Saturday, January 31, 2009

Overnight Oatmeal

John and I often joke about our valet...which we don't have. But if we did, he would brew our morning coffee, and he would most certainly have breakfast on the table by the time we hurriedly arrive downstairs.

This morning I discovered a near valet-replacement: my slow cooker.

Thanks to Alton Brown's 4-ingredient Overnight Oatmeal recipe — which took me less time to assemble than it took to pull the crock pot out of the cabinet — breakfast was waiting for us this morning. Who needs a valet?!

Oatmeal made with steel-cut oats tastes worlds better than the flakey stuff, it's less processed, and the texture is much more pleasant. I had a hard time finding unsulfured and low/no-sugar dried cranberries and figs at Stop & Shop, but found these items at our co-op.

One very important thing to note: our slow cooker has three settings — warm, low, and high. At about 9pm, I set this oatmeal to cook on the low setting for 2 hours, which then automatically switches to warm at the end of the set time. The oatmeal was ready by 6am. There are many recipe reviews disparaging this oatmeal because of charred results from cooking it on the low setting all night. Enjoy!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Turkey Picadillo

If I could only get to the top of Mount Greylock this time of year, I would shout out my recommendation to the masses that they make this meal. Since I can actually reach more people via my blog — and because I'm scared of those mountain roads, even in the summer — I'll just say that I think this is a wonderful, interesting, healthy weeknight recipe and I think you should try it.

I was thrilled with the results of a Pork Mango Picadillo recipe a while back (my photo of which is even worse than the one below!*), but wanted to lighten the meal even more. In this variation from Eating Well, I used ground turkey and served the picadillo over brown rice. I also added a handful of slivered almonds at the end. I have made this both with and without eggs — if you don't already have hard-boiled eggs in the fridge, I wouldn't bother.

I am dying to use this meaty mixture as either a taco or empanada/calzone filling. Oh, and the leftovers are even better!

*The lighting in our little house is pretty bad, and one of our hard-to-reach bulbs just burned out — that, in combination with our super-white dishes is making for some bad winter evening photos of 'what I made yesterday!'

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Here is the first in a weekly post featuring the Murphy dinner menu for the week, as inspired by (and added to this blog). I think, along with it, I'll post the dollar amount of my weekly grocery bill — exciting, eh?

S: Pumpkin Penne with Apple Sausage and Sage
S: Chicken Saltimbocca
M: Shakshouka
T: Eggplant Curry with Brown Rice
W: Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Chicken and Beans
T: Beetroot Salad with Feta and Scrambled Eggs
F: Open!

Grocery bill from Stop & Shop: $156.70

I had to stock up on some staples this week — thus the large bill!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

It was in an airport bookstore that I first discovered Saveur magazine. That particular issue featured shrimp on the cover, and I instantly fell in love with the magazine's photography. I bought the issue and subscribed as soon as I arrived back home.

Saveur's 100th issue had a feature on bacon (see why I love this magazine?!) and contained a recipe for Spaghetti alla Carbonara that looked so pleasantly simple that I couldn't wait to make it. Wait, that's not true — it took me about 2 years to finally make this recipe! It was worth the wait.

I had made garlic confit about a week earlier by roasting a 2 heads of upside-down horizontally-sliced garlic, covered halfway by olive oil, in a glass dish along with a small handful of whole peppercorns and thyme. Cooking the garlic at 300 degrees for an hour not only produces perfectly spreadable garlic, but also yields the remaining flavored olive oil. Bonus! I started soups with this olive oil, dunked bread in this oil, and used it as a starting point for my Carbonara sauce. (Props to both Tony Fiore's Totally Vegetarian for the garlic confit recipe, and to the lovely blog 28 Cooks from which I won the book!)

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
(in Saveur, adapted from Marcella Hazan's More Classic Italian Cooking)

Heat 3 TBS garlic oil and add 2/3 lb of pancetta cut into strips — cook until edges are crisp. (I used regular ol' bacon this time.) Add 2/3 cup of white wine and simmer until thickened; remove from heat. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano, 1/4 cup pecorino-romano (which makes EVERYTHING tastier and creamier!), a handful of chopped parsley, and 2 eggs. Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of hot pasta water to this mixture, then add the al-dente pasta and pancetta mixture. Season with salt and lots of pepper.

As I have mentioned before, I must remember that cooking with whole wheat pasta does not necessarily a healthy dish make! However, the (healthy) roasted brussels sprouts were the perfect side for this pasta.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Smackdown: Arborio versus Barley

While browsing my meal options for the week this past Sunday, I came across two interesting recipes: one for a super-easy Almond-Vanilla Arborio Rice Pudding, and another for Barley Risotto. I had assessed the contents of my food cabinets just before stumbling upon these recipes and was coincidentally thinking about risotto, since I had quite a bit of arborio rice on hand.

But, barley risotto? I had searched Stop & Shop for barley only a few weeks earlier with no luck. I thought barley was an American staple?! They do sell pearl barley in bulk at the co-op, though, and I bought some for this project. I had never been exposed to barley before, and I was so pleased with the results of this risotto. Many thanks to Kristen Swensson and her post on Serious Eats!

I used chicken stock to make this risotto, but would like to make it again with vegetable stock. I also used the fabulous new enameled cast iron pot that I received for Christmas. In fact, I have used it 3 times over the past 3 days — I cannot recommend it enough.

I added a package of organic frozen grilled vegetables to the risotto for extra nutrients. It was a beautiful thing.

While I was still digesting this dinner, I decided to do a bit of research on barley. As it turns out, I didn't made the uber-healthy meal that I thought I had. The pearl barley I bought could be compared to white rice. It's entire hull and germ have been removed, rendering my little grains much less fibrous than in their dehulled state in which only the outermost part of the hull is removed. (Barley's outer hull must be removed to make it edible.) I am guessing that risotto could not be made using dehulled barley — it would take much longer to cook, and the consistency would likely be altered. It's certainly worth a try, though! Dehulled barley is an amazing source of fiber and nutrients — you can learn more here.

Determined to use my stash of arborio rice, the rice traditionally used to make risotto, I quickly mixed the ingredients for Smitten Kitchen's Almond-Vanilla Rice Pudding. It required so little attention and so few ingredients (all of which I had on hand), that this immediately became my go-to quickie dessert.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mushroom Bourguignon

I am making a conscious effort lately to make more vegetarian meals, and am feeling particularly adventurous in the process. I peruse a number of food blogs daily, and I was recently inspired by the Mushroom Bourguignon post on Smitten Kitchen, whose beautiful photos convince me to add most of their recipes to my to-cook list.

What a wonderful meal this made! (As much as I am trying to eat healthily, I might not be able to resist adding a bit more butter next time.)

I had no idea prior to finding them in the pasta aisle, but they now have whole wheat egg noodles! I do so love egg noodles.

Friday, January 16, 2009

African Ground Nut Stew

When I was first accepted into MassArt, I was told I had to enroll in several Art History classes, and both Iraqi and African Art History were strongly recommended. Convinced that I had taken enough Art History courses already, and determined to start taking Graphic Design courses — I mean, enough with my academic career, already! My career-changing self had been in college for 9 years! — I reluctantly signed up for African Art History with Professor Margaret H. Turner.

It was awesome.

I really love taking Art History classes. In fact, I become overwhelmed with inspiration in an Art History classroom. This same professor traveled with a group of students to Africa, and they returned with a recipe. I have had that little blue recipe card filed away since 2004, and last week I finally made the meal.

It was awesome.

There seem to be a ton of extreme variations on "African Ground Nut Stew," but I am planning to stick with this one.

African Ground Nut Stew
  • olive oil
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 2lbs mushrooms, chunky sliced
  • 2 cans tomato paste
  • 3 green chili peppers, chopped (or 1TBS cayenne)
  • 1.5 cups chunky peanut butter (can be cut back to taste)
  • vegetable or chicken stock (optional)
  • tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 1lb fresh spinach
  • rice or grain of choice
  • fun garnish: banana chips, coconut, pineapple

Saute mushrooms (I used several kinds, but you couldn't distinguish between them in the dish) and onions in olive oil in a pretty big pot until the onions are translucent. The big pot is necessary to accommodate the spinach added later.

Add tomato paste, chili peppers (or cayenne), peanut butter (I used less) to the pot. It's thick, but it will loosen as it warms up. You can add vegetable or chicken stock to make the sauce a looser consistency, too. Add tamari (or soy sauce) to taste. Let this sauce summer for about 20 minutes.

Add all of the spinach to the pot (I suppose any dark green leafy thing would work just fine). This will take up a lot of space in the pot, but will cook down quickly. Once it's all wilty and incorporated into the sauce, it's ready to be served over rice or the grain of your choice (we used brown rice). We topped ours with banana chips, but pineapple and coconut were also both recommended.

This recipe made a LOT of sauce, with plenty for dinner and several lunches. I may cut it in half next time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Weekend Breakfast

My weekday breakfast consists of a small cup of OJ, a bowl of Kashi Heart-to-Heart Honey Toasted Oat cereal, a prenatal vitamin, and a cup of home-brewed Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut coffee (in which I try to use less and less sugar).

But when the weekend rolls around — look out! Then, I have a small cup of OJ, my vitamin, a cup of the aforementioned coffee, eggs of some kind, and two pieces of toasted sprouted bread topped with honey, peach or, mmmm, lingonberry preserves.

Apart from the loaves produced during my recent bread-making experiments, I eat almost no bread (although I like almost all bread). I didn't know what to expect when sprouted bread was recommended to me. According to their website, "Food For Life sprouted breads are made from freshly sprouted grains which contain all of the fiber, bran, vitamins and minerals of the original grain plus an average of approximately 100% increase in those vitamins and minerals."

Though I have only tried the Food for Life/Ezekiel brand, I absolutely love it, and thought I'd spread the word.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


I apologize for the lack of much advanced notice, but this little blog has a new, more appropriate URL:

It is no longer (in case anyone searches for the old URL).

Kindly change your bookmarks! Thank you!

Georgia On My Desk

Hooray! Our first Georgia regulations book, in all its re-designed glory, has just arrived at the office. Since starting my job here in August, this is the first book I have worked on that is entirely my design. I really feel I have created a more approachable design with an easier-to-follow layout.

To see before/after samples of my redesign, please visit my design portfolio.

Wow, that's some bass!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blog Name Change?

I was a bit confused when I first set up my blog. I have pondered changing my blog's URL to a number of times, but always worry that I am going to lose one of my many followers in the process (read: sarcasm). But, I think it's time. It just makes sense, right?

So here's your heads-up (um, mom and handful of other followers) — I think this is a change I will be implementing over the weekend. So sorry for any inconvenience!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Doctor My Eyes

It was John that offered this wonderful suggestion after watching me suffer for years while cutting onions. Ugh, and shallots! I love these ingredients, but quickly tear up at the first slice. If additional slicing or, god forbid, dicing are involved, my cutting board could easily become the scene of a finger-chopping incident. Blindness and a sharp knife — what a bad combo!

I've scoffed at the Onion Goggles at our local kitchen store, but when John approached me one evening with his swim goggles, I decided to give it a try.

How liberating! They worked perfectly, and their new home is in my kitchen drawer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Loin Me Tender

For a few years now, I have made a weekly food plan. Typically, I wake up ridiculously early on a Saturday and start rummaging through my recipe files (one for recipes I've made, and one for those I have yet to make) as I drink my morning coffee. I fold a blank piece of paper in half twice. On one of the inner panels, I list lunches and dinners that sound appealing to me at the moment, or that play off each other's ingredients. I usually list more meal options than there are meals in any given week, and so I eventually whittle the list down and, on the opposite inner panel, list what we shall have on which day.

I often leave one day blank, giving us the opportunity to grab take-out or to shuffle meals around. Once I know what we'll be eating, I make my grocery list on one of the outside panels. I also divide this panel into 4 rectangles and separate the items on my list into either dairy, meat, produce, or 'other.' I never seem to find myself in the same store, but this division always works. I may not be so organized in other aspects of my life, but my grocery list has definitely got it goin' on!

We don't have a good meat section anywhere here in Northern Berkshire County. (If anyone reads this and can dispute this fact, please let me know.) My nearest meat section is downright pathetic. I have found that I cannot always plan a meal around a given type or cut of meat, since I often cannot find said meat anywhere in this corner of Massachusetts.

Thinking that it was only my neighborhood store that didn't stock beef tenderloin, I bought all of the other ingredients to make a roast. After examining the meat departments of 3 other stores, I gave up and bought the much more affordable pork tenderloin. As per Emeril's recipe in Everyday Food, I marinated it in mustard, horseradish, rosemary and thyme. The roasted pork came out wonderful...but I'm still determined to find beef tenderloin!

Oh, how I miss the meat counter at Whole Foods!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Resolutions (2009 version)

Why do we do this to ourselves?!

I am going to keep this year's list o' resolutions simple. Attempts to break old habits and/or form new ones always offers a challenge, so I am hoping to avoid setting myself up for failure.

I will read one book per month, and I will blog about said book once it has been read. I have been 'reading' Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for well over a year, I think. This is ridiculous. There are a ton of books on my shelf waiting to be read, and it makes me sad. Time to fix that.

I will read the newspaper during my lunch half-hour, instead of spending more time at the computer as I eat. I don't think I've picked up the paper since October (!!), missing some major news stories along the way. The only thing I miss about my Orange Line commute is the time I was able to spend reading the Metro. (Oh, and my train friend, of course!)

A list of resolutions just wouldn't be complete without a weight-related proclamation, so here it is: I will lose 5 pounds by the end of January. Winter is a tough time to implement such a change, but I'm going for it. Look at this crazy weight chart!! This chart shows a year of weight fluctuations, clearly affected my some major life events.

A resolution related to both dollars and pounds, I will pack and bring my lunch box 4 out of 5 work days each week. No problem.

A bit more abstract, but I am going to try to address ideas and issues when they arise. This will hopefully result in a shrinking — rather than an expanding — to-do list.

Stop thinking about craft-making, and start making crafts. Results to be posted on the WIMY blog, of course.

And then...

There are a few things I hope to take care of ASAP (see Resolution Five above). They're more like short-term goals that don't quite fall into the 'Resolutions' category:
  • Design, print and distribute my SplinkDesign business cards for freelance work
  • Learn the bass clef (how else can I progress with my piano-playing?!)
  • Visit local farms and food producers in the area, and hopefully learn enough to start a MeetUp group for such activities
  • Eat more fish and vegetarian meals

There are some aspirations that are difficult to quantify. For these, I turn to my circle of family and friends. I am incredibly fortunate to have been influenced throughout my life by such a group of people. Each day, I will strive to strong as my mom, as reliable as my dad, as compassionate as Jane, as tireless as Ruthie, as smiley as Laura, as honest as Shannon, as artistic as Senta, as perceptive as John...I could go on and on...

Soupy Sunday

I am on a soup kick. This coincides nicely with the bread kick about which I have yet to blog.

I am inspired by chilly winter days, great soup from the co-op, the massive amount of nutrition that you can pack into a soup bowl, and some wonderful recipes that I have come across recently.

Since making my first batch of minestrone, I have made it two more times. I discovered the recipe in Everyday Food and have found it to be easy and completely flexible — a wonderful way to clean out the fridge! I think I can make it without looking at the recipe now (well, my own version, anyway).

Minestrone Soup
Roughly dice (is that an oxymoron?) an onion, a couple carrots, and a couple celery stalks and add them to a big pot with a good amount of olive oil. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and some fresh herbs (rosemary and/or thyme are nice — dried works OK, too). Sweat these veggies over medium heat with some salt (and pepper) until they begin to soften.

If you have a tube, squish some tomato paste onto the softened veggies and stir until the paste cooks a bit. Add a can of whole tomatoes (I've only been using Muir Glen brand), which you have cut into chunks (using kitchen shears right in the can!), and let it reduce for a bit. When all of your veggies are ready, add them to the pot. I have used combinations of cannellini beans, edamame, green beans, kale and red potato. I have also added pasta to the mix.

Add 7 cups of water (or chicken stock) and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste — like, a lot — especially if you have used water and not stock. You can add basil and parmesan cheese after cooking, too.

I don't consider mine to be a food blog, really. In fact, it had started off as more of a craft/design blog, but we all have to eat, so... I don't always include recipes in my posts for that reason. Rest assured that if I take the time to type a recipe, I think it's worth sharing! (Of course, feel free to ask me for any that I don't include.)