Easy Does It

I like to do things, but only in the simplest, most efficient way.

IMG_9813Essentially I’m lazy. If you are too, here’s your tip for the day: Next time you’re making a recipe that says, ‘on a floured surface’, use a pastry board. Sounds fancy, yes? No. All we’re looking for is something to contain your mess. Something you can pick up and throw in the sink or dishwasher. A cutting board, a tray, whatever you’ve got. No sticky counter, no gross sponge covered in flour paste, no excuse not to get cooking.

Ready, Set, Go

I don’t know whether we’ll get the 12″ of snow and power outages predicted for our area tomorrow, but I do know we’ll be eating well.

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I did my usual storm-prep cooking marathon today, making everything I could think of that can be eaten as is or warmed on our propane stove. Dishes are done, laundry is clean, firewood is in the house. Throw it at us, mother nature, we’re as ready as we’re going to get.

This recipe makes 24 muffins. If you’re fairly sure you’ll have power over the next few days, you can bake half, stick the rest of the batter in the fridge, then bake the other half when you run out.

Blueberry Muffins

Preaheat oven to 400.

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

8 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 cups flour

2 cups milk

2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Cream the butter.

Add the sugar.

Add the eggs.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, stirring til everything is well-combined.

Fold in the blueberries.

Pour into lined muffin tin and bake for 22 minutes.

Kiss the Cook

Word to the wise: when choosing a life partner, be sure they like garlic as much as you do. You want them to be so distracted by their own garlic breath they don’t notice yours.

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At our house, dinner prep begins with chopping garlic more often than not. That being said, this recipe uses a ton of garlic even for us. Other than that bit of work, though, it’s quick to throw together, and it makes enough to keep us in leftovers for a good while.

You’ll notice I don’t give amounts for the spices. Don’t panic! I’m not cooking dinner, you are, and you’re going to make this your way. If you end up over-spicing, just serve it with some extra rice or wrap it in a tortilla; under-spicing, sprinkle on some more curry powder. Once you’ve made it a couple of times you’ll have found your perfect balance.

Curried Peas

1/2 cup chopped garlic

Olive oil

Curry powder

Ground black pepper

Red pepper flakes (optional)

3 Tablespoons butter

2 bags frozen baby peas

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Fill half of a one cup measure with chopped garlic.

Sprinkle a layer of ground black pepper over it.

Add a few red pepper flakes if you like.

Pour olive oil over the garlic to fill the cup measure.

Melt the butter in a very large frying pan on medium high heat.

Sprinkle curry powder over the surface of the butter. Don’t be shy.

Add the olive oil and garlic.

When the oil and garlic are dancing, add the peas.

Before stirring, add another layer of curry powder, along with a bit of black pepper.

Continue to cook at medium high for 5 or 10 minutes, until the peas are warmed through, stirring occasionally.

Add the chickpeas, topping with curry powder as you did with the peas, then stirring and cooking til everything is hot.

Serve with jasmine rice.

No Muss, No Fuss

Little did I know, as a teenager eating soup at my boyfriend’s house, that 30 years later that same soup would be a long-loved staple for our kids.

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Every family develops its own food culture. We construct it without intention, for the most part, picking up bits and pieces along the way, but it becomes infused with meaning. What this soup means to me is this: Welcome. No need for fuss. We’re family.

Vegetable Soup

6 or 8 or 10 carrots – whatever you’ve got – peeled and sliced

Celery, optional (My mother-in-law says yes. Everyone has their shortcomings.)

1 onion, peeled, quartered, and sliced thin

lb can crushed tomatoes

8 oz tomato sauce (whatever you use for spaghetti is fine)

1/4 cup barley

6 vegetable bullion cubes

4 cups water

Bring everything to a boil in a large pot, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes, until the carrots are soft.

Mix and Match

Granola is a perfect foundation food.

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If you’ve got some in the house, you’ve probably got other things that will go well with it. With milk and raisins you’ve got cereal. With yogurt you’ve got a parfait. With nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and/or chocolate chips you’ve got a bowl full of yum, and a good source of energy to boot.

Granola

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

5 cups oats, or 4 cups oats and 1 cup nut of choice

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup maple syrup

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 pinches salt

Mix the ingredients in the order listed, stirring til well combined.

Spread in a thin layer on two silpat, parchment, or tin foil-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 15 minutes, then stir it around a bit.

Bake for another 15 minutes and stir again.

Bake 10 more minutes, and you’re done.

Store in an airtight container.

Sugar and Spice

What happens if you take applesauce and keep cooking it?

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With a few more spices, you’ve got apple butter.

This recipe can be divided or multiplied. I double it for 40 pounds of apples. Well, 40 pounds of apples minus enough to make a pie.

Apple Butter

18 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 cups sugar, divided

Fill a crockpot with applesauce. It might not all fit, but that’s ok, you can add more later. If you’ve got 2 crockpots you could get both going – that’s what I do.

Add spices and 1 cup of the sugar.

Prop the lid on your crockpot with a wooden spoon or chopstick so the steam can escape.

Set the heat on low.

Cook for 6 hours, then add the rest of your sugar and more sauce if you’ve got room.

Continue cooking and adding applesauce as needed until it looks and tastes like apple butter. Mine generally takes a total of about 22 hours. (That includes the 6 hours above.)

Prep 12 half pint jars.

Ladle hot apple butter into jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes after water has returned to a boil.