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.

1113 Tomato Bisque

Shane’s gone for the weekend – more moped stuff in Cleveland – and I’ve got a whole lot of nothing planned.  This morning I drank coffee, made a trip to the garden, and made a lovely soup for a late lunch while watching the Iowa game which, by the way, I don’t want to talk about.  I would, however, like to talk about this soup.

Lo these many years ago, in an apartment on 12th Street in Rockford, I started to get interested in food.  I knew enough to be dangerous to myself and others – I could scramble eggs, make an awesome batch of mashed potatoes, and follow the instructions on packaged food.  I had been vegetarian for a few years, so anything I might’ve known about preparing meat had long escaped my mind.  I was living with my boyfriend and two coworker friends, and while we all liked to eat, none of us liked to do the dishes.

When my roommates moved out and I didn’t have automatic Must See TV pineapple pizza ordering companions, I started to give the whole cooking thing a go.  This tomato bisque was one of the first things I mastered, one of the first recipes I could make without frantic trips to the store (where the hell are the pine nuts?) or phone calls to my mom (what’s something easy I can do with chicken?).  Paired with Jeff Perri’s grilled cheese sandwiches, it was my go to meal for the longest time.

So that’s what I did for lunch this afternoon: tomato bisque made from a whole bunch of the green tomatoes that finally ripened, with a bit of purloined dill for a more complex flavor.  I didn’t have cream on hand, so I whisked in a bit of yogurt – not the same, but good enough.  Add some crusty bread and a Spotted Cow, and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon.

Tomato Bisque from Fine Cooking

1111 Snack dinner with seasonal veg

I’m starting to think that snack dinner is our equivalent of leftover casserole – you know, a bit of this, a bit of that, finishing off a few things that are in the fridge or that looked appealing during the last minute run to the store. (I’d link you to the episode of Malcolm in the Middle that talks about leftover casserole, but in my memory, it’s a just a throwaway laugh, not worth any further mention. We’ll see if I’m wrong.)

I wasn’t feeling up to making, much less eating, the risotto we’d planned on having for dinner tonight, so Shane ran up to Plum to get a baguette and a few other things to have with a tin of tuna and whatever veg side I could throw together during his shopping trip.  I came up with two: spinach sauteed with butter and garlic (and a bit too much salt, which is something you’ll almost never hear me say) and a wee butternut squash, cubed and roasted with ras el hanout.  And I’m not ashamed to say that we finished all of it – baguette, tuna, veg, and a bottle of wine – over the course of the evening.

1112 Oops, I ate a pizza

Michaelangelo Special Pizza - Michaelangelo, Aspendale Gardens
Photo by avlxyz

It was a small one, though, and it was loaded up with veggies and less cheese than usual. And I ate it after running home from work, and skipped the beer that I’d planned on having. With a healthy breakfast (sandwich) and a healthy lunch (sandwich), I think I’ve come out OK for the day.

1110 Tomukun Noodle Bar

A nice dinner out with friends tonight.  We hadn’t managed to connect with Juli and Dave since August – while we’ve been gone a fair amount, Juli travels even more often – so it was lovely to meet up over big bowls of steaming broth and noodles at Tomukun, a noodle bar just off of Central Campus.  I had lunch with Shana there in early June and have been dreaming of their butter corn ramen ever since – especially after Shane went with his mom during Art Fair and tried their pork buns.

Pork Buns, Tomukun, Ann Arbor
Photo by dianaschnuth

A whole season passed before we made it back to Tomukun, which is just a damned shame. We were both famished, having exercised after work and avoided any snacking so as to fully enjoy the bowls of wonderful ahead of us.  I feel like we might’ve been negligent dining companions, so focused were we on getting to the bottom of our bowls.  Shane had the pork buns and the duck ramen, which he enjoyed but not as much as the butter corn ramen, which inexplicably neither of us ordered.  I had the kitsune udon – literally “fox noodles” – and while I have no idea what foxes have to do with my dinner, I did thoroughly enjoy the sweet broth, fish cake, spongy fried tofu, and slurpy noodles.  We returned home full, happy, and warmed from the inside out.

Try it at home:
Momofuku Pork Buns from Momofuku for 2
Kitsune udon from Epicurious

1109 TVP Tacos

I’m not sure what possessed me to pick up TVP the other day, other than that it seemed like it might be an inexpensive and healthy way to get a bit more protein into our diets.  Once I dumped the TVP out into a canister at home, however, I realized I had no idea what to do with it.  It’s pretty strange stuff – a soy protein extruded, in the words of Wikipedia, into “a fibrous spongy matrix that is similar in texture to meat”.  Weird.

Anyway, tonight I decided to give it a go.  TVP is notoriously short on flavor, but I suspected that rehydrating it while also rehydrating a dried chipotle pepper might give it a subtle kick – which mostly worked, though the TVP still had a ways to go before being palatable.  Using the same basic recipe as our tempeh tacos, I sauteed the TVP in some vegetable oil with a finely diced onion, a chili or two, cumin, coriander, and a fair amount of salt and pepper.  When the TVP was cooked through and starting to brown, I pulled it out of the skillet, then quickly stir-fried up a couple of cups of mushrooms in the skillet’s residual spices.  We rolled the TVP, mushrooms, and a cubed roasted butternut squash up into vegan burritos.  All in all, not outstanding, but a reasonably good first effort at using TVP.

Tempeh tacos