August 31, 2009

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Oven roasted tomatoes have been popping up all over the place on food blogs lately (see hereherehere, and here), and I've been dying to try them.  The only problem was I didn't have a bunch of tomatoes sitting around that I needed to use up.  Until last week.  Matt came back from a week at home with a huge box of veggies from his mom's garden, largely composed of Roma tomatoes.  I was thrilled.  If I would have known how simple slow roasting tomatoes was and how delicious the results are, I would have been roasting them all summer long.  I guess now I just have to put my tomato consumption into overdrive until the season is over.  

I have yet to use the giant zucchini, and I can't decide what to do with it.  Zucchini bread is out since I still have half a loaf in my freezer from when I made it a month or so ago.  Any ideas?

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Slightly adapted from Orangette

Roma tomatoes
Olive oil

Rinse the tomatoes, cut out the stems, and slice them in half lengthwise.  

Place them skin side down on a baking sheet and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  You can also brush the oil on with a pastry brush, which makes it a little easier to control the amount that goes on.  

Sprinkle with a little salt.  You can sprinkle on some herbs or spices as well, but I stuck with just salt figuring they could be used more universally if they weren't seasoned.  

Bake at 200 for at least 4 hours or at 225 for at least 3 hours.  Since the temperature is pretty low you don't have to worry about making your kitchen insanely hot for several hours. 

Some recipes call for roasting the tomatoes until they're a little more dry and shriveled, but I took them out when they were still moderately juicy.  They ended up being in the oven for about 5 hours.  

Eat them plain, throw them on a sandwich, toss them with pasta, add them to a salad, or anything else that tickles your fancy.  If you don't use them right away you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge.  

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August 28, 2009

KGB Sandwich (with a little ORT)

I've long contemplated paying tribute to Soviet intelligence in the form of a sandwich, and the day has finally arrived!  I'd like to introduce you to the KGB, a decidedly un-Russian combination of kale, guacamole, and bacon layered between two slices of homemade bread.  Oh, and let's not forget the ORT, oven roasted tomatoes, but that kind of throws off the whole USSR theme.  Unless you want to call it a KGBORschT.  Then you have the fun combo of secret police and beet soup.  I might be on to something here...  Creating variations on the BLT is like culinary scrabble, and I just can't get enough.  

Russian jokes aside, this sandwich is AWESOME.  A Wonderfully Enjoyable Sandwich Overtaking My Emotions.  And this is really hard for me to admit, but it's not the bacon that makes this sandwich so good; it's the tomatoes.  They add a completely new dimension to the sandwich that will make you never want to eat a raw tomato slice again.  You really have to try them.  Immediately.  

KGB (with ORT) Sandwich

2 slices bread
2-3 strips bacon*
2T guacamole
A little kale
2-3 oven roasted tomatoes 

*For a vegetarian version you could substitute cheese or tempeh for the bacon.  Or that weird fake bacon stuff if you're into that.  

Here's the lineup.  Pretty hard to resist, right?  

For the guacamole I just mashed up an avocado, a long green pepper of some unknown variety from Matt's mom's garden, a clove of garlic, and a little salt.  The bacon is Amana peppered bacon.  I have three packages of it in my fridge and one in my freezer, so I figured I should put a little dent in the stash.  In case you were wondering, I am aware of how absurd the amount of bacon I have is.  Very, very, very absurd.  And slightly embarrassing.  

Uh.  Mah.  Gah.  (translation: Oh.  My.  God.)

And Kelly, this morning I woke up and thought, "TGINIR."  

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August 27, 2009

Kale + Garbanzo Pasta

After an impulsive purchase of a box of pasta that I had no need for I had to clear out a spot for it in my cabinet.  The easiest solution was to remove a similarly shaped box, which happened to be another box of pasta that had been hanging around for probably a couple years.  I'm sure pasta is only supposed to be kept around for so long, but I went ahead and used it.  I like to live on the edge.  Kind of.  It's not like I eat raw meat or drink sour milk or seek out metal poles during thunderstorms.  I just don't like to waste food.  I cooked the cup or two of remaining pasta, mixed it with some garbanzos, kale, and parmesan, and dug in.  It was delicious.  

Kale + Garbanzo Pasta

2 cups or so cooked pasta
3-4 kale leaves
1 cup garbanzo beans
1/4 cup parmesan
Olive oil
Black pepper

You can use any kind of pasta you want for this.  I have no idea what kind this is.  Knowing me I just bought it because I liked the way it looked.  Small shells or something similar in size and shape to the garbanzos would work well.  

Tear the leafy parts of the kale from the thick stem, and then tear them into smaller pieces.  Discard the stems.  

Warm a little bit of olive oil over medium heat in some sort of pan.  I used the same saucepan that I cooked the pasta in to save myself a little dishwashing.  Add the kale and cook for just a few minutes until it darkens in color and softens up a bit.  

Combine the pasta and garbanzos in a large bowl.  

Add the kale.  

Grate some parmesan over the top.  

Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle liberally with freshly cracked pepper.  

I was just making this up as I went, and by the time it was all thrown together it was just slightly warm.  I really liked it that way, but if you'd rather have it hot you can heat the kale and the garbanzos in a pan for the last few minutes that the pasta boils.  

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August 26, 2009

Vegetarian Chili

I'm not a person who enjoys monotony when it comes to eating.  There are plenty of foods that I think I would like to eat every day, such as carnitas in any form from Chipotle, the cobb salad at Salut, anything from Topolobampo, good bread and cheese, bagels with cream cheese, Danish nut roll ice cream from Sebastian Joe's, bacon, and fresh raspberries, but if it came down to it I know that I would be absolutely miserable if I had to eat the same thing day after day after day.  I need a little variety in my life.  Not to mention the fact that that's kind of a long list, and I would be spending a great deal of time shoveling food into my mouth.  Give me a few years on that diet and I'd have my own show on TLC where a crane has to be brought in to hoist my body out of my bed.  I'd rather not have to be transported by heavy machinery, unless, of course, I am joyriding it, so I have to exercise a little self control and spread out the consumption of the foods I love. 

I should probably change the name of my "List of Things That I Want to Eat Every Single Day of My Life For as Long as I Live" to the more mundane "List of Things That I Wouldn't Mind Eating on a Regular Basis."  Along with all of the aforementioned items, I should add chili to the list.  I would get sick of chili if it were the exact same bowl of tomatoes and beans every day, but if I had the opportunity to eat some variation of it a few times a week I just might be able to handle it.  When I was in elementary school, chili day was the one day when I was certain to bring my lunch card and eat school lunch.  Unfortunately I did not fully appreciate the school lunch burritos until high school, and if I could turn back time I would have taken advantage of them during those 8 years of elementary and middle school.  They'd be added to the list, too.

What's on your list?

I've posted a few chili recipes on here, but this is the first vegetarian-friendly one.  You could certainly add meat to it if you're so inclined, but I don't think you'll miss it.  Feel free to improvise, too.  We used four different kinds of beans for a little variety, but if you have something against garbanzos or great northerns you should a) stop being so weird, b) leave them out, or c) give beans a chance.  Ha! 

Vegetarian Chili
Serves 8-10*

2-3 jalepenos
1 yellow onion
3-4 carrots
3-4 celery stalks
1 red or green pepper
4-15oz. cans beans (kidney, garbanzo, great northern, cannelli...)
2-28oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth**
1 zucchini
1 yellow summer squash
2+ tbsp chili powder
2+ tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

*This should serve 8-10 hungry people.  It should also freeze well.  I like to freeze soups/chili in plastic baggies with individual servings for convenient defrosting.  

**You could also use water if you do not have broth.  Or beer.  Or any combination of the three.

Start by chopping up all of the veggies.  With the jalepenos you can leave in as much of the spicy stuff as you want.  I scraped most of it out because my mom is kind of a weenie.  Although this picture leads you to believe otherwise we used two jalepenos and one little yellow guy that was growing in the backyard.  

Dice the peppers into pretty small pieces. 

Chop the onion.  If you have a larger onion you can reserve a little for sprinkling on top of the chili at the end.  

This is celery.  If you have a similar looking thing in front of you, chop it.  

Chop the carrots and the pepper.  Size does not really matter.  At least not too much.  Or so they say.  

Throw all of the beans into a colander and rinse them well.  You don't want any of that gelatinous goo going into your pot of chili.  I bet that made you really hungry.  


Heat a little oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the celery onion, peppers, and carrots.  Let them all cook for a few minutes, and then add the chili powder and cumin.  I usually go a little easy on the spices at the beginning and then keep dumping them in as I go along.  Therefore, I really have no idea what the final amounts are.  Taste and adjust.  Taste and adjust.  

Once the veggies are softening up a little, add the cans of tomatoes.  

Then add the broth.  

Let the chili simmer away while you chop the zucchini and squash.  

When you're getting fairly close to eating time, go ahead and add the squash.  

Add the beans at the same time. 

Taste the chili and adjust the seasonings as needed.  Let it simmer for maybe 10 or 15 minutes.  Additional time won't really hurt it, aside from the squash getting a little mushy.  

Serve with chopped onions, grated cheddar, sour cream, oyster crackers, peanut butter sandwiches, rice, pasta, or anything else you might possibly want.  

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August 25, 2009

Strawberry Apron and Strawberry Cake

In addition to being interested in all things related to cooking and eating, clothes are something that really get me excited.  While breakfast can motivate me to get up in the morning and looking forward to lunch and dinner keeps me going throughout the day, the right clothes can put me in a better mood and make things I do during the day more fun.  Nothing gets me motivated to go for a run like a new pair of running shorts or new running shoes, and nothing keeps me more motivated while running than the thought of what I can eat after my run.  While it takes no special clothing to get me into the kitchen, donning a fun apron while I'm cooking away makes all the time I spend in the kitchen even more enjoyable.  As I told my grandma, aprons are the one part of cooking having to do with clothes, so I can't help but love them.  

My first apron was a sturdy, pink number from Williams-Sonoma that my mom gave me for Valentine's Day at some point in college.  It's my old standby, and its hefty material will surely make it last for years to come.  

My second apron was made by my crafty friend, Sarah, who cut up her Ikea duvet cover and refashioned it into several aprons.  I happen to own the same duvet cover, so I can wear my apron, lay on my bed, and be totally camouflaged.  Here's a picture of me, Sarah, and our friend Natasha showing off our matching aprons and drinking our breakfast.  

My next two apron acquisitions were Anthropologie finds that I couldn't resist.  I love all of Anthro's kitchen stuff, and their aprons are no exception.  

My collection is doing anything but shrinking, and I am up three more aprons after my trip to Iowa last week.  Yes, three.  My grandma and I somehow got onto the topic of aprons, one thing led to another, and before I knew it I was walking out of her house with two aprons.  Two vintage aprons.  They were both made by my great-grandmother years and years ago, back when the apron you wore to the church potluck was of the utmost importance.  

The first one has a nice spattering of fruits and veggies.  

And the second one has more of a country motif.  

I am so happy to have these aprons.  They aren't something I would see in a store and think, "I love that print," but it isn't the print that makes them special.  It's the fact that an everyday item as simple as an apron is being passed down from one generation to another.  I can cook in my kitchen and wear the same thing my great-grandmother wore when she was cooking in her kitchen.  How cool is that?  

The third of my new aprons is one that I actually made, finally using a pattern that I got last winter.  Even though I was a home ec. superstar back in middle school, it took me several painstaking hours and a lot of guidance from my mom to end up with something wearable.  It was well worth all of the hard work, though.  I absolutely love it.  The strawberry fabric is from Home Ec. in Iowa City, and the linen segments are from Hobby Lobby.  

I would kill for a sewing machine so I could make fun things like this more often.  

I didn't want to ramble on and on and not include anything about food, but instead of putting up a recipe I will point you in the direction of an incredibly easy cake recipe that you should try.  It takes maybe 10 minutes to throw together, and you can load it with fresh fruit for a slightly healthier dessert.  I used a good two cups of strawberries and a cup of apricots, but you can use whatever you have on hand.  You can find the recipe here


August 23, 2009

BLT Salad

Today is my last first day of school, and I am going to celebrate by doing one of the things I do best - putting off reading for class.  That's right, I am celebrating the start of school by not doing schoolwork.  That's just how I operate, and it's served me well so far.  Instead of diving right into a riveting chapter on business associations I plan on blogging, going for a run, doing a couple crosswords, and maybe even doing a little cleaning.  You should see the volume of cleaning I can do during finals time.  I more than make up for the lack of cleaning I do the rest of the semester.  That "maybe even doing a little cleaning" has officially changed to definitely cleaning thanks to a wind-whipped blinds knocking a glass lamp off of my nightstand.  Fun fun.  

Speaking of fun, today's recipe involves bacon.  Bacon.  Fun.  Fun.  Bacon.  Makes sense, right?  I love bacon.  I love fun.  I love bacon and fun.  A bacon taste test is a perfect way to combine bacon with fun, and that is exactly what my mom and I did a few days ago.  I've mentioned before that my #1 bacon is Amana Peppered Bacon, and it is still at the top of my list.  Don't start thinking that I am devoted to consuming APB exclusively, though.  Unless it is from Hormel, I will happily try other brands of bacon.  Very happily.  And I did just that last week.  

In addition to the three packages of Amana bacon I got to stick in my freezer and ration out until my next trip to Iowa, I picked up a package of Nueske's smoked bacon.  Nueske's is a Wisconsin company which has been smoking, spicing, and curing meat for decades.  Their bacon is a little on the pricey side, but you definitely get what you pay for.  It's a little leaner than your average bacon, and my mom and I both thought it tasted ever so slightly like Canadian bacon.  While Amana bacon is still at the top of my list, I certainly won't mind eating Nueske's when my Amana stash runs out.  If you don't live in the upper midwest and you'd like to try it, you can order it from their website.  

While my mom and I would be perfectly happy conducting a bacon taste test by just eating strip after strip of bacon, we thought we should probably make a real meal out of it.  We cooked up some bacon and threw together a BLT salad.  A BLT salad is the perfect way to eat bacon without guilt.  You get to enjoy the crispy and chewy bits of pork alongside fresh, healthy ingredients, save the little bit of blue cheese that we added.  It's a win-win.  

BLT Salad

1/2-1 head romaine lettuce
2 heirloom tomatoes
4 strips bacon, cooked
2 hard boiled eggs
2 tbsp blue cheese, crumbled

Makes 2 very large entree salads or 4 side salads

Tear the lettuce into small pieces.  Chop the tomatoes and eggs.  Crumble the bacon.  Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

The tomatoes we used were incredibly juicy, so we didn't even bother with dressing.  If your tomatoes aren't so juicy you could drizzle the salad with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice or a little vinegar.  

The BLT salad was a great meal for a warm summer day and a great excuse for chowing down on bacon.  


August 20, 2009

Iowa State Fair

I'm sorry to say I don't have any recipes to post today, but I do have some food-related pictures to share.  I met my parents in Des Moines a few days ago for the Iowa State Fair, and it was awesome.  There were loads of cows, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep, horses, and fried foods.  One of the coolest things was the wind generator, which singlehandedly powers the fairgrounds and then some.  One of the grossest things were the hard-boiled eggs on a stick, which magically appeared out of sealed plastic bags without their shells and then had popsicle sticks jammed into them.  There was a consistent line of about 50 people waiting for these slimy looking suckers, and there's just something wrong about that.  

Meet Buddy, the prize-winning 1,117lb. pig from Ames.  

This is Okie-Dokie and me.  Okie-Dokie weighs in at a mere 1,071lbs.  I think she still has a little growing to do.   

For lunch my mom and I split a tenderloin with the works - ketchup, mustard, onion and pickles.  I always assumed that tenderloins were reconstituted pork, but according to an internet search done by my mom they are actually pork tenderloins pounded out until they're really thin.  I felt a lot better about eating breaded, deep fried meat knowing that it came from the tender loin of a single pig instead of several.  

Have you ever seen a 33.4lb kohlrabi?  Or anything close to it?  I wonder what it tastes like when it gets to that size.  

The infamous butter cow.  Yes, it's about the size of a real cow.  

Super sweet spooning swine.  


August 17, 2009

Rib Eyes with Goat Cheese, Caper, and Sun-Dried Tomato Butter

When I started thinking about things I wanted to eat while I was at home, the first thing that came to mind was steak.  It's something that Matt and I don't usually eat, mostly because of the cost.  Also, for me at least, I don't think eating steak is worth it unless I'm somewhere like Ruth's Chris where I can count on a quality, well done steak.  And when I say well done I mean medium-rare, but prepared well.  When we stopped at the co-op on our way home, we picked up a few grass-fed rib eyes that came from a local farm.  After tearing through multiple cooking magazines and cookbooks, I finally settled on a pretty simple preparation for the steaks.  

Rib Eyes with Goat Cheese, Caper, and Sun-Dried Tomato Butter
From Bon Appetit, March 2000

3-4 rib eye steaks
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tbsp oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 tbsp capers

Beat the butter and goat cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy.  

Add in the capers and sun-dried tomatoes.  

Mix to combine.  Roll up in wax paper or spoon into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.  This can be done up to 3 days in advance.  

Grill the steaks on a hot grill for 6-7 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  

Spoon some butter onto the hot steak, and enjoy!  

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