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Archive for April, 2010

I’m not gonna lie–it is hard to serve most men salad for dinner.

Bad Mama Genny’s inner Gloria Steinem is recoiling at the generalization, but there it is. I think it’s part connotation, part social expectations (a la “real men don’t eat quiche,” which is such bull because I swear I could get Chuck Norris to eat quiche if HE WOULD ONLY RETURN MY PHONE CALLS WHERE ARE YOU CHUCK I’VE BEEN SITTING OUTSIDE YOUR BEDROOM WINDOW FOR LIKE EVER) and part vivid memories of poor salad execution. So when you endeavor to serve your man, or any other skeptic for that matter, a dinner salad, you must remember…

THE ALMIGHTY RULES FOR SERVING SALAD TO MEN:

*Top it with meat. Lots.
*Top it with cheese. Lots.
*Include crunchy bits.  Nuts are good, crumbled tortilla chips and chow mein noodles are better.  I did not invent this logic, I just know it to be true.
*Include a delicious, warm hunk of bread. A low-carb salad just adds insult to injury, and we don’t want to hurt anyone’s big, strong man feelings here.
*Borrow the “sandwich method” from business management school. By that, I mean, flank a salad meal on either side with two extremely beef-a-riffic, man-friendly meals. Examples include: a steak sandwich, chicken wings, a whole side of buffalo, a double cheeseburger with steak fries, a T-bone served to him by you clad in a leopard-print loincloth, a beheaded buffalo passed briefly over an open flame.  Eaten off a stick.  Amidst ambient grunting.
*Act like he’s doing you a huuuuge favor for condescending to eat your salad, and my, isn’t he just the most wonderful, most handsome, most long-suffering The Boy ever? (What you really mean is, you should eat this salad, be grateful for this salad, think this salad is the best salad you have ever eaten in your life, and remember to tell me all of these things while looking at me the way you did the first time we ever met.)

And perhaps the most important rule of all:

*Don’t make it a habit. He will become immediately distrustful of your intentions, and will began to entertain nightmarish fears that you are secretly trying to go vegetarian. Even if your salads are doused in meat. Suffocated by meat. Shrouded by warm, still breathing piles of meaty meat.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. When he starts breaking out into cold sweats at the grocery store when you pass the tofu, you’ll KNOW Bad Mama Genny was right.

Hey, don’t blame me. I don’t WANT to be right, here, I just am.  It’s my cross to bear.

In any case, this isn’t even the most man-friendly salad dinner I’ve ever made. I believe that one involved copious amounts of barbecued chicken, thick shreds of cheddar cheese, a creamy dressing, and a paper thin layer of lettuce. But really, now. We needed veggies.

The Boy will be just fine. Nobody feel bad for The Boy.

Especially because I split some lovely french rolls to accompany, stuffed them to the gills with double-cream brie, and baked them at 425 until they were oozy and delicious and melt in your mouth oh my god I need a cigarette.

This recipe is so simple and haphazard, which is what makes it great. It’s also what makes it painful to commit to words. Improvise, use what you’ve got on hand, and adjust proportions to your liking.

Then enjoy. Both the salad, and his lame attempts to convince you he’s excited by it.

I know I did.

Strawberry Salad with Baby Greens, Almonds, and Scallops
(I meant to include crumbled goat cheese in this salad, but then discovered that I didn’t have any. Sad, I know. That’s how I settled on the brie-stuffed French rolls…hardly a disappointing switch. Feel free to use whichever you like.)

Makes 2 Servings

Go Get:
2 Romaine hearts, torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup mixed baby greens (mine were from my garden’s thinning. Not that I’m bragging or anything. Except I totally am.)
1/4 cup sliced, dry-roasted almonds
10 strawberries, sliced
20 smallish wild bay scallops, rinsed and patted dry (if I could have, though, I would have opted for just a few giant scallops. They weren’t available.)
garlic powder
pepper
salt
apple cider vinegar
olive oil
fresh basil, or high quality dry (Spice House!)
poppy seeds
mayonnaise

Go Do:
In a shaker bottle or dressing pitcher, mix 1 part apple cider vinegar and 2 parts olive oil. Add poppy seeds, shredded fresh basil, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to make it slightly creamy (but not heavy). Whisk it or shake it, and set aside.

On 2 large plates, arrange the Romaine pieces. Then layer on the baby greens. Next lay on the strawberries and almonds. (Told you this was easy.) Lightly drizzle dressing over both plates.

Sprinkle both sides of the scallops with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In a skillet, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat until it’s hot. Gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook them (without moving them around too much–they’ll form a nicer crust that way) for 2 to 3 minutes per side. When they’re opaque, they’re done. Don’t make anybody cry by overcooking them. If you think they’re done, they’re probably done.

Lay the scallops on top of the salads, and serve.

If you were planning to include brie-stuffed rolls, as I did, put them in the oven at 425 before you do everything else. They should be ready to go when you are.

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“Ahmaga!  AHMAGAHH!”  The Boy was clearly trying to tell me something.

“What?” I asked, half-afraid he didn’t like the kitchari.  I knew I liked it, but he’d never tried it before.  Probably because I’d made him a steak out of misplaced guilt or something.  I do that.

Oh, God, I AM turning into my mother!

Anyway.  The Boy was making frantic fanning gestures at his mouth.

“HAAAHT!  Is haht! ::cough cough swallow::”

What’s that, The Boy?  You’re trying to tell me I’m hot?  Well, way to point out the obvious, but thanks, nonetheless, my good man!

“I was trying to say, the kitchari is really hot.  But oh, man, I could eat this every day!”

Oh.  Right.  Well, that’s still complimentary.  I guess.

But kitchari isn’t exactly pretty or elegant–in fact, it’s best described as, well, gruel.  But he’s right–kitchari kicks all kinds of ass.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with kitchari, it’s a dish that’s very popular among those who live according to the principles of Ayurvedic medicine.  Ayurveda is a philosophy and healing art designed to restore the harmony and balance of the body.  The main premise is that people can generally be classified as having one of four main body types, and that this type determines how you should eat, sleep, and exercise for the best health and longevity.

Whatever, man.  I just think it’s really good.

So what is it? Well, it’s a thick, stew-y dish of split yellow peas, rice, vegetables, and easily-digested spices, with a texture that I can best liken to a very thick, starchy oatmeal.  Because it’s low in fiber, non-challenging for compromised digestive systems, and extremely nutritious, it’s often used as the sole means of sustenance for ill people trying to get their bodies back into balance.

READ: I eat it when I’m hung over.

But that doesn’t mean kitchari is bland–the spice blend of fresh fennel and mustard seeds, along with crushed cumin, coriander, and turmeric makes this savory, warm, and not boring at all.  Try kitchari if you’re recovering from digestive upset and feel you may not be getting the nutrition you need.  Ulcer-sufferers, IBS patients, vegetarians, those poor, poor people making unkeepable promises to never, ever drink again, and even just healthy people who want a big, warm bowl of something primitively nourishing can all benefit from a big, warm bowl of this MAGICAL STUFF THAT TOTALLY BROUGHT ME BACK TO THE LAND OF THE LIVING OH GOD.

What’s that you say?  You’re horribly hung over, you say?  You feel sick as a dog, you say?

FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC!  Let’s eat!

Kitchari Recipe
Makes, like, a whole bunch

Go Get:
1 cup Brown Jasmine Rice (traditional recipes recommend white/basmati rice…I love the scent and texture of brown jasmine so that’s what I use.  You use what you like.)
2 cups Mung Dal (split yellow peas); I’ve also used half yellow split and half green split with great results
7 cups water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 Tbs. Ghee (I just use regular melted butter, unclarified; use oil to make this vegan)
1Tbsp Fennel Seeds
3 tsp. Mustard Seeds
2 tsp. Cumin Seeds
2 tsp. Turmeric Powder
2 tsp. Coriander Powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
Generous pinch ginger
1 heaping cup frozen peas
2 medium yellow potatoes
Large handful baby carrots, sliced into wheels
Large handful chopped cilantro leaves

Go Do:
Rinse and sort mug dal thoroughly.  Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot, like a Dutch Oven.  Sauté the seeds in the fat until they start to pop.   Then add the other spices.   Add the mung dal and salt, and sauté for 1 or 2 minutes. Add water, bring to boil, then simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the dal is about 2/3 cooked.

Add rice and these vegetables. Stir to mix, adding extra water if the mixture is too thick.  Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is fully cooked.  Keep checking to see if you need to add more water.  You want to achieve as little remaining water as possible, so make sure you leave the lid on the pot when you’re not stirring or checking it.  You’re not making a soup, or even a stew–remember my thick oatmeal analogy.  When the rice is cooked through, taste the mixture to see if it needs additional salt.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro.

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Seriously, though, guys. The Boy told a large assemblage of people at a dinner out recently that he can’t order meatloaf out anymore. Because my meatloaf has ruined him for all other meatloaves. Yeah. I mean, your Bad Mama Genny blushed. ‘Cause how do you accept praise like that gracefully? I did my best. No promises, though. In the immortal (and somewhat paraphrased) words of Bart Simpson, “I can’t promise I tried. But I tried to try.”

Back to business: meatloaf, folks. Meatloaf. The stuff that used to make the guys cringe, ’cause, you know, they can’t understand why you would do anything to meat beyond beheading it and giving it a brief pass over an open flame.

So any meatloaf recipe that has men REQUESTING it by name? Well, that’s kind of a big deal. And when you make this, you’ll be kind of a big deal. You were already a big deal and all. But now you’ll be a BIGGER deal. No, I’m not saying you’re fat.

“Honey, does this meatloaf recipe make me look fat?”

This recipe is actually loosely based on the “Vitality Meat Loaf” recipe in the American Girl Molly Cookbook (do they still make those cookbooks?). When I was a kid, I wanted an American Girl doll SO BADLY. It was kind of strange, actually. I was pretty unimpressed with dolls in general, preferring stuffed animals and things. (Actually, when pressed about it, I would tell people that the reason I liked stuffed animals better than dolls was that animals were easier to forgive than people, but I can laugh about it now and all and THAT IS A WHOLE OTHER THERAPY SESSION).

Anyway. I always wanted this doll. Desperately. But my mother, being practical and hardworking and sane and NO FAIR AT ALL, went, “Sixty dollars?! For a doll?!?! Hahahahahhahahahhah hahahahahahahahha!”

And I went, “So, does that mean yes?”

And she was all, go play with your brother.

And I was all, he is NOT as cool as an American Girl doll!

But you know what, Johnny? You are as cool as an American Girl doll. In fact, you are way cooler. But I digress.

Make this meatloaf! Men will fall at your feet! Or at least be brought to your yard. Which, I suppose, could become problematic. Which is where a good hose comes in handy. Or you could call that milkshake girl and then all the boys will leave to go to her yard.

The Only Meatloaf Recipe You Will Ever Need

Go Get:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley (you can be all fancy and use 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley instead, if you feel like showing me up. Don’t feel bad, I like to show myself up sometimes, too.)
1/2 lb. ground pork (or, pork sausage, casings removed)
1 lb. ground beef
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup wheat germ (Note: I often replace both the oatmeal and the wheat germ with 1 sleeve of crushed saltines. Don’t give me that look. My mom used to do it, and if it’s good enough for the BMG’S MOM, well you can just take that Miss THANG attitude and find some other meatloaf recipe! But you won’t. ‘Cause, oh, baby. This is THE meatloaf recipe. I told YOU, all right.)
1 egg
1 cup milk (I use almond milk or occasionally, whole milk yogurt)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground sage
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup ketchup

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Mix everything thoroughly with your hands until it’s a smooth, evenly mixed mass. Form it into a vaguely convincing loaf shape. Put it in the oven and bake for an hour (or until your meat thermometer registers 165). And that’s it! Who knew pleasing your men would be so easy? Let this thing rest for 5 minutes or so before cutting it into slices. Serve. Sit back and wait for people to show up in your yard.

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Mmmmmmmm…..

And just in time for grilling season!  That is, if you push grilling season the way we push grilling season around here.  Which is to say, you consider it warm enough to grill as long as scarves and earmuffs aren’t required.

And even when they are.

I’ve been using this recipe for a long time now, and my favorite thing about it is that it gives me another excuse to drag out Ye Olde BMG Crockpot.  But now, if it’s even possible, I love this recipe more.

‘Cause, HELlo.  One more way to use up leftover whey!

If you’re no stranger ’round these parts, you know that I like to make homemade ricotta cheese out of extra milk that’s just sitting around, waiting to sour on me.  And if you’re like me, you’ve done this before and ended up with jars upon jars upon jars of whey taking up valuable refrigerator real estate.  And, if you’re even more like me, which is starting to get a little creepy, honestly, you’ve Googled “uses for leftover whey” and discovered that acidic, yellowish whey, like the non-probiotic kind you get after you’ve made ricotta cheese, can’t be turned into more cheese or very many other appetizing things.  But.  BUT.

BUT!

You CAN use that whey part-for-part instead of water for soaking beans, and my, oh, my, that’s what you’ll always do with your whey from now on, because it boosts the recipe’s protein and nutrition and makes the house smell rich and cheesy while it cooks!  Just make sure to leave a little extra cooking time, since acid can impact bean-softening time.

Really, so many things can impact bean softening time.  El Nino impacts bean-softening time.  Ladies, your cycle can impact bean-softening time.

The time you spend watching the pot and waiting for it to boil will impact bean-softening time.  Whether or not you’ve filled out your 2010 Census form also probably impacts bean-softening time.

I think you get the picture.  Basically, you should just set this sucker up to go in the morning, press “START,” and forget about it for a while.  Like, ten hours.  Toodles.  No, seriously, just walk away.  Keep walking.  Don’t turn back.  Don’t fret.  Stop biting your nails about the bean-softening time thing.  I made half that stuff up.  The beans want you to have a life.  Very good off you go thank you.

Long story short, these beans will change your life and you will henceforth never part from them, so look for the recipe below.  It’s vegetarian.  Vegan if you use water instead of whey.  But.  BUT.

BUT!

Before that, a garden update!

Peas are (finally) sprouting, as are my lettuces, radishes, and baby greens.  I’ve even crafted some eco-chic (read: very cheap) seed markers out of popsicle sticks and a little protective packing tape:

But.  BUT.

BUT!

What’s most exciting to me are these babies, which recently arrived in the mail from Northern Brewer:

Oh, yes.  You got it.  They’re HOP RHIZOMES!  The Boy will now be able to brew his beer with homegrown hops, which will help us all to breathe a little easier at night.

To the bean pot!

Crockpot Vegetarian Baked Beans
Makes about 8 servings (The Boy and I always have enough for leftovers, freezing, and Irish Breakfasts the next morning)

Go Get:
1 lb. dried navy beans
2 quarts water or whey from cheesemaking
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
5 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. black pepper
1 T. kosher salt
2 T. soy sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar

Go Do:
Sort and rinse the beans, and toss ’em in the crockpot. Then toss on the other ingredients. Then toss in a spoon and toss it all around. Then toss on the lid, and…start the slow cooker on low heat (sorry–couldn’t figure out a way to use “toss” there. I know, I’m disappointed, too.) And, uh, hey, guess what? That’s it! Stir ’em around every now and then, and otherwise just allow for 10 hours of prime bean-softening time. You can always speed this up somewhat (I said “somewhat,” don’t get greedy now, the beans will not be rushed), by cooking on the high setting. I’d say that would probably clock in at around 6 hours. Enjoy!

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