Friday, January 29, 2010

Lentil Soup that was suppose to be Lentils which was suppose to be Lentil Soup

When you read blogs you think everyone is highly creative and individual. When you start blogging you quickly realize anything you want to blog has been done before, and possibly better. I used to think I stole all of my blogging ideas from Smitten Kitchen's blog but now I realize the woman has just cooked EVERYTHING... even recipes I do not get from her are still on her site from year's before I even thought of making it.

There also tends to be trends for what kinds of foods are cooked.  I recently made corneal-blueberry pancakes and found at least three other blogs featuring them.  This is probably why blogs that feature original recipes do so well.  I have a few up my sleeve, I just need time to make them since they are from my pre-baby, pre-Master, pre-no time days.  The latest trend has been lentils, lentils, everywhere....

So this recipe is semi-mine and came about from a desire for lentils, and a desire to use my new slow cooker.  I've told you all about the slow cooker of course... No?  Well pull up a seat li' darling and have a listen.

Until recently I had a horrible reaction to slow cookers.  Sure they are fine for chili or to melt a big vat of cheese for a dip or something along those lines, but for the past few years I have had a love-hate relationship, and by that I always say I hate that my slow cooker loves to burn my food!

I consider myself to have ample cooking skills.  I may not be ready to take on a restaurant or even a cook book of my own, but I am willing to bet that I cook more diverse things than the average person, not the average blogger mind you but the average person.

However, I have not cooked a successful slow cooker meal in years, and I finally know why!  It was the horrid slow cooker I had.  After burning one too many meals I decided to do an experiment.  I found a recipe that had great reviews.  I put it all together, and I came home two hours early to the smell of char.  It wasn't good.  I got on-line the next day and found hundreds of reviews complaining about the brand of slow cooker I had and that was it.  Out with the old in with the new.  And I now love my little slow cooker and want to try it out as much as possible.  Enter the lentil recipe.

I make a stove top Indian lentil recipe from my dear friend Dharini that I assumed I could make in the slow cooker.  Easy, high portein, low fat.  Yes!  I took the ingredients I put into that recipe and then searched for a slow cooker lentil recipe that I found on-line.  She had said she wanted lentil soup, put all this stuff into her slow cooker and ended up with lentils.  I thought perfect I merged it with my Indian recipe, dialed down the spice a little since I was told flavors intesify in a slow cooker, and when I was done... viola.  The lentil soup (minus any hint of Indian spice) the woman was going for.  It was simple, it was fast, it required only a mixing step so it was perfect, but it was not what I was hoping for, I also forgot to add the cilantro which makes something taste more Indian to me, since it ended up being just regular soup I suggest you leave it out too.

My husband, having no preconceived notions loved it, although it was a little salty so I deleted the salt from the recipe.  I also recommend using low-sodium broth, or what I've done here is 1 cup of better than bullion (super salty) made from the paste and the rest water.

Crock Pot Lentils


2 cup(s) dry lentils
1 small onion(s)
2 tsp McCormick Ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 clove(s) garlic clove(s)
4 oz Ortega Diced Green Chiles
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon of Amchur powder
1 cup(s) vegetable broth
7 cup(s) water


Rinse lentils with cold water until they run clear.  Mix everything together in a pot.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 6 hours.

My first 4 week experiment in budgeting and lowering my carbon footprint has come to a close. Here are the results (averaged to the best of my memory because I am being oh so official in my tracking... really who has time).

Excuse the mess... I can't get a table in here yet. Must figure out how to use crazy things called computers one of these days.

Food Budget:

Never used to track but this month I was $150 over.  Just imagine how bad it was!  I can do better.

Going Green:

Non-biodegradable garbage bags:  From 34 to 18 much better
Biodegrable garbage bags: N/A  to still 0 (I forgot to pick them up)
Recycling pick ups: From 0 to 2
Disposable cups: 56 to 3 (YES! That's a good improvement)
Plastic grocery bags: From 60 to 4 (also a huge improvement)

Look at the impact one family can make in 4 months with minimal effort!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Fondue

This weekend we had friends over for fondue, figuring it would be a quick throw together meal.  Not so much.  I had never prepped three courses of fondue before and cutting everything up takes longer than you would think.  We started with a cheese fondue, a coq au vin fondue for the main course, and then peanut butter chocolate fondue for dessert.  I'll post the cheese fondue later but don't you always wish you could just start with dessert?

Anyone that has ever had chocolate fondue knows how amazing it is when you dip your cold fresh strawberry into the molten chocolate, but imagine dipping it into a liquid peanut butter cup.  This is by far the best dessert fondue I have had to date.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fondue


1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

Dippers: we used banana slices, halvedries, cheesecake, chocolate wafers, grahm crackers, marshmallows

In a heavy saucepan, cook and stir the chocolate chips, sugar, milk
and peanut butter over low heat until smooth. Transfer to a fondue
pot and keep warm. Serve with bananas and strawberries, and other things you plan on dipping.

Yield: 12 servings.

Twist on a s'more.  Chocolate wafer, marshmallow peanut butter chocolate, and banana.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins

The weather is finally warming up, the holidays are over, and school is back underway. Things are settling in fabulously and I am finding time and energy to cook again.

Now these don't exactly fall into the healthy categories but they do have blueberries so maybe you can convince yourself that they are considered a fruit serving.  And it's fun for the family.

While you might be able to find some boxed muffins that are lower in calories there is no way they taste this good.  Besides you know how I feel about pre-packaged, dehydrated food.

This recipe also comes from the woman that gave us the failed meatball recipe so she has redeemed herself in my eyes. I think it could use more lemon however... but then again she just said blueberry muffin not lemon-blueberry.... maybe I will figure out a way to turn them into lemon-blueberry muffins next time I make them.

Blueberry-Sour Cream Muffins
adapted from Eugina Bone (appearing in Food and Wine December 2009)

Topping (you can halve this to make it lower in calories)
½ cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 rounded cup sour cream (I used light, but you could probably use fat free)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 rounded cup frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375o. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Rub with your fingers to form coarse crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Butter 12-cup muffin pan. In a medium bowl, whisk 1 ½ cups of flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, using a hand-held mixer beat the egg at medium speed until frothy. Add the sugar and melted butter and beat until pale yellow, 1 minute. Beat in the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest until blend. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until almost blended. In a bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 1 tablespoon of flour. Using a rubber spatula, fold the blueberries into the batter.

Fill the muffin cups three-fourths full of batter and sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the pan and let cool on a rack. Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roast Pork Loin with Fennel Mustard

Who said eating healthy is boring?  What?  I said it?  Yeah you're right.  It can be... but this dish is not!  I promise.  What's even better?  I made the fennel mustard the night before and stored it in the refrigerator overnight.  I brought it to room temp before serving.

Side dishes were ridiculously easy as well.  Canned green beans with center cut bacon and shallots, (I know canned... but I had then as a kid and I have a soft spot for anything bacon flavored.  Who doesn't?) and fingerling potatoes tossed with a little olive oil, rosemary, dill, salt, and pepper.  The whole meal took about 10 minutes of active time.  You can't beat that when you are having cooking/life burn out.  Cooking this has managed to get me out of my cooking funk and back on the road to being interested in something other than sleep, budgeting, and recycling!  The husband managed to say, "this is really good honey," about six times during the course of the meal, and I agree.  Enjoy.

To cook the pork loin I rinsed the pork with cold water.  Patted it dry.  Seasoned it with salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, and  onion salt.  Then I heated about 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet and seared it on all sides before throwing it in the oven at 350 until it registered 160 on a meat thermometer.  I don't care what people say about how safe it is, pink pork freaks me out.

Fennel Mustard
ad hoc at home

1 tablespoon vegetable oil.
3 cups chopped fennel
½ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
Salt to taste

In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add chopped fennel, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 25 minutes. Add white wine vinegar and cook, uncovered, until the fennel is tender, 15 minutes. Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender. Add water and dry mustard powder and puree. Scrape the puree into a bowl and let cool. Stir in whole-grain mustard and season with salt. Transfer to jar, cover and refrigerate.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My aching head!

I just want to say to my mother friends out there.  You are strong, you are loving, you are amazing, and if you're anything like me... you are EXHAUSTED!

We started this weekend with a quick (2 hour) trip to the ER Friday night for Michael's (age 19 months) first CAT scan.  We were simply having a forbidden dinner of chicken nuggets and french fries.  Michael sat strapped into his booster seat, which was strapped to the kitchen chair.  In the blink of an eyes feet onto the table and pushed off, as he does almost every night.  However, this particular night we were in the dining room, not the kitchen, and he was on carpet, not tile.  Over went the chair, out came the scream, and the gigantic goose egg.  I immediately fell apart called 911, and my husband who was out at a banquet. Before you think I'm too much of a freak we had recently covered  case where a child had head trauma and is now in a vegetative state, so while not likely it was the first thing I thought of.

The nice dispatcher told me I could drive him to the hospital myself or the ambulance could transport him.  After attempting to put my jacket and his jacket on at the same time while shaking and almost crying I realized I probably shoudn't drive.  I re-called 911 and asked for an ambulance.  They came to the house in about 5 minutes, looked at him and said he was okay, but we should take him to the emergency room.  This calmed my nerves enough to allow me to drive him to the ER.  By the time we reached the ER, he had a considerable lump but had stopped crying completely and started asking for cows which is a good sign as he always asks for cows.  Don't ask we don't know why.  A complete exam and a CAT scan later, he was pronounced fine.  I on the other hand am still waiting to be fine.

All of this brings me to my rambling point.  I'm tired.  Being a parent will bring you to a point of exhaustion you never thought possible either physically or emotionally.  I hear my friends talk about the care their animals require.  It's not the same.  I hear them talk about how they were up half the night.  It's not the same.  They went to class, they work three jobs, they have no car, they have a needy friend.  I can only tell you... it's no where near the same.  I can say this because I have done all of the above and never have I been so tired in my life.  Although tired doesn't quite describe it.  Exhausted, that describes it.  Or maybe it's because I ended this weekend with 4 hours of sleep.  Could be either one.

However, after pouring through this stack of recipes.....

I feel even more tired.  These are all the recipes that I have decided I would  make only to print, store, and weed through time and time again.  Throwing out the recipes I have decided that no longer sound good, have already been made, or put in the keep file and I am still left with that stack up there.  Here is the stack of recipes I have actually cooked and decided were good enough to make again.....

Would this make you want to cook?

That daunting pile along with having lost my photo card last week which contained a few blogs just made me want to give up.  All the projects I want to do that go undone are draining.  The only thing to do with this is to let 2009 go by showing you a few photos of the stuff that I have made and never blogged about mostly because as you can tell I never took the final picture.  I have a bad habit of letting that pesking time/family get in the way of my food photos.  Really people and their hungry bellies.... the nerve. 

I also have a problem with the food looking like regular old food becauses I have never taken a food styling course, food photography course (or photography of any kind actually... eek), nor do I paint, flame, or torch food to make it look more appetizing.  What you're seeng is probably the dish about 2 minutes before I eat it.  Okay, I never garnish  my plates unless I plan on photographing it, or serving it at a dnner party, but considering how busy my schedule is this year that may have to go on the resolution list for next year.

I have been sluggish with the food blog so far this year and I really just want to let go of the past and move on as I have many yummy ideas in store for 2010.  Here we go... a glimpse into the food folder that is begining to take over my computer.  If you see anything you want let me know, I'll send you the recipe.  Onto better things.... PS.  I set up the recycling for our house.... project green is in motion!

leftover mashed potatoes become breakfast potato pancakes

cibatta, with eggs, bacon or chiorzo, and that olive oil with green onions and
red peppers was served with the above potatoes as a breakfast panini

the failed meatballs from Christmas vacation... I had such high hopes

Called the perfect roast chicken it is delicious
but as you can see this is before it was cooked

Indian spiced rice... this may make another appearance in 2010 because it is that good.  The time I made it and brought it to my cousins house I found her eating it with a fork directly from the container standing in the doorway of the refrigerator at 8am.

and last but not least... these turned out to be sweet pickled eggs, onion, and beets, when what I wanted was spicy pickled eggs.  Not bad but not at all what I was hoping for.  Next time................................................

Pretty though.  Next up.... a note worthy condiment for pork loin.  Yum!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Going Green

New year, new resolutions, new green look even.

I always had the regular resolutions: quit smoking (done 4 years ago), lose weight (almost every year), but there comes a point where you say "oh yes, this year I am going to lose weight, and then four days in your inhaling a cheeseburger and fries because that resolution just doesn't mean the same thing after you've made it and broken it a thousand times!

This year I decided just to expand on something I have been half heartedly doing or trying to do for the past few years. I want to be greener, and I want to support my local businesses, particularly restaurants and farmers.

I used to live in Vermont (ahhh..big home sick sigh here) and when you live in Vermont it's fairly easy to be green. Recycling was required (big old fine if you didn't); there are small local restaurants and businesses everywhere you turn. However, out here in the Midwest it's not that easy. Or wasn't when I first moved here. Change is in the air. It seems that being an organic locavoir is catching on around here. Before you know it there will be furry women wearing sock and Birkenstocks, swinging their dreads as they walk past you in their hemp clothes smelling of patouchli to get into their BMW SUV... it will be just like home. Oops... sorry my bitch was showing there for a minute.

Anyway, it is day 6 of Eileen going Green and so far it hasn't been as easy as you might think. Going green seems easy doesn't it? Well.... it's not!

Day 1: Remembered reusable grocery bags. Score! Forgot reusable coffee mug and water bottle... doh!

Day 2: Remembered reusable coffee mug and water bottle... yay! Standing in line at Target realized I forgot the bags, and had too many items to carry... shoot!

Day 3: Remembered the coffee mugs, didn't need bag... yes!

Day 4: Remembered both the coffee mug and the bags! Yay me!

You get the picture. One, it's a work in progress. Two, I shop waaaaaaaaaaaaay to much apparently. Although, I loved the look on the people at Express's face when I busted out a cloth bag for my purchase. I am getting the sense that being green may have its moments of embarrassment. And possibly a lot of them since I have determined that if I forget the bags from now on I will run out to the car to get them, and if I forget the cups I don't get coffee. That ought to be an easy one to remember.

Here is an estimate of my total from 2009 (sadly these are probably true, do not judge me Vermonters):

Paper cups used: 1000 (seriously... ouch) YIKES!
Non-degradable Plastic Garbage bags used: 450 Cringe
Plastic Grocery bags (reused mind you but still): 400
Amount of stuff recycled: 0 (I am hanging my head in shame)
Local/Organic products consumed: I'm better about this because local stuff just tastes better: Cheese, eggs, and some produce
Local Restaurants: Not sure, but I am going to say most because I don't like chains. Other than
         McDonald's here and there. What can I say?  I love it.
Number of Fast Food Meals consumed: Too many to count... hello thunder thighs!
Number of Bottles of Wine consumed: Too many to count... hello liver damage (I have no
        intention of changing this one... sorry resolutions).

Okay now I am getting out of hand and just listing everything. I haven't been keeping track to date but I will attempt to track it from here on out. P.S. I count Bruegger's as local because it comes from my beloved Vermont. Cheating I know, but so were the chocolate chips I ate straight from the bag last night at10pm.  Long live the weight loss resolution!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jean-Talon Market, Montreal

How would you like to have this every day or week to purchase your ingredients?  This is the Jean-Talon market in Montreal and j'adore this place!  We visit my in-laws every Christmas and my brother-in-law takes us here.  It's much smaller in the winter months, but it's still not like anything we have in Lincoln.

This trip was dedicated to picking up ingredients for meatballs from the December issue of Food and Wine.  They were a HUGE disappointment so learning from past experiences I will not post the recipe but still wanted to post to get back in the swing of things.  I love the picture above.  The cabbage reminds me of some kind of alien pod.

Anything you might need, and a few things you didn't.

Michael (a.k.a the fruit bat) was really upset when we moved him from the row upon row of free fruit samples.

And it's not just fruit and vegetables.  A quick walk outside and you get.....

The charcuterie.  That top left corner is the line you have to wait in.  Which is a) worth it and b) dangerous because you can see all the goodies beckoning from their glass cases.  What might you do with blue cheese sausages?  I'm not sure but you're mind will convince you that you will figure something out.  It took great will power just to get the ingredients we needed. 

In the end it didn't matter because Montreal is also home to smoked meat, steamies, and poutine, which I can not even begin to sing the praises of at the moment because I am now on a diet from the EIGHT pounds I gained while in Montreal.  That's not humanly possible but some how I managed.  I like to be an overachiever.  For the near future you can expect some healthier recipes.  Happy New Year.