juthwara: (Default)
I spent last Friday at work discovering just how much of an appalling mess our shelf list and card catalog are in. I spent literally all day trying to file cards and in general finding five cards to refile in the correct place for every one I filed initially. And now I get to figure out a way to diplomatically put the elderly volunteer who filed those cards out to pasture.

For those of you who are trying to dredge up from the dim recesses of your memories how card catalogs work, every book at minimum has three cards - author, title and shelf list, the shelf list being the list that reflects the order of books on, well, the shelf (there are also cards for each subject heading, and series, and artists, ad infinitum. Basically any way you would want to find a book, you need a card. But of course, since creating and filing cards takes time and space, you're always constrained by not wanting to create any more cards than necessary, even though since you can't do a keyword search, they're the only way you will find a book. Do you begin to see what a revolutionary thing the computerized catalog was?). But as I was going through the catalog, I would find all three cards shoved in together in the shelf list, so instead of being able to look up a book by its title or author to find out where it is on the shelf, you could only find a book by already knowing where it belongs on the shelf. This is... not helpful.

The volunteer who was doing such a creative filing job hasn't been in for the past six months, and while he was going to come in that day, we weren't expecting him to do any work. So when I mentioned to my manager that he shouldn't file cards any more, she said that it probably wouldn't be an issue. Instead, after catching up with my manager, he came over to me and asked if he should start filing some cards. Argh! I said something non-committal, and my manager asked him to help double-check her accounting with the petty cash, avoiding this issue for that week. But he's planning on coming in next week. Double argh.

Volunteers are a great thing for any cash-strapped organization. But the problem with them as opposed to a paid employee is that it's a lot harder to fire them for incompetence without feeling like an absolute heel. He's a sweet man, and I really don't know how to say that we don't want his help any more. I'm cravenly hoping that my manager will be the bad guy in this.

****

On a completely different topic, tonight's dinner (recipe courtesy of a Facebook friend) didn't taste exactly like the Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden, but it was darn tasty, and surprisingly quick and easy. It helped that I've been trying to be better about meal planning recently, and doing things like making meals that can use the same ingredient more than once, so I can cut up a bunch of potatoes or cook up a bunch of chicken to use over a couple meals and have ingredients ready when I go to cook.

Note: this recipe makes a tankload of soup. I cut it in half and still had to use two pots when one was getting overfull. I would cut it down to about a third if you don't want leftovers for the next five years.

Ingredients:
3 (14 ounce) cans of chicken broth
9 cups water
3-5 pieces bacon
1 lb italian sausage, loose ground
4 large russet potatoes; skin on and cut into bite sized chunks
1 large white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half
1/2-11/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2-1 Tablespoon black pepper (to taste)
1/2-1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
2 cups kale leaves, chopped (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large stock pot combine the water, chicken broth, salt and potatoes and set to a low boil.

2. In a separate pan fry up the bacon until lightly crispy and set aside; save the bacon grease.

3. In the same pan used to cook the bacon add the Italian sausage, onion and olive oil and simmer on low until the sausage is browned and the consistency of hamburger.

4. Chop the bacon into small shreds and add to the cooked sausage, then add everything into the soup pot.

5. Mix the garlic, powders and half-and-half into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

6. 5 Minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.
juthwara: (Cooking)
1 cup multigrain baking mix
1/2 tsp baking powder (or 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour + 1 1/2 tsp baking powder)
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup dry milk powder
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
4 T butter, melted
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 T vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (or 1 large apple, chopped finely or grated and 1 tsp cinnamon for apple cinnamon muffins)

Preheat over to 350

Mix flour, baking powder, milk powder, whey protein powder and flaxseed meal in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together agave nectar, eggs, butter, ricotta and vanilla. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix together. Stir in blueberries. Spoon batter into muffin tin and bake in 350 degree over for 20-25 minutes (check often since flax meal likes to brown quickly).

So far, these seem to be great muffins if you need to watch your blood sugar. Flaxseed meal is essentially all fiber, and can be used to replace quite a lot of flour in a recipe. The milk, protein powder, eggs and ricotta combine together for a nice amount of protein to keep blood sugar in check. Agave nectar is some sort of unholy concoction that has freakishly little affect on the blood sugar. And I can't think of a better use for the lovely fresh blueberries I picked up the other day (except perhaps for shoveling them into my mouth like a bear coming out of hibernation). In total, a large muffin has 15 grams of carbohydrate, 2.5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein. Not bad at all for a baked good.
juthwara: (Cooking)
We all have sore throats, so we've been eating a lot of soup lately (to the point that one of the counter people at Panera knows me by name). Dinner tonight was Pho, a Vietnamese beef soup and it was a definite hit.

I used the recipe here (I highly recommend this blog, btw - it has tons of great crockpot recipes), with a few modifications. The biggest one is that I omitted the fish sauce because the beef I got at Trader Joe's was marinating in a sauce for Korean bulgogi. I looked at the ingredients and none of them conflicted with the flavor profile of pho, so I decided to give it a try. I omitted the anise because I don't like it and used ginger powder instead of fresh ginger because that's what I had. I added approximately two cups of fresh bean sprouts at the very end of cooking, so they would be warm and somewhat cooked, but not stewed and gross.

As it turned out, the bulgogi marinade was a fantastic gamble. The long slow cooking in the crockpot made the beef tender and delicious and the entire meal was just divine.

I threw up my hands in despair a while ago and decided that I just wasn't meant for Southeast Asian cooking, Thai in particular. I can never get ingredients as good as they have in restaurants, and they're often not quite right, like having to use Italian basil instead of Thai. I have to buy a bunch of large bottles of stuff that I don't use often enough to use them up before they go bad, which means it doesn't wind up being cheaper to cook that sort of thing at home, so I might as well just go to a restaurant where it's cooked by an expert. But pho is going to become part of my regular repertoire, so maybe I can conquer some of the cuisine of Southeast Asia after all.
juthwara: (Default)
Artichoke pasta

12 oz quartered artichoke hearts, frozen or from a can, drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4 oz chicken or vegetarian chicken substitute (roughly one chicken breast) cut into strips (this is entirely optional - I wouldn't have added it but [livejournal.com profile] longstrider often needs a concentrated protein source)
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Bunch of kalamata olives, sliced
2 Tbsp basil pesto
8 oz pasta

Start water boiling for pasta and add pasta when it's boiling. While that's happening, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the garlic. If you chicken is raw, add it as well and saute until chicken is cooked and garlic is brown. Add the artichoke hearts and olives (and chicken if precooked), saute for 3-4 more minutes (possibly less, since I was starting with frozen artichoke hearts. Take off heat, stir in pesto and crumbled feta. Serve over pasta (I used Trader Joe's artichoke tortelloni, which was a divine combination).
juthwara: (Default)
17 Bean Soup

One bag Trader Joe's 17 Beans and Barley (or just about any 16 oz bag of mixed beans will do. Heck, if you're violently opposed to bean miscegenation, just about any bag of dry beans is fine. I think navy beans would work particularly well. But mixed beans are more interesting, in the great tradition of the American melting pot)
4 leeks, roots and greens chopped off, split lengthwise and chopped into half inch pieces (I used this many leeks because that's how many I had. You could also use two leeks and then something like a bell pepper and a cup of chopped celery or onion)
6 cups beef or vegetable broth (I used beef. I need to find an East Coast source for the vegatable broth I used to use. Using vegetable broth can be a dicey proposition depending on the ingredients, but this brand is yummy, and it even uses leeks so it would match this soup well)
One cup carrot, chopped
4 oz pancetta, diced
(if your grocery store's deli isn't fancy-pants enough to carry pancetta, regular plain-jane bacon would work)
One can diced tomatoes
1 T oregano
1 1/2 tsp basil


Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain and rinse the beans, then put in a pot and cover with broth.

Sautee the pancetta in a frying pan until a fair amount of fat is rendered out (I wound up adding some olive oil to the pan as well), then add the leeks and carrots. Sautee until the vegetables are soft, then add to the soup, along with tomatoes. Simmer on the stove for an hour (or until the beans are cooked), or cook in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top

Calories: 280 Fat: 5 g Carbohydrates: 40 g Fiber: 12 g Protein: 17 g

Hamburger soup (adapted from the Sunset Crockpot Cookbook, circa roughly 1968)

16 oz cooked pasta (the original recipe calls for macaroni, but I say throw aside the shackles of conventional bourgeois pasta shapes and go for the gusto! Use a penne or get really saucy with a three color rotini. Also: as a diet tip, Barilla Plus pasta has a ton of extra fiber and protein, yet by some dark and unholy magic still tastes like normal pasta. And they did it without adding tons of soy, which made me a little too excited when I found that out. Hey, you spend a year religiously avoiding soy while breastfeeding and you too will know that pathetic joy)
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onions, chopped
4 cups beef broth
(and here we get to where I made the main changes. The original recipe called for a packet of onion soup mix, which is how you can tell this is a cookbook from the 60s, when it was apparently just too hard to chop an onion and pour in some broth. Also, without the soup mix, you might miss getting your year's allowance of sodium)
1 can tomato soup
1 tsp oregano
(I tend to be quite profligate with oregano, so I'm sure I use more than this)
1/4 tsp season salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese


Brown the ground meat, although that's not strictly necessary and you can just crumble it into the pot. Add everything except cheese and pasta to the pot, simmer for half an hour (until meat is cooked and vegetables are soft) or put in slow cooker for 6 hours on low or 3 on high. Add pasta and cheese and cook for another 15 minutes.


I haven't calculated the nutritional info on this. If I'm feeling ambitious tomorrow, I'll come back and add it in.
juthwara: (Default)
Pesto Artichoke Chicken

1 1/2 - 2 pounds of chicken breasts
2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (bonus if they're the kind with olive oil and garlic)
1/3 cup basil pesto
1 bulb of garlic, cloves peeled but still whole
15 ounces quartered artichoke hearts (frozen or canned both work)

Preheat oven to 375 F

1. Put chicken breasts on bottom of large casserole dish
2. Combine tomatoes, pesto, garlic and artichoke hearts in a bowl and mix well
3. Pour mixture over chicken
4. Bake for 40 minutes at 375 (roughly - I started with frozen breasts so it took closer to an hour)

Serve over rice with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

This can also been cooked in the crock pot on low for 7-8 hours.
juthwara: (Default)
(I really need a cooking icon)

Spinach lasagna

(adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle's recipe)

1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked (or use Trader Joe's keen no-boil noodles)
1 pound frozen spinach
1 onion, minced
2 carrots, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp or so of dried basil
1 Tbsp of dried oregano
2 Tbsp olive oil
15 oz. tomato sauce (one can)
2 cups ricotta, thinned with some milk
2 cups mozzarella
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. Heat olive oil in a frying pan; add onion, garlic and carrot and cook until they soften. Add spinach and herbs, cook until spinach is thawed and warm.

2. Thin ricotta with half a cup of milk or so, until it's easy to pour and spread. If you're all about the cheese (and I can't think of any right-thinking person who isn't), stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.

3. Put down a layer of lasagna noodles in a 9 x 13 pan. Spread in layers: 1/2 of the ricotta, 1/2 of the vegetable mixture, 1/3 of the tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat, then finish with a layer of noodles, the rest of the tomato sauce and the rest of the mozzarella cheese on top. Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. *

*This is important, at least if you have my oven and is most of the reason I decided to write this recipe down. The original recipe calls for 40 minutes, which has twice resulted in a thick brown verging on black crust that required a very sharp knife to penetrate. I'm all for golden brown cheese, but this was excessive.
juthwara: (Default)
Lemon ricotta pancakes with sauteed apples
(an amalgam of these two recipes)

Pancakes:

1 3/4 cups (15 ounces) park skim ricotta cheese
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs*
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2/3 cup wheat flour
3 tablespoons canola oil
confectioners' sugar for serving

1. in a medium bowl, whisk ricotta, granulated sugar, eggs and orange zest. whisk in flour until combined.

2. in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-low. add batter, using only 1/4 cup for each pancake. cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. serve hot, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

*the original recipe calls for two, but that clearly wasn't enough liquid, given that it produced a batter as stiff as a corpse with a three day rigor mortis. The other pancake calls for four eggs and less flour, so I'm guesstimating that will produce a more liquid batter that's a little easier to pry off of the spoon.

Apples:

5 medium apples, cored and sliced (you can peel them as well, but I'm too lazy to peel most things as long as the peel is edible. I do, for instance, peel oranges, the cucumbers that come coated in so much wax you could stick a wick in them and use them as a candle and would peel hard-boiled eggs if I liked eggs, but I can't be bothered when it comes to potatoes or apples or suchlike)
2 tablespoons butter-like substance (I don't usually keep butter around, so I used margarine. If you have butter, by all means be all la-di-da and use it)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
fresh lemon juice to taste

Prepare the sautéed apples:
In a large heavy skillet sauté the apples in the butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened, sprinkle them with the sugar and the cinnamon, and cook them over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Stir in the lemon juice and keep the mixture warm.

Serve pancakes with apples over the top, with maple syrup added to taste. Yum! Then discover that your daughter is in fact allergic to cinnamon, as you had suspected ever since the time she broke out after eating apple-cinnamon oatmeal. Poor K. As if her rotten cold weren't bad enough.

A note for those with blood sugar issues: I normally can't eat pancakes, or at least not without eating a lot of protein along with them, otherwise I wind up sending my blood sugar up to the startosphere, then down the express elevator to the basement. But the amount of ricotta in these pancakes provided more than enough protein to keep me stable. I need to remember this for the future.
juthwara: (Default)
Adapted from this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

This was supposed to be a stuffed peppers recipe with couscous. Only I didn't have couscous so I substituted brown rice. And I have a philosophy when it comes to certain things called "Life's too short." In this case it goes, "Life's too short to shovel filling into a vegetable when you can just chop it all up and shove it in a casserole dish instead and have it taste the same." Also, I was busy and wanted the shortest cooking method. I also added parmesan cheese because 1), a topping of cheese or bread crumbs or the like help prevent the top of a casserole from drying out and getting overbrowned and 2), there are very few dishes that can't be improved with more cheese. So here's the brown rice, chop-eveything-up-and-stick-it-in-a-casserole version of couscous and feta stuffed peppers.

Cooking oil for the frying pan
1 3/4 cups fat-free chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup uncooked brown rice
3 bell peppers, mixed colors (one of those three-packs of yellow, red and orange would be ideal), chopped into roughly one-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 oz zucchini, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly
6 oz yellow squash, quartered lengthwise then sliced across thinly (I wound up using two medium yellow squash and one medium zucchini and it was the perfect amount)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt (I forgot to add this, and with the saltiness of the feta we never missed it)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
15 oz canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 oz crumbled feta cheese (about 1 cup)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
parmesan cheese, shredded

Put the broth and rice in a rice cooker about half an hour before you plan to do the rest of your cooking. Preheat the oven to 350. Sautee the sqash, peppers, onion and oregano until cooked (I like to add a tablespoon or two of water after the pan is heated up to create steam to help the cooking go faster). Combine cooked vegetables with the cooked rice, chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste and feta cheese in a two quart casserole and sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top to taste. Put in the oven for 20 minutes or so (I did 15 and it didn't seem like it got quite hot enough, so I would go for 20-25 next time).

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