Thursday, November 29, 2007

Foodie website

I have discovered and grown to love a website named Chow. It has boards, videos, tons of recipes, and articles galore. It's a lot of fun to browse around. If you like food and you like to learn about it, look here.

Are you a chowhound?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leftover Firsts

Even though I roasted a chicken instead of a turkey, we still have a bucket of leftover meat. I also had celery, herbs, onion, fennel stalks, and a partially used carton of chicken broth to use up, so I thought, "I'll have a go at homemade chicken noodle soup." I know, right? I've never made it before! All I've ever had was the Campbell's kind. I was living such a sheltered life. It was so easy to make, and I used up all leftover vegetables and herbs. I used about 2 c. low sodium chicken broth, and while it came to a boil, added chopped celery (about 3 ribs--I had to finish it off!), 1/4 c. chopped onion, a whole peeled clove of garlic, a 14 oz. can of sweet corn drained, a dash of cumin, fresh ground black pepper, some fennel seeds, and 2 leftover fennel stalks. (I kept them whole because I wanted to fish them out later. I don't think you're supposed to eat the stalks.) When it came to a boil, I added about 1 c. shredded/chopped chicken, and 1/2 c. whole wheat spiral pasta, reducing heat to medium, and throwing in a couple leaves of finely chopped sage. Really easy! Especially if you have leftover vegetables--you can almost throw anything in and it would be good. Obviously carrots are a chicken soup standard, I could even see somebody throwing in great northern beans (cannellini) in addition to or instead of the chicken. It would be good with a few chopped red potatoes, or even orzo in place of noodles. Lemongrass and curry could make an Asian rendition of the classic. What I love about cooking is you can try almost anything if you're adventurous, and whatever comes out is like a little piece of you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Foodie

Even though Andrew and I spent Thanksgiving day sleeping in, reading, and mostly keeping to ourselves, I had the opportunity to try some new tricks in the kitchen. I realized I have never made the same recipe twice just for Andrew and I, so why start with a "traditional" Thanksgiving meal? I roasted a chicken, rubbed with sage and rosemary, and baked in an oven bag. I also roasted green beans with onions and garlic, sage, rosemary and thyme. I made an awesome recipe for mushroom stuffing, finally using old bread heels I'd accumulated in the freezer over the last couple years.

Mushroom and Fennel Bread Pudding


Total: 1 hr 10 mins

Active: 20 mins

Servings: 8 to 10 servings

By Aïda Mollenkamp

Stuffing is essential on the Thanksgiving table, loaded as it is with bread and just enough vegetables to sop up gravy while feigning healthiness. To switch things up, and to offer the noncarnivores a chance at a real meal, turn to this bread pudding. Filled with sautéed mushrooms, fennel, pecorino cheese, and a light custard that holds it all together, it’s sure to be a hit among meat eaters and vegetarians alike.

What to buy: Pecorino is a sheep’s milk cheese from Italy. Here we used Gran Pecorino, an aged cheese that can be found at high-end groceries and cheese stores. Do not use Pecorino Romano for this recipe, as it will be too salty. If you can’t find Gran Pecorino, aged Asiago is a good substitute.

Game plan: Bread pudding can be made 1 day ahead and brought to room temperature or warmed in a 350°F oven prior to serving.

Level of difficulty: Medium.

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped white onion
  • 12 ounces coarsely chopped cremini mushrooms (about 4 cups)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fennel (1 medium bulb)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped celery (2 medium stalks)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs
  • 12 ounces ciabatta or other country-style bread, medium dice (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup coarsely grated aged pecorino (about 3 ounces), such as Gran Pecorino (not Pecorino Romano)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  1. Melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat until foaming. To prevent overcrowding, cook vegetables in batches: Add onion and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then mix in mushrooms, fennel, and celery. Cook until softened and mushroom juices have reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, at least 10 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange the rack in the middle. Butter a 13-by-9-inch baking dish and set aside. Whisk together cream, chicken broth, and eggs in a medium bowl until well combined.
  3. Add bread, cooled vegetables, cheese, and herbs to cream mixture, and stir until bread is well coated. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then turn into the prepared baking dish. Allow bread to soak until well saturated, at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, bring about 10 cups water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large pot.
  4. Once bread has soaked and water is simmering, set the baking dish in a large roasting pan and add enough hot water to reach 2/3 of the way up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until custard is set and top is lightly browned, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I used cremini (or baby portobello) and a mix of shiitake, oyster, and other semi-exotic mushrooms. Yummy!

I made fresh cranberry sauce using the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray bag, plus I added some whole cloves, allspice, and a cinnamon stick, and a strip of orange peel. It was fun to watch the berries pop! I just had to find all those spices once it was time to eat it. Didn't think about that when I started throwing things in. Finally, I added some mulling spices to apple cider for a spicy, warm, fall drink. More cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and orange peel, plus anise, ginger, and lightly crushed black peppercorns. We enjoyed some Trader Joe's 2-buck Chardonnay, and for dessert, some European sipping chocolate. I spent about 5 hours in the kitchen, but it never feels like work to me. Here's a picture of the bounty.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who's the Boss?

Is it possible that we've become so censorship-happy as a Christian culture in the United States that we've lost touch with the truth of transformed life in salvation? Have we cut ourselves off from the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit because we take our orders from pastors and evangelical politico-religious leaders? Are we living stunted Christian lives because of rules imposed on us through shame or intimidation or otherwise? "You shouldn't go trick-or-treating; you shouldn't have a Christmas tree; you shouldn't see R-rated movies; you shouldn't drink alcohol; you shouldn't read or see Harry Potter." Where is the Holy Spirit's role then in the life of the individual?

I don't know whether censorship or spiritual zombiness came first, but I believe we even interpret the Bible differently within this type of culture. Rather than truly believing (through attitude and action) that the Christian is a new creation and free from the grip of sin, we treat ourselves and one another like we're the same old person on the inside, just with a veneer of Christ's atonement to cover for our depraved nature. Why else would we tell each other "Don't read this; don't touch that; don't do this"? We see Christian maturity as avoiding a list of 'evils' throughout life and treating those who don't with repugnance or fear. But when we died with Christ at baptism, we were raised a new person, set free from the evil powers of this world, so why would we keep following the rules of this world, made up by the human mind? See Colossians 2:20-22. "You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 'Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!'? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them." In this new life, Christ is all that matters, and He lives in all of us (3:11).

So let the believer exercise his or her own ability to hear the Holy Spirit; in fact, let's encourage it! No Christian should be outside a community of brothers and sisters, so if they really start acting lost again, there is accountability. But we should not operate our lives under fear of coming under evil or sin, because the Christian is set free--no, more! God disarmed the evil rulers and authorities in the cross. If we are walking with the Holy Spirit, we can approach anything, be it Harry Potter or alcohol, without fear and with a sensitive conscience to whether God wants us to stay away from a particular thing. The individual, then, should be extremely careful about making God's yes or no to them a global rule. There are some universal rights and wrongs, and they all hinge on "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself." And operate in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We do not have a spirit of fear, but power, love, and self-discipline. And lest we forget what kind of power lines up with Christ's kingdom, Paul reminds us that God's power works in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).

We then know we are completely remade through the power of God in Christ's resurrection, we have His Holy Spirit living in us to reveal His truth directly to us, and we are no longer subject to sin and the influence of evil (unless we participate in evil, and someone led by the Holy Spirit would not be led to participate in evil). Let us then train children and new believers in the same way. They do not need to fear evil, but listen to the Holy Spirit who can reveal truth and light anywhere.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Yikes--Literary Journals!

Today I'm sending in the short story I wrote for my senior project. It's a big first step for me in the literary world. Even though I don't want to/need to get the original manuscript back, I've had a hard time parting with it. Like the act of sending it puts into motion a dream that I fear I won't be able to live up to. I'm counting on getting rejected--nobody gets published on their first submission. But still, there's such a desire in me to write and create well that it scares me away from working at it. I've never experienced in my life wanting something so badly that I avoid it all together. But maybe facing it down like this, sending in my story, will get me over my psychological pink elephant.