Cooking Spaghetti-Os

As I mentioned in the post about the herb garden, I’ve been cooking a lot out of cans we bought for Hurricane Irene. On Monday night, my wife suggested we just eat the big can of Spaghetti-Os with Meatballs for dinner the next night. Considering this would cover a meal before theoretically heading to the farmer’s market, I agreed. I never did wind up making it to the farmer’s market–or the grocery store for that matter–partly because Lucy was having kind of a funky week and partly because we’re leaving for a wedding later today and didn’t want a lot of food sitting in the fridge while we weren’t here. You could probably sprinkle a little laziness and overwhelmedness into that stew of blame as well.

To be fair, the Spaghetti-Os weren’t terrible. I’m by no means a food snob and actually grew up on this stuff. Cracking open a can of food or soup or making Kraft Macaroni and Cheese were the extent of my food preparation as a kid spending summers home alone. It might not sound like the healthiest thing in the world, but I can’t tell you how liberating that felt. I could make my own food (kinda). I didn’t have to wait for dinner or my folks to take me somewhere, I could make Mac & Cheese and be good to go (I still love those blue boxes of awesomeness, by the way)! At the time, that’s where my interest in food ended. I only needed to keep gas in the tank and didn’t really care what it was, but the ability to metaphorically buy my own gas was a big step in my oncoming adulthood.

So, yeah, this post is kind of a joke. I laughed as I took the pictures and my wife asked me nicely not to broadcast our dinner of choice, but since it’s got a historic place in my food history, I figured it would make for a good post. What were some of the first foods you guys realized you could make on your own?

Condo Herb Garden

Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I haven’t been cooking much and have been either eating out at places not exactly worth writing home about or the cans of soup we bought for Hurricane Irene prep. Anyway, I can talk about our tiny herb garden a bit. Since we live in a condo, we don’t have any ground or yard to plant anything in, but our neighbors don’t seem to mind that we’ve created this potted herb garden and placed it on our shared front porch area. I think my wife got the idea for the set-up from a Martha Stewart magazine. Even though you can see three pots, there’s actually five involved. You get a big one and then one that’s about half the size, flip the smaller one upside down and put it inside the big pot, then fill around with dirt, soil or what have you. This gives your next visible pot (the same size as the buried one) a flat spot to rest on without wobbling. Plant your herbs in the dirt as you go and you’re good! It’s basically a planting pot pyramid.

My wife handled all the herb acquisition. I think she got them either from her mom or a store like Home Depot or Lowes (that’s where we got them last year). She planted this year’s crop with her parents while I was doing something else one weekend soon after the baby was born. We’ve got basil, dill, Thai basil, Italian parsley, thyme, tarragon and mint growing. I’ve used everything a number of times in cooking, either as a recipe calls for or while riffing on something like a hamburger recipe. It’s just about time to use up what we’ve got or pick what’s left and dry it for the winter. I’ll probably grab all or most of that basil and make a bunch of pesto and maybe a few rounds of mojitos with the mint. We also have a separate pot with catnip that you can’t see, but our kitty Milo is head over heels for the stuff.

This is a good way to have fresh herbs during the warm months. I’ve also seen those inside ones you can buy, but haven’t really experienced them. Have you guys? Yet another reason I’m excited about eventually getting a house (in addition to having a bigger shower, a bigger kitchen and even the smallest office possible) is have a little garden out back to grow some veggies and herbs. That takes the whole buying local thing to a whole different level!

Wife Lessons: The Green Onion Trick

As I mentioned in the first Wife Lessons post, my lovely wife knows all kinds of food tricks and tips. She gets them from talking to her mom and watching food shows and then passes them along to me. I believe this one came from one of those Top Chef or Next Food Network Star between-commercial clips where the contestants give you a good cooking idea. I didn’t get it from them, though, I got it from my wife.

Anyway, the idea is that, when you buy green onions, you probably don’t use all of them, right? So, you can put them in a cup with water and they’ll keep growing. Simple as that. When the ends get a little brown, I just give them a trim and we’re good for another few days. It works great.

I’ve had the onions in this picture for a few weeks now. Usually, I forget to water them and they die, but only after I’ve gotten more than a good use out of them. I’ve been watering this batch a lot more because…our cat Milo will not stop drinking from the cup. Instead of becoming just another thing on the shelf, we notice it more while laughing at our goofy cat.

Bonus Food Pics: Texas Burrito & Mojito

Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to spell the name of the Mexican place my wife and I went to last week, so I can’t sufficiently plug them. It’s an alright place we’ve been to a few times that’s generally quick and has solid food. Not mindblowing by any means, but a good place to go if you just want some simple Mexican food. I got the above Texas Burrito which was good and a mojito that lacked a certain amount of sweetness which made it kind of bland. Even so, it was nice to get out of the house after all the Hurricane Irene nonsense. Also, don’t their tables look like they have monster faces burned into them?!

Cooking A Sausage Omelet

One evening last week I remembered that I had a pair of sausage links in the freezer. I think I used them for a meatball or meatloaf recipe, can’t remember. Anyway, having eaten that night’s dinner, I realized I’d need something to eat for lunch the next day and started thawing them out. My plan was to combine what I had around the house which included three eggs, a little milk, a garlic glove, half of a very small onion and some cheddar cheese. Sounds like perfect omelet fixins to me!

My first step when making an omelet involves sauteing some chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until brown. While that cooks, I crack and beat a trio of eggs in a bowl. I use a fork instead of a whisk because that’s how we used to beat eggs back when I was making egg sandwiches at the bagel place. I then pour a little milk in–about a tablespoon–and mix it all together. The milk adds some fluffiness to the proceedings (another trick learned at the bagel place, we would add a little creamer cup to our break food to make them better than the ones we served to customers).

Once you’ve got the onions and garlic where you want them–I like a little browness, but not too too much–I pour the egg and milk mix all over the veggies. As the eggs cooked, I cut the casing off of one of the sausages and distributed that around the omelet. You can see the other sausage cooking in a pan, which was a big mistake and wound up getting tossed out after burning. Anyway, the eggs cooked the distributed sausage pretty well and I shredded some cheese over the cooking omelet, but wasn’t so sure about the done-ness of that meat, so I wound up breaking the omelet apart with my spatula, making it more of a scramble I guess.

Once it looked pretty done, I transferred the pan’s contents onto a plate, shredded a little more cheese and had myself a pretty good lunch. Well, I would have. The baby wound up waking up right as I finished, so I had to scarf it down while feeding her, but still, it wound up being a pretty good way to use up some spare food lying around the house.

Cooking Kima

Like Tuesday’s dinner of Pasta Godjabuda, I got the recipe for Kima–a dish I’ve never heard of that might have been made up–from the Best Of The Best From New York Cookbook (page 139). My wife’s a fan of Indian food and we have legit curry powder from her trip to Sri Lanka a few years back, so I figured this would be a good recipe to try. After hitting up the farmer’s market on Wednesday, I came home with fresh onions and some local ground beef, which wound up being frozen. Not a big deal, I’ve thawed and cooked meat like this before.

The dish is pretty simple, really. The first thing I did was get the basmanti rice going (I found a brown version at my local Hannaford), which is cooked like any other rice (water, oil and some salt in water with the rice, cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes). While that was going, I measured and combined the spices and got the block of ground beef in a warm pan. As that thawed and cooked (I broke the meat up with a spatula as it warmed up), I got to work on cutting the two onions up as well as the garlic. That went into another pan with some olive oil to cook. The beef and the onions were done at the same time, so I dumped the onion mix on top of the beef and then added the spices and mixed it all up. You then put the lid on and simmer for five minutes before mixing the tomato sauce in. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

The rice finished about 10 minutes before the meat, so I just fluffed it and left it on the stove. Once the meat was done cooking, it was meal time. I haven’t had a lot of Indian food in my life, but I liked this dish. It had some heat to it, but wasn’t overly spicy and the meat had a great curry taste. Next time I make this–and I will be making it again–I’ll pick up some naan and maybe figure out how to make a little yogurt sauce. My first foray into Indian cooking turned out really well and I hope to try a few more things in the future, though I might need to get some more of that good curry powder.

Dog & Cat Chefs

Saw this at my local pet store while buying cat litter. Fromm‘s pet food has apparently done a series of posters animals in the kitchen. If you can’t read it, the dog one says “Even I Don’t Want to Eat Italian Every Night” while the cat one says “You Should Eat So Well.” Making sense of these posters involves a bit more thought than I usually like to put into a pet food poster, but I do like the art and would hang these in my parlor, if I had one.

Cooking Pasta Godjabuda & Braised Red Cabbage

Tuesday night’s dinner was an interesting one. I had spent a part of the day flipping through cookbooks to find some good, fun and new recipes for the week. I turned to a few books I haven’t gone through in a while like Best Of The Best From New York Cookbook and Cooking With Mickey And The Disney Chefs among others. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but I stumbled upon the recipe for Pasta Godjabuda in the New York book (page 109) and happened to have everything I’d need already in my kitchen. As I was planning on cooking that, I realized I still had half a head of red cabbage left over that still looked good and remembered I had seen a recipe for Braised Red Cabbage in the Disney book (page 9). Again, I happened to have all the ingredients, so I was good to go. My only concern was whether braised cabbage would go well with pasta as it’s kind of a mix of German and Italian.

The first thing I did (but didn’t bother taking a picture of because it’s boring) was boil some salted water pasta and get that going. After that, I got to work on the cabbage because it was supposed to cook for 35-40 minutes. The recipe basically calls for mixing some white vinegar, sugar, salt, caraway seeds and ground cloves in a pot with chopped up cabbage and cooking with the lid on. I didn’t have a full head of cabbage like the recipe calls for so I didn’t use quite as much of any of the ingredients as it called for. No worries, though, it turned out great.

While the cabbage boiled away, I got to work on the sauteed onions and garlic, which involved chopping the onions (I only had a dinky one instead of the two they recipe called for) and garlic in olive oil and then tossing in some oregano, thyme, basil and cayenne pepper (I skipped the crushed red because I didn’t want it to get too hot). You put a lid on that while the pasta cooks in the pasta water (about 10 minutes or so), then uncover and toss with the pasta after draining and reserving some pasta water. The recipe suggests using part of the onion sauce to mix and then adding it on top when you serve, but I just mixed it all together. Add some Parm and you’re good to go.

I was pleasantly surprised that these seemingly disparate tastes wound up bouncing off of each other really well. The cabbage tasted like the sauerkraut from every good Reuben I’ve ever had. As I bit into it I could practically taste the rye bread and corn beef, it was that dead-on. I was shocked that I made something so tasty so easily. The pasta itself wasn’t packed with flavor, but I think that’s a result of not having the correct amount of onions and using a wheat pasta which always has a little bit of a mealy taste to me. I tried to balance that out by adding a few more fresh herbs into the mix and I think that helped. At the end of the day, the cabbage added a nice tastebud combo punch. My wife liked it so much she wanted me to store the leftovers together in the fridge, but I decided against it because I didn’t want the cabbage to overpower things while sitting in the refrigerator.

I love when a meal comes together, especially one that uses up a bunch of stuff I’ve had lying around for a while. Now I want a Reuben…