The Camera Hasn’t Broken Yet, But Just Wait …

The thing about getting a new camera is that you actually have to learn how to use it. That’s especially true when my husband is involved. I hate reading manuals. I’m a trial and error kind of gal. I just push all the buttons and hope for the best.

The problem is sometimes that method does more harm than good. It’s a shame when you break something before you even really get to use it. That’s what happened with the little food processor I bought a few weeks ago. To be fair it was from the thrift store and only set me back 2 bucks, but I was hoping it would last more than one use.

When you’re making falafel for a ravenous bunch of cavemen who eat piles of food (my family) you need to make quite a lot. You need to make a lot more than a cute little food processor can handle.

That’s fine. I thought I could just process multiple batches, but there comes a point when the whole multiple batches thing gets old and you just want to get it over with. That’s why I ended up overfilling it.

As I crammed the chickpeas into it I knew what I was doing was not a good idea. I just needed to go out and get a real food processor. I persisted though and as I turned on that small, cute, innocence food processor one last time it squealed in pain. The blade did a few weak rotations and ground to a halt.

It was over. Even when emptied it wouldn’t spin. I’d only had it for two hours and I’d already killed it. I quietly washed it out and stored it in the cupboard hoping that after a brief rest it would revive itself. I just checked and it hasn’t.

A similar thing happened with the blender when I tried to make falafel last month. Maybe it’s a sign.

I was planning on making falafel next week. Since I still haven’t gotten a food processor and I love using the wrong tool for the job I was thinking about using the new camera to mash up the chickpeas this time. That should work. I mean it wouldn’t hurt, right?

falafel

Broccoli Nonsense – A Recipe

I’ve heard some people claim that cooking is difficult. I don’t know what they’re talking about, because in my house cooking is a breeze. All you have to do is throw a bunch of stuff in a pan, give it a name, and serve it with a smile. The throw-stuff-in-a-pan part I learned from watching The Food Channel. They try to make it look more complicated than it is, trust me. The give-it-a-name part I learned from my mother who would do things like throw a bunch of blue cheese dressing in the wilted leftover salad she originally served two days ago and call it Blue Cheese Chop.
The other day I invented a brand new dish that I’m loving called Broccoli Nonsense. Since I know you’re dying to know my cooking secrets, I’ve decided to share the recipe with you.

First find some forgotten broccoli in the vegetable drawer that has seen better days. Wash it, and cut it up. Now use a dull knife to attempt to cut up two plum tomatoes and end up squashing them on the cutting board instead. Put a skillet on the stove and turn the burner on high. Cut up an onion in large uneven chunks. Put some butter in your hot pan and panic as the butter immediately starts to burn. Take the pan off the burner, turn down the heat to medium, and put your onion chunks in the pan. Let the onion chunks cook as you stare at the spice rack wondering what kind of spices you should use. I went with black pepper, dried basil, and dried parsley, but you should use whatever suits your fancy. I’d suggest staying away from cinnamon though. Trust me, cinnamon and broccoli are a bad combination.

Realize your onions are burning and find a spoon to use to stir them up a bit. Once your onions are soft add broccoli to the pan. While your broccoli cooks mince two cloves of garlic. Add garlic and tomatoes to the pan along with spices. How much spice should you add? That’s a good question. I just guestimate. Isn’t cooking about creativity? Well use yours for goodness sakes. Do I really have to tell you everything? Let’s just say I added more parsley than basil or pepper, and less pepper than basil. Got that?

Let it cook until the broccoli starts to soften and then taste it. Scowl and look around the room confused because it needs something and that definitely isn’t your fault. Realize that if you want it to be right you’ll have to fix it because after all aren’t you the one who has to fix everything in this house?

Open the refrigerator and retrieve the anchovy paste. Anchovy paste saves everything, doesn’t it? Attempt to squeeze a bit of anchovy paste into the pan with your broccoli. Notice that nothing comes out. Try to squeeze again only a bit harder. Notice that still nothing comes out. Squeeze again with all your might and watch in horror as the anchovy paste to flies out of the tube and splatters across the wall above the stove. Sigh and leave it there. There’s no time to clean that up while your preparing a culinary masterpiece. Your husband can clean it up when he does the dishes. Put what little anchovy paste is left in the tube in the pan and stir it well, but not too well. Part of the beauty of the dish is that someone will eventually take a bite and end up with a giant lump of anchovy paste.

Once the dish is finished cooking add a little salt and serve it up with a smile.

My Personal Chef

Some people love to cook. I’ve seen them on TV or have maybe even met a few in real life, even though I can’t think of anyone specific right now. I’m not one of those cooking people. While I love to watch cooking shows, I don’t necessarily want to prepare any of the dishes at home.

My problem is that I love to eat. Standing in a kitchen in front of a hot stove is just a means to an end as they say. If I’m going to eat I need to cook. We can’t afford to eat out every night. and if I let the men I live with do the cooking we’d be eating eggs for every meal. There is nothing wrong with eggs, but if you eat too many of them you might just turn into an animal that survives primarily on eggs. What would that animal be? A mongoose maybe, or a fox? As usual my confusion about animals has gotten the better of me because I’m not quite sure what a mongoose is. Is it similar to a hedgehog? Should I be too embarrassed to ask that question? Are there too many questions in this paragraph? … I should probably move on.

Just in case you are as misinformed as me, this is a mongoose.

Just in case you are as misinformed as me, this is a mongoose.

Though my husband and stepson would be fine eating the same meal everyday for the rest of their lives, I need a bit of variety. When it comes to food I’m lacking in the creativity department. I find myself rotating through a couple of recipes. That’s not because I can’t cook anything else. It has more to do with laziness. That’s why I think I need to have a personal chef.

I have sophisticated tastes so I couldn’t just hire any old person off the street to cook for my family. I need a world class chef who will make food so good that it will make me slap somebody. I’ve thought about this long and hard and I’ve been able to narrow the list down to Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson, and Jamie Oliver. It’s just a coincidence that all of these people are British. The United Kingdom isn’t necessarily the country one thinks of when they think of good food, but I wouldn’t hire someone like Rachel Ray or Paula Deen. No offense to their fans, but if I have to eat Southern fried anything, I’d rather not eat.

I’ve have to audition the chefs of course. The competition would be stiff, but I’m sure one of them would have what it takes to cook for the Bettisons.

Photo by a.ali.himu

Broccoli Salad Recipe

Broccoli Salad

I make this tasty broccoli salad all the time and I love it. I just thought I’d share the recipe with you today.

Ingredients

    1 head broccoli
    1 glove of garlic minced
    1 tomato diced
    8 Kalamata olives diced
    1 green onion finely chopped
    1/2 lemon
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/3 teaspoon dried basil
    black pepper to taste

Cut up the head of broccoli finely. Mix all the chopped ingredients in a bowl. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lemon. Add the olive oil and spices and mix well. That’s it. Easy.

I love broccoli and I never thought about making a salad out of it until a few weeks ago. Now I make this all the time.

The Sharpest Knife

I’ve never had a sharp knife for cooking. Come to think of it, even growing up I don’t remember my mother ever having a sharp knife either.

I’ve always had the kind of knives you can buy in a pack for about 3 bucks that don’t really cut anything. You know the kind that squash a tomato flat against the cutting board before finally tearing through it. To cut a carrot I’d have to push down so hard that the slice of carrot would end up being propelled across the kitchen. A spoon could probably do a better job at cutting.

There is a benefit to having dull knives. I’m a bit clumsy in the kitchen. While I’ve been told that you’re more likely to cut yourself if you’re using a dull knife than a sharp knife I’m not inclined to believe that at all. I cut myself almost every time I cook.

My husband bought a sharp knife this weekend. I’ve reluctantly been using it. It is the sharpest knife I’ve ever held in my hands and frankly, it makes me nervous. I nearly cut my finger off trying to cut up a pumpkin on Saturday. “Nearly” here means that the knife slammed down on the cutting board and while my finger was no where near it I could imagine the knife slicing through the bone of my finger like butter completely ruining my writing because without a finger there would be a whole range of letters on the keyboard I couldn’t use.

I’ve never been one to shy away from risk though. I hold full glasses of water over my laptop all the time and have even eaten food that has passed the use by date. I can handle risk. That’s why I continue to use this dangerously sharp knife in the same haphazard manner I’ve used knives my entire life. So far so good. It’s been three days and I still have all my fingers.

The Fermentation Factory

I’ve been fermenting food recently. There’s nothing like some old vegetables to compliment a meal. It’s true. I currently have lacto-fermented salsa and kimchi  in jars in front of the radiator in the living room. Our kitchen is too cold to encourage the fermentation process. Actually, we really don’t need a refrigerator. We can keep our veggies cold by storing them in the cupboard. I’m also growing an experiment in gluten-free sourdough bread in front of the radiator.

The other day my husband walked into the living room and said, “It smells like a barnyard in here.” He was probably thinking that I was trying to make kefir again, but I haven’t tried that since the last kefir debacle.

Anyway, when my family starts complaining about the barn-like odor I know it’s time to put the ferments in the frig. My salsa and kimchi joined my raw sauerkraut in the refrigerator this morning. Of all the fermented vegetable sauerkraut is my least favorite. What were they Germans thinking? Didn’t they have any other seasoning besides salt?

I proofed my sourdough last night. I started a loaf rising this morning and now it’s in the oven. I have no idea what it’ll be like. As I write this I’m realizing that I don’t even know what time I put it in the oven.

My husband who happily eats my fermented foods is always ready to make fun of the process of making them. Here’s his recipe for sourdough bread.

First put some dough in a jar and let it sit for three days.

Next put the dough in a glass bowl and let it sit overnight.

Then put he dough in a loaf pan and let it sit for a few hours.

Finally bake it.

It isn’t rocket science, but it is a little more complicated than that. As one of sourdough websites I read said, “If this sounds brain-dead simple, that’s because it is. People who didn’t believe the Earth was round did this for millenia.” They may of not realized the Earth was round, but they sure made some good bread. I wonder how good they were at figuring out whether to push or pull a door open. Probably better than me.

In Case Your Wondering:

You may be wondering, “Hey, what’s up with all the fermenting going on in your house?” You may find it frightening. You may even be thinking, “Remind me never to eat at Lovelyn’s house.”

The good bacteria found in fermented foods promotes gut health. Fermented foods have been part of many traditional diets for years. Find out more about the health benefits of fermented foods.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays on Cheeseslave.

The Great Kefir Experiment

I have a problem following instructions. I don’t like to admit it, but I do. If someone tells me how to do something I’ll usually do what I’m told, but if given a set of instructions to read I usually don’t bother. So I guess my real problem is reading instructions, not necessarily following them.

I decided to start making kefir about a month ago. For those of you who don’t know what kefir is, it’s a fermented milk drink. It’s kind of like yogurt, but more drinkable. I thought it would be a good way to get some healthy fermented foods into my family’s diet.

I bought some kefir grains online. Kefir grains are the bacteria cultures used to make kefir. I ordered them from a woman who calls herself the Kefirlady. The Kefirlady owns Nigerian pygmy goats and grows her kefir grains in fresh raw milk.  The Kefirlady is also untrusting of the banking system and only excepts payment in the form of cash mailed directly to her home. I picture her as a hunched old woman with scarf tied around her head, a shepherd’s staff, and bony hands.

Against my better judgment, I put my payment in the mail. I swear it’s illegal to mail cash, and I was mailing it internationally at that. I was well aware that this could be some kind of scam. The Kefirlady could just sit at home collecting ten dollar bills in the mail and never send anyone any kefir grains in return. She could use the money to support a nasty coke habit.

Once I dropped the money in the post box, I was sure I’d been had, or I’d get arrested the following day. I nervously waited for my kefir grains to arrive. A week later they did, along with ten pages of instructions which I sort of read?if sort means reading the first paragraph and putting it on my desk to be buried under a bunch of other papers.

So I re-hydrated my grains in water for twenty-four hours. Then I put them in milk and thought I’d have delicious kefir in 1 week. After a week of changing my kefir’s milk  roughly every 24 hours, I didn’t have delicious kefir at all. What I had was a thin milky substance that tasted like something that was wrung out of a sheep. Now I know what a barnyard tastes like, and it’s not good. This can’t be right, I thought the first time I tasted it. Undeterred, I kept my sheepy kefir grains fed in fresh milk for two more weeks. It just kept getting sheepier and sheepier tasting. Finally, I gave up and got rid of the whole concoction.

After disposing of the Great Kefir Experiment of 2009, I decided to sit down and read the instructions that came with my kefir grains only to discover that my failure to make delicious kefir may have been my own fault. That’s unfortunate because I was sure the Kefirlady had tried to kill me. I pictured her taking my ten dollar bill from the envelope, putting it in her apron pocket, then rubbing her bony hands together, and saying, “Thanks for the ten dollars, dearie.
Now I will poison you.”

The kefir rules I broke:

1. Stir kefir with a plastic spoon. I only broke this rule once, but maybe once is enough.

2. Change the milk every twenty-four hours. On the fifth day, I got the brilliant idea to just put some new milk in with the old milk my kefir grains where  already in. Twelve hours later I went to swirl the jar to see how my kefir was doing, and it was solid. That led to the breaking of rule number three.

3. Don’t squeeze the kefir grains. Initially, when reading this rule you may think, why would anyone squeeze kefir grains? When I accidentally made the block of kefir cheese mentioned above I was horrified. How would I find my kefir grains in that? I wondered. I dumped it all out and started squeezing it through my fingers to find the little rubbery kefir grains. Does pinching each grain really hard count as squeezing? I’m afraid it might.

Lesson learned:
If something you’ve purchased comes with instructions, you might want to consider reading them unless the instructions are too long, you’re too busy to be bothered, or you think you can figure it out on your own.