Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The First 13 Weeks

Of course 13 weeks is a misnomer because according to the 40-week pregnancy standard you're actually pregnant 2 weeks before you even have that hot, sexy night. And then you don't even find out until "week" 4 or 5. And maybe you feel great and have no weird cravings/sickness until week 7. It all depends on you and the particular nature of your special parasite. In my case, we were abroad for three weeks over Christmas and I didn't get hit with food-mania until we were home (week 9-ish). Though I was strongly influenced by the white flour madness of Europe and had a hard time readjusting to whole grain bread, pasta, rice upon our return: the first thing I bought when we got home was a huge bag of basmati rice...which is totally disgusting to me now, of course. Whenever I go to Europe I come home wanting Mexican food like an enchilada wants cheese, so that was one of the first things on the list.

A few disclaimers before I start--

1) I am an improvisational cook. Some people might call this laziness, because I never measure anything when I'm using a recipe or pay attention to quantities when I'm inventing something. I'm sorry that whoever ends up reading this will have to suffer from my lazy genuis. Unless I did follow a recipe, I'm going to give very approximate quantities, like "some" and "a little" in the food ideas that I share with you.

2) Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor diet foods, like splenda and low-carb tortillas. Yet, like all human beings, I am fraught with contradiction, so I confess to you now that I regularly use low-fat sour cream and mayo, and unless I say otherwise in a recipe, that's what I used. Why? Weirdly enough, they just taste better to me. But keep your fat-free cheddar and your food replacement beverages away from me, or this friendship is over.

3) These recipes are coming to you from a desert about a mile above sea-level. Baked goods at lower and more humid altitudes sometimes need less moisture and more cooking time than things way up here in the stratosphere. I'll note where I've changed something if I'm using a pre-printed recipe.

Kissing-the-American-Soil Enchiladas

You know these are patriotic enchiladas because they have ground beef. Our last night with friends in France over the break we cooked enchiladas for them--anyone who's tried to recreate a specialty from home in a foreign country knows that you always end up with some weird hybrid dish that somehow represents the cultural intersection of your transatlantic friendship. In this case I was able to find tortillas (and they were normal), salsa (more like tomato sauce) and fajita seasoning (nothing like it! strangely sweet, no cumin!). We did our best, and they ended up being delicious in a way that could never be recreated back home, for lack of weird, culturally adapted products. Anyway, this experience inspired me in this particular batch of enchiladas.

1 package of ground beef
1 onion, chopped
a few cloves garlic, minced (many pregnant women might want to avoid this!)
3 colored bell peppers, sliced
1 package sliced mushrooms
taco seasoning of your choice

1 can black beans
your favorite kind of cheese, grated

1 avocado, or maybe 2, cut into small cubes
Fresh cilantro. chopped
a few tomatoes, chopped
half an onion, diced
a few limes

8 flour tortillas

1 small jar salsa
1 container sour cream

Brown the beef, then add onions, garlic and peppers (add oil if your beef is really lean). Cook for 5 minutes until things are softening. Add mushrooms, stir a few times and cover. I like to let things get really brown and caramelize slightly around the edges. Season to your liking. I collect lots of different kinds of seasonings and then mix them haphazardly to my taste. Here I used penzey's taco seasoning, some lime-chili stuff we got in Mexico, extra cumin, some red pepper flakes and black pepper.

Drain the beans, and spread your tortillas out on the counter. On each tortilla spread beef mixture, beans and grated cheese (we eat cheese sparingly, maybe 2 tsp on each enchilada--but to each pregnant lady her own). Roll those fatties up and line them up in a 9x13 pan.

Now mix the salsa and sour cream together until you like the balance of flavors. I added a little water to make it more saucy. This was how we dealt with the lack of enchilada sauce in France, and I liked it so much that I had to do it again. Pour this over the enchiladas, then sprinkle with additional grated cheese.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Pull the foil off and brown longer if you like.

While the enchiladas are baking make the (adulterated) pico de gallo: combine avocado, tomato, cilantro and onion. Squeeze lime juice into mixture and salt to taste. Many pregnant women crave citrusy or acidic things, so go crazy with the lime juice; you won't regret it. Serve this goodness over the hot enchiladas, accompanied by extra sour cream-salsa sauce if you wish.

Coconut-Curried Lentils (with basmati rice!)

This was my second mega-craving after getting back from our trip. While we were there the Brazilian husband of one of our friends made a pumpkin shrimp dish full of coconut milk that he cooked inside a huge pumpkin. After that it was all over: all this pregnant lady wanted was coconut milk and basmati rice. Unfortunately I just threw the last of these lentils in the compost because the desire left me after a few days, and Chris doesn't do coconut milk. But they were utterly delicious while my desire lasted!

1/2 onion
a handful of baby carrots, chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped
about 3/4 c yellow or orange lentils
about 1-1/2 C chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
powdered cumin, cardamom, curry, coriander to taste
fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the onion in a little oil for 3-5 minutes; add carrot and cauliflower, cook a few minutes more. Add lentils, broth and coconut milk, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, checking every so often to make sure that there's enough water. Ideally when it's done it's vaguely soupy--you could eat it over rice or just with a spoon. Before serving add spices to taste (I would say easy on the cumin and cardamom, heavier on the curry and coriander) and the cilantro. Let stand covered for five minutes to allow flavors to blend and cilantro to wilt. Serve with basmati rice. Oo, you know what else is really good? Mimicking naan by frying a flour tortilla in a little canola oil. You'll think you've died and gone to Bombay...unless you have a really good Indian restaurant down the street.

It all started with artichokes

I woke up in a cold sweat thinking about artichokes, and just knew that they had to be combined into a pasta dish with red peppers and feta cheese. And because Chris' favorite pasta is rigatoni, and because he had just bought about 1800 pounds of Italian sausage, I knew that these things would make an appearance too.

5 links Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 onion
2 red bell peppers, sliced
many, many artichoke hearts. I used one can, but wished the whole time I’d used two—drain and reserve about ½ C of the liquid
feta, feta and more feta
pepper, pepper and more ground pepper
1 box rigatoni

Saute the sausage, breaking it up as you go. When it starts to brown add the onion, and after a few minutes, the red pepper. Cook until the peppers are crisp-tender. In the meantime you should have your pasta a-boiling. Reserve about ½ C of the cooking liquid when you drain the noodles. Combine the sausage-veg mix with the pasta in a large bowl, and toss with the cooking liquid and the reserved artichoke juice. It might seem a little wet at first, but everything will get absorbed. Now bombard that bowl with feta cheese and ground pepper! I didn’t have to throw any of these leftovers away because Chris liked it so much that he ate it all before it could disgust me. I think he’s a lot happier this time around with me cooking so much—last pregnancy he had to resort to a lot of Hungry Man dinners and frozen burritos. It’s every man’s dream for like a week, and then they realize it sucks.

Spinach-Artichoke Spanikopita

This dish was a natural segue from the initial artichoke craving. After that pasta dish I realized: “What I really want is more artichokes.” So again, in a cold sweat, I woke up to this idea: “What if I made spinach artichoke dip, added chicken to it, and wrapped it in filo??” I had to take a sleeping pill to keep myself from getting up and going to the grocery store at that exact moment.

This part I got off the internet, though I jimmied it a little:
1 C parmesan cheese
1 C jack cheese
10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cans artichoke hearts (yes, this time I listened to my cravings)
2/3 C sour cream
1 C cream cheese
1/3 C mayo

1-1/2 to 2 C diced or shredded chicken

1 package filo dough
about ½ cube butter, melted

Mix all the dip fixins and chicken together in a bowl and set aside. If you haven’t worked with filo before it’s really no big deal, just make sure it’s completely thawed (leave it in the fridge for a few days before using), and then once it’s open keep it covered with a damp towel as you work to keep it from drying out. Here’s what you do: pull a sheet of filo from the stack, lay it in front of you, and, with a pastry brush, apply a thin coat of melted butter. Now take another sheet and lay it atop the buttered one: butter this second one. After the third sheet, put a big pile of filling toward the right side of the buttered filo—mine was about 3 inches wide, piled about 1-1/2 inches high, and there was maybe a 2-inch margin above, below, and to the right. Now just fold it up like a burrito: I fold the sides in first, then fold the right side over, and then just flop it over itself until it’s closed. Brush the outside with a little melted butter and place your delicious pain au spinach artichoke dip on a cookie sheet. To give you an idea, I was able to make 6 bundles, with a handsome Tupperware (maybe a cup and a half) of filling left over for snacking. A few days later I heated that up in the microwave and praised my genius for having such an excellent snack on hand. When all your little bundles are made, cook them at 350 for about 30 minutes—they should be golden brown on the outside and melty-good on the inside.

Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts: peanut butter cookies

So I had this day where ALL I wanted to eat was peanuts. I ate several handfuls of dry roasted peanuts for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and then later in the afternoon my son and I made my all-time favorite peanut butter cookie recipe, this time studded with dark chocolate chips. The recipe comes from The Horn of the Moon Cookbook—one of my old standbys back in my vegan days. It makes a different kind of cookie—very soft, not chewy…I don’t know how to describe it, but EVERYONE loves them (not just pregnant women). I took a batch to my birth class during my first pregnancy and they got gobbled up in about 5 seconds.

2/3 C butter (I used soy margarine back in the day, and so could you, but butter is way better)
2/3 C honey
1 ¼ C smooth peanut butter (natural, do I even need to say it?)
3 Tbl milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¾ C whole wheat pastry flour (I grind my own ww flour so I can make it very fine, but other people say that ww pastry flour is great)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
many handfuls of the darkest chocolate chips you can find

Cream butter and honey, add peanut butter, milk and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients by hand, as dough will get too stiff for a mixer. Roll dough into balls and press gently with tines of a fork. Bake at 325 for about 11-13 minutes—depending on how big they are and how browned you like them. I tend to like my cookies a little undercooked.

Miso-Roasted Root Vegetables

I’ve been wanting to use more miso in general, but I’m not well versed in its usages. Then I realized that one of my cravings was the umami flavor, and miso has it! So I’ve been using it more and more… These were really delicious, but I only wanted to eat them once—the whole anti-veg thing…

Cut up beets, parsnips, carrots and any other veg that you really like
Red or white miso
canola oil
sesame oil
sesame seeds, toasted

Grab a glob of miso in your hands and rub it all over the vegetables. Let them sit as long as possible for the flavor to soak in. Preheat the oven to 400. When you’re ready to go, drizzle a little canola oil on the vegetables, just until they glisten a little. Spread them on a cookie sheet and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 15 or 20. Before removing them from the oven mix equal parts sesame oil and honey—maybe 1-1/2 or 1 Tbl of each. Toss the roasted veg in the sesame-honey mixture, then top with toasted sesame seeds.

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken with Cornbread Stuffing, Roasted Vegetables

Another day I got totally hit with a craving for comfort food. This was probably helped along by the package of organic cornbread stuffing that I found on the markdown rack at the grocery store.

For the chicken:
Take a whole chicken (I don’t know how many pounds, one that will fit in your slow cooker, yo), remove the giblets, rub some butter all over the outside, then salt and pepper that sucker inside and out. Roll up three balls of tin foil and put them in the slow cooker—this raises the chicken off the heat source and allows it to roast instead of boil in its own juices. Cook on high for about four hours. The skin does not get as dark as it would in the oven, so use a meat thermometer to make sure it’s done (should register 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast).

For the stuffing: well, follow the package directions.

For the roasted veg: About fifty minutes before the chicken is done, cut into thick spears two pears and one peeled sweet potato. Pour out about ½ C of the chicken juice from the slow cooker, and toss it with the cut vegetables, some baby carrots and a little maple syrup (a few tablespoons). Roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes or until tender and browned. Beta-carotene for your and your baby’s eyes!

While your chicken is resting (you should let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving to let the juices soak in) you can make the gravy—pour all the juice from the slow cooker through a strainer into a small pot. In a small glass whisk some flour (maybe a few tablespoons) into some milk (maybe ¾ C). Whisk this into the juices over medium heat until the gravy thickens to your liking. Add salt and pepper if you feel so inclined. And if your gravy is a little lumpy, run it through a sieve before serving.

What happens to leftover roast chicken when soup cravings hit

This was so delicious; I’m still eating it. Stick your leftover chicken carcass with whatever meat is left on it back in the slow cooker and cover it with water. Some people like to add chopped celery, onion, some herbs, etc. at this stage of broth making, but I never have extra. Let your broth simmer on low for 14-18 hours. Strain the broth, reserving all the chicken bits—this is a pain, but once they’re cool enough you can go through and sort out the meat. It the meantime pour the broth into a pot and add whatever long-cooking vegetables you like to have in your soup: I added carrots, celery and potato at this stage, let them cook for about 20 minutes, then added zucchini, yellow squash, corn and cooked for about 8 minutes longer. There was a huge pile of beet greens sitting on the counter in a vase…I’d been saving them, thinking I’d work them into some soup. I stared them down, but just couldn’t make peace with them. They went into the compost today. My intentions are good, but my body revolts! The last step is to add the chicken meat that you gleaned from the mess of a carcass. I wanted to make some homemade noodles to take this to a new level but…just didn’t….have….the energy…..

Lemony-Lemony Quinoa Tablouleh

Tabouleh is another place where I can indulge my insane citrus cravings. Though it’s usually made with bulgur, I love using quinoa because it’s unobtrusive and so good for me and my parasite!

1 C quinoa, rinsed (it has a bitter coating, so rinse it well)
2 C water (a little more in Colorado, quand même…)
a few tomatoes, chopped
½ an English cucumber, chopped (yes, a regular one is ok, but the English ones are soooo good! If you use a regular cucumber, peel it)
1 bunch cilantro, minced lazily (who really has time to mince?)
a few tablespoons olive oil
a large lemon

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil, then cover and simmer 30-40 minutes until water is absorbed. Stick it in the fridge to cool. In the meantime you can chop all your veg. Mix quinoa and vegetables together and toss with olive oil and the juice from your large lemon. Salt to taste. Note: most tabouleh recipes call for parsley…unless you can find Italian parsley I really recommend using cilantro.

Blue Cheese-Bean Dip

My quest for strong flavors continues! This was another one that woke me up in the night. Puree a can of white beans, liquid and all, with half or 2/3 of a block of blue cheese, salt to taste. We’ve been eating this on rice crisps, bagel chips and tortilla chips. MMM….

"I can't believe it's not real potato!" Potato Gnocchi

Ever since I made that chicken soup where I wanted to make homemade noodles but didn’t have the energy I couldn’t stop thinking about gnocchi, but seriously, it’s so labor intensive. And then, suddenly, a cooking magazine came in the mail and what did I see? “Instant Potato Gnocchi.” Normally I would balk—no, worse than balk, I would be loathe!—at using instant potato flakes in a recipe (I really am a snob), but this was the only resolution I could find between the severity of my gnocchi cravings and the severe amount of time and effort that it takes to make gnocchi from scratch. And because probably most of us couldn’t tell the difference anyway, I give this recipe my blessing.

From Healthy Cooking magazine

1 C mashed potato flakes
1 C boiling water (you need a little more than that in good ‘ole CO)
1 egg
1 ½ C flour (better cut that down a bit in the mile-high desert)
¼- ½ tsp salt (depending on how salted you like your gnocchis)
The recipe also calls for ¼ tsp garlic powder and ½ tsp dried basil, but if you ask me, that’s just gross.

Pour water over flakes and stir until you magically have potatoes. Beat in the egg, then add the flour. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10-12 times until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. Divide into four pieces. Roll each one into a ½ inch rope. Cut each rope into ¾ inch nuggets. If you really care about authenticity and gnocchi aesthetics, roll each nugget with the tines of a fork. I really can’t be bothered to do this when I want to put the gnocchis in my belly asap. Boil 30-60 seconds in salted water or until gnocchis float. We ate them with vodka sauce from a jar, but I think they’re best with a little butter and some fresh parm. The great thing about this recipe is that the gnocchis can be ready to go by the time your giant pot of salted water is boiling; it really is that fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment