Monthly Archives: September 2009

Important questions

Triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.  Yum.

Triple-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum.

Does the pound of carrots in the cake mitigate the pound of cream cheese in the frosting?  Discuss.

Recipe after the jump.

– Anna Continue reading

Pleasing to cheez

I suspect this dish will gracing one of our tables in the near future: Coconut barley pilaf, with corn, chicken and cashews.

It also looks like a candidate for my new trick of leaving chicken out of recipes.


How do you organize your recipes?

When I was 10, I had index cards and a box. And one recipe.

Cards sans box. Photo by flickr user rocknroll guitar courtesty of a Creative Commons license.

Cards sans box. Photo by flickr user rocknroll guitar courtesty of a Creative Commons license.

Fast forward nearly two decades (eek!), and things are a wee bit more complicated. This blog is a great reminder of good recipes, but we haven’t been going long enough to be that much of a resource.

Which leaves me with my modest stack of well-thumbed cookbooks, and the rest of the internet. I’ve read some really complicated systems for managing recipes online, but I’ve found my Google Reader to be innovation enough for me. I just add a ‘recipe’ tag to anything that looks promising in my reader, and can import anything else I find online. However, I don’t actually cook from my computer, so I either have to print a recipe out or jot down some notes I can use in the kitchen. Which means I now have a stack of recipes stuck to my fridge, bookmarked recipes online, and books.

How to integrate? Do I go old school and print/copy recipes to put in a binder? That seems even more old lady than Anna’s grandma shopping cart, and I’m not sure I want to take that title from her.

What do the other cheeseclothers do? I’m hoping for inspiration in particular from hyper-organized, menu-planning Meatulewicz.


The best soup. Ever.

I went looking for something light-but-exciting for dinner on our first night back after eating ourselves to death in France. Little did I know I’d found the world’s greatest soup on epicurious – from Self no less. It’s fresh, it’s light, it’s spicy, and it’s so simple it barely feels like cooking.

I made a few little modifications to the printed recipe, and one major change: in a very half-assed way, I made my own chicken stock. Don’t let this put you off! All I did was put 3 frozen chicken leg and thigh bones in about a liter of water, brought it slowly up to a boil and tossed in some chinese five spice (a teaspoon or two) and some chinese black vinegar (a tablespoon or two). Simmer away for an hour or so, or however long you have, strain, and voila!

As the head notes to the original recipe stated, don’t be frightened by the long list of ingredients. I’m a slow chopper, and this took less than 10 minutes of prep. Also, while I followed the recipe and added chicken pieces, I won’t next time. The soup just didn’t need the extra expense or dead animal.

After that, here’s what you need:

  • 1.5 liters cooking liquid (I just added water to my stock)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (the recipe called for brown sugar but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 tbsp of sricha or other asian hot sauce
  • Juice of two juicy limes
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced (choose your thumb size based on your affection for ginger)
  • 1-2 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 lb boneless chicken breasts, cut in thin 3-inch-long strips
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 sliced chestnut mushrooms (slice them big if you want to pick them out before eating, like us)
  • 1 cup snap peas
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
  • handful chopped cilantro

Ok, this is really easy now. Put your cooking liquid into a big pot with your soy sauce, mirin (or sugar), sricha, lime juice, ginger and garlic and boil 5-10 minutes.

If you’re using chicken, toss the pieces in the 3 tbsp corn starch, and add it and the mushrooms to the pot. Simmer fo 15 minutes.

Remove from heat, add red peppers, cilantro and snap peas, and let sit for 3 minutes.


You’re welcome.


Assembled dinner – the way forward

After my recent cooking-baking misfortunes I totally lost interest in attempting to make dinner or even bake the odd cake. So thta can become a problem after  awhile when your freezer is raided and you don’t want to live off Coco Pops (best cereal ever) and fast food.


So, assemble your dinner, that’s what I say. Some wholemeal pitta warmed up in microwave (works as well as grill, honest), add some salad or rocket, cherry tomatoes, smother in tzaziki (which I love though don’t know how to spell really…). Finally I warm up some ready-made falafel – and there we are. Bit like the Ikea version of dinner, self assembly and even moderately healthy.

– Stef

Healthcare reform and the food industry

There’s an interesting op-ed piece by Michael Pollan in the NY Times today.  He argues that if healthcare reform happens (fingers crossed!) and insurance companies are required to provide coverage to everyone at the same rates regardless of their health or pre-existing conditions, they’ll finally be incentivised to fund preventative care.

Obesity is a major and preventable cause of health care costs, so reducing America’s obesity rate will be in the best interests of insurance companies, and they’ll throw their weight (pun intended) behind agribusiness reform that to date has been a political no-go zone.

His theory makes sense.  Now we just need our honorable members of Congress to pull their thumbs out and pass a decent healthcare reform bill so we can see if Pollan is proved right.

– Anna


We still have about this much left. Photo courtesy of flickr user tamaradulva, used with a Creative Commons license.

We still have about this much left. Photo courtesy of flickr user tamaradulva, used with a Creative Commons license.

Though the internet tells me kale season is usually in deepest winter, our box o’ veggies has been brimming with it in recent weeks. Which, sadly, means our fridge has been brimming with bags of it. The one dish I’ve made before that uses kale (I’m new to vegetables, remember) is far too wintery for even this chilly September. I’m clinging to the notion of warmth as long as I possibly can.

So, naturally, I asked my good friend epicurious and came up with this recipe for sauteed kale with smoked paprika. We built a whole Mediterraneany tapasy meal around it, and it was really delicious. The recipe as written was too oniony for me, but I recognize that my onion-skeptic ways put me well in the minority.

The recipe is very simple, and I won’t bother repeating the whole thing here (that’s what the link is for). The basic idea, though, is prep your kale leaves and rough chop them, and cook them in boiling water for about five minutes. Drain well and move them in to a large pan with softened onions, olive oil, smoked paprika and a shake or two of chili flakes. Sautee for a few minutes and serve. Really easy.

So easy in fact that, having barely made a dent in the kale stash, I tweaked the recipe and made it again – this time with a French accent. The preparation was the same, but I replaced the onion with thinly sliced leeks, and the paprika with tarragon and a very small amount of mint. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that it was not very attractive, but it was just as delicious the official version.

So bottom line: high marks for ease, taste and adaptability. I approve!


Jamie’s American Road Trip

In fairness, I may be jumping to unfair conclusions considering that I’ve only seen about 10 minutes of  Jamie Oliver’s new show, but it’s pissing me off to the extent that it’s inspired me to write this post.

It seems to be a bizzare combination of social commentary that he is no way qualified to make, with an innocent approach that, unlike with Louis Theroux, doesn’t result in anything insightful.

Plus, he seems to know absolutely nothing about Mexican food, but is presuming to cook it for an important family event.  If he puts olive oil on it at the end, I’m going to scream.

– Anna

Mommy, what did you eat in the 70s?

It came to my attention on Monday that there are people out there who are not familiar with this amazing collection of Weight Watchers recipe cards from the dark and terrifying year of 1974. They’re too hilariously horifiying to snark, so I’m not even going to bother. I have such a hard time choosing a favorite.

Oh just look at them all.

When breakfast takes 8 years

As long as we’re confessing kitchen failures, I’ll admit to something sad: I can’t fry eggs. Either I don’t cook the white enough, the yolk ends up solid, or sometimes I wind up with a pathetic combination of the two. But because I make really excellent scrambled eggs, I’ve never let this particular deficiency get me too down.

There is one recipe, however, that frustratingly highlights this failure: Spaghetti with fried eggs. I first came across it  in my first Mark Bittman cookbook, a gift from my mom not too long after I first started living on my own. The book was great – short recipes, few ingredients, and they didn’t turn out vast quantities of food. This recipe seemed particularly useful, since it only needed three ingredients I always had on hand, took 10 minutes and I could easily throw in a vegetable if so inclined.

If only I could fry eggs. I tried it out a few times, but, well, it just never worked for me

I can’t remember the last time I did a proper shop, so all I could find to eat were eggs and an array of just about every carb but bread, I decided to try again. I put a small serving of pasta on to boil (I prefer shapes to the spaghetti family), and a couple of minutes before it was ready I turned on the flame under a frying pan with a healthy splash of olive oil. One of the many things that always goes wrong for me in the egg-frying department is the white seems to spread out to cover much of the pan. While very annoying in typical breakfast scenarios, it was kind of perfect this time because you don’t really want big clumps of cooked egg white in your pasta.

I drained the pasta when it reached my preferred level of doneness, and in a crucial step I suspect I may have skipped over in past, tossed it in some olive oil. When the egg was done – yolk runny, white just about cooked – tipped it out of the pan onto my pasta, and tossed it all together, breaking up the egg as I went along. The heat of the pasta finished cooking the white, and the lovely runny yolk coated the pasta, making a silky sauce.

I finished the dish with salt, pepper and a splash of tabasco. It was great!

Maybe I’ll be able to poach eggs by 2017…