Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winter Vegetable Curry

I hope you had a good New Years!  I spent mine in San Francisco.  It was fun, but it's good to be back in The Biggest Little City in the World.

This is the second time I've made this curry with only slight changes, and yet again I forgot to take a picture!  I'll give you the recipe anyways.

I'd never really cooked with squash much before this winter.  I'm not a big fan of plain squash.  But I discovered a boatload of ways that I do like it.  I put some in my chili.  I roasted some with sage and walnuts leftover from Thanksgiving.  I made this curry:


  • 1 lb. butternut squash, seeded, peeled, cubed, and steamed til slightly soft (~5 minutes)
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 cup water or stock
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste or powder
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
  • 1 cup peas
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Saute the onion in the oil for a few minutes, then the garlic and jalapeño for a few minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until everything is heated through and the vegetables are cooked, at least 20 minutes. 

Adjust the spices to taste with curry powder or paste, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, sugar, garlic, and/or ginger.  I added a little cumin, chili powder, and salt to mine.  

Serve with flat bread and/or rice!  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sushi Bowls

Lots to be happy about today:  
  • The weather is finally warming up again.
  • I'm looking forward to a weekend in San Francisco, exploring the city and seeing a band.
  • We successfully made homemade sushi last night!
We love going out for sushi, but it can get expensive.  I've been wanting to make sushi at home for the longest time, but with all my fear of finding good quality fish, using unfamiliar ingredients, figuring out how the $&%! to roll those things tight enough... I was never up to the challenge.  The other day I came across a recipe for sushi bowls at 101 Cookbooks that helped me bypass all those fears. 

There's no fish in them.  Tofu provides the protein, and I had some that needed to be used up anyways.  The ingredients didn't sound too foreign, although I did have to go to the "Asian specialty" aisle of my grocery store for a few things.  Best of all - you don't roll anything.  It's a kind of deconstructed maki (sushi roll) - also known as chirashizushi or chirashi sushi.  

Just like sushi rolls, the best thing about this recipe is that you start with the sushi rice, and add whatever other veggies, fish or other protein, sauces, etc. that you like.  The term "sushi" just refers to the rice, so the rest is up to you.  This is the recipe we ended up with.  I used Mark Bittman's recipe for the sushi rice.

  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain rice 
  • 6 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into thin sheets
  • 1 sheet nori, cut or torn into small pieces
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and julienned
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • sesame oil
  • pickled ginger
  • soy sauce

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package.  Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl, and microwave ~30 seconds.  Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.   Cool the vinegar mixture rapidly in the freezer or by floating the bowl in ice water.  Once the rice is done, toss it in a large bowl with the vinegar mixture and the sesame seeds with a wooden spoon or a spatula.  Keep tossing it until the rice is mostly cool.  Directing a fan towards the bowl helps speed this step along. 

Heat a skillet with a small amount of sesame oil.  Cook the tofu sheets for a few minutes on each side, just until lightly browned.  Cut into thin strips. 

This tofu is a little overcooked.  Don't do that.

Fill bowls with the rice and top with the tofu and vegetables.  Serve with the soy sauce and pickled ginger on the side.

4+ servings.

I don't have a picture of the finished product because we ate them so fast.  If you like sushi, you will like this.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Veggie Chili

A rainy day in Reno inspired me to make a batch of chili for dinner tonight.  I'd already picked up a few kinds of squash at the grocery store this morning (it was on sale... I can't help myself) and remembered that a friend had mentioned to me that she likes to put squash in her chili.  I always forget that zucchini is technically a squash - which is what she uses - but I decided to try the butternut squash I already had on hand.

Be careful peeling your squash if you use one with a firm peel (like butternut).  I used my sharpest knife and still struggled a little with it.  Cut it into manageable pieces and scoop out the seeds first.  I rinsed the seeds in cold water to remove the pulp, dried them on a paper towel, and roasted them at 275 degrees with a spritz of olive oil and a little salt for just over 15 minutes (like you may have done with seeds left from pumpkin carving).

Tonight's batch of chili is based on the recipe I normally use from the Amateur Gourmet site.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped (or ~1 small)
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz beer (all we had was Coors, but usually I use an amber ale)
  • 3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • scant tablespoon ground coriander
  • scant tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chiles in adobo sauce, chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

For a firmer squash like butternut, you'll want to steam it to soften it up a bit before putting the chili together.  I steamed mine for about 8 minutes: 

Sauté the onion and jalapeño in the olive oil for a few minutes, until soft.  Then combine with the rest of the ingredients.  

Simmer away on the stove for as long as you can resist: 

I heat it up enough to just start to boil, then put the lid on and leave on a low heat for a few hours.

We garnished with sour cream and shredded smoked gouda.  It would be good with other cheeses, cornbread, crackers, chopped mild onion... anything you normally like with your chili. 

*A note on the chiles in adobo sauce:  These are extremely hot.  Two tablespoons is only going to be a small portion of the can they come in.  My chili turned out a little spicier than I planned.  They do give a nice smoky, spicy flavor to the chili so I wouldn't skip them.  Just be aware that for the heat-averse you might dial back the amount.  I freeze what's left from the can in an ice cube tray lined with plastic wrap.  Each "cube" is about the amount I use in each pot of chili.  Transfer them to a freezer-safe bag once they're frozen so they can be thawed out and chopped as needed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Confession #2

It's nights like these I don't feel like a cook at all.  I'm watching cheesy French films on NetFlix and making cheap mac'n'cheese on the stove.

I don't even speak French.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banana-Cran-Almond Baked Oats

Can I confess something?  I suck at making oatmeal.  I have no patience when it's time for breakfast so I go the microwave route for oats and it ends up overflowing and making a huge mess.  So I throw it away and have cereal or toast in the end anyways.

However, one of my favorite Iowa bloggers has a plethora of baked oatmeal recipes on her site.  I took a few notes from this recipe and doubled it - because if I’m spending this much time making breakfast, it had better last for a couple meals.

I also suck at eating bananas in time for the still-partly-green form that I prefer, so it gave me an excuse to use a couple of these guys:


  • 2/3 cup rolled oats (a.k.a. old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup milk (any kind… I used 1%)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 overripe bananas, mashed
  • handful dried cranberries
  • dash vanilla extract
  • dash cinnamon
  • dash salt
For the topping:
  •  handful sliced almonds
  • sprinkle brown sugar

Turn the oven to 375 degrees.  Mix together the first ingredients, through the salt.  At this point I was a little nervous because it seemed like way too much liquid:

Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes (without the topping at this point).  When you take it out after 25 minutes, it will be set up a little better so you can put the topping on.   Look what my brown sugar looked like when I took it out of the box!

I just bought it the other day.  The dry Nevada air must have gotten to it.  Per the instructions on the box, I wrapped the sugar brick in a damp paper towel, stuck it in a paper bag and microwaved it for 2 minutes.  It was scorching hot but crumbled easily at that point.  5 more minutes under the broiler and my oats looked like this:


In conclusion, I still suck at cooking oats.  Maybe I’ll buy a torch for my next stab at brulee.  Refusing to throw away my hard-earned oats, I scraped off the burnt parts and can happily report that what lies beneath was still delicious:

Rated:  fail - redeemed!

An Introduction

It seems blasphemous to be eating Velveeta Shells & Cheese on the evening that this endeavor first reared its head, but it’s all we have here at 4 in the morning.  I work best at the most spontaneous, ridiculous hours of the day (night, too).  So here we are: me and my food blog. 

Trials and Tribulations of the Uprooted Cook

I've been crafting my own food adventures since I was tall enough to reach the counter - prior to that, relinquished to banging on pots and pans on the kitchen floor (and still once in a blue moon).  I want this blog to be a place to start keeping track of some of those inventions - I ran out of room in my recipe box a long time ago. I remember adding a couple veggies to my mom’s Hamburger Helper to give it more volume and make it (by southern Iowa standards) healthy, years later creating the whole shebang from scratch.   It’s not as hard as it sounds.  I’ve found that cooking from whole, fresh ingredients and trying new food experiments is rewarding in and of itself.  I’m not much a writer, but I hope that my passion for improvisation comes through somehow. 

Of course, no single recipe could ever be the best for everyone.  Half of the fun is in trying new things and being comfortable with creativity in the kitchen.  I’m a bit of a kitchen sink cook anyways, i.e. “everything but the kitchen sink” may go in a recipe depending what’s on hand that day.  I'll try to include some of the substitutions and variations I think of along with the recipes, in case anyone is playing along at home.

I draw inspiration from a shelf full of cookbooks, my grandmas’ recipes, friends, Mom’s recipes, friends of friends, magazines, moms and grandmas of friends, largely... the internet.  Such a vast source of mostly useless ideas, but if you have the patience to sift through it – it’s a gold mine. 

Before we go too far, let me give you a little background. 

Boyfriend and I uprooted ourselves to Nevada, he working toward his doctorate, and me along for the ride.  He and our housemate eat largely pescatarian diets.  An Iowa girl myself (read: meat and potatoes at most every meal), I conformed to make tasty meals for two not-particularly-picky eaters (besides the vegetarian thing) and myself.  Never before had I eaten tofu, had I gone weeks on end without beef, had I eaten rice noodles…   Every new meal is an adventure and I love that, and I want to share that.  There’s so much tasty food to be had.

Accountant by day, creative cook by night.  These are my trials and tribulations.