8 February, 2017  |   Comment

Repost: Frodo Risotto Recipe

I don’t know about you, but the meals I’ve been making keep getting richer and more fiddly. Lots of parts, lots of chopping and lots of steps. This Frodo Risotto recipe is exactly the kind of food I’m craving this year.

(Pairs beautifully with Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs.)

We love Frodo Baggins.Originally posted 2 years ago.

We made a hobbit dinner the other night.
James and I love Frodo. Bilbo too. We are Hobbits at heart.

Secure in our snuggly Shire home, we welcome any old man with fireworks to entertain the children.
The barefoot, mildly wild children.

And they all eat Frodo Risotto.

This is Frodo Risotto. It's a baked risotto.

We served Frodo Risotto with local Shire greens.
And some roast game (chicken).

Adapted from a Donna Hay recipe, this risotto bakes in the oven while you catch up with cousin Frieda Baggins about what’s causing the rabbit shortage.

Ingredients
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced about 1/2″ (Probably about 2 cups diced squash)
3 cups arborio rice
7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup white wine (For cooking, I like any inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter, chopped
1 small onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Additional Salt and Pepper to taste

Optional:
1/2 cup light olive oil for frying the sage
10 sage leaves, washed and dried

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350°.

Cate Blanchette, Lady Galadriel of Lothlorien, will try to scarysexy you into giving her your ring but don’t you let her.

Elvin Butternut Squash.

To avoid all risk, you probably should skin her and chop half of her into tiny bits.

Peeled Elvin (Elvish?) Butternut Squash.

You can mince Samwise Gamgee into tiny bits while you’re at it too.

Nooooooo Frodoooooo

Mix the first seven ingredients in a 9″ x 12″ baking dish.
Combine, being careful not to slosh.

Something lives beneath the surface of that salty lake.

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and put in oven on top of a baking tray (to guard against sloshing) for 1 hour.

30 minutes into the baking time, take off the foil and stir it. You will be disappointed by the lack of progress. But hold tight, little hobbit, your dinner is right on plan. Return the foil to the top of the baking dish, being careful not to burn your hands. Put the risotto back in the oven for roughly 30 more minutes.

This is when I would fry up the sage.

Heat the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat, frizzle the sage in there until crispy, only a minute or two. Remove and drain on paper towels

After 30 more minutes, remove the baking dish from the oven.
Stir two tablespoons of butter and Parmesan cheese through the risotto.
Stir through 7 leaves worth of crumbled fried sage.

Garnish with the remaining 3 leaves.

Serve.
And watch out for fireworks.

Welcome all old men carrying fireworks

7 February, 2017  |   Comment

How to write a love poem, a template

It is Valentine’s Day soon.
I have an idea for you.
Write a special person a love poem.

This is my favorite guy smoking a cigar

Question for you: Why would you write a love poem?

I mean, really, the cons:
Love poems have a risk of being cheesy,
love poems demonstrate your creativity
love poems require vulnerability

Those cons look pretty scary, don’t they?
(Thankfully, the pros outweigh the cons.)

Way out-weighing, from the pros:
Love poems don’t cost a lot of money,
love poems demonstrate your creativity,
love poems make people feel really special.

My method for writing a love poem uses a template.
This template is based on remembering how the person makes you feel in three parts of your body.

You know how therapists often say that trauma can be held in the body? Like in Sherlock, how Watson has that limp? Or how different injuries can be healed by working through the feelings instead of just treating the body?

I believe that our bodies don’t only hold trauma, they also hold warmth, gratitude and loving feelings. This body memory is key to writing a great love poem.

For this exercise, we’re going into
our Brain,
our Heart and
our Loins
(ahem).

Get a piece of paper you don’t mind messing up, and a favorite pen. We need to get into idea-generating mode. Are you there? Do you have your paper and your pen?

Let’s get started!

Thinking with your brain is the easiest first place to start. We’re starting by generating nouns, verbs and adjectives that describe all the logical things that you love about your special person.

It might be something kind they do for you, it might be physical actions, it might be the look on their face when they’re enjoying something you do for them. For caretakers, it might have to do with how they tuck someone in for the night or the tenderness they show.

Write 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the very logical, matter-of-fact, funny or reasonable reasons you love your person.

  

Thinking with your heart requires a bit more focus.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath, pulling that air deep into your heart. Thinking with your heart requires closed eyes and several minutes of quiet.

When you think with your heart, you remember the warm feeling in your chest you felt when you decided that this person was the person for you. Heart feelings tend to focus on gratitude, on warmth, on the choice to do the kind thing.

When you’ve been partnered for a long time, it can take a few more breaths to bubble up the heart feelings. This isn’t because you don’t love them, but because I think that thanks to all the moving parts in this modern life, loving with our hearts is often replaced by loving with our heads.

Now it’s time to write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs that burst forth from your heart when you feel your person, right there in your chest.

  

Yeah, I said it. Your loins.

Now, of course if you’re writing a love poem to a platonic friend or someone you don’t have those kind of feelings for, you can skip this one. But if you’re writing a love poem to your Big Heavy, rustle up some loin feelings.

The trouble with loin feelings is that they’ve been sneakily co-opted by media that don’t have our true loin feelings at heart (see: romance novels and nudie movie dialogue).

That’s okay! We’re in idea-generating mode here, so we can write down all the throbbing, pulsating, glistening adjectives, nouns and verbs that come up from down there and refine in a minute.

Ready? Write down 5 nouns, 5 adjectives and 5 verbs related to the private, sneaky, sexy times that make the corners of your mouth twist up.

  

Now, take your paper and circle your top 3 nouns, adjectives and verbs from your Brain, Heart and Loins. Now write them down fresh on another piece of paper.

Cut that paper into pieces so you can move those pieces around.

This is what mine looked like:

Take these words,
move them around,
group them together and
remove the ones that don’t feel relevant.

Start to think through a narrative.

Now that you have your few – it could include all 12 or just a few – take out a fresh piece of paper again and make these words make sense.

Here’s what mine turned into:

We mean to watch Netflix
until whispers lead us to
a heated tangle.
The dishes can wait.

I think he’ll love it.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to write a love poem, let this quick little template help you out. It won’t be cheesy as long as you stick to the truth. You know, the truth about the real reason, you’re celebrating this love we’re lucky to have.

Happy love poem making!

1 February, 2017  |   Comment

Weeknight Palak Paneer Recipe

Weeknight Palak Paneer

Career-wise, life-wise, events feel more pressing right now and I want my kids to know that, “Your mom, she cared about some things.”

One of those things I care about is how working people can feed themselves and their families, especially as it feels like we need to work even harder just to tread water.

Ahem.

This is a recipe we enjoyed from our meal plan. You know, the meal plans I’ve been posting nearly every week for ten years or so. This recipe is a spinach-packed powerhouse. Bonus points for making your own cheese (!!!)

We’re making more Indian food, it’s the only food our pickiest eater absolutely adores. Sure! That makes sense! Out of every ethnic cuisine, she prefers the most complex spice balance. She wrote a love letter to our local Himalayan restaurant. She will eat heaps of Tandoori-prepared vegetables but she won’t touch a summer tomato. That’s my girl.

Making your own cheese, especially as a working person, will make you feel powerful and strong, able to take on marching, phone calls and fight against voter suppression.

You can pull most of this dish together at the last minute, but if you want the homemade paneer, you’ll have to give the recipe 24 hours head start.

Did it get down to the wire?  Substitute tofu for the paneer and most people will never notice.

Weeknight Palak Paneer Recipe

Ingredients
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons curry powder (we use Penzey’s Now Curry because Penzeys is a most wonderful company from Wisconsin that stands up for what’s right)

Penzey's The Now Curry
1 large onion, chopped rough

Chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1 3 inch piece ginger, peeled and diced tiny
8 cloves garlic, smashed, peels removed and diced tiny
2 teaspoons Garam Masala (again we buy ours from Penzeys)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and stems removed
3 tomatoes chopped into 1/2″ chunks — we used whole peeled tomatoes from a can
1 cup water
2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
16 ounces baby spinach – a whole container if you buy it prepackaged and washed at your grocery store
1 cup cream
1 recipe Paneer (see below)

You’ll also want a large dutch oven and an immersion blender or regular blender.

Directions
In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium-high heat, add the 2 tablespoons of curry powder and toss together for about half a minute – stir well to make sure the powder and oil integrate and sizzle a bit.

Add the onion and salt – cook for 3 minutes or until melty. Then add the ginger and garlic and toss for another minute. Add the Garam Masala, jalapeno pepper, tomatoes and water, add the tomato paste. Cook over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes, or until the ingredients are blended together.

Add the baby spinach in batches – letting each specific batch wilt down so there’s room for more. Continue to stir and fold and work together until the spinach totally cooks down (about another 3 minutes).

Use your immersion blender or blender to blend – we still like our spinach to have a bit of shape to it.

See here, I was blending so heartily, it’s out of focus!
How hearty the blend!

Immersion blender craziness for Palak Paneer

At this moment, I added the mix to a container so that we could have it ready to go quickly on Monday night.

Put that Palak Paneer in the fridge!

On Monday, I pulled the Weeknight Palak Paneer from the fridge, put it in a pan over medium heat. Then, I added the cream and the paneer. That paneer was chopped into roughly 1″ pieces.

We served it with naan and rice and we were so happy and we almost forgot we had a president that hates us. I love to toss some cilantro and hot sauce on it, but I leave that choice up to you.

weeknight Palak Paneer

Homemade Paneer Recipe

Ingredients
1 half gallon whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon salt

Directions
You will pour an entire gallon of whole milk into a large dutch oven. You will feel weird about this, like it’s wasteful, but then you will remember that flank steak is 9.99/pound at your local grocery store so you take a deep breath and commit.

Pouring a whole gallon of milk in the pan? Okay!

Heat the milk over medium-low heat until it just barely boils. You’ll want to stir it fairly frequently to avoid the milk burning to the bottom of the pan.

You’ll know it’s time to add the buttermilk and salt when there are bubbles are just starting to break the surface and it’s steaming heavily. That looks something like this:

Nope! The paneer isn't ready yet

Then lower the heat as much as you possibly can and stir in the buttermilk.

Buttermilk to make the paneer

Stir it in gently, and then continue to stir over the next 7-10 minutes as curds magically appear. Stir them toward the middle of the pot to congeal into a largish disk.

Paneer curds in whey

Isn’t that crazy? You just made cheese! Little Miss Muffet ain’t got NOTHING on you!

If you have a gas stove, turn off the flame, cover the pot and let it rest for 15 minutes. If you have an electric stove, move the pot to another (cold) burner before resting the cheese.

After 15 minutes goes by, remove the curds to a cheesecloth lined strainer. Mine looked like this:

Paneer in cheesecloth, draining

Squeeze all the juice out and twist the edges. Put in an edged container and add a weight to the top. Let solidify in the fridge. When I did this, I had to drain the plate twice. You can let this drain for up to 24 hours.

Draining paneer in the refrigerator

You’ve made paneer! You’re a cheesemaker! You’re a cheesemaker and a patriot!

Like I said above, chop the paneer into about 1″ chunks and mix into the spinach mixture with the cream before serving.

 

9 January, 2017  |   Comment

Meal Plan, Week of January 8th

This week we’re celebrating James’ birthday with chocolate cake, a rib roast and a crab feed.

We’re also cashing in some gift certificates at the spa this week, because sometimes birthdays in your forties can feel more like reluctance than celebration.

This week, I promised Dottie waffles for dinner.
This week, I am swapping out Thursday’s meal already.
I’m a little too obsessed with the Macaroni Grill, so we’re going to try making some Penne Rustica at home.
Since I have extra time this week, I’m a little more focused on what we’re eating, keeping the house clean, organizing everything, figuring it all out.

I figured it all out for January first, but it looks like I didn’t really figure it all out.
I have more figuring to do.
I always will, won’t I?