Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bowls o' Mussels

Last week, when we went to The City for BabyGirl's Well Baby checkup and shopping, I asked Husband for dining preferences for the week and he asked for mussels. Obviously, we ate them that night as I wasn't about to let mussels sit around for a day. He didn't think about that aspect, though, so all I got was props for making his request so quickly.

The only mussels on offer were bigger than I really like, but they were still tasty. I sauteed onion, red pepper flakes, and a mass of garlic in olive oil, added a can of drained, diced tomatoes and some white wine and let that cook down for a while. When a lot of the liquid was gone, I tossed in the scrubbed mussels (a lot of them had beards -- strange for farmed mussels) and covered them up until they had cooked. Then I added some reduced cream, tossed in some fresh basil, and poured them over oiled, toasted bread slices, with more toasted bread for sopping up the juices. The "sop" is Husband's favorite part of the dish, so I always make sure there's good broth involved.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beautiful Bones Dinner

Susan from Food Blogga is hosting a calcium-rich event this month in honor of National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. She was looking for meals or recipes high in bone-building calcium. My dinner last night was a bit of a hodge-podge in its creation, but it definitely had a lot of calcium from multiple sources. For those out there wondering about calcium-packed foods, there's a good list in the event guidelines linked above.

I had a lot of veggies that I had meant to grill earlier in the week. Those plans were dealt a blow by our ridiculously high winds, so last night, I really HAD to grill a whole bunch of veggies or risk losing them. Quite honestly, I didn't know what I wanted to do with them once they were grilled, so I perused upcoming blogging events for some inspiration.

When I first read the Beautiful Bones description, I thought I'd do a main-course salad with lots of grilled veggies, goat cheese, and cooled boiled potatoes. But I was lacking motivation for washing greens and was losing focus more generally due to over-tiredness. Husband called from the other room to say that he didn't care what we ate; that we could have Boca Burgers for all he cared.

So we did.

The burgers went on the grill along with the rolls (Husband was in charge of this part as I had just spent a long while being seared in front of the grill). I had already cooked my potatoes and they are calcium-rich, so I wanted to include them. I pan fried them with some of the grilled onions and mushrooms, while marinating the roasted peppers in olive oil and fresh basil. Some of the excess oil and basil was drizzled over the spuds when they were done, and the burger was topped off with the peppers and a thick smear of goat cheese. We both snagged a few bits of grilled green veggies as a side.

By my count, we had four main sources of calcium: the burgers (being soy-based), the goat cheese, the potatoes, and the asparagus. We also had a variety of other nutrients, many of which no doubt either increase or decrease calcium absorption in the body. With any luck, it was mostly an increase and we were able to use most of what we ate.

Feed your bones, everyone!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Haiku Me, Baby!

So, as the winner of last month's Haiku That Blog event, I am the subject of this month's contest. I thought I'd just mention it so that anyone reading this who did NOT follow a link from the contest would have a chance to write a lovely little haiku about my blog. Just seventeen syllables...anyone can do it! If y'all need more information about anything, feel free to ask questions. The only things I won't reveal are the true identities of Isolationville or Desolationville.

In other news, Husband did indeed love the reprise of the grilled veggie sandwiches last week. I love a good sandwich, but Husband might actually outdo me on the sammich-love. Last night, I gave him two good meal options, a main course salad or a sandwich. When I said the S-word, his eyes lit up. I don't have photographic evidence, but last night's dinner was fake-bacon, avocado, lettuce, and chipotle-cheddar sandwiches. Very tasty little beasts they were, too.

I've been working on my garden-to-be. The first time I tried to turn over the soil and incorporate some of my organic goodies, it was as hard as a rock. I'm reasonably strong and I could not get the shovel into the ground at all. So I swallowed my water-thrift-pride for a few days and watered my pile of grass to soften it up. It worked. Yesterday, I was able to get the shovel all the way into the ground and started the process of mixing the grass and coffee grounds into the sand. If only the Starbucks folks would recognize that I really do mean it when I tell them that I'll take absolutely every last speck of used grounds they have. I keep getting there to find that they've thrown out all that lovely stuff.

And finally, for inspiration, my own haiku sense of my blog's essence:

Weather, lack of stores
My food-gathering trials
Cook, isolated

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Sandwich Festival 2008

Last night, I grilled a bunch of veggies to go with our fairly uninspired mac-n-broccoli-n-cheese that was designed as a meal we could all three eat together. BabyGirl ate one bite of each kind of grilled veg. I think. She did, of course, eat quite a bit of broccoli and the peas that I added to her mac-n-cheese.

I was planning to have leftovers of both for lunch, which is what Husband took to work with him this morning. But then I remembered that there was a sandwich blog event coming up, so I looked that up and decided to have a grilled veggie sandwich instead. So please enjoy the sequence of photos of my entry to the Sandwich Festival 2008, hosted by Food-n-More.

I considered going vegan with my entry, as it would be easy to do with a grilled veggie base, but I've really been loving mayo in hot sandwiches recently. Or I just realized I liked it, at least. So I took a ciabatta-style roll and lightly coated both top and bottom with mayo. Then I layered on grilled red onions, asparagus, and zucchini, added some sliced oil-cured olives and sun dried tomatoes, and topped that with a little sliced mozzarella and red pepper flakes.

In an attempt to make it easier to eat, I grilled it with a cast-iron pan on top to press it down and make it flat. It worked! Very easy to eat -- I surprised myself!

What also surprised me was just how much I loved this sandwich. I expected to like it. I expected it to be a Very Yummy Lunch. What I did not expect was to moan through most of the bites and to revise my dinner plans for tonight. I would be in serious trouble if Husband did not get to partake in this loveliness. He is awfully fond of a good sandwich. So another roll with come out of the freezer as soon as I finish writing this and the mushrooms we were going to have with pasta might become a soup to accompany our sammiches.

This could easily be made vegan by omitting the mayo and cheese or replacing them with vegan versions. It could be vegan and maybe better than the original with a drizzle of basil-blended- with-olive-oil or a white bean spread or both.

And now BabyGirl says, "Why are you making me wait to get up from my nap, you mean blogging mama?"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

An Easy Supper

The other night, we were tired and only somewhat hungry. So I made a salad of red pepper, tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, green onion, and lime juice and we ate that with Trader Joe's cheese and green chile tamales. Lovely, salty cotija got crumbled over the top of the salad before serving.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Birthday Dinner And Soil-Building

Well, Husband turned a year older a few days ago and I tried to be a good wife and give him a good dinner, especially as a present hasn't happened yet.

There's not much more Husband likes than a good potsticker, so I reprised a version I made a few months ago with a scallop and shrimp filling. I kept it very simple: scallops, shrimp, ginger, and a ton of green onion. I really wanted to cook them all at once, so I pulled out my monster electric griddle and panfried both sides instead of steaming one side. It worked; they were delicious.

I served them with a modified version of the cabbage-and-raw-ramen salad. I read a bunch of recipes online, but none of them really thrilled me. I took the best-looking of them and replaced some of the "salad oil" with toasted sesame oil, subbed sweet chile sauce for some of the sugar, added about a cup of chopped cilantro, and just generally gave it more Asian flavors and heat. It was good. For dessert, I made a lemon cake with lemon-cream cheese filling and frosting. Husband's a citrus lover, and the cake went over well. I'm not much of a decorator, so no picture of my not-ugly, but not-pretty cake.

Today, the morning featured bearable temperatures during BabyGirl's nap, so I went out to start doing some soil-building in my future garden. BabyGirl and I made a trip to Starbucks before the nap to pick up some used coffee grounds. There was a big pile of grass clippings I'd had my eye on for a while, so I raked those into roughly the size and shape of the raised bed that will eventually exist. Here's my lush, green garden area.

Ah, the desert in springtime!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pasta Squared?

Trader Joe's makes a lovely lemon pepper pasta that really tickles my tongue. It has a bit of a kick and really good lemon flavor. It stands alone with just a little garlic and olive oil, but the other night, I really wanted to make a one-pot sort of meal.

My problem is that I don't really like long pasta shapes. These aren't bad because they're so wide, but spaghetti and linguine just leave me cold. I don't like to work that hard to keep my food on the fork. That's the sad truth. But since I don't use them often, I don't really know how to make veggies work for the shape. I mean, it seems silly to have long, wide pasta hanging out with chunks of broccoli or even onion. So I browsed in the fridge, saw my friend the zucchini, and decided that I could mimic the shape of the pasta and avoid all the angst.

Using my beloved Messermeister veggie peeler, I shaved the zucchini into long strips about the width of the pasta. I added them to the pot when the pasta had just about a minute left to cook. In the meantime, I had sauteed some garlic and capers in olive oil, added heavy cream and some finely chopped oil-cured black olives, and reduced that down a bit. I tossed the pasta/zucchini in the sauce, added a bit more salt, and served it up with some grated parm. It was very tasty.

Now, this dish still doesn't win any big awards for veggie-rich meals, but we did plan to have bowls of berries for dessert, bringing in a good serving or two of fruit. It just never materialized, however. Such is life sometimes.