Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pressure Cooker Beef Barley Soup

I've had chefs tell me using a pressure cooker is "cheating" but I couldn't disagree more. When it's 4:5pm, you need to make a meal and you only have stew beef with which to make soup, the pressure cooker is a godsend.

1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
1lb stew beef, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2tsp thyme leaves
1Tbs tomato paste
2tsp soy sauce
4c beef stock
1/3c quick cooking barley

Saute the onion, celery, carrot and beef in a little olive oil over high heat about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaf, thyme, soy sauce and tomato paste. Cook for another minute or two, then pour in the beef stock. Bring the cooker up to pressure and cook 25 minutes. When time is up turn off the heat and let the cooker sit and release the pressure on its own. Remove the lid. Bring the soup up to a boil over high heat, add the barley and simmer until the barley is tender. Season with salt and pepper.

See? Beef barley soup made with stew beef in about 40 minutes. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Don't Have a Star Wars Related Title for This Post

Here we are, day two of no sugar, no white flour and trying to focus on protein. I'm impressed I made it through yesterday, since last night I was really eyeing up a leftover candy cane that's been in the cabinet since Christmas. Last night I almost caved and made myself hot cocoa.

The bread I made yesterday bombed, it did not rise well and it fell in the oven, resulting in two bricks which I have since put in the freezer for breadcrumbs. Bummer. I went to a bread outlet store today and found 12 grain bread, 100% whole wheat (plus 11 more grains I guess?) sweetened only with honey. I bought two loaves. I know it seems I'm obsessed with bread and eat it all the time. I don't, but when I have eggs for breakfast I really need at least one small piece of toast just for texture since I can't eat just eggs without a bite of something crunchy with them, otherwise I tend to gag. Sensory issues, I know.

For dinner last night I was starved. I ate three pieces of chicken cooked with lemon and olives, and quinoa with pine nuts, cilantro and spices. I gobbled down my big bowl and ate whatever the kids didn't finish plus another small bowl after that. But whomever said protein fills you up either is a liar or my stomach didn't get the memo because by 9:30 I was starving, like hunger pangs starving. I had some fruit with cheese and went to bed before I could find the chocolate chips.

This morning I wasn't as consumed with what sugar I could eat for breakfast. I had one of the muffins I made yesterday, meh, not great. I had my coffee (cream only, which I've done for years now) and then an omelette with ham and cheese. I inhaled it and was, again, STILL hungry! A banana later and I had to go to the grocery store. I got for myself some snacks, fruit, avocados, sweet potatoes, cheese, salami, and tuna. For lunch I had a salad with homemade dressing, half an avocado, salami and cheese. Not a huge meal but I actually feel fairly satisfied. I'm not craving any sweets other than the pint of Ben and Jerry's that I know is in the freezer. I think at this point the hardest thing I'm going to have to do is find a way to start liking egg salad. Ugh, just not a fan, but maybe if I add plenty of hot sauce and chopped cornichons it'd be edible?

Tonight's dinner is pork chops cooked with sauerkraut, a great recipe out of The German Cookbook by Mimi Sheraton, with roasted potatoes and maybe carrots? We don't have much in the way of vegetables once the CSA runs out and tend to eat whatever squash or potatoes we have laying around or what I have in the freezer, which isn't much now that it's the end of March. I actually bought mesclin mix last week which almost never happens.

Either way I'm wondering how long I'll be on this wagon. 24 hours is pretty good for me since it's been well documented that I can't commit to much of anything.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Pastry Chef Strikes Back

Yesterday I wrote of my struggle to reduce sugar in my diet. The meal that is hardest for me is breakfast. I love muffins, danish, pastry, croissants, whatever, it doesn't matter. If it's a baked good I will totally eat it. I spent a good portion of last night surfing the web looking for some good sugar free muffin recipes, but each time I searched I got pages of Paleo style muffins with coconut oil, ground almonds, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, etc etc. Really, I just wanted something that didn't use white or brown sugar, preferably a nubbly oatmeal blueberry muffin. An hour into this it hit me: don't I get paid to bake? Duh. Why was I so concerned about finding a recipe when I could easily make one up?

So I pulled my falling apart copy of The Tassajara Bread Book just for a baseline recipe. Here it is:

2c whole wheat flour
2t Baking powder
1/2t salt
1 egg
1/4c oil
1/4c honey or molasses
1 1/2c milk

Here's what I did:
2c whole wheat flour
1/2t salt
1 egg
1/4c oil
scant 1/4c honey
1 mashed ripe banana
1 1/2c whole milk
1c rolled oats
1/2c oat flour
1c frozen blueberries

Mix dry, in another bowl mix wet. Pour wet into dry, mix, add blueberries, bake at 400F 20minutes.

The oats and oat flour I ended up adding because the batter was so runny I knew it would never bake up properly, and I added the banana for extra sweetener. The taste is fine, not nubbly like I wanted, definitely will have to up the oat content and reduce the flour. They are chewy, however, and not tender like a white flour with sugar and eggs muffin will be. It's a work in progress.

Otherwise this morning I started bread dough since I realized that even though I was buying whole grain bread it still had cane sugar in it which I didn't want to eat.

1c steel cut oats
2Tbs molasses
2c boiling water
1t yeast
1c whole wheat flour
1 1/4c warm water (divided)
1/2t salt
4,5,6+ cups whole wheat flour as needed
1/4c sunflower seeds, chopped
2T flax seeds, whirled in a food processor to break them up a bit (NOTE: I'm not a huge flax seed fan, I feel weird about giving it to my sons since it is estrogenic, but I do occasionally use a little bit. This recipe makes 2 loaves of bread so they'd be eating a fairly small amount)

Pour the boiling water over the oats, add the molasses, stir and let sit till room temperature.
Combine the yeast, 1/4c warm water and a teaspoon of flour, let sit 10 mins., then add the 1c flour and remaining 1c warm water. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour, this is your sponge.
Mix the sponge into the oats, and add 4 or 5 cups of flour to start, then add your seeds. I knead this using my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook for 10 minutes. Add additional flour as needed until the dough is tacky but not sticky. Let rise in greased bowl until double in size. Punch down, form into two loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until the dough is up over the rim of the pan, then bake at 400F for 10 minutes, reduce the oven to 350 and bake for 35 minutes more or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap them on the bottom.

Now what to make for lunch....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sugar Wars

I'm an idiot. 

This week I've been thinking long and hard about how to cut refined sugar from my diet. I've looked into a couple of sugar detox diets and they're really not for me, namely because my food allergies would so severely limit what I have to eat I'd starve to death. So I decided a gentler approach would be best. Just don't eat very obvious refined sugars/foods. No white bread, pasta, flour, candy, cake, etc.

I'll count Friday as my first real day of this.  (I tried Wednesday and Thursday but didn't make it far, 3pm is a tough time of day for me and sugar). On Friday in the afternoon I had one very small piece of dark chocolate,  and later in the day one small sip of Jon's Pepsi.  That was it. By 9pm that night I would have done anything for some ice cream.

Saturday morning comes. I'd kill someone for a giant muffin, it's what I want most in the world. I have scrambled eggs with cheese and half a piece of whole grain (with seeds) toast. I eat more fruit than I've eaten in a long time. At work I had chicken with coleslaw,  cheese and vegetables.  I'm ready to physically dive into a tub of ice cream,  and we buy five gallon tubs at work, just FYI.  By 10pm I slip and have a bite of cream cheese frosting. Not the satisfaction I had thought it would be.

This morning I want sugar so badly I have a giant bowl of cheerios with milk and banana. Now I'm feeling sick.  Gee, wonder why.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Things That Bother Me

Ok I know, I know, I shouldn't just use this as a forum for bitching but you're free to close this window and move on with your life. 

Yesterday. Couple things came to mind. First is straightforward. I still have the flu. Last week I was really sick with fever, sore throat, horrible body aches and exhaustion. The thing is, while I don't have a high fever or body aches anymore, I still feel exhausted and am coughing so hard I get dizzy. Just a bit of physical activity and I'm breathing hard and need to lay down. Worst of all, I'm so foggy headed. I simply cannot think clearly, and that is exhausting in of itself. Yesterday, Jon said to me, "surely you're better by now?" Nope. Still feeling it, and don't call me Shirely. 

Ok now for the real thing. Yesterday while at work a man walked in to the kitchen who works for the club, but not in the kitchen just for context. I say, "hi" he replies with, "hello dear", and then walks up to the man next to me, shakes his hand and says "hey, how are you?"  Now I'm not asking for a firm handshake and look in the eye of everyone who walks by me, but I find the use of the word 'dear' diminutive. I don't call anyone I work with dear, and I don't see any men referring to each other by such a name, nor are any women calling the men dear or sweetheart or the like. And yet, somehow it's ok for the men to refer to me as dear. I don't like it. I'm not his daughter, I'm his coworker. 

This is a sensitive issue for me as I'm often the only woman in my direct area of work. As the only professional female cook  (there are female waitstaff) I'm always feeling the need to prove myself tough enough, strong enough, good enough to play with the boys. Being called "dear" is like having someone pat you gently on top of the head and say, "now, isn't that cute?". It's demeaning and sexist. And I'm not having it. And while I know the man who did it didn't mean it to be those things, you can say a lot of things you don't mean to be offensive but that doesn't mean aren't. 

Men of the world listen up! I'm not here to be cute, and aren't I so funny and sweet? I'm here working like you, with you, next to you. Got it, sugar cakes?

Monday, January 27, 2014


Have you ever seen the movie "Up"? It's a Disney Film about an old man who's wife has passed, and the town wants to tear down his house to to build....something....don't remember what now. So the man attaches a ton of balloons to his house to lift off and go to where he and his wife always dreamed of having their house, Paradise Falls. They were big fans of an explorer, his name was Charles Muntz, and when the old man and his wife were young they idolized Muntz, wanted to travel and live the amazing life he led. But during the old man's journey in his balloon house he meets Muntz and quickly realizes the man is cruel and ruthless. He'll stop at nothing to capture a rare bird he's been chasing most of his career.

Or perhaps you don't have small children so you haven't seen the Disney Pixar films ad naseum but you have seen Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris". 

In it, a Hollywood script writer, Gil, goes to Paris with his fiancé, and is transported back in time to 1920s Paris, a period he's long romanticized and dreamt about. Now he's there and has his book manuscript being read and edited by Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, all the while watching his relationship with his fiancé fall apart and slowly realizing that perhaps 1920s Paris isn't the place for him. He begins to see the problems with romanticizing a time period and the people in it, seeing that they themselves have many of the same flaws as people in his time, and believe other time periods could be better.

In reading The Paris Wife I certainly found myself romanticizing 1920s Paris. How could I not? Travels around Europe, cafes seemingly jam packed with notable writers and artists, and well, Paris. So I began to read The Sun Also Rises, Hadley, a biography of Hemingway's first wife, a biography of Hemingway, and saw Stephen Colbert's hilarious Colbert Book Club episode featuring A Farewell to Arms and I had to remind myself of Hemingway's many flaws. The alcoholism, the adultery, the bipolar disorder, the stabbing your friends in the back, not really someone I might want to spend time with. For all his amazing books and seemingly unbelievable life, the man had some serious issues, and that can be hard to keep in mind. So the next time I'm wrapped up in a book (so, maybe next year sometime?) remind me to look deeper, think harder, these were people, too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More on Hemingway

Just this. Stephen Colbert always kills it.