slow cooked pear butter

Hi pals. In addition to having a really cute dog, my pals Natalie and Dave have a pear tree in their backyard. I was really excited to hear this. It’s quite surprising and fun to find out about all the fruit that grows wildly in Chicago. In the past year or so, I’ve found apricots, cherries, apples, and pears, just hanging out in friends’ yards. Natalie and Dave were generous enough to let me come over to their house and pick a bunch of pears. Hanging out with them is always fun, and it was a great end of summer evening.

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I knew I wanted to make some kind of spread with the pears, but I didn’t know what kind… Did I want jam, jelly, or just preserved pears? Pears don’t really lend themselves to making jam, I don’t really have enough time to make jelly at the moment, and I didn’t feel like buying the big jars for preserving whole pears. What’s left to do? Pears and apples have a sort of similar texture, so I googled “pear butter” and found a lot of recipes for pear butter online. I used this one as inspiration, but kind of followed my own ideas too.

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Pear Butter

Ingredients
3 quarts pears, quartered and seeded (I think the kind I picked were Bosc, in the future I would suggest Bartlett, or a creamier variety)
1 bottle Riesling
3 cups sugar
1 lemon, halved
2 TBS dry fennel (add more if you like)
1/2 TSP cinnamon (I used this very intense cinnamon, in the future, I might not put it in)
Pinch nutmeg

Directions
1. Prepare all ingredients
2. Place ingredients in slow cooker
3. Cook covered on low for 12 hours (this is great while you sleep or at work/school… You can prep the ingredients the night before and pop them in the fridge and then pop them on before you leave home for the day)
4. Strain, reduce further on the stovetop, or continue in the slow cooker
5. When your butter has reached the desired thickness, you can get ready for canning.
6. Canning is complicated the first time you do it, but once you know what you are doing, it’s pretty easy. Like riding a bike, MUSCLE MEMORY. I’d like to write out a detailed explanation about canning, but this guide is a good start, and contains all the safety information you need to know.
7. Please keep in mind that you don’t need all of the accessories that they talk about on the canning website. I get by fine with a tall stockpot, tongs, and a soup ladle. If you decide to do it this way, be careful with the glass on the bottom of the stockpot and make sure your tongs and ladle are sanitized.
8. After you’re done, let the pear butter rest for 24 hours before you put it away. If any of the jars are unsealed, throw them away… they’re no good!
9. Enjoy your pear butter on toast or waffles. Or just eat it by itself.

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After the pear picking, we headed to Rootstock were we gave the kitchen some pears. Duncan, the chef made us a big platter with the pears paired (haha) with Benton ham. It was delicious, and if you’ve not had Bentons ham or been to Rootstock, I would highly suggest doing both.

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february into march

With the warmer weather, comes renewed motivation. On the horizon, things to look forward to in rapid excited succession: Mexico! Moving! Summer! Gardening! Bikes! Bare Feet! Culinary School!

In the meantime I’ve been

Having afternoon tea/ champagne cocktails with Annie, who just started a new blog
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Eating food with friends
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Making Worcestershire Sauce (I’ll let you know how it turns out)
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Making my mama dinner. She doesn’t like cilantro, so I subbed regular Italian parsley in a recipe for Thai Beef. The marinade for the flank steak was intense: fresh lime juice, a little oj, a little grapefruit juice, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, salt, pepper, red onion, garlic, red chili flakes, chopped basil, chopped parsley, and chopped mint.
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All the ingredients together!
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The salad was delicious; medium rare steak chopped over red cabbage, red onion, carrot, basil, mint, parsley w/ a rice ginger blackberry vinagrette.
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The glories of grass fed beef should not be forgotten, even in times of great economic stress. This sounds like bougie bull, but I’m serious. We’re not supposed to eat beef that often anyways, why not make it a treat, like once every 6 weeks?

Still drinking coffee. Reading much more, hence a new venture with my friend Joseph Gibson Irving.
CHECK IT OUT!

back

The good news is, I received a new camera for Christmas. The bad news is, I haven’t posted in almost 2 months! I’m back, with a camera, so prepare to eat. So far, the winter has proven to be extra chilly and pretty productive. I’ve been working a lot, the end goal being a trip to visit my brother in Mérida, Mexico, playing a lot of board games, getting financial stuff worked out for culinary school in the fall (it’s really happening!), and the thrill of thrills- growing out my hair.

Thus far, the best recipes of this winter have been tomato jam and various soups. After a scary encounter with a scale at a Superbowl Party (uh, probably not the best time to step on a scale), I’ve decided that I need to eat more vegetables and less bacon. I won’t call it a “diet”, but I also won’t call it “eating whatever I want to eat.” Working at a restaurant with one of the best burgers in the city hasn’t helped with the bacon intake, and the kitchen has put me on a bacon embargo… We’ll see how that works out when I work a double next Saturday.

Eating more healthfully, but not less deliciously, involves a little more thought than sticking butter and starch in the oven. Today I’ve made Quinoa and Roasted Cauliflower Salad (I didn’t turn into a hippie, I promise). Quinoa is quite the superfood, according to my extensive Wikipedia research. Regardless of its nutritional properties and rich history, quinoa is pretty damn tasty. It has a nutty taste, kind of like brown rice, but better, and less chewy. At said Superbowl Crisis Party my friend was talking about how you shouldn’t cook with garlic and onions at the same time. I don’t know if I agree 100%, but today I tried just using garlic, and I was pleased with the results. The garlic paired especially well with the nuttiness of the quinoa and the sweetness of the roasted cauliflower.

Also, a slice or 4 of crispy fried proscuitto on the top would take this recipe to the next level on my tongue and hips, but you know, the bacon embargo makes that kind of impossible.

Ingredients
1 cup dried quinoa, prepared as directed (it’s nice in the salad warm; this will also leave you with three cooked cups)
1 head cauliflower
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup small tomatoes, chopped in half
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon good balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt, divided into two 1/2 teaspoons (I use Kosher)
As much freshly ground black pepper as you like
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Recipe
1. Preheat your oven to 350. Clean and chop your cauliflower so there are no greens. Place in roasting pan. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oiland one 1/2 teaspoon salt on the cauliflower and mix up with your hands. Cover in pepper. Roast at 350 for abut 45 minutes.
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2. Wait a few minutes, check your email or twitter or facebook or read a book. Relax! Now, stop relaxing and start your quinoa. Using a 1/2 quart sized saucepan, put one cup of dried quinoa in the saucepan with two cups of water. **You should rinse the quinoa before you cook it. Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is at a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer until all the water is absorbed.
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3. While all this is happening, you should saute the remaining veggies in the olive oil. Add the garlic after a few minutes; when it is aromatic, add the balsamic vinegar. It should be sizzling. Reduce the heat so that nothing gets burnt.
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4. Remove your cauliflower from the oven. You’ll only need half of it for a LARGE single serving. Put the cauliflower in the bowl you feel like eating out of. Remove your veggies from the heat and add them to the bowl too. Put your spinach on top of that, and then top it off with a healthy serving of cooked quinoa and not as much Parmesan as you would like.
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5. Add salt and pepper,stir up, and eat! The heat from the roasted cauliflower and the cooked vegetables will wilt the spinach and melt the cheese. You do not need any extra dressing for this recipe because the vegetables are cooked in what is essentially a dressing. It’s a pretty healthy lunch and if you follow these directions you’ll have enough for a cold salad tomorrow!
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curry enchiladas and mashed cauliflower

Indian and Mexican cuisine are a great example of (nearly) opposites attracting. I apoligize, I am still camera-less, but still excited about Mr. Obama being my (nearly) president, so I’ll forgive my camera being dead. Earlier in the week, I had my friend Lisa over for dinner and Gossip Girl (a must watch for Monday nights). Lisa is a vegetarian and I am not. Most people in my life try to be vegetarians most of the time (see my roommate) so, it is not hard for me to cook vegetarian food. It’s an enjoyable challenge, met with vigor and enthusiasm on my part.

I served some vegetable soup (a variation on a previously posted recipe, unfrozen), mashed cauliflower, and curry enchiladas. I’ll detail the recipes below.

Since I am trying extra hard not to eat wheat these days, sometimes things feel pretty grim. I wanted Indian food. My friend is in India right now, and it’s been on my mind as well as in the news. Is it tacky that a crisis gives me a craving? Probably, but what’s a better way to express concern than through sharing a meal with someone you love? All the good energy we shared during our meal was directed towards India, so I’ll try not to feel too guilty about it.

Mashed Cauliflower
Ingredients:
1 large head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup half and half
2 different teaspoons of salt
As much pepper as you like
1 8×8 pan
An oven preheated to 350 degrees
Hand blender (makes it easier, a regular blender or potato masher will do well if you don’t have this amazing appliance)
1 large/medium sized bowl

Recipe
1. Clean your cauliflower.
2. Chop off the green parts
3. Dice the remaining parts of cauliflower into smaller pieces (all this should fit in the previously mentioned 8×8 pan)
4. Place the chopped cauliflower in the pan, drizzle with olive oil
5. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt
6. Place in oven
7. Roast for 30-45 minutes (everybody’s oven is different)
8. After it’s roasted, the cauliflower should be soft. Move the roasted cauliflower into the bowl (if you’re using a blender, place it in the blender… if you’re using a masher, place it in the bowl)
9. To the bowl (or blender) add the half and half and butter. The cauliflower should still be quite warm, so the butter will melt without a problem.
10. With your hand blender, (or masher, or regular blender) mix up all the ingredients until they are blended and smooth. Add the remaining salt and pepper when you feel like it.

This dish is great. Cauliflower is very nutritious and this is a fantastic way to incorporate it into you diet along with butter and half and half. Just kidding. It’s better than mashed potatoes, but still not super healthy. I must note, this dish is not for people who do not like cauliflower. I happen to love it, so it worked out well, but not so much for Lisa.

And now to the big shebang: Curry Enchiladas
As I mentioned before, not eating wheat totally blows. There’s no other way to get around it. So, instead of mourning the loss of naan with my Indian food, I decided to just let it be and make Indian style enchiladas. This recipe has a few parts: Filling, Sauce, and Corn Tortillas. Read the whole recipe before you begin because it has several parts that need to be happening at the same time.

Filling for Indian Enchiladas:
Ingredients
1 large potato
2 tablespoons Tandoori Masala Spice
1 tablespoon Curry Spice
1 teaspoon crushed Coriander
1 small onion
1 clover garlic
1/2 cup olive oil (separated into 4 1/8 cups)
As much salt as you like- I used Kosher Salt
1 large pot
1 large pan
1 small pan

1. In the large pot, boil your peeled potato until it is tender.
2. While the potato is boiling, saute the onions in 1/8 cup olive.
3. Combine the curry, tandoori, and coriander with the remaining olive oil into a paste. Once the onions are sizzling and fragrant, add this paste into the onion and olive oil already on the pan. Let that marinate for a minute or ten.
4. By this time (about a half hour) the potato should be soft. Strain the potato and chop it into small square pieces. After that, combine it with the curried onions.
5. Cook the potatoes in the pan with the onions until they get caramelized on the edges. Since you’ll be cooking the sauce at the same time, you can let the potatoes brown. I let the brown for about 45 minutes.

CONCURRENTLY: Curry Sauce
Ingredients
1 15oz can Coconut Milk
1/4 cup curry powder
1 tablespoon tandoori spice
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 cup water
Salt to taste
1 medium sized sauce pan

Recipe
1. Open the coconut milk and pour it into the sauce pan. Make sure you get all the solids from the can into the saucepan. I put the water needed for the recipe in the can, caught all the remnants and then poured that into the sauce pan.
2. Add all the spices and ginger.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, turn down and let reduce. You can taste test it now and decide how much salt you want.
4. When it is reduced to a thickness similar to mole, you are finished!

Once your filling and sauce is done, you are ready to roll the mix into tortillas.

Curry Enchiladas:
Ingredients
Potato/ Onion Filling
8 Corn Tortillas
8 slices Chihuahua Cheese
Curry Sauce
4 x 9 Pan
Oven preheated to 350 (f)

Recipe
1. Prepare your tortillas by laying them flat and placing half a slice of cheese in the middle of each.
2. On top of the cheese, place the potato/onion filling.
3. Roll the tortillas so that the filling will not come out.
4. Place the stuffed tortillas in the pan, again so the filling is not coming out (I did this one at a time and had some help from toothpicks to keep things closed)
5. Once your pan is filled, cover the stuffed tortillas with the remaining slices of cheese, halved so that everything is symmetrical.
6. Once the cheese is in place, pour all of the curry sauce on the stuffed tortillas
7. Place in the oven and let cook for 30-45 minutes (everybody’s oven is different)

These are really tasty. Too bad I don’t have a camera at the moment. bah humbug.
It’s worth noting that without the cheese, this recipe is vegan, so that’s a plus if you are one or know some.
Also, these keep really well in the fridge and are easily reheated in your oven.

PS: Not everybody has such immense access to cheap specialty ingredients in the town where one resides. A quick Google search informed me that there is an immense variety of authentic Indian food available on the internet for much less than typical grocery store prices. I’m sure that shipping makes it more expensive, but Garam Masala from McCormick’s isn’t nearly as tasty (and is 5x more expensive) as the real deal.

PPS: We paired this with a variation on a gin gimlet.
St. Germain Gimlet

Ingredients
1.5 oz Hendricks Gin (Plymouth would probably be better)
.75 oz St. Germain
1 oz fresh Lime Juice
.25 oz simple syrup
Ice
Shaker

Recipe
1. Place Gin, Germaine, lime juice, and simple syrup in shaker over ice.
2. Shake.
3. Serve in a martini glass.

clear broth soup

I know it’s a weird title. Most soup seems to be broth based, and I believe you’re correct in thinking so. However, I take a less scientific approach. Cream based soups don’t seem very broth-y. I feel, a broth is a clear substance. Once you add cream or a starch, it becomes something different- a chowder or a bisque. Tonight, I had a successful experiment. It’s too bad my camera is broken, or I would be posting some lovely pictures of an easy weeknight soup. (FYI, you can make it on the weekend… the weeknight description implies its low levels of effort)

Ingredients:
2 cups Mushroom stock (you can find this at Trader Joes or Whole foods, I’m sure you can also make your own, but I was feeling lazy, so I used Better than Bullion)
1 cup tomato juice
1 large carrot, grated
1 12 oz. package of chopped baby portabello mushrooms
1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
1 chopped shallot
2 tbs. unsalted butter (I am totally loving Plugra right now)
1 package of frozen sweet corn
1 tbs poultry mix spices (I live in an Ukrainian neighborhood, and have been enjoying the spice mixes that the local stores carry. If you don’t happen to live in a neighborhood of people still bitter about the USSR, I believe a mix of rosemary, thyme, tarragon, dill, and a pinch of mint will work well)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 half teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 large pot
1 small pot
1 small pan

RECIPE
1. Boil your mushroom stock however you need to.
2. In a separate, (larger) pot, melt 1 tbs. of butter. Add the shallots and garlic.
3. In a different pan, on lower heat, melt the left over butter. When it is melted, add your herb blend. Turn it to a very low heat. You don’t want to burn the herbs.
5. Once the shallots and garlic release their glorious perfumes, add the grated carrot to the very large pot.
6. When the carrot starts to steam, add the cup of tomato juice to the large pot.
7. After your mushroom stock is ready, pour it into the larger pot.
8. Let it blend for a few moments, until it boils
9. Add the buttered herbs, from the pan into the larger pot.
10. Add the corn, tomatoes, and mushrooms to the larger pot.
11. Turn the heat on the large pot onto low, and let it simmer for about an hour. Take a shower, do your taxes, surf the net. Write another draft of that email to your friend who you miss but don’t know how to talk to. Whatever, I’m sure you’ll find a way to occupy your time.
12. Serve your soup! (I found it worked well with a grated apple, Mahon cheese, arugula, and raspberry salad) Also, try this ginger liquor as a pre-dinner treat!!!

It was good and pretty. I wish my camera wasn’t dead.

pea souffle

Yesterday, my friend Sarah took me for a birthday lunch to Blackbird. If you can pardon my french, it was a much needed kick in the ass. I’ve been feeling “blah” about food lately. Yeah, you eat it. Yeah, sometimes it tastes good. Our lunch was seriously amazing, and was a wonderful reminder that food, when done correctly is sublime and memorable. Art that becomes a part of you, no matter how cheesy that sounds, it’s the truth.

So tonight, excited about the culinary once again (I imagine a career with food is much like a marriage- loving the basics, but being constantly surprised by the endless possibility in what you love) I tried something new. I love recipes, but cooking without them is more than slightly liberating. Why follow a recipe when I can make my own? This evening, faced with a limited pantry, I do believe I came up with something worth repeating. Repeat it yourself and enjoy.

Pea Souffle
.5 lb frozen peas
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup pickled garlic relish (any oily garlic will do, so if you don’t have access to garlic relish, just roast a head of garlic for 45 minutes with olive oil and blend with curry when they are roast)
4 eggs
2 tablespoons Madras Curry
*A hand blender is super handy in this recipe
** You will need a muffin tin, or if you are fancier and more prepared than I, souffle dishes. Butter them before you have too many Mai Tais.

Preheat you oven to 350 degrees, Farenheit

Thaw your peas. I boiled and strained them
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Next, I blended them with the handblender. If you don’t have a handblender, you can use a regular one but it will be more time intensive.
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Then put your garlic and curry in the mix, and blend that.
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After the garlic, add the yogurt and the 4 eggs, mix with a spoon til smooth. Then, pour into muffin tins, or if you are fancy, souffle dishes. Make sure that you butter the baking instruments before you plop the mixture in.
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FYI. I know it looks a little like baby poop. Just trust me, ok? Bake it at 350 for about a half hour. Eyeball it, pork it with a knife if need be. You know how your oven works better than I do. (I hope)

The mix should be puffy and a little golden around the edges by the time you take it out. Give some to your roommate and pair it with Siracha and a little coriander chutney, she’ll be happy… look!
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Not bad for a Tuesday night.
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If you’re feeling dull about food, just look in your pantry.

housewarming

Last night, Danielle and I hosted our housewarming party/ bbq. Since I work Saturdays and Fridays, and we both wanted something pretty low key, we thought a Sunday afternoon gathering would be nice and relaxing. We decided to provide some snacks and drinks, and asked people to supplement with their own. Danielle left the menu planning up to me, and I was stumped at first… and then I wasn’t. We decided to make samosas and gin and tonics.

I suppose you could try and find the ingredients for Indian cooking at Dominick’s, or pay too much for them at Whole Foods, but me being me, I decided to ride my bike up to Devon Street to get some authentic Indian ingredients for a reasonable price. On Saturday morning, I went on quite the bike ride, including the other errands in my neighborhood, calculations show that I rode at least 17 miles on my bike in the span of about 3 hours. I woke up early on Saturday, and I ended up going to Patel Brothers, because it was open. Patel Brothers has a lot of great stuff, but it can feel a little corporate, ala Trader Joe’s. Most things appear to be store brand, which allows for great quality control, but feels like… Trader Joe’s, not an awesome Indian grocery. Online, I’ve found that they have quite the network of groceries all over the country. The house brand name is “Swad…. The Best Taste In Town” which is a quaint tag line. I wonder if it sounds quaint on purpose, because if they’re being serious, maybe they should say the “Swad…. The Best Taste in North America.” Anyway, I digress. I picked up tons if Indian treats, for a quarter of what they would cost at Whole Paycheck. After trudging home on my bike, I went to pick up some gin and tonic for the party.

The problem with cheap gin is that it tastes like cheap gin. Most people have an aversion to this kind of gin, and I am cheap. What to do? We were making samosas, so I was intent on having gin and tonics, because they were invented in India by the British East India Company. I decided to buy cheap gin, and infuse it with cucumber. I only did this overnight, and it made a significant difference in the taste. I’m curious to see what happens if I let it sit for a week. To make infused gin:

Ingredients:
1 handle Seagrams or other inexpensive gin
2 large English cucumbers, peeled and chopped
3 drops rosewater
A small handful of fresh mint leavea (if you are infusing this over a longer period of time than a day, I would omit the mint.

Directions:
1.Chop up the peeled cucumbers
2. Put in a pitcher
3. Drip in the rosewater
4. Throw in the mint
5. Muddle it up
6. Cover with gin
7. Let sit covered in a dark place for at least 24 hours

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While the gin was infusing, Danielle and I made a lot of samosas. Samosas, despite what you might have been told, are not hard to make, however they are extremely labor intensive. I was struck with how Samosa Kohl (dough) is very similar to Pâte Brisée but MUCH easier to make. Some other day, when I decide to eat wheat again, I will try to make a quiche using Samosa Kohl. I used this recipe, and found it to work extremely well.
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We made 3 different fillings: potato carrot, potato pea paneer, and chickpea spinach paneer.
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They fried up quite nicely and were a hit at the party.
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We had quite the spread of chutneys and tasty snacks. I guarentee that Indian food has the best options in the world for snacking. Here’s a picture before the guests arrive
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Some people also brought cool food to share.

Laryssa brought a pineapple boat
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Ena brought a salad from her garden
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Mary brought deviled eggs
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This delicious syrup used with the infused gin, but I am still working on perfecting my recipe for a drink I’d like to call the Rose Garden…. Stay tuned.
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Here’s me and D, in socks, so our dirty feet don’t mess up the floor that our main men cleaned for us.
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mexican fried rice

Last night, my friend Natalie came over for a quick bite, cut short by a terrible headache on my part. We had a basic meal of rice and bean tacos while catching up a bit. She got some very good news while we were eating… congratulations all around! I was disappointed that I wasn’t more fun to be around, but after a nights’ sleep I am feeling a lot better.

One “problem” I always seem to have is leftovers. I only needed enough rice to fill 4 tacos, but I ended up with a whole container… enough to fill about 20 tacos. I decided last night that I would make fried rice today, and I was excited about the prospects. Currently, however, my pantry is lacking in typical Chinese ingredients. I could make you Italian, Mexican, Indian, or American food… but I believe no sesame or peanut oil is to be had. Instead of walking to the grocery store to buy more stuff, I just used what I had on hand, and came up with a palatable alternative to regular fried rice, Mexican Fried Rice.

We’ve been trying to buy brown rice, because it is an easy way to get more vitamins and nutrients in your diet. Danielle and I both eat a lot of rice, and it hasn’t been a hard adjustment. Yesterday evening, I made some salsa (again with what was around) using sriracha, onions, a variety of cherry tomatoes, salt, and fresh garlic. I let it sit overnight and added some carrots and candied ginger
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I fried the rice in olive. After it had been frying for about 5 minutes, I added the “salsa”
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I let that cook for a few, then added black beans and some eggs to the mix.
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After the eggs were cooked, I grabbed put lunch in a bowl, sliced up some avocados, added some goat cheese and a little salsa verde.
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Not bad for not going to the store.

homemade granola

A few years ago, while Division Street was flipping, a small restaurant opened named Milk and Honey. A harbinger of the changes to come, a lot of people have mixed feelings about the place. No matter your feelings, the food they make is low-key and tasty. Milk and Honey is probably best known for its granola, which it sells at tons of retail outlets in the city and beyond. There’s something special about M&H’s granola, and the price reflects it…. so I got to thinking. Oats, nuts, honey, raisins, and an oven… how hard can it be to make my own?

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch, oats are considered ok for most people with a gluten intolerance to ingest/digest.

To make my granola I used:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat your oven to 350.

2. I roasted the almonds on the stove top, and combined them with the oats.

3. I melted the butter and added the vanilla bean (split with the seeds removed), honey, brown sugar, maple syrup.

4. I poured the mixture over the oats and almonds, making sure that everything was evenly coated.

5. Then, I baked it in the oven for about a half hour, stirring it every 5-10 minutes.

6. I let the mixture cool, added the dried fruit, and am storing it in an airtight container.
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Good on yogurt, by itself, or with a little milk.

PS. Thanks to the book Breakfast, Lunch and Tea for the inspiration.
PPS. I don’t usually have vanilla beans just laying around, this was special. Next time, I think I will add a little salt to the mix and use regular vanilla extract to cut down on cost!

sunday dinner

Mary and I have been friends since we were six years old and hiding in the bushes from bullies at our grade school. A few weeks ago, I helped her and her boyfriend, Justin move into their new (hugely awesome) apartment, which feels like a treehouse. They had us over for dinner as a thank you.

There is something really wonderful about being invited to a friends’ house when she is freshly moved in, and things aren’t settled, but you can see the shape that it is taking. Mary and Justin’s house feels calm and well thought out, kind of like the two of them.

They remembered my favorite cider, I picked up a bottle of wine, and the other guests made dessert. Sometimes, when you’re eating dinner, I feel it’s more important to relax and have fun than to snap pictures, so I only got a photo of the delicious vegan sushi that Mary made. She and Justin went to the Chicago Food Corp for the ingredients. If you haven’t been there, I’d highly recommend it.

The sushi was made with tempura sweet potato, English cucumber, inoki mushroom, avocado, rice, and a veganaisse/ chili garlic sauce. It was beautiful and tasty.
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Mary just got a cypress rice bowl for cooling the sushi rice. I haven’t ever made sushi, but Mary’s skill made me want to try. It’s also something deliciously gluten free, which is really important at the moment!