(another) break from all food thoughts

Last spring I took a little break from allfoodthoughts and came back in the fall.

I’m going to take another break this spring, now, actually, because we’re having another baby. And though I’ll be back, it’s hard to say when.

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an accidental salad

I love it when a dish I hadn’t planned, turns out to be great! Like this fish dish

sauce

and the salad I made recently:

  • chunks of potato (leftover baked potatoes – I always bake more than I’ll need)
  • slices of cucumber
  • olives (I pitted the last 6 or 8 that were in a container in the fridge)
  • baby arugula
  • spoonful of roasted pepper antipasto from a jar
  • olive oil, vinegar, salt

salad

It could probably take some croutons or grated cheese to be that much better… but it was still delicious. I put it down to the roasted pepper spread, but really it could be the potatoes or even the olives, right?

That’s what I love about just putting things together from the fridge to create a salad. Don’t you love that?

 

 

consider this

Consider this: sometimes a sandwich with almost the same ingredients as the one beside it can taste entirely different. Why is that?

eggplant slices, onion, cooked greens

Take these vegetables we had for dinner sandwiches last week:

  • Baked eggplant slices
  • Sautéed onion
  • Cooked greens

Ok. Then add tomato sauce and you have a kind of non-parmigiana sandwich.

But instead of tomato sauce, if you add grainy mustard with olive or cabbage salad suddenly this is a new meal.

Or add some roasted peppers and mozzarella cheese, heat under the broiler to melt the cheese and you have another sandwich, still.

What about curry mayo?

I think this is great, because preparing just a few vegetables can turn out so many different sandwiches in one meal; everyone’s sandwich is unique to the condiments they choose from the fridge.

But isn’t it kind of incredible how just the sauce or spread can change the experience so much?

 

 

Banana Oat Muffins

banana oat muffins

I’ve adapted these banana muffins from The Joy of Cooking, along with another recipe I cut out of a magazine a hundred years ago – I don’t remember the magazine or whether the recipe was from an ad for flour or baking soda, or the magazine’s own muffins.

Now they are mine.

And yours, if you want to make them.

Plus you can customize them by adding things like walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut, cinnamon, sesame or flax seeds… you get the idea.

I often find that muffin recipes call for a lot of sugar and a lot of butter – more than I really want to have. These are very moist and sweet from the banana so only a little sugar is added, and a touch of oil, in place of the butter. You won’t feel cheated.

banana oat muffins

Banana Oat Muffins (makes 9 muffins)

pre-heat oven to 350

  • (in a medium bowl) mash 2-3 soft bananas; add 1 egg and 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • (in a separate bowl) mix 1 cup oats, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking soda (plus any additions like 1 tsp cinnamon, or 1/4 cup coconut, etc)
  • add the dry mix to the banana mix and stir just until combined and still lumpy.
  • divide into 9 muffin cups (greased, or with papers) and bake 20 minutes.

yum.

And did I mention these come together in less time than it take for the oven to pre-heat?

 

it’s not pretty

It’s not pretty, but it tastes quite delicious.

soup

That’s what happened with a pot of minestrone soup I made last week. I typically make it the same way with more or less the same ingredients:

onion, carrot, celery, potato, zucchini or mushroom, maybe green beans, a rinsed tin of beans, some tomato, water; then simmer for a long period (2 hours+)

And it turns out delicious, but also, it looks appealing.

This time I used some shredded cabbage, a handful of chopped spinach, no beans… and a few other changes – enough that I made a different soup. Delicious but not really good looking.

Well, it looked pretty nice once I grated a heap of Romano cheese on top, actually.

 

more, apparently, unusual habits

So I previously posted a blog about my apparently, unusual habits.

I don’t think they’re so strange, but I guess some things I do are not too common. (Like keeping dark chocolate in the fridge as a staple, and using a little cup to pinch salt from beside the stove.) And there are more, that I hadn’t mentioned.

Like this one:

I don’t have a “regular” plastic ice cube tray.

ice cube tray and ice

Instead I have a metal one: a shallow tray that you fill with water, place a grid-like divider with a hinged handle into, and freeze. Then, when you’re ready, you pull the handle up, cracking the ice into semi-cubes.

I can see that this is not the norm.

There’s also a metal loaf pan in the freezer, to hold the frozen cubes: once the ice is cracked, you have to empty the tray if you want to make more. Of course I want some on hand and some freezing. I’ve heard that this use of a pan is the more strange thing… but where else would one put the ice that’s already cracked?

 

 

wooden stick

A friend told me about a cafe with great gelato and really good coffee. She would take the bus from work just to get an iced latte. It must be good if she took public transit for a coffee on her lunch break.

She told me about the chic furniture and friendly service, but also the honey and agave syrup options – alongside the white and brown sugar – for your coffee.

And wood stir sticks. Wood, not plastic.

Ok, that’s nice.

But why are we impressed with a wooden stick?

spoons

As a cafe-going culture, is a wooden stir stick over a plastic one really the best we can expect? I mean, comparably, yes, I’d rather the wooden stick over the plastic; but why are these our options? It’s not a food truck or snack bar on a picnic ground.

I heard it is a nice cafe.

What about a proper spoon?

 

 

dinner… turned nice

salad greens

salad greens

Do you feel neutral about dinner?

Sometimes I’m preparing salad and cooking pasta and I really feel like it’s just something I’m doing because we have to eat.

But then, as it starts to come together I get enthusiastic about it. As I’m stirring the pasta I think of setting out a dish of olives. And remember a chunk of nice cheese in the drawer. We must have some melon (or grapes or pear) or dried fruits or to go with the cheese. And crusty bread to serve alongside the salad.

Suddenly this meal doesn’t seem so bad. I’m looking forward to sitting down at the table and enjoying another pasta dinner.

Does this happen to you?

setting the table

It’s a rare meal when I don’t set the table. Sometimes we’ll have a picnic of pizza on the living room floor, or a buffet without chairs around the table, but generally there is a minimum of table setting: a dish at each place, a glass, a napkin.

Most times I’m not really nuts about theses things, rather I feel that I’d like to enjoy the pieces I have, so I choose to put them out nicely. But then, the details.

I often choose an old teacup for coffee; it’s nicer than a clunky mug and I’m only having an espresso with some milk. And if there’s oatmeal for breakfast, my little ones like to have the small pitcher for milk on the table so they can help pour their own milk. Already the table looks nice. It makes the coffee and oatmeal more enjoyable.

If there are olives or little marinated things from the antipasto bar for lunch or dinner, we put them out in small dishes and flower bowls. Sometimes I put hummus out in its tub, but I think that’s the exception. That, and sour cream on taco night.

At Christmas I was trying to reconcile what I feel is my style, with what dishes, napkins, tablecloths I have. What was ‘fancy’, yet still felt like me to use it? Many items have been passed down over the years, and even though I like them, they’re not necessarily what I’d choose if I had money to spare at the store. And what to use at the next day’s dinner?

The first night I used a heavy white table cloth, but put a long stretch of raw silk with rough ends down the middle of the table. It’s actually a fine scarf, but isn’t used and it suited the table. Then a few candles: some tealights in a makeshift holder, plus some tall beeswax tapers in ceramic holders I bought years ago in Italy. The second, a thick, printed, cotton table cloth with matching napkins that a friend brought me from France as a wedding gift, and the single candle holder with tea lights inside.

Of course there were small dishes of marinated things – and no plastic tubs to be seen.

 

flour

I buy white flour in 10kg bags.

And we go through it quite quickly, I think.

Back in the fall my friend and I were making pasta together – making pasta dough, that is. Eggs and flour. And she commented on the size of the flour bag in the cabinet. I’ve always bought the 10kg size, and growing up we always had that size.

My husband and I make a lot of bread. And pizza dough and cakes and biscuits. And pancakes and muffins and so on. That’s why the bag of flour is as big as it is – we don’t want to pick up flour every time we go to the grocery store. It’s enough to pick up whole wheat, double 00, rye, chickpea or other types of flour.

So the pasta (dough) making date was in September. Two weeks later I bought a new bag of flour- I remember because when I was carrying it into the house, my neighbour commented on it’s size and I thought of my friend’s remark earlier that month.

Last week I used the last bit of white flour for pizza dough and had to print ‘flour’ on the grocery list. What can I say, we go through it quickly, like juice, fruit, salad greens and cheese.

What do you go through surprisingly quickly?