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Archive for the ‘Food and…’ Category

This is fun: 

Eat Like Jane Austen With Recipes From Her Sister-In-Law’s Cookbook – Gastro Obscura

If you’ve ever wondered what Jane Austen ate, or if the menus in her books were true to life, this is the link for you. Here’s the book the article highlights.

And if you’ve ever thought about what life was like on the other side of the scullery door, check out Longbourn by Jo Baker

In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing the floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. 

I found the world below-stairs fascinating, and not just because I’m the sort of person who likes to learn about practical and medicinal plant properties, or what chilblains felt like.

It’s good to give every person a chance to be the main character, you know?

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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As I’ve mentioned, I sometimes see the world a little sideways. It helps me find the fun in functional and the butterfly in the weeds. It also means that some days, a perfectly normal breakfast can turn into something a little more elaborate.

I mean, there I was this morning, producing multiple batches of colored liquid: bananas and tofu, spinach and avocado and green tea, blueberries and strawberries and cranberry juice, hemp seed and turmeric and more. It’s paint by any other name. And so, smoothie art.

Fun, right? And bonus points for edibility!

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Sunday flowers, for you!

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* Editor’s Note: Welcome to Lunchtime Clickbait, where we test oddly specific headlines establishing implausibly sweeping claims for oddly specific life strategies. 

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Sure, it’s only been two days, but I can unequivocally say that smoked oysters have changed my life.

Photo by Thomas John on Unsplash

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How do I know for sure that smoked oysters are the best thing since sliced bread? Well, three days ago I had ideas as usual, but little energy for action. Sure, I got my work done, but then, meh.

For the past two days we have had smoked oysters for dinner, and for the past two days I have had far more energy and verve than usual. I think the connection is obvious.

Yesterday? I did all of the things. Work, yes, but also house and writing and creative fun stuff. Also peaches.

Happily tucked away in the freezer, waiting to become sorbet.

Today I’ll do that and more, and I’m sure that it’s all because of the smoked oysters. What’s not to love?

Will smoked oysters work for you? Maybe, and unless you have a shellfish allergy, they can’t hurt.

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Now, do I wish they didn’t come in cans designed to slice my fingers when taking them to the recycling bin? I do, but I also have a solution.

I mean sure, you could still cut yourself if you tried hard enough. So maybe don’t?

And many of the readily available options are from halfway around the globe, but it would be great if increasing local popularity also encouraged more local production.

It’s also encouraging to see the shells used as material for educational and shoreline reclamation projects like the Billion Oyster Project and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Still not convinced that smoked oysters are right for you? What else does a sweeping claim for dramatic outcomes based on one small lifestyle change need for maximum reputability?

A Top Ten List, of course!

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Top Ten Reasons to Eat Smoked Oysters

10. They are great on salads, on pasta, in soups, on picnics, or straight from the can when you don’t have time for niceties like plates.

9. Canned, they are shelf stable to the Apocalypse and beyond.

8. Oysters purify water, are terrific for shoreline health, contribute to restorative aquaculture, and in a well-managed fishery are a great addition to a sustainable food system.

7. They remind me that the history of cities like New York is tied to the oyster. 

6. Smoked oysters give an average day a bit of fancy dancy je ne sais quoi.

5. Oysters are rich in protein, good fats, iron, zinc, and copper. Eating them makes me feel practically electric!

4. Smoking takes away that weird sliminess of raw oysters that some people love but, well, I don’t. (Although maybe I haven’t tried enough of the good stuff, like those from High on the Hog‘s TheRealMotherShuckers.)

3. I still have warm fuzzy feelings from childhood, sitting in the living room recliner, reading, and eating after-school oyster stew.

2. Lord, I don’t know, isn’t this list done yet?

And finally, the number one reason to eat smoked oysters…

1. They are affordable, accessible, and Costco sells these babies in eight-can packs!

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Yes, these oysters are the squishy kind, but the picture is pretty. Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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We bought a metric ton of peaches at Costco (not literally, but it can feel like it). My plan? Make this wacky, physics-defying dessert:

This Puzzling Dessert Calls for Peaches and Physics – Gastro Obscura

Reality? It’s Tuesday, the peaches are too soft for this, I think, and we’re already making scallion cakes tonight. Maybe next time. 

Instead I’m going to try this Bittman sorbet recipe because it sounds delicious, but also because it means I can just slice everything up and freeze it until I’m good and ready. 

Super-Simple Sorbet – The New York Times

Unless I come up with another idea between now and later. Like… grilled peaches with lime and maple syrup, peach pie, roasted peach halves with cinnamon crumble on top, stewed peaches with cinnamon, lemon and cardamom, peach salsa, savory peach-lime chutney, or…?

I might be hungry.

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Photo by Kateryna T on Unsplash

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Chilling

Today is Fridge Day. As previously mentioned, Mr Man and I were unlucky enough to need a new fridge, but ! fortunate in that we were able to find a replacement that would arrive before Fall.* The replacement is being delivered sometime in the next couple of hours, so we’re getting ready.

Step 1: empty the old fridge

Step 2: marvel at the ancient relics to be found therein!

The old fridge has a very deep deli drawer and things could, and did, obviously, get lost in there. Like these Riviera yogurts from 2016 that somehow (incredibly!) still look 100% edible five years later. How?! (Magic, that’s how.) Or the mint vodka I made lo those many years ago (that’s code for I have no idea how old it is).

It’s true that best before dates are food quality guidelines, rather than “you will absolutely, positively die if you eat this even one minute after this date” warnings, but even so, I’ll skip the decade-old fish.

Everything that can be composted/recycled was. The dining room is full of coolers and insulated bags. Drawers were emptied, shelves cleared, and sacrifices to the Appliance Gods were made in the usual fashion.

Now we wait.

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What I wish I were drinking.
Photo by Whitney Wright on Unsplash

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* I’m not kidding about this timeline, as you will know if you have had to purchase a new appliance lately. Supply chain issues from computer chips to shipping bottlenecks are rampant these days, but it will all get sorted out… eventually.

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More history, today. And photography. This is my grandmother on the Swedish-ish side. She was ten or twelve* at the time, and much more agile than when I knew her.

This is also me experimenting with photo restoration techniques.

My Twelve-Year Old Grandma

Grandma Dorothea was sweet, literally and figuratively. She did many things well (gardening, bridge, surviving the Great Depression with her sense of humor intact, making grandchildren happy), but above all, she baked. I can still recall the flash of joy on seeing pound cake in her kitchen. Her chocolate mint squares are decadent, melt-in-your-mouth bites of chocolate cake, creamy mint, and dark chocolate glaze.

She wasn’t much of a cook, but (despite the very cryptic notes left on her 3″x5″ recipe cards) she was one hell of a baker.

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Grandma’s Chocolate Mint Squares

Cake Layer

  • 1 cup sugar                  
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 can chocolate syrup (16 oz)
  • 4 eggs beaten              
  • 1 cup flour                  
  • ½ tsp. salt

1.     Mix and bake in 9”x13” greased and floured pan for 30-35 minutes at 350°F.

Mint Layer

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Crème de Menthe
  • ½ cup melted butter

2.     Mix and spread on the cool cake. Chill briefly to set.

Glaze

  • 6 oz. chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbs. butter

3.     Melt over low heat. Cool a bit and spread over mint layer.

4.     Chill until chocolate sets and cut into small(ish) squares.

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* Inquiring minds want to know: at what age does one stop being a whippersnapper?

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Some of my food choices have not made the transition to adulthood. Lightbulb fried salami. My Kraft Mac & Cheese and ramen habit.* Fruit Loops when I could get them, which was once a year or less (it was a good rule, parental units, but don’t think I’m over it! 😉

But some have.

Consider the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.** Is it a perfect balance of densities, sweet and savory, carbs, protein and flavor? Crunchy or smooth, with your choice of fruit flavors. Spark it up with homemade bread if you’re into that sort of thing. And so easy to assemble!

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* What? Alternate days, it was all perfectly reasonable.

** Am I posting this because it’s lunchtime, because I enjoy reminders of my often unconventional culinary childhood, or because I want to remind my mother that a PB&J is a terrific option for those days when lunch seems like a lot? Let’s go with all of the above.


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Photo by Freddy G on Unsplash

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My nephew graduates from high school today! Sure, I’ll be celebrating via Zoom, but whatever. This calls for a party, and a party calls for pizza. 

My version is adapted from this award-winning King Arthur recipe:

Crispy Cheesy Pan Pizza | King Arthur Baking

The original recipe is very good, but we wanted something a little more traditional. I kept the dough method but modified the rest. I use a standard pizza pan (works very well), stretch the dough out to ~14” and increase the toppings by a factor of roughly two. This way isn’t as fluffy as the original recipe, but there’s more pizza:)

See the original recipe for instructions and helpful pictures. It’s easy but the crust takes a little upfront fiddly time, so I make four times the amount, split the dough after the initial rise, and freeze the extras.

This is our usual, Butter Chicken Pizza. As always, topping ingredients and amounts are flexible.

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Ingredients

Quadruple Batch of Crust

  • 960g All-Purpose Flour, King Arthur if you can get it
  • 17g salt
  • 6.28g instant yeast or active dry yeast
  • 680g lukewarm water
  • 52g olive oil

Toppings for One Pizza

  • 300g mozzarella, grated (about 1 1/4 cups, loosely packed)
  • 200g Butter Chicken or other sauce, tweaked with a little soy sauce and balsamic vinegar
  • 200g cooked chicken, drained and shredded
  • wilted, chopped spinach and mushrooms or other veg, a handful or two
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • olive oil for the pan

Instructions

Crust:

  • Place the flour, salt, yeast, water, and olive oil in a large mixing bowl.
  • Stir everything together to make a shaggy, sticky mass of dough with no dry patches of flour. This should take 1-2 minutes by hand. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to gather the dough into a rough ball; cover the bowl.
  • After 5 minutes, uncover the bowl and reach your wet hand down between the side of the bowl and the dough, as though you were going to lift the dough out. Instead of lifting, stretch the bottom of the dough up and over its top. Repeat three more times, turning the bowl 90° each time.
  • Re-cover the bowl, and after 5 minutes do another fold. Wait 5 minutes and repeat; then another 5 minutes, and do a fourth and final fold. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest, undisturbed, for 40 minutes.
  • Split into four parts of ~425g each. Place into oiled containers (I use oiled takeout dishes.)
  • If using soon, refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours, or up to 72 hours. It’ll rise slowly as it chills, developing flavor; this long rise will also add flexibility to your schedule. (A 72 hour rise will require a largish container.)
  • To save for longer, seal each container in a ziplock bag and freeze. The night before you want to use it, move one batch from the freezer to the fridge.

Assemble:

  • Crust: About 3 hours before you want to serve your pizza, prepare your pan. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons (18g) olive oil onto pizza pan or cookie sheet. Spread the oil across the bottom.
  • Transfer the dough to the pan and turn it once to coat both sides with the oil. Press the dough to the edges of the pan, dimpling it using the tips of your fingers in the process. The dough may start to resist and shrink back; that’s OK, just cover it and let it rest for about 15 minutes, then repeat the dimpling/pressing. At this point the dough should reach the edges of the pan; if it doesn’t, give it one more 15-minute rest before dimpling/pressing a third and final time.
  • Cover the crust and let rise for ~2-2.5 hours at room temperature.
  • About 30 minutes before baking, place one rack toward the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450°F.
  • Toppings: once the dough is risen, sprinkle about three-quarters of the mozzarella over the entire crust. Spoon a spiral of sauce from the center outward, over the cheese. Laying the cheese down first will prevent the sauce from seeping into the crust and making it soggy. Sprinkle on the chicken, any veg, and remaining mozzarella.
  • Bake the pizza for 20-22 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom and edges of the crust are a rich golden brown (use a spatula to check the bottom). More and/or moister toppings will take longer to cook.
  • Remove the pizza from the oven and slide the pizza onto a cutting board or other heatproof surface. Cut and remove extra slices to a cooling rack to avoid sogginess.

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Yesterday we made yogurt and pizza. Today I’m baking bread and it’s almost time for lunch, so let’s stick with the food theme.

These are more recollections than recipes, and from a time when I didn’t worry about pesky things like saturated fat or fire codes. My tastes have changed over the years, but I happen to be having macaroni and cheese for lunch today.

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Hard salami

Don’t ask how we came up with this idea but my brother and I decided that fried salami would be a pretty good late-night snack. This was back in the days when we shared a bedroom and were often sent to it before we were sleepy enough to go to bed. Reading in our bunkbeds with matching shelves and lamps, it seemed perfectly natural to want a little something to eat. Hard salami was always high on our list; who doesn’t like the seductive appeal of a food that’s half fat and salty to boot? The McDonald’s empire was built on such foods. We loved it. Our real innovation, though, was to cook the salami so that its texture was similar to that of pepperoni on pizza. The only way to accomplish this in our bedrooms was to fry each slice on our reading lamb light bulbs. The edges curled and the fat melted a bit, making the salami a warm succulent treat. I have no idea why it didn’t all just burst into flames.

Kraft macaroni and cheese

I made this so often that I knew the recipe by heart at age 9. I’d eat it one elbow at a time, sliding a fork tine down into the elbow’s open center and chewing slowly while reading in the La-Z-Boy by the window.

Mushroom and oyster soups

These two brands of Campbell’s soup were my favorites. Something about the rich creamy taste and filling texture made them perfect snacks for a winter’s afternoon. I’ve probably had more than my fair share of sodium and modified food starch, but at the time it was delightful.

Stir fried whatever

Usually I’d pull out whatever was in the fridge and toss it into the wok. First slice up an onion or scallion, some ginger or garlic if available, and stir fry for a minute or so until brown at the edges. Add frozen peas, and other vegetables you may have, cook for another minute, then add cold leftover rice and break an egg over top of it all and stir like mad for another minute, or until egg is thoroughly dry. Add soy sauce and snack.

BLT

When my brother finished his “meat-itarian” phase he was once again willing to accept a bit of green on his plate, at least when chaperoned by large quantities of meat. One result of this broadened perspective was his version of the BLT. It was simple, relying more on size and shock value for impact. I’m not sure anyone makes them quite like my brother. 

Slice half a tomato thickly, grill up half a package of bacon, find a couple of lettuce leaves in the fridge. Slather mustard onto one piece of bread and hot chili paste onto the other. Assemble the sandwich using all ingredients. If you survive a few months of these, you’ll have a cast-iron stomach and cholesterol levels that are through the roof.

Dad’s grilled cheese

The secrets to a great grilled cheese sandwich are lots of butter* and a cast-iron pan. I remember Dad slathering the outsides of two bread slices with butter, filling them with cheese, and then grilling it all until crisp and brown. He’d even cut mine on the diagonal, just the way I like it.

* Note from the future: mayonnaise is even better than butter for crispiness.

Pumpkin seeds

Every fall Halloween would roll around and it would be pumpkin carving time. Some years my designs would be better than others but I always got a kick out of the process. First, spread lots of newspaper on the kitchen table or floor. Then cut around the pumpkin stem with a sharp and sturdy knife until you can pull the top out. Take a big spoon and scrape out all the strange, stringy membranes inside. Spend an inordinate amount of time rinsing these interior scrapings to separate out the seeds. When as done as you can stand, dry and spread the seeds onto a cookie sheet, then bake at 350ºF for a few minutes until golden brown and crunchy. Salt liberally and enjoy.

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Photo by Anna Tukhfatullina Food Photographer/Stylist on Pexels.com

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This morning, we discovered an army of teeny tiny ants making a foray under the mudroom door, and thus commenced a battle for the ages!

/ahem

They are winning.*

I took a break from the fun that is that to learn another way to make a painted sketch in Affinity Photo. It’s a good technique but my mouse-based brushwork could use a bit of practice:)

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Original Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

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* No worries, I am consoling myself with brownies.

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