lunch

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The fight against eating easy, grey food is ongoing. As I wrote the other day, I’m striving for color. I am also playing a game with myself to see how many/much of the recommended daily allowance(s) of vitamins and such I can pack into what I eat in a day while still eating fewer than specific numbers of calories. It’s not difficult at all since I don’t eat things like flour, processed stuff or sugar. But it adds some marginal entertainment to the drudgery of coming up with and preparing food. Which I have always hated doing. These may be the only times I have ever seriously considered getting married: find the person who can cook and wants to, and I’m halfway down the aisle.

In any case, today’s lunch is a variety of cherry tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, a sprinkling of green onions, cucumber, black beans, about a half cup of the red quinoa-amaranth-buckwheat-millet mixture I wrote about before (see image below) and some salmon. This whole thing might excite others more with some dressing or vinaigrette, but I don’t like sauces and that sort of thing, so it’s just dry.

Maybe not inspiring for others, but it is nicer to look at than previous lunches, and I am meeting my daily nutritional needs, so can’t complain.

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subtle change

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I may finally have emerged from a grey-food period. I was eating mostly the same mundane meal daily because it was easy, healthy and almost instant. But I’ve finally decided I should put in a bit of upfront effort and prepare some variation and make a few meals for a few days in advance.

My latest go-to, at the very least, is very colorful, although not necessarily pretty. With a base of a grain mix of quinoa, buckwheat, millet and amaranth, I throw in some beans (kidney or black usually), red and/or yellow peppers, red onions, asparagus, baby spinach, tomatoes and who knows what else? And then sometimes add a bit of salmon or a few prawns, if I am in that kind of mood (prefer mostly vegan eating but sometimes seem to need a change).

I think my laziest thing is that I don’t want to bother cooking, so if I do it all at once and make a bunch of well-measured out bowls and cook enough of this grain stuff to many such bowls, I don’t have to think about it every single day. I know people have been saying that to me forever – just take the one ‘hit’ in terms of time, prep, patience, and you will thank yourself. But even that, until recently, I could not force myself to do. But I suppose alongside all the rest of the changes this year, thinking ahead and preparing even for the most boring thing I can think of (eating) is something I can ken.

Now the question remains: will I ever bake again?

Living on soup: Black bean soup

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So a few weeks ago I decided to make spicy black bean soup, and I went way overboard on the spice because I made something that was inedible. I made it edible, eventually, watering it down with water, broth and coconut milk, but it was still so incredibly spicy that I was eating less of it at a time than I normally would as a serving, meaning that it lasted far longer than it should have.

Now, wanting a more palate-friendly version of the soup, I tried again, shying away from the several teaspoons of chili powder the original recipe called for, and I am happy to say this was perfect and has kept me in delicious soup for days.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 diced red onion (any kind of onion you like will do, though)
1 or 2 diced carrots, depending on how much you like carrot
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 cups vegetable stock
2-3 containers of black beans (drained)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 container (about 15 ounces/425g or so) stewed tomatoes

Heat oil, cook onion and carrot on medium heat for five to ten minutes, add garlic, cook for another minute. Keep stirring. Add spices (except black pepper). Stir and cook for about a minute. Add vegetable stock and 2 containers of black beans and the pepper. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, blend the tomatoes and other container of beans together in a blender and add to the pot. You could experiment here and add more beans to the blend (for a thicker soup). Stir while cooking for about another ten minutes.

You can also experiment with what you throw into the soup. If you like red or green bell peppers, chop some up and throw them in at the beginning with the onions and carrots. If you like spice, you could always chop up and throw in some jalapeno. Maybe you like corn – “liberate” some corn from the cob or throw in a drained can of corn. It’s up to you. Similarly, at the end, if you like a creamier soup, you could also add some coconut milk or cream/milk as well.

It was great when newly made but the leftovers the next days were REALLY good because the flavors had a chance to develop and the base of the soup got a bit thicker.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

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I had broccoli, Herrgård cheese and pretty much nothing else. I decided to make a savory pie from it – hoping the coconut milk wouldn’t add too much “sweetness” to the flavor. I also did not want to make a pastry crust that required being rolled out, so here’s what we ended up with.

The pics don’t make it look too appetizing (photography isn’t my thing) but it’s bloody well yummy.

Broccoli-Herrgård pie

Preheat oven to 200C

1 head fresh broccoli, steamed and chopped

Steam your broccoli for about five minutes (until tender), chop it up and set it aside.

Crust
½ cup grated cheese (I used Herrgård because it’s what I had but cheddar would be great)
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup melted butter

Mix cheese, flour, salt and mustard and add the melted butter in until just combined. Press into a pie tin. Set aside while you prepare the filling.

Filling
1 tablespoon butter
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream, half-and-half or coconut milk (that’s all I had on hand)
½ cup cheese, grated
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 eggs, slightly beaten

Melt the butter in a skillet, sauté the onion for about five minutes. Whisk in the flour, cream/coconut milk, salt, nutmeg and cheese until you have a kind of roux/sauce. Cook about one minute. Mix in the broccoli. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the beaten eggs. Pour into the prepared crust.

Bake for 15 minutes at 200C.

Remove from oven and reduce heat to 190C while you sprinkle a bit of extra cheese on top. Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

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Recipes – Cooking for guests

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I never seem to cook except when guests come to visit. In addition to making a new attempt at black bean-corn-sweet potato-millet burgers, I also made a roasted garlic-Guinness-brown sugar pot roast in my slow cooker, shredded it and made sandwiches from it. I also make big breakfasts – my friend/guest’s favorite is rye toast, cream cheese, smoked salmon and scrambled or basil-poached eggs and roasted asparagus. I made that but also made a very American breakfast of fluffy American pancakes with real maple syrup, scrambled eggs and chicken sausage patties. I am not really big on the idea of sausage, but I had a package of ground chicken that I had planned to do something else with (and didn’t) and wanted to use it. I decided breakfast sausage was worth the experiment and it turned out really, really – surprisingly – well.

Slow cooker Guinness pot roast

2 pound (1 kg) beef pot roast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
30 cl Guinness (or beer you prefer)
1 head roasted garlic
Rolls or buns you prefer, toasted

Sprinkle both sides of pot roast with the spices and place in the slow cooker. Put the brown sugar on top. Pour the beer into the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Near the end of cooking time, roast head(s) garlic in the oven, mash up garlic and add to the cooked pot roast, finish cooking.

When finished, remove pot roast from the cooker and shred the meat on a separate plate. Meanwhile you can thicken the liquid in the cooker with a bit of flour (this created a thicker, gravy-like sauce, which is nicer for a sandwich). Return the shredded meat to the cooker and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes on low heat.

Chicken sausage patties

2 pounds (1 kg) ground chicken
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix spices together, then mix into ground chicken. Form into patties and fry about 7 to 10 minutes on each side.

Shedding layers part seven: Books

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Cookbooks! Yes, why do I have so many cookbooks?

Long, long ago, in an era long before the internet existed and everyone had five devices to search for internet content, including recipes, people exchanged recipes on little designated notecards made just for recipes. Or they collected recipes and published them in books. Some were generalist in nature, some were very specific (for example, vegan desserts, which, contrary to what some might say, are not only sorbet related, or vegetarian Indian cooking).

I must have gone through many phases of wanting a collection of recipe books because… well, over the years I accumulated a whole lot of them. Everyone around me – grandmother, mother, parents’ friends, etc. – also had recipe books aplenty. It never struck me that is was not necessary. Back when I started my own collection, it was kind of necessary because, as I said, there was no internet then.

Moving from country to country, lugging hundreds of (and it used to be over 1000) books along with me, though, it all seemed like too much. Especially as each year saw the internet grow and its cornucopia of content overflow, it made no sense to carry around books I had cracked open maybe once – and never once used to cook with.

That said, I still have a stack of these books and these will be the next things with which I part as I go on shedding extraneous layers of my life.

chicken cauliflower chili

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I like beans so don’t necessarily advocate chili without beans, but I saw a recipe that used a diced head of cauliflower instead. And a slow cooker. The miraculous slow cooker.

I made it as follows:
1/2 head of cauliflower, diced into pieces
1 diced yellow onion
1 diced red bell pepper
2 minced garlic cloves
28 ounces tomato puree
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
chunks of chicken breast or thigh
a tablespoon or two of some Macedonian pepper relish

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker. Cook on low for eight hours. And you are done.