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Triumph of the Mundane

Slow blogging at its finest

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cooking

Accommodating Cultures or Time Management

hubs-yogurt

For quite some time, must be at least seven or eight years, I’ve been making our yogurt. Two reasons: purity and plastic. The homemade stuff doesn’t have any of the additives of commercial yogurt. Or at least very little since every couple dozen batches or so I use the store-bought stuff as starter. And when I realized not buying yogurt was a reasonable way to reduce plastic consumption, well, that sold me on the effort.

And it’s not a lot of effort, but it is a commitment. Now that I’m back in the workforce, I’m also back in the time-juggling game. The hubs offered to make yogurt, and after all this time, I relented. Yogurt-making was on the TTHSND list: Things The Hubs Should Not Do. The list started early in our marriage when he offered to do laundry and tossed in my one silk blouse. . . In this case, I anticipated the task bouncing back to me or becoming a point of contention. Since I’ve been doing this for so long, even when working, that it didn’t seem worth the effort.

There is also TTTHDDWBICTI list: The Things The Hubs Doesn’t Do Well But I Choose To Ignore. Topping that list is vacuuming. He does the open areas and, if the mood strikes, gets under a few things but has long since foregone vacuuming the furniture. He’ll break down if he sees one of the dogs ‘hunting’ for pretzels sticks and popcorn between/under the cushions but otherwise he does not put forth the effort. I choose to ignore this oversight as the only other option is for me to do the vacuuming. When necessary, I employ my mother’s housekeeping coping mechanism: I take off my glasses. It’s amazing what you can’t see, and therefore what you can abide, without glasses.

Anyway, back to the yogurt. Initially, I ran through the process with him as I made yogurt, and a day later he asked me to list the steps again as he took notes. A few days later, he gave it a go, sending me a proud text when his first batch was in the yogurt maker.

Mind you, I’ve only been working two weeks and two days. But we eat yogurt for breakfast most days, weekends included. And even though we split one jar, the yogurt maker only holds five jars: The math is pretty straightforward. Oh, and I used one jar in a cake. That’s when it (already) became too much. When I said, Oh, time to make yogurt again, the look of surprise and exasperation on his face was as exaggerated as a silent-movie actor’s. Yes, it’s a commitment. So I made the yogurt. But I will vacuum only in a state of emergency. And I haven’t got a clue where my glasses are.

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Swede Success Times Two – Finally!

hasselback-potatoes-1

After the initial run of bad luck in Nordic cooking, I decided to choose a dish as close to no-fail as I could find. Hence Hasselback potatoes. Simply slice some Yukon Golds (this is a house-brand variety), lightly brush the exposed bits with olive oil, and roast. The only “hard” part is remembering to do a second brush of olive oil and sprinkle on some kosher salt at the halfway point. The hubs is so crazy about these that we ate our way through a whole bag of potatoes in a little over two weeks.

swedish-meatball-success

Clearly the gods of Nordic cooking were smiling on me because the disappeared-into-the-ether Swedish meatball recipe wondrously, mysteriously reappeared on my Facebook feed. The recipe isn’t difficult, just a tad fussy, and the flavor is pretty delightful. Surprising what a little cardamom and nutmeg will do.

A few adjustments: The recipe called for 1.5 lb of ground beef; the 1 lb in the fridge had to do (plus the 1 lb of ground pork, as called for). Rather than tear up bread, I decided Panko breadcrumbs would suffice — but figuring out the amount was pretty much a crapshoot. And since there was less meat, I only used one egg. The result was softer, looser meatballs — made them larger, too. Oh, and I used yogurt instead of sour cream, my usual substitution. Perfect winter meal. Good thing they turned out well because we’vegot a boatload in the freezer.

If Thor is now on my side, as it appears, must be time to crack open those Nordic cookbooks again.

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Stock Up!

Have you noticed? Lately I’m compelled to add exclamation points to my headlines. Maybe I’m just that excited about the holidays. In this case, the reason was to make it ‘sound’ like a short-order cook calling out from the kitchen.

broth

Big batch of stock from turkey and chicken bones – Chickey? Turken? Whatever the name, it is yummy and we’ve got a lot of it. I’m thinking butternut squash risotto, because wait until you see the size of the butternut squash I bought at — surprise, not! — Costco!

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Time for a Cool Change

Frighteningly unseasonable weather well into November meant the green pepper plants kept producing until just a few days ago. Experience warns the appearance of great bounty precedes a painful-down-to-the-soul crash; it’s a false joy.

green-peppers

But waste is pointless, so stuffed green peppers for several days it is. With a side of impending doom.

And then on to new and other things.

Recently I came across the website of a fabulously named restaurant in Land, Oregon: Viking Soul Food. As a midlander, the Northwestern United States does not come to mind when thinking Nordic. But it is, and there you are.

My thoughts were already pointed due north. A year of Nordic cooking, perhaps. Yes, a year of Scandinavian cooking has a better ring to it. However my half-Swedish cousin rarely fails to remind that Finland, from whence my side of the family comes, is not technically part of Scandinavia, ergo it’s erroneous to claim the heritage. That’s why I hang with the German cousins.

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Big Tomato — It’s What’s for Dinner

big-tomato

The original plan was to make a honkin’ big batch of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana using the jumbo can of plum tomatoes. But then stuffed green peppers sounded good, too, what with the green peppers being garden fresh. That should leave just the right amount tomatoes for standard-issue spaghetti sauce. Fortunately, this last stroke of brilliance hit when standing at the meat counter so a pound of the good Italian sausage made it home without the need for a second trip. And the four cans of tomato sauce in the pantry could be called into action.

The results: Eight meals of Pasta alla Vecchia Bettolana, ditto spaghetti sauce, now in the freezer, plus stuffing for four meals of stuffed green peppers on hand. One or two less meals to plan each week for a goodly while. Zero cans of tomato anything in the pantry.

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Tomato Fail Times Two

Tomato 2

This year’s tomato harvest is dismal. Pathetic even.

Last year the output was smaller than usual so we figured it was time for a new plan. Probably that blight thing, so give up on planting tomatoes in the garden for a year. Try pots on the deck. Fresh tomatoes just steps from the back door. Not so much. Mostly dry, hot summer punctuated by periods of deluge. Plants either too dry (even watering multiple times a day) or too wet.

What to do about spaghetti sauce!

Costco to the rescue!

Tomato 1

This has to be the solution, right?

Then The Splendid Table re-posts a story on canned tomatoes. Clearly, I’ve been dupped by a PR scam. But I’m certainly not going to throw away this jumbo can of tomatoes.

Maybe a little extra vodka in the Pasta alla Vecchia Bettola will cover any shortcomings. And maybe put some of that vodka in a glass rather than in the sauce. . .

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Food Pass-Fail 1

A week ago I spent part of Sunday afternoon watching The Great British Baking Show and knitting. More about knitting another time.

This past Sunday, perhaps more appropriately, I watched three episodes of TGBBS while baking cookies and a cake. The local PBS station probably calls it a marathon; more likely it’s a choice made to fill air time.

Clearly we’re set for a bit over a week with the hubs love of sweets, and I’m not joking. We might get two weeks, but that’s the longest it will stretch.

Poppy seed cake

Made me think it’s time for a review and rating of recent kitchen efforts.

This is a pass!

This poppy seed cake gets a solid B. With the cookie reserve, the day’s efforts get a B+. Maybe an A-. There’s a lot of dishes involved in the prep and I did clean up rather than my usual I-cooked-you-clean-up approach. That includes the cookie sheets for bonus points.

Poppy seed cake is on constant rotation here; the hubs pines and whines if he thinks it’s been too long since a cake graced the counter. He’s been known to employ the sad face in the grocery store to force the issue.

This time I’m patting myself on the back for exceptional texture and spot-on baking time. While mixing I feared the egg whites might not have been whipped enough (nothing like a beaten-to-infinity foam), but the results speak otherwise.

 

Sighing Over Spilt Cream

Spilt cream
Thank goodness cooking doesn’t require a license. Based on recent performance, mine surely would have been revoked. Over the past week I’ve made a half dozen thoughtless errors from not having key ingredients on hand to messing up ingredients (wrong amount, added at the wrong time, etc.) to this unfortunate boilover. Emergency grocery store runs mid-recipe are almost commonplace. Sigh.

What’s with the distraction? Well, I’m in the midst of the third or fourth dozen “What am I doing with my life?” phase, and cooking is thinking time for me.

Phew. I better snap out of this before one of these distracted moments requires a call to the fire department!

Before & After: The Spring Chicken Edition

Chicken before

The truth of it: Buying roasted chicken has spoiled me. Reasonably priced and ready to go. But the hubs loves to roast chicken on the grill. Variety of flavors, he says.

So I shrugged at the Whole Foods Market sale, whereas he stepped right up. The first chicken was quite tasty. Why not get two (or three) more? And so he did.

Chicken after

That’s Italian-seasoned on the left, mesquite on the right. And a third smoking on the grill. All the bones, etc., will end up in the same pot for stock. That ought to create an interesting taste sensation.

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