Friday, November 20, 2015

Latest cooking fun

One thing that has made me happy lately is experimenting in the kitchen! And at other times going back to some simple comfort foods.

Every once in a while I like to treat myself to a trip to a different grocery store that is a little farther away and has more variety. It has a lot of imported products which of course can seem more familiar to me. But once I realized that my bill was nearly doubling, I decided to make it more of a special thing, or I get the staples at the regular grocery store and just go here for specialty items.

Recently I had a particularly satisfying trip where I treated myself to artichoke hearts, avocados, eggplant (imported) and frozen strawberries. I also bought some chickpea flour to experiment with. We don't have a "gluten-free" section or anything, but I do try to incorporate alternative items into our diet just to change things up. Oh, and I stocked up on oregano and cumin, two of my favorite spices that are sometimes hard to find.

Meanwhile, Andrei went to the store the next day and bought me a head of cabbage and a large butternut squash. These items were special because they're normally too heavy for me to carry home by myself, at least if I have other groceries! :)

Some things that I cooked:

1) Artichoke hearts: Tried making sort of a "skinny" spinach and artichoke dip. It worked out well when I snuck it into some quesadillas. But as a "dip" it tasted a little bit too healthy. :) It's really exciting to find preserved artichokes, but these didn't really taste good on their own, maybe due to their being canned. Sometime I will try the jarred version.

2) Avocados: For once I got some good ones! They ripened nicely and were a good enough texture to just eat with a spoon. I drizzled a mustard vinaigrette on top. I would love to eat avocados more but they end up being more of a special treat.

Ate two in one day. Need MORE!

3) Frozen strawberries: I got these to go in smoothies. Usually I just add one of David's banana rejects (he takes 2-3 bites and won't continue) to some kefir and blend. Sometimes I add a cube of defrosted spinach, and now I have the strawberries. I love the taste, but unfortunately I got some "threads" of something, couldn't tell which ingredient it was from. Maybe it was the spinach. Obviously the strawberries would work for baking, too.

Yummy chicken with eggplant (see below) and buckwheat noodles
4) Chickpea flour: I made a batch of chicken tenders that I thought turned out really well! I used the oregano and cumin in the spice mix. Oh, and I soaked the chicken in kefir first to get it tender.

Later on in the week, I used a similar breading technique for chicken wings. It gave them a nice little crunch. I like the crunch, but usually try to cut down on using white flour...I prefer to save it for desserts. ;) Speaking of baking, I also made a sort of cabbage pie (see cabbage section). In the crust/batter, I used the chickpea flour. Unfortunately there was a little bit of an unpleasant aftertaste. Raw chickpea flour tastes pretty bad and I guess the flavor still comes through in baked goods. So I will try a different kind of flour for baking. Still, I'm satisfied with how this flour works for breading chicken.

Then I was craving a chicken sandwich (using the leftover chicken tenders) and dragged David to the store with me just to get pickles and hamburger buns. Warmed up in the oven, it hit the spot!

When you're avoiding fast food, but need a fix!

5) Eggplant (see above): I did sort of a casserole/Italian bake where I layered them with cheese/crushed tomatoes/garlic and baked. Oh, I also like to add dill as opposed to Italian spices. I've never been able to just slice them and put them on a baking sheet, as I find they turn out spongey. I try to either put them in a deep dish to stew in juices, and/or make sure I add a little sauce of some sort.

Cabbage pie:
looked pretty,
but still looking for
a good recipe
6) Cabbage: I have grown to love cabbage in many forms while living in Russia. Since buying ours, I've only used about 1/2 of the whole head. I've made salad a few times, cabbage "chips" for David, and then sauteed it with onions to make a "pie." I would cook with cabbage more often if only I didn't find it so much of a hassle to shred it! Now I need to figure out what to do with the rest of it. I like it both raw in salads and cooked as a side dish. But all that chopping, ugh.

7) Butternut squash: I cooked the squash over a few days. The first day, I cubed it and roasted in the oven. It came out slightly caramelized and tasty on its own. The next day, I took the other half and cut it into wedges pretty haphazardly (after peeling), and stuck it in the oven until it got tender. This second time I had it covered and it ended up more "stewed." Then I kept it in a big container and had some on the side at meals a few times a day. Andrei isn't really a fan, but when I used some of it to make muffins, he was on board with that. ;)

Simple baked squash

(Photo placing driving me nuts as usual)
Muffins: "Pumpkin" cake recipe,
sans icing

It's been great having ingredients around that I can experiment with and even make some healthier dishes with. I've pretty much run out though, so it's time for another trip!

Any culinary fun to share?

1 comment:

  1. Cabbage is good simply baked, too....or roasted" as they like to say nowadays. Somehow chopping it doesn't bother me, kind-of the reverse, since it's already kind of "sliced". I have to confess that I do occasionally buy the already cut kind ready for slaw. Not too often, though - only when the price isn't too different.

    Avocados are amazing, aren't they?


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