Friday, November 16, 2012

Kitchen HELP!!

We've been renovating our 1978 tri-level home for more than five years now. When we moved in there was gold/blue/orange wallpaper on almost every vertical surface, a 70's bar with laminate yellow countertop in the family room, and blue office carpet in the kitchen (who carpets a kitchen?!?!).

We immediately stripped the wallpaper, pulled up carpet, and painted just about everything.  But now we're into bigger projects and we've got an SOS!

Our "vintage" oven stopped working this week. Won't heat above 190 degrees. We could possibly, maybe, might could (as we say in the south) have it repaired.  But, you know how much time we spend in the kitchen. And this model is a 27" space saver  so small!

I want a full-size stove and an oven in which you can actually use both racks.  A kitchen like this.


(see more kitchen porn here

Of course, our budget doesn't quite keep up with our dreams... so we're taking baby steps.

In a fit of "crap - my oven's broke" and "my oven's broke -- yay!", I wandered sped over to the nearest Big Box to look at new stoves.  I picked out a nice stainless steel one and bought it, along with an over-the-range microwave (I know... dated, ugly, inconvenient, so builder-grade.  But I agree with this woman from the parenting site Babble and this kitchen designer.)

Problem is -- and DIY home improvers will totally understand this -- as soon as we started prepping the area for delivery we discovered, well, problems:

1. The vintage stove and range hood are both hardwired into the wall. There is no outlet. We need outlets for the new appliances.  (texted our fabulous contractor. We may DIY, but we don't want to die)

2. The over the range cabinet is hung such that if we put the microwave below it the microwave will be too close to the cook top. It'll be code, but just barely, and certainly not enough room for our big soup pots. We could raise the cabinet, but then it won't line up with the others.  Which is okay, but not ideal.

3.  This is the REAL problem. Turns out our existing stove was 27", but our existing hood was 30", centered over the 27" stove. When we replace the stove the  hood/microwave will hang 1.5 inches off center to the right.  We can't cut down the base cabinets (can we?) and don't want to replace all the cabinets (too much $$).  We certainly don't want to be like this kitchen!  So, what to do?

Ask you!

So, here's the before...


(forgive the darkness... lighting is also on the punch list)

And here's what I think might be our solution:



Or something like that. A wall-mounted chimney style range hood that I could  center over the stove and not have the off-center or have-to-cut-down-the-cabinets dilemma.

We would then extend the glass tile backsplash up both sides of the hood (midway up the cabinets? to the top of the cabinets?)  We'd also have to figure out what do do on the left side of the new stove b/c there wouldn't be enough room to re-install our existed cabinet (which currently butts up against the moulding of a door frame).  We could either look for a slimmer cabinet or install open shelving.

Thoughts??!?  Would it look weird to have

<open shelving>     ......   <chimney style hood>    ......   <cabinets>?

HELP!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Black Bean & Butternut Squash Soup

It seems we've had soup on the stomach brain lately.  First, it was Posole, then Super Easy Vegetable Chowder.

This week we got our first Freshfully box...


Obviously we had to make SOUP!

Specifically, Black Bean & Butternut Squash Soup.




Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut or extra virgin olive oil (we used olive oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2 cups)
  • 3 cups cubed butternut squash (sweet potato would be good too) 
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder (yes, really!)
  • pinch of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups cooked, black beans (about one can, rinsed and drained)
  • diced avocado, for garnish
  • fresh cilantro, for garnish
Tortilla Crispies
  • 3 corn tortillas
  • scant 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Directions In a heavy bottomed pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash and broth. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to cook. 

Add the spices and the beans and stir. Let everything continue to cook another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Salt to taste.  Ladle some out of the pot and run it through a blender to thicken it up. Then add it back to the pot.  If it doesn't thicken enough you can also sprinkle some cornmeal in it.  We did both.

For the tortilla crispies, preheat the oven to 375'. Stack them and slice into thin matchsticks. Spread on a baking sheet, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle the salt and toss gently to coat. Spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes until they are light brown and crispy, giving the pan a shake halfway through.  Don't use too much oil. We made that mistake and our first batch was kind of soggy.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with diced avocado, a handful of chopped cilantro and some of the tortilla crispies!  The original blog post suggests a sprinkle of goat cheese, too, which sounds really good!  Unfortunately, all we have is cinnamon goat cheese. Thinking that wouldn't taste that great.

Jason, Olivia and I really like it.  Miranda tolerated it. Hannah chocked it down so she could have ice cream for dessert.  She did, however, remark that butternut squash "doesn't really taste like anything, so maybe it's okay."

Now that's a ringing endorsement, isn't it?! ;-)

Diwali Dinner



Who would have thought that moving to Alabama -- the buckle of the Bible Belt (don't let Tennessee fool you!) -- we'd learn so much about Hinduism and Indian culture?  It's true!

Thanks to our good friends Archana and Hemant... 


who have opened their house for many years for a Diwali dinner. 

For the uninitiated, Diwali is the festival of lights -- one of the most important festivals of the year.  Families perform all kinds of activities together in their homes, including cleaning the house from top to bottom, purchasing something special for the house, then celebrating with friends, family and fireworks. I'm sure I'm leaving out a ton. I'm still learning. 

And so, too, are the young women in our Girl Scout troop.  They're raising money for a trip to Europe, so this year Archana and Hemant agreed to teach them how to cook indian food and help them host a Diwali party. 

First, the prep... It was a lot of work! 



From shredding carrots for Carrots Halwa to cutting several heads of cabbage... 


to rolling Gulab Jamuns...


We definitely had our hands full!   

But it paid off as we welcomed nearly 30 people for dinner.
















We even had an impromptu euphonium concert ...


Good friends, good conversation, great food! All Necessary Pleasures....


Friday, November 9, 2012

Taste of India - Diwali Celebration


There are still a few tickets available to Girl Scout Troop 145's Taste of India event Saturday night (11/10 at 6 p.m.). 

The troop is raising money for a trip to visit the Girl Scout Chalet in Switzerland in 2015. As part of their effort they'
re learning how to cook various international cuisines and hosting fundraising dinner parties. Their first is a celebration of Indian food for Diwali (the “Festival of Lights”)

Cost: $20/person $10/children 6-10 under 6 free
Payment is cash or check payable to “Troop 145”





Location: 749 Sussex Drive  Vestavia Hills



RSVP to Archana Tiwari at 824-9442 (home) or 213-9517 (cell) 



There will be non-alcoholic drinks provided, but feel free to bring your own wine/beer.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Quajado (Sephardic Spinach & Macaroni Casserole)


It's a busy, busy week (aka "hell week"), so we're looking for super simple meals.   Saw this recipe on Facebook today and thought we might try it tonight. We'll let you know how it goes.

Ingredients


  • ½ c. elbow macaroni (regular or whole wheat)                  
  • 1 tsp. (or less) light salt
  • 1 ½ c. “fake” eggs                                                                  
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz. (reduced-fat) cottage cheese                                      
  • 2 pkgs. frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry 
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese                                                              

Directions

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Pam a 9” square baking dish.
2.) Cook macaroni as directed.
3.) In a large bowl, combine “fake” eggs, cheese, seasonings, and spinach. Add macaroni.
4.)Pour into prepared pan, and bake 25-30 minutes.  Cut into squares to serve.

(To double:  use a 13” x 9” dish and increase baking time to 30-35 minutes.)

A little googling, and I'm learning more about this dish (pronounced kwah-SHAH-doh).  Like, it seems to be a mainstay of kosher cooking and you can use a variety of veggies including zucchini (even yellow ones), beet greens (anyone have experience with these?!), tomatoes and eggplant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Super Easy Vegetable Chowder

At the risk of inducing STS ("stardardized test stress") on a Monday morning, here's a question for you: 

Tax season is to accountants as ________ season is to journalists.  

(hint: we'll all be breathing a bit easier come November 7th).  

The past two weeks have been super busy.  Not only did I have my regular anchoring shift from 4-9 a.m., but I also reported features stories on a political race that could signal the end of an era for Alabama's Democratic party and a proposal to remove racist language from the Alabama Constitution (but wait -- black legislators and school groups are against it!).  And planned the station's coverage for election night and wrote a couple of web exclusive stories. 

No rest for the weary come the weekend.  Hannah had tech week for Guys & Dolls (4-10 p.m. rehearsals each day), Olivia had a big gymnastics meet (got 1st in beam and floor, 3rd on vault and 1st overall!), Miranda had a theatre festival (got 2 superior rankings!) and is now down south singing at the National Peanut Festival. And Jason?  He's been down in Florida for four days, walking 8 miles a day knocking on doors to "get out the vote". 

Needless to say, our busy schedules have led to a lot of crappy meals this week.  Too much eating out, too many ramen noodles, blech, blech, blech.  Last night Olivia begged for vegetables -- real, honest to goodness unfried vegetables.  So we turned to a TNT recipe:  Vegetable Chowder.  


Our recipe is loosely based on Cooking Light's Corn & Potato Chowder recipe.  

Ingredients: 

  • olive oil
  • random veggies diced small (we used baking potatoes, onions, carrots and green peppers)
  • can of corn
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • seafood seasoning (CL suggests Old Bay Seasoning; we had a Mediterranean seafood spice mix in the pantry, so used that) 
  • 1 cup half & half
  • shredded cheese (we used cheddar)

Directions: 

  1. Heat oil in sauce pan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
  2. Saute peppers and onions, stirring regularly, for 4 minutes until lightly browned. 
  3. Increase heat to high, add water, corn, seasoning and potatoes.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are softened. 
  4. Remove from heat, stir in half & half, ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese. 
So easy. So good.  A go-to for busy nights! 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pinto, Black & Red Bean Salad with Grilled Corn & Avocado






While we're on our soup kick (you have to check out this recipe for posole!), we thought we'd share a recipe that shares many similar ingredients, but is a bit lighter.... 

Ingredients

1 cup halved heirloom grape or cherry tomatoes $
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3 ears shucked corn $
1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil $
Cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 diced peeled avocados $

Preparation

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

2. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Brush corn, onion, and jalapeño evenly with oil. Place vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill corn for 12 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 6 minutes. Grill onion slices and jalapeño 8 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 4 minutes. Let vegetables stand 5 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs. Coarsely chop onion. Finely chop jalapeño; discard stem. Add corn, onion, and jalapeño to tomato mixture; toss well. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and next 4 ingredients (through kidney beans) to corn mixture; toss well. Top with avocado.

So, so, so good! 

It's cold outside, but that's okay because we've got a belly full of Posole (poh-SOH-lay)


It's been a cold couple of days in Birmingham, with overnight lows in the mid 30s and daytime highs in the upper 50s/lower 60s.  Of we've got absolutely nothing to complain about, given what our friends and family in the Northeast and Midwest are experiencing right now.  Still, the cold can really settle in the bones and there's nothing better than a hearty soup to warm you up.

Jason dog-eared this recipe in Bon Appetit nearly a year ago and has been waiting for a chance to make it.  Posole (aka pozole) has a rich history, which you can read while you're slow-cooking the meat.  Heads up, this recipe takes hours to make but is so worth the wait!


Note: Photo is from JefferyW's Flickr .  We were so anxious to dig into our bowls that we forgot to take a photo.

Ingredients


Pork

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 2-pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced


Posole

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 6 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 28-ounce can undrained pinto beans
  • 1 28-ounce can white hominy, drained
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juices, puréed in blender until smooth
  • 1 tablespoon oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Shredded mild cheddar
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges
  • Flour tortillas


Preparation


Pork

  • Preheat oven to 275°. Line a small roasting pan with foil. Mix cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Rub spice mix all over pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place pork in pan and cover with sliced onion. Pour 1/2 cup water in the bottom of pan. Cover pan tightly with foil and roast until meat is very tender, 5–6 hours. Let pork rest until cool enough to handle.
  • Using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-size pieces. Skim fat from juices in roasting pan; reserve meat. DO AHEADCan be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill pork and juices separately.


Posole

  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium- low heat. Add onion and sauté until trans- lucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the diced fresh tomatoes and stir until softened, about 2 minutes longer. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  • Add reserved pork to posole. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes longer for flavors to meld. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding reserved juices from roast pork, if desired. Divide among bowls, garnish with shredded cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges, and serve with flour tortillas.

Reviews

It's unanimous. We all loved this recipe. Which is a good thing because we forgot to halve the recipe... we've got leftovers galore. C'mon over! 


Monday, October 8, 2012

This Weekend's Harvest

After spend the night sleeping in a cardboard box you wouldn't think I'd want to spent any more time outside, but the front yard garden bounty was calling my name and I couldn't resist.  



We're growing okra for the first time this year, but only one plant since it's not the most popular veggie in our house. I like it, Jason tolerates it, and the girls hate it. Okra just seems to be one of the veggies that elicits strong feelings!

Check out the okra on the right, though. It's a monster! I'm not sure what the okray world record is (can't find it online), but I did find some pretty humongous ones and in the process found a blog I think I might need to follow. Look at their okra...


Wow - talk about long.  Though I'm not sure it's good for eating.  I seem to remember reading something somewhere about larger okra being too tough.

We don't have a harvest nearly this size. Usually just 3-4 okras a week.  We've been using them mostly in breakfast hash or veggie stir fries, but would love some new recipes to try. Do you have a favorite way to prepare it? Please share!

From Soggy Dumpster Sandwiches To Chicken Corn Chowder

Temperatures are starting to dip, even here in the deep South. So of course we marked the occasion by sleeping in cardboard boxes on the sidewalk this weekend! 

Me (back, 2nd from L), Hannah (front, R)
and fellow Girl Scout Troop 27 members

Let me explain.  Hannah's Girl Scout troop is working on its Bronze Award.  When they learned that Alabama is the worst in the nation for child homelessness, they knew they had to do something.  They contacted the local YWCA to ask how they could help and learned that most homeless kids in Birmingham go to school, but many don't have the necessary supplies.

School supplies?  We know how to gather school supplies!  We helped collect thousands of dollars worth of supplies last year to restock schools that were destroyed by the deadly April 27th tornadoes.

So we got to work. We toured the YWCA, found a closet we could set up for school supplies, secured storage bins and started our campaign. We created promotional materials and a Facebook page and started talking to friends and neighbors.  The project culminated this weekend in a "Homeless for the Night" event at our Neighborhood Walmart.

The girls layered up and "took to the streets" to collect supplies ....


and donations ...


LOTS of donations! We haven't counted it all yet, but we're guesstimating it's about $600 (including a $50 check from one older woman and another $20 cash from a young woman who said she lived at the YWCA for a couple months earlier this year).

After a couple hours, community activist Titus Battle joined us to share his story.



Titus ran away from his adoptive family when he was 14 and lived on the street of NYC till he was 21.  He eventually joined the Army and went to college (remarkable, since he quit school in 8th grad!), studying psychology and philosophy.  30 years later, he still crusades against child abuse and for homeless children.

The girls had plenty of questions for Titus.  What did you eat when you were homeless? (answer: way too many soggy sandwiches out of dumpsters)  Where did you take a shower? ("shower? I didn't take a shower for years") Did you see anyone die on the streets? (yes, a young teenager girl who he will never forget).

Once he left, they played a quick game of cards...


then hunkered down for a night "on the streets".




It was surprisingly warm in those boxes!

Still, we were all quite happy to get back to our warm houses, with good food to put in our bellies.  For Hannah and me, that meant Cooking Light's Chicken Corn Chowder.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 6 green onions (aka scallions)
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken breasts
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (we prefer freshly ground, but were out)
  • 20 ounces of frozen corn kernels, thawed 
  • 14 ounces chicken broth (fat-free, less-sodium if you want to Cook Light)
  • 2 cups milk (fat-free to Cook Light; but we used 1%)
  • shredded cheddar cheese ** the recipe says "1/2 cup (2 ounces)", but we're pretty sure 1/2 cup is actually 4 ounces. ACK!! We were wrong! ** 

   
Directions
Melt butter in Dutch oven or large sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Remove green tops from onions, chop the tops and set aside.  Thinly slice white portions of each onion. Add to pan and saute for 2 minutes.

Add flour to pan, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Stir in chicken, salt, pepper, 10 ounces of corn, and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

While mixture simmers, combine the remaining corn and milk in a blender and process until smooth. Add milk mixture to the pan; simmer 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Ladle 2 cup of chowder into each soup bowl; sprinkle with green onion tops and top with 2 tablespoons of cheese.


Reviews
Tanya  -- It's warm and creamy and someone else cooked it for me.  I say "Very good!"

Jason -- It's quite good!

Miranda -- I like it. I wish it had less chunky corn in it. Maybe you could blend most of that up next time?

Olivia -- I'm going to get another bowl.

Hannah -- Did I eat enough to have ice cream for dessert?


Want to help feed hungry Alabamians? Here's a link that will tell you where to donate your food, time, and money.






Thursday, August 9, 2012

Public Radio is Food for Your Brain (and your stomach)

It's a no brainer that food is a Necessary Pleasure.  But if you've been reading this blog for any length of time you know that (at least in our house) public radio is also a Necessary Pleasure.

Today, we offer up a slice of both in the form of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, baked by WBHM intern Will Dahlberg's fiance Katherine. Thanks guys!


Nom, nom, nom..... now back to the fund drive.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pinto, Black, and Red Bean Salad with Corn and Avocado






While we're on our soup kick (you have to check out this recipe for posole!), we thought we'd share a recipe that shares many similar ingredients, but is a bit lighter.... 

Ingredients

1 cup halved heirloom grape or cherry tomatoes $
1 teaspoon salt, divided
3 ears shucked corn $
1 medium white onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 jalapeño pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil $
Cooking spray
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 diced peeled avocados $

Preparation

1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

2. Place the tomatoes in a large bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes.

3. Brush corn, onion, and jalapeño evenly with oil. Place vegetables on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill corn for 12 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 6 minutes. Grill onion slices and jalapeño 8 minutes or until lightly charred, turning after 4 minutes. Let vegetables stand 5 minutes. Cut kernels from cobs. Coarsely chop onion. Finely chop jalapeño; discard stem. Add corn, onion, and jalapeño to tomato mixture; toss well. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, cilantro, and next 4 ingredients (through kidney beans) to corn mixture; toss well. Top with avocado.

So, so, so good! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eat Drink Read Write Festival


Mark your calendars... this looks like a really fun event for Alabama foodies! The Birmingham Public Library is planning to "feed the mind, body and soul" during its Eat Drink Read Write Festival planned for September 8-15, 2012. They've got a bunch of partners in the project, including our good friends over at the J. Clyde. Here are some of the highlights:

Saturday, September 8
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Pepper Place Saturday Market
Storyteller Katie Elkins will perform stories related to food. Desert Island Supply Co. (OMG! Check out their new headquarters. Office Envy!) will lead informal produce-themed writing workshops for children and adults, and BPL will offer food-related crafts.

Tuesday, September 11
Time 6:00 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Birmingham Foodie Book Club presents The World in a Skillet by Paul and Angela Knipple. The Knipples will lead a discussion of their book The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South which focuses on restaurants run by first generation immigrants in the South. Birmingham’s own Mr. Chen’s restaurant is featured in the book. (which, by the way, is one of our favorite restaurants in town.  Check out their reviews. Well worth the drive down to Hoover, imho.)

Wednesday, September 12
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Woodrow Hall, DISCO Office, 5504 1st Ave North, Woodlawn
Food Stories
DISCO (Desert Island Supply Company) will host a live storytelling modeled after NPR’s popular program, The Moth(if you haven't heard the show - it's great!). Food Stories will bring together local storytellers, each of whom will have five minutes to tell a true story in the first person — no props, no notes. The story subject must somehow involve food. Cash bar.

Thursday, September 13
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Eating Alabama
We’ll screen the documentary film Eating Alabama, in which a young couple sets out to eat the way their grandparents did – locally and seasonally. But they soon realize that nearly everything about the food system has changed from the past. The film-maker, Andrew Beck Grace, will be in attendance to discuss the film.

Friday, September 14
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Bards & Brews Poetry Performance/Beer and Cheese Tasting
Featuring Beer and Cheese Pairings by Chef and Bread Guru Corey Hinkel, Bards & Brews is the popular monthly poetry performance/beer tasting hosted by BPL. This special program will begin with a discussion of beer and cheese pairings with Chef Corey Hinkel of Mix Bakery featuring Yellow Moon Cheese from Wright’s Dairy in Alexandria, Alabama. A slam and open mic for poems related to food and drink will be held. First place winner of the slam receives $100; second place $75; and third place $50. Back Forty Beer Company and Bell’s Brewery will furnish beer. Bread and dishes prepared by Chef Dupont of MIX Bakery using ingredients supplied by Whole Foods Market. Beer service coordinated by J.Clyde. Music performed by the Reflections, a band made up of BPL staff.

Saturday, September 15
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
A Taste of Honey with Brenda Palms Barber
Brenda Palms Barber is CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which produces honey in urban settings in the Chicago area and manufactures and markets honey-based personal care products under the beeline® label. The company also provides transitional job opportunities for those who struggle with barriers to employment. Whole Foods Market will sponsor a honey tasting. The Jefferson County Beekeepers Association will provide information on urban beekeeping. J.Clyde will offer a sampling of mead.

Saturday, September 15
Time: TBD
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Tamar Adler

Monday, July 30, 2012

Easy Garlic Chicken with Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds

"All kinds of yummy smells are wafting up from the kitchen tonight."


That was my Facebook status at 6:30 tonight.   Miranda and Jason were making dinner. Which sounds like such a basic statement, especially for a family food blog.  Unless you're a regular reader of Necessary Pleasures and you know that Miranda rarely eats dinner with us, let alone cooks dinner.  


Proof??  She missed Homemade Mac 'n Cheese, Thai Noodle Dinner, Martha Hall Foose's Peanut Chicken and Michael Tzimmis, and a whole bunch of other meals. 


Oh to be 17, have a car, a little money, and friends who love to eat.  


But, you see, Miranda has a plan.  A college survival plan that goes something like this: When I go to college next year I'm going to offer to cook really good dinners for people as long as they buy the groceries and agree to let me eat some once I'm done cooking.   


The only problem with this plan? Miranda doesn't really cook that much. Sure, she's developed a taste for good food and she can read a recipe (she is going to college, afterall), but in terms of actual "in the kitchen hours" she doesn't have a whole lot to hang her apron on. 


But this week, when Jason asked if there was anything she needed at the grocery store she said "chicken", "garlic" and "brown sugar". 


Jason: What? 


Miranda: I want to make dinner. 


Jason: WHAT?!?


Miranda: I found a recipe on Pinterest and I want to make it. 


Miranda is a huge Pinterest addict -- follow her boards here.  This tweet from yesterday about sums up her feelings: 
@mirandafulmore "I'm pretty sure if you're a girl and you don't have a Pinterest then you also don't have a life."
So, armed with chicken and garlic and a couple other ingredients, Miranda set about making tonight's main course - Easy Garlic Chicken. And although she would have been perfectly happy having a Meat Fest, Jason insisted on adding fruits and vegetables, hence the Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds. 






Easy Garlic Chicken 


Ingredients


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil

Directions
  1. Preheat over to 500 degrees (F) and lightly grease a casserole dish
  2. In a small saute pan, saute garlic with the oil until tender
  3. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar
  4. Place Chicken breasts in a prepared baking dish and cover with the garlic and brown sugar mix
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds

Ingredients
  • 1 cup riesling or other sweet white wine (Jason used a Chardonnay - it's what we had on hand)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond oil (though we used olive oil, since he couldn't find almond oil)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens
  • 3 plums, sliced (we only used 2)
  • 2 peaches, peeled and sliced (we only used 1)
  • 2 nectarine, peeled and sliced (we only used 1)
  • 2 apricots, peeled and sliced 
  • 3/4 cup pitted fresh cherries, halved 
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
Directions
  1. Heat wine in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 10 minutes). ** Jason had a really hard time getting it to reduce. He ended up just pulling out 2 tbsp.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Toss salad greens and fruit with dressing. Sprinkle with goat cheese and sliced almonds. Serve immediately. 

Reviews:

Chef Miranda - Um, I made it! That's all you need to know.   No, seriously, it wasn't creamy enough, but it was good. Next time I make it I'd make it more creamy. (Jason: how would you do that?) By making it more creamy! (Tanya: How?) Okay, I'm done. We ate... let's get off dinner! 

Chef Jason - I thought it was okay. The chicken was a little dry. I think Miranda's idea of making the marinade creamier is probably good. I'd be very cautious about how long you cook it.  The salad was pretty good. Not bad. Good summer salad. 

Olivia - I liked it. I like goat cheese.  I thought the dressing on the salad wasn't that good. I don't know, it was, like, too heavy. 

Tanya - Funny! I thought the dressing was too light. I could barely taste it.  I liked the salad a lot, but then I'm a huge fruititarian.  The chicken was meh.  It was a bit too garlicky for my taste. I didn't taste the brown sugar and I would have liked to have more interplay between the garlic and the sugar. 

And finally, playing the role of the 17 year old meal misser this week is Hannah, who's away at Camp Nana & Papa this month. 

Pork with Cherry Couscous

Cherries, cherries everywhere!   They're in season right now and pies aren't the only way to soak up their sweet goodness.  Check out this easy (and healthy) recipe from our new favorite cooking magazine.



Ingredients 

  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops (or, if you're like us, a really nice organic, humanely raised tenderloin bought on sale)
  • 1 tsp salt, divided (we prefer sea salt)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted cherries (a great job for kids! just make sure they're dressed for the job and understand that cherry juice stains everything it touches.)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Directions
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat
  2. Brush 1 tbsp olive oil evenly over all sides of pork and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper.  Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill until done (click here for current guidelines on suggested temperature for cooked pork).
  3. While pork cooks, start boiling water. 
  4. Let cooked pork rest at least 5 minutes before cutting.
  5. Place couscous in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.  
  6. Stir remaining 2 tbsp oil, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, cherries and remaining ingredients into the couscous. 
  7. Enjoy! 
Reviews 
Chef Jason - The fresh cherries really work well with the couscous. The lemon was a bit overpowering. I paired it will Gnarly Head Zinfandel. The tastes went together really well.

Sous Chef & Cherry Chopper Extraordinaire Olivia -- Can I have a second helping? This is really, really good! 

Tanya -- Very good!  My only beef would be the nuts.  Jason accidentally bought pine nut couscous, so we deleted the almonds. I'm not sure I liked the pine nut taste with the cherries and lemons.  Something seemed slightly off to me. I'd definetly make this recipe again, but with almonds. Definitely a keeper. And the wine was excellent too!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beer Beat: Duck-Rabbit Porter

(note: this post may say "posted by Tanya", but it's really Jason. Though Tanya agrees, the Porter is something special!)

Alright so I drink plenty of beer - but rarely do I blog about it. The reason is ... many beers are similar. IPA's taste like IPA's. Most Russian Imperial Stouts (RIS) taste very similar and so on. Now that isn't to say that there isn't a difference between Back Forty Frecklebelly and Good People IPA, but in my mind they are not significantly different.

I like to try things from new breweries and share those, but for the most part I drink very "standard" IPA's, 2x IPA's, etc. I say "standard" because I can usually find a Founders Centennial or Green Flash West Coast IPA (or the two IPA's listed above) and will drink those pretty regularly.

It is a rare occasion that I come across a beer that really makes me pause - this past weekend I was fortunate to find a 6 pack I tried a few weeks ago ... and tonight I tried the first one out of this batch. If you get an opportunity try Duck Rabbit Brewery Porter (http://www.duckrabbitbrewery.com/) please make a point to do so.



Usually I am not a big Porter fan, but this beer is excellent. Beer advocate has 330 reviews with an average score of 85. In my opinion that is far too low. I have yet to met its equal in this style - if you have a suggestion please let me know.

An aside - I have a Stone Smoked Porter in the basement ... according to beer advocate it gets a 91 (and is rated as exceptional). Perhaps I will break it out this weekend and compare the two.

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles

I am toast today.   Not "ate".   AM.

The Morning Edition schedule 
lots of important stories to cover 
kids home at all kinds of odd hours of the day 
everything else summer throws at me 

complete and utter exhaustion...
and frustration...
and...

Well, suffice to say that I really needed to find some zen tonight. And what better way than grabbing a great big knife and chopping the stew out of some shstuff!

This recipe comes from Adam Hickman at Cooking Light (Aug 2012). You can click here for the nutritional info.


Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste, such as Huy Fong -- we made ours from scratch using this easy recipe from the Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.)
  • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 4 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles (pad thai noodles)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted cashews (bought small amount out of bulk bin at grocery)
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger (we used refrigerated paste, since we already had it)
  • 1 green Thai chile, halved
  • 12 sweet mini peppers, halved
  • 3/4 cup matchstick-cut carrot (might normally buy already matchsticked, but remember - I need to cut stuff today!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts

Preparation

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add shrimp to vinegar mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

3. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cashews, garlic, ginger, and chile to pan; stir-fry 1 minute or until garlic begins to brown. Remove cashew mixture from pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

4. Increase heat to high. Add sweet peppers, carrot, and salt to pan; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add shrimp mixture (do not drain); stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in noodles and peas; cook 1 minute, tossing to coat. Return cashew mixture to pan. Add bean sprouts; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, tossing frequently.

5. Enjoy!



Reviews: 

Chef Tanya - Very tasty!  I did the chopping and Jason did the cooking and he and I have differing opinions about how long you should cook shrimp.  These were a bit chewy by my bite. But still, this recipe rivals Surin's Shrimp Pad Thai for me.

Jason - I thought it was very good.  One of the things I really liked about it was that the meat was not the center of the meal. It was much more flavorful because of the carrots, peas and especially the peppers. All those things in combination with the shrimp, garlic and ginger really melded well.

Olivia - Even though I don't like shrimp I actually liked this dinner. I liked the noodles and the snow peas.  Actually, I liked the shrimp!

Miranda - (already left the house tonight -- it's summer and she's 17! -- but her bowl was mostly empty, save a little noodle/pea remnant, so I'm going to say she liked it)

Hannah - (was saved from all the veggies by Nana & Papa, who are taking her to the beach for the week.  um, hello?!? where was my invite??)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Obesity the Government's Problem?




Why, yes. I AM listening to a robust debate about whether obesity is the government's problem WHILE eating a chocolate chip-rich Energy Power Mix from Earth Fare and blogging about beer.

What We Spend On Booze

Did you know that out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. NPR reports that "hasn't changed much over the past 30 years. But where we spend our money on alcohol has changed quite a bit. We spend a bigger chunk of our booze money in bars and restaurants. We spend less money buying alcohol at the store to drink at home."

Now, here's an interesting graphic:


Interesting, because while the rate of beer consumption hasn't changed much over the last few decades, the type of beer has. Let's hear it for craft beer! Some of our recent favorites:

Swamp Head Brewery's Big Head IPA (for Jason) and Midnight Oil (for me)


The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery Baltic Porter


Sierra Nevada Hoptimum


Note: that last beer was for Jason. I am not a hophead. It's got to be dark and a hold a spoon upright for me to like it.