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July 28, 2009 in main course, salad2 comments

spring tuna wraps

spring tuna wraps

ohnoes, shrinkage!Shrinkage. It’s not just for George Costanza anymore. Thanks to rising costs and a disinclination towards outwardly raising prices, food manufacturers are selling less for the same price. Everything comes in a smaller package these days, and not all of it is due to chilly swimming pools.

And in the process, mucking up loads and loads of recipes. Jerks.

But I’ve got a present for you. Spring tuna wraps uses 5 ounce cans of tuna, yay! Well, that’s because I sort of just wrote down the precise measurements today, but you didn’t read that, did you?

But it’s not spring anymore, I hear you complaining. Too bad. Up here in Michigan, it’s been a cruel cool cool summer, and peas, lettuce, radishes, and green onions are still going strong in the garden. Confession: my peas are sugar snaps, so I use frozen in this recipe, shh. Don’t tell anyone!

gah, someone get this cat off my countertop

Oh, wait. Hold up. My dad’s cat, who likes to come in my house at night, keeps jumping up on the counter to lick the measuring cup that had mayonnaise in it.

So annoying. I hate getting hints that it’s time to wash the damn dishes.

Okay, tossed the cat outside, now back to the wraps. I’ve always liked canned tuna, and missed it when I eschewed fish in the strict vegetarian phase. Even as a kid, a tuna sandwich was always a special treat and change from the normal peanut butter and jelly sack lunch. I would have had it in every lunch if I could. As a grownup, I finally found out how tuna is supposed to taste, via tuna steaks in good restaurants, but canned tuna still holds a special place. I don’t know why, because it bears about as much resemblance to tuna the fish as canned salmon does to salmon the fish, and I hate canned salmon.

gresh parsley and chopped green onion

Now, updated for grownups: brighten up tuna salad with tangy lemon, sweet peas, and crunchy bits of radish. Toss in some toasted almonds, splash on a bit of Thai chili sauce, tuck it all into whole wheat tortillas with leafy lettuce. Yes, there’s still mayo in here, and celery, and some green onions and…you get the point. A melange of springy vegetables ready for sandwich noshing.

Oh wow. Even at six servings, each tuna wrap is 242 calories apiece! Sounds pretty good to me. Read more on spring tuna wraps…

July 23, 2009 in breads, desserts, vegetarian2 comments

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins...mmm

Oh gods. Rotting bananas on the counter again.

I don’t want banana bread. I’ll just put half of it in the freezer and forget it’s there.

Oh! A recipe for banana-chocolate chip muffins. I like chocolate chips, yes I do.

whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins have neat insides!

And about 45 minutes later these babies came out of the oven, all gently crisped tops and warm, moist, finely-textured insides. Crap. That sounds really dirty.

Don’t act so smug. I know I’m not the only one who went there.

those moist, finely-textured insides have chocolate chips!

Sis said these muffins were like a spice cake with banana flavor. The brother-in-law only got a bite and wanted more, pestering Sis until she made her own (not this recipe, oddly) the next day. She used mini chips and liked that even better.

Personally, I like the extra depth the cinnamon and nutmeg lend to the hearty whole wheat, rottingly sweet bananas, and chocolate. But if for some wacky, crazy, insane reason you don’t, just omit them from the recipe.

one whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffin, so lonely

What do you like to do with overripe bananas, anyway? Read more on whole wheat banana-chocolate chip muffins…

July 20, 2009 in breads, vegan, vegetarian16 comments

whole wheat tortillas

whole wheat tortillas, all stacked up

Don’t you just get bored with bread sometimes? Bla bla sandwich, bla bla toast. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun to stuff egg salad or beans and lettuce or —

Stop the presses! Shut. Down. EVERYTHING. (We’ll intersperse some tortilla-making photos during this break.)

a rolled out whole wheat tortilla, ready for the pan

The latest casting news for the upcoming HBO production of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series is OUT!

SOIAF, as the series is affectionately acronymed, is the first book series I’ve deigned to read that isn’t finished yet. Let me tell you a story about that. Several years ago people recommended I begin SOIAF. But I don’t like fantasy, I said. You’ll like this one, they said. But the series isn’t finished yet, I said, I’ll be left hanging for years after finishing the last installment. There is that, they conceded.

Plus, and remember this was years ago, there was worry about the Wheel of Time series. The series was dragging on much longer than originally envisioned, readers complained, observing that it seemed much like Jordan was planning to milk it for the rest of his ilfe. They also worried he’d die before finishing it.

That came true.

what a mess!

But, against my better judgement, I began SOIAF anyway. And was blown away, in spite of some over-the-top mustache twirling in the first book, e.g., “Look! They’re so evil they’d nonchalantly kill a little child!” And no, that’s not a spoiler, because as you discover, a heck of a lot of people get nonchalantly killed in this series…but that first one is groan-worthy.

So I read all four books in this trilogy-turned-septology (originally slated for three books, now the plan is seven, and what the hell, is that even a word?) and we’re now waiting on the fifth.

In the meantime, there’s been talk about some kind of movie or series based on the books. Finally, HBO signed on to do a series, and they’re doing the casting now for A Game of Thrones (the first book, slated to be one season, I believe), and we hear about it in dribs and drabs.

get to the SOIAF’ing point already

The news just came out! Guess who’s playing Ned Stark?

Boromir, er, Sean Bean, er, Ned Stark

Boromir! AKA Sean Bean. And I doubt he’s going to be plotting to catapult the ring into Mordor this time. Bean’s a great fit for the look of the character; in fact, all of the casting I’ve seen so far looks to be spot-on. It’s kind of scary.

Maybe I should call these Ned-tillas in honor of the day. No. Oh gods, that’s horrible. They’re whole wheat tortillas, and they’re totally easier than they sound. Seriously. It’s stirring. Then rolling-into-balls. Then rolling-out-balls and slapping-into-hot-pan for 2 minutes. In the middle of that there’s some resting. And the actual making of the tortillas is nearly half an hour stove time, kind of like when making risotto, except without all that tiring stirring.

P.S. These are really fresh, flavorful tortillas.

two more pointless photos of whole wheat tortillas

Did you ever think you’d be making your own tortillas? I mean seriously. I want to know. And before the break, here’s two more really neat pics of the whole wheat tortillas. Read more on whole wheat tortillas…

July 18, 2009 in shameless plugno comments yet

help strawberry buttermilk shortcake win a contest

I’ve entered the strawberry buttermilk shortcake recipe and pic in a contest at Mixing Bowl.

Help me win the $250 prize and I’ll buy a neat little cooking gadget to give away!

Read more on help strawberry buttermilk shortcake win a contest…

currant sorbet

currant sorbet

Check out this awesome bowl Dad found under the house.

Under the house, you say? Why yes, under the house. Why do you ask?

Oh, you didn’t know. My house got a new foundation this spring.

Wow, those plum blossoms in the background sure look pretty.

So yesterday Dad, his cousin, and the guy who works with him were putting new beams under the house. At one point I was out in garden, valiantly hacking at the giant weeds with a hoe, when Dad called out, “Amy…I found something for you!”

the moat and gangplank, er, the foundation

Great, I said to myself. Probably a burlap sack he wants me to turn into a dress. Sorry, family joke.

It was actually the little white bowl above, caked in dirt. It had no chips and cleaned up nicely.

get to the currant sorbet already

Isn’t that currant sorbet a lovely shade of pink? It’s super refreshing on a hot summer day, and a whiff of summer in the dead of winter. If you can get your hands on some red currants, make some currant juice and get this sorbet into your freezer posthaste.

The inherent sweetness of the berries can vary. The main liquid/sweetening agent in this sorbet is a simple syrup. Simple syrup is traditionally just a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, heated until it forms a clear liquid. In fact, simple syrup can be used in all sorts of sorbets. If you find the sorbet a little tart, try increasing the simple syrup to 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Read more on currant sorbet…

July 16, 2009 in canning and freezing, how to10 comments

how to make red currant juice

cleaned red currants, ready for juicifying

Why would you want to make currant juice?

I can think of a few reasons, one of which is definitely going to show up here shortly.

One, to make currant jelly. Now, I’m a strawberry jam girl, so I don’t make currant jelly, but if you put some currant jelly in front of me, I won’t complain.

Two, to make currant pie. My grandma made a currant chiffon pie that used Dream Whip. I might see if I can natural that up. I wonder if you could use stabilized whip cream to do it.

Three, and this is the doozy, to make currant sorbet. Shocking pink, tangy, and sweet and icy. Perfect for a summer afternoon. And it’s quite easy. That one’s going to show up here soon.

so THATS what a ricer looks like!

By the way, these are red currants. You know, I’ve never even seen a black currant, though I’ve heard tell of them in weird cookbooks and dark recesses of the intertubes. I’ve got six currant bushes, though five of them tend to be kind of spindly. The spindly ones are up front near the white lilac and the peonies. The big bushy currant is back by the plum trees. And across from the gooseberry bush, said gooseberry bush never going to be a source of recipes here because they’re kind of a pain, and not interesting-tasting enough to me to care. Oh, why are they a pain? Why, thorns of course. The dumb bush is covered in little thorns. Yay.

currant bush

Currants, however, have none of those horrid protrusions, and they have a unique flavor. They taste just as red as they look, but there’s nothing cloying about them. There’s this added level, almost a smoky kind of depth.

Great. I just described currants as “smoky.” You’re never going to want to try them now.

You don’t want to eat them by the handful off the bush; they’re kind of tart. But turn them into juice and oo la la.

Currant juice. Check out the awesome red color

So the second time picking, I spent about an hour here and got most of a big bowl full. Mom has currants at her house too, which I neglected to prune for her this spring. Bad daughter! Strangely, I was still in the currant-picking mood, so I went to her house to get some. In half an hour my bowl was just as full as it had been before.

Her currants are way bigger. :(

Anyway, enough yapping. If you’re lucky enough to have access to currants, PICK THEM. MAKE JUICE FROM THEM. Then make CURRANT PIE or CURRANT JELLY or CURRANT SORBET from them. Freeze the juice in 1-cup containers, and you can have a taste of summer in the dead of winter, always a plus.

Oh. Any ideas how to get Dream Whip out of the currant chiffon pie? Read more on how to make red currant juice…

July 11, 2009 in main course, vegetarian2 comments

green fried rice

green fried rice

Hey, look, another super simple recipe that is super yummy.

I know. Fried rice is intended as a leftover-user. Day-old rice? Make fried rice with it! Unfortunately for the rice, fried rice is so good on its own that it gets made a lot on purpose here and never makes it to day-old status.

In fact, I make it so much it seems I’ve begun doing that thing where you tweak. I’d heard of this, where people don’t follow recipes directly and instead, like, change them. How odd.

What finally made this tweak awesome was green onions and sesame oil. Oh, hay (sorry, got horses on the brain), there are green bunching onions in the garden! Look:

green onions growing in the garden

The green in this fried rice is the green onion, peas, and broccoli. I always use frozen for the peas and broccoli, though I’m sure fresh would be delicious. Fried rice just doesn’t seem the place to be putting garden fresh peas and broccoli, though, you know what I mean? Fresh broccoli is meant for raw crunching, or light steaming, or broccoli salad. Fresh peas are meant for chomping right out of the pod, or quick cooking with a teeny bit of butter melted in at the end, and maybe some chives. But frozen? Go to town in the grocery’s freezer section. Inexpensive and more nutritious than in the produce department and will keep forever. Well, forever-ish.

umami — what?

The green onions added that umami the fried rice was needing. And I figured out a while back that fried rice must have sesame oil in it. If you don’t drizzle some sesame oil into the mix, it’s going to taste bland, no matter what you do.

And apparently, technically green onions don’t have umami flavor. I don’t care. I’m proclaiming umami to be a generic term for “makes it taste awesomer.”

the fried rice trick

I don’t know the right way to make fried rice. I’m sure there’s some proper method that I’m too lazy to discover.

So here’s the trick I developed: Read more on green fried rice…

banana-oat pancakes

banana-oat pancakes on the griddle

Dear banana-oat pancakes,

It’s not you. It’s me. I love bananas, oats, and ohmigod pancakes. And you’re fine. Better than fine. You’re sweet and oat-nutty and you never leave your dirty socks on the floor. Oh, sure, you might be a bit temperamental about griddle temperatures, but what pancake isn’t?

But you see, you’re too good for me. You’re so busy with those flavors you have going on. I know, I know, they work together! You’d be the perfect pancake for someone who looks for more in a pancake.

Me, however, I can’t help loving the simple pancakes best.

The buttermilk pancakes with their mad guitar skillz and artfully mussed emo hair. With the occasional earrings of blueberries.

The spelt pancakes with their Greenpeace stickers, dark soulful eyes, and selfless desire to change the world.

The buckwheat pancakes with their six-pack abs, skin-tight t-shirts, and the smell of clean sweat, oil, and black dirt.

banana-oat pancakes with maple syrup

You’re good, banana-oat pancakes. Really good. Kids would really go for you. You can easily catch yourself another woman, or even another man, if that’s the way you want to swing. The bananas make you sweet and smooth, while the coarse oat flour makes you a bit rugged and hearty.

I’m sure others will love you better than I can. I’ll stick with spelt pancakes, but you’ll always hold a special place in my heart tummy. And that’s why I’m going to share your recipe; so that the world may appreciate you for who you are. Read more on banana-oat pancakes…

July 4, 2009 in salad8 comments

strawberry and feta salad

strawberry feta salad

Update: strawberry and feta salad is now entered in this week’s ZOE Secret Ingredient Challenge. Psst: the secret ingredient is feta.

With strawberry vinaigrette!

You know. I’ve really got to begin paying attention to presentation when I snap these photos. I’ve been just putting something on a plate or bowl the way I’d eat it and sometimes it’s not quite so…attractive.

Like this strawberry and feta salad. I shouldn’t have mixed it up first. I should have put the lettuce in the bowl, artfully arranged the strawberry slices on top, rakishly sprinkled the toasted slivered almonds atop that, and strategically placed feta crumbles throughout. Then I should have drizzled the strawberry vinaigrette on the lettuce only, magically avoiding the strawberries, almonds, and feta.

But noooooo.

It’s all mixed together, feta tinted pink by rogue strawberry juices, lettuce with messy-looking bits of cheese and strawberry clinging to it, almonds haphazardly fallen to the bottom of the bowl.

It’s a pictorial Hindenberg.

/end rant

This is the last of the strawberries. Everybody heave a big sad sigh here. Don’t tell sis; these are the ones I got from her last week. They’ve been languishing in the fridge covered in plastic wrap, crying out in their tiny high little voices. Needless to say, some of them had to go. But they were in decent shape; a few soft spots here and there; a few too soft to use.

bibb, curly, and oak leaf lettuce from the garden

The lettuce in the garden is still going strong, which is really weird for July. It made it through last week’s hot spell without bolting, and these cooler days are making it happy face.

If you have rabbit food and some strawberries in the fridge, try out this salad. The tang of the feta is a neat counterpoint to the strawberries, and who can resist crunchy almonds?

Try the strawberry vinaigrette on a spinach salad, too. What do you like to do with fruity vinaigrettes? Read more on strawberry and feta salad…