Sunday, August 28, 2011

Heritage Round 2, Dinner #1

Okay, I'll be totally honest: I'm kind of proud of this next thing, as-of-yet unnamed, becauuuuuse...

- It's embarrassingly healthy (lots of protein and fiber in the brown rice and chickpeas, Vitamin A in the carrots, magical wonder properties in the kale, and unpronounceable cancer-fighting stuff in the cayenne, garlic, chili powder and cumin).

- It's probably the cheapest main dish imaginable because the entire thing (three servings) contained 1 cup of instant brown rice ($0.50), 1 can of chickpeas ($0.70), roughly 1/3 pound of kale ($0.30), 1 carrot ($0.20), 1 green onion stalk ($0.20), 1 clove of garlic ($0.20), and spices (I'll assume $0.50 worth).
So the total cost was $2.60.
That's $0.86 per serving, roughly.
Oops, I forgot a splash of oil for sauteeing everything. So, let's say it cost $1/serving. Still pretty good.

- It tastes good.

I hope you appreciate the dramatic lighting.

To make it, I cooked 1 cup of instant brown rice and sauteed the green onion, kale, garlic, and carrots. Then I mixed all that in a bowl with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper.

I've been thinking of it in my head as Middle Eastern rice, but that sound super pretentious, so I might call it Coca-Cola rice instead, just as a gentle reminder to myself that one serving of it costs the same as any size of soft drink at McDonald's.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dinner x 3

If I thought it would interest anyone, I would give a lame excuse for why this blog has been abandoned and lonely and sad for the last six months. But instead of going through all that (um, a semester of college happened, and then Mary went to St. Ignace to be a real live journalist and I went to DC to be a poor confused intern), I'm going to post pictures of three things I made for dinner recently.

Food, after all, is usually more interesting than real life.

So here's Dinner #1, a wrap with sauteed zucchini, sundried tomatoes, green onions, garlic, parmesan (real parmesan, not green tube powder––that's important), and eggs.

It didn't want to stay closed, so here's an intimate view of its interior:

Not to brag, but this was an awesome meal. The kale chips on the side were super easy to make and delicious ––tear up kale; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on salt, fresh ground pepper, and garlic powder; spread on a cookie sheet and cook for 5 to 10 min. at 350 degrees - ta-da, heaven.
And every time I make an egg wrap with zucchini and parmesan, it's the best thing I've eaten in months. I don't know why these things are so awesome, but Lord, they're good.

Dinner #2 is the old standby that is basically impossible to mess up: frittata. I did it without a potato crust because I don't have any potatoes, and with kale, zucchini, and an artery's worth of pepper jack. You'll notice eggs are a recurring motif. That's not a coincidence. I will know I've made it in the real world when I have enough money to get protein from sources other than eggs.

Dinner #3: Tofu/zucchini/kale/carrot stir fry over brown rice. I made it twice (Fun Game: Spot the Difference Between the Two Pictures!), once with just soy sauce as a seasoning –– that was lame –– and once with rice vinegar, sesame oil, and a lot of garlic, as well as soy sauce. That was better. Shout out to Trader Joe's: Instead of buying two lattes, I bought sesame oil and rice vinegar, and now I can make tasty stir fry. Score.

The difference, of course, is that the recycling and trash are overflowing in the second picture. Hah. Gross.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Things That Are Not Delicious: Every single recipe on Chowhound right now

What Christmas Break Means to Me:

-Not knowing what day of the week it is for weeks at a time
-Practicing my Southern accent by listening to my grandparents and their friends in Georgia (mah pleasure, blessher heart!)
-Being awake for about twelve hours a day
-Reading food blogs like an OCD maniac

That last item leads me to today's meditation: Food-related magazines and blogs become shockingly depressing in January. For all of November and December, they're seeped with recipes for Christmas cookies, bizarre cocktails, and weird Thanksgiving side dishes. Some of it is helpful, some of it is creative, some of it is weird, and all of it is jolly and entertaining and fattening.

Then in January, everything changes. It's almost like someone died; these magazines go into a state of culinary mourning (or hibernation), full of entree salads (oxymoron alert!), juice cleanse suggestions, and creative drinks to make out of cucumber and water.

WHY would anyone EVER drink cucumber water? It's like eating dirt.

My favorite depressing January recipe: Make Your Own Tofu, thanks to Chowhound. I mean, making homemade tofu might be fun, but the fact that it's immediately preceded by recipes for Make Your Own Turkey makes it really depressing. Other tempting creations include Fish Stew, Mushroom and Carrot Bulgur, Barley with Mushrooms and Green Beans (aha! a mushroom motif!), and Toasted Millet Salad.

Honestly. This is why everyone is fat: because healthy food looks like prison food. I mean, come on. Mushroom and carrot bulgur? I'm pretty sure that's what normal food turns into after being digested.

Though everyone else is probably as sick of Christmas cookies as I am, I see no reason January food should have to be watery and salady and sad; Hair of the Dog seems like an intelligent way to handle the Christmas Food Hangover. Yesterday, for example, I had a chocolate peppermint milkshake for dinner. Maybe not the best meal ever, but weirdly satisfying.

So I plan on trying a lot of new and pretty food this month. I will deliberately avoid bulgur, and I solemnly swear not to make my own tofu. Hold me accountable, please.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Cookie Fallout

You know how apparently everyone is supposed to be either a cook or a baker? I'm definitely more of a cook, mostly because I would rather eat soup than cupcakes and I don't like the whole suspense/faith thing you have to have if you're going to stick defenseless little gobs of dough in a blazing inferno for ten minutes.

On the other hand, surviving Finals always makes me want to carb load. So I pretty much did nothing but read Chekov and bake Christmas cookies for the first three days of break.

Some of the results:

I accidentally switched the eye and nose candies for this next little reindeer, so he got ostracized by the others. And since his nose doesn't glow or anything, he didn't get to pull a Rudolph and save Christmas. Sad.

There's an important break here between the Christmas cookies that actually look like they would theoretically taste good and the one batch that looked like...well, nevermind. Let's just say, if I had to describe how they looked, I wouldn't start with "edible."

So I stuck glaze and Christmas sprinkles on the end of them and, ta-da!, they looked a little more like food.

Fun Fact: These were actually by far the tastiest because they had two teaspoons of instant coffee in them. I made another batch of them, but made them round out of aesthetic concerns and put caramel glaze on them (caramel glaze: melt a handful of caramels, pour in about a tablespoon or two of milk, heat it up again, get annoyed that it looks more like sticky glue than glaze, accidentally knock over about half of the powdered sugar into the mixture (maybe a cup), whisk the whole thing until it stops being goop, slop it on cookies).

In the end, my dad, aunt, uncle and I ate three batches of them in about two days. That's roughly 20 cookies per person. Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Insert clever pun on the word "flight" here

The above goop is future quinoa burger which I made with a friend (non-Mary). It looked pretty unappetizing at this phase, but we decided to take a photo anyway. Brooks is there for perspective.

We made quinoa burgers using this recipe. Why on earth anyone would make quinoa burgers is only answerable when you consider that she's gluten-intolerant and I'm vegetarian, so there are basically three things both of us can eat, one of which is the following.

After being fried, the goop ended up tasting pretty yummy. Funny how that works.

The fork looks gross because I used it to move cottage cheese around. The only thing we changed about the recipe was adding lime juice, cayenne pepper, and cajun seasoning. I think my tastebuds are dying, because I have to add tons of seasoning to everything. What a curse. Also, we dumped lots of cottage cheese on the burgers because:

1) It is delicious, especially if you get the full-fat kind. (Skim cottage cheese is a joke. I mean, come on; it's basically curdled milk; what's the point of protecting your arteries and staying alive if you have to eat garbage like that?)
2) Nobody really wants to eat a lonely naked burger, quinoa or not.
3) We had extra cottage cheese.

Fun Facts about Quinoa: It's a complete protein and you can make tasty burgers out of it. Who knew?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food Therapy

I wrote this paper for my Prose Style class a few weeks ago. It seemed appropriate for the blog, so here it is -- edited to be internet-friendly.

But before that, let me add that while this gives a brief summary of the Toledo internship, Dirt Cheap Delicious has a long and tasty future ahead of it. Check back this week for another update, maybe with photos.

On the Potential of Food Therapy to Solve a Multitude of Woes

From the wild and wonderful world of psychiatry, most proposed therapies sound ridiculous. Living in the wake of Freud and Jung, we face a huge variety of approaches to healing the human psyche, including music therapy, primal yell therapy, body talk system and dyadic development psychotherapy. According to a friend of mine, a new form of therapy is emerging: food therapy. It’s simple: A therapist teaches a patient how to follow a recipe to make a dish, walking her through the steps in her own home. Then the patient makes the recipe without as much help. Eventually, she makes the recipe all by herself. Apparently this helps patients who suffer from autism, schizophrenia, hypertension, anorexia, and a variety of other mental disorders.

At first, this sounded pretty hokey to me. How on earth would teaching a paranoid schizophrenic how to make spaghetti solve any of his mental problems? After considering the theory a bit more, though, I have become confident food therapy has promise. This is because last summer, my roommate and I underwent food therapy unintentionally.

We worked at a small weekly newspaper in Toledo, Ohio, known as the Glass City –– or, as I call it, the City of Lost Dreams. We worked long hours, ate peanut butter and jelly for lunch every day, and didn’t get paid much. The interview subjects –– including mayors, auto mechanics, Army Corps of Engineers public relations peons, and senile old people –– provided constant miscommunication, offense and stress.

And once a homeless man asked me if I was a call girl.

It was a stressful summer. Rewarding, challenging, and worthwhile, but stressful.

So, unintentionally, Mary and I engaged in food therapy. Every day when we got home from work, we would kick off our high heels and scamper to the kitchen, where we would chop, mash, stir, simmer, boil, taste, season, and bake until the stress evaporated with the steam.

But that’s not all. See, Mary and I slept on the floor next to each other, drove to work together, worked at neighboring desks, drove home from work together, ate dinner together, and went to bed at about the same time. After the first week, we knew everything there was to know about each other. The only thing left to talk about? Food.

We planned a weekly menu every Sunday night and updated it through the week. We discussed the value of organic produce. We organized grocery lists. We debated over our favorite kind of leafy greens, concluding that rainbow chard was the best. We had only one relationship-threatening fight, and it was over food: I thought Mary was far too slow to sample new foods, and I told her this bluntly and often. She, on the other hand, felt perfectly happy living in a world without hummus, Indian food, beans, and guacamole. At one point, voices were raised.

But we didn’t just talk about food; we let it take over our lives. We went to the farmers’ market twice a week. Once we drove 30 minutes to get antibiotic- and horomone-free eggs from a local farm. We perfected a tomato soup recipe (Mary would sneak into the kitchen after I’d gone to sleep and eat all the leftovers), questioned a neighbor about vegetables and gender roles, and kept a blog -- which you are reading -- about our exploits.

In that sense, food doesn’t seem particularly therapeutic if it makes you obsessive-compulsive. But it gave us a constant source of entertainment, a creative outlet, a topic for debate, and a productive way to vent our frustration. I discovered that at the end of a stressful day, nothing blows off steam like hacking up a carrot.

So we perfected the science of frittata, sauteed broccoli, enchiladas, and food therapy. We cooked ourselves to sanity. That’s why I have hope in this new method; if it worked for us, it can work for anyone.

And, to get you started, I leave you with “Betsy and Mary’s Original Recipe for Sauteed Broccoli of the Gods”

1. Pour about a tablespoon of canola or olive oil into a large frying pan. Let it heat for a bit and add some salt, a minced clove or two of garlic, and some freshly-ground black pepper.

2. Add a small handful of chopped green onion. Let it fry for a few minutes, until it starts to look a little darker.

3. Add a head of broccoli, chopped. Push the broccoli around and flip the pieces over so it cooks evenly.

4. With a spatula, push down on the broccoli so it gets a nice sear.

5. Once the edges of some of the broccoli pieces are a little blackened, turn off the heat and divide it among two or three plates. Eat it immediately. Go back for seconds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

vanilla ice cream

It's important to have bourbon, or at least the pretend bourbon that comes out of the kitchen tap and can be made colder by frozen pretend-bourbon cubes, on hand if you're going to be up late writing.

It's also important to have vanilla ice cream on hand, because you can do anything with it.

Example One.
Vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and nutmeg is a good idea.

Example Two.
Two summers ago, I walked into the admin building (slash dining hall, slash staff hangout) at my summer camp and found that Nathan had just put maple syrup on Justin's ice cream, and it was apparently really good. They were trying to tell me this, but they had no vocabulary: all they could do was gesture wildly and sputter a little bit. I might have understood had they been Italian, but alas, they both have sandy-colored hair and it took me a long while to figure out what they were saying.

When I did, I rolled my eyes at them. "You know what's really good on ice cream is --" I glanced up at the spice/condiments shelf. "Ketchup. Ketchup is good on vanilla ice cream."

I was about to walk away when Nathan (tall, thin, track runner) bounded and flailed from his chair to the spice/condiments shelf and brought the ketchup back to the table. Justin took a spoonful of ice cream, topped it with ketchup, and ate. And sprinted to the cooler to get a mug of grape cool-aid to get rid of the taste.

I blinked. Blinked and watched.

You can't try ketchup on ice cream without also trying mustard. And mayonnaise. And garlic. And chili powder. And one by one, everything else on the spice/condiments shelf. Every time it was the same: Justin topped a single spoonful of vanilla ice cream with something from the shelf, tasted it, made a face, chugged the grape cool-aid. Basil was bad. Tobasco sauce was bad. Pepper was bad. Salt was...

Justin cocked his head. "Actually, other than being a little crunchy, it's not that bad," he said.

"Kind of like eating your own boogers," Nathan said.