Sunday, October 26, 2008

Curried Lentils, or being like Martha

It seems everyone is tightening up their spending these days - even Martha Stewart is preaching the gospel of frugality. I read an interview of Martha herself in last Sunday's Detroit Free Press. In the article, she described herself as a very frugal person - you know I never thought of her that way, but she really does espouse frugality. Long before it was fashionable, she was big into re purposing things, and making things yourself from scratch. I don't care if our president won't admit it, but we are most certainly in a recession and we should all be saving money. A great way to save money is by making food for your family yourself.

In the article, Martha has some words of wisdom for mothers and how we should all know how to cook. She said in the interview ".... I think mothers, especially, should know how to prepare variant, nutritious dishes for their families," she said. "I mean it's their obligation. Don't have a family if you don't know how to feed them." I agree - I think at least one adult in the family should know how to cook. It doesn't necessarily have to be Mom.

In the spirit of saving money, I'm including a recipe that's thrifty. I first had curried lentils in college, I think I may have made a recipe out of either Laurel's Kitchen or Jane Brody's Good Food Book. I had never tried lentils before, but I knew that I liked curry, since I had recently found I liked Indian food. My friend Ray said he loved them with Major Grey's chutney. I usually buy Patak's, but this winter when mangoes are in season, I might try my hand at preserving my own. The chutney, at over $3 for a small bottle, although you only need a spoonful per serving, is the most pricey ingredient. Otherwise, the recipe probably costs less than $1 to make, and it serves at least 8 people. This recipe isn't genuinely Indian, it is just what works out with things I normally have it my pantry.

Curried Lentils (aka Dal)

2 T. butter
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
2 cloves minced garlic
2 small red peppers, minced (pick the heat you like)
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 lb. lentils
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons Garam Masala (I buy mine online from Penzeys)
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar
1 15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cans low sodium chicken broth

In a large pot, heat the butter and stir-fry the onions just until wilted, do not brown. Add the garlic, peppers, cumin, lentils, ginger, curry powder, salt, pepper, and sugar. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until the herbs and spices bloom (aromatic). Add the tomatoes and deglaze to pot with their juices. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning with cumin, salt, pepper and sugar.

Serve over hot rice with Major Grey's chutney, and sausage or ham for the carnivores.

Monday, October 20, 2008

7 random facts about me

TennZen has tagged me - actually, she tagged anyone that reads her blog and I do read it and like it so I consider myself tagged.
Here's my 7 - I'll keep them food related (but my tagged people don't have to):
  1. I don't like mayonnaise.
  2. I love to make homemade candy - I'm looking forward to spending time this winter doing just that - as soon as canning season is over.
  3. I'm not great at baking, but I am good at making all kinds of pie. Ever since I was a kid, I have made great pies.
  4. The one dessert I can't turn down is cannoli. I'm not Italian - I can't explain it - but if I am faced with cannoli I must eat it.
  5. Parsnips are my secret addition to most roasts and stews. They have a wonderful flavor - sort of like parsley.
  6. I have yet to find the ultimate meatloaf recipe. Please send me a good one if you have it.
  7. The trick to great guacamole is kosher salt - make sure to taste it and add enough. Guacamole without enough salt tastes terrible.

Here's how I am going to tag:

Teacher Patti

64 sq. ft Kitchen


Alpaca Farm Mom

Dog Hill Kitchen

4 Obsessions

Farmer's Marketer

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dinner in Hell

....Michigan, that is. October at our house wouldn't be the same without a color tour/dinner at the Dam Site Inn in Hell, MI, one of our favorites. Yes, it is a biker bar and yes, if you have a Harley you'll fit right in, but we drive our car there ever year with pride. And we bring the kids, too, because they really like the Ice Scream Parlor over the Hell Creek bridge next door. You can't beat the Halloween decorations at the Dam Site Inn, and the food is pretty (damn) good, too. Just plan on eating your food while smoking a few cigarettes vicariously from your neighboring diners. I'm not brave enough to ask if there is a non smoking section, and I am not sure if it would matter because most of the patrons smoke quite a bit. Despite that, the food is pretty good and the drive there is wonderful. BYOA (bring your own albuterol)....

Our Harley Davidson tube top clad waitress was really sweet to the kids. The food runs through the standard bar fare, plus they offer some homey favorites like pasties and hot beef sandwiches. I ordered the Dam Site Inn Burger. I'd recommend the place to anyone that wouldn't be uncomfortable in such an environment. There's plenty of good natured bikers - last time we were there, our daughter was in awe by the large group of self described "dyke bikers". that were there. How often do you see a large group of women actually piloting some awesome bikes?

For dessert, I recommend walking over the Hell Creek bridge to the Ice Scream Parlor next door. Besides having all sorts of great Halloween decorations, you can make an ice cream sundae with some creepy sounding, but yummy toppings. Plus, for Halloween lovers everywhere, they have some terrific Halloween village displays (and product to sell) by Dept. 56. All and all, it's a great fall color drive to Hell - the trees form a canopy over Darwin Rd., and it is worth the trip. I don't think I've seen more beautiful fall colors in the 17 years I've lived in Ann Arbor as this year. Go to Hell, I say!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No Child Left Behind Breakfast

Don't get me started on standardized testing. I really can't stand that our school has to spend the first two months each year on prepping or taking MEAP testing (Michigan Educational Assessment Program). Note to self: add MEAP to my "Thank you George Bush" list, along with the Iraq War, the decline of the auto industry, the depression we are now in, etc. Okay, I'll stop whining now.

Standardized testing has been around a long time - I can remember taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in the 1970s when I was a kid, but there was less riding on it than there is now. I wonder why the Iowa test is the one we took? Didn't Michigan have its own test? Why was Iowa's so good, anyway? I recall that it was mind numbingly boring. When you reached the end of the test section was a STOP SIGN, and we were warned not to go past it. When we reached it, we were to close our books and put our heads down.

I didn't know then that I was what we would now call "academically gifted". My mother kept my IQ score from me until I was an adult, because she was afraid of putting too much pressure on me. Having a kid that was smart worried her - she thought she'd mess it up somehow. One of the curses of being smart is that I would often reach the STOP SIGN way before everyone else in the class. I can distinctly remember having to put my head down for 45 minutes during one of the Iowa tests - I was done 45 minutes early. That's a long time for a 5th grader to sit still and be quiet. As a result, I'd try to take the test as slowly as possible. It was hard to drag my feet on the math parts, because math was especially dull to me in grade school.

I hated taking the Iowa Test, but it was really prep for a lifetime of standardized tests - later on would come the PSAT, the ACT, the GRE and the GMAT for me. I'm fortunate to be one of those people that do really well on standardized tests. My scores on these tests never matched my grades, which often made teachers and professors proclaim that I wasn't giving school my best effort. My problem with school isn't my intellect, it's that I'm am "OP" - an optimist procrastinator. I often think things will take a shorter time than they actually do, so I put it off until the last minute. I run out of time.

These days, the MEAP tests are treated with much more pomp and circumstance. Kids are supposed to bring in mint gum to chew to relieve stress. There are nutritious snacks served, and parents are supposed to prepare high protein breakfasts. This is difficult for an OP like me. I never have enough time to whip up a fabulous protein laden breakfast in the morning, even though I have the best intentions. So here's a great breakfast idea for the OP's out there.

Breakfast Casserole

Base recipe

12 slices bread
1 lb shredded cheese (for ours I used cheddar for the meat ones and Mexican for the vegetarian ones)
8 eggs
1 ½ c. milk
1 ¼ T. Worcestershire sauce
Filling of your choice (1 lb. pork breakfast sausage or bacon or ham, cooked) or vegetarian*
1 stick butter

Place 6 slices of bread in a 13X9 pan. Top with filling of your choice, cheese and another layer of bread. Mix eggs, milk and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk until blended and pour over top. Cut butter into 12 pats and dot the top with it. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, bake for 1 hour at 350F or until the eggs are cooked through in the center.

Vegetarian Filling
3 green peppers, chopped medium
3 onions, chopped medium
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil
3 small cans sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained

Saute peppers, onions in vegetable oil until they are soft, and then add the garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add tomatoes and mushrooms and stir.

When you are done prepping this casserole the night before, you've reached the STOP SIGN. Put your head down. As an adult, this feels really good. Come tomorrow, you can start again. But for now, put your head down and wait for the rest of the class to finish.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Jam and Jelly Tasting Today

Home canning fans - stop by and taste home preserved jams and jellies at Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor today Sat. Oct. 5 from 10 am - 1 pm. I entered my two most unique items I canned this year so far - Green Gage Plum Jam and Canteloupe Preserves. There are over 60 entrants, and it's free to taste all you want on Zingerman's delicious breads. Plus, vist their website before you go and print out their coupon for a free 5 lb. bag of oiled sunflower seeds to feed your birds. DTH&G has lots of great canning supplies and books, too.