Category: edibles

Eating as a New Mom

933I’m a mom! My son arrived 7 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU. We brought him home a few days before Christmas and are riding the rollercoaster of parenthood.

The little man loves to eat and isn’t a fan of sleeping – or at least, sleeping without being held. This particular trait is endearing – snuggle bug! But it also makes it challenging to accomplish anything, say, like, prepping or eating food.

My husband is awesome about making ‘real’ meals for dinner, but during the day and after late night feedings, I’m purely snack ‘n grab. This means my eats have included:

  • spoons of peanut butter and hummus
  • bananas
  • cans of green beans and baked beans
  • string cheese
  • Triscuits
  • Cheerios

My mother visited and showed her concern about my lack of balanced diet by adding slices of of butter and extra mayonnaise to everything she prepared for me. It was sweet in that mom way, and also served as a reminder that I need to do a better job of managing healthful eating – for myself, for baby and for successful breastfeeding.

Since her visit, I’ve made a more conscious effort to store leftovers in containers easy to pop in the microwave, stock lunch meats for meat-and-cheese roll-ups, and keep quick proteins like cottage cheese and yogurt on hand. Less butter and mayo necessary.

What other quick, easy and one-handed foods should a new mom consider?

Pickled Peaches

I bought 12 peaches. One molded and attracted a hoard of fruit flies that made me nearly gag. I didn’t want to throw them all away (expensive!), so I stuck them in the freezer to bide my time and kill any remaining flies. That was 5 weeks ago. Here’s my plan: pickled peaches from Saveur. Any tips for a first time pickler?

INGREDIENTS

3½ cups sugar
1½ cups white vinegar
14–16 ripe medium peaches, peeled
8 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1″ piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Bring a canning pot of water to a boil. Submerge 2 one-quart canning jars and their lids and ring bands in boiling water; sterilize equipment for 10 minutes. Remove from boiling water with tongs, draining jars, and transfer to a clean dish towel.

2. Combine sugar, vinegar, and 1½ cups water in a heavy medium-size pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Working in batches slide peaches into the pickling liquid and cook, turning once or twice, until peaches soften but before they turn fuzzy, 4–5 minutes per batch. Transfer peaches to a bowl as done.

3. Divide cloves, cinnamon, and ginger between the 2 jars. Cut any peaches with brown spots into halves or quarters, discarding pits, and trim away the brown spots. Spoon peaches into the jars, filling the gaps with the halves and quarters and packing the jars as tightly as possible.

4. Return pickling liquid to a boil, then pour boiling liquid into each jar, covering peaches and filling jar to 1/4″ from the rims. Let liquid settle in jars, then add more boiling liquid as necessary. Discard any remaining liquid. Wipe jar rims with a clean dish towel, place lids on jars, and screw on ring bands.

5. Transfer filled jars to a canning rack, submerge in a canning pot of gently boiling water (jars should be covered by at least 1″ of water), and process for 10 minutes. Carefully lift jars from water with jar tongs and place on a dish towel at least 1″ apart to let cool undisturbed for 24 hours. To test that jars have properly sealed, press on center of each lid. Remove your finger; if lid stays down, it’s sealed. Refrigerate any jars of pickled peaches that aren’t sealed; use within 4 weeks.

MAKES 2 QUARTS

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Homemade Oatmeal Creme Pies (Take 1)

I’ve decided – for no particular reason – that 2014 is the year of making oatmeal creme pies. I started with this recipe from Cooking Classy, and made a few minor tweaks as a newbie to this realm of cookie sandwiches. I don’t know how they managed to make these in 25 minutes, as it took me 2 hours, but the end result is pretty impressive. And by that I mean that the creme filling made unicorns cry tears of joy. I will never make another frosting again.

In the words of the Birthday Boy & Official Taste-tester, “Seriously, it is so damn good. You nailed it, hun.”

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (unflavored)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 TBS molasses
2 large eggs (or egg product)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract

Marshmallow Buttercream Filling
1/2 cup butter, nearly at room temperature
1/4 cup shortening (unflavored)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
7 oz. marshmallow creme

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, set aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, whip together butter, shortening, sugar and molasses on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stir in eggs, mixing until combine after each addition. Mix in vanilla and almond extract. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until well combined.

2. Scoop dough out about 2 Tbsp at a time and drop on cookie sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Depending on size, you can fit 6-9 per sheet. Bake in preheated oven 10 – 12 minutes. Cookies should still be soft, not fully set – don’t over bake. My oven runs hot so I pulled them out at 9 minutes, since 11 minutes made a batch of crunchy granola bars.

3. Allow to cool several minutes on baking sheet before transferring to wire rack to cool. Cool completely then spread marshmallow buttercream filling along bottom side of one cookie and sandwich to the bottom side of another cookie. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

4. To make the marshmallow buttercream filling:
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer  or hand mixer (not an immersion blender, folks), whip butter and shortening on medium-high speed, until pale and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add powdered sugar and blend on low-speed until combined, then increase speed to medium-high and whip for 1 minutes. Mix in marshmallow creme and taste. Try not to keel over in drooling bliss. 

The cookies are good, but not enough of an improvement over the classic Quaker Oats recipe that I’d say you have to use this recipe.  For Take 2, I’m looking at these Oatmeal Buttercream Pies. Any other recipe suggestions?

Coconut Curry Salmon

After rocking out a bear-sized portion of epic BBQ at the famous Salt Lick BBQ, I wanted some fish this week as a counterbalance. Who would have guessed that Kraft would have a great recipe for coconut curry salmon? Of course, my revisions excluded the one Kraft ingredient, but I give them kudos for inspiration. This took maybe 25 minutes to prepare, resulting in full flavors that belied the quickness of the dish. We gave it 2 thumbs up and decided it’s a keeper recipe!

Ingredients
1 can (13.5 oz.) regular or lite coconut milk
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tsp curry powder, divided – I used yellow but red or green would work too
4 salmon fillets (1 lb.), with skins
Juice from 2 limes
2 tsp oil
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion, cut lengthwise in half, then sliced crosswise
2 TBS chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra lime for garnish

Directions
1. Heat oven to 375ÂşF. If you’re making rice, start that now. TIP: For extra oomph, add a touch of coconut milk,  salt and some sugar to the rice before it cooks. 

2. Blend the coconut milk, cumin, red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp salt and 2 tsp curry powder with immersion blender until smooth. Set aside.

3. Place the fish, skin-sides down, on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Mix lime juice and 1 tsp curry powder; brush onto fish. BAKE 8 to 10 min. or until fish flakes easily with fork.

4. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes and onions; cook 5 minutes. Stir in coconut milk mixture, then taste and season per preferences. We added more heat and curry powder and lime juice at this stage. Cook 5 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently. Stir in cilantro.

Serve the salmon with sauce and jasmine rice. Sprinkle with cilantro and an additional squeeze of lime juice. TIP:

Bangladeshi Pumpkin and Shrimp

As I’ve mentioned before, my book club pairs food themes with our reading materials. For October, we read Max Brooks’  World War Z in honor of Halloween, and since it’s an international tale, our gracious hostess made a plethora of Bangladeshi food. This pumpkin and shrimp dish was everyone’s favorite and we begged for the recipe.
TIP from the hostess and chef: “I am not good at measuring or using recipes. I always just call my mom when I am in doubt.”

Ingredients

1/2 Pumpkin, cut into slices or large cubes (find it in H-mart or any Asian store), seeded
1-2 lbs uncooked Shrimp
3 TBS Vegetable oil

1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/2 tsp Red chili powder
1 tsp Cumin seed paste
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tsp Garlic paste
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp Sugar
Salt
Water

Directions
1. Saute the shrimps in oil in the same pan, then add onion, garlic, ginger and cumin. Stir thoroughly. Then add turmeric powder, chili powder and salt and sugar stir continuously.
2. Pour in 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Add sliced pumpkin and cook on high heat for 20 minutes.
3. Stir everything and put a lid on the pot. Keep cooking for another 5-10 minutes on low heat. Test with a fork to see if pumpkin is soft if it is then it is done. There shouldn’t be much water left.
4. Garnish with fresh cilantro and green chillies. Serve over steaming saffron rice.

My Crack Snack

It’s true that I wax poetic about sublime hummus and frosty pumpkin beer, savory thai  and luscious dark chocolate (72% cacao!). But the one food that I absolutely cannot stop eating once start, the snack attack that leaves me apologizing for eating the whole bag, the crunch that I no longer purchase is…

Soy Sauce Rice Crackers

These are my crack. I say ‘I’ll nosh on a few,’ and then shove handfuls in my mouth. ‘I’ll just put them in the cabinet,’ I convince myself, and then pop 15 more. ‘I really should leave some for the bf,’ I resolve, and then realize that the bag is nearly empty. ‘It would be rude to leave crumbs, so I’ll just finish ’em off for everyone’s good’ I justify. Salty, crunchy, slightly sweet with that umami taste that does.not.stop.

Though I would never try and seduce someone to have a self-discipline fail (Ha! Like every happy hour),  brands that I can vouch for include:

   

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps I just need  to embrace my love of salty foods with a purchase that speaks to the heart of the matter.

5 Minute ‘Pickles’

I sometimes whine about cooking when it’s hot, and I’m clearly not alone. In fact, Cooking Light  ran a piece in their July issue about 5-minute sides along with all sorts of shortcuts to avoid the kitchen. It’s not just me!

I made their recipe for Greek Salad Cucumbers for an impromptu picnic dinner. It’s less like a salad or a side and more like super-fast pickles. And they are awesome: crunchy, salty and satisfying on a sticky evening. Plus they’re apparently quite healthy.

  • 1 English cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise and then crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and swirl around to coat the cucumbers. I misread “red wine vinegar” as “rice vinegar,” only to realize 1/4 tsp of the way through that I was out of rice vinegar. I switched to white vinegar before realizing it actually listed red wine vinegar. And I failed to measure anything. Ya know what? It didn’t matter one bit; they were still delish.

Taste and adjust to preference. The leftover liquid made a nice cracker dip too.