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Leftover-Worthy Lentil Curry

March 30, 2014

Curried Lentils with Spinach

 

I. Do. Not. Like. Beans.

Smother them in sour cream and cheese and…ok.  Maybe.  But just on their own, like in some kind of side dish without hot dogs or, God forbid, in soup?  No.  (A friend puts them in soup with green olives, and I just cannot put my head around this.  I hate it.  And if you’re reading this and it’s you that does it, know that I love you and I think you’re an amazing cook… But I hate this soup.)

So when the top middle girl child suggested Lentil Curry for one of our dinner baskets I thought Oh Geez.  But wanting to be supportive of organizational industry and culinary research, I agreed and we put it in line for a weeknight dinner.

So.  Good.  So good.  Yum.  I ate leftovers for three days (lesson: 1 bag of lentils is enough.)

Lentil Curry

2 cups red (or yellow) lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (or more, to taste) turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (or a little less ground cumin)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 -2 small hot red chili pepper, seeded,and chopped (or you may use dried chile flakes, a pinch or to taste)
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 carrots, finely diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth may be substituted)
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk (optional)
2 -3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (if you like cilantro.  I do not.)Directions:Sort lentils and rinse under cold water.
Place everything except the coconut milk into crockpot, stirring to mix thoroughly.
Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH for 4-5 hours or until vegetables are tender.
Add coconut milk, and cook on HIGH for an additional 20 minutes.

When I serve this I garnish with both sour cream (can’t help it) and salted, sauteed spinach.

Curried Chickpeas

March 26, 2014

Chickpea Curry Chana Masala

My husband eats this, and he hates chickpeas.  My brother in law eats it, too, and he’s a dedicated steak and potatoes man.

The spices in here can be made to suit your taste… I like lots of garlic and adore turmeric, but really want only a hint of cumin.  To me, sour cream is essential to almost everything – but it isn’t vegan, and not everyone likes it.  For a vegan substitution you can use soy based sour cream, which really is almost just as good.  Before you decide that you can’t do this dish because of ingredients, confusion, or whatever, please be sure to read the notes at the end first.

  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots or garlic
  • 1/2 cup minced shallots or 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1 diced or chopped onion, however you like it
  • 2 cups of dried chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup (or a little less) turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbs ginger
  • 1 tbs Paprika
  • 7 cups vegetable stock

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low all day (8 hours-ish)
You may need to add water in the end, but it should be fairly thick.
Add salt and pepper to taste.

NOTES

Turmeric:  You can find this at any grocery store.  We use so much of it that I buy it by the half pound at our local grocery coop.  It’s color is bee-yoo-tiful.

Turmeric is farm-able.  We can grow it here locally in North Carolina, a very orange root that can be sauteed fresh or powdered once dry (this is how you buy it in the grocery store).

The main pharmacological agent in turmeric is thought to be curcumin.  In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects were comparable to hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone, as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin.  Curcumin produces no toxicity.

Curcumin is also effective in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  In a recent study, mice given an inflammatory agent that normally induces colitis were protected when curcumin was added to their diet five days beforehand.  All the signs typical of colitis (mucosal ulceration, thickening of the intestinal wall, and the infiltration of inflammatory cells) were all much reduced in the mice that received the curcumin treatment. While the researchers are not yet sure exactly how curcumin achieves its protective effects, it may be that benefits are the result of not only antioxidant activity, but also inhibition of a major cellular inflammatory agent called NF kappa-B.  Turmeric has been shown to be effective at very low doses – as low as 0.25 percent, the amount in a typical curry dinner.

(Studies can be referenced here.)

Other conditions that may be addressed by turmeric are Rheumatoid arthritis and cancers (including colon, prostate, childhood leukemia, and general progression of existing cancers).  Studies show that the spice may be protective against Alzheimer’s, and greatly assists the liver in clearing LDL cholesterol from the body, which reduces one’s risk of cardiovascular problems.

Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

I do not soak these overnight as many recipes call for – they are just fine placed dry in the crockpot and bathed in broth for 6 or 8 hours.  Also, dried chickpease are superior, in my opinion, in texture to canned, though canned will work just fine.  If you do use canned chickpeas, you can put this recipe together in a deep pan, stovetop, in about 20 minutes.  Just be sure to brown the onions and garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients.

And speaking of other ingredients…

I very often put carrots in this recipe, either grated or in chunks.  I also add potatoes, sweet or white, and have put the whole thing over chicken.  It goes very well over rice or quinoa, though it isn’t necessary, and I use soy or regular sour cream to garnish.

Gumbo Stuffed Flounder over Grits with Sauteed Kale

February 27, 2014

Gumbo stuffed flouynder Kale

My dinner peeps told me they’d like stuffed flounder for dinner.  It’s a dish that seems very 1988 to me…heavy, very olden days upscale restaurant-y when done right, and extremely irritating when done wrong.  I used to live very near the Chesapeake Bay, and then coastal New England – so I also have an aversion to inland seafood.  I settle for frozen.  We’re west of Raleigh, North Carolina, now and though our Asian market can be trusted for fresh fish (in fact it’s, still alive and in the tank…), I typically do not do seafood.

One time as I journeyed through Pennsylvania near the Mt. Joy area I stopped at the Amish Safood House.  The paradox of the name didn’t dawn on me.  I ordered the stuffed flounder and it – and everything else – was covered in “Imperial Sauce,” a reconstituted concoction that approximated Hollandaise in color, and a thick rug in texture and ability to hide multiple sins underneath (like their version of stuffed flounder…)

BUT my family jumped around and cried for stuffed flounder (and Working Girl and Forenza shaker knit sweaters), so I obliged.

I had shrimp on hand, and beer brats.  So I made a sort of stock-less gumbo, took out the okra (my kids still won’t eat things with okra, unless it’s just the okra, right out of the garden) and added corn,  because they love corn and earlier the little one cried because we weren’t having spaghetti and meatballs (which I never, ever cook because I hate the dish altogether).  Corn just seemed like the natural solution to that.  I pan roasted the corn for a few minutes in my grandmother’s cast iron, which I do just because it pleases me.  I also poured a glass of wine at this point, even though it was only about 4 pm.  In my defense it was Saturday.

I used kale as a side dish – it’s something I’ve learned to like, and I think I’m on my way to love.  Cut into strips and sauteed with ample garlic and olive oil, then dressed with sea salt and good balsamic vinegar, it’s heaven.

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The olive oil I use isn’t fancy, but I love it.  It comes from California Olive Ranch, and has a Harvest Date right on the back.  Olive oil sometimes sits around for months or YEARS in warehouses awaiting shipment overseas, which compromises the quality hugely.  I love this stuff, and it’s always fresh.  Also, if you catch the bottle out of the corner of your eye it looks like you have Jägermeister sitting on the counter.

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Grits.  Sigh. Can we make grits another post?  I get hate mail at my dinner table over grits.  And love letters.  The kids like Gigi’s grits.  My brother in law likes mine.  Husband will eat mine, but he eats anything.  The older kids hate them, but drowning them in hot sauce helps.  So clearly I don’t have the answers here… Talk to Paula Deen, maybe, I imagine she sauces up some pretty good grits.  For mine, I make them like the directions say, then add butter and cream.  And cheese.  Bacon if I have some (seems like too much, really, here…but go for it if you want.)

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion, diced, including the top of you have it
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 T olive oil
  • About a pound of sausage, you choose
  • 1 sleeve saltines, crushed
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 T parsley
  • 1 pound shrimp (chop roughly if very large)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste – about 1/2 tsp of each
  • 1tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 or 4 spoons of mayo
  • 1/2 cup corn, pan roasted (or not)
  • 1 glass of wine
  • pretzels
  • honey mustard sauce

The last three items are strictly for me to eat while I cook.

Brown the sausage (cook through) in the pan.   Reserve fat in the pan.  Remove sausage, cool, then chop roughly.  Brown the onions and garlic in the same pan, same fat.  For the last 2-3 minutes, add the shrimp and cook through until just firm.

After everything is cooled somewhat, mix with remaining ingredients in the same bowl.  Cut a slice in the flounder and form the mix into an inside-the-fist sized ball, then place inside the flounder (as best you can.  I found that I ended up placing the filling on the flounder and kind of covering it half-assed with the flap of fish I had cut on the top.

Cook covered in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then uncover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.  I have a broiler that will go to a low broil temperature, and that’s what I used.

Paying for College is Cake

November 5, 2013

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Jake’s Sour Patch Cheesecake.  They’re inside!

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We’re staring down the barrel at a whole lot of college book and tuition money if everyone who’s supposed to do what they’re supposed to do does it.  And they will.  And… Yay!  And yikes, a little.

I had an idea the other week, and it’s been taking shape and things have been falling into place.  Which is how I found myself at the grocery store in the candy aisle where I never go because I have small children, and if small children are with you in the store in the candy aisle things get very crazy very fast.

Today, though, I grabbed a bag of Sour Patch kids.  I thought my four year old would melt out of the cart in a puddle of happiness and disbelief.  She clapped her hands and reached for them.  “They’re for the cheesecake,” I told her.  Her eyes rolled back into her head and she collapsed into the bottom of the shopping cart.  Emma loves cheesecake.  Candy was apparently the only thing missing.  Image

I went on a bender of cheesecake baking about a year ago, just after the holidays.  My first attempt was implausibly perfect, a restaurant quality feat of custard and crust that begged to be eaten in one sitting.

The next 5 or 6 were terrible.  They blew up, they got wet, they resembled pudding.  I hadn’t taken a picture of my first success, and began to wonder if it was a trick of my mind, wishful thinking powerful enough to manufacture desserts like one of those 3-D printers.

Flash forward to fall of 2013 and it’s a cheesecake-athon in my kitchen at all possible times.  Today, right after I left the candy aisle, I bought out the store of 3 packs of cream cheese.  I bought a 5 pound tub of sour cream.  Eggs (since our chickens can’t be bothered), and bottles of vanilla.  The four year old sat in the cart, covered in dairy and Sour Patch Kids, playing with my iPhone.

Our extended family community has 2 in college currently, and 3 more who will be.  They are the fabulous of the fabulous kids, conscientious and hard working, and all of them are contributing to their education.  We are blessed.  We were thrilled when two received scholarships, a third went to work for FEMA to earn an education award, and another is tackling all of the jobs 24 hours can hold in order to save money.

Still, there are books and activities and other stuff – endless stuff – that just makes this time cost more than anyone thinks possible.

Which brings me to the SoImageur Patch Kids.  I’ve been asked if I would sell so-and-so a cheesecake or donate a cheesecake so often in the past few months that finally I did it.     Samples have gone out and orders are coming in and I’m in no way prepared…everyone is going to have to learn to make cheesecake, I fear.  My nephew’s was first, mostly because I thought the result would be beautiful and unusual and appealing.

And that’s why I’m in the candy aisle.

Emma’s happy.  I’ve sampled so much that I feel like I may need some blood work done in the near future.  I’ve started juicing again to combat my surely climbing sugar levels.

Look for us soon at http://www.universitycheesecake.com

Tiny House News has Moved.

July 22, 2013

I’m feeling eclipsed by all of this blog technology.  Seems like we need to have dedicated space now, since we’ve made the firm official and all, and are heading for our General Contractor’s license this fall.  Welcome to the world Carolina House Company.  Maybe we’ll share the same birthday as the Prince or Princess of Cambridge.  That’d be cool.  One day we can be King.

Anyhow, we’ve moved all of our cool small house stuff to a new blog location.  We’ve made alot of progress on the thing, between the brotherly brawls and rain that would not, never, ever stop.  Our coffee’s not good enough for us to be in the Pacific Northwest – but the weather is perfect for such a thing.

Find us now at http://earthiseasy.wordpress.com/

Carolina House Company.  Tight spaces.  Big places.

Free TaTas

July 1, 2013

If she’ll eat it, I’m happy.  The kids call it “supper pizza,” and no matter what vegetables I put in it they scarf it down and ask for more.

Georgia frittata

About this time of year I use Goosefoot alot.  People here in North Carolina tend to call it Lambsquarter.  It’s a straight up weed, and you probably have it growing in your yard, or your alley, or on the side of your road.  The thing about weeds is that they haven’t been coddled and fed and babied for eight thousand years, so they can hold their own without alot of watering and feeding.

Goosefoot grows high – mine are up to 7 or 8 feet if I let them.  Lambs-QuartersThe leaves are the shape of a goose’s foot and are a powdery green.  I harvest them all spring and summer.  The leaves are best raw when the plants are small, but the new leaves on older plants are also good in salad and on sandwiches.  I use the older leaves chopped and cooked in quiche, lasagna, soup, eggs, and frittata.  The leaves of this awesome plants are the second most nutritious you can eat – only Amaranth is more nutritious.  It has a taste like spinach with a nutty finish that reminds me of its close cousin grain, quinoa.

I had an Italian boyfriend once who cooked frittata constantly.  He always used rice in the bottom of the iron pan, then covered it with fish or chicken or sausage and a handful of vegetables, followed by egg.  I thought it was the most exotic thing I’d ever tasted, straight from Italy for sure.  Back then, though, I thought the town of Bayonne, NJ where he lived was exotic, too.  I didn’t realize that frittata  is a rustic mélange of everything left over from last night covered with egg, and is really, really simple.  You don’t really need the rice, but I like how it looks and the texture it leaves.  You can also use pasta in place of the rice, or potatoes, or nothing at all.

Fritatta is also fairly flat.  I thought in the beginning it should be the thickness of a quiche, but not so – 1/2 and inch seems about right depending on your ingredients.  Once your mixture is laid out in your pan the pan is cooked slowly – for up to 15 minutes – over low heat until the bottom and sides are crispy and set and the middle is still soft.  Then it’s finished with overhead heat (I use the broiler).

We took these to a weekly dinner last night and they were a hit even with the 4 and 6 year old.  My friend’s husband liked them okay, and loved yelling Free Tatas!  Free Tatas! as he served.  Whatever it takes.

For the first recipe, if you can’t find Goosefoot (then you aren’t trying), you can use spinach or kale.

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Really you can put almost anything into a frittata.  The mixture should be wet but not runny, enough egg that it will hold everything together – but no one wants egg pie.  I also did one with green peppers, tomato, and basil:

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As my niece says:  What’s the point of cooking if you can’t take pictures of the food?

You Need:

2 cups cooked rice or pasta (or not)

4-5 eggs

3/4 cup chopped Goosefoot, sauteed

2 sweet potatoes, cubed and cooked

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Herbs – basil, thyme, sage, etc.  Whatever you have in the garden.  If you have no herbs in the garden then c’est la vie.

salt and pepper

Olive oil

Beat the eggs in a bowl with salt and pepper.  Add all of the other ingredients and stir.  Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in your cast iron pan and wait for it to get hot.  Once it’s good and dangerous, scoop your mixture into the pan and spread it out toward the sides.  This volume of mixture will make just about 2 frittatas in a 10 inch pan.  If it doesn’t reach all the way to the side don’t worry – it will still cook and be delicious.  Maker sure that your heat is on low, and don’t rush things.  When the sides and bottom are set, transfer the pan into your oven and broil until the top is set and bubbly/browned.

Tiny House: Plans and Supplies

July 1, 2013

Greg Electrical

Everyone always knows when we’re in the Habitat ReStore in the middle of the town where we live.  We’re ear shatteringly loud.  We argue.  Jeer at one another from across the room.  The boys toss serrated pieces of metal back and forth over the heads of other customers.  But they keep letting us in and know us by name.

Today we were looking for joist hangers and number 12 nailgun nails.  The nails were a no go, but we found the hangers and got a terrific deal on them.   The ReStore beats Lowe’s and Home Depot all to hell.

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It’s at checkout that we get slowed down.  There’s always someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, and Bob is very happy to explain it to them.  He’s super knowledgeable, and if they leave a little more confused than when they walked in, well… that’s the price of learning.

We adjusted the floorplan and agreed (I think) on the first floor layout.  I’ll leave it to the Engineer to draw it to scale.  They’re lucky I stuck to pencil and didn’t cover the paper in crayon and stickers.

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We needed a 220 outlet for equipment, and since there was a monsoon outside for most of the day, Greg spent some time in the barn handling the wiring.  Electricians really should be the ones with a God complex, if anyone should.  Let There Be Light and all that.  God just made the sun shine…I’ve got lights and power in a barn.

Well don’t that just beat all, as my Grandmommy would say.

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