Caprese and leftovers

Nothing dresses up leftovers like something you’ve prepared fresh (it’s true). Caitlin decided to make a “salad of Capri” to go with last night’s dinner, and it was delicious.

fresh mozzarella
tomatoes
fresh basil
olive oil
salt

Cut up the tomatoes and mozzarella – you’re looking for about a 1:1 ratio. Add basil and salt and mix it up. Top with fresh basil.

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Caitlin also likes to throw some avocado in if we have it, which is great.

What to do with leftovers: Toast some bread with some olive oil on it then top with the Caprese and you have a delicious bruschetta.

An aside on how to keep fresh basil fresh – put the basil stems down in a glass (like a flower arrangement), and then cover the whole thing with a plastic bag.

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Caprese and leftovers

1st meal with the bird

We’ve been picking at the quart of chicken meat, but it was time to do something more serious – chicken salad. Chicken salad is easy enough to just buy but it’s also easy to make. I checked the fridge for things that might work well in the salad:

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I found some carrots and an apple. Mostly that’s just for show though, because as with her turkey sandwiches, Caitlin insists on a strict recipe of chicken, mayo, and salt for her chicken salad.

To make it, chop up the chicken then mix it in a bowl with a lot of mayo and a little salt. Then put it on a sandwich and chop that up, too.

A half quart of chicken made a couple of sandwiches with some left over for snacking the next couple of days.

Other stuff you might consider putting in are things to give it some crunch and/or flavor like onions, celery, apples, tortilla chips, raisins, black pepper, tomatoes… look around, you’ll find something.

1st meal with the bird

How to not burn eggs

Fried eggs are easy, but you still might not have time to watch them, so this is how I cook eggs to almost perfect without being there.

  1. Heat up a heavy skillet, cast iron if you have it, until it’s really, really hot.
  2. Add butter and let it brown a little, then crack the eggs in it, cover the pan, turn the heat off, and walk away.

But wait, before you walk away put some bread in the toaster. If you have a toaster oven, spread some butter on it first. By the time the toast is done, the eggs should be perfect. But if you do happen to leave them in a little longer (like I did), the worst they’ll be is overcooked (like mine were), not ruined.

How to not burn eggs

Kill two meals with one bird

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When I was at the store that first night, one of the things I picked up was a roasted chicken. The plan wasn’t to eat it immediately, but to replenish our chicken stock… and have some chicken meat available for other stuff.

This chicken was really well roasted, and I was able to pull all the meat off by hand. I got about a quart of meat and a bunch of skin and bones (I left some skin with the meat ’cause I like it).

When you make stock it’s really best to use uncooked bones – and you may be able to get those from the butcher at the supermarket – but skin, bones, cartilage from a cooked chicken make great stock, too. Usually you’ll add some sort of aromatics. The traditional French mirepoix is onions, carrots, and celery. If you were going for a Chinese stock, you might use ginger, garlic, and scallions. I had half an onion and some carrots, so I used those. Leaving the onion skin on gives the stock a nice golden color. Don’t bother to peel the carrots, but do cut the tops off as they can be bitter.

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Throw everything in a slow cooker or pot, cover with cold water, bring it to a boil, then simmer it for days. Making stock is great if your attention is elsewhere because the longer it cooks the better it gets – just be sure to keep adding water if you need to. It also makes your whole place smell great so the chances of you forgetting altogether are low.

After two or three days (I’m actually not sure how long it was on for), I strained all the bits out and got two quarts of delicious, golden stock.

Kill two meals with one bird

Eat someone else’s food

The idea behind this blog wasn’t to try to be entirely self-sufficient, and having friends and family bring food over is not only a big help but also a great opportunity for them to meet the baby. One of the reasons I haven’t posted more so far is partially because it takes time to type these things up, but also because we’ve been lucky to have folks bring over great meals that last more than one sitting. So if you’re lucky in the same way, obviously enjoy that. It’s hard not to feel thankful for it.

 

Eat someone else’s food

Pasta in a sausage and kale cream sauce

Last night Caitlin asked what was for dinner and suggested maybe pasta. I knew we had some sausage that needed to be cooked and some greens, so I decided to put it all together for one of our favorite dishes.

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2 links of italian sausage
1/2 a package of pasta (8 oz.)
some cream
4-5 leaves of kale or other green
cooking oil (like olive or coconut)
butter
salt
grated parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Boil some water, add more salt than you think you should, and start the pasta. And for the love of all things, turn the heat down once it starts boiling again. You want a rolling boil, but you don’t want it boiling over every 30 seconds.
  2. Wash the kale, then strip the stems (see below for a tip for how to do that quickly) and chop them up. Cut up the leafy bits into strips.
  3. Heat oil in a pan at medium-high heat and sauté the kale stems for a couple of minutes like you would onions. Then add the sausage (I like to squeeze it out of the casing and break it up) and a little salt if you like.
  4. Cook until the sausage is just about ready, then add the leafy bits and cover the pan. Taste the pasta; it should be almost done (in the time it takes the pasta to finish cooking and for you to prep it it, the greens will be nicely cooked).
  5. Drain the pasta and return it to its pot off the heat. Add the sausage-kale mixture to the pasta and stir it up. Add a nob of butter, pour in some of the cream (maybe two glugs) and some cheese, and stir.
  6. Put it in some bowls, sprinkle some of the extra parm you have from when you ordered pizza at the hospital, and serve.

This dish feels like real cooking but is dead simple and great. You can use any kind of sausage (maybe not breakfast sausage) and any kind of green (kale, broccoli, chard, spinach, orach, etc.). On a separate note, one trick you can use to keep greens fresh in the fridge is either wrap them in a dish towel or keep them in a plastic bag with a paper towel thrown in.

The cream you use doesn’t matter either. Did you know that the difference between whipping cream and heavy cream is just a little cream of tartar? Actually, maybe that’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder. In any case, for this recipe, it doesn’t matter. You could even use milk: you just may want to add a little more butter.

For the pasta, if you have a choice use something with texture so it will hold the sauce.

And here’s the trick for stripping the kale: fold the leaves around the stem and pinch them with your finger, then grab the stem with the other hand and pull it through your first hand. The leaves should separate nice and clean.

Pasta in a sausage and kale cream sauce

Jook can do it

Sandwiches only last so long, and despite my confidence I thought that I should take some time on the first day to make something both nourishing and that would be ready to eat in case I was too tired later: jook, or congee, super easy to make, tasty, and healthy. It was also one of Caitlin’s favorite meals in the hospital.

Jook is rice porridge made with chicken broth. The basic recipe is to put broth, rice, and a chunk of ginger in a pot, bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer on the lowest heat for a couple of hours. The ratio of broth to rice is about 8:1 but isn’t critical. It cooks really well in a slow cooker, but whether you use a slow cooker or a pot, stir it when you can and add water if you need to so it doesn’t dry out. You can’t exactly set it and forget it, but it’s close. Here’s a recipe that looks more like a recipe, adapted from here:

1 quart of chicken bone broth
3/4 cup rice
a chunk of ginger (you don’t have to peel it)
some salt

Put all the things in a pot or slow cooker, bring to a boil, then simmer on low for a couple of hours or until the rice has fallen apart and the whole thing looks like porridge.

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You can optionally add garlic or other things, and if you don’t have broth on hand you can make it in the same pot by adding some bone-in, skin-on chicken parts like wings.  When you take those out you can strip the meet off and add it to the jook.

Jook is a traditional Chinese breakfast food, so you can eat it whenever – not that day and night will mean much for a while. Put the jook into individual serving size containers and let it cool before you put it in the fridge, preferably on ice. Let it cool so it doesn’t warm up and spoil other stuff in the fridge, and cool it on ice so it will cool quickly and not develop bacteria.

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Lastly, put a little water in the pot or cooker immediately to make it easier to clean. Even better, boil water in the pot before you clean it and it will make everything come out with no problem.

Jook can do it