions

Wash and chop your veggies into same size florets.

IMG_4732 Put some water on to boil and once it has come to a rolling boil, add the florets.  Cook them for 1-2 minutes.  Take them out immediately- you don’t want them to get mushy, just slightly less crisp.  IMG_4734Set them aside and work on the sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.  When it has melted, add the flour and whisk together, letting it cook for a minute to get the raw flour taste out.  Slowly whisk in the milk and let it thicken. Take your pan off the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking while you do.  Try to avoid making scrambled eggs in your sauce.  Add the cheese, again, whisking while you do so that it will melt evenly.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg (if using).

IMG_4736I used ham in mine, even though the Hippo did not.  I cubed a ham steak.

IMG_4733Then I added it to a hot frying pan to brown and crisp it over medium high heat.

IMG_4735Butter a casserole dish and add your veggies.

IMG_4737Sprinkle the ham around to fill in the spaces.

IMG_4738Pour your sauce over this.

IMG_4739Mix your breadcrumbs with some of the cheese and sprinkle on top.

IMG_4740Bake at 400 until the top is golden brown and it’s heated through and bubbly, about 30 minutes.

IMG_4741This could be a side dish but with the added meat, it can also be a lovely main dish.  The egg yolks add a silkiness to the sauce that isn’t there in a basic white sauce.

IMG_4742It was good for a cold night.

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Starting Off Healthy

New year, new resolutions.  What are yours?

Over the years I’ve learned to pare down my long list of “This year I’ll….” because with as many jobs, kids and responsibilities I have, that’s just setting myself up for failure.  Instead, I will often resolve to slow down, appreciate what I have (and stop wanting things I don’t), laugh more, love more and be more patient with everyone and everything around me.

This year, I’m adding losing weight (an oldie but goodie).  After having two kids in three years, my body is definitely not what it once was, nor should it be.  However, I’m getting back into working out (maybe next year’s resolution will be to complete another sprint triathlon) and would like to make sure my diet is in line with that.  Less cookies and cakes, more veggies and fresh fruit.  No big drastic changes, just enough to feel more healthy.

A good start is this soup.  It was made for me by my athletic, powerful, strong, loving and amazingly healthy friend when I was visiting her last weekend.  It’s super easy and absolutely delicious.  I’ll give you the guidelines here and share with you her secret spice which makes a big difference, I promise.

Whatever your resolutions, I hope that this new year brings you peace, joy, laughter, love and, as always, delicious food.

photo 2Healthy Soup

Ingredients

4-8 cups chicken broth or stock (easy tip:  it’s ok to used boxed broth if you don’t have any homemade.  No guilt here.)

2 carrots, peeled and chopped (easy tip:  use frozen carrots mixed with peas)

1/2 c-1 c peas (easy tip: use frozen)

1-2 c chopped cooked chicken (easy tip: use a store cooked chicken)

1 c green beans, washed and trimmed (i.e. ends cut off) and cut into bite size pieces

1/2-1 onion

pinch or two of rosemary

pinch or two of fennel seeds

1-2 cups cooked pasta (cook and store it separately from the soup or it will get extremely mushy)

1-2 handfuls fresh washed spinach leaves (I prefer baby spinach)

Any other veggie you have hanging around that you need to use up.

Directions:

Wash, peel and chop all your veggies.  Heat the broth and add the onions, carrots, chicken, and spices.  Let this simmer for about 15 minutes and then add the peas and green beans.  Cook until the green beans are tender.

To serve, place the raw spinach leaves in a bowl. Add desire amount of pasta.  Ladle soup over it all and sit down to a big steaming bowl of healthy.  Mmmmm.

[To counteract the healthy, we made sure to eat bad for you food on New Year’s Eve, which culminated in a stop at JP Licks.  So worth it.]

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A Sticky Situation

I love carbs.  I know that nutritionally speaking they are not the go-to snack, particularly for those of us that need to watch our weight gain.  Nonetheless, I love carbs.  Potatoes, rice, pasta, cookies, cakes, bread….  I love carbs.

I have tried to love quinoa but so far we’re only in a “like-like” situation.  It’s not true love.  My true love is rice.  White rice.  I’ll tolerate brown but when I eat it, I feel like I’m being good.  White rice is my hide-in-the-closet, don’t-tell-anyone carb.  White rice with butter, catsup, salt and pepper.  White rice with soy sauce.  White rice with hoisin sauce.  I just love white rice.

So it’s funny that I have had this bag of japanese sweet rice in my pantry for…..years.

I was intrigued by the idea of sweet rice but each time I read the package directions I was daunted.  It involves a good rinse, followed by a 12 hour soak and then some fancy steaming.  This is not rice of the throw it in the rice cooker and wait 20 minutes variety.

This week I decided it was time to try.  I read up on rice to try and figure out what was really needed.  I found lots of different answers and finally decided to just go with the instructions on the package.

The night before I wanted it, I rinsed the rice well in a colander.  I swished it around with my fingers and tried to get the water to run clear.

Once that was done, I dumped it into a bowl and covered it with cold water.  It sat overnight.  Then the complicated process began.

I lined a steamer pot with cheesecloth.  I admit it, I was lazy and didn’t line it as well as I should have.  I set this pot over another pot with boiling water.  The rice was dumped in and spread out as much as possible.

The lid went on and the timer was set for 25 minutes.

I checked it after 25 minutes and added some salt, per the package instructions.  I reset the timer for another 25 minutes and added more boiling water under the steamer pot.  I must confess that I totally did not account for the long cooking time.  At this point, the rest of dinner was ready so I went ahead and served it since the toddler and baby were screaming.  I was hungry too.  I will also cop to having trouble with the cheesecloth lining since I didn’t put it in correctly the first time- the rice was sort of half on it and half on the steamer pot itself.

After another 25 minutes, I was left with….  rice.  Very sticky rice, but simply rice.

I think I’ll try it again at some point. It was good but the sweetness was too subtle for me to notice.  What was different was the texture.  It was sticky and starchy and just the way I like rice.  I was even a nice wife and made a plate for my husband who wasn’t home for dinner.  I may have eaten more rice than was strictly necessary but it was pretty good.  And have I mentioned how much I love rice?

Week One Down

Whew.  This was my first week back at work with kids and all.  I had forgotten just how hard it is to get everyone out of the house on time!  It meant that I was throwing things together for dinner- I did my planning and all but, somehow, I was just more exhausted at the end of the day.  I’ll put it this way, if I were single and without children, it would have been a cold cereal and toast for dinner kind of week.

But, tonight.  Well, it’s Friday which is Shabbat and after my years of eating at my grandmother’s table on Friday nights as well as my time in Israel, it’s kind of ingrained in me that you eat a real meal on Friday night.  So I gathered my strength and cooked.

I had recently (Ok, a few weeks ago) tried a maple-soy glazed chicken recipe from Cooking Light.  It was really good.  I had some chicken thighs to use up as well as a bunch of vegetable odds and ends.  Rooting around in the pantry, I found some udon noodles.  Ah, a dish was born.

Maple-Soy Chicken and Vegetable Noodles

(Adapted- ever so slightly- from Cooking Light)

Ingredients

3/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 scant cup lemon juice

2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon peeled, grated (fresh) ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

8 Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer, though you’d probably only need 2-3 of them)

Whatever vegetables you can find.  I used broccoli, onion, carrot, green beans and mushrooms.  Garlic would be nice, as would celery, bok choy, peppers, etc.

1 package udon noodles

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the syrup, soy, lemon juice, ginger, and sesame oil.  Add the chicken, turning it a few times to ensure that it gets coated and is mostly submerged in the marinade.  You could also use a zip-lock bag.  Cooking Light says to let it marinate an hour but I did it for less.

Raw chicken really isn’t that pretty, huh?

Set a big pot of water on to boil.  Salt it liberally.  Once it’s boiling, add your udon noodles (or spaghetti or whatever you want) and cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender but not mushy.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop your veggies.  I threw the broccoli, green beans and carrots into a steamer basket so that I could partially cook them before I put them in with the rest.  I steamed them in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 minutes or until they were tender but still crisp, not mushy.

The onions and mushrooms I did not steam.   Instead I left them by themselves to cook in the wok.

*Once I was done with all the vegetable prep,  I cut up my chicken into somewhat more bite-sized pieces.  I tossed the pieces quickly in cornstarch which is a totally optional and somewhat unnecessary step.   Don’t dump the marinade!  Put it in a saucepan and let it boil for several minutes, so as to kill off any yucky leftover from the raw chicken.

I cooked the chicken in the wok, then took it out.  I added the onions and mushrooms to the wok and once they had softened, I added the crisp-tender veggies.  I threw the chicken back in, along with the boiled marinade and the udon noodles.  I tossed it all together and let it heat up.

It was quite delicious, if I do say so myself.  Both my mom and my husband agreed.  The toddler was reserving judgement but did enjoy the plain udon noodles.  Go figure.

* The lack of photos from this point on is due to a cranky toddler, screaming from hunger baby and underfoot dog and cat.  Sometimes that’s my life.

Auntie Rachel

In the very early morning hours of July 18, 2012, my Aunt Rachel passed away, quite unexpectedly.  We’ve spent the last two weeks traveling to be together as a family as often and for as long as possible.  We are a family that is spread out across the country but one which will drop everything to be near each other when needed.  It was needed this month.

This is my Auntie Rachel, with one of the loves of her life, one of her grandsons.

My Auntie Rachel was not really my aunt.  She was my mother’s cousin but in our family we don’t really pay attention to the exact nature of the connection, choosing instead to focus on the content of the relationship.  Rachel had one daughter, E., with whom I am extremely close.

When E. and I were little, E’s father, Rachel’s husband, died in an accident.  It was awful- so hard for both of them.  Later, Rachel would tell me and E. and others that her husband was the love of her life, describing it as “getting weak in the knees” when she saw him.  She didn’t remarry.  Instead, she fiercely loved her daughter, her son-in-law and her grandchildren.

Rachel and my mother were close and for many years the four of us (Rachel, E., my mother and I) would spend Thanksgiving in New York City.  We’d see as many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows as we could possibly cram in and eat as much good food as we could.  We laughed a great deal and we all had good memories of those times.

My Auntie Rachel was the one who taught me how to cook and eat an artichoke.  It was the summer that I went and spent two weeks with her and E. at their home outside of Washington, D.C.  It was a fantastic time.  E. and I giggled to sleep every night (we were young, absolutely everything was funny), we played all day and we ate delicious food each night.  I can recall going to the Hot Shoppes which was a buffet unlike one I had ever seen before.  (Apparently, they may be bringing them back!) One night, we went food shopping and the store had artichokes.  Auntie Rachel was so excited- this was long enough ago that they were a relative rarity in the stores- and I had no idea why.  “Oh, honey,” she promised me, “you’re going to love it.”

I watched her prepare it and then cook it for what seemed like hours.  When she offered me a leaf that had been dipped in melted butter and told me to sort of scrape off the pulp- “like eating lobster legs!” (she obviously knew her audience)-  I thought she was crazy.  But, oh, how right she was.  It was a taste I couldn’t even begin to put to words- sort of creamy and green. We worked though the leaves and then she showed me the thistle.  She carefully cut it out and then sliced me a piece of the heart, dipping it in butter and handing it to me.  Heaven.  Since that moment, every time I eat an artichoke, I think of my Auntie Rachel.

Rachel had been diagnosed with Cancer just a week prior to her death.  Rachel was a women who was smart, brash, funny, passionate and loving.  She cherished her daughter and was fiercely attached to her family.  While she didn’t always get along with everyone, you always knew where you stood with her and when she cared about you, you knew it.  Rachel loved good food, good theater, good books and good times.  When we got together as a family, there was always good food, good times and most of all, good love.  In the early hours of July 18th, E. was by Rachel’s side.  She was with her when she died and E. told me later that Rachel had been trying to say, “love”.  There could be no more fitting last word for her.

I had an artichoke for dinner a few nights ago, in honor of Rachel.  She will be missed in ways we can’t even begin to understand. I ate it slowly, to savor it, and to think of my aunt.  It may become a tradition for me- to eat one each month and think of Rachel.

Artichoke

Ingredients

Artichokes (one for each person)

Butter (for melting and dipping)

Directions:

First, prepare your artichokes. Pull off the tough leaves at the bottom. Next, cut off the very tops, about a quarter of an inch from the point. Also cut the stem so that the base is almost flat.

Next, cut each of the remaining leaves so that they are cut in half horizontally.  This takes off the tops of the leaves which have sharp points- be careful!- plus, it makes them look pretty and somewhat uniform.  Rinse them under running water.

 

Many recipes tell you to rub the cut top with a lemon  but I never bother.

I use my pressure cooker to make mine (it’s faster) but you can use a saucepan, with a steamer basket and a lid.

Put a few inches of water at the bottom, along with two peeled cloves of garlic and the lemon if you used it and heat over medium heat.  Place the artichoke cut down (top down, step should be facing you) into the steamer basket.

Steam until soft, about 30-45 minutes (depends on the size.).  You’ll know they’re ready when the leaves come off easily.

I like mine with melted butter, just like my Auntie Rachel taught me.

Oh, how do you eat them?  Well, peel of each leaf and sort of scrape it along your teeth to get all the yummy pulp.  Discard the leaves.  You know it was a good artichoke when you have a pile like this:

Once you’ve pulled all the leaves out, you’ll have this:

Use a spoon to scrape out all the thistle (the little hair-like things that are spiky and not at all for eating) and you’ll be left with the best part- the heart.  Slice it,  dip it in butter and enjoy.

Grandma’s Potatoes

When I emailed my family and friends a few weeks ago, asking them for their food and fond memories of my grandmother, almost all of them mentioned these potatoes.  Which is funny because, while I remember these potatoes fondly, I don’t remember them being as amazing as everyone else does.  It was one of Grandma’s standby sides, however, and they are pretty easy.  I’m not sure what made them so special except that maybe it was Grandma making them.

Because as I’ve said, it was something about Grandma.  She was able to make everyone feel welcome, comfortable and a part of the family.  When you sat at her table you felt like you were one of the gang, regardless of which particular gang was present.

Which reminds me of a story via my Uncle P.  He had some friends from Canada who were, shall we say, rough. One of them was very big and very tough and very scary-looking.  While I can’t remember his name it was something like “Bubba” or “Killer”.  For the sake of this story, we will call him Killer.  Anyway, P. was living at home but was away for a few days and Killer came to visit.

My grandmother opened the door and was faced with a large, tall, gruff, bearded, tattooed man.  He asked for P. and my grandmother replied that he wasn’t there but Killer should come in and wait for him.  She showed him into the den and brought him food and asked what kind of beer he wanted.  Killer tried to say that he’d just come back later but my grandmother, all five feet of her, insisted.  Two days later, my uncle came home and found Killer, still in the den, still eating and drinking beer.  He asked him why he hadn’t left and Killer replied, “I would have but I was afraid of your mother!” All five feet of her.

That was Grandma- small, powerful and fiercely loving.  She made everyone feel welcome regardless of the color of your skin, the language on your lips or your affiliations, religious, political or otherwise.

So in honor of that, I give you grandma’s unforgettable potatoes.  For all I know, she served them to Killer.

Ingredients

small red (new) potatoes, scrubbed and eyes removed

1 onion, thinly chopped

mushrooms, sliced (optional)

salt, pepper, dill (dried or fresh, chopped, about a teaspoon, also optional- I personally hate dill)

Oil- maybe a tablespoon or two- olive or canola would do

Directions

Keep in mind that I’m making these from memory as I couldn’t find a written recipe.

Wash and clean your potatoes.  (Funny tip, the Hippo uses her fingernails to get all the eyes out. Who knew?)

Put them in a pot and cover them with water.  Put it over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Let them boil until they are soft but not mushy.  You should be able to put a fork in easily but without them falling apart.  On my induction burner it took about ten minutes.  It may take longer on a gas/electric range.

Meanwhile, chop your onion.

And your mushrooms.

Heat a large, shallow pan over medium high heat.  I use a wok.  Grandma also used a wok.  If you don’t have a wok, then I think a large, shallow pan will do. Add the onions and mushrooms.

 

Let them cook until they start to brown.

When your potatoes are ready, take them out of the water and let them cool.  Slice them in half.

Throw them into the wok (or pan) with the onions and mushrooms.  Stir frequently but let them get brown and crispy on the outside.

At this point, season the potatoes with salt, pepper and dill, if you’re using it.  Serve alongside whatever you like.

These potatoes are like the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The outside has a slight crunch and the inside is soft and smooth.  The onions and mushrooms add a nice flavor and texture to go along with the creamy potatoes.  If you like dill, it adds a nice freshness to the dish.  Really, you can’t go wrong.

Tricky Food

It’s funny how the things you thought you’d never be/do eventually come to pass.  I had all these high-minded philosophies about what I would do when *I* had children.  No tv, no desserts, no hiding food in other food (there’s a whole industry based on this with books like this one). We’d have regular bedtimes, along with routines, and our children would be able to fall asleep on their own, in their own beds, in their own rooms.  They would eat what we were eating- no making separate dinners for them.

Riiiiiiight.

Not a single one of those things has come to pass.  G. had a bit of ice cream at about five months (thanks OGWO), she regularly watches Curious George on tv and she refuses vegetables.  M. is sleeping in our bed and G. needs one of us to help her fall asleep.

On the other hand, both of my children are happy, content and healthy.  So maybe those things I thought were so key aren’t that important.

Which brings us to this recipe.  In an attempt to get some vegetables into her, I took the hippo’s suggestion and made vegetable pancakes.  Very similar to potato pancakes, which she will eat.  While they were not a rousing success, she did eat one.  And I thought they were good.

Tricky Veggie Pancakes

Ingredients

2 small carrots

1 small zucchini

1 small summer squash

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

3-6 tablespoons flour

Directions

Grate your veggies.  I do this in the cuisinart because I am lazy.  Throw them in a bowl and add the eggs, mixing well.  Add the baking powder and about half of the flour.  This is a good time to add salt and pepper though I left out the salt because they were for G.  Mix well.  How much flour you need will depend on how liquidy your batter is. 

Heat some oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Drop by tablespoonfuls into the oil and fry on each side until golden brown and crispy.

Serve with applesauce, sour cream or greek yogurt.

I liked greek yogurt with mine.