Tamale Pie

25 12 2009

First of all: Merry Christmas Eve to those of you who celebrate it (culturally or religiously)!

Second of all: I’m going to share with you one of my happiest accidents, and an obscenely easy and cheap dinner. I call it tamale pie, but frankly, anything other than “really lazy and inauthentic Tex-Mex” is probably too glamorous. The first time I made this, I was trying to make some weird cornbread variant (which, in retrospect, would probably have been kind of gross) but was out of cornmeal and was pot-committed to the endeavor as I’d already prepared something or other to go with it. All I had was masa harina, so I said to myself, “What the hell!” Oh, I am so racy and adventurous, substituting finely ground corn for coarsely ground corn. I throw caution to the winds every day, I tell you.

The result was a super-dense cornbread and bean pie that took approximately 15 minutes of preparation and about the same amount of time in the oven, and costs almost nothing. I present to you my laziest, most accidental Tex-Mex: tamale pie. It’s also, by the way, completely and utterly delicious. For the recipe, I use an 8 or 9in cast iron skillet, but you can also just make it in a round cake pan or an 8×8 brownie pan if you don’t have cast iron. If you do, and you use a cake pan, you are doing yourself and my recipe a disservice! Yum, cast iron.

Tamale Pie

Ingredients

For the cornbread base:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 c all-purpose flour (preferably unbleached white or white whole wheat)
  • 3/4c masa harina
  • 1/4c nutritional yeast (optional but highly recommended)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 c milk
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 2 fresh jalapeño peppers, finely chopped (you can seed them if you want. If you’re a pansy, anyhow)

For the topping:

  • 1 can black beans, mostly drained
  • 1 small onion, quartered and finely sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • garlic powder, salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1c shredded cheddar cheese
  • about 2/3 a head chopped green leaf lettuce, tossed with lemon juice and a dash of salt
  • hot sauce (optional; I prefer Cholula, Tapatio, or Secret Aardvark in the PDX area)

Process

  1. Cook onions and peppers until tender in a medium skillet. I cooked mine in 1 tbsp of butter; use whatever oil you have around.
  2. While these are cooking, work on the cornbread base. Turn oven to 400F and put a 9in cast iron skillet with 2 tbsp butter in while the oven heats up, melting the butter and heating your skillet.
  3. Mix flour, masa harina, nutritional yeast, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Stir together eggs, milk, and oil and add all at once to flour mix; stir until just combined and then stir in the chopped jalapeños.
  5. Pour into prepared skillet and put in the oven for 5 minutes.
  6. Once your veggies are tender, add in the can of black beans, mostly drained. Let a little of the beans’ liquid stick around. Add in spices and cook together for a minute or so; stir in potato or cornstarch. Turn off the heat.
  7. Pull the baking cornbread out of the oven for a moment (it will have set a bit at this point, which is what you want) and spread the bean and vegetable mixture over the top. Place back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.
  8. Again, pull the tamale pie out of the oven after the 10min are up and spread the cheese over the top. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly and the center is set.
  9. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes; serve generous slices on a bed of lettuce tossed with lemon juice and salt, accompanied by your favorite hot sauce!

Easy-peasy and cheap as hell. Yum!

I will win no prizes for my food photography on this one, but it is certainly delicious.

And, last but not least, I tried this recipe the other morning. It is fast and ridiculously tasty. I made the following changes, due to what I had and did not have on hand: I only made 2 ramekins’ worth, I used 1/2 an onion caramelized in butter and glazed with sherry vinegar at the last moment instead of leeks, I put 2 eggs in each ramekin, and I stirred about 1 tbsp of stone-ground sweet & hot mustard into the cream before spooning it over the top. I highly, highly recommend this recipe. I cannot stress enough how delicious it was. If it weren’t made with cream I would eat it every day. If I didn’t restrain myself from buying cream on a regular basis, I would make this every day regardless. It’s amazing and super versatile – you could easily change the vegetables and flavors into whatever works with your other dishes. You have to bake it a bit longer with 2 eggs, FYI, but it’s easy to tell when they’re done.





Continuing Tradition Far From Home

21 12 2009

This year has been a real rollercoaster for me. I’ve done a lot of things I’d never done before, and life’s been alternately strange and wonderful, but at the end of it I’m so excited to be here in this new city, making new friends, doing what I’m doing.

Of course, just as there’s always a silver lining, there’s also often a downside, and despite my attempts to live with my head stuck in the clouds (and in that silver lining), sometimes you can’t ignore it forever. Thus far, the largest singular downside has been my inability to get home for the holidays; I’ll be spending them here in Portland, and I’ll miss my family and friends hugely.

I’m lucky, though. My family is amazing. They’re supportive, smart, fun, strange people, and I mean all of that to be complimentary. Because my parents are divorced, I had the not-uncommon experience of spending holidays with one parent or the other, and from this traditions on holiday off-days have arisen. One of these is making sugar cookies. My mom has been making these cookies for as long as I can remember, and she and my sister and I make them every year just before Christmas.

It is a serious production. It starts early in the day and goes into the afternoon. A rotating cast of other family and friends helps with the decorating. Usually, I believe, we quadruple the recipe. I did not quadruple anything. I know people in Portland who would have made sure the cookies were not wasted, but I’m fairly certain being charged with consuming 200 cookies might have, at least initially, intimidated even these people. The table at my mother’s is covered in tin foil and, by the end of the decorating, looks like a very incompetent Pollock for someone with a sweet tooth and no aesthetic sense. It’s a mess, it’s full of sugar and butter, and it’s my favorite thing about Christmas. I have never missed cookie day. Not when I was in middle school and pretending to hate my parents, not when I was an angsty teenager looking for something to complain about, not when I had just come out to my family, not one.

So, today, my mom and my sister and a bunch of our wonderful family and friends made cookies, and I was 2,500 miles away, but I sort of, a little bit, as best I could, did cookie day with them. In whatever way I could, I did not miss cookie day. We even got to talk on the webcam a little, though mostly technology failed us.

Lucky me again – I have awesome friends and roommates up here in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, and my friend Andrew and my roommate Joe did some cookie decorating with me and I had a blast! I hope they did, too, because I enjoyed shoving my family tradition down some lovely people’s throats. At least it was sugary and delicious. There was a minor incident with the fire alarm, but we won’t talk about that.

Without further ado, I give you a slightly modified version of Christmas in my family. It is full of butter and sugar and vanilla, and you will not be sorry. Decorating them to music with funny people is definitely a good thing to toss in. Though typically we listen to Christmas music, this year was soundtracked by Jenny Lewis, Menomena, The Fiery Furnaces’ Rehearsing My Choir (doesn’t that seem appropriate somehow?), Belle & Sebastian, and The Lovely Sparrows.

Here are some of Andrew's cookies!

And here are Joe's, except Tupac, which he requested I render in cookie form, and thus was it done.

I used royal icing this year, and was thrilled with the results! Also, those peppermint crunch candies are delicious.

Christmas Sugar Cookies with Powdered Sugar Glaze and Royal Icing

Ingredients

Sugar Cookies

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 2 c baker’s sugar (or regular granulated sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • enough flour for a stiff dough (another few cups at least)

Powdered Sugar Glaze

  • Sifted powdered sugar (a little over a bag, usually)
  • Water
  • No, seriously

Process

  1. Cream softened butter with electric mixer on medium-high speed for 30-45 seconds
  2. Slowly add baker’s sugar and beat, still on medium high, until light and fluffy (a few minutes, probably)
  3. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition
  4. Add vanilla and salt; beat until combined
  5. In another bowl (if you have a stand mixer you can do this while the sugar and butter are getting fluffy) sift together the 2c flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  6. Slowly add flour mixture to butter and sugar mixture, beating well after each addition
  7. Continue adding sifted flour until you make a stiff dough. I don’t know exactly how to tell you what I mean by this, but it will roll out into gorgeous sheets of cookie dough and will not be terribly sticky. I probably added another two cups of flour, but I’m not certain exactly.
  8. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut into fun shapes or into circles (I did the latter)
  9. Bake cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes at 350F
  10. Cool completely before icing.
  11. To make powdered sugar glaze, combine about half a bag of sifted powdered sugar and about a half a cup of water (start slowly; add half the water first, stir, keep adding). You want to get a consistency thin enough to coat the cooking when you plop it face down in the glaze, but thick enough not to just run straight off.
  12. I used this royal icing recipe and divided it into thirds, coloring them teal, red, and sky blue. I transferred each color into a piping bag and we used these for all our designs. Fun! By the by: I made the version with powdered egg whites, and added some vanilla, and it is perfectly tasty. No salmonella risk required.
  13. Try not to make yourself ill eating cookies. Harder than it sounds.

Happy holidays, y'all!





Chanterelles, and Marjoram Pesto Pasta

19 11 2009

So, maybe I can focus. Sometimes. On some things. Like food, for instance. Yep, shocker, I really like making stuff to eat and then eating it. I did that for about five hours yesterday. I didn’t eat all of what I made, though. Thankfully, on that front, I have help.

Yesterday was a good example of making the best of a terrible lapse in time management skills. I worked on computer things all day (interspersed with some knitting) and then had decided to go to yoga, which was at four. Now, consider that I’m still looking for a job. And consider that the only thing I had actually scheduled myself to do yesterday was yoga. I got all ready for yoga, and then for some reason (which I may never divine) I decided to kill a few minutes messing with this new mascara I bought. Right before yoga.

Please explain my brain to me.

I mean, the mascara is great. I like it a lot. But I don’t need to put it on for yoga, for pete’s sake. Anyway, I went to close my computer and hop on my bike to find that I had wasted some ungodly amount of time on this mascara and now was never, ever going to make it to yoga in time. Good job, Kirsten. When you miss your daily exercise, there’s only one thing to do: go to the grocery store and then cook up a storm. Yep, if you can’t work it off, put some extra in, that’s what I say.

Okay, in all seriousness, I needed to get some staples and the ingredients for a cobbler and some jalapeno cornbread for our impending craft night (hooray). I really sort of enjoy the experience of wandering around a grocery store by myself; I feel more able to browse and come up with recipes as I walk around. I like going with company, too, but going alone is a different experience altogether. I went to a grocery to which I’d not been, and enjoyed it pretty thoroughly. There were a lot of local options, far more than anywhere else I’ve been thus far, and I was able to secure what seem to be local, humane, vegetarian, hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs, milk, and butter. This is great for me, as previously I’ve felt a bit lost at supermarkets around here.

I found these:

Chanterelles! I’ve never had the chance to cook them before. So I made chanterelle mushrooms and brussels sprouts sauteed in champagne vinegar and butter, threw in some field roast apple-sage vegetarian “sausage” (seriously the best stuff out there, and not nearly as processed as you think it is), and served it over a bed of marjoram pesto star-pasta (like chicken and stars, because I’m seven and I like the shape) with a side of roasted turnips. And then a friend came and had dinner with me! And another stopped by on the way home. I think one of the best parts of cooking is the communality of sharing a meal, and I’m lucky to have people to share with.

So, how bout a recipe? Today I’m going to share a recipe for marjoram pesto. It’s easy, and it will blow your mind. Marjoram is one of my very favorite flavors.

  • 1 bunch marjoram, about a handful, leaves removed from stems
  • 1/4c pine nuts
  • 1/2c grated parmesan cheese
  • olive oil, roughly 4 tbsp, but use your judgment
  • 1/2 tsp salt or more to taste
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 5-6 leaves basil

Put everything in a food processor and blend it till it’s smooth. Put it on your pasta. Thank me later. Yeah, that was difficult, right? Okay, okay, one quick thing: if you think it needs more olive oil, do it! Also, to actually make the pasta, I drained the stars, put them back in the pot, added about 1 tbsp of butter, stirred that in with another 1/4c or so of grated parmesan, and then added the pesto.

I’ll post a baking-themed entry later about all my cranberry escapades yesterday evening! I baked 2 different tasty cranberry desserts and I can’t wait to tell you about them. Teaser:





Zen Knittin’ and Pancakes

18 11 2009

I should warn you ahead of time that I took no photographs of the pancakes.

I finally went to the giant fabric store here with a friend, and I bought no fabric. However, I did buy a TON of yarn that was on sale, as well as some embroidery supplies, because I couldn’t bring my sewing machine with me yet and thus needed crafty things to do that in no way require the machine. My friend has been nice enough to volunteer hers for use, which is awesome! but I want some projects for when I’m at home, too.

Exciting news from crafting-land, by the way – we’re starting an arting and crafting group which I believe will be every other Wednesday. I’ll post some photos of its inception this coming week!

Anyway, I got so excited to knit again that I immediately started knitting this blue scarf. Now, planning is not my strong suit, as evidenced by most things I show you, and I proceeded to cast on 28 stitches of bulky, 13-gauge yarn and happily knit away for about half an hour before I realized that what I was working on was never, ever going to be a scarf, unless that person was about 2 feet tall, 1 foot of that being neck. So, I dutifully took it out, and proceeded to cast on 20 stitches instead. I evidently do not learn quickly, because 20 stitches is still far too many. So now I have a whole skein of blue yarn knitted into a totally useless rectangle of… whatever. Maybe I’ll try to felt it or something.

But then! Today! I was watching a video to learn how to switch colors in a more appropriate manner (the way I was doing it was fairly ridiculous) because I am making a purple and cream striped scarf for myself, and I learned how to rib! On accident! And now I’m ribbin’ away! I am not very good at it, but I do love knitting.

I like the portable productivity of knitting; it’s something tangible I can produce that, in a moment that’s perhaps too short to get into a book I’m reading or to start a journal entry, keeps my hands busy and my mind clear. It’s much like my better Zen meditations, or like a good bike ride; the repetitive motion of my needles becomes like the breath (in Zazen or in yoga), and I’m watching it and am simply present. I am having a lot of good experiences with presence lately, and with trying to be more mindful of it.

And now, on to pancakes.

I’ve always wanted to have a pancake picnic, and so recently this plan was enacted late at night at Laurelhurst Park, the gorgeous park just down the street from my house. I had some beautiful red peppers in the fridge:

and I wanted to make something involving said peppers, so I caramelized some onions and red peppers and made a frittata to go with the blueberry pancakes. If this looks good to you, make it! You can use my previously posted recipe for a frittata and instead use 1 whole onion, caramelized, with diced red peppers thrown in until tender; add the whole mess along with about 1 c of very small sharp cheddar cheese cubes. Not shredded. Cubes. I’m serious.

Anyhow, the picnic was great, and the frittata and pancakes were still warm (I wrapped them in foil, in a stoneware baking dish, in a cooler with no ice in it) and the chai was hot! Success. Trust me: eating pancakes in the dark in a beautiful place when it’s 40F out is absolutely as awesome as it sounds. Just be sure you dress warmly!





Pie and Coffee and Fidgety Zen

13 11 2009

So, since the move across the country has concluded, I’ve concluded it’s time to get back to my favorite hobby: FEEDING EVERYONE. In that vein, I’ve got some stuff in the works for later, but for now I’m going to tell you about cherry pie.

I love cherry pie. It is my favorite pie to make, I think, and the one I come back to repeatedly. I like lots of pies, but cherry’s just got something about it. Sweet, tart, reminds me of David Lynch, reminds me of good friends back home, what’s not to love? So last night, I made mini cherry pies. If you know me, you know how I like to make small, individual serving things, because everything is more fun in miniature. I tried a new recipe for the filling using canned cherries, and it did come out pretty delicious if I do say so myself. Next time I think I’d make them double-crust or lattice-top, and be sure to remember to buy vanilla ice cream! For the filling I used:

  • 3 15.5 oz cans organic pitted whole cherries, drained, and
  • 1 c of the juice from said cherries, reserved
  • 1 c vegan cane sugar
  • 1/4c potato starch
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (still using Singing Dog)

To make it, you simply:

  1. Combine cherry juice, sugar, and potato starch in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until it forms a thick gooey saucy paste (sounds gross, but it works).
  2. Stir in vanilla
  3. Pour over cherries & mix
  4. Pour into your pie crust!

I used my tried and true Better Homes and Gardens pie crust recipe. I’m sorry. I just can’t bring myself to try all these fussy recipes with cream cheese and forty-seven steps and blah blah blah. I’m lazy. I like butter and flour and salt and water all just fine with out any gussyin’ up. And it’s delicious and I’m not sorry!

pdxfall 040

These pies are all ready to go over to Shawn and Andrew’s. I dropped ‘em off with some coffee to aid a heavy workload!

 

On to fidgety zen. This morning I finally dragged myself out of bed to go to 6a zazen at the nearest zen center, and let me tell you, I was pretty horribly prepared. The protocols seem a lot stricter here (which I don’t mind, but can’t follow currently as I don’t know them very well), especially the dress codes. Additionally, the protocols themselves are slightly different. And there was almost no one there, meaning it was very obvious when I was not doing the right stuff. And then as I was sitting there, trying to just overcome all my nervousness and feeling out of place and clear my head, my stomach starts rumbling. Loudly. Repeatedly. THANK YOU, PHYSIOLOGY. I finally got up and just left after 30 agonizing minutes of trying to do anything but agonize and failing miserably. Later, I made a drawing of how scattered I felt, and I thought I would share, since I so infrequently share anything other than food I make on this blog:

eats & drawring 007

I feel like WordPress makes things awfully blurry when I upload them, as it looks a lot better on my computer, but there you have it. It’s mostly a silly doodle but I sure felt a mess, and drawing it made me laugh about it a bit more!





Relocated!

9 11 2009

I have just completed the switch from living in Austin, Texas for my entire life to relocating to Portland, Oregon, and I am just thrilled! This explains my recent absence from blogging. I haven’t so much had time for blogging, but I’m back now, and I’ll share a few relevant photos for good measure.

 

First off, the drive from Austin to Portland was incredible. One of my best friends, Nic, accompanied me (because she is awesome) and we chose to take the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) rather than the faster interstate, and man. I am not at all sorry. A few illustrative photos of the splendor of that drive:

drive to pdx 139

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

drive to pdx 213

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

drive to pdx 238

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous. Totally gorgeous. And now I’m in Portland and it’s been great so far! I have great roommates, I’m looking for a job, I’m making friends and spending time with old friends I’ve never had a chance to see this much of, and generally I’m happy. I’m about to get back on the makin-stuff wagon, though I’ve been doing a lot of cooking (and neglecting to photograph it). Last night, my friend Andrew and I made a delicious rosemary pasta dish with sauteed oyster mushrooms and kale, roasted delicata squash, and toasted pine nuts. It was great! I also tried this American Parmesan called Grana, I think, that’s from Wisconsin, and I have to say it was pretty tasty, especially for the price reduction. Very sharp and fruity.

Anyhow, we did visit VooDoo Donut while Nic was here, so you can look at some pictures of food other people made:

drive to pdx 272 drive to pdx 276

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Berry donut!

2. Mango Tango: mango filled with Tang on top. It rules.

 

AND, we carved pumpkins the day after Halloween, because we are fashionably late? Or something.

drive to pdx 268

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason that photo looks ridiculously blurry, but you get the idea. I hope you’ve enjoyed this incredibly disjointed blog post, and I’ll get back to recipes and crafting and actual topics soon!





Berry-Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake

20 09 2009

I have done a lot of sleeping this weekend. No, really, a lot. 30+ hours since Thursday night. It’s been glorious. I’ve also made breakfast the last few days, as I am wont to do, and Friday night we had a weenie roast (har har) with our friends Meg and Ben. A weekend of food and sleeping? Yes please. And so, the culmination of this weekend of food and sleeping was a coffee cake. I’ve made it once before, and it’s truly, truly delicious – it’s a slightly modified version of the Better Homes and Gardens Fruit Coffee Cake (and let me tell you, that book will never steer you wrong).

Next time, I’m going to make a batch and a half of the coffee cake because I like to use a bundt pan and it’s not quite enough. BHG recommends using an 8x8x2 baking pan, so unless you have an IKEA springform pan with an interchangeable bottom, one of which is a bundt thinger (Liz!), just do as they suggest until I figure out the proportions. The IKEA one I use is smaller than a regular bundt pan so I suspect it’d go poorly to use the normal one.


Berry-Vanilla Bean Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

  • 2c berries (I have used cherries every time; this time I added blackberries, which were fine but didn’t add much. Just don’t use raspberries)
  • 1/4c water
  • 1/4c sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1.5c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp baking soda
  • 1/4c butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2c buttermilk or sour milk (to make sour milk, pour a bit of vinegar into the bottom of your 1/2c measure and fill to the top with milk; let it sit a minute or so)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste (my favorite brand is Singing Dog, which they sell here in Austin at Wheatsville Co-op)
  • 1/4c all-purpose flour (I used naughty white flour for this part, but I’m sure whatever you have is fine if you don’t keep more than one sort)
  • 1/4c sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter your pan really, really well, especially if you are using a bundt pan.
  2. For filling, combine fruit and water in a medium saucepan (if you are using frozen, use a bit less water) and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5min. Combine cornstarch and sugar, and add to fruit mixture along with the 1/2tbsp vanilla bean paste, cooking and stirring until thickened and bubbly. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl combine 1.5c flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the 1/4c butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In a small bowl, combine egg, sour milk/buttermilk, and vanilla. Add all at once to flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just moistened (lumpy batter, you know the drill).
  5. For the delicious crumbly topping, in yet another small bowl (shut up and do the dishes later, it’s worth it), combine the 1/4c flour and 1/4c sugar and cut in the 2 tbsp butter until, again, the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I usually resort to using my fingers, pinching the butter into the flour mix, because the volume here is so small.
  6. Spread the topping over the bottom of the baking dish and spoon half the batter over it, carefully. Spread the fruit over this and then spoon the remaining batter over the fruit. Be careful but don’t get too fussy. (Yes, you are making this upside-down. The original recipe does not call for this to be the case, but I like the more integrated, crust-like effects of the upside-down method are tastier than the crumb cake topping of the original right-side-up. It will also probably be less pretty. Just eat it. You’ll be fine.)
  7. Bake at 350F for 35-45 min, or until golden. Serve warm. Thank me later.







Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.