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    Entries in healthy (2)

    Thursday
    Mar062014

    Green Soup from the Man Meets Stove cookbook.

    Soundtrack:  It’s Not Easy Being Green by Kermit the Frog

    The chopping in this recipe is quite a bit of work, but what man doesn’t enjoy playing with knives? The great soup makes it worth the work.  If you have a vegan or vegetarian lass, this should at least get you to second base.  Probably farther than that, assuming you’ve been paying attention to what we say here.

    You’re gonna need an hour or two to do this, so throw “The Notebook,” “You’ve Got Mail,” or another happy chick flick into the player while you cook.  Remember to occasionally bring her a glass of wine for lubrication, and a blanket to wrap up in. Set the stage for the bliss to come…

    2 large bunches Swiss chard (or spinach)

    6 cloves garlic, finely chopped   

    2 bunches kale (green leaves only)                        

    9 cups water

    3 cups cilantro, loosely packed                                

    3 large potatoes

    Salt                                                                          

    4 onions, chopped                          

    Olive oil                                                                  

    Freshly ground black pepper

    6 cups vegetable or chicken broth[1]                         

    Juice of one lemon juice, more to taste

    Dash cayenne pepper                                                                                   

    Optional: Heavy cream, Feta cheese, wine

    Wash the greens thoroughly, then cut the chard and kale off their stems, and slice or tear the leaves into 2” chunks. Combine the chard, kale, and cilantro in a soup pot with the water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Peel the potatoes, or just scrub them well, cut them into big pieces, and add to the pot. Bring the water to a boil, reduce 

    the heat, and let the whole mess simmer for about half an hour.  Don’t forget to keep your date properly wined while she’s been waiting.

    Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a nonstick skillet. Add the chopped onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook them over low heat until they are golden (caramelized) and soft. This will take up to 45 minutes;[2] don't hurry, you only need to give them a stir once in a while, and it's the slow cooking that develops the sweetness. If you are really bored, go play with your date, just don’t get too involved (if you know what we mean) and burn the onions.  If you like, you can deglaze[3] the pan at the end with a generous splash of Marsala wine or sherry. Increase the heat to medium, and add the Marsala booze. Return it to the stove and cook the onions, stirring for 1 minute. Add the onions to the soup.  Give your date some leftover Marsala you set aside.

    Put another splash of oil in the skillet and cook the garlic over low heat, stirring continuously to keep the garlic from burning, until it sizzles and smells great.  It will probably take 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic to the soup pot and simmer everything for a few minutes more.  Give more wine to your date.

    At this point there won't be much liquid in the soup, so add enough water - up to an additional  3 cups - to make the soup…a soup. Puree the using a hand blender. You can also use a regular blender, if that is what you have, doing a little bit at a time, as much as your blender will handle.  Start the blender slowly and then speed it up, lid tightly on, or you will have hot burning liquid shoot out the top.  Wine, date, repeat.

    Return the soup to the pot, bring it back to a simmer and taste. Add salt as needed, grind in a little black pepper; add the cayenne and the lemon juice. Stir well and taste again. Now you're on your own; correct the seasoning by adding a little salt, broth, or lemon to taste, and then serve these big steaming bowls of green soup piping hot.  By now she may not be able to taste it for the wine…

    We like to garnish this soup with feta cheese. Croutons are always good as well, especially if they're home made from rye or pumpernickel bread. Garlic croutons are da bombe, as the kids say. And of course, there's always sour cream, but because we like the low-fat quality of the soup, we use a spoonful of yogurt instead.

    Now take those bowls out to your lady friend and pop a tasty crouton into her mouth as you do.  We recommend rounding out the meal with a fresh loaf of crusty bakery bread. Use real butter slathered all over the top of it. Tear it with your hands to serve. Butter slathered fingers are a good beginning…

    [1] Like most things, homemade is better, of course

    [2] If you pay close attention, you can do this in much shorter time over higher heat, but keep it stirring.  Don’t burn!

    [3] A fancy word for using a liquid to remove and dissolve the tasty brown caramelized bits of food from a pan to make a pan sauce.

     

     

    Monday
    Apr042011

    Bento Lunch Boxes

    When we were kids, we had to carry our food in the skin of the animal our parents removed it from.  We walked to school in a Stage 1 Smog Alert, uphill, both ways.  My how times have changed! 

    As our focus here is usually on teaching fellow underarm-scratchers how to cook, it isn’t very often we have the opportunity to delve into matters of children.  Seems like we found the right person to help us change that!

    A friend of ours, Lorelei Cress, has been posting to Facebook the lunchbox-bento boxes she makes for her daughter “E” and is consistently impressing the hell out of us and anyone that sees them.  They are super-cool pieces of food art, and are just plain FUN as well.  So we asked Lorelei for an interview…

    MMS: How did you get the idea for the bento boxes?

    Lorelei: It's important that your readers understand that the lunches I make for E aren't technically bentos at all - they only take inspiration from them. I honestly don't remember when I first got the notion - but I know I saw pics online (probably through someone's FB post, but possibly on Flickr) of really cute bento-style lunches, read that Japanese mothers do this as an expression of love for their children, and thought it was something unique I could do to show my love for E and make healthy homemade lunches more fun. After looking at some blogs by American mothers who are doing their twist on Japanese bentos, I became more confident that I could actually pull it off with my time and budget constraints. 

    MMS: What did/does E think of them?

    When I just asked E what she thinks of her lunches, she said "They're beautiful!" She likes to take a peek at them every morning before I close up the lids of the boxes and ooh and aah over the contents. I tell her she has to eat at least some of the veggies in order to eat the dessert, and so far, she has complied (she knows if she doesn't, she won't get dessert in the next lunch!). 


    MMS: Did you get any specialized tools to make them? Special foods?
     
    I did acquire a lot of tools - the ones I use the most are the metal cookie and vegetable cutters to cut veggies, fruit, cheese, etc. into shapes and/or create designs. I need to get some more cookie cutters so that I have more seasonal shapes available - I have tons of leaf shapes and a few Christmas shapes, but nothing particularly spring-ish or summery. Sometimes I've been forced to improvise and cut shapes by hand, and the results have often been amusing. I hope to get better at that as time goes by!

    I also get a lot of use out of the sandwich cutters that cut the sandwich into shapes while sealing the sides so the filling doesn't leak out. Ones I don't use as often but still love are the Japanese egg molds that make a hard-boiled egg resemble a bunny, bear, heart, fish, etc., colorful food picks shaped like animals, leaves, etc., silicone cups to hold blueberries, Goldfish crackers, etc., and shaped sauce bottles/containers for dressings, dips, etc. Bento supplies can be found on Amazon, E-bay or through Japanese/Asian specialty stores online - but pay attention to shipping costs before purchasing, which can be equal to the value of your merchandise!

    As far as foods go, anything miniature is perfect for bento boxes. Small fruits like berries, grapes, clementines or satsumas, petite apples (you can find small Gala, Jazz, and others by the bag at the grocery store), Forelle pears, kumquats, etc. are all wonderful. Baby bell peppers, broccoli florets, grape or cherry tomatoes, snow peas, sliced cucumbers, baby carrots and celery sticks are great ways to get some veggies in. Grocery stores sell containers of mini muffins (multiple flavors in one package!) and mini cupcakes that are perfectly sized for kids' lunches. Sara Lee makes mini burger buns that are great for small sandwiches, and Smuckers Uncrustables frozen PB&Js are great to have on hand for those days when you don't have time to make a sandwich (which for me, are far too many!). Sometimes it's a challenge to have enough fresh produce to create variety in her lunches without wasting some due to spoilage. If you can get your produce from a local farmer's market, it'll last longer.

    MMS: How many have you made? 


    So far I've made 89 bento-inspired lunches for E - four per week since she's started school, with the exception of sick days and vacation days. Fridays are "pizza day" at school, so I give myself Fridays off and let her have pizza for lunch.

    MMS: How do you come up with new ideas?

    Some ideas for designs have come from other lunches I've seen online, and some have been inspired by the weather/season, holidays, and sometimes just by what I have available. For instance, I had a little red wax heart that I'd cut from her Babybel cheese and thought it looked a little like a cat's nose - and I had cheddar and swiss cheeses to make the face, mane and whiskers, green gumdrops and yellow sprinkles for eyes, a little strip of grape tomato for a mouth, and voila! A lion.

    I have been stuck in a rut ingredients-wise, and need to branch out so that she gets more variety. Some friends have sent fabulous ideas for vegetarian sandwich fillings, and I have yet to try many of them. Usually it's time constraints that keep me from doing more experimentation. I need to find a way around that and prepare stuff in advance so that I have it on hand and don't have to try and make it AND assemble it the morning of.


    MMS: Any fun stories about the boxes?

    I've heard that some of the teachers who supervise at lunch time and some of her classmates make a point of checking out her lunches every day, so that's nice to hear. And of course, my friends on Facebook always have sweet things to say - usually something along the lines of "Will you make my lunches, too?"

    Thanks for your interest!



    Thank you Lorelei!  Your food art is AMAZING!

    Pictures:


    Bento 6 - Vegetarian bologna & cheese pocket sandwich (with cheddar cat cutout), broccoli and cherry tomatoes, Babybel cheese, apples. Snack: clementine and mini blueberry muffin.

    Bento 8 - Peanut butter and honey sandwich with cheese flowers, Babybel cheese, grapes, snowpea "leaves" and bell pepper flowers and butterfly. Snack: clementine and mini blueberry muffin.

    Bento 36 - Uncrustables sandwich with cheese stars, apple slices, carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, Babybel cheese. Snack: mini cranberry orange muffin and clementine. Dessert: chocolate Teddy Grahams.

    Bento 41 - Uncrustables sandwich with cheese stars, grape tomatoes, celery sticks and orange slices. Snack: mini pumpkin spice muffin and apple slices. Dessert: Meiji "Pucca Choco Pretzel" from Japan.

    Bento 44 - Uncrustables sandwich with cheddar gingerbread man, checkered apple slices, celery and carrot sticks and Babybel cheese. Snack: green seedless grapes, mini cranberry-orange muffin. Dessert: Meiji "Hello Panda" chocolate-filled cookies from Japan.