every summer CSA season starts again and inevitably my mom has tons of vegetables that need to be cooked. this led to the creation of a dish, which is more like a blueprint, that has become a tradition in the huizenga family – it’s called beans ‘n ‘greens ‘n rice.

simply put, you cook a bunch of vegetables you have lying around starting with the hardest ones that take longest to cook, throw in some beans, wilt in some greens at the last minute and serve the whole delicious mess over rice of some kind.

i try to decide in advance, based on the selection of veg, what family of spices/flavors i’ll be using – mexican, indian, thai/asian, american chili-style, etc…

so a couple nights ago i made a delicious faux-indian curry and a cucumber salad

i just love the creative part of cooking, especially when the flavors really come together 🙂

gotta go, richie made me breakfast!


yesterday morning i wanted to sit on the couch and watch West Wing with the ratties, as i often do between 9am and noon before i leave for work. BUT my dearly beloved boyfriend was occupying the space with his own activities so i went downstairs in a huff. upon entering the kitchen i found, as i often do, a pile of dirty dishes… so i started washing them.

doing dishes has become very symbolic for me over the past 6 months. i have gone from basically NEVER washing a dish ever to washing all the household dishes almost every day.  i feel extra bad about it now considering the filth i forced my past roommates to endure, but it took something special to make me change – it took Richie and a house and accepting responsibility.

So there i am doing dishes and i started thinking about making breakfast, mentally reviewing the contents of the fridge (i havent been shopping for a while so it’s sparse in there), but we did have a lot of apples. At first i was thinking of apple pancakes but once i looked at the clock i realized that while there was enough time to cook, there was not enough time to sit and eat. Hmmmm.

Then, eureka! I remembered that i have a wonderfully effective Basic Muffin Recipe that serves as a base for any mix-ins you can imagine. This time i cut an apple into little chunks (with peel on) and sauteed them with a little nutmeg and butter before adding them and some chopped pecans and ginger and a little more nutmeg to the batter. I had to extend the baking time to almost 25 minutes at 400 degrees and they are delicious. (you may have noticed that there is NO CINNAMON in this recipe and that’s because i hate cinnamon, except in the occasional savory application)

this recipe is from Frugal & Greenish which is written by the same lovely lady (Carolyn Ekins) who also write the 1940s Experiment which is also a really fun blog. She’s British so these muffins are of the Anglo variety – a little denser and chewier, not so crumbly and fall apartish as you might usually imagine. (below: my comments are in italics)

Basic Recipe for Breakfast Muffins (12 – its a hefty 12, could be 13 or 14 depending…)

* 2 or 2.5 cups of flour ( I use half white and half wholewheat/wholemeal usually – i use all white bc im a glutton and they are fab!)
* 1 cup of milk (may need more if using no moist added ingredients – she’s right on about that)
* 1/4 cup of fat (I use half this amount – i use the full 1/4 cup and used veg oil)
* 1 egg
* Up to 1/2 cup of sugar (use just a few teaspoons if making a savoury muffin)
* 2 teaspoon baking powder (i like to add a pinch or two more just to make sure they are light and fluffy)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Up to 1.5 cups of extra ingredients (dry or moist- could be raisins, nuts, fruit, grated carrot, applesauce, grated cheese etc)
* Herbs or spices

Put all dry ingredients in bowl and mix
Add all wet ingredients and mix together- doesn’t matter if the batter is lumpy. Underworked is better infact.
Pre-heat oven (i preheat my oven before i start mixiing because it doesn’t have a timer so i just have to hope its up to the right temperature after 10-15 minutes)
Bake for about 15 minutes or so at 200 C. (200 Celsius is about 400 Farenheit i think… These usually take more like 20-25 minutes in my oven)

there is a very very brave teacher out there with an awesome blog… Fed Up: School Lunch Project

She is eating school lunch every day (except the milk because she’s lactose intolerant) and she posts pictures of each meal with her thoughts on the subject.

I know there is a lot of talk about school lunch on the foodie blogs these days, but the gritty reality of what is actually being served in chicago public schools is still hard to confront.

Today's menu: peanut butter and jelly graham cracker sandwich, apple juice, fruit cup (peaches), milk


As a substitute teacher I have seen the pathetic looking food that students are served AND the excessive amount of individual packaging that it is served in (for ease of microwaving) and I have been appalled. Look at that lunch above, nothing is fresh! Everything is individually packaged, pre-cooked, pre-prepared, full of HFCS, preservatives and empty calories – is it really so hard to buy wheat bread, natural peanut butter and jelly and make a ton of sandwiches? Plus those weird cracker PB&Js are GROSS! CPS served them when I was in elementary school (as the constant “vegetarian” alternative) and they were disgusting then too!

Another big problem is that recess has been eliminated or severly limited in all CPS schools, and the time for eating lunch has also been decreased; which makes for twitchy little kids with lots of energy, no outlets for it, not enough appetite, who don’t eat as quickly as CPS wants them to. Which means a lot of them don’t eat much at all!

Its very hard to watch what goes on in the cafeteria at public schools, so MAD PROPS to this teacher who is risking her job and career to expose the truth about school lunches.

and if you’re interested, she has a flickr group that others can join to share their pics of school lunches too!

Friday: had to work the morning shift, then come home to laundry, cleaning pet cages, and baked a cake for my dad’s birthday – it was a strange cake with a coconut topping that you put under the broiler. My broiler is like a drawer on the bottom of my ancient TAPPAN oven (in avocado green of course). So this basically involved me kneeling on my kitchen floor for 5 minutes watching the top of this cake brown but not letting it scorch.

It was not a very photogenic cake so no pics. i’ve noticed that  i don’t always make pretty food, and i don’t care that much. i get a little jealous when i see the awesome pictures of Erin’s perfect cupcakes, but mostly i just want to make food that tastes good and pleases my family

Saturday: Ultimately it was okay, everyone devoured their slices, but no one said anything really. My family kind of sucks in the general “showing appreciation” department. when i cook for them they say things like “thanks for cooking” but not “this food is so good and it is providing me pleasure and i appreciate that you have provided this slice of happiness for me”
They just aren’t that into food. They eat it and they like when they don’t have to do the work of preparing it and they can tell when it’s really bad (although with my dad that’s debatable) and that’s the end of it. 

Personally i thought the cake was too dense and i missed the middle section of frosting in a traditional layer cake, plus the topping was WAY too sweet! So whatever, not making that again.

Sunday: one of the best days i’ve had in a while even though i spent a lot of it semi-miserable due to intense allergies. (i’m allergic to basically everything it seems, ever since the heat has been turned on. even in my car or public places if i’m near a heating vent then my eyes are watering, my nose is running and my sinuses are burning.)

Anyway we got up and cleaned the rat cage, then i went off to do the grocery shopping (at ALDI’s my favorite place to shop in the whole world because the prices are low enough that i can relax and enjoy it) and Richie stayed home to clean and clean and clean. I got home and managed to take enough  medication to stop my symptoms, but of course then i was drowsy and out of it. So i had a red bull vodka while i made coleslaw.

Then Richie’s awesome cousins and friends came over and after i messed around in the kitchen for awhile, and an emergency trip into the oven for the fried chicken, we had dinner.

Unlike my family, Richie’s family actually likes food. They can tell when it’s mediocre, pretty good, awesome, and all gradations of quality in between. So when they couldn’t stop saying how good everything was, my heart just swelled up with pride and happiness. And then my best friend Caitlin called to say she was randomly in town, on the far south side, and did i want to go to an irish music jam session with her parents at a bar just around the block? WOOHOO!!! i made a delicious meal for a group of people whom i love and keep trying to impress, and my best friend who lives in New Orleans (and we both suck at keeping in touch so i hadn’t seen or barely even talked to her since august) is in the neighborhood – everything’s comin up Milhouse, you know?

We went out and had a blast, kickin it old school with these ancient irish guys with their cool instruments and poetry recitations, and it was just classic.

Then this morning i realized that i hadn’t taken any pics of the food! i’m a bad blogger i guess. but anyway i made some seriously delicious coleslaw with just cabbage, celery, carrot, full fat mayo, white wine mustard and a splash of white vinegar. Also fried chicken dipped in beaten eggs & milk, then in a combo of flour, generic bisquick baking mix, paprika, red pepper, black pepper, seasoned salt and chili poweder, then pan fried in a couple inches of veg oil and finished in the oven at about 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes (the bone-in breasts i bought were HUGE). I also made loaded smashed potatoes by boiling 5 lbs of red potatoes for 40 minutes, drained, roughly chopped and then stirred in a stick of butter, 1/2 cup sour cream, some milk and half and half. Then i cooked up about 1/3 of a package of bacon cut into 1-inch pieces, threw that into the taters with some of the grease and then topped each serving with shredded cheese. I used the bacon grease to make a roux then added chicken stock to make some majorly delicious gravy.

and boy are my arms tired… 🙂

Picture 065

Originally uploaded by barredowl2010

TMI Thursday

so LiLu over at does this awesome TMI Thursdays thing in which bloggers are encouraged to share embarrassing and inappropriate stories.

This post has been waiting for the right moment!

I was excited to make this chocolate chip coffee cake, the batter was a little labor intensive, but i was going to use my 20 inch springform pan which is always exciting.
So I followed the recipe and made this light foamy batter. I poured it into my springform pan as directed. i was supposed to pour half the batter, then add a layer of choc chips and sugar, followed by the rest of the batter and more chips and sugar on top. BUT half of the batter didn’t even cover the bottom of the pan so i just poured it all in and added the topping. Oh, and i used chocolate chunks instead of chips just because i had them.

As I walked to the oven, with the pan in both hands, I somehow pushed the bottom of the pan up, out and over the sides, propelling the batter upside down to SPLAT on the floor.
NO!!!! i screamed, all alone in the house. Then after the slightest hesitation i grabbed a flexible plastic cutting board and pushed it under the pile of batter, scooped the whole thing up and dumped it into a regular 9 inch round cake pan. i swirled it around to mix in the former-toppings into the batter, added more toppings and threw it in the oven before i could change my mind.

Now, this may not sound so bad… but you haven’t seen the reality of our kitchen floor. Sure it had been cleaned “recently” but is that really good enough? Would Julia Child be proud, or was it over the line?

Regardless, I am ashamed yet relieved to confess this transgression. I am also very pleased to report that it was totally delicious and very much enjoyed by all!

ALSO in the overshare category, i have to restrain myself daily from writing long and obnoxious posts about how wonderful my boyfriend/soulmate/life partner Richie really is. In so many ways our life together reflects my dreams of what life would be like as a grown-up and it just overwhelms me when i think about it.

well i’m back again!

life has changed a bit – i moved to the southside of chicago with my boyfriend/soulmate/life partner/best friend Richie.

We are poor and in love and we cook all our meals at home, so i figured, why not write about it online?

we met on and it was love right away. he winked at me because he liked my screenname, i wrote back because he was always laughing and making funny faces in the pics he posted. turns out we are a perfect match!

now i’ve become domesticated which is great because i have my own kitchen set up the way i want it and the best audience for my food i could ever imagine – a grateful hungry man. (ok i could imagine a slightly better version of Richie, i mean he doesn’t like fish or eggplants or squash so obviously that would have to go… but whatever, fish is expensive and hard to cook anyway)

the kitchen, like the rest of the house, is not really finished, but we are trying to keep the retro feel of the house intact (it was built in the 50s)

i’m a competent cook. i can read a recipe and make it work, and from years of watching food network and PBS, i’m pretty good at improvising when necessary.

Mostly though, i use recipes and i love them. i get them from the internet and cookbooks and from pages i rip out of magazines, i even like the ones that are included on the packaging of different products!

ok, so life has been a little turbulent around here…
breaking up with Bear, going through a couple jobs, awesome vacation in northern Michigan, and now the flu, plus finding out that Bear already has a new little Bunny…

so i was having dinner with Mom and Sis-in-Law and little Twiggy (and little Eggbert, the latest addition to the family who’s still in the embryo phase)
and we were talking about all this drama, and then Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” came up.
Mom gave it to me for my birthday but I just started reading it over the weekend. I haven’t finished it yet, but Mom was spot on with this pick.
Gilbert’s tale begins with a spiritual longing brought into sharp focus by depression and despair stemming from marital difficulties which eventually result in divorce. Gilbert is a travel & food writer.
So I was saying to Sis-in-law how much I identified with Gilbert’s approach to relationships, and her spiritual search and then I said “yeah and she gets to work through all this stuff while traveling around being a writer!”
And Sis-in-law says “you could be a travel/food writer!”

which of course i dismissed because there are seriously so many bloggers in the world who want to be food/travel writers…

and then I was telling Sis about the Omnivore’s Hundred and how surprised I was that even though I’ve only left the country once (Scotland last spring) I’d eaten so many things on the list.
And she said “So are you going to try to eat the rest of the list?”

And I thought “Hmmm…”

So here’s the idea, we’ll call it “Eating the Rest of the List”

– I will attempt to eat the remaining items off the list and write about each experience
(bonus points if I travel first and eat the item in it’s native surroundings)
– I will consume as many of these items as possible outside of Chicago
– I will take the best pictures I can of these experiences
– I will try to finish within a year (August 19, 2009)*
– I may or may not post these on this blog… but I will write about all of them

Here are the remaining items in no particular order, with one of their native lands:
1. Nettle tea (UK)
2. Steak tartare (France)
3. Carp (In Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia and Poland, a shachlo of carp is a traditional part of a Christmas Eve dinner)
4. Epoisses (France)
5. Black truffle (France)
6. Pistachio ice cream (probably upgrade to gelato… Italy)
7. Brawn, or head cheese (UK)
8. Bagna cauda (Italy)
9. Cognac with a fat cigar (France… or Cuba?)
10. Curried goat (Jamaica)
11. Fugu (Japan)
12. Prickly pear (southwestern US/Mexico)
13. Umeboshi (Japan)
14. Poutine (Quebec)
15. Carob chips (unfortunately, only in America)
16. Sweetbreads (France)
17. Currywurst (Germany)
18. Durian (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia)
19. Louche absinthe (France)
20. Gjetost, or brunost (Norway or Sweden)
21. Baijiu (China)
22. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (maybe New York City?)
23. Kobe beef (Japan)
24. Horse (still ew… very popular in Tonga, a place I’ve always wanted to visit… China tops the list in production)
25. Criollo chocolate (Central America, the Caribbean islands and the northern tier of South American state)
26. Rose harissa (Tunisia/North Africa)
27. Snake (US/China)

I think a trip to Asia is definitely in order! Maybe during winter break… is it warm there in early december?
Maybe then I’ll hit the UK, France, Italy, and more of Europe next summer…
and i definitely foresee a long weekend in Montreal sometime soon!

Mo, you’d better help me out with some of this!

*I swear it’s a coincidence that this would have been my 4-year anniversary with Bear, but what a nice way to commemorate it!

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