Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Small Projects

Good morning, dear readers!  I hope you are all healthy and happy...or at least well on your way to being so.

Spring is in full swing here at Chez Nelson.  And by spring, I mean spring athletics at the high school level.  Not only do we contend with tired, worn-out, cranky children (and their parents), we spent 50% of our free time shuttling children, watching kids, and eating dinner in staggered shifts.

While I enjoy all of this, I also look forward to summer...when, you know, things kind of slow down and we can see each other for a few minutes.  That particular last point is brought home very close to me these days as I'm only a little over a year away from sending one kid off to college.  Eeeeek.

The crockpot has been my friend as of late.  Two nights ago was spaghetti and meatballs and last night was chicken breasts and whole sweet potatoes.  In a slow cooker, food can sit safely for a long while and the family can come and go, eating out of it whenever they can.

But, in other's an update on some other, small things I've been working on:

If you've been following me here at all, or you've liked WanderLunch on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, then you know I've got a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the menu.  This week, I'm changing it up a little bit.  Instead of my strawberry-lavender jam, I'm trying a blackberry-sage jam.  I seem to have this wee bit obsession with fresh herbs in my cooked fruit products.  Alas, it's a curse.  We'll see what the customers think...and if it doesn't get used this week, I've got a perfect sandwich to use it on next week.  Repurpose - onward and upward, friends!

I purchase a large gallon container of whole garlic cloves from my wholesaler.  Then, I roast off sheet pans of them before pureéing them for my Roasted Garlic Aioli.  Makes my whole house smell like I'm trying to ward off legions of vampires - but like I care!  I save a bit of the pureé out for my personal use and use dollops here and there when I'm cooking or making soups. Good, good, good, smelly smell.

Remember the sweet potatoes-in-the-crockpot I mentioned earlier?  Well!  As it turns out, when they slow-cook all day, they peel and mash quite readily (of course they do).  I boxed up the leftovers and it occurred to me that the remaining sweet potato half would be great in some kind of form of breakfast the next day.  My first thought was to scramble in with some eggs and spinach.  But then, brainstorm!  I added about three tablespoons of flour until I had a nice, soft sweet potato dough/batter.  I shaped it into a patty and fried it up like a pancake.  Then, yes, I did sauté the spinach and scramble the eggs and deposited them atop the flapjack.  A little Parm cheese and hot sauce...and that breakfast tied me over until...well, it's nearly lunchtime, now.

Food is good.  Food is fun.  Food is our friend.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Resurrection! Revival! Revisit!

Last Sunday was Easter.  Jesus rose from the grave.  So goes the biblical lore.

I believe I mentioned in my last post that I was the lucky receiver of the Easter Hambone at my in-laws.  And yes, I did make ham broth in my crockpot this week.  And yes, we finally got around to having Ham and Bean Soup tonight.  Two cups of whatever dried beans you've got in the pantry (you DO have dried beans sitting around your house, right?), about four cups of the broth, two cups of water, and the shredded/diced bits of ham from the leftover Easter Ham you also got to take home with the bone.

Yes, yes...if you have the time, add some diced carrots, celery, and onions to the crockpot as well.  Low heat for 10 hours or so.  Have your husband make some cornbread...or you can make it, too, I guess, if he refuses.  But, *don't* have Ham and Bean Soup without it.  And diced fresh onions on top.  I always thought people ate H&B soup under these two parameters...but as I get older, I realize it's just my family's weird, little idiosyncrasies.  I do not apologize for them.  They make the soup delicious.

(Kirby added liberal amounts of hot sauce to her soup.  She adds hot sauce to just about everything. Weirdosauce.)

Big ol' calico navy beans on hand here.  A little too big, but still delicious.

Thus, resurrection a la Nelson.

There was a bit of panic last week for the food truck as I was preparing the gallon of tomato bisque and half-gallon of salami-kale soups for service.  Both are tomato-heavy, and I was quite dismayed when I tasted both and got that tell-tale acidic, almost-bitter taste at the end.  Too much acid, too much tomato.  Sometimes a little sugar will balance the acidity and set the world right, but I knew I did not want the sweet flavor of the sugar...which would inevitably present itself.  And I didn't want to dilute the soup by adding more liquid.

So I did chemistry.  Remember how cool it was when your elementary school teacher mixed vinegar and baking soda and it got all foamy and stuff?  At the time, it just seemed pretty cool...but now, it happens to be a lesson well-worth remembering in the culinary world.  A tablespoon or so of baking soda into the tomato soup, a stir to spread the soda out, and a few minutes to let soup bubble away...the overwhelming acidity was gone and the great flavor was back.

#2: Revival of a tomato-based soup, thanks to a complicated branch of science.

And finally, I'll admit work has been a struggle as of late.  Not necessarily the food truck, although I do wonder ALL the time if people have gone off of it.  Customer numbers are down, but there's so many factors that could be contributing to why, it's mind-boggling to try and sort it all out.  Hopefully warmer weather will bring out more sandwich-consuming people.  I never thought bartending would stress me out, but it too comes with its own set of issues...which frustrate me way beyond anything I ever encountered in education.  Alas.  'Twill work itself out or it won't, but at any rate, I've been feeling that it's definitely time to shift the mind focus away from those things I can't control.

It's time to start reading (and hopefully, writing) again.  I've got a stack of books at my bedside that I must pick back up again.  First on the list...

I bought this book last summer before the Wyoming road trip.  I just started it last night, hoping it might rekindle my food passion.  After all, Julia Child and James Beard should be enough to do it!

The book is written by Luke Barr, M.F.K. Fisher's great-nephew.  So, through his narrative, his notes, his interviews (maybe?), and his memories, he is charged with the description and discussion of a pivotal year in a pivotal which "American Taste is Reinvented". 


While I'm excited about the topic of this book, I'm less excited about the narrative voice...and I hope it doesn't spoil the book.  But...

The Prologue is 20 pages.  It begins with "On a cool August morning in 2009, I drove up a sloping, narrow driveway in Glen Ellen, California, on my way to visit the past."  And it ends with "As I read it, I knew: I had found the key to my story and to this book."

Twenty pages of reason and rationale.  As if Luke Barr feels he must not only establish the premise of the entire book, but his credibility as well.  I suppose it makes sense...after all, he is a rather marginal player in this story.  But twenty pages is a lot for a Prologue, I feel.  But, I'll read it and maybe my judgments will change.

Here's to a happy Saturday!