Monday, September 7, 2009

Green Soup

Living in Seattle it is important to have at least one great vegetarian meal to impress your non-meat-eating friends. Usually I end up making this soup adapted from a recipe used at the Queen Mary Tea Room where my cousin used to cook. It's simple to make, full of healthy goodness, and I always have enough leftovers for a few lunches.

Green Soup

One pound bag of broccoli florets
One pound bag of peas
1-2 oz Basil
1 quart water
Vegetable bouillon

Saute the onion in olive oil. When the onion is done add the remaining ingredients. Cook until broccoli is tender. Take it off the stove and let it cool a little. Blend with an immersion blender.

Original recipe includes a Tbsp of mint and a pinch of rosemary but I always skip it because I'm cheap

Monday, August 3, 2009

For the love of sammiches

Sandwiches are high on my list of favorite things to eat but I rarely get around to making them. Generally they require the acquisition of too many perishable goods to be practical. Sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes, bread, several kinds of cheese and meats. It's difficult to buy the correct ratio of ingredients to ensure that everything gets used up.

My solution to this problem is to host a sandwich party. It's a variation of a potluck except everyone brings sandwich fixings. A dozen cheeses and 8 different meats at your disposable makes for some incredible sandwiches.

My usual contribution is roast beef. I pick up a couple pounds of round roast from Fero's Meat Market and roast it myself using an adaptation of Jess Thomson's recipe. My adaptation is leaving out the rosemary. If I have leftovers I buy french rolls and make roast beef sandwiches that beat just about every dip sandwich I've had at a restaurant.

Simple Rosemary Roast Beef
From hogwash by Jess Thomson

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat a 1 1/2 pound eye of round roast dry, and rub it with a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Pat 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary into the skin, and roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until the temperature reads 130 degrees in the center, for medium rare. Let the roast rest for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.

Roast Beef Dip Sandwich
1 french roll
Leftover roast beef
Half a cup of beef broth made with Better Than Bouillon beef base
Horseradish spread

Slice french roll down the middle and spread horseradish on both sides. Top with roast beef. Eat with broth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lazy Breakfast

Breakfast has the least variety of all my meals. Ninety percent of the time it will be either oatmeal, an omelette, or bacon & eggs.

My technique for cooking up bacon & eggs was something I picked up during my first visit to Japan. My sister and I were traveling the country, lodging with families our old houseguest had met through a bulletin board for women with young children. This was in 2000 when staying with strangers you met on the internet was not quite as common.

As an eighteen year old with very little experience with meat (but a love for overcooked bacon), when one of our host moms served us a conglomerate of bacon & eggs for breakfast it blew my mind. It's like bacon, and eggs, but... so much more! For years I would think wistfully back to that meal but it wasn't until last year that it occurred to me that surely I could recreate such a simple dish at home. That's right, it took me years to realize that I, too, could take the revolutionary step of frying my eggs and bacon together.

Bacon & Eggs
2 slices of bacon - usually Niman Ranch Applewood Bacon from TJ's ($.78)
2 eggs ($.42)

Total: $1.20

Fry up one side of the bacon. Flip so they're parallel with about 3 inches between them and crack both eggs in between. They should cook up as one unit. Fry until desired level of doneness, flipping them for a few seconds at the end.

If you want to cut down the fat you can pour the excess bacon grease in to a jar before frying the eggs. I store it in the fridge and use it to cook up everything I can think of.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Drinking for the fiscally challenged

The most often used novelty kitchen gadget in my house is my citrus press. One of the ways I resign myself to allowing my (fabulous) friends to buy me drinks is by always offering them a tasty cocktail when they visit. I have a decent selection of smooth but affordable liquor and I try to keep limes and lemons on hand.* I like to think I can make them something as tasty as they would get at a bar so it's a reasonable exchange. Crap liquor is not something I'm willing to consume no matter how poor I end up and I'm not interested in forcing it on my friends. With a little knowledge you don't have to sacrifice taste for your budget.

My affordable favorites:
Bellringer Gin $10.95 - Stronger than your average gin at 88 proof
Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon $13.95
Old Overholt Rye $16.95 - Makes a fine inexpensive Sazerac
Lunazul Tequila $18.95
Lillet Blanc $14.29 - Refreshing with soda water and a splash of OJ
Rittenhouse 100 Proof Rye $16.15 - Also a fine choice for a Sazerac
Luksusowa Potato Vodka $15.95

(Unfortunately all these prices will be up about 10% come August. The WA government wants to use booze to make up for some budget shortfalls.)

An easy rule to follow for experimenting with drinks is to use 2 parts liquor, 1 part sweet (usually simple syrup), 1 part sour (usually citrus of some sort). Adjust to taste. I almost universally use 2oz of my base liquor which works out to 12 1/2 drinks per bottle.

Simple Syrup is ridiculously easy to make and great to keep on hand. You can buy it in a bottle at Trader Joe's for $2.49 but I recommend making it yourself after the initial bottle purchase. It was too confusing when we stored it in a tequila bottle. Just dissolve sugar in boiling water at a 1:1 ratio. Cool and bottle. It should be stored in the fridge and will last for a long time. Use it to sweeten tea, coffee, or make fresh lemonade!

2 small lemons ($.50 from TJ's but you can do better at Chinese markets)
2 Tbsp Simple Syrup (dirt cheap)
Water or soda water

Squeeze lemons in to a cup, add simple syrup, top with water, stir.

* Most of the liquor purchasing was done before I lost my job so I am fortunate enough to only need to restock the base alcohols.

Change in my stomach

Earlier this year I became one of the unfortunate masses who lost their jobs due to layoff. Six months in to unemployment and my lifestyle has changed dramatically. I am thankful that I was raised in a frugal household but my taste for the finer things in life sure didn't leave with my income.

It's easy to tell someone to stop eating out and make your own tea and coffee to save money. In practice I'm considerably more productive in a coffee shop (I'd do the library but the internet keeps going out) and going out for food or drinks is an essential part of networking. Cut out those expenses and my job hunt would be hampered.

At the end of the day, I'm finding that almost my entire food budget is spent on tea, coffee, and cocktails and I have to eat on the cheap. I love to eat but this has never translated in to any great culinary feats. I don't like recipes that use many ingredients because I don't like ending up with a bunch of things that need to be used up. Everything I eat is simple, quick, and has a short ingredients list. My diet isn't the most well-balanced but it's not the worst and at least I prepare my own food. Until I have regained my old lifestyle I've decided to document my meals for the cheap and lazy.

Tuna & Avocado Salad
Serving of bagged salad (About $1 worth)
1/2 an avocado ($.60)
1/2 can of tuna ($.75)
Tuscan Salad Dressing ($.20)

Mix. The tuna and avocado make this surprisingly filling!

Total: $2.55

Serving costs are rough estimates because I didn't have the foresight to save the receipts. I'll try to do better in the future!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Marteau Absinthe

November 8th was the official release date of the new absinthe produced by House Spirits. My friend picked up a bottle for me that weekend but I still haven't opened it. I did finally open my bottle of Krogstad Aquavit and I've found that I very much enjoy a small glass in the evening.

Friday, August 22, 2008

House Spirits Distillery

Several weekends ago my friends and I embarked on our second annual "Why don't we live in a beach house?!?" beach house trip to Oregon. This year was a huge departure from the style of our previous trip in that we actually planned ahead. Rather than scramble for a place to stay when we arrived at Newport we booked our beach house months in advance. It was a beauty of a house that could sleep 15 and included two kitchens and a jacuzzi. The plan for our weekend trip: days on the beach, evenings in the hot tub, and as many brewery and distillery visits as we could cram in.

The party consisted of three veterans from the 2007 trip and eleven friends of ours from various social circles. As one of the original three it was partially my responsibility to make sure it would be a memorable trip. My friend Jon is well organized and a very strong planner so we let him take the reins but I was left with the important decision of which distillery to visit besides Rogue.

The decision came down to either House or Integrity Spirits. Integrity just entered the absinthe market with a new product called Trillium but House makes the Aviation Gin that I know and love. I finally settled on House Spirits. The tour was easily arranged by email and Matt (in charge of tours) was very communicative and flexible. Tours are available almost every day by appointment unless they happen to be out of town.

When we arrived Matt brought us all in to the distillery and began his spiel. We were given a very informative talk about the history of House Spirits as well as background information on vodka, gin, and aquavit. We experienced a little thrill of excitement when we were allowed to stick our fingers in a stream of gin still going through the distilling process. My friends (including a homebrewer and biochemist) had a ton of questions and he answered all of them well.

When we were finished assailing Matt with questions he led us to another part of the distillery to talk about future products. House Spirits has a rye whiskey in the works that will be aged 8-9 years and they plan to release what they are calling an "apothecary line." They will be bottling their small-batch and one-off products and making them available in 350ml bottles. He also enticed us with a description of their custom whiskey program. The $4900 price tag seemed high until he mentioned that a barrel yields at least 100 750ml bottles. We all have some ability at mental arithmetic so the changes in expressions when we realized that perhaps we could make this work were almost instantaneous.

After the tour Matt led us in to the Spirit & Cocktail Boutique where we sampled the Medeyoff Vodka, Aviation Gin, Krogstad Aquavit, and Marteau Absinthe. The absinthe was tasted first neat, than with water added, and finally with a little simple syrup. Imagine our disappointment to discover that it was not yet available for purchase! Not one of us would presume to be call our self knowledgeable regarding absinthe but it was a pleasure to drink.

We were at the distillery for an hour and a half or so and we all had a fantastic time. All of their products are excellent and I'm excited to see what is in store for the future!