Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Kalach

My Mom, being a good sport, taught me how to make kalach, or kolach, the traditional Ukrainian Christmas bread this weekend. The recipe is my Baba's. Traditionally, this bread is braided into a ring. This ring has some special symbolism. But we just make boules - there are enough things to do at Christmas already.
Kalach is part of the traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve meal of 12 meatless dishes. My family celebrates Christmas on Christmas day and usually eat this bread for breakfast.

The dried cranberries are not traditional, but my Mom thought they would be a good idea to try out. The recipe makes four loaves. My mother has an exceptionally large bowl to make this in - it is about twice the size of a regular mixing bowl.

Christmas Kalach
To proof the yeast:
4 packages or 10 tsps of yeast,
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup

For the sponge:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour

Everything else:
1 cup sugar
1 cup melted butter
2 tsp vanilla
zest of one lemon
zest of one orange
juice of one orange
7-8 cups flour

1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Proof the yeast by dissolving the sugar in the water and adding the yeast. Let the yeast dissolve for about 10mins.
2. Warm the milk. Add to dissolved yeast with 1 cup of flour. Let rest for 45mins in a warm place. My parents keep there house very cool, so my mother turned the oven on for a few minutes to warm it up and then turned off the oven and let the sponge rise in there. The sponge is done when it is full of holes. According to my mom it should look like a sponge; thus, the name. See the picture below.
3. Once the sponge is spongy, in a separate bowl beat the eggs and yolk together, along with the salt. Add the remaining sugar gradually. Then add the melted butter, vanilla, zest and orange juice.
Add the egg mixture to the sponge, then mix in the remaining flour one cup at a time. My mom says the dough will be very soft. I found it very sticky. Knead the dough for 10mins. My mom's tip for kneading the dough is to keep flouring your hands. Once the dough has been kneaded I mixed in the raisins and cranberries.
4. Let the dough rise for about an hour and punch it down. Let rise again and form into four balls. Let the balls rise until double in size.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cook for 15mins. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Then bake at 300F for 45mins. The bread is done when it sounds hollow if you tap the bottom.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday Night Chicken

I've been wanting to make a roast chicken for a while. I pre-salted Zuni style, you can read the Zuni Roast chicken recipe here. My Mom has made this roast chicken many times and is the most requested birthday meal by my brothers and me. I salted it the day before I made it, as well as stuffing thyme and sage under the skin. The salting makes the chicken very moist. I think it works the same way as brining a turkey. The herbs under the skin make the breast meat very flavourful.

After consultation with my Mom, I decided to cook it at 375, instead of 450. She says the chicken smokes a lot if you cook it at 450 and the oven is a mess afterwards. She also thought my whole apt would smell like chicken.
I didn't have a roasting pan. But I was very clever and make a rack out the carrots - okay, I saw it on tv. It took about 1.5 hours to cook. Off to the side are some simple roast potatoes with thyme.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Delicious - and Easy - Mushroon Sauce

This is almost too easy to post. But it was so delicious. I served it as sauce to go with some simple roasted chicken breasts and some egg noodles.

Mushroom Sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used a canola-olive oil blend)
1.5 cups of sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp flour
1/2 chicken stock
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

1. Fry mushrooms in oil until they get start releasing moisture.
2. Add flour and cook for another 2 mins.
3. Add chicken stock and thyme and reduce. (Basically, boil it a bit until it doesn't seem to soupy.) Taste sauce and add salt and pepper as you like.

I found that since the chicken stock is pretty salty already and I reduced it I had to add hardly any salt.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More bread

I mixed things up with the no-knead bread this weekend. I used 2 cups all purpose flour and 1 cup whole wheat. I found I had to use less water - about 1 1/4 cups - and that my boule was also smaller.

My technique has been to mix the dough with my hands and add the first cup of water all at once. I then add the remaining 1/2 cup of water gradually, until I get the consistency from the video. This is how I figured out how much water to use for the whole wheat loaf.

And, just because I think this one turned out super pretty:

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Cuboards are Bare!

I was thinking so much about Paul's birthday dinner that kind of forgot I had to eat for the rest of the week too. On Tuesday I discovered I had zero fresh vegetables. I had two options: peanut butter sandwiches for the rest of the week, or I could get creative. I poked around the cupboard and found I had a can of white kidney beans and a can of tuna. I little googling came up with a recipe for White Bean Tuna Salad. I decided to use the recipe as a rough template.

But I cheated a bit and got a few more supplies. On my way home from school, I stopped at Whole foods on my way home and pick up some veggies, and a bagel: total cost $4.24. If you are careful, Whole Foods can fit on the grad school budget. And it has the nicest produce walking distance from my house.

Tuna White Bean Salad

2 tbsp finely chopped onion
19oz can white kidney beans
170g can of tuna
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper

handful of baby spinach

1. Place onion, and beans in a small bowl. Break up tuna coarsely with your hands and add to beans.
2. Mix lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, sugar, olive oil, and basil (I like to do this in a measuring cup) . Pour dressing over beans and tuna. I let this sit overnight to let the beans absorb some of the flavour of the dressing. Otherwise beans are a little dreadful.
3. To serve I mixed half of the salad with a handful of spinach.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Bake Off

The word on the internet is that holiday cookies are not the thing. The thing is home made pickles. Well, that's not how I roll. I love making holiday cookies. But I like it to be easy, because it's a busy time of year. Last year I was burned: I made type of cookie for gifts I had never tried before and they turned out dry, crumbly and tasteless.

This year I am baking what worked last year and was easy. I have a chocolate cookie and a butter pecan cookie from an ice-box cookie recipe. But two types of cookies is just not enough. I wanted something citrus. On Martha's website, I found Lemon-Currant Cookies. To make it a little more seasonal I used orange zest and dried cranberries. This was easy and delicious. I am freezing 1/2 the dough to see how well it freezes.

Orange-Cranberry Cookies

Follow the above recipe swapping:

1 tbsp orange zest for the lemon zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries for the currants
And add 1 tbsp vanilla with the sour cream and egg.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Birthday Paul

Last Friday was a special day. To celebrate Paul's birthday I made him a special meal.

The cooking festivies started Thursday. I made a chocolate bundt cake, from the recipe in the current Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking magazine.
The cake was fairly easy - but took a while to make - probably because I making it during the commercials in Ugly Betty. I had only two small problems when making the cake. They suggested painting on a mixture of cocoa powder and butter to grease the pan. I had no pastry brush and tried to do this with wax paper. Let's just say there's a reason they say to use a pastry brush. Also, I had to cook the cake another 15 mins. But the instructions on how to test the cake were very clear. Overall I have been really impressed with the recipes I have tried from Cook's Illustrated. The recipe is a keeper and would be good for a large party. I took the leftovers to my family.

To go with the cake I made mocha whipped cream. I modified this recipe.

Mocha Whipped Cream

1 cup whipping cream
3 oz bittersweet (or semi-sweet) chocolate, chopped finely
1 tbsp instant coffee

1. Place chocolate and instant coffee in a small heat proof bowl. (If you don't like doing dishes, use a bowl large enough to whip the cream in later.)
2. Warm cream in a sauce pan until it is close to a boil.
3. Pour cream over chocolate. Let sit 5 mins then stir until mixture is homogeneous.

I let the chocolate cream mixture cool over night and then prepared it the way I would prepare regular whipped cream by beating it and adding about two tsp of sugar.

For the non-dessert potion of the meal I made something I saw on the cooking channel - and lamely, I made the whole menu. Well, not exactly, I made boilled potatos instead of mashed because Paul like boiled potatos better. I don't get it. Additionally, the snow peas and the green beans looked yucky at the supermarket so I got brocolli instead. I steamed the brocolli and tossed it with sesame oil - it was okay, but not something I will do again.

Now, the ribs. You may notice the recipe uses "good ale". I have never purchased beer, so aquiring this "good ale" was somewhat of an adventure. However, the LCBO near my house stocks the brand recommended and besides a sligh mishap when I enquired about getting a leaver to open the bottle the ale was purchased without incident.

Next step, buy the ribs. I had a hazy idea on what beef ribs were - but I wasn't expecting this.
However, they turned out very tender. The recipe was time consuming but easy. I might reduce the sauce a little next time.

Overall, it was a fun night.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Look what I found last week in the supermarket!

I quickly did the math. About one litre (0.9L) of chicken stock is about $2.30 at my supermarket. This chicken was practically the same price! All I needed to do was get at least 0.9L of stock and I would be saving money. This chicken ended up yielding 6 cups of stock. (For those of you who aren't algebra TA's, I come out ahead.) Plus I saved some leeks tops from my leek and potato soup and used those too. I feel so thrifty.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


The two readers of this blog who do not know me in real life may be unaware of the fact that, well, I love jam. I started writing about my kitchen experiments after the great jam making of summer 2006 and thus you missed out of the heady days of jam experimentation and jar boiling.

So, when my parents went to Europe this fall, they of course brought me jam as a present. (It is delicious, natch.) Since then, I have been looking for inventive jam vectors - things that can be used to convey jam to ones mouth. When I came across this post for popovers by Orangette, I knew I would have to try it.

Overall, the popovers were shorter than expected and not full of large holes. But they were delicious with my pear, black currant and violet jam. I find the violet taste is overwhelmed by most breads, but I think I could still taste it with the popovers. I think I will be having some more experiments with popovers.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Everybody's doing it

As soon as I saw the "no-knead bread" recipe I knew I was going to try it. It was easy, it seemed like a science experiment and required a dutch oven - all my favourite things. Plus there was a video showing how to do it.

So far two food blogs I read had tried it. The Wednesday Chef has a very good article on it. My mother, who is living the high life and gets a paper version of the New York Times, also mentioned it to me. I won't repeat the recipe here: you can download it from one of the above links. Instead I am going to list the ingredients and tell you about my experiences.

1 5/8 cups water
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt

Nothing too fancy

I made the dough last night. The recipe calls for 1 5/8 cups (5/8 is a little more than 1/2 a cup). The Wednesday Chef said her dough was too sticky, so I started by using 1 1/2 cups water and my dough was too dry and wouldn't come together. So I added some more water, not quite 1/4 cup. I think if you are making this, you should start with 1 1/2 cups and then add more water as needed.

Below is a photo of my dough, you can see it's ugly mess. But I didn't worry, it looked like that in the video too.

I let the dough rise overnight and all day while I was at school. When I came home it was dotted with bubbles, just as the recipe said it would be. It was very difficult to get it out of the bowl, it was sticky and I had to pour and pry it out - but again, I did not worry, it looked like that in the video too.

Next I folded it up like a dough envelope and let it sit. In the photo below you can see the fold at the bottom, and the dough dusted with cornmeal.

The bread is baked in a preheated pot, with the cover on for the first 30mins. I was worried that it would be stuck to the bottom of my dutch oven. But it popped right out. And it looked awesome.
And the taste was also excellent. Paul threatened to eat nothing but bread for dinner.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Chicken Pot Pie, Reworked

I really like chicken pie. When I was watching the Barefoot Contessa the other day she made hers with only the top crust. She suggested if you don't like making pastry you should use store bought puff pastry. I find homemade pastry is too much work for every day meals, and store bought puff pastry is not in the grad school budget. Instead, in a flash of either insight or laziness I made my chicken pot pie with zero crusts and served it over noodles. (I got the idea from turkey tetrazzini my mother made once.) It was good like this, but I missed the crunch. I ate the leftovers on top of toast. Also, the recipe is a little bland. Next time I will add garlic and thyme.

My first step was to scoot over to, hoping that the Barefoot Contessa recipe was still up. The Barefood Contessa's recipes are only posted for a limited time on the web after the show has been broadcast in America - I presume this is so you buy the books. If you happen to live in Canada, it is not a very convenient situation.

My next step was to scale down the recipe. Six chicken breasts is too much food for two people, and, well, six chicken breasts are out of the grad school budget.

The original recipe recommends home made chicken stock. In fact, I recommend cooking the chicken the day before and then making chicken stock with the bones and whatever other odds and ends you have in your freezer. This way the 3 cups of stock required for my scaled back recipe have no additional cost: total savings $1; deliciousness increase, very high.

After all my modifications, here is the process I followed.

Friday Night: Roast Chicken Breasts

2 chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Cover chicken breaks with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 45mins.

Saturday Morning: Make Chicken Stock

2 roasted chicken breasts
1/2 large carrot coarsely chopped
1/2 onion coarsely chopped
bay leaf

1. Remove skin and bones from chicken breast. Reserve meat.
2. Cover skin bone, carrot, onion and bay leaf with water (I had to use about four cups) and follow your favourite stock making procedure.

Saturday Night: Chicken Pot Pie Rework

meat from two chicken breasts
3 tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
3 cups chicken stock
1.5 onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup frozen peas
6 sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup whipping cream

1. Melt butter in a dutch oven and add onions. Cook until translucent. While you are doing this steam the carrots until they are almost as soft as you like.
2. Add flour. Cook one minute.
3. Add stock. If you do this a bit at time it is easier to keep the sauce smooth. Add carrots, mushrooms, and peas and bring to a simmer for about 10 mins.
4. Add cream and salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ice-Cream: Five Kinds

One of Paul's coworkers, Yannick, is a dessert fiend. He runs a spiffy little site about where to get desserts in Toronto: Yummy Baguette. All summer, Paul has been raving about the delicious ice-creams Yannick brought into the office for the coffee club at his office to try.

Today Yannick had a few select coffee club members, and their girlfriends, over for ice-cream. We had (along with some crackers and cheese)
- white wine - yellow kiwi sorbet
- raspberry-rose ice cream
- chocolate gelato with a hint of rosemary
- chestnut-rum gelato
- poached apple ice cream topped with poaching red wine sorbet

I liked the raspberry-rose and the chocolate best. Some of the recipes are up on his site. All and all, a delicious and nutritious dinner.

Update: Yannick has a page on his Yummy Baguette site for gourmet ice-cream recipes and a separate site for recettes de glaces (ice-cream recipes in French). I am going to assume that the recipes in French are much better - as that tends to be the way of French things.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Back for more

After the squash challenge, I went back to some old favourites: creamy tomato shrimp pasta, quiche with a hash brown crust, and one night Paul ran the show and made breaded chicken and potatoes, all easy-peasy quick things, safe stand-by meals.

But I was ready to get back to experimenting. And I was ready to take on my nemesis squash again. This time things would be different. This time I would make soup. For several reasons, first it's pretty hard to screw up, and second, I like to make soup for my Dooda, my grandfather, and I will be seeing him later this weekend.

I started my squash rematch with the pregame chicken stock production. If you are playing "laura dot cooks, the home game", you may wish to skip this step. But I had a couple of frozen barbecue chicken carcasses in my freezer. Sometimes, Paul and I have one of the supermarket barbecue chickens with homemade garlic bread for dinner if we are feeling lazy. By the second day I am usually sick of chicken sandwiches, but there is usually some meat left on the bones, so I just freeze them. Thus, I have essentially free bones to use to make stock. And free food is always in the grad school budget. In fact, according to some authorities, free food may be the corner stone of grad school nutrition, (see [1] and [2]).

Some caveats on using frozen barbecue chicken carcasses: the stock will take forever to come to a simmer, because you have essentially put in two chicken shaped ice-cubes in the pot, and (this is the scary one) the fat that rises will be orangish. Think fluorescent. The stock I made this time turned out really well, with a strong chicken flavour and very thick consistancy after it cooled.

One last note, celery is often an ingredient in chicken stock, but I don't like celery or celery leftovers and since making stock doesn't use the whole bunch, I leave it out. If you have celery, by all means add it. But I still think it is gross.

Chicken Stock

2 chicken carcasses with meat left on the bones (frozen or unfrozen)
1 bay leaf
1 carrot coarsely chopped
1 onion coarsely chopped

1. Place chickens in large pot and cover with water. (I used 8 cups.)
2. Add carrot, onion and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Skim off any foamy weird stuff that rises to the top.
3. Simmer about 3 hours. If you taste a small piece of meat and it tastes like nothing (kind of gross and newspapery) then you are done. Strain stock and chill overnight.
4. Once the stock is chilled skim off any fat.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
4 cups chicken stock
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp butter
vegetable oil

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Oil a baking sheet and put the squash cut side down. Cook for 30-40 mins until tender and let cool.
2. Melt butter in a large pot and add onions. Cook to translucent and add the ginger.
3. Add stock to onions. Scoop squash out of the skin and add to onions and stock. Simmer for 30-40 mins.
4. Puree and add salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, November 03, 2006

All about the Joy

The Joy of Cooking has been in the New York times a lot recently. First in the magazine and then this week in the food section, supposedly the cookbook issue.

In both articles, the 1997 edition, the one I have copy of, got a slagged a lot. In fact, my Joy was referred to as the new Coke of cookbooks. And, well, that really hurt. I think people are being unfair to my Joy. I have found it to be a great reference.

There are a few things I miss from my mom's copy. First, there is no squirrel recipe. As a child my mother would often read us the passage on squirrel much to our delight and amusement. Second, there is no jam chapter. The first jam I made was an apple butter from the Joy when I was in high school, so I was a little disappointed that they left out the jam. But otherwise the 1997 version is the tops. It doesn't use a lot of short cuts and is very informative. I check it everytime I am going to cook something new. Although, if I ever have to cook a squirrel I am going to be in trouble.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Buttercup Squash Challenge

My cousin made some fantastic creamy buttercup squash for thanksgiving. I saw some at the market and tried to recreate it. If my mother was not on vacation I would have asked her for tactical advice before beginning the buttercup challenge. The next best thing would have been to ask my aunt. As I have made a tremendous number - at least for the grad school budget - of long distance phone calls so far this month (checking in with my grandfather) I decided to wing it without asking my Aunt for advice. I think the phone call might have been worth it.

The Adversary

The Tools. (For your personal enjoyment please note my bare foot at the bottom left, still stripey from my summer shoes.)

Round 1: Winner Paul (I couldn't get the thing cut in half, despite the Joy's advice to "cut slowly and deliberately".)
Round 2: Winner Laura. The nasty bits inside must be removed before roasting. If you've carved a pumkin, there is a good chance you have more than a passing acquaintance with this activity. (Warning, if you, like me, are alergic to raw squash you want to be careful doing this.)
Round 3: Winner Squash. What in all things holy happened while the squash was in the oven (at 400, for 40 mins, in 1cm of water in a pan covered with aluminium foil)? I have no idea. I think perhaps I over cooked it.

Round 4: Winner Squash (for obvious reasons, see photo below). The squash was very hard to remove from the peel and flaky and crumbly. I was surprised, because my cousin's squash was so creamy.

I finished off the squash by mashing it with a large quanity of butter, and some salt and pepper. Not bad, but nowhere near as good as my cousin's. But defeat in the final two rounds did not break my spirit, and I reflected on the challenge with a well earned bowl of yogurt and peacans.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Creamy Broccoli Soup

I have been thinking a lot about something Amanda Hesser wrote about in "Cooking for Mr. Latte". The book is a collection of food columns from New York Times magazine. They were published around 2001-2002 and my mother and I were devoted to the column. It was maybe the first time I got interested in food.

In "Cooking for Mr. Latte", Ms Hesser writes about wanting to have a cooking repertoire, instead of always having cooking experiments. This got me thinking about what my repertoire. Since I make this soup about once a month, I think it would have to be included.

Although this soup takes a while, there is little actual prep - you just need to keep an eye on it while it cooks. I often make this on a Friday night if I am hanging out at home. The technique is a modification of the Joy of Cooking recipe. I like to add the beans to make the soup taste creamier.

Creamy Broccoli Soup
large bunch of Broccoli, about two stalks
1/2 cup dry white kidney beans (I think this is about 1/2 a 16oz can, but there are no small cans at the my supermarket, and I don't want the bean taste to be over powering.)
2-3 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups water
1 cup milk
3 tbsp skim milk powder (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 spanish onion
2 cloves garlic

1. Soak the beans. I do this either the night before, or the morning I make the soup. I use the joy of cooking method to soak the beans: I pour a couple inches of boilling water over them and let them sit until it is time to make the soup.

2. Put the oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. While the oil and butter are warming up, finely chop the onion, then add to the pot. Chop the garlic, and when the onion is translucent and soft add the garlic and fry for about a minute.

3. Drain the beans (they should be about double in size now) and add to the onion mixture. Cover the beans with the stock and water so they are submerged about an inch or so. Simmer the beans about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally until they are over-cooked and squishy.

4. Cut the woody ends off the broccoli stalks. Thinly slice the remaining stocks and broccoli tops and add to the beans. Cook until the broccoli is softened, 10-15mins. Then puree the soup using your kitchen tool of choice. (I use a blender).

5. Return the blended soup to the pot, add the milk and if you are using it, the skim milk powder. I like to use the skim milk power because it adds extra calcium.

This soup goes very nicely with whole grain toast.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pink Pasta Salad

I had a rather terrible kitchen experiment today; so to recover I made myself an egg salad sandwitch and watched Nigella, on the food network. It was one of her forever summer shows, and she made a rice salad with prawns on top. I was only half paying attention, but she metioned that often the best things recipes come out of using up what you have on hand. This pasta salad is very much along such lines, as I tried to create something in the spirt of prawns on rice for my lunch to take to school tomorrow.

Pink Pasta Salad
150 g orzo pasta
1 can tuna (the little can), but I think salmon would be good too
1/2 recipe for red sauce (below)
1/2 tsp olive oil

1. Cook pasta.
2. Coat pasta with olive oil (so it doesn't stick). Let pasta cool. (I went I had a shower).
3. Drain tuna, toss with pasta and sauce.

Red Sauce
This is a recipe from Jaques Pepin's Fast Food My Way, which was a birthday gift from my brother. He makes the sauce with wasabi paste - but most commercial wasabi paste is actually derived from horseradish, so I don't feel bad about the subsitution. I had to admit, the sauce is not red, but a sad pink colour. But its deliciousness makes up for it. I know the ingredients sound sketchy, but remember Jaques Pepin would not lead us astray.

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp ketchup
1-2 tsp horseradish
juice of one lime

1. mix. that's it.

I made this sauce earlier in the week, to go with some broilled salmon. Since I still had some in the refigerator I figured it would be the perfect dressing for my pasta salad. Preliminary taste tests suggest it is a winner.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

grown up tomato soup

I love soup. It is the ultimate lunch. It is a good way add some extra vegetables to your day. It is dead easy to make.

I know it's not exactly summer food. But we had a few cooler days last week and it really felt like soup weather. However, this soup is also good cold. Plus, I felt really grown up not eating soup from a can.

Grown Up Tomato Soup

1/2 Spanish Onion, chopped fine
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped fine
28 oz can diced tomatos
19 oz can Cannellini beans
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

Step 1: Cook onions and garlic in the oil and butter until the onions become soft and translucent. (I do this in the bottom of my soup pot. It means there are less dishes to wash).

Step 2: Add the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and brown sugar. Rinse the beans well, because canned beans always have scary goop on them, and add the beans to the pot. Bring to the boil.

Step 3: Puree. I am sure you know, but be carefully with the hot soup in the blender. If you find the soup too thick, you might thin it out with some more chicken stock or water.

That's it. As you can see dead easy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

77 cent chicken

I know what you are thinking: "77 cent chicken. That must have come from the remainder meat bin". And, well, you would be thinking correctly. Because sometimes - okay, actually all the time - when you are in grad school, you buy meat from the remainder meat bin. Because it is damm cheap. I just keep in the freezer until I feel like eating it.

What did I do with my penny pinching prize? Well once it thawed out, I cooked it with some of the basil I have growing on my windowsill.

Basil Mozzarella Chicken
(two servings)

4 chicken thighs (on the bone, with the skin still on)
8 fresh basil leaves
4 slices mozzarella
salt (not much)
pepper (even less)
olive oil

Some notes:
For gods sake, don't use low fat mozzarella like I did. It's disgusting, and every time I buy it I vow never to buy it again.

Preheat oven to 375.

Step one: Poke your finger under the chicken skin and make a little pocket. I am not going to kid you, this step is pretty gross. Whenever I have to do something like this I have a moment where I consider becoming a vegan. But if you steel yourself and think of bacon this will pass.

Step two: Put a slice of mozzarella between two of the basil leaves and stuff it under the little pocket. This requires some dexterity, but if I managed it, you can do it too.

Step three: Rub chicken with a splash of olive oil (sorry, I really can't be more precise) and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Step four: Cook in the oven for about 45mins. I left mine in for an hour and that was too long.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

feisty cucumber salad

I buy a lot of cucumbers. They are quick to cut up to take for lunch. So when I decided to make a salad tonight I had half of one kicking around in the fridge. I also had half a zucchini. I wanted something different than the usual yogurt cumcumber salad, or the vinegary eastern European salad.

This is what I came up with.

Feisty Cucumber Salad
(about two servings)

1/2 cucumber
1/2 zucchini
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp cider vinegar

Step 1: Toast the pine nuts. While the pine nuts are toasting, cut up cucumber and zucchini into bite sized pieces (the picture shows how I like to cut up mine).

Step 2: Mix the oils, mustard and vingar together and toss all the ingredients together.

Not the fanciest thing ever, but something nice and quick for weeknights.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In which I move out and get my own kitchen

The story so far: I get kicked out of my parents house (my mother invoked the little used "once you start grad school you must get the hell out of my house" rule). After I recovered from being turfed out, I set out on the dreadful business of looking for an apartment. A quest which soon leads me to ask questions like "is there anything odd about the kitchen?" and learning that the lack of a kitchen sink qualifies as normal in some people's kitchens. After a whirlwind tour of apartments without kitchens (do these people not eat?), apartments with bar fridges and hot plates and several mold filled basement apartments suitable for people the size of elves, I finally find an acceptable place. Sure the kitchen is the size of a walk in closet and I have to keep my microwave in a cupboard because I have so little shelf space.

But at least it has a stove.

And so my cooking experiments began. Now that I've been cooking on my own for a year and have bored everyone I know with my natter about cooking and my food photos, I figure I may as well write about it.