Wednesday, April 17, 2013
I read an article today in the News & Observer about the “ten habits of happy cooks” — things that people who like to cook have in common.
Do I do any of these things?
Uh, no. I do not.
I do like to cook, though, so I just wanted to put up a short post to say that if, like me, you are unable to make a meal plan, think ahead, keep a running shopping list, and clean while you go (that last one especially kills me, it just does not happen in my life), there is still hope.
My solution is to keep things really simple.
Figure out a few things you like and just make those things. Pick things that are reasonably healthy, that are affordable to you, that you (and the people you are feeding, if you are feeding people other than yourself) are willing to eat on a regular basis, and that are easy to make and easy to clean up.
Things you make frequently are always going to be easier because you don’t have to think so much about them. It also makes shopping easier because you can narrow your focus to the things you usually buy.
When you get sick of eating the same thing, stop making that thing and find something else that is equally good/cheap/ healthy/easy.
And that is my solution. It seems easier than trying to be organized. That just feels like a losing battle.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
At some point over the winter I ran across a great website called TrailCooking.com that has recipes for things to make and take with you camping. I like camping as much as the next person (depending of course on how much the next person likes camping), but it’s not something I do very often. The appeal for me of the site is not that it gives recipes specifically for outdoor activities, but that it gives recipes for things that can be made ahead of time and easily taken with you. Think of an eight-hour shift at work as a camping trip and you’ll see where I’m going with this.
I haven’t tried any of the make-your-own dried mixes yet, though I found many of them intriguing. The main thing that interested me were the recipes for healthy snack-type foods. You can’t eat a lot of crap when you’re out hiking, you won’t make it, so most of the snacks involved nuts and fruit and other whole foods. And also they don’t require refrigeration (obviously) and are easy to pack and carry with you.
I did food for the March Third Friday opening at The Scrap Exchange, and the show for the month was an installation by Elsewhere artists from Greensboro. For the opening, they did a live cooking show. They were highlighting foraged and fermented foods (mushrooms, sourdough, kimchi, etc.), so I decided we should have some raw food snacks, and I remembered the Trail Cooking site.
I was planning on splurging and getting cashew butter, even though it costs an arm and a leg, but I started to have second thoughts when actually faced with the SEVEN DOLLAR price tag. But then I took a deep breath and decided it was for a good cause and got it. And I also got peanut butter. And I continued to have reservations about using the seven dollar cashew butter and thought about just doing the peanut butter ones and returning the cashew butter but eventually I overcame my fear of seven dollar nut butter and decided to just Use It.
The original recipe is called Easy Nut and Chocolate Truffles and that is no joke, these are easy. And they are good.
It calls for 1/2 cup of nut butter, 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. You mix everything together and then scoop out balls and roll the balls in a coating of your choice.
I made two versions.
The budget version had peanut butter, regular cocoa powder, a combination of white sugar, brown sugar, and honey for sweetener, regular-size milk chocolate chips that I chopped up to make closer to mini chocolate chip size, and vanilla extract. I rolled them in unsweetened shredded coconut.
The deluxe version had cashew butter, a combination of regular cocoa powder and dark cocoa powder (Valrhona) that I had left over from the Baked brownies I made over the holidays (which were truly divine — and the spiced version from Smitten Kitchen were even better), the same brown sugar/white sugar/honey combination for sweetener, chopped chocolate chips, and vanilla extract. Then I mixed some of the dark cocoa powder with vanilla sugar that I make by putting the husks of vanilla beans (what’s left after I scrape out the seeds to make vanilla extract) in a small plastic container with granulated sugar and let sit forever.
The budget version was good, the deluxe version was really good.
But what I decided was needed was a super deluxe version. So I made those next. And those were the best yet — richer but much less sweet.
Here’s the recipe:
Cocoa Cashew Truffles
1/2 cup cashew butter
1 T dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T sugar
1-2 T brown sugar
1 T honey
1 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
2 T chopped bittersweet chocolate (60%-70% cacao) or milk chocolate
1-2 tsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1-2 T vanilla sugar
Combine the first eight ingredients in a bowl and stir until all is combined and the cocoa/chocolate/sweeteners are all evenly distributed. Taste and add more sweetener if you’d like a sweeter confection.
Mix the cocoa powder and vanilla sugar together and put in small, shallow bowl or plate.
Scoop out using a tablespoon or other small scoop (I used a 2 tablespoon coffee scoop) and, using your hands, roll into a ball. Roll the ball around in the cocoa/sugar mixture to coat.
Share with people you like. Or keep and eat all for yourself. No one will know.