On bacon, not coffee.

I've stopped drinking coffee this week. It's been horrible. I also gave up alcohol, but that's not nearly as bad. I'm not so addicted to booze that I get the DTs or any withdrawal symptoms when I give it up for a while. But when I give up coffee it is not good! I'm headachey, cranky, and really really tired. Worst of all, my brain doesn't work well without coffee, so I couldn't figure out what was the matter with me for several days. I haven't given up caffeine completely. I allow myself one black tea a day and as many decaf black teas (or herbal teas) as I want. Plus hot chocolate and any other form of chocolate is OK. But the Mayo Clinic tells me a cup of brewed coffee (mmmm!) has about 95 mg of caffeine, whereas black tea has 47 mg. I think cocoa has even less, like 5 mg. So I'm only halving my drugs and it's still bad!

To pass the time during my self-inflicted lethargy, I want to report that we had breakfast for dinner tonight and used the Sunday Bacon from my food blog gift earlier this month. I love having breakfast for dinner, although 1/3 of the family was sick and 2/3 were cranky, so there wasn't exactly a bright-eyed vibe. But here's a shot, including my "Not Fried Potatoes" that I invented several years back.

In other news, here are 2 weeks of playlists from Beef Jerky Time, my fabulous weekly radio show on wvew.org.

First, the 1*21*09 show:
  • Nothing to Worry About: Peter Bjorn & John
  • Better Trends: Japanese Motors
  • The Lusk Letter: The Kindness Kind
  • Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it): Beyoncé
  • Emily Paints: The Deadly Syndrome
  • Theme from Hollywood: Megapuss
  • Din Daa Daa: George Kranz
  • Champion Requiem: Mos Def
  • Tunnelvision: Here We Go Magic
  • Neo Violence: The Tough Alliance
  • When Did You Become So Popular: Vox von Braun
  • Use Me: Bill Withers
Next, 1*28*09, my snowstorm show. (It was just me and plows on the road driving home from that one. Major blizzard.)
  • Be Nice to People with Lice: Alan Sparhawk
  • Too High: Stevie Wonder
  • Paris is Burning: Ladyhawke
  • Kings & Queens: Apostle of Hustle
  • Sweet Disposition: The Temper Trap
  • Girl U Want: Devo
  • Sunrise: Yeasayer
  • The Art of Kissing: The Long Lost
  • You Can't Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want): Joe Jackson
  • First Time High (Reconstructionist remix by Jon Brion): Of Montreal
  • Drummer: Coconut Records
  • It Must Be Love: Madness
  • Unsettle My Heart: The Boat People
  • He's Frank (Slight Return): The BPA feat. Iggy Pop
  • The Nightfly: Donald Fagen

Cilantro chicken wraps

I devised this over the summer when a dear friend remarked that I didn't seem to be using the huge patch of cilantro I'd planted. She was right--it was because I didn't know how! She told me about this awesome chicken dish that requires tons of cilantro. Here's my version. It's a nice soft supper any time of year. "Soft" seems a strange word I guess, but that's what it is!

  • 1 boneless chicken breast
  • 1 T finely chopped scallions or garlic scapes or chives
  • 1 large handful fresh parsley, loosely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheese of your choice
  • 2 large wraps, whole wheat or spinach maybe
  • 4 T sour cream
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 T favorite salsa
  • 1 large handful fresh cilantro, loosely chopped

Step 1: Remove the chicken tenderloin from the underside of the breast and butterfly the rest of it (cut it in half sideways). Slice the 3 resulting pieces crossways into strips. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350˚.

Step 2: Heat the olive oil in a nonstick pan until it's good and hot (but not smoking). Throw in the chicken and the scallions. Stir around until chicken is lightly browned on all sides. Then, add parsley and turn down heat.

Step 3: Put the 2 wraps on a cookie sheet and arrange a line of cheese down the middle of each. Arrange a line of chicken on top of the cheese and put it in the oven for about 5 minutes--until the cheese has just started to melt.

Step 4: Finish up each wrap. Put 2 T sour cream, avocado, salsa and chopped cilantro on top of each. Roll and eat. Serves 2.

Here's one just before the handful of cilantro.

Here it is again with cilantro. This is the MINIMUM amount of cilantro to use!!

Here's mine on the way to my mouth.

I'm submitting this cilantro recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Mele Cotte. Thanks!

Indian Cans

Since about 2000 we have been big fans of a certain brand of canned Indian "Heat n Serve Entrée." That brand is Jyoti.

Besides the potato dumplings pictured, we also like their Matar Paneer (peas and cheese), Dal Makhani (lentils & beans, including Giant Meaty Kidney Beans) and especially Madras Sambar. We usually brown some ground lamb to go in the Sambar and it is really really good. (Especially with kale and brown rice.) A can goes for around $4--it also seems to be organic and can feed a family of 3 when combined with veg and rice.

As a food group we call these favorites "Indian cans." Here's a sample conversation:
"What's for dinner?"

"Indian cans."

This particular Indian can came to my rescue when I discovered it was 4:30 on a weekend afternoon and I had no idea what was for dinner. Break out the potato dumplings in sauce, add some frozen broccoli, and spoon over brown rice. It might look kind of goopy in this picture, but Indian cans are really mouthwatering.

DIY Bean Sprouts

I grew up in a house of sprouts. I think it's because we were always trying to be frugal and local. So in wintertime instead of buying imported lettuce and other greens, we'd make alfalfa sprouts, radish sprouts, mustard sprouts, bean sprouts, and so on. My mom put alfalfa sprouts on my sandwiches instead of lettuce and kids at school called them "worms" and pretended to be grossed out. Whatever.

I think one of our initial sprouting methods was to use mason jars with special strainer lids screwed on. The lids had larger or smaller holes depending on what type of sprouts you were making (bean sprouts took large holes, alfalfa sprouts needed very small holes). You just put a tablespoon or so of seeds in the jar, screw on the appropriate top, then rinse and drain the seeds for up to a week until you have a jarful of sprouts.

Next we got a 3-level Biosta sprouter. It had green plastic trays and you poured water in the top tray and it trickled down each level to a collector tray at the bottom. You could have 3 types of sprouts going at once. I took the thing to college with me and it was great, but it eventually got old and cracked. After that I got used to buying sprouts (or, for sandwiches, lettuce) at the store again.

That is, until 2 weeks ago, when I decided to make my own Pad Thai. I found some recipes and assembled most of the ingredients, but I could NOT find a bag of bean sprouts at our store. No problem, I thought. I will simply buy bulk mung beans and sprout my own.

It was an uncontrolled experiment. My hypothesis: I can grow bean sprouts with no special equipment besides a mason jar. Not even some cheesecloth tied around the mouth of the jar--I decided to just go commando and let the sprouts fall where they may.

My method was to rinse the beans in the morning and in the evening--basically keeping them constantly moist. To strain, I just placed my hand over the mouth of the jar and let the water run out through my fingers. I didn't lose many beans this way. I kept the jar on its side right next to my sink--where I could see and remember it. Here is the progression.

Day 1:

Day 3. You can shake the beans around in the jar after rinsing so they're spread out--but not falling out the open front of the jar.

Day 6:

Day 7. I probably would have let these keep growing another couple days so the sprout parts were over an inch long. But Pad Thai day had come and these babies were called into service. Yum.

Wine and cheese candles

Friday evening before a long weekend. Perfect time to sit back with the fam and have cocktail hour. So I broke out more ingredients from my food blog gift. Taylor Farm gouda, Carr's Cheese Melts crackers and Rosemount Shiraz 2006.

The crackers were a nice surprise. They're "NEW" according to the box, which also explains that they are "Crispy crackers sprinkled with cheese." They had a rich crumbly texture and a nice tang that reminded me very much of my Pie Crust Cheese Straws. Those are usually a rare treat as I don't make pie often, so nice to know the taste can be found in a cracker box. The wine was exciting too, particularly because I got to use my Special Shiraz Glasses, pictured. I have become more of a beer drinker lately, so a glass of red is a nice change. (I like how the bottle has a diamond-shaped base to echo the label.) The cheese was also quite tasty, and double the pleasure on the cheesy crackers. Cheesiness is next to godliness, as I always say.

One interesting occurrence during our relaxation hour was my companion's discovery that the yellow wax rind from the cheese could be rolled around a small piece of butcher's string to make a perfectly serviceable candle. When he proposed this idea to me I naturally dismissed it as impossible, but here's the result. It worked.

While I was taking this picture my companion found some more bits of cheese wax in the kitchen and rolled up another candle. Here it's being lit.

Here are the 2 candles together. Who knew that gouda came wrapped in "atmosphere" like that...

Vodka Sauce Fettucine with Shrimp

This is the next post to come out of the great food blog gift I got earlier this month. It was Wednesday night, and that means when I get home I have about 45 minutes to throw dinner together for the family, eat it, and get ready for my radio show Beef Jerky Time which starts at 7. I had no real dinner ideas until I remembered the fresh-dried fettucine and the vodka sauce that was part of the gift. Perfect! The fettucine takes only 3 minutes to cook (after spending 15 minutes boiling a big pot of water). The vodka sauce was tasty. It doesn't really taste like vodka (I've made it before but couldn't remember), but it does have a strong, unique flavor that goes well with the creamy tomatoes. I think this is one of those recipes where the cheaper and rawer the vodka, the better the results. I also had a few shrimps lying around (yeah, who doesn't!?) so I sautéed them up quickly in butter and lemon juice and put them on the side. I also covered everything with parsley because that's my green for the week. It was on the table by 6:30 and I made it to my show on time... as always.

While I'm at it, here's the playlist for that show: 1*14*09, a block of Australian pop was featured (I'll shade it teal for your reference).
  • Are You Sure?: A Block of Yellow
  • Juicy: Rafter
  • Strange Times: The Black Keys
  • Churches Under the Stairs: Brendan Canning
  • Something is Not Right With Me: Cold War Kids
  • Talk Like That: The Presets
  • Kelly: Van She
  • Strangers (Van She Tech remix): Van She
  • Ice Cream (Van She Tech remix): New Young Pony Club
  • 1234 (Van She Tech remix): Feist
  • Remember Me: Tame Impala
  • Sunrise: Yeasayer
I got kind of excited about Van She while planning this show. Here's the video for their breakout song, "Kelly":

Aligning with Milosh

I find Milosh very soothing. Milosh is a Canadian recording artist who specializes in electronic pop. He's got 3 albums out: You Make Me Feel from 2004, Meme from 2006, and iii from 2008. (I like that every other year thing.) He seems to make music that is beautiful but not sappy, serene but not new-age. It's subtle but still has a synthesizer edge. It's like music for weather--looking wistfully out at landscapes of snow or rain. Being in wide autumn light with a wind. Appreciating grey skies. Sitting on a sunny floor doing nothing but eating apple slices.

Milosh makes music that helps you stop. It would be excellent listening while looking out your plane window, caught between two places and just being for while. Now I'm not saying to turn this on and assume the lotus position. But Milosh could make whatever you're doing seem slightly meditative and profound. It would probably also be comforting music for breakups. I know Meme best, though the title track from You Make Me Feel is Excellent. His new album, iii, seems right on track to give me more smooth sweet pop.

Here's the Beef Jerky Time playlist from last week, 1*7*09, with just a dash of Milosh.
  • Tipsy Gipsy: David Grisman Quintet
  • Kim & Jessie: M83
  • Snowblind: +/-
  • Ride that Cyclone: Larkin Grimm
  • Great DJ: The Ting Tings
  • Face on the Sun: Romance
  • Awful Game: Milosh
  • Just Briefly: Daedelus
  • Michael, The Lone Archer of the North Shore: Deastro
  • Heart It Races: Architecture in Helsinki
  • Hit the Wall: Broken Social Scene
  • Glass Candy: Animal Imagination
  • Time Will Tell: The Lafayette Afro Rock Band

Juicy Roast Chicken

Here's the first thing to come out of the food blog gift I mentioned in my last post. It's a roast chicken dinner. From my "inventory" list I used the Young Chicken and 1 of the plump organic lemons.

I don't really know how to roast a chicken. My mother likes to squeeze a lemon over the whole bird, then stick the squeezed lemon halves in the cavity. I did this, previously having tucked a bunch of sage leaves under the skin and rubbed the skin with butter. For roasting instructions, I used the Master Recipe in Julia Child's The Way to Cook (Alfred A. Knopf, 1989). Her instructions involved doing a different thing to the roasting chicken every 10 minutes--turning it on one side or the other, salting it, basting it, changing the temperature, etc. These steps go up to 70 minutes and then she says to just keep basting now and then until it's done--around 90 minutes in the oven with another 20 minutes or so to rest. It was a bit harrying to keep running back to the oven every 10 minutes, but I think I did OK.

Here's the bird on its side in the oven.

Here's the bird resting.

The end result: This chicken was just fabulous. My dining companions both asked for seconds and thirds, though one claims not to be a big fan of "plain" chicken. I LOVE chicken and a roast bird on a winter evening is the bomb. The breast meat (my fave part) was so fresh and perfectly cooked that it almost squeaked between my teeth, if you can imagine that in a good way. It wasn't fork tender (to me that evokes pulled pork and a certain amount of chewiness). No, it was knife tender. Like buttah. So good! (KG, we raised a forkful to you!)

The gift of food (blog topics)

A very thoughtful person gave me a great gift. It was a big box of ingredients for meals and snacks. These are things I would probably never buy for myself, but that are definitely fun to have. There was also a cooler that contained a chicken, a cheese and some excellent bacon! Now that's a sweet present! And one of the best parts was that the giver specified it was for blogging purposes. So this is a gift that gives twice--first a gift of nice things to eat, and 2nd a gift of blog topics.

Here's a photo of the unrefrigerated stuff:

And the things we put right into the refrigerator & freezer. Notice that 1 of the two beers has somehow disappeared...


  • 1 local "young chicken"
  • 2 organic lemons
  • bottle of Shiraz
  • 2 beers (Dogfish Head Midas Touch--OMG my new total favourite)
  • 1 box fair trade organic green tea
  • fresh fettucine (dried)
  • vodka sauce
  • bowtie pasta
  • Indian potato dumplings
  • hearts of palm
  • crackers
  • gouda cheese
  • clam chowder
  • Sunday bacon
  • Aranciata soda

So here's the challenge--what would you make with these?

I'm already envisioning several meals, and at least one cocktail hour. Will post as I go.

What evolved:

Juicy Roast Chicken
Vodka Sauce Fettucine with Shrimp
Wine and cheese candles
Indian Cans
On bacon, not coffee.
Farfalloni with pesto
Midas Touch: Love, Love, Love It
White pizza with caramelized onions and hearts of palm
Rainy day clam chowder

Exploring Bon Appétit: 3 Times a charm

I like to try new magazine subscriptions so I recently subscribed to bon appétit. I like the big shiny pictures and the variety of recipes in each issue. I go through each one and earmark pages with recipes I want to try. So far I've gotten 3 issues and have tried a recipe from each one. Unfortunately, my first 2 attempts were not good. But I kept trying and the 3rd recipe, from February's green issue, worked fine. Here's the scoop.

First, since I'm on a quest to expand my butternut squash horizons, I thought I'd make the butternut squash latkes with sage pine-nut yogurt sauce. First I made the sauce--using thick Greek yogurt as recommended. Here are the pine nuts, fresh sage and butter browning together.

Here's the mixed sauce. It was tasty! After licking off the spoon I put it in the fridge and started on the latkes.

Here is where disaster struck. Have you ever tried to fry apple sauce? It's easy to put in the pan, but very very hard to flip over. The consistency of the batter was really loose and squash-y. The concoction seemed to have very little binder so each latke basically fell apart. I took photos but will spare the gory details. I tried messing with the recipe to get it to stick together--even tried adding some pancake mix. But I just couldn't flip these flipping things over. So they sat in their own puddles of squash and burned. (The recipe seemed good in other respects--not too sweet, and I liked the slight rich undertone provided by a little ground cumin.) Here's my plate--I took the worst bits for myself. The mush at the back of the plate is my first batch that I just squished all together and ate like puree.

My next recipe was a cardamom yogurt chicken curry. It was designed to go with a red pepper shallot dish but I couldn't afford both so I just picked the chicken. This recipe was better--I slow cooked it using chicken legs and it came out tender and flavorful. But I felt there were just too many different spices for my taste. This is more personal preference though. I just felt all the spices were starting to cancel each other out. No photo of this one--it looked like a mass of red curry.

My third recipe was hummus. I like it! I usually make hummus "by ear." I throw the ingredients into the food processor in random amounts and taste until it's hummus-like. It was a change to have actual directions. I didn't have a jalapeno to add but the single garlic clove does give it a little bite. Also, I am fanatical about boiling my dried beans or peas with kelp, so I threw in the cooked kelp with the rest of the ingredients and got a nice confetti look. (Kelp has no taste to me. It just helps soften beans and make them more digestible. It also falls apart when cooked, so doesn't change a dish's texture, in my opinion.)

Fireworks pizza is OK!

We stopped at our favorite pizza joint in Connecticut and wondered Why Is It So Hard to get this stuff in Vermont?! So we decided to give Fireworks a try. It's a newish place in downtown Brattleboro, VT, right on Main Street. The atmosphere is close and cozy--we were almost touching elbows with the diners on either side of us, and we could all definitely eavesdrop on each other. This seemed fitting however, as the space used to be a great little cafeteria and I'm glad it retained some of that cheek-by-jowl charm. The walls are a warm burgundy color and the stamped tin ceiling painted a chestnut brown. We got there at 8pm on a Saturday and got a table, though the place seemed fairly full. (We were told to either get there right when they open at 5:30 or to wait until after 7:30. They close at 10pm.)

Since we are on a budget and don't eat out much, we were ready to have a treat and not be TOO stingy. So we weren't put off by the $14 pizzas (1 pizza has 6 pieces and is about a foot wide). We also treated ourselves to some red wines--I liked the Wolftrap wine from South Africa and my companion got a Côtes du Rhone from the "cheap" list. (They really do divide up the wine list that way!)

My favorite dish of the night was not a pizza but a starter called Hearth Baked Feta Cheese. It was just amazing--savory, sour, hot, with fresh herbs, some melty tomatoes and olives around the edges and nice hot flatbread strips to scoop everything up with. I'd go back just for this and a couple glasses of cheap red. For pizza my companion got a margherita with pepperoni and I had the special--Italian meatballs with fresh mozzarella and some greenish sauce that tasted a tad capery. I can't remember what it was called... The pizza was fine and the crust just what I was hoping for--light and thin and crisp, but substantial enough to hold everything. They forgot the pepperoni on my companion's pizza so it got cooked again and came out a little black on the bottom. The diner next to us said his pizza had arrived burned and had to be made again. (I guess that stone oven is HOT!) But we were satisfied and had a nice evening. We skipped dessert and went to Flat St Brewery for drinks and chess, but that's another story...

I'd say Fireworks is good for a cozy date night if you want to spend a few extra bucks on pizza than elsewhere in the area. They also do takeout (the mac & cheese with melted chèvre has been highly recommended to me) and have a kid's menu.