A Couple of Announcements

First, I made a delicious enchilada style bean bake type casserole tonight. Cheesy, beany, and salsalicious.

Second, I’m getting a lot of miles out of sweet potatoes this week. I should say that this is my boss’ fault. She buys them by the 20lb bag and keeps that bag in her office. She eats one for lunch, roasted, every day. Tonight’s bean bake had sweet potatoes in it. Tomorrow night, we’re having sweet potato fries with our grilled cheeses (with turkey bacon for those who want to live at little).

Third, I have planned every meal I am responsible for cooking this month. I have a small calendar on the bulletin board with a meal for every day I’m supposed to cook. It’s as if a great burden has been lifted. I don’t have to think for the rest of the month. This month’s highlight: we’re going to the mountains in Arkansas for part of spring break and I’m going to fry some chicken, make mac and cheese, cornbread and limas while we’re there. Pure family friendly deliciousness. Daddy is packing the fry daddy for the mountains!

Something about vacation says cook a lot, so I’m planning big breakfasts: biscuits one morning, pancakes the other. It’s going to be great fun.



E and I went out for supper last night. It was at her behest. There was negotiation involved. I wanted to go to Jerry’s Fish House. She wanted to go to Aladdin. So what’s halfway between catfish and Mediterranean food? How about slightly high brow Tex-Mex?

Here’s what they have to say about themselves:

Sombra Mexican Kitchen redefines Mississippi’s idea of a Mexican restaurant. From the fresh-squeezed limejuice and organic agave nectar in every margarita to the made-from-scratch corn and flour tortillas, Sombra focuses on the fresh, flavorful tastes that are at the core of our authentic food and drink. The rustic, colorful and casual environment will allow you to sit back, take your time, and enjoy Sombra’s modern take on traditional Mexican and Southwest dining.

I don’t feel as though they’ve redefined anything. Besides cheap (which it wasn’t), they hit all of the expected features of Tex-Mex: free chips and (pretty good) salsa, a decent frozen margarita, and lots of dishes that are combinations of meat, cheese and tortillas. The biggest disappointment of the night was the fact that the one item on the menu that seemed exciting, the black bean and goat cheese tamale, was unavailable. They told us that right up front and I was immediately at a loss for what to order. I feel like fajitas are too much of a spectacle. I didn’t see any variety meat tacos (lengua, cabeza, buche). And I just wasn’t feeling much of what else was available. I went with the catfish tacos. E got the shrimp fajitas. Neither blew the doors off. It’s downright unMississippian to bread catfish with anything other than cornmeal. And fajitas are fajitas are fajitas. Meat and peppers and onions.

They do make their own tortillas, which is a nice touch. Still, this place won’t go in the heavy rotation, with the exception of a place to go for drinks, chips/salsa/guacamole al fredo in warm weather. Yes, I know that’s a Malapropism.

From The Minimalist Cooks Dinner

Great sauce for tofu or chicken:

In your 12-inch cast iron skillet, brown a diced onion in 2 tbsp a neutral oil, add a tablespoon of curry powder and a cup of walnuts or cashews and stir it together. Add a can of coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Add your protein. Once it’s cooked/warmed through, add two tablespoons of soy sauce. It’s damn good. I made it with tofu tonight, and roasted a head of broccoli and the rest of the carrots that I had in the fridge, then put everything over rice noodles, which cook faster than brown rice.


Be real, son!

Man, it was cutthroat in the Chapel Hill Whole Foods parking lot, and often just as bad in Durham. We’re getting one in Highland Village next year. Thank God I’ll be able to walk there.

The food section in the Times is good today, if you haven’t already discovered this fact over your morning coffee. Alissa Rubin has a piece on food, memory and longing in Kabul as a war correspondent.  I thought it was beautiful, nostalgic as I am. Food, trains, fishing and country music are much of what I have to remind me of family I miss. And John T. Edge of the Southern Foodways Alliance, the best thing going at Ole Miss, has a fantastic United Tastes column on Indian Food becoming fast food following a Chipotle type model. E and I used to love two Indian places in D.C. that were both in food courts, and owned by the same family. One was in Union Station, and I’m sad to say is no longer the same. The other was near the Key Bridge in Arlington, right around the corner from the old Newseum.

Speaking of Chipotle, the Herdez chipotle flavored salsa is too damn hot. As a Valentines day treat, E made her spinach and black bean enchiladas, and I had a powerful craving for chips and salsa before supper, so I ran to the McDade’s and thought Herdez chipotle looked good. It’s fire. Straight, smoky fire. I ended up needing a slice of wheat bread to quench the flames. The Sam Adams Boston Lagers were just not getting the job done. As my dad used to say, “Let that be a lesson to you.”


The Fridge

We got a new fridge Saturday. I’ve been thinking about best practices with fruits and vegetables. So it follows that I’d find this post from Get Rich Slowly, my favorite personal finance blog, interesting.

Happy Valentine’s Day


Of Note

Ipad users: Bittman’s two Ipad apps, How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian are on sale at half price. I think this will last until Valentine’s day. I downloaded both Saturday night and spent yesterday afternoon making and freezing pizza crust for Friday night, trying my hand at refried black beans, making this Chinese marinated celery  (which is delicious and which resulted in our use of an entire bunch of celery for the first time ever) and entertaining my boys. H is just now understanding that he’s going to be losing at chess for a long time, which I think might discourage him, and encourage him to want to play Crazy 8’s and Go Fish. I suppose he’ll either get better or give up.

I found this informative post over at Simple Bites. It’s just a nice overview and some suggestions on how to prepare vegetables that are currently in season.  Simple Bites is one of the food blogs I follow through Google Reader. That’s another post for another day. Unfortunately, I can’t get really excited about cabbage. Everything else on the list is something I would prepare enthusiastically. However, cabbage makes people gassy and it smells bad when you cook it. I like slaw, and I enjoy sauerkraut, especially on sausage laden sandwiches, but I’m going to have to do some searching for other recipes that make it worth eating.

Last thing, and then I have to get serious about work: I’ve put in a request for E’s enchiladas for Valentine’s day night. She’s wondering if they can be made in the shape of a heart. I think the red of the enchilada sauce should be sufficient.

Those two apps are worth it if you don’t already have them. They’re great big rabbit holes waiting for you to jump in.


Butternut Squash

It’s the bomb. It’s like pumpkin, but better.I decided Monday night that I was going to get all of the vegetables I wanted roasted for the week roasted, so I roasted two butternut squashes and a bell pepper that had been sitting in the fridge and was on the cusp of becoming undesirable. Supper Monday night was pretty straightforward: a whole roasted chicken, macaroni and cheese and roasted carrots with cumin. Half the chicken went into the freezer for use in burritos next week and/or a tortilla soup. The roasted carrots came from this post on Bittman’s blog (but not by Bittman). They tasted  great, but I felt like they went limp in the roasting.

The macaroni and cheese rates an aside. I’m trying to eat fewer processed foods. This macaroni and cheese presents a tough decision. The pasta is made with part cauliflower flour. It’s very Jessica Seinfeld (I own the book, and have tried to use it without success.) I’m not sure that it’s worthwhile to sacrifice my ongoing work on eating less processed stuff for the sake of getting another serving of vegetables into my son’s gaping maw, but I’m willing to think it over for a while.

So last night, I made this classic butternut squash soup  from Whole Foods, perhaps in celebration of the fact that they’ve announced that they’re going to build a store from the ground up across the street from our neighborhood. As I mentioned, I had roasted the squash Monday night during a fit of vegetable roasting. I made the “gorgonzola and almond” variation for E and I. It was fantastic. Gorgonzola is already delicious, but in soup, when it melts just a bit, every bite is a surprise. And while that recipe says that you’re supposed to dice the squash, then cook it with the other veggies in the broth, I think roasting it gives it a little more depth. There’s pieces of caramelized squash mixed in too. And the broth came from the roasted chicken on Monday night. #maximumcookingefficiency





Grapes and Other Things

I’ve been on a grape tear recently. My boss came into my office this morning to talk about the grant that we’re (I’m) writing and no sooner had we started than I had pulled out my baggie of super chilled red seedless grapes. I offered her (the chance to feed me) some, but she refused. So the whole meeting I was listening, noting and savoring (the grapes). I don’t know what’s happened to me. I just know that right now grapes are all that I want, especially seedless red grapes. I had them on a salad last Saturday, the first time I’ve had them on a non-fruit salad, and they were perfect. I’m having them on my lunch salad today. I’ve brought the same salad for lunch the last two days. It’s inspired by last Saturday’s salad, which was the Newk’s Favorite Salad from the local deli chain, which is, I have to agree with my mother-in-law here, better than McAllister’s. Newk’s favorite has grilled chicken over mixed greens, pecans, cherry tomatoes, grapes and blue cheese with a really good vinaigrette (try spelling that without looking it up). So I cut out the chicken because my thing right now is vegetarian til 6, and change the mixed greens to spinach because I like it more, and added dried blueberries and carrots and changed the cheese to gorgonzola. By the way, you could put gorgonzola cheese on just about anything and I would eat it. It’s a grown folks cheese, and it just makes things that much better.

Last night’s supper was a flop: coconut noodles. E said the eggplant wasn’t cooked enough. I say, it’s hard to get the stir fry skillet hot enough after every round of stir frying, and people were hungry. It won’t happen again, and I’m not sharing the recipe.

I did find this, though. It’s the motherlode for the vegetarian till 6 crowd. Seriously, how the hell has he not won a Pulitzer and a MacArthur?

Note: Vegetarian till 6 excludes meals provided by other people. If you’re having me over for lunch, I’ll eat what you put on the table, vegetarian or not. Vegetarian till 6 means that if I’m cooking or if I’m eating out, I’m going to try to eat vegetarian.

Tonight, I’m going to try to sneak apple into our grilled cheeses. I’ve also been on an apple tear of late. No fruit bowl is safe. I judged a school science fair last Friday and stole like two apples and a banana in addition to the orange and banana that I ate there.