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

2010-09-17 23.19.46.jpg

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. 

the everyday and the dutch baby

Most weekends we make pancakes which are our everyday pancakes. I use a healthy-ish dry mix and we add eggs, milk and oil. The kids know the "recipe" by heart and love to help and the pancakes, which I make on our griddle, are pretty good. 

But this was a different kind of weekend. We had three birthday parties lined up, plus dinner with friends and a date night. And of course at birthday party number 1 on Saturday morning, a lovely pool party on a rooftop in Brooklyn, Mack slammed his face into a wooden planter while running from a water gun fight. 

We spent the next few hours in Urgent Care waiting for a doctor to look at his swollen bleeding eye. It turns out he is fine, just beat up, but anyone who knows Mack will probably feel more compassion for the doctor in this scenario. The very nice doctor in training who had never met Mack and didn't realize what he was in for or that the last time this boy had a medical procedure, the hospital security guards were called in to help hold him down. Not kidding.

After the crying, screaming, thrashing, begging and whirling insults, we finally got a drop into his eye. Six lollypops later, we were on our way home with a prescription for more drops (god help us) when Mack realized he wasn't returning to the lovely rooftop birthday party (since it was long over) and that he would not in fact be eating cake. You can imagine the rest. 

Anyway, this was no weekend for everyday healthy pancakes so we made this recipe from 1966 that blew us all away: creamy and buttery, custard-like with crispy edges. All it needs is a little powdered sugar on top. 

DUTCH BABY

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons (one half stick) of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, milk, eggs, and nutmeg in a bowl. Beat lightly. 
Melt the butter on the stove in a cast iron skillet with a heatproof handle. When it is very hot, (be careful not to burn!) pour in the batter. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pancake is golden brown.
Sprinkle with the sugar.

a cheesy meatless monday

The kids were fools and declined to even try this creamy deliciousness which I made last night. It's pretty close to Alfredo and fun that you can keep scraping strands out of the "bowl" after it's all over.

Also this coincided with the kids eating scrambled eggs so we had a Yellow Dinner party and invited the following guests:

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 Tablespoon cream cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus 2 Tablespoons extra for topping
salt/pepper

DIRECTIONS:

There are several ways to get the spaghetti out of the squash but the easiest is the microwave. You can put the whole squash in for 5-10 minutes until soft and then cut, or cut first then microwave for 5-10 minutes until soft. Either way let it cool a bit before you use a fork to shred out the strands and put them in a bowl. Keep the empty shells.

The sauce: melt butter and flour in a small pot over medium-low heat while whisking until you have a pasty brown mess, then add the milk and keep whisking. You’ll feel it get thicker. Once hot, add cream cheese. Take off the heat, add parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.

Mix sauce into spaghetti squash then scoop back into the empty shells. Add more cheese on top and broil for 3-5 minutes until warm and slightly brown on top. 

the spiralizer

Okay I know this is has been trending for some time and I've nobly resisted the marketing and culinary media pressures but I finally gave in and just bought the damn thing: The Spiralizer Tri-Blade Vegetable Spiral Slicer. The one everyone says is the best including Cooks Illustrated so if you're gonna do it, this is the one. Not terribly expensive ($30) and actually super easy to use and clean (I wish someone were sponsoring this but they're not.)

I watched a short video of how to use it (you can make curly fries!) then experimented on three zucchinis. It looks really cool but how does it taste? If you cook it properly, it's actually really tasty and not so far from the real thing. I think it's best not to think you are replacing spaghetti but inventing a new dish altogether. And with that in mind, I have to say I kind of loved this one way more than I thought I would. The "noodles" held up to the sauce and it was creamy but not mushy--really satisfying for a healthy dish. I didn't force it on the children yet but I"m already thinking about ways to trick Nate into eating it. (Green spaghetti for St Patrick's Day?) I think I could also peel the veggies and the result would look more like pasta. Hmmm....

Zucchini "Alfredo"

3 zucchinis
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated

Spiralize the zucchinis. Sprinkle with salt and sautee in hot oiled pan for 5 minutes. In the meantime, microwave other ingredients in medium bowl for 30 seconds. Add "noodles" to bowl and stir. Add extra cheese. 

meatless mondays

One of my first cookbooks was the Moosewood Cookbook. I was in high school and a sudden vegetarian and someone, maybe my mom, bought me Mollie Katzen's book. It was a revelation at the time--one of the first collections of only meatless meals. 

I have since lost that book and I am no longer a vegetarian but lately we have been trying to abstain from meat one day a week. Meatless Mondays is part of our attempt to structure weekday dinners (ie Taco Tuesday). At first Nate protested this rule. Then he found out that pasta is not a meat. Now he's cool with it. But it does remain a challenge to come up with new and filling veggie dinners. I think Michael is secretly hoping I get stumped and he can just eat cheese.

While googling what to make with the bag of green lentils that I bought on a whim at a health food store, I came across one of Katzen's humble recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook. It seemed odd that such a relic was even online. But the simple lentil chili was a perfect starting point, and with a few flavor additions, turned out a hearty, meat-like chili that satisfied us omnivores and even became lunch for the next few days. The trick is lots of creative seasoning and a heavy dose of toppings. Mack even turned the toppings into a meal in itself and Nate, of course, had pasta. 

Moosewood Lentil Chili (modified)

2 cups dried lentils–any kind
3 to 4 cups water
One 8 oz can tomatoes
1 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cups chopped onion
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 can kidney beans
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp Yeast flakes
Fresh black pepper and crushed red pepper

Optional Toppings:
yogurt or sour cream
feta
grated cheddar
minced fresh parsley and/or cilantro

1.   Soak lentils in water to cover by an inch for 2-3 hours. Drain. (optional)

2. Place lentils and water in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, partially cover, and lower the heat to a simmer for about 30 minutes.

2.   Add tomatoes, cumin, paprika, thyme, garlic, and onions. Stir, mostly cover again, and let it cook for another 30 minutes or so. Check the water level as it cooks, and add water as needed, to prevent dryness. Stir from the bottom every several minutes during the cooking.

3.   Add salt and tomato paste. Stir and continue to simmer about 10 minutes.

4.   Stir in the vinegar, beans, hot sauce, yeast, black pepper, and crushed red pepper, adjusting the seasonings to taste. Serve hot, with some or all of the optional toppings.