Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Long Can I Keep This?

Between citrus season, a meatless Lent, and the coming of spring, a lot of fresh produce has come and gone through my fridge. Living in the suburbs and having a toddler in tow means I don't get to shop as often as I'd like, so I have to be savvy about what will keep for a few weeks and what to use up quickly. Lately, I've been referring quite a bit to this blog post on how to store various types of produce. Some of the less well-known tips include storing asparagus in a jar of water (above), wrapping celery in foil, and not washing grapes and berries until just before you eat them.

For a more comprehensive listing (read: way more information than you'll ever need), StillTasty contains a database of almost any food you can think of. What I love is that they give you storage times for peak eating, but also differentiate between "highest quality" and "still safe to eat" (because we all fudge things from time to time). They also have an iPhone app, if you're so inclined.

One thing that's helped immensely with cutting down waste is keeping a container in the freezer for making stock. Along with some of the better scraps from chopping vegetables (celery and leek tops, those onion layers that aren't quite skin), I'll throw in anything that starts to look like it's going downhill. I'm not tempted to hang onto it, because it's not waste, and cleaning out my crisper is a much less arduous task.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Getting in a little weekend baking?

This infographic from America's Test Kitchen might be of some help (click for larger version):
I'm making lemon squares, but with Key Limes instead (fingers crossed!). What's in your oven?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A little food for thought ...

... for wedding season.

It is springtime, and weddings are aplenty. One of the traditions performed at many weddings is the garter toss. [...] One such event happened at the wedding of a couple I knew in college. Matt and Julie married last week, and when the time came for the garter to be removed, Matt did something unexpected. As Julie sat in her chair, Matt approached her with a water basin and a towel. With perfect tenderness, he humbled himself and made a beautiful gesture of his service to her.

Read it all (and see the beautiful photo) here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Kitchen Crock Essentials

I was recently watching a PBS cooking show where they discussed essential items for your kitchen crock. Among the items listed was a stainless steel ruler. I'm not sure why this hadn't occurred to me before; I'm constantly trying to estimate the size of rolled-out dough by holding my recipe printout up to it (with greasy/floury hands, of course), or digging through my sewing cabinet when I can't remember if my springform pan is a nine- or ten-inch model. It would also be good for cutting perfect strips for a lattice crust or a grid for homemade crackers.

One use I would never have thought of was for reducing liquids. To reduce a sauce to a particular amount called for (say, ½ cup), measure the depth of that much water in the pan you will be using in advance. You'll save yourself a lot of pouring scalding-hot liquid back and forth.

The trick seems to be finding a ruler without a cork backing. If you're searching online, look for double-sided rulers, such as this model, since they're sure to be steel-only.

So, what else am I missing out on? Do you have any unusual tools in your kitchen arsenal?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hint of the Day: Sifting Powdered Sugar

Quite often I prefer to just sprinkle a little powdered sugar over brownies instead of frosting them. A wire mesh tea strainer is the perfect tool for this! It's small enough to be manageable and I can just rinse to clean it. It would also work for flour and cornstarch.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy 85th Birthday, Holy Father!

If you're wondering about a gift, the Church Ladies suggest extra prayers for his continued health and his wonderful work for the Church!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Eastertide Picnic

My family decided to belatedly engage in the European tradition of an Easter Monday walk and picnic (in keeping with the day's Gospel reading of the encounter on the road to Emmaus). Trouble was, all my plastic food containers had been pressed into service following my son Tommy's birthday party yesterday, and I needed something that would sit vertically in my suitcase-style picnic hamper.

Canning jars came to the rescue. From 2 quart to 4 ounces, each served a purpose from entree to relish. Pictured from left to right: roasted chickpeas, strawberries, ham and cheese gougeres, tomatos and herbed cheese, olives and cornichons.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"The work of the bees, and of your servants' hands"

It's no secret that the Church Ladies are big fans of the revised translation of the Roman Missal, and those of us attending an Ordinary Form Mass for Easter Vigil are more than a little excited to hear the revisions on the Exultet (Easter Proclamation)! This ancient hymn of praise is typically sung by a deacon (but can also be sung by a priest or cantor). The poetry and drama of the Exultet calls the whole Church – in heaven and on earth – and the whole world, including all of creation, to rejoice in the Resurrection of the Lord!

We're printing the text here for you to enjoy ahead of time, but if possible, hear it sung at Mass tonight. It's an annual liturgical goosebump moment that's not to be missed!

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our might King's triumph!
Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.
Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that he, who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me his light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle's perfect praises.)

(V. The Lord be with you. R. And with your spirit.)
V. Lift up your hearts. R. We lift them up to the Lord.
V. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. R. It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam's debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out his own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These then are the feasts of Passover,
In which is slain the Lamb, the one true Lamb,
whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once you led our forebears, Israel's children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dryshod through the Red Sea.

This is the night
that with a pillar of fire
banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now, throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to his holy ones.

This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me,
and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to the mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants' hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God's honor,
to fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray you that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star who never sets,
Christ your Son,
who, coming back from death's domain,
has shed his peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reign for ever and ever.

40 Meatless Meals: The Best Tuna Salad

Our Holy Saturday meals are usually light and simple. It's a day of quiet anticipation; any big productions in the kitchen are strictly for post-Vigil celebration. With that in mind, I offer a riff on the humble tuna salad sandwich. This version is tweaked for an excellent flavor, but still requires very little effort to pull together.

Makes four sandwiches.
  • 3 5-ounce cans solid white albacore tuna
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ c plus 2 T mayonnaise
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
Microwave onion and oil in a small bowl until onion begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place tuna in a mesh strainer and press dry with paper towels. Transfer to medium bowl and flake with a fork. Combine onion mixture, juice, salt, pepper, and sugar with tuna; let marinate 10 minutes. Stir mayonnaise and celery into tuna mixture.

Friday, April 6, 2012

40 Meatless Meals: Slow Cooker Turnip Soup

1 shallot, minced
1 t butter
2 turnips or rutabagas, peeled and diced
6 cups water
2 bouillon cubes
1 t parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Microwave onion and butter for one minute. Scrape into crock. Stir in turnips, water, and bouillon cubes. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Puree in batches. Stir in seasonings and cook for high on 5 minutes.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

40 Meatless Meals: Creamy Gazpacho Andaluz

In a surprising reversal from our usual pickiness levels, my husband is the gazpacho eater of the family, whereas I usually find myself wishing for some chips to go with what is clearly a bowl of salsa in front of me. This regional version is emulsified with olive oil and a slice of bread to create a creamy base that really says "soup," while retaining all the bright fresh vegetable flavors.
The mise en place (though I'm sure your onion won't have sprouted).

Serves four to six.
  • 3 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cored and seeded
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small serrano chile, stemmed and halved
  • kosher salt
  • 1 slice white sandwich bread, torn in one-inch pieces
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 T sherry vinegar
  • 2 T finely minced parsley, chives or basil leaves
Roughly chop (no need for these to look pretty) 2 pounds of tomatoes, half of cucumber, half of bell pepper, and half of onion and place in bowl. Add garlic, chile and 1 1/2 tsp salt; toss until well combined; set aside.

Cut remaining tomatoes, cucmber, and pepper into (nicer-looking) ¼" dice. Mince remaining onion and add to diced vegetables. Toss with ½ tsp salt and transfer to fine mesh strainer set over medium bowl. set aside 1 hour.

Transfer drained diced vegetables to medium bowl and set aside. Add bread pieces to exuded liquid and soak 1 minute. Add soaked bread and any remaining liquid with roughly chopped vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.

Transfer half of vegetable bread mixture to blender and process 30 seconds. With blender running, slowly drizzle in ¼ cup oil and continue to blend until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain soup through fine mesh strainer into large bowl, repeat with remaining bread mixture and ¼ cup oil.

Stir in vinegar, minced herb, and half of diced vegetables into soup and season to taste. Cover and refrigerate one hour to overnight. Garnish with remaining vegetables and serve.

Recipe source: America's Test Kitchen TV.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

40 Meatless Meals: Roasted Cauliflower

2 T olive oil
3 cardamom pods
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets with branches
1 bell pepper, cut in strips
1 small onion, cut in rings
kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450. Spread olive oil in a shallow baking dish. Stir spices into oil. Fold in vegetables. Bake for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 4 as a side.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

40 Meatless Meals: Saucepan eggs

The secret to these lucious creamy eggs is cooking them in a saucepan- the smaller, the better. You might never go back to scrambled eggs.

Per person
2 t butter, divided
1 T mild fresh herbs, finely chopped (try tarragon, parlsey, or scallions)
2 eggs, beaten.
salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2/3 of the butter in a small heavy saucepan on low heat. Fold in fresh herbs and cook until slightly wilted. With a rubber spatula, fold in eggs, and stir constantly. When eggs still have a few liquid spots, remove from heat (they will keep cooking). Fold in remaining butter and cover until butter has melted.

Monday, April 2, 2012

40 Meatless Meals: Roasted Tomato Tart

Serves four.
  • ½ sheet puff pastry
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) grated mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
Heat oven to 425° F. On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 9-by-6-inch rectangle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Prick the puff pastry all over with a fork and top with the tomatoes and mozzarella. Drizzle with the oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for April, 2012

General Intention: Vocations. That many young people may hear the call of Christ and follow him in the priesthood and religious life.

Missionary Intention: Christ, Hope for Africans. That the risen Christ may be a sign of certain hope for the men and women of the African continent.

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father for this month. Amen.