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Cleanin’ out the Fridge

It’s long overdue…bits of this, stalks of that. The bumper crop at the farmer’s market is stuffed into my crisper and it’s bursting at the seams. When you can’t find the eggs, it’s time to Clean Out the Fridge!

What we have in our fridges will vary, but in mine, it’s usually a hodgepodge of veggies in various states of wilt, nubbins of cheese that are too good to waste, and maybe, if I’m lucky, a lone sausage or bit of smoked something-or-other. Individually, they’re poor, lonely ingredients that got left behind like McCauley Culkin in Home Alone (I know, so sad, right!?) And they’re going to be up to no good if you don’t use them soon.

So, here’s a few recipes that will use up the odds & ends…substitute with your overstocks  (they’re sure to be different than mine), and, with a bit of grain here, some eggs there, you’ll have some pretty darn good meals – dare I say new additions to your repertoire (even when you’re not using up wilted kale, not-quite crisp peppers, and almost-old cheese!)

Tonight I have a leftover wilted kale, manchego, and cheddar quiche in the oven, but I don’t know how it’s going to come out yet, so I won’t post the recipe, but I will say 5 eggs plus a cup or so of cheese, a little milk or half and half, and whatever’s been loitering around your fridge too long + a 400 degree oven for ~ 20-25 minutes = quiche. With or without crust, it’s all good. (just grease your pan if you’re not using a crust!)

Show your wilted veggies who’s in charge!


Delicious Quinoa Pilaf

2 cups cooked quinoa (cooked in chicken stock)

1/2 finely diced red pepper

½ finely diced red onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

~1 cup blanched asparagus, cut into 1” pieces

1 t olive oil

salt

pepper

Cook quinoa in chicken broth as directed (2:1 ratio)

Sauté onion, pepper & garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add blanched asparagus & cooked until all are combined & asparagus is heated through. Toss with cooked quinoa.

 


Slightly Spicy Hummus with Peppadews &Turkish seasoning 

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Ok, so the only thing that was getting old was the peppadews, but hey, I’m trying to use it all up, and why buy hummus when homemade is so easy AND so good! Plus, I always have too many cans of chickpeas in my pantry!

1 can of chickpeas, juice of 1 lemon, 1/8 cup tahini, 1 t Penzey’s Turkish seasoning, 1/4 t Penzey’s Aleppo pepper, about 4 cloves of garlic and 3 peppadew peppers. Oh, and a dash of saffron & roasted garlic infused olive oil I mixed up in a jar last week (great to have around!). Sprinkle with zahtar  if you have & serve (preferably with cut up veggies that need to be eaten and crackers that are leftover from last time you had cheese & crackers)


Leftover Roasted Chicken Cacciatore

This is good with any leftover chicken that you’re tired of eating, and used up a bunch of things I had dribs and drabs of in my fridge

6 oz shredded cooked chicken

½ onion – diced

½ roasted red peppers

¼ cup diced kalamata olives

handful of fresh basil, chopped

3-5 cloves garlic

T olive oil

Dash powdered fennel

1t Italian seasoning

1 cup leftover marinara sauce + about ½ water swirled around jar

Splash of dry sherry to deglaze pan

Serve over whole wheat pasta

Saute all veggies but marinara, deglaze once they’re nice & caramelized. Toss in chicken, marinara & water & let simmer about 10 -15 minutes or while pasta cooks.

Toss & serve


Faux French Country Turkey Stew

1/2 cup dry Great Northern beans, soaked (or 2 cans cannellini or great northern)

2 links Chicken Sausage (mine were roasted garlic)

1 cup shredded leftover turkey (or chicken)

2 cups kale, chopped

1 T olive oil

2 carrots, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

3 t chicken base ( Better than Bouillon, Penzeys, Knorr, whatever)

A bunch of fresh herbs – or dry if you don’t have fresh; I used thyme, tarragon & sage

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t smoked paprika

1/4 fennel powder (it makes things taste like sausage!)

2 leeks, rinsed well & diced

2 shallots, diced

4 cups water

sort, rinse and soak beans as per directions

heat olive oil & saute leeks, shallot, carrot, celery until soft. Add chopped sausage

Add kale, stir

Add turkey

Drain & add beans

Combine chicken base with water, add to pot & bring to a boil, then reduce heat & add spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are soft – about 1/5 hours.

Serve alone, over rice or with a nice crusty bread

 

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Nine Pin gets a perfect ’10’

My 4-pack of Nine Pin is chilling in the freezer, and it won’t be cold soon enough! I discovered Nine Pin last summer, when I sampled the Original, Belgian, and Ginger at the Troy Farmer’s Market. I went home with a bottle each of the Original and the Belgian, but only because my hands were too full to safely get a Ginger home safely. Since then, Nine Pin has made itself at home in my fridge, tucked into the door with the IPA’s and Gosling’s Ginger Beer (the best Ginger Beer for a Moscow Mule, in my very humble opinion. I know there are a lot of ciders out there, but with the exception of a quite good offering from Argyle Brewing (in Greenwich), I haven’t branched out from Nine Pin yet, unless you count going from bottle to can. It’s just so darned good. Light and refreshing, and it’s the perfect choice when you can’t decide between a cold beer or a glass of wine.

Mike G. is making me dinner tonight (yes, I am a lucky woman) – roasted duck with wild rice and butternut squash. He’s been trying to convert me over to duck – “the other dark meat”  since I met him. This duck, marinating in a fragrant concoction of orange-pineapple juice, soy sauce, pomegranate molasses, sherry, ginger, red onion, garlic, and sesame oil, might do the trick. That Original is going to be mighty tasty with it.

Everything you need for a Jewish Holiday nosh in 20 ingredients or less

 

With under 20 ingredients (plus pantry items), you can mix and match to prepare any (Ashkenazi) Jewish Holiday Meal. Just remember to buy onions. A lot of onions.

Appetizer: mix and match: pickles, pickled beets, pickled fish, pickled mushrooms, pickled tomatoes, eggs. Gefilte fish as desired. Serve with pickled horseradish. **If Passover, make salad of egg, parsley, horseradish, apples & nuts, lettuce and roasted lamb shank. Serve with salt water dressing and matzoh croutons. Feminists: add an orange. Vegetarians may substitute beet for the lamb shank.

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Main dish: Is it Yom Kippur Break-fast? Yes – Lox. All other holidays: choice of Roasted Chicken or Brisket.

Soup: Is it Yom Kippur? Sorry, no soup. All other holidays: Matzo Ball

Starch: Is it Hanukah? Yes—Potato Latkes No: Is it Passover? Yes – potato kugel. All other holidays: Noodle kugel

Starch #2 – Bread: Is is Passover? Yes – Matzoh. Is it Yom Kippur Break-fast? Yes – Bagels. All other holidays: Challah

Vegetable: Is it Passover? Yes – Parsley. All other holidays, choose from the following: including Passover: carrots, beets, string beans (or a combination of the above). Add onions.

Dessert: Is it Rosh Hashanah? Yes – apples & honey. Is it Purim? Yes – Hamentaschen. All other holidays: combine flour, nuts, cinnamon and apple (optional) into desired form, unless it is Passover, at which time replace the flour with wine.

Special Bonus meal:

Breakfast: If Passover, combine matzoh & egg. Serve with salt. images-8

 

And of course, what  would a Jewish holiday meal be without the grape juice Manischewitz? images-6

Testifying @ House Foreign Sub-Committee

Life is Happiness, Indeed!

I’m not even going to apologize for absence, it’s been so long. Life has been a whirlwind the past couple of months, and I’ve been lucky to have the chance to cook a hot dog, no less a blog-worthy meal! What’s been going on, you might ask? Well, a new job, for starters, and switching from my previous soup-cooking, coconut-flour muffin baking routine was a bit…jarring. If someone would PAY me to cook, eat out, and find breweries, life would be happiness, indeed (who’s getting the Candide reference there – anyone?) hey, Times Union/Schenectady Gazette/Saratogian…if you’re reading, I’d LOVE to do that!

But, besides the job, life has been quite interesting at the empire recently, and is only calming down. a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to testify before the House Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations in regards to property rights in Cuba. Preparing for that, both mentally and tangibly (writing my testimony), put just about every skill I own to the test. As someone who grimaces at the thought of public speaking, to testify before Congress should be enough to conjure up countless nightmares ranging from forgetting to wear my clothes that day (all the easier to pass through the metal detectors!), to getting sick while being filmed by C-SPAN, to simply forgetting my notes and having to wing it (perhaps the scariest of them all). I shouldn’t have worried; seven hours of intense tutelage courtesy of my opera-singing daughter, who knows a thing or two about delivery and presence, (not to mention stage fright,) worked wonders, and I felt like I owned Congress by the time it was my turn to testify (go, me!) It was truly a great experience, and I feel little less like an invisible voter and much more a part of the American democratic process. I highly recommend it.

Interspersed into this mix, there was some vacation in Maine (at Rock Camp – yes, that is actually a thing), where Mike G. and I found some pretty rocks, gems, and ate lobster. Kind of my ideal vacation, I think. Poland Mining Camp, for those who are so inclined, is run by a lovely woman named Mary Groves, who knows more about rocks than I do about shoes. The accommodations are rustic cabins, complete with fireplaces. Mary cooks you breakfast, you pack a lunch, and you’re off to the mines for the day. Our only complaint was the pretty lame Baxter Brewery beer we picked up on our first night there. We suffered through that and moved on to some tasty offerings from Sebago that I wish they sold at Minogue’s here in ‘toga. On the way back west, we got in two great stops – a night at York Beach (more lobster!) and Jack’s Abbey Brewery in Framingham, which is worth another stop when we have more time. I stuck around the ‘ham for a weekend for my annual “girl’s weekend” (which was long overdue!) and them headed on home.

Of course, the following week, it was time for another trip to Massachusetts, this time for a Schechter cousin’s reunion, although, since several of us had never met before, I’m not entirely sure we can call it that…whatever. Getting to know my cousins has been the highlight of this year, and whatever else comes from my endeavors with the Certified Cuban claims brings, getting to know my cousins will be the best reward of all.

So, after spending most of June driving around the northeast in what seemed like a never-ending loop, I’m back home for a stretch, and it feels fine.

Here’s the briefest of reviews for various restaurants I’ve been to recently, both on my travels, and at home, where I’ve been just too damned tired to cook!

Abeels, Rock City Falls NY: wanted it to be incredible, but it was just eh. Good crab cake, kielbasa cooked beyond recognition.

Alaturco, Ballston Spa NY: amazing dipping oil for the pita (get extra!) unpretentious, good eggplant (and I don’t like eggplant)

Osaka Sushi, Wilton NY :  great! Get the tuna tataki. Get three tuna tataki. You’ll want them. i don’t like that weird spicy tuna stuff that sushi places have these days, though…back in the day when I used to frequent the dearly beloved Kotan on West 3rd St. in NYC, spicy tuna actually had visible, separate pieces of tuna that were cut up, kind of like lox bits….what happened to that? No where I go seems to have that any more….spicy tuna is now this pink, smooth, glop. That’s OK, there’s lot of rolls without it (and they’re usually cheaper than the fancy rolls anyway!)

Cuchi Cuchi, Cambridge, MA: too much fun, yummy small plates, great cocktails. The waitresses kind of dress like I used to in the ’80’s when I went clubbing in the East Village (i.e. retro-punk-hippie-bombshell wannabe). Sigh.

Ice cream place in Cambridge, around the corner from Cuchi Cuchi – (DENA, SUE, or JEN, please comment with the name!); cardamom ice cream. That is all.

Lebanese Taverna, Washington D.C. – I died and went to Beirut. Incredible decor, great food, and bellydancing. Puffy little football shaped bread to dip in the best hummus I ever had (get the hummus sampler), kibbe, killer cocktails. The belly dancer balanced a scimitar on her hip bone while rolling her abs. A must see.

Rest stop observation: they don’t have single serve Cabot cheddar in Delaware, they have Wisconsin cheddar instead. Stock up on your Cabot in N.Y. Also, they have cups of oatmeal, but no hot water – WTF?

And now, for your listening pleasure, Life is Happiness Indeed, from Bernstein’s Candide. Truly, the best of all possible shows.

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chia porridge

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Pudding

I’ve been experimenting with a lot of healthy food lately, and having a mixed bag of successes and failures. Some healthy food blogs make everything look and sound like they’re absolutely delicious, but c’mon…the brownies made with prunes and applesauce really don’t taste like they’re made with butter, and cauliflower, no matter how good it is roasted, is still, at heart, cauliflower. I’m all for making really tasty, healthy food, but we do need to accept that we’re not going to make a non-dairy, gluten-free substitute for full-fat, four cheese macaroni and cheese that will pass a blind taste test! In fact, I don’t want it to. I want to train myself to appreciate the different textures and flavors of the ingredients I’m using, not hide them and pretend they’re something else. So often, so-called ‘diet foods’ are marketed as low-calorie, facsimiles of the originals…”100 calories snack packs”, “skinny cow ice cream”, “low-fat salad dressing”…the list goes on, keeping people tied to the flavors and textures that we’ve become addicted to.

Instead of buying into the “diet-food industry”, I’d rather eat real food that’s both simpler and healthier. I’m finding my taste buds are adapting. I had a donut on Saturday, and the sweetness was almost overwhelming. I now eat plain greek yogurt with only banana and don’t need to add honey anymore. I’m not perfect; I still crave things, especially salty-crunchy things, but I’m working on that. I make homemade popcorn to quell that crunchy craving, telling myself it’s better than buying something in a bag. I just need to make it in a small pot, not a large one!

I haven’t written much about chia yet, mostly because I mostly use it to give fruit & yogurt smoothies some fiber; I haven’t really used it as a main ingredient, but I decided last night to make a breakfast “pudding” with it. I love the idea of making breakfast the night before, like those refrigerator oatmeal recipes, but honestly, I didn’t love my refrigerator oatmeal much. Chia seeds look like poppy seeds, but act more like tapioca; they absorb liquid and become slightly gelatinous. I mixed up 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk with 1/4 cup of chia seeds, a small squeeze of liquid stevia, a dash of vanilla extract, and a little salt. After stirring together, I poured the mixture into two glass bowls with lids & refrigerated overnight, stirring a couple of times to disperse the seeds, which settle a little bit. At the same time, I cut up a bunch of strawberries & let them macerate overnight. This morning, my chia was not quite pudding-like, but it was close enough; I served it with my strawberries and sliced banana – the chia seeds give it an interesting texture that can be a little off-putting, but I got used to it; I’m not sure I would want to eat it solo, but it worked with the fruit, especially the creaminess of the banana – and it’s pretty satisfying. It’s a nice alternative to my standbys of yogurt and hard boiled eggs.

I have to remember that not every recipe is going to be an epiphany; some will just new ways to prepare some decent, healthy food.

note – this recipe was inspired by chocolatecovderedkatie.com, who features lots of healthy dessert recipes.

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One post, two healthy meal ideas, thank you very much!

After my cheat-y weekend in Princeton (cheeseburger, beer, salt bagel & lox; not in one meal!), it’s time to get back to business. I’m figuring my daily yard raking is a good activity, even though I question where all of those damn leaves came from – I raked in the fall…what’s up with that? Not to mention the pinecones! We spent a lot of time complaining about this past winter; I think my trees were doing the same, just in a different way; every pine tree in my yard (and there’s a lot) seems to have ejected every single pinecone from it’s branches.

I got some juice back into my system, and am on my way…last night’s dinner was a winner for sure. I had an idea for marinated fish kebabs and a chick pea masala-type dish. My local Hannaford doesn’t have the hugest selection of fish, so I usually go with an open mind and buy what looks best. Yesterday it was swordfish, which I generally don’t eat; it’s been years since I’ve last had it, but it looked good, so there you go. I whipped up a quick marinade of greek yogurt, lemon juice, Penzey’s Turkish seasoning, Savory’s Moroccan Tan Tan seasoning, salt & pepper, tossed that into my fish, which I cubed, and let it sit for an hour or so.

Next up, my chick pea masala. I hadn’t shopped in a week, so I had to use what was on  hand; I sautéed up a half an onion, some red bell pepper, and 3 cloves of garlic, then added a can of drained chickpeas & cut up a few kalamata olives and threw them in too. After they melded together a couple of minutes, I deglazed the pan with a little apple cider vinegar (maybe a tablespoon, tops), and added some spices; Turkish seasoning, Moroccan seasoning, smoked paprika, Penzey’s roasted garlic, salt, & pepper. I turned the mixture to low & let it simmer, figuring the longer it cooked, the better it would taste.

Mike G. got the grill going, and we got our kebabs going; after about 5 minutes a side and a quick baste with leftover marinade, they were grilled to perfection. Served up with squeeze of lemon, a little parsley, a chopped salad and the chickpea masala (topped with some scallions), it made a hearty, yet light-feeling meal…healthy and satisfying!

I still had more marinade, so tonight I marinated a couple of boneless chicken breasts in it & cooked them in my George Foreman. For a side/vegetable, I made my new favorite thing, roasted cauliflower and garlic puree. So simple…take a bag of frozen cauliflower and a few cloves of garlic (I think I used 5), toss in a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and roast at 450 for about a half hour, or until the cauliflower is getting caramelized and the garlic is softened up. When it’s done, add to a blender with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of chicken stock and a tablespoon of Parmgiano cheese & puree. It’s a vegetable that thinks it’s a side dish, and it’s great. The only problem is that you could easily eat an entire bag of frozen cauliflower by yourself, and I have a feeling that might not be a good thing.

Triumph brew

A Triumphant Meal

Funny thing,  I just read an article naming Saratoga Springs as one of the best college towns for food; with the abundance of great restaurants in & around Saratoga, I can’t disagree. But also named on the list was Princeton, where I happen to go to several times a year to visit my favorite (and only) daughter, who attends school there at Westminster Choir College. It’s concert season, so I’ve been to Princeton for 2 of the past 4 weekends, and maybe because I’m spoiled by living in Saratoga, I’ve never been all that impressed with the food. Admittedly, I do have some pretty high standards, and since I’m not going to any of the 3 or 4 $$ restaurants on the Yelp scale right now, to impress me, you need to show me some great, moderately priced food to impress me. While I have found a great bagel place outside of town in Plainsboro (Bagel Street Grill), the local spots just weren’t thrilling me; they seemed to be either geared towards students with the munchies (a hoagie with chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, fries, and fried macaroni & cheese – yes, all on the bun @ Hoagie Haven) or to the parents of the trust-fund crowd (sorry, I’m just not looking a burger garnished with fiddlehead ferns & fish roe)

My second trip of the season this past weekend might have changed my mind about Princetonian fare. Mike G. and I had several hours to ourselves, and the weather was gorgeous, so we took to the streets. My daughter says Princeton is like Saratoga on crack, and there’s definitely truth to that. Where Saratoga’s main downtown consists of about 7 blocks (5 on Broadway and one each on Phila & Caroline), Princeton’s downton is roughly 4-5 times that. I don’t think there are as many restaurants/block in Princeton as in Saratoga, but if you keep walking, especially down the side streets, there are more than I had previously realized.

We pulled into town Friday night, cranky from our drive down 287. Mike G. had been yelping for the past hour of the drive, but nothing was standing out. We decided to try Triumph Brewery, which had been on our list to try for a while, but somehow the timing was never right. After walking down the entry ‘tunnel’ off of Nassau Street, you emerge into their main space, which if it weren’t sub-divided into several sections, would be a cavernous room; instead the soaring ceiling made it airy, and the double-decker bar, side room, and mezzanine seating areas gave it definition. The gleaming fermenting vats & some exposed brick gave an industrial, but cozy look.

It was busy, but we were seated right away. After quick review of the beer offerings, we knew what we wanted; the ’95 Pale for me, and the Bengal Gold IPA for Mike G. After the perfect first sip of crispy coldness, we finally started to relax. The menu is upscale pub fare, with some surprises, like duck confit, tuna tartare, and bahn mi, but we stuck with burgers. Perfectly cooked grass-fed burgers with cheddar cheese and local bacon. They were great. I got mine with salad – a fresh choice, and more thoughtful than usual, it included chick peas and some pickled onions. Mike G’s fries were just average, but for his usual side of mayo he was given an option of regular or chipotle, and that chipotle mayo really worked with both the burger and as a dip for the fries.

What really impressed us at Triumph was the service; our server answered all of our beer questions knowledgeably, and when she couldn’t (about the bacon), she asked the kitchen and got the information for us. We had a nice surprise when she presented us with two tokens for a free pint after we payed which made Mike G. wonder if a $50 bill had snuck in with the $20’s he had paid with, but not to worry – we didn’t over pay, just got a little gratitude back for our gratitude. Triumph is doing a good thing by giving their customers good food, good service, and a little love, which is sure to get us to come back. Oh, and their coasters feature the chemical composition of beer, which is just cool.