1118 Killer Sandwich

I was at a loss for what to have for lunch today – until I was reminded that the Eat on the Street cart would be making their inaugural appearance on the Diag.  It was a blustery day, not the sort when you would want to sit outside and eat, so I felt pretty bad for the Eat folks as they shivered behind their cart on South U.  It was totally worth it, at least for me, for the knock-out sandwich I brought back to my office.

The Eat on the Street menu is simple but wicked delicious:

  • Korean BBQ with kimchi from The Brinery
  • Pork confit with mustard gremolata
  • Lamb merguez with cucumber labneh

All three sandwiches are served warm on Avalon Bakery buns.  Homemade cookies and vegetable chips were also available.

My lunch wasn’t cheap – $9 for a giant pork confit sandwich and a sesame butter cookie – but oh, was it worth it.  The meat was tender and incredibly flavorful – and there was a LOT of it.  I folded the top half of the bun and filled it with the gremolata and half of the meat and scarfed it down, licking my greasy fingers between bites.

Shane groaned with jealousy via IM when I told him about the sandwich, and then groaned with happiness when I brought home the other half for him for dinner.  We’ll definitely be seeking out Eat on the Street next time they’re on campus.

Pork confit, mustard gremolata, Avalon bun
Apologies for the terrible cameraphone photo. So good u guys.

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$15.11

That’s how much I had left in my checking account before payday.  Usually it’s much lower than that – and I had cash in my wallet and extra funds in my Paypal account besides!

It’s probably – OK, definitely – not a desirable thing to have such a low balance in my checking account.  In this era of online and mobile banking, however, I could transfer money from another account in literally seconds from anywhere.  My accounts at two different banks are linked, and I have a Paypal debit card that can draw on either of them.  It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it, especially as I recall all too clearly the era of calling the bank and paying $3 to transfer funds between accounts.  In fact, I wrote up thousands of such transfers and fees in my days in customer service.

Back to my $15.11.  I get paid every other week, and generally when I have extra money left over, it goes straight into savings.  This being the month before Christmas, however, it’s going to go towards holiday gifts.

1117 Pumpkin Soup

There’s certainly no shortage of pumpkin recipes this time of year – like pumpkin bread pudding or cakes made of pumpkin (and other) pies – but we’ll get enough of that at/around the actual holiday.  I picked up a couple of wee pumpkins at the market the other weekend with good intentions of making soup or something else savory – but then they sat on the windowsill for a week, and then another week, and then I just gave up and roasted them on Sunday, packing the softened caramelized flesh into a container for another day.

Tonight I used about half of the mashed pumpkin in a curried pumpkin soup, adapted from an Epicurious recipe that called for far too much liquid and far too few seasonings. I halved the recipe, upped the spices, and completely eliminated the extra water – and was rewarded with a creamy and savory soup with just a bit of heat.   We paired it with crusty farm bread and a New Glarus Apple Ale, a fantastically effervescent candy apple of a beer.  Happy days.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Epicurious

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 generous teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 generous teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
2 cups roasted fresh pumpkin or 15 oz canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Saute onions in butter in a large heavy pot over medium-low heat until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute, then add the rest of the spices and cook 1 more minute. Stir in pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Purée soup in batches in a blender or food mill until smooth. Makes 4 generous servings.

Cookie Monster

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
Photo by norwichnuts

I have been craving cookies since lunchtime yesterday.  With $20 in my pocket, I could’ve easily bought one somewhere, but we had plans to go out for $1 tacos, so I figured I’d save my calories (and dollars).  We ate our fill of tacos, queso, chorizo, chips, and salsa for under $20, but I still wanted cookies.  Not enough to bake a batch when I was already stuffed with Mexican food, though.

When I still wanted cookies this morning, though, I decided it was time.  I had to go to three separate places before I found any cookies at all – a coffee shop, a cafeteria, and another coffee shop – but then I happily forked over my $3 for a big oatmeal raisin cookie and a coffee.  Totally worth it.

1116 Attempting the Impossible

This morning I rolled out of bed at 6:55, showered, made and ate a real breakfast, made Chemex coffee, and ALMOST made the 7:36 bus.  Almost.  I would’ve made it, too, except that the coffee took a few minutes too long to brew.  Otherwise I am a morning machine.

I’m on a quest, you see. Since my request for a breakfast intervention last winter, I’ve cycled through the usual suspects: yogurt with fruit or granola or cereal, oatmeal with protein powder or apple butter, toast with peanut butter or jam or cream cheese and tomato, bagel with cream cheese, and/or office donuts. In the last week, I’ve twice left the house in need of breakfast, and twice ended up with one of these:

starbucks new 'breakfast pairings'
Photo by cafemama

Yes, that’s a Starbucks breakfast sandwich you see there. Despite my previously virulent anti-Starbucks position and despite the fantastic coffee options here in town, I go to Starbucks occasionally. The coffee’s adequate and, more importantly, they have a handful of breakfast options that are warm and filling without just being sugar bombs.  The sandwich pictured above is a parmesan frittata, ham, and cheddar cheese on a little roll: 370 calories and 23 grams of protein, which are the dietary metrics I’m most concerned about.  It also tastes really good, which is the food metric I’m most concerned about.

I’m convinced that I can make this sandwich at home.  Moreover, I’m convinced that I can mass produce it in such a way that I can just pop a a little sandwich packet in the toaster oven, take a quick shower, and then have a warm and hearty breakfast waiting.  75% of the sandwich is a no brainer – I just have to figure out how to make the little frittata puck.

This morning was my first attempt.  I greased a pair of silicone egg rings, placed them in a non-stick baking pan, then filled each ring with 2 beaten eggs.  We had a sausage links in the fridge, so I added those to the pan between and around the egg rings.  The pan went into the 375 degree toaster oven, and I hopped in the shower.  By the time I was done in the bathroom – 15 minutes later tops – the eggs were puffed up and toasty, and the sausages were cooked through.  We each had an egg puck and two sausages wrapped up in tortillas

The only problem with this breakfast was that the silicone rings weren’t heavy enough to keep the eggs from leaking out everywhere – so while there were two distinct egg pucks, a fair amount of egg had made its way onto the sausages as well.  Next steps may be to try the mini tart pans, or to bake a big square frittata and just cut it into individual portions.  Either way – I’m on to something good.

1115 Meatloaf: An Improvisation

Mark your calendars: today was the first time in over two weeks that I prepared meat at home.  And oh, what a glorious portion of meat it was!  That’s right, I made meatloaf.

I understand that there are many who have misgivings about meatloaf.  It’s more of a food concept than a tangible thing – I mean, it’s a loaf of meat, but what do you know conclusively about it otherwise?  You don’t know what’s in it.  You don’t know what’s on it.  You don’t know if it’s going to be moist or dry, rich or flavorless.  Even if you’ve prepared the meatloaf yourself, you still have no guarantees.

We haven’t made meatloaf since March – for no good reason – but we’ve both been craving healthier versions of family classics, so I gave a new recipe a try tonight.  And by ‘a new recipe’, I mean that I just made something up and was terribly pleased when it turned out well.

Meatloaf: An Improvisation

1 lb pork (we used an fresh (i.e. not smoked) ham steak, which I then ground in the food processor)
A couple of thick slices of day-old bread (we used a heel of Zingerman’s Farm Bread), torn or ground into crumbs
1 small onion, finely diced (or tossed in the food processor as well!)
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable broth (could sub any other kind of broth, water, beer?, milk – just some liquid to keep it moist)
1 generous teaspoon fennel seeds
1 generous teaspoon oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (optional but highly recommended).  Take off your rings and thoroughly mix all ingredients together by hand in a big bowl.  You can use a spoon, but it won’t be as effective or tactile.  Form the mixture into a loaf and place in the pan.  Bake for 45 minutes, then check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer – it should reach 160 and come out clean when inserted in the center of the loaf.  Remove from oven, then remove loaf from pan and let it cool on a platter for a few minutes before serving.

This should make 4-6 portions, depending on how hungry you are and what you’re eating with it.  Tonight we had boiled red potatoes from our garden, but this loaf would also be killer with mashed potatoes or some crisp green beans.

1114 A2 Nachos

Woke up in a bit of a fog this morning after a lovely dinner at Vinology followed by an exceptionally too large bourbon at Babs’ with Holly, in town from Chicago for a conference.  As much as I love bourbon, it is clearly not my friend, and I spent most of the morning looking forward to the first outing on the A2 nacho tour.

I wasn’t around when someone first floated the idea of a nacho tour, but I have jumped on that bandwagon like nobody’s business.  Today we hit Arbor Brewing Company and The Arena, where we had two very different plates of nachos split five ways.  The first – blackened chicken – weren’t all that warm and didn’t taste all that blackened, though they had a good ratio of cheese to chips.  The second – vegetarian, with extra salsa – earned points for including a big scoop of guacamole, but lost some because the cheese wasn’t fully melted.  We also found a few bonus fries hidden in the nachos – not sure if that’s a good thing?

Regardless, a splendid time was had by all, and after two shared plates of nachos and two rounds of beer, all hopes of Sunday afternoon productivity went out the window – which was just fine by me.