Thursday, February 24, 2011

kale stir-fry

Kale is kind of a weird food. It repels water like a duck, looks like the skin of one of those 600 year old tortoises at Reptile Gardens in SD, and is so exotic and confusing to employees of Cub Foods that they charge you $0.99 cents for a bundle because they have no idea what it is.

It also happens to make awesome stir-fry.

Quickly sauteing kale helps to release all the great things it has to offer, including calcium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Unlike other greens, it also holds up very well to cooking, which means even after you have sauteed it, it still has a great crunch that adds texture to whatever you're making. There are several different varieties of kale, including curly and dinosaur. I prefer dinosaur kale, not only for it's awesome name, but because it tends to be a little less bitter.

Kale stir-fry is something I have been making ever since I "accidentally" made it for my brother over a year ago. We were grocery shopping at the local co-op and noticed that kale was on sale. Never ones to pass up eating something that looks like Velociraptor skin, we bought some and took it home. My brother then went to work, leaving me with the instructions to turn the kale into something edible by the time he returned.

I had no idea what to do with it.

After a bit of internet research, I found a few pointers and went to work. The original, first time kale stir-fry was very bare bones and simple. I sauteed an onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil, then added a chopped red pepper. The kale was added after everything else was cooked, and I poured in a bit of soy sauce and a little water, also. The resulting mixture was served over brown rice and topped with cashews.

The verdict?

We loved it. It was simple to make, quick to eat, and easy to clean up afterward. Plus, it had about a million possibilities for variation, which is what I have been working on ever since.

For some reason I remember almost every single time I have made this dish. The most memorable time was just a couple of months ago. Ginger and I had just gotten done having our butts kicked by P90X Yoga and were not really in the mood to do anything. Plus we were starving. I threw together some kale stir-fry, and we ate the ENTIRE batch (probably with some wine). It was an enjoyable night.

So here is the thing about kale stir-fry. It doesn't really have a recipe. I will explain how I make it, but I can't really offer any exact measurements, because I don't have any. If you are one of those people who love recipes that just give you a general idea and guidelines, this is for you. If you hate not being told exactly what to do, might I direct you to the Food Network website.

Kale Stir-Fry

The most important part of the whole dish is to build up the flavors right at the beginning. What I have in the cupboard at the moment, and what I am craving that night decides what is going to go into the sauce. I have gone as simple as olive oil, garlic, and soy sauce, and as complex as 5-10 different things. This is what I added the last time I made it:

Olive oil
Chili garlic sauce
Fish sauce
Toasted sesame seed oil
Soy sauce
Minced garlic
Beef bouillon
(Ginger's mouth dropped open when I listed all of these off to her).

The key is really knowing what flavors have the potential to overpower (chili garlic sauce, ginger, etc.), and what flavors meld well with others. This decides what you add and how much.

Vague, I know. I apologize.

Anyway, I go nuts and pour a bunch of things into the pan, let them heat up a bit, then dump in a chopped onion (which makes me cry and flail around all dramatic like), sauteing it until translucent. I then add any other veggies that catch my eye while fridge diving, which in my lastest case included mushrooms, an orange bell pepper, and some edamame. Everything gets flavor coated and delicious looking, then it's time for the kale.

I took this picture because I loved the colors together. It isn't really significant.

This is what everything looks like prior to adding the kale:

And after adding and cooking the kale:

To prep the kale, I wash each piece and then cut the leafy part away from the tough stem. I then chop it and toss it into the pan. Easy. At this point I add just a touch of water (and maybe a little more soy sauce), and place the cover on the pan for a couple of minutes to help wilt and cook the kale. I then remove the cover and let any excess moisture cook off. The last step is to add a couple of handfulls of cashews. Voila! Kale stir-fry!

Serving suggestion:

It really is a versatile recipe. You can add whatever ingredients you have on hand, and it turns out every time. Great way to impress your friends and convince your roommate that you're talented enough to co-write a food based blog with her!

A note about rice (and how to cook it perfectly every time):

I pride myself on cooking brown rice in the easiest way possible, and it turns out perfect every time. So, I'll share my secret (which I stole from my brother).

Really the only rule you have to remember about rice is that it needs twice as much moisture as the amount of uncooked rice used. I usually make 1 cup (uncooked) at a time, which means I need 2 cups of water.

I pour the uncooked rice into a covered roasting pan (I use one of those little round black ones, perfect size), add a few pats of butter or olive oil, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is preheating, I bring 2 cups of water to a boil and then pour it over the uncooked rice and butter. The whole shebang then goes into the heated oven, and you get to forget all about it for 40-45 minutes (while you're cooking your kale stir-fry!). What comes out of the oven at that time is perfectly cooked rice that is ready to be topped with plenty of stir-fry.


I bought a couple of Bosc pears at the co-op the other day, not really knowing what I was going to do with them. After reading a couple of essays out of the book mentioned in my previous post, I came across a very intriguing idea: sauteed pears.

I didn't have a recipe, but I didn't imagine sauteing pears could be that hard, and it wasn't. I melted a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, then added a few tablespoons of brown sugar. I let this mixture combine and cook over low to medium heat just until it began to bubble. In the meantime, I chopped a whole pear into fingernail sized cubes. I added the chopped pear to the bubbling sugar mixture (I am of the opinion that hot sugar is scary, by the way), then added some vanilla, cinnamon, powdered ginger (maybe a bit too much, spicy pears!), and a touch of nutmeg. I let the whole mixture cook over medium heat until the sugar sauce reduced down to a syrup-like consistency, and the pears chunks were tender. Being unfortunately out of vanilla ice cream at the time, I was forced to look elsewhere for something to pour my pears and sauce over.

Finished cooking:

I turned to ginger's Eskimo Bread (recipe can be found here).

Let me tell you, this combination was amazing, especially with a big glass of cold milk. The sauce soaked into the bread, making it moist and warm, and the pears were a great compliment to the already delicious bread. However, I am still very much looking forward to trying the pears warmed up over ice cream, which is why I saved some for when I get my mitts on some vanilla ice cream later tonight. Should be good.

Serving suggestion (I apologize the picture is a bit fuzzy):


Tonight's music recommendation:

Hands down, Adele. She released her new album, 21, just a couple of days ago, and I have been listening to it while writing this blog post. Great, great stuff. Go check it out!


**quick note: this post is featured as part of Fight Back Fridays--something you might find interesting if you are a bit of a food rebel like us!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An unconventional kitchen tour

We do a lot of things in our kitchen; cook, eat, laugh, drink wine, have deep, philosophical conversations, and yell at the cat to stop scratching the dining room chairs. Instead of showing you the mainstays in our kitchen (the fridge, the stove, the oven, none of which are in any way impressive), I thought I would give a little tour of the things I think make our kitchen unique (and amusing). Enjoy!

Kitchen rules, regulations, and general information
By: Spoon

This is what the bottom of the sink looks like every time I am about to finish up the dishes. I can't help that I really like to use spoons. Ginger can't help it either.

This is what the bottom of the sink looks like after a week or so of abuse by us. Disgusting, I know.
This is what a $0.69 can of Comet does for the bottom of our sink. It is now clean enough for us to abide by the 5-second rule, in the event that something edible ends up there.

This is something we call a dish mountain. It is a natural formation that occurs 98% of the time the dishes are done. Each formation is unique, and may draw from outside influences such as natural scenery, emotional moods, and Vincent van Gogh.

Wine bottles are kept on top of the fridge. No exceptions. We also don't recycle bottles very often, which results in visitors and family members questioning our sobriety. We're not drunks, we're just wine bottle pack rats. They're useful for watering plants, okay?

Baked goods are kept on top of the microwave. They are within view at all times and therefore, impossible to resist. They may be stacked according to likeliness of being squished if something else is placed on top of them. Bananas may be kept in close proximity to baked goods until they have reached the point of ripeness in which they begin to make everything around them taste like banana. Then they must be relocated.

To the right of the microwave is the knife block. Within this knife block resides pure evil in the form of a knife. It is not to be used unless all of the other knives are dirty, or unless you intend to use it to carve an apple into Mount Rushmore. It will not hesitate to cut your finger off if you insult it by pointing out the fact that it is the most useless knife in the whole block.

Required reading. Enough said.

We have mice. Big deal.
(The spinach leaf was added by Pi for an artistic effect)

Pi's water should be filtered and cooled at all times and be presented to her in the form of a waterfall. Her food dish should be spotless and constantly filled with the highest quality food that can be afforded by someone who works part-time at a vet hospital.

Well, that's about it for the kitchen tour, hope you enjoyed it, and now you know the rules if you ever come to visit. I just have a few more odds and ends to tack onto the end of this post...

Four things that make me happy
By: Spoon
1) The awesome e-mail I got this week!
2) Pi in the sunlight.

3) The book, "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler.

4) This video.

Mumford & Sons - The Banjolin Song / Awake my soul - A Take Away Show #105 from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.


Monday, February 21, 2011

indian-spiced sweet potato bread

Well thank goodness we have received 15 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours--I was really beginning to think that spring was going to come early, after this past week of puddles and 40-degree days. I have decided that all the snow melted last week just so there would be ample room for this next delightful bunch of it. And to tease us all, of course.

True, I know you're thinking "wow, how naive are you, living in Minnesota and thinking that spring would come to stay in the middle of February," yes, yes, I know, but it's hard to avoid getting excited for spring when the weather gets nice...and when the winter has been as ridiculous as this one. Apparently this is the 2nd-snowiest winter on record--and the snowiest since 1891. And apparently after this last snowstorm's 17-ish inches, we're 3 inches away from surpassing even that winter, when they had 76" of snow (for the whole winter).

I'd say I'm pretty confident that we'll see 3 more inches before the snow is really done for good--which will be perfect, because one of my life goals was to live through the snowiest winter in Minnesota history. At least it's looking like I'm going to live to tell abut it (fingers crossed). I guess as long as I don't take too many risks in the next month, it's looking like I will get out alive. Also, if you believe that I have wished for this for the past 22 years, you fail at interpretation of sarcasm.

At least we got a snow day out of the deal, and snow days, as it turns out, are good for doing many things--though you can't leave the house, of course. For example, I learned some valuable life skills because of this storm:  how to play cribbage, kitty litter works great for getting traction on ice, and firelogs work much better for starting fires than real wood. Spoon dared me to jump off the balcony into the snow, as well. I refused.

I did, however, get to spend some time baking--an imperative for a snow day. I had a giant sweet potato in the fridge that I had roasted earlier this week, and I thought I could work that in to some kind of delicious baked thing, so it became my blank canvas to try to do something creative with. I had also been doing some cooking with garam masala recently, so that was on my mind, and became the second half of my inspiration for my snow-day baking. Garam masala is a sweet, spicy Indian spice blend that lends a complex flavor, with notes of curry, cardamom, anise, and cinnamon--it's delicious. I've also found that it really goes incredibly well with the sweetness of roasted sweet potato, or any kind of winter squash, really. So thought process:  how about making bread with my sweet potato....and spicing it with garam masala? Mmmm, yes please. It turned out to be a good idea. You should try it.

I've written enough already, so here's that recipe, some pictures to get you hungry, and that video, in case you haven't heard of Mumford and Sons, because we think you should know about them. Talent + strings + passion = great music. These guys love what they do, and that's what makes it so sweet. Hope you like it.

Indian-spiced Sweet Potato Bread

1/4 cup butter, plus more for the pan
1/4 cup coconut oil (or just use more butter here if you like)
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala (or some combination of spices--if you don't have garam masala, be creative!)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup well-pureed roasted sweet potato or winter squash (butternut squash, pumpkin, etc..)
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (for topping)

Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat until it's brown and gives off a deliciously nutty aroma. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. You want the butter solids nicely toasted, but not scorched--make sure to keep an eye on it! Take off the heat and stir in the coconut oil, if using. Set aside and allow to cool while you put everything else together.

Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the top 1/3. Butter a 1-lb loaf pan (roughly 9x5x3-inches).

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, garam masala, ginger, and sea salt into a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, squash, and milk. Whisk in the still melted butter and coconut, but make sure it isn't hot to the touch. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in 2/3 of the walnuts, and try not to eat all the batter, as it will taste very much like caramel (I may or may not have had trouble with this step).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and remaining almonds, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center of the cake is well set. Do your best to avoid over-baking, part of the charm of this cake is its moistness, when it is baked properly. Use a cake tester if necessary. Let it cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then take it out and put it on a rack to cool completely. This would be a good time to cut off the end and sample your creation, and I certainly would not discourage eating it slathered with butter. Just saying. Good job being creative, and enjoy!


Friday, February 11, 2011

hey ya'll

Hi, my name is spoon.

Not really.

In fact, no one in the entire world calls me that.

But it is now my blogging alias, so we're all going to have to get used it. I'm spoon. My roommate is ginger.

Which is ironic, because she actually has red hair. I, on the other hand, use entirely too many spoons throughout the course of a day. Then, I proceed to complain about how there are never any spoons in the silverware drawer. I'm sure it's incredibly annoying.

Hence the alias.


I'm getting used to it.

Anyway, a little introduction. We are a strange pair. We met about 4 years ago in college, while suffering shared misery in a wonderful class known as organic chemistry (insert groaning here). We were the kind of friends who were only friends while in class. I think we only hung out once outside of class, and that was to eat popcorn and watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

Fast forward to 2010, where we both found ourselves in the situation of needing a roommate in order to avoid paying ridiculous amounts of rent. So we moved in together. We live in a tiny little apartment building in a big apartment in the middle of rural St. Paul.

Rural St. Paul?

Yes. We happen to be surrounded by the U of M research fields.

Corn=rural. This rule is always true and cannot be argued.

Ginger knows a lot about food. She is in the process of getting her masters in nutrition, so I defer to her when I have any questions regarding why my bottle of olive oil is cloudy or how to remove the liver from a mouse.

I am in the last week or so of pulling out all of my hair while waiting to hear back about whether or not I got into vet school at the U of M. It's maddening. In my spare time, I work at a small animal hospital in Minneapolis, chase my cat around the apartment, and watch youtube videos. All around, a pretty exciting existence.

I should probably also introduce the queen of the apartment.

Alias: Pi
(Reference ginger's first post for a pic)

I asked Pi what I should write about her in this intro post. She just wants you all to know that I don't feed her enough. She may not have said it that politely, but I edited it so as not to offend our readers...if we have any.

Since yesterday, I have thought up about a million things that I would like to write about on this blog, including, but not limited to: teeth, what I had for dinner two nights ago, the people that live above us, snow, the endless amusements I find on the internet, my squash muffins, awesome music, and buying plants at IKEA. If any of those topics sound amusing to you, I guess you will have to continue reading this blog. Lucky you.