Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cooking and Garden-Making

It's been a busy few weeks here in Desertville. In between snow falls (yes, I know...Desertville sounds like it shouldn't have snow, but it does), I've been trying to finish fencing my garden against the furballs and build up some organic matter in the soil. I have a big pile of cow poop and grass clippings that are slowly, but surely becoming something a plant would want to live in and, thanks to Starbucks, I have a growing pile of coffee grounds. Mostly, I just need to put in my gate and furball-proof the gate area and then I can start laying out the beds.

I've also been doing a lot of cooking. Yesterday, I dragged out three bananas I'd shoved in the freezer before leaving for a weekend a while back and turned them into banana bread. I also made shrimp tacos with a cilantro/tomatillo salsa. We each had half an avocado filled with diced red pepper in a lime-y dressing on the side.

Tonight, for Valentine's Day, I'm cheating a little. Husband is extremely fond of Quorn's gruyere cutlets and I happened to see them at the store a few days ago, so I'm cooking those with some type of potato (either roasted or mashed, I think) and veg. Maybe creamed spinach. Maybe sauteed broccoli with lots of garlic. Little Girl likes both. I'm not sure about a dessert. I believe there's chocolate in my future, so I don't know that I really need to make one.

I've been perusing upcoming blogging events, so I hope to start cooking and taking pictures and really food-blogging again soon. Certainly once my garden has small green things growing, I'll be sharing pictures of the plants and meals that come from it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Another Recipe Followed ... Amazing!

Yes, it's true. I followed yet another new recipe. I was reading my MIL's Real Simple and enjoyed their section on "healthier" comfort foods. (I'm planning to try their creamed spinach recipe next.) But two nights ago, I started with the Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower. I did a small amount of substituting (as in, we don't keep 1% milk or reduced-fat sour cream around the house) and it turned out very, very well. I did a full pound of pasta so there would be plenty of leftovers, so had to increase the amounts of everything else a bit. The "extra" cheese was a hard smoked goat's milk cheddar, which added a little oomph to the flavor profiles. I'd make it again, definitely, as SmallGirl liked it a lot and I added peas to her portion, thereby getting quite a bit of veggies into her supper.

Here's my quibble: They claim the hands-on time is 15 minutes. I'm not the fastest cook in the world; my knife skills have definitely slowed down after over a decade out of food service. I'm still no slouch, though, and I'm pretty organized in the kitchen. There's no way I could do the amount of hands-on required by the recipe in 15 minutes. It involves chopping a head of cauliflower and an onion, grating a cup and a half of cheese, sauteeing said onion for "five to seven minutes", cooking pasta, and measuring out and combining all the ingredients. Oh -- and making fresh breadcrumbs!

I was able to do most of the other prep while my water was coming to a boil and the pasta cooking (about 15 minutes right there), but I still had to mix the breadcrumb topping and measure out the milk, sour cream, and mustard while the pasta was sitting in the colander. Add another few minutes for mixing everything together, pouring into the baking dish, and adding the crumbs, and we're up to about 25 minutes before it got in the oven.

I think the only way it is 15 minutes of hands-on time is if you start timing it when the ingredients are in their list form, i.e., 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 1/2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar; 1 head cauliflower, roughly chopping; and 4 slices multigrain bread, torn. If you've already done those parts before you hit start, it's 15 minutes. Otherwise? Not so much.