You ask, I answer, part four

Nicki asked, “What book would you insist your children not leave for college without?”

Mine! . . . Sort of. I’m working on putting together over time a basic cookbook with their favorites, including shopping lists, estimated costs, about how long the recipe takes, and how much the recipe makes. I would hope by then they’ll have internalized some of the really basic ones like clams in a garlic sauce over noodles (which we have roughly once a week because it’s done in about the amount of time it takes pasta to cook and everyone likes it), but it’s good to have them written down anyway.

Aside from that, I’d like it if they had some other good basic cookbook — Joy of Cooking has wonderful descriptions of what the different kinds of ingredients are (i.e., different kinds of flours, sugars, milks, etc.), as well as thorough discussions on cooking techniques; or Ratio talks about the basic ratios you need when cooking — and a journal and/or sketchbook for them to keep their thoughts in.

Your turn — what do you think kids shouldn’t leave home without?

Mmmmmmm. Chocolate.

It is no secret that I love chocolate. White chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate. The chocolate oranges that you whack to break apart, candy bars, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate-covered pretzels, chocolate truffles (easiest ever are from one of Marcel Desaulniers’ cookbooks), hot chocolate on a winter day. A couple of years ago, my husband gave me this luscious chocolate-brown long winter coat for Christmas. Chocolate everything.

In celebration of the “What’s Your Chocolate?” blog hop today, I’m sharing my favorite chocolate recipe, a flourless torte adapted from one that appeared in the first issue of Chocolatier magazine. Continue reading

Mmmm. Chocolate chip cookies

Yes, I’m grateful for chocolate chip cookies. I’m grateful for how easy they are to make, how good they taste (with or without nuts), how much my family appreciates it when I make them. There’s nothing quite like taking a break in the middle of working to have a hot cup of tea and a couple of cookies. Of course, then I have to plan for some exercise to work off those cookies, but that’s okay.

Mmmmm. Chocolate.

Adventures in food with kids

I’ve been experimenting with new recipes from Food52 again this week. (Well, except for two days ago, when I did a makeshift jambalaya just because I felt like it, even if it’s a better dish for cool weather.) Of course, the girl has hit the toddler age of “If it’s not mac-and-cheese or hot dogs, I don’t want it.”

Chicken tikka fajita schawarma used pita bread, and let’s face it — everything is good when you put inside a bread pocket, right? The sauce — a combination of yogurt, mayonnaise, and pan-roasted garlic — was a big hit. No one else was really interested in the cucumber, but the red bell pepper strips and most of the tomato disappeared.

The hot smoked paprika pork with mango salsa in flat bread went well with the boy — I toned down the amount of hot paprika I used, and he’s a big fan of anything with mango. The girl? Ate flat bread. The 2-1/2 pounds of pork loin makes a lot. I’ve got leftovers for lunch, though, so I’m happy.

The jambalaya was another instance of the girl not eating much — she sampled the sausage, maybe ate a bite of rice. The boy? Chicken, shrimp, sausage, rice — what’s not to like? He had seconds.

Last night, I tried buffalo shrimp wontons. Given my kids’ reactions to other foods, I tried a variety — some shrimp marinated in Tabasco, then wrapped in the wonton wrappers with the cheese mixture, some with the wrappers and the cheese, and some with only the wrappers. Oh, and I twisted up some of the wrappers and fried them up plain because yummy! My husband and I split the spicy ones, plus had some of the cheese-wrapped shrimp. Our son had mostly wonton-wrapped shrimp (dipped in cocktail sauce), plus a single one with the cheese. Our daughter was going to go with just the fried wonton wrapper with ranch, but we told her she had to have at least one shrimp to have the ranch dressing. She bit into it and discovered that she likes shrimp. (Side note: I remember her brother having a similar reaction at a seafood restaurant when he asked to try some of my lobster.)

Tonight, we’ll have leftover jambalaya. I’m hoping the girl will eat some of the shrimp this time, since she discovered she likes them.

T is for tea and tetsubin

Tea is, as I think I’ve mentioned, my favorite drink, the default that keeps me going through the day. I drink black tea in the morning, black decaf tea in the afternoon, green tea when I feel like it, and herbal teas whenever (lemon tea with honey particularly when my throat hurts, for example).

I’m not super picky. I don’t drink Lipton (although at least one of their black teas in the pyramidal bags isn’t bad), but my general methodology is boil water, pour over tea bag in cup, steep, and drink. Removing the tea bag before drinking is optional. So is drinking before it gets cold; my mug is no stranger to the microwave.

Sometimes, I’m more traditional. I pour boiling water into my cup to preheat it. I bring the water to a boil and let it cool for a couple of minutes before pouring it over the loose tea leaves (generally green tea with jasmine), and I do remove those and their strainer after just a couple of minutes of steeping. The aroma is marvelous, and there is no bitter edge.

For Christmas, my husband gave me a tetsubin — a Japanese cast-iron teapot. I haven’t used it yet because I wanted to clear my desk (which has happened with the computer woes) so I could set the teapot there for use. One of the things that I really like about this pot is “soap should not be used to clean an iron teapot. After rinsing the tetsubin cast iron teapot thoroughly with water, it should be wiped dry with a clean cloth. This cleaning method will allow the seasoned mineral coating to remain intact” (from Teavana’s tetsubin page). Yes! I’ve been telling my mother for years that I shouldn’t have to wash my teacups out, and now I have a teapot I can let be. 🙂

I’m looking forward to getting settled back into my office and having the tetsubin (with warmer) nearby for my tea. Meanwhile, I’ve got to go boil some water for my next cup of decaf tea.

N is for nectarines, Netflix, and Nutella

Just because I like them all.

Nectarines. The fruit that most means summer to me, juice dripping down my chin, and none of that fuzziness that can be so irritating with a peach.

Netflix. Wonderful service if you’ve got kids. Being able to stream so many things at a moment’s notice for a monthly fee? And then there’s my husband, who is rewatching several series from when he was growing up. Or the fact that we can now watch the new version of Battlestar Galactica from the beginning.

Nutella. Awesome spread, great on toast or a crêpe, and absolutely delicious stirred into oatmeal. Spreadable chocolate — what more could one want?

If you haven’t already, give them a try.

What random “N” things do you like?

K is for kisses on pretzels

I got this recipe from a friend who includes them in her Christmas cookie repertoire. They’re super easy, and I think they’re very tasty.

  1. Put mini-pretzels on cookie sheet.
  2. Place one unwrapped chocolate kiss on top of each pretzel.
  3. Bake 2-3 minutes at 275. (Chocolate should be squishy.)
  4. Press an M&M into the top of the kiss immediately.
  5. Refrigerate.

B is for blueberries

Blueberries because my kids love them.

Earlier this week, I noticed that I still had some frozen pumpkin to use and decided I’d make pumpkin muffins (with chocolate chips — for the extra antioxidants, of course) today or tomorrow. While I was assembling them this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that I had frozen blueberries, too, so I added a cup of those (dusted with flour to ensure even mixing in the batter). The batter got tinted a rather odd green hue, but when they baked up, the muffins were a normal orange.

And the kids love them, which makes me happy.

How many meals?

If you cook, as I do, you probably spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen. You probably also have a cookbook collection, as well as bookmarks for your favorite sites. I discovered another site to add to my list of favorites: food52.

The “52” in the title refers to the number of weeks in a year, which is related to the contests they run on the site for best recipes in different categories.

To bring together our community, we’re creating a cookbook using the best recipes from food52. We do this by hosting weekly recipe contests: we choose the finalists and post slideshows of us making the recipes; then everyone votes and the winners go into the book. The food52 community will help choose the title, cover design and photos. In 52 weeks we’ll have our first cookbook, published by HarperCollins.

On their about page, food52’s owners talk about the value to the family of cooking your own meals, as well as how it helps with sustainability. The site has everything — lots of recipes, a service (through Twitter) of answering food questions when you find yourself in a pickle (@foodpickle), videos, a store . . . and did I mention the recipes?

I discovered it because my husband pointed out some of their soups to me last week. In the past week, I have made Lentil and Sausage Stew for a Cold Winter’s Night, Smoky Minestrone with Tortellini and Parsley or Basil Pesto, and Three Onion Chowder with Parsleyed Oyster Crackers. Each recipe made plenty — enough for at least two meals for my family, although my kids thought the minestrone needed more tortellini and the lentil and sausage stew needed more sausage. Oh, and the oyster crackers? I multiplied the recipe times four, and we still ran out the second night. Excellent snack.

The recipes aren’t perfect. One called for 2 bay leaves and never said when to add them. Another said to cook something in butter — which wasn’t included in the ingredients list. However, I used the print versions to cook from; it’s possible that corrections were mentioned in comments on the actual pages.

Today, while getting ready to write this blog post, I started browsing the site again, trying to focus on breakfast recipes. Tomorrow morning, I’ll be having the Overnight Miso Porridge, and I think the Crispy Salt and Pepper French Toast is a real possibility for this weekend. Sometime, I might also try the Warm and Nutty Breakfast Couscous, although it’ll be just for me, since the rest of the family doesn’t care much for nuts. I found another couple of stews, a dessert, and — of all things — a cocktail I want to try, too.

I highly recommend this site. My only regret, as it is with many of my cookbooks, is that there are far more recipes than I will ever have time to cook. Check it out, and let me know what recipes you find especially tasty.

If you have another site you think is worth checking out for the recipes, let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.