Ceej vs. Molcajete

Another post wherein I don’t cook anything! Yeah. Off to a great start! Also that’s the last time I chastise myself for what I do or don’t post to my own blog. Get a grip, Ceej. Yeesh.

We live in a town that is 99% Latino, which means there are approximately 5zillion taquerias within a mile of our house. Which is amazing! Chips and salsa are my #1 favorite food! But we hadn’t been to any because we’re wimps and also mostly broke. But last night we ventured out (thanks, lapsed meal planning!) to try one. I got to exercise my super dusty Spanish skills, even successfully ordering OFF MENU for the baby (un plato de solamente pollo para ella, por favor). It was all very exciting. I got the molcajete, which I’d never had before, but the description listed so many kinds of meat! I was intrigued.

Molcajete is the name of the dish used – it’s the Mexican version of a mortar and pestle. For the food manifestation, it is apparently chicken, beef, chorizo, shrimp, jalapeno, cheese, green onions, and pickled cactus, all roasted, and lain around the edge of the bowl, with hot salsa broth poured into the center.

Now…I had no idea how to eat this. They also gave me tortillas. But the dish is a piping hot soup with gigantic pieces of meat! I took out each piece of meat and large vegetable, cut it into bite sized pieces, and put it back in, then ate it like a stew. When I got home, I asked a good friend of mine (the one who was here last weekend, who is of Mexican descent, and whose live-in boyfriend immigrated to America from Mexico), and she said she and her boyfriend are both stumped on how to eat it, too. So ha! Apparently even people with the inside scoop don’t know how to manage this thing! But it was delicious. Especially the cactus. I loooooooove pickled cactus, oh man. Also I had a glass of horchata and mmmMMMMMM I could drink that stuff all day.

The Foliage wasn’t impressed with his fajitas, but I think I might try to make an easier-to-consume version of molcajete and a big batch of horchata at home some time.

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Spaghetti with Jarred Pesto and Meatballs, and Rip-Off Olive Garden Salad Dressing

The title says it all folks! Tonight we had:

  • Homemade spaghetti (left over from the original batch I made a few days ago – boiled for 1 minute with salt and olive oil to warm up and refresh the noodles, then drained)
  • A jar of pesto from Trader Joe’s (not ideal, since it contains safflower oil, but it’s what we had in the cupboard)
  • Meatballs (1lb ground beef, 2 eggs, salt, pepper, some Italian seasoning – baked for 25 minutes at 375)
  • Mixed Greens
  • Olive Garden Italian Dressing Hack featuring a Good Seasons Italian Dressing Packet, which I also hacked (and by “hacked” I mean “I made them with things I owned already”…I loathe the overuse of “hack” and thought I should be clear). I didn’t think the dressing tasted QUITE like the original, but it’s still pretty good. And making the seasoning means we can make more Italian dressing easily and skip the big ol’ bottle of canola oil! Hooray!

The kid was given meatballs and just…my gawd. It was a mess. There wasn’t even any sauce on them! I don’t know how she does it. Lots of screaming and not eating on both our counts. Then The Foliage walked in and she was all smiles because she’s a manipulative monster. So she got to coo and make eyes at dad for the rest of the night, but I KNOW WHAT’S UP, BABY. DON’T THINK I DON’T KNOW THIS GAME. WHO DO YOU THINK GETS YOU OUT OF THAT BED AND BRINGS YOU A BOTTLE EVERY MORNING?

You can repeat, “I am the adult, I am in control,” to yourself as much as you want. But it’s nearly impossible to hear over the nonsensical shrieking. So. Good luck.

Oh, What a World

Didn’t cook anything today because one of my favorite people EVER is in town, so we were out visiting. And I ate fish tacos and a super fancy s’more and now my stomach is killing me. Thanks, improperly prepared grains. You are the best. I though maybe I’d be OK, but…nope.

Well, actually, I DID make poached eggs on toast(ed sourdough biscuits) for breakfast, but come on. That hardly counts.

I met this visiting friend 3 years and a couple weeks ago in Madison, Wisconsin. We were both there protesting Governor Walker being a manipulative, people-hating jerk. Our larger goals were not achieved, but we did a lot of great work in small communities, and I got to trick one of the Top 10 best people on the planet into being friends with me. Haha! I win. She brought a stuffed animal for my kid, and The Foliage (my spouse) and I kept guessing what it was. Cow! Sheep! Lion! Goat! No. It was a buffalo. City kids, man. Useless.

We’re going to pick her up again tomorrow morning because when you love someone you feed them brunch.

Other food notes from my life:

  • I soaked some oats for WAY longer than recommended, and they’re now cooking in the crockpot overnight. So. Hopefully that turns out OK.
  • My sourdough starter has been pretty badly neglected, and it had some dark spots on top tonight. I’m hoping it was just hooch. It didn’t smell gross, still just sour as usual. We’ll see how THAT goes I guess. I am so bad at long-term maintenance of stuff. I have some dehydrated, but if this stuff looks OK in the morning, I need to refrigerate some.
  • Yesterday I made some pasta and I have some additional thoughts on the process that I need to post about separately. Primarily, that if you’re not dusting the noodles with flour, you should NOT overlap them while they rest. Because SURPRISE they will stick together and you will want to punch a hole through the wall.
  • We have juuuuuuuust enough protein to get us through Friday, and then my parents are visiting for a week starting next Saturday. Meal planning while visiting is going to be tricky.

That is all. Get off the internet and enjoy your weekend. I hear the rest of the country is thawing…woohoo!

A Tale of Woe…Plus a Recipe

I promise I will start posting with photos soon. This is a story that took place earlier this week, before I got overwhelmed by the urge to start YET ANOTHER blog. So. I wasn’t documenting stuff. But trust me…it was beautiful.

This is a story about Mardi Gras. No, Mardi Gras plus the week preceding it. Because that’s how WAP cooking rolls – you plan for a week for one dish and it’s totally worth it until your dreams get crushed by people who are supposed to love you. I was informed that our household would be on budget lock-down a couple of weeks ago, so I went into meal planning overdrive. Which I generally love. It’s very puzzle-esque and I’m pretty flexible about it and make the plans available so people are on the same page. I discovered that if I substituted beef for pork, we could have legitimate Jambalaya on Mardi Gras without any separate grocery trips. What?! Oh man, excitement.

Do ahead steps:

  • Cook a whole chicken so that the bones will be accessible at least a few days pre-Jambalaya
  • Use the chicken carcass to make broth (a good tutorial for this can be found here – I use my crockpot for the cooking part so I can leave it overnight without worry)
  • Draw lots of hearts around the Jambalaya entry on your meal plan and spend lots of time imagining how good it’ll taste
  • Thaw 1 pound of ground beef (or pork or whatever you want to make sausage out of) and 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken (I used thighs because they are WAY better and I don’t understand why people even think they prefer white meat – they’re just plain wrong)
  • Mardi Gras morning, put 1.5 cups of rice (I used Brown Jasmine) in a pot with 3 cups of warm water and 3 tablespoons of an acidic medium (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, whey, etc), cover and let sit at room temperature until it’s time to cook, at least 7 hours should be allowed for soaking
  • Put thawed chicken pieces in bag with about 1 gallon of water and .5c of kosher or sea salt. Leave in fridge for as long as the rice is soaking.
  • Mardi Gras early evening, throw together the spices for the Cajun seasoning, use 2/3 of it with ground meat and roll into bite-sized meatballs

Man. Look at all those steps! All that planning! Wow. SOMEone was pumped about Jambalaya.

Here is the recipe I used for Cajun seasoning. It’s Emeril’s “Essence” recipe and it turned out great. Though I would like to note that I’ve recently become uncomfortably aware of how many New Orleans celebrity chefs there are, and how they are ALL white dudes. All of them. What gives? I really don’t think “exclusively white male” represents the demographic of New Orleans accurately. But that’s probably a post for another day, and possibly another blog.

I used this recipe for the Jambalaya. With some adjustments, obviously. Here’s how it went:

  • Avocado oil (or other fat of choice – I try to avoid olive oil for high heat cooking) as needed
  • .25lb Bacon Ends and Pieces – nitrate and sugar free
  • “Essence” seasoning
  • 1lb Ground Beef rolled into meatballs as previously mentioned
  • 1lb Boneless Skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
  • 2 Stalks Celery, diced
  • 6 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Large Can Crushed Tomatoes (I know – I really need to start canning my own tomatoes I knowwwwww)
  • Red Pepper Flakes to taste
  • Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste
  • Hot Sauce to taste
  • Worcestershire Sauce to taste (optional – the one we had on hand has soy sauce in it, so not ideal, could’ve skipped it or maybe put in some minced anchovies instead)
  • 1t File Power (FEE-lay…it’s a thickener apparently)
  • 1.5c Rice, previously soaked and drained
  • 2.5c Chicken Broth
  1. Heat a Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon pieces. If pot is too dry, add some avocado oil.
  2. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon once crispy, and reserve. (NOTE: I added this step to impart some smoky porky flavor to my non-pork meatballs, but it isn’t necessary)
  3. Add meatballs to pot and brown, adding oil as needed. While browning, chop up the cooked bacon into teeny tiny pieces. Also rinse and pat dry chicken, and slice into bite sized pieces.
  4. Remove meatballs and reserve with the bacon crumbs. Add chicken to the pot and brown on all sides.
  5. Remove chicken from pot. Add the onion, celery, pepper, and garlic and saute for a minute or two.
  6. Pour in the tomatoes and add seasonings, then put all the meat back in the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  7. After a couple of minutes, add the rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for at least 40 minutes. The rice may still have a little bite at this point, so you might want to do a taste test and leave for another 10 minutes or so.
  8. Serve, warn all consumers it is SUPER HOT BE CAREFUL GEEZ, receive compliments

If you’re me, step 3.5 is to have an ill-timed drop in blood sugar, causing you to demand an unhealthy drink to get it back up quickly. And step 9 is to just be all of a sudden not hungry and only have a few bites, delicious though they may be.

And then step 10 is your husband packs up all of the leftovers and gives them to his brother. What? Yeah. I don’t know either.

The next day I was being vegetarian and commented that I was SO EXCITED to have a bowl of Jambalaya on Thursday, and ye olde traitorous spouse says, “Oh, but it’s all gone, so you can’t.” HAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh wow. Oh geez. I’m sure it’s mostly the pregnancy hormones coursing through my body at the speed of light, but I went into the bedroom and sobbed for like half an hour. Silently because I knew he felt really, really terrible about it, but hard because whyyyyyyy was all my soup gone?! He offered to go retrieve the leftovers but COME ON I’m obviously not going to take back leftovers that have been given. I had less than half a bowl of it and GONE! Brothers-in-law, for future reference, get ONE serving of leftovers to go. One. Max. Ever.

Unless it’s cake that I need to exit my house, but that’s another post, and now I’m gonna go be misty-eyed about my stew again goodbye.

Work in Progress

OK, so I’m going to kick off my recipe posts with a not-yet-perfected recipe.

First, you should absolutely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, buy Wardeh Harmon’s Sourdough eBook if you have any interest in souring breads or other baked goods. And here’s why you should be interested in doing just that:

Grains are difficult for the body to digest. They have antinutrients that counteract the benefits. It’s the reason that SO many people have been diagnosed with celiac problems, and books like “Wheat Belly” exist. Good ways to get rid of these antinutrients and make grains more digestible are soaking, sprouting, and souring. The recipes in Wardeh’s book all involve soaking (mixing flour with wet ingredients and leaving for at least 7 hours to absorb) and souring (using wild yeasts, which you have in a sourdough starter that you create and maintain). I believe she also uses sprouted flours but HOO BOY that is terrifying to me and I haven’t tried it yet.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It has pictures! Of exactly how your starter should look at different times over the course of several days! And how to preserve your starter! And has several contributors who all have different approaches to starter maintenance! It’s so so so great.

This is how I make pasta. It’s a hybrid of the eBook recipe and one I saw on “America’s Test Kitchen.”

  • 2.5 c All Purpose Flour (you can use whatever flour you want, I think wheat flour makes the pasta too bitter)
  • .5 c Sourdough Starter
  • 2T Olive Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Egg Yolks
  1. Start with 1.5 to 2 cups of flour in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Add more flour as needed to make a stiff dry dough.
  2. Wrap in plastic wrap or something else that will hold in moisture. Allow to sit for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Unwrap and knead dough. Divide into 6 sections. Roll out one section while keeping the others covered so they don’t dry out.
  4. Roll as thin as desired on a nonstick surface – you may need to flour the surface and pasta to make this possible. I use a silicon mat and rolling pin to avoid unsoaked wheat. Periodically lift the dough off of your rolling surface and flip over. ATK recommends aiming for a 6″x20″ sheet of pasta. I’ve never in my life rolled dough into a rectangle because I’m not a magician, so I focus mainly on thickness.
  5. As each piece of dough is rolled out, transfer it to a piece of parchment paper to rest and dry a bit. I usually give it about half an hour while I make my sauce. NOTE: If you’re making lasagna, your pasta steps end here, and you can either freeze the noodles or layer them straight in your baking dish. The liquid in the rest of the dish will cook them as it bakes.
  6. Bring a pot of water to boil with some sea salt and olive oil (helps the noodles not to stick together). Take one section of rolled-out-and-rested dough and fold it in half width-wise (hamburger, not hotdog). Fold it again another 2 or 3 times. Slice into your desired noodle-widths. If not using now, you can let these dry a bit and freeze them in airtight bags/containers.
  7. Boil for 3-4 minutes MAX and drain.
  8. Revel in the praise of OMG YOU MADE PASTA YOURSELF ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

I’m still working out the very best ratios to use for this recipe. I added flour all at once instead of gradually last time, and I think it wound up too dry. I’ll keep you posted.

I recommend mixing the dough in the morning, rolling when you get home, and eating your fresh pasta amazingness about an hour after you walked through the door. Like a boss. A boss without wheat belly.

Welcommmmmmmmmme

Warning: I am long-winded. As a rule. My wit is soulless, probably. There are 2 reasons I started this blog.

1. I’ve spent most of my life having terrible stomach problems, and being told that I had IBS! Or maybe Crohn’s! Or any number of other things. And being prescribed medications just to, you know, try ’em out. But I am not really the try ’em out type when it comes to chemicals. And popular diets didn’t help. Food wasn’t a gamble – it was a sure thing that no matter what I ate, it would hurt. Which didn’t stop me because food is delicious, but it did make me super sad and whiny.

A few years ago, everything I was reading about food and diet seemed to keep coming back to the same couple of principles. Lots of fresh produce. Good quality protein. Traditional fats. I started reading a lot about Weston A Price guidelines, which led me to find Gut and Psychology Syndrome and Paleo

I won’t go into big long descriptions of each of them, but to me, they are very clearly related, and this transcript does a great job of breaking it down.

I started out trying to sour some bread doughs (when we lived in Delaware and Maryland), but it didn’t go super well, and I switched over to Paleo. I was 80% paleo for about 2 years, while using that 20% mainly for things like whole milk (raw, when I could get it) and the nearly-unavoidable sugar. I’ve recently been having a lot of success with sourdoughs and other soaked grains (California > Mid-Atlantic), and have been feeling so much hubris I thought, “Hey. I’m so good at this, other people should know.” You’re welcome.

2. I started out reading a lot of blogs that (rightly) idolize Nourishing Traditions. I have found great recipes and tips on them. BUT! Though I want to share the good WAP word, I’ve been hesitant because ummmmm they are SUPER strongly, loudly, proudly Christian. Which doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but most of the people I know cannot get past that to read the actual content. It’s been pretty frustrating. I’ll link to those blogs when I need to, because a lot of them are REALLY well researched, but I felt like the blog world needed a secular, non-private-or-homeschooling, non-alcohol-hating person to rep Nourishing Traditions.

Also one of my husband’s coworkers asked for me to start a cooking blog, and did I mention hubris? I has it.

Coming up: actual recipes for stuff!