I promised and promised and promised and finally here it is, the food column!
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
First, like probably many of your fans, I enjoy reading your column in each issue of This Week in Ravelry. I appreciate your insight and your no nonsense approach to giving advice and saying what you feel. As per your request for food questions, I have some for you. I often find myself in a rut making the same or similar meals. With my hubby & I both working, there isn’t much time for dinner preparation when we get home. We’re hungry & don’t want to wait an hour for dinner, especially when we get home at 6 pm or later. That leads to snacking & unfortunately the snacking is usually not healthy. Maybe this is a multiple part question: Can you suggest any recipes or meals that are tasty, quick to make & packed with vegetables? Perhaps related, do you have any recipes for spaghetti squash other than the usual bake, shred, eat or bake with cheese, shred, eat? Don’t get me wrong, I like spaghetti squash prepared that way, but I’d like to broaden my spaghetti squash horizons.
Thanks for any & all answers!
spaghetti squash butt
First off, thank you thank you! I do really appreciate that people enjoy reading the column!
So let’s see, you’re having trouble with snacking before dinner time and it’s ruining your dinner? Stop buying those snacks. Really and truly! Stop buying the kinds of snacks that lead to eating and eating and eating. I know it sounds sort of trite and mom-like, but if you’re hungry, then eat a piece of fruit! Or some carrots! Stop buying the empty calorie type treats and snacks. Instead, when you go shopping, make a list that focuses on the reality of your situation. You are often too tired and hungry to focus on large meal prep right when you get home, you need to eat something little first to help curb the hunger pangs. Once you’ve had your little home-from-work snack you can get back to focusing on a real meal. So buy some legitimate snacking options like baby carrots, apples, bananas and whatnot.
As for quick and easy veggie packed meals, I will share with you the secret method David and I use. We often forget to cook dinner until it is very late at night. We are very easily distracted and somewhat irresponsible at times. One of the things we started doing is keeping big bags of frozen mixed veggies in the freezer. Our easiest meal is to make spaghetti, and we will dump a bunch of frozen mixed veggies into the sauce while it’s heating up. It’s not the kind of thing that I would serve to guests, but it gets a lot of veggies into me in short order and I don’t have to try to plan out multiple dishes for dinner when I am tired or not really feeling like cooking.
Spaghetti squash is lovely and can be added to just about anything. I like to stab it a few times then throw it in the microwave for 8-10 minutes depending on the size of the squash and the power of your microwave. While that is happening throw some minced garlic and olive oil in a saute pan. Then add about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of any spice blend you want! An italian herb mix or some curry powder or Greek seasoning or whatever you are craving. Add about a teaspoon or so of water. Stir that up on medium heat until the water is mostly cooked off. Turn it off and let it just sit. Once you have your spaghetti squash well shredded then toss that in the pan with the seasonings, turn on the heat and mix until the seasonings are thoroughly mixed in. This seasoning mix trick can be used on pasta, other veggies, potatoes or whatever. The water and the sitting time are important for helping the flavors in the seasoning mix bloom and blend before adding the main ingredient (pasta or squash or whatever).
Also! Spaghetti squash, regular squash, potatoes and bunches of other things can be cooked in larger batches and kept in the fridge for about a week. When you are cooking, consider making a double portion of veggies or potatoes or the main dish.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
I’m newly married. I do the cooking, my husband does the dishes. Except, he complains a lot about doing the dishes. He prefers that I heat up a frozen pizza rather than cook a nice, healthy, tasty meal, because he doesn’t like doing the dishes. I don’t wish to serve unhealthy meals every night.
I’m trying positive reinforcement – lots of thank-yous, etc., when he does the dishes without complaining. We’re making slow progress.
In the meantime: can you recommend some dinners – real, hot meals with all four food groups – that use very few dishes for preparation?
(And while we’re at it… how can I make dish-time less of an ordeal?)
She Who Makes the Dishes Dirty
I do not know what your kitchen situation is like, but I am going to recommend that you look into getting a full sized portable dishwasher! If you don’t know what they are, I will tell you (because I am good that way). A portable dishwasher is the same size as a regular dishwasher but does not get installed permanently, it hooks up to the kitchen faucet via an adapter. It exhausts the water right into your kitchen sink. When it’s done it can easily be unhooked from your faucet and rolled anywhere you like. Check Craigslist, I got mine for $50. They have the added benefit of giving you an extra square of mobile countertop.
So that is one way to make dish time less of an ordeal.
Okay, but I want to talk a little bit about the “equal division of chores”. When you first set up house with someone you always want to have an equitable sharing of responsibility so that everyone feels that everyone else is pulling their own weight. So, you divide things up and everyone seems happy. Happy until one person realizes that they just really really hate one of those chores. Sometimes the “equal division of chores” just isn’t all that equal or fair. Every act or chore does not need an equal corollary chore. Or if it does, it needn’t be the one seemingly related to it. The corollary chore to ‘making dinner’ doesn’t seem to be ‘doing dishes’ since doing the dishes seems to be something he really hates as opposed to just a chore to do. What I would suggest is that the two of you work together on the dishes and clean up after dinner and he picks up a different household responsibility.
I know it seems unfair, why should you cook and do part of the cleaning! Well, that’s just one of the 2 million compromises that you will make in the course of your relationship. You are going to find that most of the assumptions you had about fairness were at best, naïve. I know you are tired after working and cooking, but have him help you with dinner, and you can help him with the dishes.
Also, do you have a crock pot or slow cooker? If you don’t then get one! They are relatively inexpensive and they are invaluable in the kitchen. A roast tossed in the crock pot with a bit of water and some seasonings in the morning becomes delicious roast beef by the time you get home. Microwave a couple potatoes and some veggies and you’ve got dinner. Or make a simplified version of my crock pot chili!
1 can diced tomatoes (with the juices)
1 can diced jalapeños
3 tbl chili powder
1 tbl oregano
1 tbl cocoa powder
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 tb pepper
1/2 tbl salt
1 cup water
4 or 5 or more garlic cloves
1 chuck roast
put all of this in the crock pot before you go to work. Or, put all of it in the crock the night before and store it in the fridge and then put the crock into the cooker before you go to work.
When you get home, pull the roast out and put it in a large bowl to rest. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Puree the contents of the crock pot. Once the beef has rested it will shred easily with 2 forks, add the beef back to the chili puree in the crock pot. From here add a couple cans of diced tomatoes and as many different cans of beans (black beans, kidney beans, red beans) as you like. You may have to add a bit of water as well. Heat it up and boom, you have enough chili to last you a few nights and your dishes are minimal.
Hello, Auntie BubboPants!
For several months (a year?) now, I have been completely uninspired in the kitchen. Then, I found SmittenKitchen.com – a food blog with beautiful and inspiring pictures! I wanted to share! Because I am now in the kitchen for hours at a time with all sorts of goodies!
I have to credit SallySitwell for the discovery, a lady who I met once at a knit night and then again once at yoga and then friended on ravelry and then found her blog where she mentions the site…
I hope you enjoy!
That site looks awesome!
I found a site called “Our Best Bites” a few days ago and fell in love with their single serving pies!
Readers, what are your favorite foodie sites? Pop them into the comments section so we can all share.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
This is probably more food etiquette than food itself, but I’d appreciate your thoughts on the matter. I tend to show affection through food. I like nothing more than cooking or baking for friends and my DH’s family (mine is a continent away). There are several things I cook that are now constantly requested. His family has noticed this trend, and are starting to reciprocate.
The problem is, besides a few key dishes, his family members are terrible cooks. When his parents came to dinner last, they decided to make jambalaya. Now, I make a mean jambalaya. What they brought was disgusting. My husband and I choked it down. And before his mom served it, she said that “this dish will impress you!”
I had to thank her and take the leftovers (which were thrown out). Then she said she’s going to make it again for us when we go on a family trip next month. My husband gagged when I told him this.
Is there a polite way to tell her that we didn’t care for it? That I’d prefer to make it myself? I don’t want to seem rude, and there’s enough against me already that I don’t want to step on any more toes (they’re Cuban, and I just don’t like Cuban food, save for a few things! Friction!).
Furthermore, I have a lot of dietary considerations; some are medical and some are personal convictions. I can’t have dairy, but I won’t eat anything with artificial colors (actually I am allergic to some of those too!), flavors or preservatives. So when they brought sherbet for dessert (which has all of the above) I had to politely eat that too. I was woefully ill for days, and had an allergic reaction to the dye in it. (as an aside, I’ve told them I like sorbet. They don’t know the difference!)
So, how does one cope when dealing with food situations like this? If I declined either food, I’d have gone without dinner, and it would have been rude not to accept the gift of my guests. But at the same time, having to excuse myself to vomit isn’t very nice either.
What to do?
-Sick to my Stomach
You raise a couple of etiquette dilemmas here. The food issues/allergies one is pretty straightforward. You can let your hosts know that you have food allergies or dietary concerns. They can choose to cook for that, but they don’t have to. As the person with the dietary concerns you have to be responsible for what you eat, not them. So, if you are going to go eat somewhere, make sure they know your concerns, have a conversation about them. If they feel they cannot cook for your specific situation then you can bring your own food. There is no reason to eat something you are allergic to simply to seem polite, but these dietary concerns are yours, not theirs, and therefore your responsibility.
If you are not comfortable bringing this up to his parents then it is your husband’s job to do this. As your husband he is obligated to act as your proxy when dealing with his family (just as it would be yours to deal with your family on his behalf).
So, what happens if they cook a meal with your concerns in mind but it is unpalatable? You eat it and you smile and you appreciate the efforts that they went through to make a meal for you. I know it’s not fun to eat things that don’t taste good or are gross, but there are things that are so much more important in the long run than temporary discomfort. The act of feeding someone is rooted deep in our psyche. We don’t feed someone a meal just for the meal’s sake, we give the gift of food as a way of saying, “with you I will share my resources because you are important and we accept you into our pack”. Find a way, make a bit of a sacrifice, eat a small amount. Do this not just to make them happy but to accept the gift they have given to you, the gift of accepting you into their family.
Dear Auntie BubboPants,
Unless “is procrastination the natural human condition” counts, I am presently lacking in relationship and other big “what do I do with my life” questions, being as my primary relationship at the moment is with a graduate program that is allegedly helping me answer the “what do I do with my life” sorts of things as well. I DO, however, have a food question, which I trust you to answer as well as you answer other peoples’ more interesting and important life-issues sorts of questions.
I love to cook, it is one of the things that I do. I love to feed my friends and loved ones my cooking. I am also, as of a few years ago, a vegetarian who has no money (see also, graduate school). So, here is the question: What sort of vegetarian main (that does not involve pumpkin, which I don’t like) and is not a curry (which I love, but one does need some variety) can one serve a group of friends in winter in Massachusetts?
I am totally the queen of procrastination! I can relate.
Vegetarian meals without pumpkin? Easy! First things first, you see that chili recipe I posted up there? you make that but leave out the beef. Cook the tomatoes and spices all day, then puree it up and add more tomatoes, all the different beans you like, maybe some canned hominy (sometimes called maize blanco) and any veggies that catch your eye.
Or you can make the chili recipe up to and including the step where you puree it. Then take some peppers, onions and saute until golden in a bit of oil with some garlic. Add some sliced carrots, maybe some zucchini, cilantro and some kale and cook until about half done.
In small tortillas layer the veggies with some refried beans and cheese. Roll up and place seam side down in a 9×13 baking pan. Fit as many as you can in there. Pour the chili puree over these, cover in more shredded cheese and bake for about 30 minutes at say, 400 degrees or until they are hot all the way through. Serve with a salad and maybe some corn bread.
One more idea:
1 head of kale, deribbed and shredded
2 apples, cut into chunks (use apples that are good for cooking like McIntosh, Jonathan, or Gravenstein)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
a lot of sliced carrots
1 tsp rubbed sage
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
2 tsp chopped rosemary
in a pot with a cover bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Slowly pour the cornmeal into the boiling water while whisking. Quickly add the parmesan and rosemary. Remove from heat, cover and set aside. It will finish cooking with the residual heat.
In a large fry pan saute the onions and garlic in oil until translucent. Add a stick of butter and let it melt (you can use less butter if you want, I’m not the boss of your butter). Then toss in the zucchini and carrots, apples, sage, salt and pepper. Cook on high heat. When the veggies get some brown around the edges add your kale. Toss it well into the mix and then cover and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until the kale is bright bright green and softened (but not overcooked).
Divide the polenta into 4 bowls and then divide the kale/apple/veggie mixture over the polenta.