Friday, October 22, 2010

Slow Cooker Veggie Stew

You know what the ultimate problem with my mad-scientist cooking ways is? I just can't seem to leave well enough alone. Many a dish has been saved from the brink of disaster with a timely addition, only to be sent screeching over the precipice and through the ground like Wile-E Coyote because I decided that if one thing made it taste good, it would taste even better with two things!

Also, I can never quite seem to make a proper chicken soup. When my mum can manage something in the kitchen that I can't, it's pretty galling.

So I was supposed to be making chicken stew for tonight, but when all the chicken was still perched merrily in the freezer this afternoon, I realised that the chicken component might have to come from the broth only. Technically, I've been saving up chicken & turkey bones that I guess I could've used to make it extra chickeny, but that's still not going to satisfy the carnivore in me is it? So I locked away said carnivore even deeper while ignoring the moans of neglect, and pulled some pintos out of the freezer.

I really need to get veggie broth soon.

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Stew

1 potato, minced (I was too lazy to dice it so I gave it a whirl in the food processor)
1 onion, minced (ditto)
1 softening pear, thrown in halfway because I forgot I needed to get rid of it
1c prepared pinto beans
1/2 can kernel corn (will probably make creamed corn in the micro with the other half)
1/2c frozen peas
enough chicken broth to make the veggies' eyeteeth start floating a few inches
1/2T thyme (maybe this is why my chicken soups are always so herby)
couple shakes of paprika
1 bay leaf
1 peppercorn (just cause I felt like it)
pepper to taste

Bastardised roux:
2T margarine
1T peanut butter
3T flour

And then the remedial ingredients, added after to taste (probably better to add 1T of each beforehand, then more later to taste):
red pepper flakes
chilli oil
soy sauce
lemon juice - if all else fails, just add more of this

I may be forgetting one or two of them.

1. Throw everything but the peas in the slow cooker on High for 3h, after which point add the peas and let it cook another hour.
2. In the meantime, start making the roux (here is where I started experimenting) of sorts, melting the margarine & peanut butter together in the microwave - ~45s - then whisking in the flour. At this point I stuck it back to microwave, but that was a bad idea since it turned into a paste. Oh well, it worked out eventually.
3. Add the roux to the stew and mix it all up. Add anything else that is desperately needed.

And there you go, another explanation of the twists and turns of my cooking. One thing I liked was that the stew worked out nicely according to the Canada Food Guide, getting in protein, fruit & vegetables, and grain (the corn). I'm hoping the stew gets thick enough to slather on toast. I may stick it on a pita, grate on some cheese, and do a pizza-type thing with my many leftovers.

Wow, I'm on the biggest lemon kick lately. I think it's because tomato's fortunes have been falling lately with me - either that or the soon-to-be 3 weeks without groceries has me hoarding canned goods. So my sour tastebuds have been feeling a little deprived. Time to make some lemonade.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lemon Mujadara in the Rice Cooker

If I'm wrong for adding lemon juice to my mujadara (pilaf-like rice + lentils + caramelised onion), I don't want to be right.

Recipe, while I'm still eating it before I forget:

Rice Cooker Mujadara

1c uncooked rice (technically, I just used a small cup because my measuring cup was in the sink already. Proper volume to be calculated some other time)
1c lentils (~1/2 can)
2 caramelised onions, sliced (I just sawed at them with my rice scoop)
1/4c liquid from caramelising onion
1c water
1t cumin seeds (I don't have ground)
1/4t cinnamon
[1-2T lemon juice]

Wash rice, add ingredients together in rice cooker and cook. The cooker may not manually turn off because of the oil involved, so keep an eye on it.

I actually added the lemon to my second serving, squeezing until I decided it was enough, along with salt, pepper, and ungodly amounts of parsley and chili flakes to taste. Considered adding raisins instead. Maybe for lunch tomorrow. But man, I could eat this all night.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Busy Times

Whew! My program's been busy, and I haven't gotten as much cooking in as I'd like to. Here are some of the things I've been trying in the past month:
  • chicken noodle soup - ended up the herby-brothy kind, not quite how anyone would've liked, but we added stock packets until it was more 'right'. I made it in the slow-cooker but the chicken wasn't done, so we grilled it and popped it back in. The noodles I made in the rice cooker. There was too much of both and it led to a long series of leftovers that just got finished today.
  • jambalaya-ish rice using the aforementioned soup leftovers with tomato soup leftovers and shrimp & sausage. That's the part that got finished today.
  • Marcella Hazan's famous tomato-onion-butter pasta sauce, several times. I don't make it how it's supposed to be made, with the San Marzano tomatoes and actual butter, but I add a spoonful of sugar to make it work, and the 3 other people who've tried it with me liked it. This is where I used up the noodles from that soup.
  • lots of salad (I get the romaine mixes in the bags) paired with a chicken thigh - the last ones I did in the toaster oven were honey-glazed. I have trouble finishing the bags, and with eating vegetables in general, so I've been trying to commit to this one.
  • leftover spicy honey garlic pork from my new fave Kitchener restaurant, Cameron Chinese Seafood Restaurant, wrapped in a tortilla with salad. So delicious!
  • hummus! I'm going to have to dump the Skippy for natural nut butter (I don't think I could get through much tahini) because the fake PB's too hard to add to things because of all the sugar.
  • salsa - tried grinding things in the food processor and made a soupy mess. Tasty, but watery and gross-looking. Next I trying dumping together a can each of black beans, corn, and chili-spiced diced tomatoes. My sister and I liked that.
  • that awful/decadent cheese-salsa-cream cheese dip. It's the kind of thing that, like a fast food burger, will make you want to cry as you chew it.
  • crustless quiche lorraine
  • baby-eggplant (the big ones are too much for me) parmesan. The boyfriend and I both liked it, though it was a huge mess LOL.
  • roasted butternut squash with parmesan and olive oil. It was a filling lunch! I need to stock up on my squashes.
  • roast tofu - it is AMAZING once you get the right sauce on it. I used hoisin sauce because I'm a little obsessed with it. My friend and I found it a success.
  • toast with salsa and peanut butter. Hey, don't judge, it's delicious AND a complete meal.
Other dishes that have been made have phone/actual pics of them and probably deserve their own posts, since they involve actual recipes. One thing I need to work on is having proper things ready for breakfast in the morning, since I need a full meal that I can trot off with. After all, I can eat while walking, but I can't sleep while walking. It's not an issue this week since Dad got me a pack of cha siu pao (BBQ pork buns).

What I've been overspending on
So my groceries tend to cost more than I expect. The first week was $140, giving me an eternal hatred of Zehrs, and the following weeks were $10, 25, 55, and now 40. It averages out to around $54/week, or $212/month, although I suppose the first week is always going to be an outlier. If I don't include the first week, it's closer to $3x/week.

Technically, I have probably have enough food to last me the month. Would it be healthy? Hell no. It would come down to meat, rice, pasta, and whichever potatoes haven't vomited in despair after being neglected for a month. Once the frozen vegetables, which I have a habit of ignoring so I can buy new shiny fresh ones, were done, anyway. But I like to soothe myself with thoughts of famine preparation when I start getting antsy once I'm down to 2 cans of beans or tomatoes and decide I need 3 more.

I also can go through a litre of milk in a day, which keeps me stocking up on the 4Ls of skim. I'm sure it'd be a handy thing if I was breastfeeding, but in my current state it's led to no magical powers, more's the pity. That's really why I grocery shop, for milk and vegetables. Also because I discover more strange and wondrous things that *neeeed* to be bought each week, like vegetable broth or smoked Spanish paprika or tofu or garam masala or sesame seeds or chickpeas or non-quick-cooking oats.

I keep sneaking oddities like that into my groceries each week so that I will have the best kitchen in the world by the end of the year. That may make it hard to move... hopefully my co-op will be in the city, so I don't have to bother with moving until after it's finished and I either have a proper job in the province or need to swan off to Asia to teach English.

I'm working on eating 1-2 meatless meals per day now (partly because I'm lazy to defrost and prepare meat), but I have to make sure to have awesome vegetables and proteins for it to work.