Maybe a pie for the 4th?

Hi all. Blog silence is due to a move into a new house and its associated logistical shenanigans. It’s a bigger place, with room for a sewing room so that’s very exciting. Right now the sewing room is just a pile of boxes of fabrics and notions thrown about willy-nilly. More immediately necessary areas of the house, like our bedroom and the kitchen, have gotten higher priority unpacking service, but soon I’ll be able to tackle the more discretionary corners. Once I get everything reasonably into shape I will definitely post some pictures.

Since there hasn’t been much Food Friday action for a while, I will share this fabulous link, from An Oregon Cottage: The Ultimate Rhubarb Guide. All about planting, growing, cooking with, and preserving rhubarb. Rhubarb has always been one of my favorites, and I will definitely be planting shoots at the new place as soon as possible. To me, a strawberry rhubarb pie is the epitome of summer. Hope your summer is going well.

Food Friday: Cornbread with feta

I recently read Anya Von Bremzen’s memoir-slash-history-slash-cookbook, Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking, and I recommend it. The personal stories and the lens of food makes a complex and sobering subject like the history of twentieth century Russia a bit more approachable. In the book, Von Bremzen calls this Cornbread for Khrushchev, because of the leader’s obsession with corn and attempts to replace wheat with maize on Soviet farms, policies which were partially to blame for food shortages and famine in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Here’s the recipe, reproduced at Food & Wine: Cornbread for Khrushchev. The only changes I made were to substitute plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream, and only use 6 ounces of feta (what I had, but also, 3/4 pound of feta for one pan of cornbread seemed like a crazy huge amount). It makes a nicely moist result and the feta adds interest, although it’ll be a bit of an acquired taste if you’re used to sweet Southern (American) cornbreads. If I make it again, I might try adding chiles, or something else spicy, to balance out the richness of the bread and the pungency of the feta.

[Link to the book is an affiliate link.]

Food Friday: Carrot & Parsley Salad

There’s a local cafe that gives out a shredded carrot salad with all of their sandwiches. Theirs suffers a bit from sitting around all day, but it lead me to try to replicate/improve it at home. I started with this recipe from frenchfood.about.com: Carrot Salad. The only big change I made was to use pre-shredded carrots, increase the amount of parsley – more like a salad green than a garnish – and add slivered almonds. The proportions, for a 10 oz bag of shredded carrots, works out as follows:

1 10 oz bag of shredded carrots
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)
Dressing:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Penzey’s country French vinaigrette*
salt & pepper to taste

*Optional, obviously, but it is a great flavor for this. The Penzey’s website lists the following ingredients: sugar, brown mustard, salt, garlic, black pepper, lemon, onion, French tarragon, white pepper, chives, thyme, cracked rosemary. You could substitute with some thyme, chives, rosemary and garlic powder.

Food Friday: Short Ribs

Hi folks! I’ve been doing a fair bit of cooking recently so I’ve got some recipes to share in the upcoming weeks. The other day I made some short ribs in the slow cooker, basically using this recipe from food.com: Slow-Cooker Beef Short Ribs. I made a few adjustments – a little less brown sugar, and no Worcestershire sauce because I was out of it. In general it was pretty tasty although if I made it again I’d reduce the amount of vinegar.

Food Friday: basic banana bread

Recently I culled my overflowing cookbook shelf before the whole thing collapsed onto the floor. One of the books I got rid of was Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics, which my parents had gotten for me after visiting her restaurant in Savannah years ago. I am not a fan of her recent public foibles, but she has done a good job over the years of capturing a particular kind of basic Southern cooking which I remember fondly from my childhood. Before I got rid of the book, I copied two pages – one for banana bread and one for zucchini bread. I made the banana bread the other day, and yep, that’s the banana bread I remember as a kid. The only change I made was to bake in two smaller loaf pans so I could throw one in the freezer for later.

Banana Bread
From Paula Deen’s Kitchen Classics

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar*
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 ripe bananas, mashed**

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. In a mixing bowl***, combine the butter and sugar; mix well. add the salt, eggs, vanilla, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and bananas, and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.

*I went a little scant on the sugar, because a cup seemed like a lot, and it was plenty sweet. I would aim for 2/3 to 3/4 a cup next time. Much depends on your personal preference, as well as how sweet your bananas are.
**I had the rest of a bunch to use up, so I think I used 5. Really, you can’t go wrong with more bananas. At least 2 cups, mashed, I would guess.
***Deen points out that you don’t need a mixer for this recipe and she’s right, especially if you want a more chunky texture in your finished bread. But it does mean that you need to mash the bananas separately first, and preferably whip your eggs, so you end up dirtying more bowls that way. Also, if you are going to mix by hand, make sure your butter is very soft – literally room temp the whole way through, not just pulled out of the fridge a few minutes ago – or you’ll never get the sugar and butter to cream together unless you’re a professional arm wrestler or something.

Food Friday: Crockpot chicken stock

Homemade chicken stock was one of those things that I always meant to try to make but somehow never got around to trying. Recently we’ve been ordering some veggies and groceries from a local organic co-op that delivers (so handy if a little pricey) and they recently added a cooked chicken to their offerings – similar to the rotisserie chickens that so many grocery stores do now, but tastier and from organic free range chicken (and thus more expensive, of course). It comes already cooked and flavored, so you can eat it cold or warm it back up. Usually the two of us can get a regular dinner out of the breasts, then I pull off all the dark meat and make chicken salad for another lunch or two. Then there’s the carcass with all the bits that don’t come off easily, and after the first week when I guiltily threw it in the trash, I resolved to do something with it. And so, I gave a try to the Homemade Chicken Stock that’s in Jessica Fisher’s Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze cookbook. This is an awesome cookbook. I don’t buy many cookbooks these days, what with all the free recipes out there on the Internet, but this one I got from the library and immediately ordered my own copy. And this recipe turned out very good, and is quite easy since it uses the slow cooker. After dinner, I threw all the ingredients in, let it cook overnight, then let it cool a bit and packaged everything up in the morning.

Homemade Chicken Stock
from Jessica Fisher, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook

The carcass of a whole roasted chicken
8 cups water
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium-sized onion, peeled and quartered
2 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces [I used celery flakes from Penzey's]
6 black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bay leaf

Place all of the ingredients in the crock of a 5-quarter slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours or overnight. alternatively, place all the ingredients in a large stockpot and bring ot a gentle boil. Reduce the hear, cover, and simmer for 4 hours.
Strain the stock and discard the solids.
Use the stock in your recipe as needed or pour it into containers and allow it to cool. To freeze, chill in the refrigerator and remove the fat that rises to the top before freezing.

Alternatives to Gwynnie Bee, part 2

Since I lost weight last year, I’ve been in the size 12-14 range (on the high end right now thanks to several stressful events, sigh). Since the turn of the year I’ve been threatening to stop my subscription to Gwynnie Bee (written about previously here and here) because they focus on plus sizes and their selection in sizes below 14w is less than ideal. Yet I keep on finding enough items to fill up my virtual queue. And the other day they added NYDJ jeans to their offerings – not a huge plus for me since NYDJ is always too short for me, but maybe one of the cropped pairs will work for summer.

Occasionally I do an internet search to see if anyone’s come out with a Gwynnie Bee equivalent in smaller sizes. There are a few out there, although none seems perfect for me. Le Tote is recommended by several bloggers, but only goes up to a size 10. CoutureSqd has a wider size range and is cheaper but you only get one shipment per month, as opposed to GB and Le Tote’s ‘as many as the mail will bring’ exchanges. The newest option to me is thesixohsix, which seems to focus on designer casual wear, and is a straightforward rental service – you choose the item(s) you want to borrow and they send them to you for a 10 day rental period.

The one that gets the best reviews is StitchFix, which is slightly different in that it’s not a rental service; they send you a monthly box of items to try for potential purchase. Everything is returnable if you don’t like it, but there’s a $20 styling fee each month (applicable to your purchase if you make one).
I’ve got so many clothes right now I can’t really justify a StitchFix subscription, but I am definitely considering it for the future. Anyone tried any of these services?