Attempts at a Slow Carb Life

A few meals from the last two months:

Shrimp and zucchini "noodles"

Shrimp and zucchini “noodles” – an only somewhat successful first attempt at replacing pasta with pasta-like substances. Fortunately, we like both zucchini and shrimp. Unfortunately, this was a pretty lame dinner. Next time I’ll try NomNomPaleo’s version.

Adventures in Low(er) Carb Eating

Orin asked, “Is this breakfast food?”. I said, “Today it is.” Mustard tofu with sauteed kale, mushrooms, and onions. I had this breakfast pocket on the brain.

Dinner, SELMA-style

Post vacation dinner, SELMA-style: fried eggs over pulled pork, shredded cheese, and a coarse salsa made from garden excess. I discovered exactly how many successive pulled pork meals I can stomach. The answer? Five.

Day 3: Novice Campers

I realized when we were preparing for this trip that this would be the first time we’d just gone camping. We’ve done group campouts. We’ve done festival camping. What we haven’t done is the two of us in a tent with no friends along for the ride, no structured activities, no plans.

Let’s be clear: we’re not talking back woods camping here. We had our back woods adventure with the note on the dashboard and the mosquitos and the panicking. We’re talking about car camping, the sort where you roll your car up and pitch your tent ten feet away. A greener, more rustic parking lot.

Car Camping First night of camping

Our first night of camping was spent at the perfectly serviceable Holtwood Campground in Oconto, Michigan. The campground is dominated by RVs that suck more power than our apartment – but there’s a nice space away from the RVs for tents only, and the entire campground is along a lovely river. The campsite manager recommended Crivello’s for dinner, where our steak dinner set us back a whole $12 for a 10 oz ribeye, soup, salad, breadstick, and choice of potatoes (we went with “pinecones”). While we were on the other side of the river, we picked up a few groceries for breakfast – and some essential missing kitchen infrastructure.

Campsite Kitchen

See, we’re novices at this whole camping thing. Shane has done his product research for backwoods camping, so I assumed that he’d have the gear entirely under control. I think he assumed that I would vet his packing and make sure I had everything I needed to cook on the campstove. Neither of these things really happened, and so we embarked on our campground cooking adventure with the following handicaps:

  1. We brought coffee and our French press, but we didn’t adjust the grind on the coffee so that it would work in said French press. The Jetboil did an amazing job with the water, but that doesn’t mean the coffee we made with it was worth drinking. This was remedied by a stop for coffee in Green Bay, then by the purchase of instant coffee. Yes, you read that correctly.
  2. We had no knife. Of any kind. I’m not sure how we were expected to defend ourselves against bears or, you know, slice anything. I’m also not sure how neither of us checked on this. Regardless, we picked up a cheap serrated paring knife, and that did an adequate job on everything from onions to watermelon.
  3. We had about 5 paper plates, and no other surface on which to cut or from which to eat. We picked up durable plastic plates at Target for $1. Problem mostly solved.

With our kitchen stocked and dreams of bacon and eggs dancing in our heads, we cuddled up in the tent as our neighbors shot off fireworks. It rained in the night, but we stayed comfortable and dry, and woke to an absolutely perfect morning. While Shane worked on coffee, I put together breakfast:

Killer Breakfast Sandwich

Sauteed mushrooms and onions, bacon, fried eggs, and pan-toasted English muffins. Shane added salsa to make a killer sandwich, which he swears was one of his favorite meals of the trip.

Breakfast Sandwich Breakfast Chomp

A great start to a great day. We availed ourselves of the pay showers – 25c for 4 minutes, up to 15 quarters accepted – broke down the campsite, and hit the road towards Devil’s Lake by way of Green Bay.

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.

1024 Wait, What Season Is It?

So Friday night Shane finally gave in to the weather and turned on the heat.  It was 26 when I left for work that morning, bundled up in my jacket, cowl, and gloves, shivering at the bus stop in the pitch black at 7am.  It was the beginning of soup weather, which was all I’ve wanted to eat for the last week, and at least 3/4 of what I planned to make this week.

That is, until I popped the kitchen window open this morning to vent the breakfast heat and smells and discovered that it was NEARLY 70.  It is the last week of October, right?  I was wearing flannel pajamas and fuzzy socks last night, right? I did pull my tomatoes out two weeks ago because the growing season is over, right?

Fried green tomatoes
Photo by eirikso

Speaking of those tomatoes, they’ve been sitting in a big paper bag in the corner waiting for me to figure out what the heck to do with them. I’ve gotten recommendations for chili or pickles, and I’ve had good intentions of frying them, but for the most part they’ve just been sitting there awaiting my attention. This morning I discovered two things: first, nearly a dozen of the tomatoes have ripened! The paper bag trick works! Second, fried green tomatoes are damned fine breakfast food.

fried green tomatoes
Photo by kthread

This was my first time making fried green tomatoes – in fact, it might be my first time EATING fried green tomatoes – so I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious these were! The tomatoes were small, maybe 2″ in diameter, so we only got about 3 slices out of each. I used Mollie Katzen’s recipe from Sunlight Cafe, which called for an extremely minimal batter – just polenta and salt – so these aren’t the great batter-coated beasts that I saw all over Flickr while looking for photos to illustrate this post. Super simple, super delicious, and when served along with bacon, scrambled eggs, and slices of Avalon‘s Italian bread – an amazing breakfast on an amazingly beautiful morning.

Recipe:
Mollie Katzen’s Fried Green Tomatoes from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

1018 Quick Dinner/KotWS

We had a hot date with some Toms Collins tonight, but were both definitely too hungry after work to wait until 7pm.  Yeah, yeah, we eat like old people.  I’m less bothered by that fact than I am bothered by my total hunger at 5pm when I’ve had breakfast at 6:30am and lunch at 11.  I suppose if I shifted my schedule forward by about two hours – breakfast at 8:30am and lunch at 1 – I might be able to wait til 7 for dinner on an average night.  This shift wouldn’t do me much good, though, as I’d still wake up at 6-6:30, even in the pitch black, and then I’d just be grumpy and hungry for two hours.  And no one likes that.

ANYWAY.

There’s about zero chance of us resisting the fluffy golden dinner rolls at Knight’s, so all we really needed was something simple to tide us over – maybe some veg and protein?  Lacking any coherent entree options, I sauteed some Brussels sprouts and shallots with butter until golden-brown, then gently scrambled a few eggs and warmed up the last of the bread from Saturday’s ad hoc dinner.

We ate everything up – and it’s a good thing, too, as the two martinis I had later went straight to my head.  Despite the ounce or two of regret later, we had a great time at KotWS, and look forward to the next meeting of this geographically collocated fraternity of imbibers.

0717 Tortilla with Beans

In honor of Spain’s recent win in the World Cup, I decided that I wanted to cook my way through a Spanish cookbook that has been lingering in my collection for several years.  I’m allowing myself to skip 10 (of 150+) recipes, with extra special dispensation given to pulpo gallego in honor of Paul the psychic octopus, who called the game in favor of España.  While I’ve made a few recipes from the cookbook, tonight marked the first meal since taking on this challenge.

AND unfortunately, it was a disappointment.  The fava beans were obviously past their prime, and so lacked the firm texture and fresh taste from earlier in the season.  The potatoes – harvested from our garden – crisped up nicely, but made for a super bland texture with the already bland beans.  The tortilla didn’t set in the middle, though I was able to easily invert it out and back into the pan.  We used medium eggs instead of extra large, which may have had something to do with how the dish set up, but shouldn’t have made THAT much of a difference.

I was also perplexed by the serving size.  The tortilla recipe on the facing page called for fewer extra ingredients beyond the classic eggs, onions, and potatoes, but served 4-6.  This recipe, intended to be served in cubes as tapas, was supposed to serve 2.  We both had generous portions topped with a lot of hot sauce, and still had more than half of the tortilla remaining.

I’m including the recipe below roughly as written, and would love your ideas for how to improve it.  Or maybe we’ll just stick with frittatas.

Tortilla with Beans
Adapted from Spanish

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
11 ounces waxy potatoes, cut into dice
1 3/4 cups shelled and peeled broad (fava) beans
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, oregano or summer savory
6 extra large eggs
3 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh chives and fresh Italian parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a deep non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and potatoes and stir to coat.  Cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the onions are translucent.  Add the beans and thyme (or oregano or summer savory) and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and cook 2-3 minutes.  Beat the eggs with salt, pepper, and the remaining herbs.  Pour over the potatoes and onions and increase the heat slightly.  Cook until the egg sets on the bottom, pushing the tortilla away from the edge of the pan so that the uncooked egg can run underneath.  Cover the pan with a large plate and invert the tortilla out onto it.  Add the remaining oil to the pan, then slip the now upside-down tortilla back in and cook for 3-4 more minutes.  Serves 4-6.

0701 Zucchini Potato Frittata

We ran a quick errand after work, and by the time we got home, we were starving.  I had planned to make a frittata from Local Flavors, but lacking the ricotta the recipe required, I opted to just fly by the seat of my pants.  And you know what, it was a damned good frittata.

Fritatta in the pan

Tonight’s frittata was a riff on the basic recipe I gave you last month.  We had a few boiled new potatoes, half an onion, and a knob of goat cheese left over from other meals, so the cheese was whisked in with five eggs, while the potato and onion were sliced up along with a yellow squash and sauteed in the last of the butter.  After adding the egg-cheese mixture, I ran a silicone spatula around the edges to keep everything from sticking, then transferred the pan to the oven for a couple of minutes under the broiler.

The frittata pictured above isn’t the one we ate tonight, but it’s pretty close.  I have to tell you, though, that in the moment of truth, tonight’s frittata flipped out of the pan beautifully.  And then we ate it right up.

0604 Marathon Night in the Kitchen

I had good intentions for tonight.  They involved sitting on the couch with my knitting and watching The Straight Story or maybe The Jerk and a leetle bit of prep for the Saturday bakefest.  Instead I spent literally the entire evening in the kitchen, save the 15 minutes when I ran cookies over to SELMA.  The. Entire. Evening.  I mean, there are worse ways to spend a Friday night – this just wasn’t what I had in mind.

First, cookies for Saturday’s hoop build and also for a Couchsurfing potluck.  SELMA’s stopped using white sugar since there doesn’t appear to be any sugar available that is local AND non-GMO – so I tried to find a recipe that used other kinds of sweeteners.  This recipe, from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook, uses corn syrup, apple butter, and brown sugar – all of which are a little bit more wholesome, even if they don’t hit the local/non-GMO mark entirely.  I made a double batch – which should have been 40 cookies, but resulted in 66 dense and chewy cookies.  To be honest, they tasted more like fuel than like a treat, which is probably A-OK for hoop builders and race runners.  I probably won’t make this recipe again, though.

Between cookie tasks, I prepped the ingredients for Saturday’s brunch cocktail, the Leland Palmer.  I’ll tell you more about that once we actually consume them, but the prep involved a good amount of juicing, playing with jasmine tea pearls, and the last of our honey.

The last of our [x] turned out to be a theme of the evening – over the course of a few hours, I ran out of honey AND flour AND milk AND raisins AND probably some other stuff that I’m just blocking out right now because it was so ridiculous.

Finally, and perhaps in a kitchen that was too hot, I made the pastry cream for Saturday’s bakefest.  Having helped with the pastry cream for both the croquembouche and the homemade Twinkies, I figured I’d be in good shape – but the damned cream just refused to thicken.  It smelled fantastic, though, and after a few frantic texts to Olivia, I decided to leave well-enough alone and just put the cream in the fridge for further examination on Saturday.

Somewhere in there, I realized that it had gotten late and I was hungry.  In lieu of dinner and in the spirit of using up the extra egg whites from pastry cream, I made a quick omelette with the last of the garlic scapes and the last tomato.  Let me draw your attention to one important fact in this paragraph: this was the first time I think I have ever made a successful omelette.  It was delicate.  It folded in half.  It was delicious.  Perhaps the secret is more whites than yolks, and also benign neglect – I was so busy with everything else that I couldn’t really stress out over the eggs or the sauteeing scapes, and as a result, everything was perfect.

Recipe:
Oatmeal Cookies from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
Leland Palmers from Bon Appetit
Pastry Cream from Martha Stewart

0520 Spinach Frittata

We’re on the cusp of summer right now, halfway between the austerity of winter vegetables and the abundance right around the corner.  Around this time of year, my thinking about food gets all muddled up.  In the colder months, we fall into a routine of planning meals, then going to the grocery store with our carefully composed list.  There are almost always impulse buys, but we come home with the fixings for a week’s worth of meals and maybe a little extra to throw in the freezer.  Come summer, though, our crisper overflows with whatever’s available at the market – which isn’t to say that we don’t plan in advance, but we’re definitely more prone to improvisation.

Over the last couple of years, frittatas have become key to getting through excess market produce.  If we participated in a CSA, I can only imagine that our frittata consumption would be exponentially higher.  Tonight’s frittata was made with the mysterious spinach-like greens from our garden and enriched with a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.  Many of the recipes you’ll find online call for 5-8 eggs, but I’ve found that 4-5 are plenty for the two of us for a quick dinner.  If we’re entertaining or want to have leftovers for lunch, I’ll use more eggs and veg, and will serve with bread and/or a salad.

My rough frittata recipe for two is as follows:

1 tablespoon butter, plus more for sauteeing if necessary
4-5 large eggs, whisked together
1 medium onion
1-2 cups of whatever vegetables you have on hand, chopped (spinach, asparagus, more onions, garlic, kale, chard, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, etc – you get the idea)
1/2 cup shredded or crumbled cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, gruyere, goat, feta – anything that melts well)

Special equipment: oven and stovetop-safe pan

Preheat the broiler.  Melt the butter in your pan, swirling around to coat the bottom and sides.  Sautee your veg until tender, then pour the whisked eggs over the top.  When the eggs are just set, top with your cheese, then transfer to the broiler and broil until golden.

Serve from the pan or, if you’re fancy and careful, flip out onto a plate and serve at the table.

0510 Happy Hour at Grange

Benton’s Old Fashioned, originally uploaded by dansays.

Dinner tonight was a real treat. First, Karin was in town, which is always an excuse for excess laughter and bacon. Second, instead of cooking at home, we decided to try a new happy hour – at Grange. Third, did I mention bacon? How about poutine? Fancy cocktails? Because we had all of those things.

Grange is a relatively new addition to the A2 restaurant scene – new enough to merit  Current’s award for Best New Restaurant – and while we’d tried bites of their food at the HomeGrown Festival last fall, we hadn’t been to the restaurant proper.  Their happy hour deal is $2 off cocktails, wine by the glass, and the bar menu, which seemed just right for a pretty affordable dinner with a friend (thanks, Karin!).  We got to Grange right around 6 and found the upstairs bar practically empty, meaning we had our server’s undivided attention, which came in handy as I felt the need to grill her about everything on the menu.  I ordered their signature drink: the GKB Manhattan, comprised of bacon infused Bulleit Bourbon, maple syrup, orange bitters, and brandied cherries.

I’ll be honest with you – I love bacon as much, if not more, than your average girl, but I’m pretty on the fence about bacon in drinks.  My cocktail was not un-enjoyable, but the bacon-infused bourbon left a strange mouthfeel reminiscent of the greasy burned bits that are left in the pan after you fry bacon and drain off the rendered fat.  How’s THAT for an appetizing description?  My dinner – an excellent fried egg sandwich with chile mayo on thick slices of challah – was actually a pretty nice pairing to my weird drink, so I’m thankful I ordered in that direction.

Shane had the French 75 – a sweet/tart gin-based cocktail with lemon and sparkling wine – and the duck confit poutine – a pile of fries topped with soft cheese curds, bits of duck, and a thinner gravy than I would’ve expected.  Karin also had a very nice Dark and Stormy along with the fried egg sandwich, and we all split a bowl of savory fried chickpeas – the real highlight of the meal for me.

Despite winning the Current award, Grange has gotten pretty mixed reviews on Yelp, and I can understand why: there was nothing wrong with our food, per se, but I had a vague sense (like that strange mouthfeel) that it could’ve been more right.  You know what I mean?