Monday, November 20, 2017

Not...so...fast!

Okay, so that whole "a post a day for the whole month" in the spirit of being a rebel participant in NaNoWriMo didn't happen, but I've got a ton of topics at the ready to post. Now I just have to write them. ;-)

So I didn't post every day for a month. 

Who cares.

I've written more this month so far than I have in years and, frankly, that's worth it to me. 

With that, I plan on taking a bunch of pictures over the next few days to document our Thanksgiving get together. I'll share those and the related recipes or food musings as I'm able.

Eat up. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Prepping to host Thanksmas

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I are hosting my family from Brooklyn. We'll have my parents (who will be staying at a nearby hotel), my sister, brother-in-law, and two nephews. All of us, and our two-and-a-half year old will be gathered around our dining room table feasting and talking about the things for which we are thankful.

There will be excess. Lord knows there will be excess. As my 5 year old nephew has said in the past, "OOF." Below is our menu:

  • Ham
  • Turkey (protein for one of my nephews who doesn't like ham)
  • Dressing/Stuffing
  • Mashed potato casserole
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Baked beans
  • Crescent rolls 
  • Spinach salad
  • Buttermilk pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Pumpkin Chiffon pie
  • Chocolate Icebox pie
On the list of things I'm thankful for, the first one is that I'm not trying to cook all of this. In truth, I'm cooking very little of this! We have ordered the ham, turkey, dressing, beans, and mashed potatoes from Texas Honey Ham. It's been a couple years since we last hosted, and we ordered from them the last time - it was delicious. So why change things up? 

I can't have Thanksgiving without sweet potato casserole, so that's why I'm making that. (There will be another post about the very divisive issue of sweet potatoes soon.) I don't like turkey (unless it's ground), so the ham from Texas Honey Ham is an awesome option. It's so good. But one of my nephews doesn't like ham (my husband remembered that from previous years), so hubby ordered a pound of turkey. Definitely more than just my 9-year-old nephew are going to get to munch on that. If I remember correctly, I was wild for their dressing, and I don't typically like dressing, so there's that. 

We've ordered the buttermilk and chocolate pies, and I'll be making the two other pies (with help from my mother, a seasoned pie maker). One is my husband's mother's pecan pie recipe (very similar to the one my mother used to make), and the other is one of my favorite recipes my mom pretty much always made. You buy canned pumpkin and add your own spices. It's a lot better, in my opinion, than the pumpkin pie filling you can just plop in a pie shell. 

We were going to make rolls, but I thought...hmmm...I'd rather just open up a tube of crescent rolls than miss more time with the family. Plus, my 9 year old nephew loves the things, so double-win!

I will assign someone to make the spinach salad, but it's going to have some sort of cheese (goat or feta), strawberries (if we can find some that look good), almond slivers, and a raspberry vinaigrette. 

Basically, the only things we actually have to cook are one pie crust, boil sweet potatoes, cook the pecan pie, and cook the rolls. Everything else is just going to be warmed up. And all of the cooking (save for the rolls) can and should be done ahead of time. So, all in all, I'm feeling pretty good about it.

As for breakfast? We're going to whip up a double-batch of my quinoa cereal, which is likely to please everyone. My nephews might prefer the Life cereal we're also buying, but my son loves quinoa cereal, so hopefully he'll eat his fair share (this kid can put away food!).

Lunch? Grab snacks from the fridge as needed. Hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, celery, carrots, and maybe some yogurt. We're having Thanksgiving dinner around 4pm, so no need to load up. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Instant Pot Quinoa "Cereal"

"You KNOW I only like the squares!"
Ever since my 2 year old first discovered cereal, he's been intrigued. In his defense, it was Cinnamon Life. Everybody knows how tasty that stuff is.

My father loves it. My nephews call it Life Squares and at one point would only accept full squares and express extreme displeasure if he was given a bowl of broken pieces.(There was a meltdown where, "you know I only like the squares!" was exclaimed by one of my nephews.)

I love the stuff too. I'd eat it every morning, if that were healthy. But it's not. So, we look to other options.


quinoa after being
cooked and stirred
Recently, I decided to try a recipe in my beloved Instant Pot. And, spoiler alert. It's a keeper for sure. My almost 2.5 year old loves "quinoa cereal." So that's a win right there.

I followed this recipe from Pressure Cooking Today (yes, that's a real website) pretty much to a T the first time I made it, and, it turned out pretty well. But it needed more umph. So, I amped things up for my second attempt by doubling most of the flavorings and adjusting some of the instructions. I also shifted the instructions to be specific to the Instant Pot. Below is the resulting recipe.

This time around, the result was more flavorful, but definitely wasn't too sweet. It was a great improvement on something that was already pretty dern tasty to begin with.

Instant Pot Breakfast Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, well-rinsed
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup (real maple syrup is best)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Optional (read: recommended) toppings:
    • milk
    • pecans
    • fresh berries
the fixins
Directions:
  1. Put your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer/sieve. Rinse the quinoa thoroughly.
  2. Add quinoa, water, maple syrup, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt to the Instant Pot
  3. Press "Manual" and make sure it is on high pressure. Adjust the time to 2 minutes (yes, you read that right...just one minute).
  4. When the beep sounds, turn the Instant Pot off completely, and wait 10 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure through the Quick Release valve.
  5. During these ten minutes:
    1. Heat up the milk in a sauce pan on low
    2. Toast the pecans on medium heat (put them in a pan with no fat - they've got enough fat in them). The key to toasting pecans is to move them around a lot (including flipping them) and not let one part of the nut get burned. 
  6. When the Instant Pot is done releasing pressure, open the Instant Pot away from your face. 
  7. Stir the quinoa with a fork to make sure that all flavors are fully distributed and to fluff up the quinoa grains.
  8. Put quinoa in a bowl, pour some milk over the bowl (the amount is purely up to you), add some toasted pecans, and toss in some fresh berries (I'm partial to blueberries). 
  9. Enjoy

Friday, November 03, 2017

Chickory? Not for me.

I know chicory coffee has a bit of a cult following. (Can you call it a cult when it is so big? Probably so. Ask Leah Remini.) But I've never been a huge fan.

If I'm being honest, the coffee I like is what we call "deli coffee" in NYC. Usually picked up with a bagel from a coffee cart or your local bodega, the stuff is probably culinarily related to Bud Light (which I also like, but that's a post for another day) in that it's pretty devote of actual personality. And it's supposed to come in a cup with a Greek key on it saying, "We are happy to serve you." (at least back in the 80s it did)

That's my kind of coffee.

I have, however, recently been sucked into the Starbucks frenzy due to the app I can have on my phone and refill with the touch of a button. With a young child, I fall into the stereotype demographic of the mom in the mini van not wanting to wake her kid to get out of her car only to replace the child in the car seat moments later. So, I use the drive through. Yes. Don't judge. (If it is a small bit of solace, I also walk/run two miles to another Starbucks from time to time and get myself a treat. That's a little more than a four mile loop. So there.)

But their coffee is way to dark for me. Over roasted? I don't know. Burnt? I don't think so, because I tasted that back when I worked at a diner and we left the pot on the heat too long. It's just too intense. So I fill it with all manner of things. In an ideal world, I'd have a venti s'mores frappuccino. Thankfully, since that's about a week's worth of calories in a cup, it's a seasonal thing. (Bad news, that season is upon us.) My second choice is a sugar-free peppermint mocha. (Side note, they only have sugar-free peppermint ay the holidays...and my local Starbucks just told me they might not get it at all...WHAT?!?) A sugar free vanilla latte is also decent.

Anway, what sparked this topic was the recent post by Upworthy in partnership with the New Orleans Tourism board about the history of NoLa coffee. The story is pretty interesting, to be honest. I didn't realize that Europe originally got coffee through Turkish slaves. I knew it wasn't naive to Europe, but I didn't know about the slaves. (I guess if I had thought long enough about Turkish coffee I would have had an inkling.

The chicory was added in to sort of an effort to essentially extend the life of three coffee supplies. Chicory's popularity continued and became synonomous with coffee in New Orleans. Some folks just use just chicory and no coffee.

I'm still not a fan.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Creepy Eats

Now that I've rebooted this blog, I've been thinking a lot about how food is represented in our lives. Not in advertising (there will be another post on that), but how it's shown in our entertainment (movies and TV in particular).

Then, that got me thinking, what about horror movies? (It's just November 2nd, so cut me some slack.)

Disclaimer: I'm a complete wimp when it comes to horror. Randomly, I like a very small handful of horror movies (the original Carrie and Silence of the Lambs are both awesome), but pretty much outside of that, I'm not a fan. I've got a remarkably active sense of imagination, so just the smallest hint, and my brain takes that and runs. I've liked some scarier TV shows like Preacher and The Following, but there's always one scene that freaks my break out too far, and I have to stop watching. I saw Jaws one afternoon in the spring when I was a teenager, and I refused to swim in the lake at camp in Maine the following summer.

Yes, I realize that's illogical, but what can I say.

All that being said, my college friend actually has a horror blog called Overthinking Horror Films and she recently started a related podcast called Ambient Light. For her podcast, Angi asks people to submit questions about horror films and she responds to them on the podcast. She's got two episodes out there already, and my question about "what should I watch if I'm a wuss" is featured in Episode 1.

Another question also in Episode 1 struck me as particularly interesting, original, and creative. Basically, it asked about food in horror movies. A bit of background, Angi and I were Art History majors, so symbolism is kind of our bag, so this question was a fun one for Angi to consider. She had some really interesting thoughts about a couple films and the food that is used as representations of certain themes in those movies. Just think...lamb.

I won't spoil by telling you what she shares in the episode, because I really think you should go listen to it. Check out her posts at Overthinking Horror Films and then listen to her Ambient Light podcast by clicking on the link at the top of the page. If you have a question you'd like her to answer on a future podcast, you can submit through that link as well.