by Melanie Bettinelli on November 06, 2012
Inspired by Jennifer at As Cozy as Spring, I decided to make granola. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks and today was the day the thought became reality.
This is seriously the best granola I’ve ever made. It isn’t Jennifer’s recipe, exactly. It isn’t a recipe I found anywhere. I just looked at three or four recipes and then looked at what I actually had on hand and… improvised. I like a lot of dried fruit in my granola. Most commercial granolas don’t have enough. I think mine is probably super sweet compared to all the recipes I borrowed from. I got super excited about the boiled cider and maple syrup after I’d already added the brown sugar and honey. And the candied orange peel and cranberries already had added sugar. Oh well, this will be a treat like cookies. I did resist the temptation to add chocolate chips. Barely. I probably should have added more pecans.
All measurements are estimates. I’m not that great at measuring and with the fruits I was just tossing in handfuls until it looked right.
5 cups rolled oats
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tbs ground flax seed
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup boiled cider
3 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs coconut oil
FRUIT AND NUTS:
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup candied orange peel
Preheat oven to 300. Mix dry ingredients in a big bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a small bowl. Add wet ingredients, nuts, and fruit to the dry stuff. Mix thoroughly. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 40-60 minutes or until golden brown and crispy and aromatic like roasted nuts, stirring every ten minutes. Let cool and then remove to a container, breaking up big chunks. I’m thinking this will be really good on yogurt.
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 24, 2012
A few photos to go with my previous post about food.
This was our post-farmer’s market dinner on Saturday. Rainbow chard and beet greens with bacon; roasted root vegetables (radish, turnip, sweet potato); fresh cod with rosemary lime, olives and capers (courtesy of chef Dom); roasted cauliflower with garlic and parmesan; roasted beets (not shown).
The leftover cod became Sunday night’s Thai fish curry when cooked with some vegetables that were starting to go mushy in the refrigerator drawer—red bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, zucchini, tomato—and some leftover roasted eggplant. The initial investment in a big spice cabinet with fish sauce and all the ingredients for the homemade curry sauce definitely paid off in this last-minute feast.
Candied clementine peel. Oh so yummy. Since the kids went through two bags of clementines in two weeks, I thought it would be nice and frugal to save the peels and use them for something yummy. Best idea ever!
You can, of course, use them for cooking. And I probably will. But they are also a great accompaniment to a nice square of dark chocolate.
The recipe I was following used too much water. Or maybe I didn’t measure correctly. I ended up with all this extra liquid. I was about to throw it down the sink and then thought again. We sometimes make a simple syrup to use in iced tea—just boil water and sugar—it saves the problem of sugar that refuses to dissolve in a cold liquid. I think this orange infused simple syrup will taste heavenly in my tea. If I ever remember to try it. I was on autopilot this morning when making my tea and didn’t think of it till after I’d added cream and sugar.
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 21, 2012
I’ve been on a major cooking spree this past week, mainly inspired by An Everlasting Meal and also by our recent farmer’s market bounty. I’m always a bit bemused that our farmer’s market gets peak traffic in the summer, but fall is really the best time of year for so many of my favorite vegetables. I go crazy with all the good eats and have to limit myself or I’ll buy more than I can cook in a week.
One side effect of the prednisone my doctor put me on last Monday was an abundance of energy. I spent Tuesday cleaning, catching up on laundry, and losing my temper at every time little thing. Oh I hate how prednisone makes me so very at the mercy of my moods. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I cooked and cooked and cooked. I made a huge pot of chicken stock and loaves of honey whole wheat bread and chocolate chip pumpkin bread. I roasted vegetables. I perfected a recipe for tomatoes in an oniony vinaigrette that may be the perfect way to keep tomatoes that are going bad and at the same time to provide a combination of dressing and topping for a nice green salad.* I roasted heads of cauliflower and some eggplants and squashes and made vegetables every day, which meant that there were plenty of good things with which to fill Dom’s bento box for lunches. I wish I could cook this way every week. The extra money we spend at the farmer’s market is definitely balanced out if Dom is taking lunch from home.
Then yesterday morning we went to the farmer’s market again and yesterday afternoon I cut up a bunch of turnips and sweet potatoes and radishes and roasted them with some garlic and olive oil. I roasted a head of cauliflower with garlic and olive oil and roasted some beets too. I sauteed the beet greens and some chard with onion and red pepper flakes and bacon. We had all those vegetables along with some baked cod that we also got at the farmer’s market. Dom cooked the cod with olives, capers and limes and a sprinkling of rosemary. The kids ate baked beans from a can and homemade bread and butter while Dom and I feasted.
Tonight I took the leftover cod and some of the leftover vegetables and turned them into a Thai fish curry. It was amazing. Dom had a couple of servings and Anthony had five bowls. (The other kids ate rice, broccoli, and cheddar cheese.) I modified the recipe according to what we actually had on hand and it worked amazingly well. We didn’t have the kaffir lime leaves or tamarind paste or basil leaves or fresh lemongrass or pineapple. Instead I used some tamarind chutney and cilantro. I used dried lemongrass and dried galangal instead of fresh or frozen. It could have used more lime flavor and it was a mite salty because the cod had been cooked with olives and capers; but not bad at all. For veggies I added some of the roasted eggplant I had in the fridge, a sliced zucchini, sliced mushrooms, a red bell pepper, a diced roma tomato that was too mushy for salad, and some diced cauliflower stems I had leftover from yesterdays roasted cauliflower.
I feel like I’ve got the process of making bread down to a routine I hardly have to think about, whereas it used to feel like something I had to devote a block of time to, now I can start it up quickly and then move on to something else. I make a honey whole wheat loaf (modified from a Cook’s Illustrated white honey loaf recipe) in my stand mixer that the kids all love for toast and sandwiches and alternate it with loaves of whole wheat bread from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. The kids don’t like that one as well, but it works nicely with saucy dishes and soups and I can easily makeit into individual rolls for quick tuna sandwiches that still feel special because they’re on fresh bread on a night when I’m feeling very non-creative about dinner.
I also feel like I’m getting pretty good at making my own stock. I save all my chicken bones from roast chickens and even from buffalo chicken wings that Dom sometimes gets when we order pizza for the kids. Just put them in a bag in the freezer until I’m ready to make stock. In another freezer bag I also save the ends and peels of onions, potatoes, celery; stems from kale and leaves and cores from cauliflower, odds and ends of greens and stems. to make stock I just put the bones in my stockpot and cover with water and bring to a simmer. I skim the scum and after about half an hour I toss in the bag of vegetable bits as well as a few cloves of garlic, maybe a carrot and stalk of celery, some bay leaves and a handful of peppercorns. Let it simmer for a couple of hours or until I’m good and ready to deal with it, just topping off with more water if it starts to boil away too much. This is so much better than the boxed broth from the supermarket. When I was sick last week I heated up a bowl and just added a bit of salt and drank it straight. It was so flavorful it seemed like liquid gold.
I think the more I do things like making stock, baking bread, and roasting larger batches of vegetables the less daunting they seem. I find ways to fitting them in so that they no longer take up huge swathes of my time but I can get them started and then let the process unfold while I’m doing other things—laundry, tending kids, making dinner, etc. For me the key is making a process routine enough that it becomes almost second nature. Then I don’t have to get interested or excited about a recipe, I can just plug in my autopilot and go even when I’m feeling rather lethargic and indifferent. Of course even the best routines fall apart a bit when I’m in the first trimester and after a baby is born so right now I’m kind of in a sweet spot. I think if I can get used to regularly roasting vegetables and cooking greens as soon as I get them home and then using those pre-cooked vegetables in other applications and to round out other meals through the week, if I can get in the habit of looking at what’s left at the end of a meal and imagining what I can do with it for the next night, if I can begin to make it a true habit instead of just a nifty new idea, then maybe I’ll really be getting a better hang on this preparing healthy meals as a regular thing instead of just when inspiration strikes.
*For the tomatoes in vinaigrette I sort of modified something Tamar Adler mentioned in Everlasting Meal. Slice red onions or shallots, cover in red or white wine vinegar and add a pinch of salt. Later add some mustard and ground black pepper. Later add chopped herbs—I’ve been using mint from the garden and arugula. Basil would be nice too. Add sliced radishes if I have them. Add diced fresh tomatoes. Drizzle in some olive oil. Because I’m not worried about measuring any of the ingredients I can throw this together very easily in between prepping other things for a main dish. This alone with some greens makes a great salad. I can also add cheese, other vegetables, toasted nuts, etc; but I don’t feel like I have to add a whole lot to make it into an interesting salad. And I think that is the biggest barrier to eating salad more regularly for me is that I don’t like most dressings unless they are really jazzed up with a lot of different veggies. I feel like making a salad is one more thing to do when I’m pressed for time and since I usually leave it to the end, it often doesn’t get done; but somehow because I can just start with the very easy process of slicing an onion and adding vinegar this gets me into the salad making routine much earlier in the whole dinner-making process. Then I just add things to the mix as I go and end with washing the greens and without too much thought or effort suddenly there’s a fabulous salad ready to go. Since I serve the greens and dressed tomatoes separately at the table, we can eat as much or little as we like and pack away the rest to be eaten later. The dressed tomatoes by themselves make a nice addition to Dom’s lunch box or a healthy snack and the vinegar keeps them from getting too icky as sliced tomatoes usually do so they seem to go a bit further, last a bit longer. Now I’m wondering if I can substitute my roasted beets for the tomatoes since I forgot to buy more tomatoes at the market. That’s my next experiment.
by Melanie Bettinelli on October 09, 2012
I’ve been reading An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler, with many thanks to Karen Edmisten. I’m only on chapter four, but I’m already enchanted.
This is not a cookbook, though there are some recipes inside. It’s not really a memoir either. It’s really quite hard to describe. I keep trying to tell Dom about it and feeling like I’ve failed miserably. In her introduction Alice Waters explains that “it’s an approach to cooking as a narrative that begins not with a list of ingredients or a tutorial on cutting an onion but with a way of thinking.” And while not all of Tamar’s suggestions and recipes are ones that I want to try, her way of thinking is captivating, addictive. Most of all, reading this book makes me want to get into the kitchen and cook. Or I should clarify, many cookbooks make me think about getting up and cooking, Adlers actually gets me chopping and mixing and tasting and, well, cooking.
Tonight, for example, I made the most beautiful salad I’ve had in a long time. The recipe wasn’t in the book, not the way I made it, at least. But the bones of the idea were there and I used the recipe she provided as a sort of road map from which I then took a little detour based on what I actually had in my kitchen.
I began with a shallot and sliced it very thin. I threw it into a bowl with some red wine vinegar, maybe two or three tablespoons of it—one thing I love about this book is that it definitely opens the door to that kind of vagueness. Adler just tells you to put the vinegar on the onions and trusts you to do so without getting fussy about measuring. After the onions had sat for ten or fifteen minutes—while I busied myself with prepping other food and with buttering a slice of bread for Ben and breaking up a couple of disputes and kissed a few bumps and bruises—I added a spoon of mustard, maybe a teaspoon, I didn’t measure. I stirred that well and let it sit a few more minutes while I put on my shoes and wandered out to the garden where I picked some sprigs off my crazy mint plants. I chopped the mint finely and got maybe a couple of tablespoons full. Then I chopped a fistful of arugula, it yielded maybe half a cup. I stirred the mint and arugula into the onions and vinegar and drizzled it with some olive oil. I cubed one of the big tomatoes Bella insisted we buy at the farmer’s market on Saturday and tossed it with my dressing. This tasted like heaven! I served the dressed tomatoes on a bed of salad greens also from the farmer’s market and topped them with a handful of toasted sliced almonds. Normally when I make a salad with such meager ingredients as just greens and tomatoes it would be lackluster and boring. This one zinged and made me yearn to make it again. I’m so glad I still have all the ingredients. I filled up so much on salad I can’t even remember if I ate any of the roast chicken that I served as the main dish.
Along with my roast chicken I served roasted cauliflower, roasted sweet potatoes, and mashed carrots and turnips. The carrots and turnips were somehow over salted. Yet as I lingered over the end of dinner, marveling still at the goodness of the salad as I dipped my cauliflower into the dregs of the dressing, I began to dream about the possibility hidden in that bowl of salty mash. Suddenly I saw an onion sauteed and the carrots and turnips added with some white wine, chicken broth, and cream. A dash of nutmeg and maybe some ginger. Then puree it all until smooth. It would be a perfect soup! That moment really explains the book more than any summary I can give. Adler is a dreamer who looks at odds and ends of food and sees possibilities. And her vision is infectious.
This, finally, is a book which addresses my mealtime malaise. Instead of demanding that I develop better meal planning skills and the discipline to draw up a menu before I go shopping, Adler suggests instead that I need a toolbox of basic principles so that I can see the possibilities of the leftovers from one meal becoming another meal. Instead of demanding that I become something I am not—a disciplined planner and scheduler, Adler gives me permission to become more myself. More of a dreamer and more of an improvisational cook. She says that it’s perfectly ok to let whimsy and momentary preference drive my cooking. She challenges me to be resourceful not in the grim frugal housewife vision I’ve encountered far too often which suggests a narrow vision and a limited horizon. Instead, her economy is the economy of the poet writing a sonnet, allowing the constraints of space and ingredients to bloom into something rare and unexpected. I think part of what I find so inspiring is the lyricism of her writing which suggest to me that cooking is a fine art and not a paint by number kit, and every meal an occasion of grace—not only the grace of the dancer or the potter but also the grace of the whispered prayer: God, please give me inspiration.
No, Adler never comes out and uses religious language or imagery, yet her vision is a very Catholic one, very incarnational. It rejoices in the bounty of what is available rather than yearning for that which could be. It rejoices in seeking out first principles. Throughout it expresses a profound gratitude for simple things.
I’ve checked this book out from the library but I need to go buy a copy so that I can pull it off the shelf when I’m feeling tired and burnt out and uninspired. Tamar Adler makes even boiling a pot of water or turning on the oven into the first step of an amazing adventure. It reminds me rather of Tolkien: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” In the same way, Adler might paraphrase: It’s a dangerous business putting on a pot of water or turning on your oven. If you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.
by Melanie Bettinelli on April 09, 2012
Bella decided to decorate for Holy Week. She cut out this cross and hung it in her bedroom window. Then she cut out pictures of Holy Mary and St Mary Magdalene and others and hung them around the house: on the front door, in the living room window, above the fireplace.
On Good Friday when we went up to venerate the cross Ben and Sophie didn’t stop to kiss it. And I was a bit too worried about herding them and the huge line of people behind me to try to coax them. And I knew that it would be easier after the service. So in the quiet after I’d put on their coats I asked Sophie, “Would you like to go kiss the cross now?” Her eyes lit up in that way they have, huge and sparkling, and she nodded with a huge smile as if to say, Oh thank you for understanding! She held my hand and we approached the huge cross, at least seven feet tall, that lay at the foot of the altar, flanked by four flickering candles. She bent and kissed it and I looked up to see Ben watching. I approached him, “Do you want to kiss the cross too?” He did. He held my hand and we went up slowly and when we reached the cross he bent and gave it a big solemn smooch. Then he looked up at me and declared, “The cross is happy.” Oh? Why is that? “Because it’s laying down.” Later he was to tell me that it was because they were holding it. And even later he was to elaborate that it was because everyone was hugging and kissing it. In any case, the cross is happy, my friends. The cross is happy.
On Saturday night when the lights went out in the church Ben was a bit afraid until my sister comforted him and then lifted him up where he could see as she explained about how Christ was going to come into the darkness. Meanwhile Anthony kept looking over my shoulder at the altar, wondering when something was going to happen. I pointed to the back of the church where the Easter candle was being held aloft. “Look, Anthony!” He did turn and look and then pointed, “Oh! Oh! Oh!” his voice full of wonder and he reached and I think everyone in the church heard his voice.
As I lit Sophie’s candle her eyes were gleaming and her face aglow from within. I usually think this part of the Mass is far too short and hate the moment where we all extinguish our candles to sit in the darkness and hear the words proclaimed. Last night it couldn’t come soon enough as I watched my four year old’s candle wavering in her unsteady hand, swaying this way and that and then wandering behind me to sit on the other side. My right hand held my own candle and my left held Anthony, all thirty-some pounds of him, so I could hardly keep watch over her. Dom had Bella, herself a handful, and my sister had Ben. On reflection, I should have just blown my own candle out and taken hers away. But oh it was as beautiful as always in that church with everything aglow in the wonderful light, divided but undimmed as the Exsultet rang out (oh the glorious new translation!) and I knew it was really true: Christ is risen.
On Easter Sunday morning Ben and Anthony were up at six. I was nursing Anthony in bed when I heard Ben fussing in the hall. I called out to him and he opened the door and stood there still crying, “I want to go trick-or-treating!” When we tried to explain that is a different holiday, he threw himself onto the floor and wailed. Finally I convinced him to go into the dining room to look at the Easter baskets. He was overjoyed that Santa had brought him a new dump truck and some candy. He immediately began playing with the truck and the duckies. (The stuffed animals were gifts from family in previous years. They get boxed up and brought out each Easter for new fun.) Sophie declared that Easter is Lambie’s birthday. Lambie was one of the animals I overlooked when I was boxing up last year’s Easter goodies.
Even though Bella specifically asked for jelly beans, it turned out she’d confused them and M&Ms. So the girls gave all the jelly beans to Dom. The girls were both very good at helping Ben to find eggs, making sure he had more than his fair share of the haul. It was very sweet.
For Easter dinner we had a quiet meal here. Dom grilled a butterflied leg of lamb. I made mashed turnips and carrots, a lemony-cheesy spinach and artichoke dish, and at Bella’s request roasted beets and peas and corn with lots of butter. We went over to Dom’s brother’s house for dessert with all the Bettinelli clan.
I made two dozen boiled eggs for the kids to dye (Fortunately Bella reminded me at the grocery store to buy white eggs for dying! I would have forgotten.) It still wasn’t enough. I want more deviled eggs. Mental note: make three dozen eggs next year.
I have more pictures of kids eating chocolate but I’ll have to put them up tomorrow. Now it is time for this tired mama to get to bed. I’m still recovering from the Easter Vigil and the subsequent kids who are all off their schedules and not sleeping well.
Page 1 of 1 pages