Recipe and Cookbook Roundup

This week's sourdough loaf
This week’s sourdough loaf

Hello there! Still alive and cooking constantly, as ever. I committed to NaNoWriMo this year, which basically means I’ve committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. NO PRESSURE. Needless to say, that’s going to be taking a lot of my focus and time this month. I still thought I’d stop buy and post some of the recipes and cookbooks we’ve been obsessed with lately, because sharing food joy is the best.

Happy fall, and may we all enjoy cooler weather soon!

  • Salted brown butter crispy treats– We went to a Halloween party last week and had to bring a snack, so I went old school, with a slightly grown up twist. The only thing I did that the recipe doesn’t call for was drizzle a little melted semisweet chocolate over the top of the bars before cutting them. People went crazy.
  • Tartine Bread– I can finally make excellent loaves of sourdough bread at home, and it’s all thanks to this book. I cheated a little and bought a sourdough starter from Cultures for Health, but that was two months ago and it’s still going strong. I’ve only had one loaf completely fail and luckily it was relatively early on in the process. Pretty sure I added WAY too much water by accident, because when I turned the dough out onto the counter, it was a giant oozing blob. Live and learn. The process definitely takes time, but I think it’s totally worth it. I’ve been messing around with the timing on the basic country loaf and I’ve found that a 2 day process, with a long overnight rise in the fridge in the middle, results in a loaf that produces exactly what we want in terms of flavor and texture. Also, the recipes for what to do with stale bread are all excellent.
  • Small Victories– I kept hearing about this cookbook on various food blogs, so I requested a copy from the library. I wound up buying my own copy before I even had to return the book. IT’S THAT GOOD. Possibly my favorite cookbook ever, in terms of accessibility and everyday recipes. We’ve made so many things from it already and each one has been perfect. I also really love all the ways she suggests you can modify the recipes. Seriously though, buy it. Make her brisket. Weep for joy.
  • Marinated Lentil Salad– We’ve been enjoying this for lunches a lot recently. I make a double batch of it and combine it with a half batch of Alton Brown’s hummus on the side, as well as cucumber slices and pita chips. Only gets better the longer it marinates.

Young, Broke, and Single

Ah, 22. That watermelon was probably the healthiest thing I ate that month
Ah, 22. That watermelon was probably the healthiest thing I ate that month

My 22 year old brother sent me a text the other day that read:

So I’m trying to eat healthier and cut fast food out. Any relatively easy recipes you’d be willing to send me? Preferably ones without a load of dairy, but I’ll take what I can get.

This goes to show that he’s already doing better than me at 22, since many of my meals at that time were either:

A) Special K red berries/chocolatey delight, with whole milk

B) A bowl filled half with warm queso dip (from a jar), half filled with salsa (duh, jar), and a bag of either Fritos or Tostitos scoops.

The rest of the time I was eating leftovers from going out with my boyfriend at the time, and thank goodness he made more money and could feed me. Such is life.

I thought it might help someone though if I posted exactly what I wound up sending him (minus family jokes), since it’s very simple and involves minimal kitchen equipment (no immersion blends in sight). So here it is, basic food for a broke, early twenties person living in a crappy apartment with roommates. We’ve all been there.


So, general tips:
  • If you live close to a Whole Foods, it can actually be really affordable for basics. We get most of our spices in the bulk section, and you can buy just what you need for one recipe for like $0.20, which also means you have fresh spices instead of ones that you’re pretty sure you’ve owned for ten years. Not that it’s ever happened to me. Also, the bulk section has things like beans, oats and even pasta. Again, you can buy just the amount you need for a recipe and not waste things, which is especially helpful when you’re single (Sometimes other grocery stores have bulk bins too, but it varies by location). Whole Foods has a great store brand (365, I think?). We’ve never had a bad experience with it and it’s a lot cheaper than other options. There’s also an organic 365 line that we use. The boxes of organic 365 cooked beans are GREAT. Especially the chickpeas
  • Learn to be flexible with recipes. The curry I’ve linked to below is a great basic formula. Instead of asparagus, we did half a head of cauliflower because we needed the other half for a different recipe. Saved us money, reduced waste, just as delicious. Potatoes would be great too. You can use this same basic recipe with red or yellow curry paste and seriously not have to change anything else (also, unless you plan to use rice vinegar a lot, don’t worry about buying a bottle just for this. The recipe will be great. You should, however, buy soy sauce, because soy sauce makes everything better. I might be married to an Asian.) As a prime example of how flexible recipes can be: I never ever put celery in anything, because I hate it. If a recipe calls for it, I might put in a little extra onion or carrot, but usually I don’t even worry about it.
  • On recipes that list garnishes: if you already have that stuff on hand for something else, great. If not, don’t worry about buying a thing of cilantro just so you can sprinkle a small bit on top of one thing. The waste will annoy you, and it will make your grocery bill more expensive for very little reason
Some good starter recipes (also, look at other recipes on these websites and see if any look good):
  • Thai green curry with spring vegetables– we don’t use brown rice, but you totally can. Whole Foods also has lots of rice options available in bulk
  • Rice and bean casserole with guac I never bother with the jalapeño in this one. Get yourself some bouillon cubes or buy a jar of Better than Bouillon just so you can always have broth on hand. Try to read the label and get one without too many scary ingredients, but don’t stress if you can’t afford the best. It’s still going to be healthier than fast food. If you don’t have any casserole dishes, Goodwill is actually a great spot for them. People get rid of that stuff all the time. Or ask Mom if she has an extra one. 
  • Overnight steel cut oats– Don’t worry about the optional milk. I never add it. You could make a double or triple batch of these at one time and just reheat some every morning in the microwave. Buy a bag of steel cut oats or get some in the bulk section. Add whatever you’d like on top. This week we’re adding coconut milk and diced mango, because mangoes were on sale. Often we add sliced banana and maple syrup. Really easy, cheap, and healthy.
  • Pasta con ceci this is one of our newer favorites. It’s kind of like a healthier, grown up version of Spaghetti-O’s. I almost always make a double batch and it reheats really well. I find this pasta shape in the bulk section, but I think any smaller pasta could work, like macaroni or little shells. Just test the pasta for doneness. This recipe is super easy, but it’s definitely one to have everything prepped and within reach so you don’t accidentally burn the garlic. Also, it says to peel and smash the garlic, but I always wind up slicing the garlic very thin instead. Just a preference thing.
  • Turkey white bean chili– okay, this one has a longer ingredient list, but it’s still super simple and SO GOOD. Sub in any ground meat if something’s on sale. Add whatever toppings you’d like, or none at all. Makes a nice big pot. I don’t bother taking the seeds out of the jalapeño because we like it spicy, but whatever
  • Eggs, greens, and couscous– This is more of a good general idea than telling you to follow this recipe (although it’s delicious and we eat it often). Just remember that: cooked grains+any greens sautéed with salt/red pepper flakes/squeeze of lemon+fried eggs (I never bother with poaching)= great dinner. This can also be a good way to clean out the fridge. Leftover rice from takeout, topped with that half a bag of spinach that’s about to go bad that you cook quickly in a frying pan, topped with an egg or two, and you have dinner. Always keep eggs on hand, assuming you like eggs.  
  • Dragon noodles– Great base recipe. We almost always add extra vegetables in at the end. Just make sure to cook them in a separate pan (or the same pan, and then dump them in a bowl to hang out til you need them). Snow peas are delicious, but seriously. Any vegetable you like is good in here.
  • Slow cooker pulled pork– So this does assume you have a crockpot (and we all know what assuming does…). If you don’t, I’m sure Mom would let you borrow one/steal one for you, or definitely look at Goodwill for one. What I really love about this recipe is all of the suggestions she makes about what to do with the meat through the course of a week. Last time I did it, I turned some into a tortilla soup, and then spring rolls, and some rice bowls with roasted broccoli and who knows what else. Honestly, her whole blog is great. Her recipes are always so delicious, and she has a bunch of meal prep posts that show all the stuff she makes on Sunday and how she uses it to feed her family through the week. That way you can start thinking about how to make the maximum number of meals with minimal effort on your part

Meal Plan: September 6-September 12

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit or vegetables), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Labor Day made even better with a stack of books and movies from our neighborhood library
Labor Day made even better with a stack of books and movies from our neighborhood library

September 6-September 12

Labor Day has come and gone, and I need to fold away my white shorts for next year. We attended a party at a friend’s house and brought a great side dish that was barely eaten because everyone brought so much food it was impossible to eat more than a bite or two of anything. Not a bad problem to have, and now there’s a giant bowl of corn salad in our refrigerator. I’ll take it.

We’re trying to squeeze in as many BLTs as we can before the heirloom tomatoes are gone. That will be a sad day. I have a batch of bone broth cooking right now, and even though it’s still hot outside, there’s no doubt that summer is on its way out the door.

Labor Day Party

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Salad with leftover roast chicken, sunflower seeds, avocado, homemade garlic croutons, and Caesar vinaigrette

Snack

  • Hummus with carrots and cucumbers

Dinner

A Half Bushel of Peaches

Note: My dear friend and former roommate Lauren is talking today about one of her new favorite products, and I think I might have to go buy some myself! Check it out here

Last Saturday, we bought a half of a bushel of peaches from The Peach Truck, AKA the best peaches you can possibly buy if you don’t live in Georgia.

In case you were wondering, that is a LOT of peaches.

While we were planning on eating a lot of peaches straight up, I knew that there was no way we could eat them fast enough to keep them from going bad, so this week has been spent finding various ways to cook/preserve them.

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1) Bourbon peach hand pies– I used a 4 inch cutter, and we ate 3 of these beauties before putting the rest (unbaked) into the freezer for many rainy days in the future. Huge sense of victory from successfully tackling pie crust!

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2) Peach butter– I added some vanilla bean infused bourbon to this batch, and did the full water bath canning process (for the first time!)

3) Peach sauce– So yeah… that’s a link to the same recipe as the butter. I wanted to see if I could make the recipe in a slow cooker (without the bourbon), and after cooking all day, it wasn’t nearly at a butter consistency, but had thickened enough that I was afraid it would burn if left cooking overnight, so I went ahead and canned it all as a really delicious peach sauce. I’m sure we’ll have no trouble coming up with ways to use it

4) Peach simple syrup– I used the microwave method because I really wanted that vibrant fresh peach color and flavor. This went into the refrigerator and will be added to cocktails, sparkling water, and whatever else I can find for months to come

5) Peach thyme sorbet- recipe to come!

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6) White Chocolate Strawberry Peach Cake- Josh has been drooling over this cake since he bought me Homemade Decadence for Christmas. Mission accomplished

The rest of the peaches have been eaten fresh in a variety of ways (sliced and tossed in a little balsamic to top avocado toast- divine), and I’m starting to slice and freeze the rest.

The dishes are killing me.

The Peach Truck will come through Cincinnati one more time in a few weeks, and I’m contemplating buying another bushel. I’m thinking some jams are necessary, and a pie, but does anyone have more fun ideas for a giant box of peaches?!

…And We’re Back

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Josh and I just got back from two weeks in Portugal! It was an incredible trip full of amazing food, loads of booze, bright sun, walking up more hills and climbing more stairs than you could ever imagine, and drinking in the beauty of a country that used to rule a good part of the world. This was a trip we’d been dreaming of for years, so to see it finally come about (and be there for my 30th birthday, no less) was so awesome. I’ll be writing up a post soon of our favorite restaurants in the Lisbon area and Porto, but for now I’m going to enjoy the return to my kitchen and eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as I can, something I missed desperately while still enjoying copious amounts of seafood and pastries.

Post 100

Ah, the infamous 100. It’s kind of crazy to think that I’ve managed to come up with 100 posts, especially considering how long I was working a New York City full time job + commute and trying to post at least twice a week. Since last May, we’ve left New York for Cincinnati, I’ve upgraded my phone, which is relevant because I take all of my photos on it (should really get a camera one of these days…), I have a cute sunny house now instead of a good apartment with mediocre light, an oddly small refrigerator and NO DISHWASHER, and I’m able to dream about having an herb garden again this year, among other things. I’ve branched out into working with yeast, and made some intensive asian dishes that left me with a massive amount of dishes and a lot of pride.

I thought it’d be fun today to check out my 5 most popular posts out of the last 100:

5) Loco Moco Remix

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This isn’t a traditional loco moco, which is rice, hamburger patties, and fried eggs drenched in gravy. While that dish is a Hawaiian classic for many reasons, it’s also not something you can eat without wanting to take a nap immediately afterwards. This version is a lot lighter, with coconut rice, ground pork, and a spicy soy reduction. We pretty much lick our bowls clean with this one.

4) Chicken Noodle “We Won’t Be Sick For Christmas” Soup

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I grew up on Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, which is why I’ve never been a huge fan. When Josh started to get sick the week before Christmas, I decided to make my own version, and now I’m in love. This soup is so delicate and fragrant due to the scallions, cilantro, ginger and star anise, plus it’s full of all of the nutrients you need when you’re feeling crummy. It’s also really easy, because if you’re the one sick, you don’t want to do much more than dump a bunch of ingredients in a crockpot so you can go watch bad movies on the couch.

3) Roasted Vegetable and Hummus Mix It Up Salad

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I’ve been making this salad for years now and it’s still one of our favorites (and might be on next week’s meal plan due to this reminder). It’s extremely adaptable, healthy, filling, and I love how each bite can taste so different depending on what combination of ingredients you get on your fork. Ugh, now I’m craving it.

2) Strawberry Mint Water

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I love that the second most popular recipe isn’t even really a recipe, and I almost didn’t even post it. Who knew that leftover strawberry tops and mint leaves could make water so delicious, though?! We now love to throw our fruit scraps into a jar of filtered water, especially in the summer. Pineapple core with a few apple slices is also a winner.

1) Salty Honey Pie

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This Joy the Baker pie was so good… there are hardly words, which is probably why it was so popular! It was also a good reminder that I really need to make myself attempt pie crust. I don’t know what my mental block is about it, but sometime (in the next month?!) it WILL happen. It helps that Josh bought me Joy’s new book, Homemade Decadence, for Christmas and there are a lot of tips for pie crust. Victory will be mine.

I hope that my next 100 posts include me stretching my culinary skills more, mastering pie crust, cooking a little more often from my cookbook collection, and attempting at least a few more crazy asian dishes.

Shanghai soup dumplings, I’ve got my eye on you…

Meal Plan: December 28- January 3

Every week we make a meal plan for the week ahead. The plan accounts for 5 breakfasts, 4 lunches (plus fruit), 4 snacks, and 5 dinners each for the two of us. Lunches are typically a double batch of whatever the recipe calls for. We make the lunches and do other prep work on Sunday. Nearly all items are purchased from either our local farmers market or Whole Foods. We live in Cincinnati, OH.

Christmas Eve noodles
Christmas Eve noodles

December 28- January 3

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Christmas, full of too much food and being extremely lazy! We thoroughly enjoyed Josh’s first year of not working retail through the holiday season. Words cannot express how miserable that can be.

The sad thing about Christmas being over is that it means travel season has begun again for Josh, which is totally lame. Since there’s no way I’m going to cook a full meal from scratch for myself every night, this will lead to lots of big pots of soup/chili that can be made once and reheated for however many nights necessary. It’s all about strategy.

This is also the last week of 2014, which was a crazy year that began in New York City and ends in Cincinnati, which is completely unexpected and amusing. Life is a funny thing.

I’m not one for resolutions, since life is such a mystery. Really, I just can’t wait to see what the next year brings. Bring on new adventures!

Total cost: Roughly $132

Average cost per meal per person, with snacks tucked into the mix: $4.71

Breakfast

Lunch

  • Roasted vegetables with cannellini beans and magic sauce (recipe to come)

Snack

Dinner