This One’s for the Ladies (at Least in My House)

cauliflowercurry

My husband is about the most un-picky eater I know.  While I happily eat down the fridge with alarming regularity (seriously, that and my, um, screw-ups are basically all I write about around here), he has truly mastered the art of eating what’s on hand. No croutons for the salad? Crushed up off-brand-Ritz will work just fine. All out of good cheese? Toss him a well-aged Kraft Single. In five years of marriage, he has enjoyed and endured my culinary successes and failures with an abundance of grace.

So, on the rare occasion that he expresses distaste for a certain food, I typically have no qualms about taking it out of rotation. Usually.

But then, a month or so ago, I made this cauliflower curry and I knew as soon as I tasted it that I had a winner.  Something about the combo of coconut oil (not milk, like my usual curries) and red curry paste and cauliflower just worked. I loved it. After dinner that night, though, the pronouncement came. “You know, this wasn’t bad.  But, well, cauliflower, it’s just not my favorite.” In husband-speak, “not my favorite” is the kiss of death to a dish.  I was sad.

This story has happy ending, though.  In the following weeks, I looked for any opportunity to make my new favorite dish for others. Fortunately, not all my friends feel as negatively toward cauliflower as that BFF who shares my bed.  My vegan friend Katie appreciated the animal-free heartiness.  My friend Kate (yes, all my friends really have the same name) declared it delicious, spicy but not too spicy, after warning me that she probably wouldn’t like it because she doesn’t like a lot of things.  It’s my new go-to for any night my darling cauliflower-hater has to work late or is otherwise indisposed at the dinner hour, and I don’t have to feel guilty for making his favorite on a night he’s not home.

Oh, and just case you were wondering, what culinary delicacy does he and my son turn to when I am not home for dinner?  Why, frozen pizza, of course.  Or, if that’s not available, maybe some Ritz crackers with Kraft singles.

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EDF: Extra Crunchy Salad

celery

Lately, we have had a lot of visitors and dinner guests around this house, none of whom can ever bear to come empty handed.  The wine gets drunk, the cheese dip gets, well, dipped, but there are unsurprisingly a few items that linger after company has departed.  It’s been a week since I tripped to the grocery, so today when I rifled the fridge for lunch, the produce pickings were slim, save a bag of celery and a heart of Romaine lettuce.  These are both foods about which I feel totally neutral, which I think is also an accurate description of their nutritional value, and would never have purchased on my own, but thanks to our many visitors, there they were.

Not one to let anything go to waste (even if maybe I should, ahem, super moldy cheese), I remembered this lovely post over at at Everybody Loves Sandwiches, and based my own crunchy-crunch salad on the one featured there.  Of course, there were ample substitutions, because what’s the point of eating down the fridge if you have to go out and buy more stuff to put in the fridge to make it happen.  Verdict: The salad was pretty darn good, even if my jaw is still a little sore 5 hours after the fact.

Double Crunch Celery and Romaine Salad

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Friday Eff-Up: Bad Eggs

badegg

On some cooking show or another, I heard a chef complimented because he allows his proteges to really get into life in the kitchen, not like some French chefs who will shove you in a corner to peel potatoes for three years before you can get near the stove. Oddly, though, the thought of sitting in a corner peeling potatoes is appealing to me at the point in my life.  I think it’s because with two small children, I am never left alone to go to the bathroom, let alone complete an entire task by myself. This very blog post will likely be completed in five sittings.

However, if I ever do make my way to this mythical French kitchen full of menial tasks, I should be kept far away from the hard boiled eggs. I am truly terrible at peeling them, and I don’t know why. I take out chunks of flesh, I leave little grains of peel stuck to the egg; it’s horrific. Up until a few months ago, this didn’t pose a  serious problem, as my obligations in egg-peeling were few. But then, my two-year-old son joined the world of unitasker-lovers, and asks daily to use his egg slicer.  The dismembered Humpty-Dumpty above is the far too frequent result.  Please give my apologies to the chickens.

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In Search of Aesthetic Pleasure: Gingerbread Biscotti

biscotti2

Two years ago, I made some gingerbread biscotti that looked like this.

I was so darn proud of myself.  Not only had I made a holiday treat that was just sweet enough and could be enjoyed all day, but they were beautiful, too.  A little bit of icing, and I felt like the Queen of Christmas baking.

Then, the next four or five times I made them, they looked like this:

biscotti1

Still delicious, sure, but decidedly unattractive.  Lumpy and crumbly, they were just too embarrassing to be shared with all but the closest of friends.  Fortunately, my son was teething around the time that I was turning out batches of gingerbread blobs, so he took care of quite a few of them.

This year, I decided that I had had enough.  I decided to do something bold.  Something that I love to do when cooking, but greatly fear when it comes to baking: I changed the recipe.  (Gasp)

The main problem seemed to be that the dough was too dry.  My first instinct was to add water, but I remembered a time from my youth when doing just that had led to miserable results, so I rethought.  I seemed to recall my mom saying that the best way to change a recipe is to increase or decrease the existing ingredients, not introduce something totally foreign (like water).  I took a deep breath and gave it a go.  I added an additional egg and just a tad more oil, plus I decreased the flour by a quarter cup.  In truth, I fully expected an epic failure, something for which I am probably developing a reputation for around here.

But no!  It worked!  Before I could forget what had caused this miracle to occur, I made sure to record the changes right on the recipe.  This was a success that I am determined to repeat.  And, lucky for you all, it’s one that I am oh-so-happy to share.

Revised Gingerbread Biscotti

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My One-Item Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is coming, which means that it’s time for many of my favorite blogs, especially the food ones, to give me their annual list of suggestions for the foodies in my life (see here and here, for example).  Now, I enjoy reading what other people like as much as the next guy, but the problem with lists like these, for me,  is twofold.  Uno, the things are often super-specific. I can already tell you that my mom will not like tea that tastes like pine trees, or even sounds like it might taste like pine trees.  Two, the gifts on these lists tend to offend my delicately frugal sensibilities ($24 for 12 oz. of olive oil?  Seriously? In my dreams.)

And so, ESers, I bring you the only food gift you need this holiday season: the classic cast iron skillet.  Here are five reasons why it makes the perfect gift:

1. Everyone needs one, whether they know it or not, and if they already have one, they probably need it in another size.  (Come on, so cute!)

2. It’s perfect for a tight budget.  They are a good value to begin with, and I find them often at thrift stores where, after simple re-seasoning, they are at least as good as new.

3. Not only functional, if you hang it on the wall, it makes you look like you know what you are doing in the kitchen.  Just be sure to use wall anchors.

4. It offers endless cooking adventures.  My new fav: cake baking (see photo above and recipe below).

5.  Even for the non-cook,  cast iron skillets always come in handy:

Skillet Apple Cake

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Eat it, Sandra Lee: Homemade Pumpkin Pie

I confess: This Thanksgiving, I did not make the turkey.  I did not make the stuffing.  I did not make the cranberry sauce.

Here’s what I did do, though.  I make a pumpkin pie.  From scratch.  I made the crust, I baked a whole pumpkin, and with that pumpkin, I made the filling, with spices that came from individual spice jars, not a packet of “pumpkin pie spice”.  And guess what, Sandra?  It was damn good.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

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Eating Down the Fridge: Leftover Turkey Parmesan

I did not make a turkey this Thanksgiving.  I let someone else tackle that particular beast. And thus, my dear husband, suffering from leftover deprivation, cooked a whole gigantic turkey on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I am not sure if it can even be called leftover turkey if it never hit the table in the first place, but in any case, come Monday, we had a whole fridge full of the stuff.  I am always trying to eat down the fridge, but I was particularly avid this time because there was no room in our itty-bitty freezer for 10 pounds of bird. If you need ideas because you’ve still got turkey sitting around yourself (or if you have the type of husband who makes a second turkey after Thanksgiving) here’s what I’ve been doing:

Round one (Monday):Barbecue Turkey Pizza.  The dough was homemade, the sauce was Sweet Baby Ray’s and the cheese was Aldi shredded mozzarella.  I promise not to judge you if you use Pillsbury crescent rolls in place of the homemade crust.

Round two (Tuesday):  Turkey Tacos. As you know, Tuesday around here is Taco Tuesday, and I would have hated to break with tradition.  For the meat, I shredded 2 c. of turkey, then put it in a pot with  1 T. chili powder, 1 T. cumin, 1 T. oregano and 1 t. salt + 1/2 c water.  Stir, simmer, enjoy with tortillas, etc.

Round three (Wednesday): Turkey Parmesan. This was the final day of the turkey takeover, not because we actually used it all, but because we just couldn’t take it any more.  What a way to end, though.

Leftover Turkey Parmesan

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