Happy 2019

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So while the rest of the world is observing a Dry/Vegan/Meatless/Paelo/Whole 360/Gluten-free January, I seem to be eating more sugar and drinking more alcohol. It could have something to do with the fact that our heat is broken – that means OFF—for a week now while they find a new part for the motor. Happy 2019!  

I now know how those southern people feel when they move to New York. I’m writing this in a winter coat and dreading taking a shower because the second floor feels like Canada. So I’m blaming the cold on my inability to give up the satisfying things in life. I need those things. I’m cold.

Michael and I did resolve to give up meat this week which was going well until I made a pork shoulder. This is the recipe for Momofuku’s Bo Ssam that I made for a dinner party of 6, and it’s amazing and surprisingly easy. We also ate it for three days after the dinner party because the leftovers were so good.

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

Picture (obviously) from the New York Times

So aside from that….we’re practically vegan. It is a good challenge though and has inspired some new dinners: fish tacos, Instant Pot Shakshuka (from Melissa Clark’s book Instant Dinner), shrimp with cauliflower puree. In other words, we’re not just eating pasta with the kids.

I also made my chocolate peanut-butter balls which aren’t particularly healthy but aren’t particularly unhealthy either (and this version included hemp seeds which are nutty and camouflage nicely). It’s a good snack for the ravenous 6-year-old that gets off the bus every day. I suspect that instead of eating lunch, he just says “poopy” and “fart” until recess. When he gets home he needs a snack the size of a meal. These balls are a good filler-upper for him and unlike the store-bought stuff, they are from real ingredients.

 Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup coconut flakes
2 tablespoons hemp seeds
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup peanut butter (or other nut/non-nut butter)
1/3 cup honey or agave

DIRECTIONS
1. Grind oats, coconut, hemp seeds and chocolate chips in mini food processor.
2. Mix peanut butter and honey, then stir in oat mixture.
3. Roll into balls (add a few drops of water if too dry). Sprinkle with powdered sugar (for effect) and refrigerate.

 

it's better in the burbs?

Well, I don't know about that yet but I'm trying to be optimistic and focus on the positives of our new life. Like, for example, more counter space! On which I can safely perch my instant pot and plug it in without moving ten other things. As a result, I’m using it more. For example, I figured out how to make ricotta cheese after many failed tries.

It's super easy— just pour a half gallon of milk (at Costco they comes in threes) and 1.5 teaspoons of salt in the IP and choose the "yogurt" function. When the IP beeps, add 1/3 cup lemon juice, stir and let it sit for 10 minutes. Finally, strain with cheesecloth for anywhere from 10-30 minutes until it's to your liking. It makes a nice gift if you put it in a jar with a ribbon.

I’ve also used the IP to steam veggies and it made the best chili we’ve ever had.

Another positive happening: I met a friend —one of my few neighbors who have not already covered their houses in inflatable spiders and faux tombstones. She told me about a peaceful shady pond within walking distance, which I found to be desolate and beautiful. As I looped around it, I even started to appreciate this quieter life. (I apparently got so dreamy though that I took the wrong path and had to use Google Maps to get home.) Still, I was pretty proud of my nature walk, and shared it with the kids when they got home from school, along with my pictures of floating geese. Or were they ducks? Wait, what’s the difference? 

magic mac

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For anyone who has followed my multi-year search for the perfect mac and cheese recipe, I'm sorry. It's not exactly the cause I thought I'd champion when I finished grad school. The good news is that I finally found it: an easy, no-powder mac and cheese (slightly tweaked from Dad Cooks Dinner) that both boys loved on two separate occasions. I can make in the Instantpot—it's even easier than a stovetop version, And I can pack it in thermoses for their lunch boxes. And here it is:

MAGIC MAC

Ingredients

  • 1 pound dried elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt 
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 16 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

    Directions
  1. Stir the macaroni, butter, mustard, hot pepper sauce, salt, and 4 cups water in the pressure cooker pot. Lock the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid.
  2. Stir in the evaporated milk and the cheese one handful at a time, stirring constantly.

    ***This makes a ton so feel free to half it or store it in the fridge for a week or two and scoop out as needed. Heat up with a splash of milk or water.

 

 

instant pot: breakfast

So far there has only been one Instant Pot failure—steel cut oatmeal, from a recipe I found on a random blog. That's one of the problems with the IP--there just aren't that many trustworthy recipes yet. With a lot of ad-libbing I finally got the oatmeal to be oatmeal and with a better recipe, it can be done.

Unfortunately just the idea of tasting the somewhat unusual looking oatmeal sent Nate running into the other room. "You win some you lose some" I said aloud which Mack and Michael turned into a song about tornados and dragons called "The worst hike ever." So at least the creative juices were flowing and eventually Nate came out and joined us. 

A better turnout (not that Nate ate it but the rest of us loved it) were these egg muffins which were softly steamed and juicy. 

instant pot

 

 

 

 

 

I don't usually follow the gadget of the month trends but the Instant Pot? It's f-ing amazing. Here's why you might want one: perfect easy hard boiled eggs; dried to soft beans in 30 minutes; seriously melt in your mouth beef stew:

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There are other functions--you can even make yogurt in it but I'm probably never going to do that. The point is, for me at least, it practically ensures a soft tender quality that might take hours of hard work otherwise. Last night-I bought a small piece of pork butt and chopped it in large pieces. Then I tossed it with some olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika and chile powder and threw it in the instant pot, along with a chopped onion, a garlic clove and a 1/2 cup of Tropicana orange juice. After 50 minutes the meat was falling apart--I needed a spoon to take it out of the pot. It was the easiest "slow roasted" meat I've ever made. The tender shreds were perfect for tacos—or alone on a plate, maybe with some soft polenta or slaw.