Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ceci N'est Pas Une Click-Bait

We interrupt our regularly scheduled recipes to bring you a pinterest-omg-are-you-f***ing-kidding- me liar. (Really, I should say fb liar, as I saw this link on Facebook.) Either way. Liar. J'accuse!

My point is, if you came to this blog article looking for a recipe, you might want to look away, because this post is going to be ripping apart this horrid thing:


http://buzz.hotmomsclub.com/she-pours-egg-into-the-waffle-iron-seconds-later-im-never-cooking-again/

(um, "hot moms?" really? Are you a click-baiting site or a porn site?)

First of all, let's deal with the click-baiting title, shall we?


"She Pours Egg Into The Waffle Iron. Seconds Later?* I’m Never Cooking Again"

(*seconds later she had uncooked egg...)

YOU'RE NEVER COOKING AGAIN, ARE YOU??? Well, I hate to break this to you, click-baiting liar, but COOKING IN A WAFFLE IRON IS STILL ^%&(* COOKING. 

[pant pant pant]

Ok. Let's get to the content.

There are seven "recipes" here, if you can call them that. No, actually, I can't. Because they AREN'T RECIPES. They are INSTRUCTIONS on how to put things into the waffle rather than the oven. And I'm a-ok with putting things into the waffle iron rather than the oven, actually. It might use less electricity, it makes a cute shape, fine.

I'm also semi-ok with brownies being put into the waffle iron, because that might actually taste good, if we accept the premise that these brownies are going to be crunchy rather than gooey, which is what proper brownies should be.)

Now, let's tear apart a few of these other "recipes," shall we? Grrr.

Cinnamon buns
 
Ok. Cinnamon buns. I like cinnamon buns. But. This. Is. Not. A. Recipe. Cinnamon buns DO NOT GROW IN A CAN. I have a recipe for cinnamon buns. It's a great recipe. It comes from Allrecipes. You make the buns from scratch.  It's a yeast dough. THAT'S a recipe. A really wonderful recipe. If you want to make that, then stick it in the waffle iron, go right ahead.

This? NOT a recipe.


Hash Browns
OH. MY GOD. Did she HONESTLY just say that you could just "pick up a bag of tater tots and throw them on your waffle iron?

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.
I'm going to say this once, and no more:

If it looks like it originated in a plastic bag, it is not food.

If it could survive a nuclear holocaust, it is not food. (Unless it's canned, but we can talk about that later.)

If it would survive longer on a shelf than you would, it is not food.

and finally,

IF THERE ARE INGREDIENTS IN IT THAT YOU CANNOT PRONOUNCE AND DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE, IT IS NOT FOOD.

AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH.

Omelette
"Haven't mastered the art of the omelette?" questions the nice hot mom in the video.

Seriously?

Seriously?

First of all, this does not look like a mastered omelette. It looks dried out and disgusting.

Ceci n'est pas une omelet!!!
Secondly, if you want to master the omelette, don't ask a hot mom. Ask Julia Child (neither a mom nor hot). She'll steer you right.



Now THAT'S how you make an omelette. 

That's all the rant I have energy for today, kids. If you don't know how to make an omelette, please, I beg you, do not put it in the waffle maker. (Though, come to think of it, if you haven't mastered the art of the omelette, you probably do not own such ridiculous uni-taskers as a waffle iron.)

If you do have a waffle iron, go ahead and make...waffles. Or grilled cheese sandwiches. Or cornbread. Or banana-nut bread. Or anything else that you want flat with little square shapes.

Just, please. Don't call it a recipe.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Beans Beans the Magical Legume

In other, non-cooking related news, Mr. Better Butter is no longer employed in an actual office where they pay him money in exchange for services rendered.

(This is, actually, going to bring us back to food, and I'll tell you how. Just be patient.)

A strange thing happens when we are both jobless. Despite the fact that I, supposedly, have some earning power and could probably go out and get a crappy desk job fairly immediately, and despite the fact that Mr. Blogger will probably be collecting more unemployment than I could ever earn, and despite the fact that we actually have some money saved - despite all this, when we are both unemployed, I go into what I call EXTREME SAVING MODE. (The good thing is that this fits in nicely with living as a frugal pantry-eating, dumpster-diving, sustainability freak...the bad thing is, like any other extreme diet, it's not actually that sustainable and once we get jobs, I tend to go on teeny tiny crazed spending sprees. It's how we got our lovely couch.)

For now, though, I'm going to try to be über-thrifty in my kitchen. (You know I'm serious because I used an umlaut.)

umlaut = serious

This fits in nicely with the slightly neglected pantry clean, it fits nicely with sustainability, and it fits in wonderfully with clean eating and living from scratch. Not that I don't bake all the bread from scratch anyway, but now there may be more legumes consumed. (Human methane emissions keep you warm, right? Saves on heating bill!! Win-win!)

Beans, beans, they're good for your... pocket

So I'm just going to finish up by giving you an über-savingsy, frugal, clean-living recipe, because that's what I do here on this blog. It is brought to you partially by my recent brain-wash sustainability course, and it's a great last minute 'oh-shit-I've-got-last-minute-guests-coming-what-do-I-feed-them' recipe. It's also a great 'oh-shit-there-is-nothing-in-the-house-but-lentils-what-do-I-eat' recipe. So now, without further ado, I bring you:

Red-lentil Hummus Recipe (Tastes Just Like Real Hummus Recipe)

Note: for this recipe I'm going to do that thing that irritates the crap out of hubby, and not give you precise measurements. The real reason is because I don't know them and I've been making it differently each time, but we can pretend the reason is because I'm assuming all readers are either serious foodies or just here for the jokes. Or both. If you need precise measurements, comment and I'll measure next time.

Ingredients:
  • Red lentils
  • Tehinna paste
  • Lemon juice
  • Parsley/coriander/random onion paste you make by chopping up onions, herbs, and olive oil
  • Salt
  • Spices like chili or cayenne if you import it from America or cumin or something
  • Ice-cold water]
  1. Soak the red lentils, with intent to sprout them
  2. Lose patience after a few hours because it takes too long, and cook them instead - just for a few minutes, until they're soft enough to mash.
  3. Stick in food processor. Process. Add other stuff. Taste. Add other stuff except for liquid. Keep tasting and adding until it tastes good. 
  4. Add liquid until it gets smooth enough to spread.
  5. Serve. Feel snooty that you made red lentil hummus.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hey hey dumpster diving dumpster diving, hey hey diving into a dumpster

I was just on a really cool educational neighborhood walk as part of this recent attempt to actually metamorphasis into my mother sustainability course that I've been doing lately. We went...well, on a dumpster dive.

That's a perfectly gorgeous woodcarving that someone threw out!!!
You still there?

Ok, now that I've rid myself of 10% of my lurkers, let me tell you about this dumpster dive, and explain what it has to do with this blog.

You see, it wasn't *really* a dumpster dive, in the sense that you may be thinking of dumpster dives. That is, the instructor did actually go into dumpsters. But she didn't dive, she took out a bag at a time, nobody got gross or dirty, and the goal was not to take home furniture, food, or other people's trash (though a one of the folks did indeed take home a perfectly good bucket.)

The goal was to talk about garbage, see how much people threw out, and try to reduce the amount we throw out in our own personal lives.

Allow myself to get up on my soapbox for a bit here [gets up on soapbox]:

We, as a people, throw out way too damn stuff. Israel is THE SECOND WORST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in terms of throwing out food (USA is worse. Haha.)  We think of recycling as a panacea. It's not. As I learned today, it's a red herring. No, it's worse than a red herring. It's a justification to buy more stuff  - and we throw out so. Much. Shit.

It's not about the environment. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I don't give a rat's ass about the environment. It's about the five-year-olds in China who are sent to work so you can have a new iphone (NO AUTOCORRECT I'M NOT GOING TO CAPITALIZE THE SECOND LETTER.) It's about sweatshops where people can die or lose limbs because they are working in an unsafe environment. It's about rich people at the top of big companies getting rich off of the backs of their workers who are paid minimum-wage because they pulled off the hoax of selling something that FALLS FREE FROM THE SKY, put it in a bottle, and sell it to you for money! It's about living in a world where marriage, friendships, life, and belongings are disposable - where you can just go out and buy another of everything because everything is cheap and nothing has any value. 

Throwing out less isn't just about all of that. It's about living in a world where you know where your vegetables come from and that they weren't coated in wax to make them shinier, where your garbage doesn't disappear from sight the second it leaves your bin, where things have real value and meaning, and real furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are REAL furry creatures from Alpha Centauri!!!

[pant pant pant.]


http://imbibe.com/content/img/1/soapbox-2@feature.png
AND WHY ARE ONLY MEN ALLOWED ON SOAPBOXES, EH?
Let's talk about food for a second here, and let's talk about throwing out food, and not throwing out food. 

We saw a ridiculous amount of food get thrown out on the streets of Jerusalem. We saw a perfectly good package of Tim-Tams (one brave soul even ate one), we saw a package of bread that looked FINE (see my last rant about my opinion on throwing out bread), we saw a really fancy leftover sandwich that hadn't been touched, and  tons and tons of pineapple ends.

I'm going to say this once, and I'm going to state it loud and clear: I FIRMLY BELIEVE FOOD SHOULD NEVER BE THROWN OUT. See my soap box above for more information, but really, it's not about the starving children in Africa. This time. 

There are. So. Many. Good. Things to be made with leftover food. Even at the end, when it's truly gone to meet its maker - it should get composted, not thrown out. Becuase you see, decomposed food turns into compost, and compost gets used to grow new food, and the circle of life continues. 

http://www.lynnegolodner.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Lion-King-the-lion-king-13191392-800-600.jpg
Just without the evil foreshadowing bit

You see, you might not have realized this, but this blog has an Agenda. That's right. I said it. In my ideal world, we would live in that romanticized time in which people didn't throw out clothes - they repaired them until you couldn't repair them anymore.  And then they made them into rags. And then into rag dolls. And then rag carpets. And then finally into wicks, and that's how they kept warm the whole long cold winter. 

So, same thing with food. 

Therefore, I'm going to give you a short list of things you can do with leftover food, and if you don't have time and inclination, give it to me, and I will eat for free for the rest of my life. (That's actually not my agenda. My agenda is for less food to get thrown out. But hey, this is good too.)

Bread -->frozen bread (stays good for ages. Freezers and microwaves are your friends) croutons ◊ bread soup (yum) ◊ bread crumbs bread pudding 
◊ french toast, and thanks to Bishul Bezol for the suggestion

Leftover or bad Wine --> french onion soup ◊ mulled wine ◊ soups ◊ stews 

Almost rotten Milk --> homemade yogurt (blog post pending) ◊ homemade cheese ◊ muffins ◊ cornbread  ◊ pancakes

Tiny bit of leftover Cheese --> freeze (stays good forever) ◊ pizza ◊ pasta ◊ quiche 

Leftover tiny bit of Meat that you don't know what to do with --> Soup ◊ stew ◊ pot pie ◊ burritos

Stale Cookies/cakes --> (First of all, what are you doing with leftover cake? But if you are, then make) trifle ◊ bread pudding ◊ tiramisu   

Dying Fruit --> jams ◊ dried fruit ◊ chop, freeze, make into smoothies

Dying Veg --> a soup. Always a soup. Or pickled things. But it's cold, so now all I can think of is soup.  

Etc. etc. I could go on. But I think you get the basic idea? Or do I have to preach more to the choir? 

Please send on more ideas, and I will update this list. But basically? Please don't throw food out. There were starving children in the Holocaust.   


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Which There is Chocolate Cake That Won't Break the Bank (But First, a Rant)

I'm sitting here baking a cake.

Ok, not entirely accurate. I'm taking a break from baking a cake, because really it's impossible to bake a cake while sitting. I have a cake in the oven, and I am now sitting and I've got a rant coming on. There aren't going to be many pictures, unfortunately, and I know some of you may wonder what good there is in a blog entry if there aren't any pictures, so I'll do my best to find some stock photos.

There. Happy?

As some of you may know, I like to watch listen to TV while I bake, to fill all this damn silence. And, as I am in the midst of super fancy cake (goal is layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, maybe raspberry jam filling, and if I have time some chocolate meringue thingies and shavings), I thought, I know, I'll watch The Great British Bake-Off. I'll even watch an episode about cake, and then I'll be inspired, and everyone will be happy, yes?

No.


I. HATE. the Great British Bake-Off.

Many, many people have recommended I watch Grrrreat Brrritish Bake-Off. They thought I would love this show. They love baking...I love baking...perfect match, right?

No.
If you do not roll the Rs properly they will put you into a pudding and serve it to the queen.




Here's the thing about that show. Two things, and I hate both. One - IT'S NOT A COOKING SHOW. It's a reality TV show. It's a 'let's make people feel bad about themselves, and how their cake crumbs aren't the PERFECT SIZE cake crumbs, and now let's talk about how their mother didn't raise them right because OMG they can't make a perfect croquembouche.

Second, and it's closely related to the first, that show makes me feel like I don't know how to bake.

Let me reiterate that. It makes ME feel like IIIII don't know how to bake.

It is full of stupid game show people saying stupid things like, 'oh, if you don't whip that cream precisely right, it's going to be a complete disaster. That cake is soooo delicate. It is so difficult to make that sauce. Buildings in China are going to collapse and kill five million little children if she doesn't get that sauce right.'

Here's what I have to say to TGBB-O:

Calm the fuck down.

Here's else I have to say to you, dear readers, who may also be feeling like they don't know how to bake because if you don't get that crumb right then you are single-handedly responsible for the apocolypse: 
a) bake a cake if you want to, buildings aren't going to collapse;
b) If you want to bake a $#@ cake, and you're afraid it's going to be a disaster - well, guess what. Baking isn't rocket science. Cakes can be fixed, myriads of evils can be covered up by whipped cream, and powdered sugar fixes everything else. 

I can't even begin to tell you how many imperfect cakes I have made in my time. Underdone, overdone, slightly burnt, slightly falling apart, melty imperfect ganache - and guess what. They have all been eaten. Not a single one was so terrible that I did not get accolades afterwards. And it's NOT about me being such a great baker. It's about using a decent recipe, and following it within reason.

Here's the main things you have to know about not ruining a cake:
  1. Don't burn it. If you do burn the top, cut it away.
  2. (This is the important one. If you make this mistake, there truly isn't any saving it.) Don't confuse the salt with the sugar.
That's it. Now I'm going to go back and bake a probably imperfect cake, but before I do, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite cake recipes. Favorite because it uses no eggs - which I care about not because of vegan tendencies, but because it's cheap and I'm stingy.

If only I had a cake to feed to my starving children.

Depression-Era Chocolate Cake

(From Food.com. I don't think I've even made any changes)

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda* 
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla*
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups water 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

 *pet peeve alert! 1 and 1/2 tsp is EXACTLY equal to a 1/2 tbs! So why the $#@ don't they just write that and save me having to use another measuring spoon! ARGH.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In an ungreased 9 x 13 pan- yes UNgreased, sift all dry ingredients. Despite the fact that, yes, this makes for fewer dishes, I don't like doing this. It's harder to sift. I recommend stirring in a bowl with a whisk if you have it, a spoon if you don't.
  3. Add the liquids and stir just until blended.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until passes the toothpick test. (Tookpick test = stick toothpick in the middle of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If it comes out a little gooey, stick it back in the over for 5 more minutes, continually until it's no longer gooey.)
  5. Frost with your favorite frosting, cake is extremely moist so care must be taken that you don't tear up the top of the cake.
 Here is my favorite cheap cake topping recipe. Credit to my friend and former flat-mate, L.  
Cheap Cake Glaze: 
  1.  Take powdered sugar. Mix in a cup with a fork with a little bit of water until it's runny enough to spread on the cake, yet not so runny it's like a liquid. If you want to get fancy, use a bit of cocoa or alcohol instead of the water. Done.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let's Talk about Bread, Baby

Let me start off by saying, I love bread. I seriously love bread. I pity you all you glutards out there, and I look upon atkinsians with derision and contempt. (Actually, if you are gluten-intolerant, you should probably stop reading right now, because this post is basically an ode to bread.)

Bread is awesome. (Not a huge fan of sandwiches, but that's another story to be told another time.) Bread is so awesome that there was a whole exhibit at the museum a few years ago dedicated entirely to bread that I had to go see as part of my degree (may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my professor was also the curator of that exhibit.)

I call this 'Pantry Cleanse' Bread
I do NOT love store bought bread. Haven't bought it for years. Feh. Ptooey. Yuck.

The difference between store bought bread and homemade bread is like the difference between erotic and kinky (erotic is using a feather, kinky the whole chicken...no? Am I the only one with that cultural reference? I hope not, because if so I sound weird.)

Store-bought bread, especially slightly old and stale store-bought bread, is sad. It tastes kinda blah. You just KNOW there's a million chemicals in it, it barely has any flavor, and they charge about 200% more than the cost of the ingredients. I don't get it.

It's a flower! It's the rosetta stone! No, it's tear-apart bread!

There's just so many things I love about homemade bread. Taste is just the beginning...you know what? This sounds like a lengthy one. I'm going to make a list:
  1.  I love how cheap bread is to make.
  2. I love the aroma that wafts over the home when you've just made bread.
  3. I love kneading bread - you can really punch and get all your aggression out on it.
  4. I love how forgiving bread is - it's very hard to ruin bread. Trust me, I've tried.
  5. I love how the ingredients can be changed ever so slightly to make vastly different breads.
  6. I love how many things there are to do with bread leftovers (bread thrown out on the side of the road, as people often do here, makes me want to cry.)
  7. I love a nice crunchy crust.
  8. I love sourdough, both the eating and the making.
  9. I love how yeast is alive.
  10.  I love how there are so many customs, superstitions, traditions, and cultural significance about bread. 
Oh, also, I love how it makes the house nice and warm while baking. (I'm a little cold right now. It's only 23 degrees out there.)

I haven't always had success with bread. Oh yes. FEAR NOT OH YOU NON-BAKERS. I too, have failed. So many times. Seriously. So so many times. I've made bread that was hard as a rock; bread that was gooey inside; bread that didn't rise; bread that rose too much. I've done it all.

And I'm still here. Baking distinctly edible bread. So you can do it too, and if you're afraid, call me. I'll hold your hand.

As we walk off...into the sunset...though, um, not in a weird way.

For now, though, since I'm still doing that pantry cleanse, I'm not going to post a bread recipe, even though I baked one today. First of all, because I have about a gazillion bread recipes, and it would be hard to choose just one to post here; and second, like I wrote before - bread is so versatile and forgiving, that you make a slight change - and boom! different bread recipe. Which basically means that I have no idea what I baked today.

Instead, I'm going to post a bread pudding recipe. Because I had tons of bits bobs and the other of about a zillion different end pieces of bread in my freezer, and something had to be done about it. I used some leftover challah, a leftover muffin, a leftover (very stale) pita, and I think some savory nutty bread too. It came out delicious. (I'm going to start that diet...tomorrow.)

Mark Bittman's Bread Pudding

(Have I mentioned that MB just recently joined my line-up of kitchen gurus?  Welcome, MB.)
  • 700 ml milk*
  • 55 grams butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 8 slices stale bread (or, approximately that much bread comprised of whatever is left in your freezer)**
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
Topping
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
 *Yes, ml and grams. If you don't have scale, go here.
**Yes, freezer. Always keep leftover bread in the freezer. NOT the fridge. It crystallizes in there or something.

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. 
  2. Butter your baking dish - use whatever fits. Then break up the leftover bread bits and put them in there. Smush if necessary.
  3. Heat together milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt until the butter melts. Pour over bread, let sit for a few minutes. MB says to 'occasionally submerge any pieces of bread that float to the top.' I says to shmush it. 
  4. Beat the eggs. Stir and shmush in with the rest of it.
  5. Top with the sugar-cinnamon topping.
  6. You want to bake it in a water bath - and if you're not sure what that means, you should probably consult one of my gurus - I recommend Alton Brown in the cheesecake episode. Basically, FIRST put in the pan on the oven tray, THEN pour in the water on the side while it's already in the oven. Do it wrong and you risk a watery death to your dessert (been there...done that.)
  7. Bake 45-60 min, or until it mostly passes the toothpick test
  8. Try not to eat it all and save some for your spouse so they can get fat too. 

 (The picture did not come out nice. Just picture something really appetizing and creamy and delicious here.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Top 10 Reasons You Should Click on my Bait, Or, How Not to be a First World Douche in the Kitchen


Hello again, dear readers. It's been two weeks and I'm sure you're curious about how my pantry clean is doing. It's going pretty well, I'm happy to say. My pantry is, somehow, STILL bursting at the seams, and I think we still have enough food to feed a small army and/or survive for a good year after the zombie apocalypse.

I managed to use the rye 'berries' (as it turns out they're called. Who knew?) in a pretty good whole-wheat kinda sourdough rye bread (blog post pending), I finished up our barley and our quinoa, I'm slooooowly making a dent into the rice, and I found out that I have another two whole kilos of oatmeal and of whole wheat flour hiding in the pantry.

But, before we get more into the whole pantry thing, I feel like I'm getting a bit ahead of myself with this blog.

You see, two things happened this week that made me realize I'm missing a vitally important blog entry.

One is, we went to someone's house over the weekend, and I discussed this whole eating through the pantry thing with the hostess. She was completely overwhelmed by the idea - and that made me so sad! I don't want this blog to be a snobby 'oh look at me and how ammmmmaaazing I am that I make fig jam' blog! I want this to be funny! Down-to-earth! Inspiring! Showing you that you, too, can make random weird meals out of things that you find in your pantry, like the really strange sardine-red-pepper-white cheese on crackers I had for dinner last night!

Objects in photo may taste stranger than they appear


The other thing that happened, is that I came across one of those lists of 'oh look at me and my blog and here are 10 click-baiting things you should know about food!' So I clicked (grrr) and I went to their blog, and wouldn't you know it, it was all about avoiding white flour and only buying organic whole-locally-grown-chickens-who-have-been-fed-nothing-but-chia-seeds and other such stupid first world problems. So I read that, and I thought, GRRR, and then I thought, ok, I better make my list of how my kitchen works. Without further ado, I bring you:


Babka's Top 10 Rules for how not to be a First World Douche in the Kitchen

  1. Eat real food. By real I mean ingredients you can pronounce. If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't eat it. That being said, if you do eat it - it probably won't kill you, so stop freaking out about it. 
  2. White flour and white sugar are delicious. Eat them. 
  3. Salt is delicious. Eat it. If you have a problem with sodium, stop going out to so many fast food joints. If you own one of those stupid cookbooks that recommend low sodium things, I give you permission to throw it across the room, stomp on it, tear it into little pieces, and burn it.
  4. Margarine and MSG, otoh, are not real food. EXTERMINATE. EXTERMINATE EXTERMINATE. Or see point 1.
  5. Organic food and vegetables are great - if you're rich. If you are a starving child in Africa, eat whatever food you can find. Realize that all organic things, however great they might seem, are definitely a First World advantage that you should feel grateful if you have, and not beat yourself up if you don't.
  6. Not every frickin' meal has to be animal. Vegetables are delicious and they're cheap. Stop eating so much meat. Not every meal has to involve an animal who died so that you could get fatter. 
  7. Quit throwing out so much frickin food. (See 'starving children in Africa.') If you have leftovers in the fridge and aren't sure what to do with them, add an egg and some bread crumbs, fry them, and call it a day. If it's really dead and you can't revive it, however - 
  8. Compost, don't throw out. Find a friendly local composter. It's not hard, it's good for the ground, and it saves on those gigantic landfills that aren't going anywhere fast. 
  9. If it doesn't have a cape, stop calling it Super! If I'm going to eat super-foods, I fully expect to be able to fly, turn invisible, and to live forever. If it doesn't do that, I want my money back.
And finally, the most important of all:   
  1. Be able to play in the kitchen. Yes, I have millet and oats in my kitchen. Possibly even several different kinds of oats. I do this because I like playing. I like being creative. I get strange ingredients and I figure out what I can do with them. Sometimes I'll buy chia, and sometimes I'll buy whole rye. Sometimes I make ketchup from scratch, and sometimes I'll try pickling. But whatever I do, I do it because I enjoy it and it's fun for me. The kitchen should be the place where you feel comfortable to go to get good food. Not the place you feel stressful because your ingredients have to comply with some stupid top ten list that some intern came up with to bait your clicks. If you enjoy playing and want to attempt bread - follow along with me. There will be many mishaps. That's ok. Keep calm and carry on cooking.
I've always wanted to generate one of these!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Mushroom Barley Freezer Soup

I hate to admit it (don't we all?) but sometimes, I'm wrong. Just sometimes.

That is, it wasn't so much that I was *wrong*, but that Pinterest was right. (Even a broken clock is right twice a day.)

I desperately needed to do a Pantry Clean. Just like Pinterest told me to do.

What's a pantry clean and how did this happen?

I blame my sister-in-law, who, a few days ago on Facebook, posted a link about the end of the world and the end of resources in the world (sorry, A.I., I didn't really read more than the title.) That led me to my old fascination with the whole Mormon 'stock for a year's worth of food after the Apocolypse' thing, which I find completely morbid, mind-blowing, and fascinating. And that, dear readers, led me to the Eat Out your Pantry thing on Pinterest.

I stitch all the pictures! I good Pinterest Lady!!
Just trying to explain what a Pantry Clean Challenge is makes my soul weary. Even actually writing Pantry Challenge makes me simultaneously want to puke, have 2.5 kids, and go trot out my red and white polka-dotted poodle skirt. So I'll copy paste, and that's ALL I'm going to do.
"A pantry challenge is a focused, but limited, time to “eat from the pantry.” Rather than buying groceries like I normally would, I focus on what we already have. I build my menus around the ingredients I’ve been avoiding using. Sometimes this is something that is cumbersome to prepare or something that I’ve been too lazy to be creative with.... I end up saving money because I’m not buying more; I’m using up what I’ve already purchased."
Cheap. I like that. Ok. Fine. I can use up what I've already purchased.

These are a few of the things I have in my pantry that desperately need using up (just to show you that I have not earned yet earned my polka dots, self-published book, or the 'Best Homeschooling DIYer Mom Trophy):

  • A jar of buckwheat that I'm pretty sure we got as a wedding present six years ago
  • An ever hopeful jar of brown rice
  • Mung beans. Don't even ask.
  • Millet (oh hey, I actually used that once. For a blog post, even.)
  •  Cashews. I don't even *like* cashews.
  • shiitake mushrooms that I sincerely hope aren't the same mushrooms that came back with us from our trip to China 3 years ago. 
...And even more in the freezer.

So I'm gonna do this thing. I'm going to cook through my pantry. (I'm still going to buy things from the store, like fresh fruit and veg and whatnot.) I'm NOT going to make this one of those 'Oh Look At Me While I Cook Through My Pantry Day 11 of 7632!' kind of things.

At least, that's the goal.

I'm also planning to cook consecutively through all of my cookbooks.

(Um, yeah. One day.)

Mushroom Barley Freezer Soup

Ingredients
  • all the barley in your pantry
  • pre-chopped onion that you wisely once chopped and stuck in your freezer 
  • a bunch of celery that has a truly unfortunate amount of freezer burn
  • shiitake mushrooms that may or may not be from China, soaked in warm water
  • all the garlic that got stuck at the bottom of the fancy-shmancy 'garlic-salt' 
  • water

Erstwhile Instructions: 
  1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in water.
  2. Chop all the things.
  3. Heat oil.
  4. Put all the things in a pot, throw a little bit of salt in, clamp lid on and let steam for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add water and cook.
  6.  Good luck.
  7. mushroom barley freezer soup
    How about 'dat. It actually looks edible.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The jarring truth about jams (or, the jamming truth about jars)

Here's the thing. I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to jams.

I do know one thing, though. Store-bought jam is EXPENSIVE. Bloody expensive. And I can't figure out why! Fruit, when it's overripe, is dirt cheap. Sugar is cheap. I'm pretty sure pectin is cheap (and I hope I didn't lose you with that fancy foodie term, dear reader. Pectin is just a fancy word for fruit sugar.) Is it the amount of work that gets put in? The electricity? The fact that it's a fancy first world food that only us #firstworldproblempeople get to eat?

I'm not sure. But that's why I've been making jam at home.
fig jam DIY
C'est non le strawberry jam.

Now, clarification. I don't think that what I'm making is *jam* jam. (Or maybe it's not preserves? I don't know.) My point is, I wouldn't trust it on a shelf for months and months and years and years. I don't have the knowledge, and I don't have the equipment, and I wouldn't really want to risk the botulism.

What I *have* been making is refrigerator jam, and it is delicious. It gets eaten quickly, it lasts in my fridge for a month or so, and both myself and my significant other have eaten it recently and are both still alive. So far, I've done cherry jam (yum), cherry jam with a drop of almond flavoring (OMG YUM), peach/plum//apricot jam (still good, but not as good as that almond.)

Today, life handed me figs fresh off the tree. So today I am attempting fig jam.
I'll jam you my pretties! And your little dog, too!
Hum. Ok. That just got weird rather quickly.
Sometimes, when I'm sad that I don't live in a country with fresh raspberries growing wild and mushrooms everywhere (shout-out, R.R!), I am consoled that we at least have fig trees growing wild. So many that I truly cannot understand why anyone would pay the ridiculous price they charge for figs in the store.

Now, I'm not going to go into much detail here about how to jar things. I'm not here for that. If you really want to learn about it in depth, check out Alton Brown (my kitchen guru, as I may have mentioned) in the Urban Preservation episode about jam. Then, if you want to know more and are more patient than I am, head on over to some random blog that I don't particularly know if you can trust and read the whole veeeeeeeeeery looooooooong article with everything you could possibly ever want to know about canning and jarring and stuff. Finally, check out the newest edition to my list of kitchen gurus, David Lebovitz, read his cherry jam 'no recipe' recipe, and pray to whatever god you pray to that you can still find cherries this year.

For now, I will tell you what I do when I make "jam" (maybe I should call that "jamm" or "gamm" - you know, like one of those trademark things that don't want to use the real word, so they use a silly misspelled one instead.)

Babka's Random Fig Jamm 

Ingredients 
See?? Fig seeds!

  • Figs picked from the tree that morning
  • Sugar or honey (according to the links above it's 3/4 of the amount of fruit. I find that to be a bit sweet. So do what you want, but I take no responsibility)*
  • a bit of lemon or lime juice (a squeeze or tsp or so)
  • water (some)
  • cardamom, a bit of white pepper (oh yes!!), and a bit of almond flavoring (I'm starting to think almond just makes everything better.)
  1. Clean the figs. Cut the figs. Check the figs VERY CAREFULLY for worms or bugs. Ew. Gross.
  2. Weigh the figs. See, I told you you should get a kitchen scale. 
  3. Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook them until they're dead. Really dead. Like probably 30 minutes worth of dead. Do the spoon test that David Lebovitz taught me about (put a plate in the freezer, and when you want to test if the jam is done, you plop a bit on the cold plate and see if it smudges. Works great.) 
  4. Cool and put into a clear jar. I don't have real canning jars. I just use clean leftover jars from previously bought jam. Like I said, it hasn't killed me yet. 
  5. Refrigerate and enjoy.
*I used honey because I was completely out of white sugar. I've never tried using honey before, no idea if it will work. I don't see why it wouldn't, honey is a natural preservative. I'll let you know how it works out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Jarring Truth about Anniversaries


Today was one of those days when I recalled that, actually, I have a degree in graphic design. (You'd think it would happen more often, but no, it really doesn't.)

Oh hey, look, I own pens.
Anyway. So today also happened to be one of those 'looks like it's going to be a good day and then slowly goes downhill' kind of days.

You see, it's our sixth anniversary. Now, I don't know about you, but when you've been married for six years, I feel like it becomes a liiiiiitle bit less exciting each year. For example - after one year, it was like, 'OMIGOD WE'VE BEEN MARRIED FOR A WHOLE YEAR!' Then two was like, 'whooooaaaa, two years.' And then it became three, and four...and five...and then slowly you get to the 'oh crap, do I really have to go spend money on a present? And do we really have to go OUT and DO something? Can't we just sit in front of the TV all night?' stage.

(Also, if you've been paying attention to this here blog, you may have noticed that I really dislike wasting things, and I dislike clutter, and I dislike commercialism and I REALLY dislike buying things for the sake of buying things - all of which add up to not a very good combination with the need to buy a six year anniversary gift.)

Which brings us to this morning. (Forgive me if I digress, there *will* be a recipe at the end, I promise.) I went out to the local shopping mall, on a hunt for a gift which is either iron, or wood, or sugar.

:S

Thank goodness for sugar.

After discovering that the Gifts for Men store which had been around since the Jurassic Age was gone, I was hope-less, idea-less, and gift-less - when I came across one of those cute little "chocolate, soap, and smelly things" stands. You know, the ones where they package up things in a cute way that are solely for the purpose of giving gifts. One of those things was ALMOST a perfect gift....almost, but not quite. It was those adorable 'instant dessert' jars, which I love the idea of. Like Duncan Hines brownies, but in a jar instead of a box, and layered so you could see the ingredients, and a cookie instead of brownies. So cute!

Kind of like this...oops, now I'm giving away the end
It only had two problems:

1) It had nuts. Blech. Whoever came up with the idea of nuts in cookies should be taken out and hanged. Yuck.
2) They really didn't want to take my money. Like, seriously. First the guy wasn't at the booth, and then when he finally came back the cash register wasn't working, so he couldn't make change...basically, they were doing whatever they could to not sell to me.

So I came home, and I did it myself.

I took a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, because I trust her and because it had cocoa in it, which looks nice in a jar with layers. Then I measured out the ingredients into cups, slowly emptied each cup into my jar, closed it, and designed a cute label out of recycled paper.

Little cups all in a row
Now, I cannot guarantee this recipe is going to work, because I did something slightly stupid and didn't read ahead to the part where you melt the butter and add some of the ingredients to the butter but not the others. I'm not quite sure how that's going to work. But it's a gift, it looks cute, it cost next to nothing, and I'll make hubby make it (maybe I'll help him. Maybe I'll wear an apron and nothing else.) (omg, did she just say that? You didn't tell me this blog was pg-13!)

Look at me being all creative!

It's pretty self explanatory, but here are the instructions and I'll let you know how the actual brownies turn out once he gets around to making them.


 Smitten Kitchen's Cocoa Brownies...in a Jar

From http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/01/best-cocoa-brownies/
  • 50 grams white sugar
  • 50 grams demarara sugar
  • 25 grams brown sugar
  • 32 grams cocoa
  • 32 grams flour
  • pinch salt
  • 2/3 cup (75 grams) walnut or pecan pieces (optional) -NO, SK, NOOOOOO, WHY WOULD YOU EVER PUT NUTS IN BROWNIIIIIES I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!!
  • a bunch of chocolate chips

First off just a note about why things are in grams rather than cups and stuff. It's taken me years of cooking, but finally I came round. Why? For one, I was brainwashed by my other kitchen guru, Alton Brown, who convinced me that it's much more precise. For another - buying a kitchen scale is a one time investment, and then it is way easier than measuring things out in cups every time. If you don't have a kitchen scale, by all means go ahead and figure out how much half of "3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons" is. Then y'all can let me know.

Second, the recipe calls for 125 grams sugar. I divided that somewhat willy nilly with the three different kinds of sugar I had at home. You don't have to do that, but it sure looks pretty.
  1. Pour each ingredient into a cup.
  2. Carefully - I used a spoon, a funnel would probably work best - layer each into the jar. Make it look pretty. Bang it or spin it to flatten the layers before adding the next.
  3. Close the jar, make pretty labels, glue them on.
  4. Make sure to note that one needs to add 1 egg, 70 grams/5 tbs melted butter, and lots of love and kisses. 
  5. I'm not quite sure about baking yet. I'll let you know when we get there. But doesn't it look cute? 
awwwwww

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lies, Damned Lies, and Food Photography (in which I use the word 'damn' a lot)

I've been giving a lot of thought recently to photography and food photography. Specifically, how it plays into our whole 'lies damned lies and Pinterest' theme.

Consider, for example, yesterday's dinner.

Yesterday's dinner was millet patties. Or, if you wanna get all fancy and pinteresty about it, "Savory Millet Cakes."Oooo lala. Doesn't that sound waaaaaay better than patties?

So back to photography. I took a couple of pictures of said cakes (because now I'm a food blogger and am virtually incapable of simply cooking and enjoying my food without taking a goddam picture of it). Consider, if you will, this:


It's got a certain 1970s quality, don't you think?
vs this:

I call this 'patties, deconstructed'

Here's the thing. IT'S THE SAME DAMN DISH. Exactly the same. Same taste. Same recipe. It's even the same view from the top of the plate (which I've recently learned is the thing to do in food pinteresty photos.

The difference? One got stylized, one did not. One got instagramed, one did not. One is square, the other is a rectangle. Same same.

And I'm fooled as much as the next guy. I think the first picture looks way more appealing than the second. If it were a cookbook, I would make the first dish over the second, anytime.

Dear readers, I'm torn. On the one hand, I want to EXPOSE ALL THE LIES on the pinterest, and show you that it's the FOOD and the TASTE that matters, and you should ignore the fancy photography and see it for the lies it really is!

On the other, I am tempted to go out right now and buy a fancy shmancy camera so my blog can get big and famous and I will write a book and then sell the movie rights and I will be played by Meryl Streep because I'll be old by then and I sure hope that she'll still be alive.

It's a quandary.One that might end up costing me a good thousand sheckels, at least. But the true cost is my SOUL. (Unless anyone wants to donate a fancy camera that they're not using?)

For now, I give you

Savory Millet Patties Stuff

(loosely based off of Eatingwell's Savory Millet cakes)

I like making millet sometimes so that I can get away from the trifecta of wheat, rice, and potato. That being said, it *is* hard to find millet outside of health food stores. So don't say I lied to you and claimed this was easy to find. Rice or potato would probably be an ok substitute.)
  • a few lugs of oil, maybe butter too
  • about 1/2 an onion
  • 1 cup millet
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • some flour, wheat semolina, matza meal, or bread crumbs (optional, but good if you've added the egg)
  • green things
  • a bunch of cheese
  • 1 grated zucchini
  • about a tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt
  1. Boil the millet like you would rice - put some oil in a pot, heat, and fry the millet a tiny bit. In the meanwhile put the kettle up to boil. Stir the millet around in the oil for a minute or two, making sure not to burn. Then add 1 tsp salt and the boiling water - CAREFULLY. (Last night it splashed and got a bit of boiling water-millet all over the store that I have yet to clean up.) Turn to low, and cook until the water has completely evaporated but the millet is still mushy. Set aside.
  2. While the millet is cooling enough to handle, take a look at what you have in your fridge and/or freezer. (I like to keep cheese in my freezer, because it keeps forever and is just fine for cooking with.) Got some kind of cheese? Great, use it. Got some parsley that's almost dead? Great, use that too. Got some strange kind of chives that you're not sure what they're good for? Yogurt that's about to go bad but isn't yet? They can go in. Etc. This is a 'finish all the leftovers' kind of dish - it's (almost) all good. (Significant Other would accuse me here of lying, because he would try doing things like putting strawberry yogurt in, and then being very confused when I gag in disgust, and protest that I said it's all good. Hence 'almost.' If you're not sure, ask your local cooking expert.)
  3. Mix all the things except the oil/butter into a bowl and mash it together. I added an egg, but it really wasn't necessary, and then once I added the egg I needed to add some flour so it would stick together. If I did it again I'd skip the egg. 
  4. Fry, 3-4 minutes on each side. The trick to frying, I've learned, is a) NON-STICK PAN, because if you have a sticky pan, it almost always sticks. No way around it that I've found. I'd be happy to hear otherwise if you have; and b) Don't move the patties until they're nice and browned on each side. 
  5. Serve on bed of spinach to look fancy. Or with salad on side. Or with a fried egg on top. (But NOT with soy-milk fruit juice on the side. Turns out that's disgusting.)
  6. Eat. But not before you've made it look fancy and taken pictures of it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chia Part III - In Which There is a Picture of a Cat

As promised.
My apologies for the clearly staged cat there.

I fixed the chia. That doesn't mean that I'm done with the chia, I think there's more to be done and explored, and so many people have commented with potential things I can do with the rest of my bunch of chia seeds (and that's not even including the ones who suggested I give it to them.), that clearly, there is more experimenting to be done.

Just, maybe, not quite yet. I gots other things to write. Like homemade marshmallows, for example, which are much yummier if homemade and not nearly as complicated as one would think.

But before we get there. I fixed the chia tapioca soy milk soup.

How, you ask?

First, I tortured it a bit. Yes, I did things to it that one really should not do to food. I'm sorry, chia. I froze it, then refridgerated it, then refroze it, then defrosted it. It was not happy with me, but it did bend to my will. So ha.

Then, I added a bunch of sugar, some milk, some more cocoa, and a secret ingredient that I will reveal below. And I made them into popsicles. (I want to say that most anything can be made edible by turning them into popsicles, but that's not even remotely true. Like, mac and cheese popsicles would be DISGUSTING. So I can't say that. Fortunately, this is not disgusting at all. It's actually pretty good.)

I like how the strewn mint makes this look fancy

It does have that slight taste of 'huh I think there's something healthy in here but I can't white figure out what...' so if you're looking for a way too sneak more chia seeds into your kids diet, this is it. It's ever so slightly grainy. But - it's chocolate. So, chocolate.

Now, I'm going to share my trick for making things edible aka my trick for turning almost dead fruit into yummy popsicles with you. It might sound ridiculous and like something only unemployed food bloggers do, but I assure you (and this is coming from me, the non-liar), it's quick, it's easy, and it's worth it.

It - is syrup.

In this case, mint syrup, but also basil syrup, ginger syrup. And lord knows what other kinds of other syrups you can make, but I haven't tried everything yet.

This is why you should make syrup:
  • We've already discussed how I hate throwing things out. This happens to me a lot with herbs. You buy a bunch, use a handful, and still have herbs coming out the wazoo. Or, you only used the leafs, and still have tons of stalk. You make syrup.
  • You hate the taste of water and buying tons of coke is EXPENSIVE. This will save you so much money.
  • You have a soda stream and just recently noticed that all their syrups contain aspartame. EWWWWWW. Syrup uses sugar. Yum. (I'm not gonna say it's good for you, but at least it's not aspartame. Ew.)
Making syrup really is actually easy, and then you can stick them into those convenient squeeze bottles and stick them in your fridge and they last forever. The Internet thinks they only last a week. I think the Internet is wrong. It's sugar. Doesn't sugar preserve things?

Here is the recipe for syrup, and you do not need any special equipment. If you don't have a convenient squeeze bottle you can even use a jar. (OMG did I just say you could use a jar?!?? That is SOOO unpinteresty of me.)


Chocolate popsicles. I has them.

Simple Syrup recipe

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup herbs or a bunch of herbs or a bunch of ginger peels that you didn't want to throw away

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small pot. 
  2. Cook on low heat. Stir occasionally until sugar dissolves.
  3. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
  4. Use a colander and/or a cheesecloth (see why you should buy a cheesecloth?) and strain. The easiest way to do this is to pour into something with a spout, and then from that into a jar or squeeze bottle.
  5. Make popsicles


Monday, June 16, 2014

Chia I hardly Know'a - Part II


Cherry killer. Qu'est-ce que c'est

I had to wait a couple of days to actually try this, because I was too lazy busy to get to the store to buy cherries. Which, being one of five ingredients, I think was pretty essential for this dessert.

And the results:

Meh. (Originally this post read 'bleeeeeecccch', but then I decided to be more generous...) The cherries tasted good. But then, it's hard to ruin cherries.

As far as the rest of it goes - it was just barely edible. AND IT WAS CHOCOLATE! (Can you sense my rage and disbelief through my use of caps?)

Also, it separated. Excuse me, Miss Pinterest Liar, did you instruct me to mix it? No? I didn't think so. Well, it completely separated, and it tasted like crunchy tapioca soy milk soup. And NOT in a good way.

J'accuse, Pureela, j'accuse.

Furthermore, myyyyyyyyy husband, Pureela, who is not difficult and not allergic to green and quite likes health food said, and I quote, "it would probably be fine if you added a bunch of sugar to it." (To which I responded, "well, anything would be fine if you add a bunch of sugar to it.")

Still, if you were a vegan, gluten-free, pure foods, paleo-eating person, I suppose this would be considered edible. But then again, if you are a vegan gluten free paleo person, you are almost certainly not my acquaintance, and there is no way you would be reading this. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Sure it LOOKS pretty...
However, because yours truly HATES throwing out food, even this must be made edible. Somehow.  So I'm going to try adding sugar to it, maybe some yogurt, throwing it in the blender, molding it into popsicles, and calling it a day. Surely that'll make it edible, right?

Right??

It looks like this post is going to need to become a three-parter. Next up, I'm going to fix this. I still have lots of chia seeds to use. I also happen to have some real milk and sugar. Trying this again, but with real food.

In the meanwhile, dear readers, anybody got some dirt and socks?

TO BE CONTINUED MORE.
 

Chocolate Cherry Chia Pudding

Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT, try this at home. Unless you want to be disappointed. Or unless you suspect me of being a liar. Which is fine, but I'm not.

Of course, if you are a gluten-free, paleo person who sadly does not believe in sugar, then you've got nothing else to eat, so go for it.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1/4 cup chia seeds (look for powdered chia seeds if you want a smooth texture)
3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
2-3 tablespoons organic agave nectar or other natural liquid sweetener
1/2 cup cherries, pitted and sliced + extra for plating

additional toppings : extra cherries, raw cacao nibs, dark chocolate shavings (use 70% dark chocolate or higher)
Directions :
  1. In a bowl or large mug, stir together the first 4 ingredients: milk, chia seeds, raw cacao and agave and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Just before serving, separate into 4 serving dishes, top with sliced cherries and garnish with raw cacao chips, dark chocolate shavings and extra whole cherries and enjoy! (Liar! Argh. I hate lies.)