Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Extra, Extra! Salt Kills Millions!

Check out this article to read more. My mother, who works in public health, will be happy to read this.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goat Cheese and Fig Pizza

Every Sunday, when I was younger, my family got together with our neighbors to share homemade pizza, games, and conversation. I live several hours away from them now, but my parents and brother still maintain this tradition. Pizza Nights were always filled with a mix of the gleeful antics that naturally result when you unite a large number of children and the unspoken mourning of a weekend’s ending.

Pizza Night pizzas are pretty simple fare—plain, sausage, or pepperoni. The cooks in our two families tend to try to highlight great ingredients, rather than complicated technique. When I tried my hand at homemade pizza recently, I thought—keeping this philosophy in mind—I’d try to fancy it up just a tad.

My dough didn’t come out as nicely as I hoped, so I won’t list the recipe here. If you want to try this out, look for a recipe for making a thin crust pizza at a high temperature. A simple flatbread would probably work just as well.

Here’s what you’ll need:

the aforementioned dough, one red pepper, the homemade tomato sauce you made in August (or any old sauce, slackers), half an onion, dried figs, goat cheese

Here’s what you’ll do:

Heat the oven to about 450 or 475. Slice your onion into whatever size slices you feel like. Sauté them in some butter, over medium heat, until they start to get a little brown. Just a little.

While the onions are cooking, slice the pepper into long strips, toss onto a baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil. Pop them in the hot oven to roast, just for a few minutes. Might as well chop the dried figs while they do.

Roll or pound out your dough into the shape of your round pizza pan or pizza stone*. If you’re using a metal pan, oil the pan and sprinkle with loads of black pepper. If you’re using a stone, do not oil it, but sprinkle it with flour or cornmeal.

Spread a thinnish layer of sauce on the dough, distribute your now-cooked onions and peppers over it, add the chopped figs, top with clumps of goat cheese, and stick it in the oven.

Watch it pretty closely; when the crust is lightly brown and the cheese is melted, it’s finished!

*Technically, a pizza stone should go into the oven to preheat before cooking, and you should ease the pizza onto it with a pizza peal. But seriously, who has one of those?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pot Roast and Veggies

Tonight I'm having a friend over for dinner and we are going to eat like kings! Because of a busy Sunday this week, our typical meat day got shifted to Thursday. My two housemates are both working late tonight, so it will just be the two of us dining on a feast of pot roast and gravy, garlic smashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and cauliflower with cheddar cheese ALL TO OURSELVES! Can you tell I'm hungry? Here's some recipes for ya'll:

Pot Roast

I browned the roast in a hot (NOT non-stick) pan--a few minutes on each side. Then I put it in the crock pot over some carrots and an onion, chopped up.

I added about 3 tbsp. butter to the pan I had just taken the meat from and melted it while scraping the meaty goodness off the bottom of the pan. I added 2 large tbsp. flour to the butter, whisked it together, and let it cook for a minute or so. Then I poured in one part chicken stock and one part beer, while whisking, on pretty high heat until it thickened into gravy. I poured this over the meat and set the crock pot on high for three hours.

Brussels Sprouts

I halved and washed some brussels sprouts right after I bought them on Sunday. Tonight, I will dump them in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, add salt, pepper, loads of garlic, and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I'll roast them in the oven at about 400 until they look nice and crispy--30 minutes or so.


I also cleaned and chopped some cauliflower on Sunday. I will dump that into its own roasting pan to cookat the same time as the sprouts with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe cumin. Right before it's done, I'll sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese on top so it gets all melty and wonderful.


While the veggies are roasting, I will halve some potatoes, boil them with skins on (lazy way), and mash them up with some butter, a scoop of cream cheese, salt, pepper, and several cloves of garlic. I might throw in some dried chives if we have any.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween Treat

This snack is definitely not limited to Halloween, but I served it at my Halloween party.

Maple Caramel Corn

8-10 cups (popped) popcorn
3/4 stick butter
1 1/2 cups maple syrup

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add maple syrup. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches 300 degrees, or for about 15-20 minutes. Pour mixture over popcorn, stir, and let cool.

Enjoy! Don't come calling me when you get cavities, though.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Things You Should Never Buy: Mayonnaise

It's about time for another "Things You Should Never Buy" post! Today's installment is on mayonnaise. I was always scared to make it myself, because I thought it would be difficult and complicated, but it's really easy!

I needed some mayonnaise to make deviled eggs for a Halloween party I'm having tonight (more on that later). It's not something we usually keep around, and I was not going to buy a whole jar of processed food just to use a couple scoops. So I decided to make some myself!

I scoured the internets for recipes, and ended up just experimenting on my own. All the recipes I found used a whisk to hand mix the mayo, but eff that, ya'll. I busted out the blender. I also read that a warm bowl helps, so I filled the blender with boiling water and poured it out right before I started.

I started with two egg yolks* in the blender. I added maybe a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar, and a half teaspoonish of mustard powder.

I blended this a little bit, then very slowly starting drizzling in olive oil as I blended. I just kept adding olive oil slowly until it was about the consistency of regular mayonnaise. It ended up being almost 2 cups--which is good because the internets told me that 1 cup of oil to 1 egg is a good ratio.

It was really that easy!

* Make sure you use fresh eggs from a reliable source, since they will not be cooked. Salmonella is probably not fun.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Farmville Gets Real

This article by Peter Smith discusses the new phenomenon of land sharing for gardening. He tells the story of Peter Rothbart, who started We Patch, a garden sharing social network in Seattle:

"Two years ago, Peter Rothbart was riding through Seattle on his bike. He came to a traffic circle. In the center was a 15-by-20-foot patch of soil where the city allows residents to garden. A man was standing there, looking down at a sorry-looking bunch of plants that had been run over and obliterated by a late-night driver. Later that evening, Rothbart went to a barbecue and overheard a woman talking about how she had an expansive lawn that she didn’t have time to take care of. “What if that guy could garden her land?” he said. “It just seemed like a good idea.”

So he started We Patch, one of a dozen new websites designed to connect wannabe gardeners with landowners who have available garden space. Let’s say you have an unused space that might make a good pumpkin patch, you offer it up on the website. If you’re a gardener without a garden, you can find available space—and contact the landowner. Sometimes, it leads to a rendezvous and a handshake agreement. Other times, gardeners and landowners spell out exactly how they’ll share produce and labor from a shared plot of land. It’s like a Craigslist devoted exclusively to gardeners—without the used car parts and hopefully with fewer missed connections."

There are now loads of similar sites across the country. I've written before about using public spaces to grow food for hungry people, but I wonder how we could use a network of shared private spaces to accomplish the same goal. Could organizations that are already working to feed people--shelters, food pantries, faith and community groups--start a network of land sharing that would allow them to feed people with local whole ingredients? Can we add another player to this equation? We're connecting land owners to gardeners. How do we connect gardeners to people who don't have access to fresh local food and don't have the skills or resources to grow it?

Brainstorm with me here, people...