Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Northern Girl's Take on Okra

Last night I tried okra for the first time. My roommate is from Texas and had mentioned that he hadn't had okra in a long time. In a serendipitous turn of events, I came across a recipe for 'oven fried' (ie breaded and baked) okra in one of my Cooking Light cookbooks, and then found fresh okra at the grocery store.

Okra is a strange little vegetable. It looks something like a cross between a pepper and a cucumber. And it's fuzzy. On the plus side, they're fairly small and easy to work with, similar in size, shape, and texture to a jalopeno pepper. Except they're fuzzy. That seems to be one of their defining characteristics.

I cut my okra into bite sized pieces, so basically halves and thirds for the size I was working with. The inside looks similar to a pepper as well, with the seeds around a central core. Okra is not hot and the seeds and core are soft enough that you don't need to take them out. When cut, okra oozes like an aloe plant, but not as sticky. I can see why this vegetable would turn slimy when boiled. I tried a piece raw and thought it was bitter. And fuzzy. Did I mention fuzzy?

The okra I made didn't come out very good. The cornmeal breading was too hard and the okra itself was a little dry and unflavorful. I think this happened because the okra finished before the rest of the meal and I was trying to keep it warm. I think I left it in the oven too long and dried it out. Cooked, okra is much less bitter and lacks the fuzzy texture.

Overall, I wasn't very impressed, although I think that the problem had more to do with my execution rather than the taste of the okra itself. I'd like to give okra another try, breading and frying it as it is more traditionally prepared. I'll postpone the verdict on okra until then.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fun With Vegetables

It's a known fact that I'm trying to eat healthier. I'm also trying to branch out, culinarily. I'm pretty confident that I've got the basics down, but there is a lot of stuff out there that I've never tried. My new mission is to cook and eat as many different types of produce as possible. You know, the vegetables that you see all the time in the grocery store, but walk right on by.

For the last few weeks I've been experimenting with the leafy greens. I like spinach, and I've used it as a jumping off point. So far I've tried chard, kale, broccoli rabe, and bok choy. While looking up recipes for these vegetables, I've noticed that they follow the same basic technique, blanching and then sauteing, preferably with garlic.

Tonight's meal was chicken with root vegetables. It was really cold and damp today, and this seemed like one of the last chances to try this recipe before next winter (I've always considered root vegetables to be a winter thing). I did a medley of onion, turnip, rutabaga, butternut squash, and parsnip. The recipe I used required everything to be peeled and cubed. That was a lot of prep. I wish to never chop a rutabaga ever again. It's big, and round, and really difficult to cut. It very nearly won the fight. The squash didn't want to cut, either. I think I may need to invest in a better knife set if I'm going to keep this up.

Aside from the prep, this meal came together really quickly. Just brown the chicken, saute the veggies, and then return the chicken to the veggies and let the whole thing simmer for twenty minutes. And bonus for only using one pan. It tasted good and looked pretty on the plate. The drawback is the excessively long prep time. However, I occasionally see cubed squash in the salad section at the grocery store. If some of the other veggies come in prepared form, this would be a good meal to put in the weekday line up. Or possibly if someone was better at cutting up veggies, the prep wouldn't take as long.

Next up to try is okra. The roommate is a Texan transplant and mentioned the other day that he was kind of craving okra, since it doesn't get served in Vermont very often. when I went shopping earlier, I happened to find some fresh okra. I'll let you know how it is.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Food Cravings

AS most of you know, I gave up chocolate as a New Year resolution. It's cut back on my sweets consumption some (Ferrero Rochers mock me at the check out stand), for the most part I've just shifted which sweets I eat. For example, instead of ice cream sandwiches, I now have orange creamsicles.

Last night was the first time in the 4 months that I've been chocolate free that I really wanted some. The roommate and I do laundry at a laundromat. While the clothes are in the drier, we walk across the street to the Friendly's and grab dinner. On the menu was a hot chocolate sundae - chocolate ice cream with whipped cream, mini marshmallows, and Swiss cocoa, all served in a mug, too. It sounded really, really good and I almost broke my chocolate fast. I am happy to report that I did triumph over temptation, with a little help from some maple walnut ice cream.

Today I am randomly craving peanut butter. Why? I have no idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Changing Taste

It's funny how tastes change over time. I haven't been eating out as much, for a variety of reasons, including wanting to eat a healthier diet and to improve my cooking skills. Since I've really gotten good (I think I'll pat my own back a little bit more) I've discovered that eating out isn't as exciting. Today, however, I just couldn't stand another day of leftovers from Easter dinner. I was going to make a ham sandwich for lunch this morning and I just couldn't. I grabbed a sandwich at the local deli instead. While I was there, I decided that the small bag of Cheetos sounded really good. I used to love Cheetos, in all their day-glo orange goodness. The first couple of bites were really good. And then...well, it just wasn't as good as I had remembered. Now I think they're way too salty and left me with a weird coated mouth feeling. Hmmm....must be too many vegetables in my diet, screwing up my taste for processed food.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This Time I Definitely Cheated

On Saturday, Purple Girl had her birthday bash. I brought the cake. Two cakes to be exact; there were a lot of people. I got a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, since I didn't want to impose my chocolate ban on everybody else. I also brought a yellow cake with vanilla frosting, for people like me who didn't want chocolate. As I was cutting the cake, I got some of the chocolate frosting on my fingers. At that point, instinct kicked in, and without even thinking, the finger with the chocolate frosting blob was in my mouth. Oops. The roommate says it doesn't count, because it wasn't something I had done on purpose, it was a small amount of frosting, and it was more sugar than chocolate. I like that theory, and I'm going to run with it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

In Her Easter Best

I'm a proud aunt, and there has been a general lack of baby pics on this here blog. Here's some cuteness for your Monday. This is the niece in her cute little Easter dress. The bro picked it out himself. Unfortunately, bro and family couldn't make it to my place for Easter, so they sent pictures instead. Isn't she the cutest?

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everybody! I would say happy spring, but it snowed here yesterday. Luckily it didn't stick. Today is sunny but deceptively cool. I keep the faith that there will be warm weather eventually.

So, on to Easter weekend. Purple Girl had her 40th birthday bash on Saturday. She went all out, rented a hall (the local VFW) and hired a dj and everything. It was pretty snazzy. The roommate and I helped set up and made a lot of little sandwiches. A lot of people brought a dish to share; as it turned out, there was enough yummy food to feed a small army.

The birthday party was brought to you by the letter S. According to the invite, you were supposed to dress in a style that started with the letter S. It was a pretty broad category and people had fun with it. There was a scarecrow, a pair of Siamese twins, a sinner and a saint, a couple of people in stripes, and even Santa Claus. The roommate was a sharp dressed man, wearing his suit. I was had a harder time coming up with an idea (Satin shirt? Slacks? Shoes?). I ended up pulling the cool mandarin style dress that I never have an excuse to wear out of the closet. My theme was Shanghai. I think there were pictures taken and I'll post when I find them.

Sunday was Easter. I used it as a good excuse to make a big meal and use the fancy dishes. The roommate and I hosted Purple Girl, her roommate, and another friend. I was proud of my meal. I made the requisite Easter ham, glazed with pineapple and orange juice (and no, it was neither pressed, nor were there any moons over my hammy). I was going to get a ham from a local farm, since I'm trying to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and support local farms. There were none available, so I went with the supermarket variety. It was still tasty. The meal was rounded out with mashed potatoes, asparagus, and green beans. I also made carrot soup as an appetizer (it's good, trust me). And we had left over birthday cake for dessert. Overall, the little dinner party went smoothly.

I've decided I like an excuse to cook a feast. We even got to use the new fancy plates that the roommate bought. We had napkin rings and everything. I felt very sophisticated. I must be turning domestic in my old age.

After everyone had left, and the kitchen was cleaned up (thanks for helping with the dishes, Purple Girl!) I sat on the couch and enjoyed the silence. It was nice. I like my friends (obviously) and I'm glad they came over. It was really nice to have silence after the happy chaos that comes from having a house full of people.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Tonight's agenda includes eating pasta and watching Jeopardy. My life is exciting.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Something I Will Never Try

Watching TV last night, I same an ad for something called Kickbutt Energy Ballz. Yup. You read that right. The roommate and I just looked at each other and laughed. This is even better than the bottle of Screaming Energy that he bought. He hasn't taken it yet, though, because we're afraid that it will make him run screaming down the street.

I'm certain Kickbutt Energy Ballz is a product that I will never try. There are many reasons why, but here are the ones that jumped out at me.

  • First, it's another crappy energy product. Granted, it's in candy form as opposed to drink form, but I like my kidneys.
  • The name. I will not consume anything with both the words butt and balls in the title.
  • Misspelled word in the title. Calling the product energy balls would be bad enough. This thing is so crazy, that it's not just balls, it's ballz.
  • They're trying too hard to be edgy. Because their ballz have attitude. How is a product supposed to have attitude? Maybe they tried emo ballz, but they just made you sit around and mope.
  • Creatine is listed among its ingredients. Ever been around someone bulking up with creatine? It gives them some foul gas.
  • Looking at their website, they like to throw around the word 'ballz' a little too much. Try our ballz! Our ballz taste great! Would you like to sell our ballz? No. I don't want your ballz anywhere near me.