Saturday, December 29, 2007
Thursday, we went to the movies, the movies are affordable here, $35 pesos on weekdays and matinees. We saw the Golden Compass, it was nothing great, I think you need to read the book to really enjoy the movie and we hadn't. So we had mall food for lunch. I concidered Burger King but we ended up at Los Trompos, which we knicknamed "all meat, all the time", but our favorite is to share a plate of Alambres de Res (or Al Pastor), which is thin slices of meat pan fried with bell peppers and onions and served with little flour tortillas. Once we ordered the platter for 2, and almost fainted, which is why we gave the place the nickname. The platter for 2 is chops, arrancherra,al pastor, some melted cheese, guacamole, some other meat, a cooked onion, some beans, and tortillas. It's enough for 4 or more, infact that is what we had at the State Fair and shared with La Muchacha and her daughter, we still brought home some scraps for Mr. Dog.
Today, we decided to go to the movies again, think we are feeling housebound, but don't really want to be around a lot of people, so we saw something called The legend of the lost treasure with Nicholas Cage, I don't know the name of the movie in English, but if you around 13 years old you will probably love it. The kids in the theatre did. Oh, since it was Saturday, the movie was $40.00 instead of $35.00 each. Still way cheaper than NOB. We shared a plate at Kalifornia something or other, it was Pollo in Salsa Baracoa, nothing like any barbecue sauce we'd ever had, maybe it was supposed to be terriyaki? But it was tasty enough, we got the entree and 3 side dishes, which in our case was mixed vegetables, fried bananas and fried potatoes, plus some "french" bread that was more like croutons. We also got green juice at La Michoacana, so that was virtuous.
This brings me to my food spending diary. I pretty much spend between $30.00 and $50.00 a day to eat. Even when we are out and about, though a few days ago we went out to breakfast for our anniversary and that was $110 each, but that is not our normal.
Friday, December 28, 2007
There are so many styles of vegetarians, for me it has always meant, you don't eat meat. By meat I mean beef, poultry, rabbit, game, fish, pork, mutton, goat, insects, crustaceans, invertebrates, fish and anything else that once was alive and breathing. If you chose to further restrict your choices by avoiding dairy, eggs and honey that means vegan to me.
It used to make me nuts, "oh, yeah, I am a vegetarian except I eat fish, or poultry or whatever", well, then you aren't a vegetarian cuz you eat meat, you are on a restricted diet for whatever reason. Okay, enough, just gripping and it doesn't make any difference what I think anyway, but I just thought I would clarify my terms.
Most people make pretty much the same stuff day in and day out, those books on simplifying your life tell you to toss all your cookbooks because you aren't going to be making more than one or two things from them and they take up space and clutter your life. Wow,maybe I want to simplify my life to free up more time to cook and experiment? So really, if you aren't interested in cooking as a process, you don't really need any cookbooks at all do you? Just a notebook where you write the five recipes you don't know by heart!
I just stopped and counted the cookbooks in the bookcase, there are 60 of them, I used to have more, but we foolishly got rid of them. I have been known to read and re-read them looking for ideas or just because they are interesting.
If I was only going to have one, it would probably be LaRousse Gastromonique , that pretty much covers all cooking situations, but that doesn't help if you want a vegetarian cookbook does it? I have a pretty nifty French vegetable cookbook called The French Vegetable Cookbook by Patricia Bourne, the directions are easy and the photos are pretty and the food is good.
In the 1970s in my hippie-dippy days I had Frances Moore Lappe's Diet for a Small Planet and Recipes for a Small Planet and of course, Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson. I'm think that Laurel's Kitchen is like the Fannie Farmer's for the novice vegetarian cook. The Small Planet recipes are not all that healthy or particularly tasty, the emphasis was on getting enough protein more than anything else, not a bad way to learn about complimentary proteins but no great shakes as cookbook.
Since it has been my experience that all the nifty things that make it easy to cook vegetarian aren't readily available here, I am talking about stuff like tofu, gluten (seitan) and TVP products other than the granules, the faux meats, one of the earlier versions of Laurel's Kitchen would be good, it doesn't assume that you have much choice, that Whole Foods or Trader Joe's doesn't exist yet, and generally you're on your own.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This is the perfect bread to make with a mixer and dough hook, the dough isn't really kneaded, it's a big return for a little time.
From James Beard's Beard on Bread
5 cups all purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon warm water
- In a large mixing bowl combine 3 cups of the flour, the yeast, sugar, and salt. Heat the milk in a saucepan until warm (100º to 115º) and add to the flour mixture beating by hand or in a mixer until quite smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff batter, add in more flour if needed. Cover the bowl, place in a warm place, and the batter rise until light and doubled in bulk, about an hour.
- Stir down the yeast batter and thoroughly blend in the dissolved soda. Divide the batter between 2 oiled 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 pans (I use silicon loaf pans) or 1 1/2 quart soufflè dishes. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Cook each loaf, uncovered, in the microwave oven for 6 minutes and 30 seconds, or until no doughy spots remain. Cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges and remove from the pan. Cool completely. To serve, slice and toast.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
It's pretty easy, pick the 6 or 7 nicest naranjas agridas you have, wash them well. Slice them thinly, seed the slices, and put them in a heavy pot with about a quart of water. The seeds go into another smaller pot with a cup of water.
The small pot goes on the boil, for about 5 minutes, strain the liquid and add it to the big pot, discard the seeds.
Bring the large pot to a boil, let it simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the pot, cover, go to bed, or whatever you want for about 8 hours or more.
Return the pot to a boil, reduce heat, simmer until the peels get tender.
If you are scientific, measure the liquid and add a cup of sugar for every cup of liquid, if you are me and lazy, dump in sugar until you feel that you have enough. Now cook until it's thick enough to jell. You may want to watch the pot, sugar water if it over boils makes a bit of a mess.
I use azucar standard
Saturday, December 22, 2007
This brings us back to home cooking, my idea of homecooking is probably different from yours. One of my favorite childhood treats was tostones, deep fried green banana chips. I once told Husband that one of the perks of living in Mexico is that I finally got enough fried bananas. If you follow the link you can find a lovely recipe for making your own, plus the photo is perfect! Yucatecans fry plaintains (platanos machos) too, but they fry them ripe, and serve a few alongside rice. La Muchacha told me that you can take overripe machos, mash them up, add a little corn starch for body and fry them up, which I will be doing today at lunch, since the ones that I bought went from green to ugly black while I was not looking.
One of my friends, gave me a recipe for homemade hamburger helper, I didn't see the sense in it and so I have lost it. I rarely bought something like hamburger helper because it didn't seem to save any money or time over a casserole from scratch. But, hamburger helper is not one of my comfort foods, and sometimes comfort foods is what it's all about.
Sometimes, Yucatecans ask me, what do Americans eat? I have to answer, I don't really know. Lasagna, pizza, apple pie and dim sum?
From the time I was 8 until I was almost 18, I lived in San Lorenzo, California, a bedroom community for San Francisco, and most of my friends were 1st generation Americans on one or both sides of their families. We used to have PTA International suppers to raise money for the school and families would bring a dish. The people organizing it would call everyone with a foreign last name and request a dish, my mom was always asked to bring something Mexican, I think she brought something Cuban a few times (probably Arroz con Pollo), but it kept getting being labeled as a Mexican dish, so rather than explain that we were Cuban, she learned to make Tamale Pie, it was just easier. Nowadays, I'm sure there would have been all sorts of cultural diversity issues raised, but in those days we all wanted to be Americans, speak English and assimilate.
The whole point of this post is that, only time will tell, where this blog will go, maybe it will include recipes for homemade Hamburger Helper later on the line, I don't know. No one has asked me any questions or made comments that cause me to think that, but only time will tell.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
So enjoy the article, and if you do decide to order one of the great cookbooks recommended, and are buying through Amazon, then please use the Amazon link provided on my blog.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
So far, on December 12th I consumed $38.60s worth of food, the 13th saw $32.00 slide down my gullet,on the 14th it was $47.76 and so far today I've munched my way through $37.00.
Today, we had French Onion soup for lunch, this can be really inexpensive, but since I used butter to fry the croutons and the onions, and the cheese was imported Gruyere, it wasn't. It was very good though and worth every centavo. Let's face it, I am not trying to be frugal, just getting an idea of what I spend on food every day.
I don't like the taste of Mexican butter very much it but I have a big block of unsalted in the freezer.That is what I use when I cook it tastes fine melted but to spread on toast, we indulge in imported butter. Our favorites are either the Danish butter or the one imported from New Zealand, I'd buy butter from California or Wisconsin if I could find it.
Imported cheeses are available here, for a price. As for Mexican cheeses, I love them with the possible exception of daysi, but I have heard that there is a more tasty brand of daysi out there. I like manchego, I use it all the time, in ham and cheese sandwiches, in quesadillas anywhere I would have used Monterrey jack. I like queso Oaxaca too, that is great anywhere you want a melted cheese. And you can eat it out of hand like string cheese.
I've heard that the cheese that the Mennonites sell is very good, but I have a hard time buying food from people whose personal hygiene is suspect. Of course, I would sweat too if I was dressed like them, so maybe I am being unfair.
Oh, and the soup cheese, the queso sopero. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I used it instead of Parmesan on fettuccine Alfredo and it was very good. My Alfredo recipe is this,cook fettuccine, drain, toss with butter, pour media crema over it, sprinkle cheese on top. Simple and fattening. I have learned not to have it as a main dish, rather as a side dish.
One of the cheeses I also use is panela, which is a sort of farmer's cheese. When I make either saag panir (panir with spinach) or mateer panir (peas with panir) I use panela instead of making yogurt cheese from scratch. I have also mixed panela with cottage cheese to stuff manicotti or make lasagna. It makes the cottage cheese drier.
Oh, and you can buy cottage cheese here, in the familiar plastic container or by weight in the deli section. It's called queso cotage.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I don't think of it as an exotic veggie, we had it in the supermarket NOB, but while reading Indian cookbooks (yeah, I am the sort of geck who reads cook books for fun, I also read encyclopedias, well used to, I don't have one here), I got the impression that they haven't always been so common. I bought chayote because they were $5.90 a kilo. I made cream of chayote soup for lunch today using the non-dairy cream of vegetable soup recipe with the addition of half a cup of white rice like billie suggested in the comments.
Usually, you encounter the chayote diced, either steamed or boiled, served with other veggies like corn and carrots. I have had it stuffed too, just like zucchini.
I think the soup is the perfect way to use it, but I also like it in candy. I have this theory that Mexicans in common with East Indians (called Indus here) will make candy out of anything. The Mexican method is to simmer assorted squashes and fruits in sugar syrup, the Indu method is to make a halwa of them. The chayote kind is called Sime Badnekai Halwa . I like this recipe from Laxmi's Vegetarian Kitchen by Laxmi Hiremath though Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking has a similar recipe where she substitutes zuchinini because she can't find green bottle gourds.
Today along with the cream of chayote soup, we had carrot raisin salad, white rice with garlic and peas, and short ribs braised in a barbecue style tomato sauce.
makes 20 one inch pieces.
1 large chayote (8 ounces or 225 grams)
3 tablespoons desi ghee or unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup half and half (I use media crema)
Seeds from 4 green cardamon pods, ground (I used 1 teaspoon ground cardamon until I got some from home)-cardamomo, molido
- Wash and wipe the chayote. Grate until you reach the seed,remove the seed, grate the remaining chayote.
- Combine the desi ghee and the grated chayote in heavy 12 inch skillet or wok. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until all the liquid evaporates and the mixture is fragrant but not browned. Add the sugar and the half and half. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is reduced to a thick paste taht pulls away from the sides of the pan and no liquid seeps out, about 12 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the cardamon. Pour the halwa into into a dinner plate. Spread into a 1/4 inch thick cake. Chill for 4 hours. Cut into 1 inch squares.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
After all that maligning of the humble lentil and brown rice combo I made spicy brown rice and lentil patties for lunch but I meant to use a Robert sauce, which I usually use on pork chops on them but decided to wing it so I just used some sherry, mustard and beef base thickened with a roux, it was good but not a classic French sauce by any means. I also used slices of the bread I baked earlier this week as trenchers so it was a sort of open face sandwich. We had my favorite multiple choice salad this time with apples, dried cranberries, Costco grated Italian cheese mix and pine nuts for the choices and of course the bean and chard soup. Until I can get more accurate, I think I spent $14.75 each for lunch. Breakfast and cena (including my 4 pesos for daily water) came to 22.00 so Wednesday I spent $34.75 which is about $3.21 usd. Remember this is per person. I am not trying to save money, just wondering how much I really do spend.
By the way, lentils and brown rice are more expensive here than in California with lentils being $16.20 a kilo for the large ones and $13.40 for the small ones. Brown rice is $10.85 for a kilo package.
1/2 cup lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup brown rice
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot shredded
4 cloves garlic
1 cube tomato chipolte caldo
2 1/2 cups water
Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer and boil gently until rice and lentils are soft and any excess liquid has been absorbed, approximately. Drain in a colander and let cool. Process in blender or food processor until smooth. Form into patties about 3 inches in diameter.
Heat a frying pan or griddle on medium high heat, add about a tablespoon of oil, when the oil is hot fry the patties, cooking on both sides until crisp. This can take up to 10 minutes depending upon the thickness of the patties and the temperature of the pan. Serve hot.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Then there was this article in the NY Times that stated that healthy food costs 10 times more than junk food. Wow! I have been pretty poor, and while I admit that my kids loved Ramen, when I finally read the label it stopped being a staple on our table, oh, it made it's appearance on occasion because it is an easy, tasty and fast lunch. Oops, I got off on a tangent, anyway, there was not a lot of junk food in my house. I find that premise disquieting at best, also I don't entirely agree. Junk food is expensive!
Reading the comments, there seemed to be a vocal group that said that while it was certainly possible to eat well for less, that diet would be boring. There was much maligning of the humble lentil. I think it is more than possible to eat well on less than $3 (for the purposes of this post I am using dollars because most of the information is in USD) but the key is variety in seasoning.
I also found this interesting slide show called "What the World Eats" on Time's website. There was an American family of 4 living in North Carolina who spent $341.98 usd per week, another 4 member family in California who spent $159.18, a Mexican family from Cuernavaca of 5 who spent $189.09 (did you see all that soda?), the family of 4 from Great Britain spent $253.15 and for contrast the 13 member family in Bhutan who spent and amazing $5.03! The German family of 4 spent the most, $500.07 a week.The photographs, shot by Peter Menzel are from the book "Hungry Planet".It sounds like a good read, it would also be interesting to know what percentages of the families' income is spent on food.
All this got me thinking about how much do I spend on food a week? Part of me wants to take the easy answer and say $60 max, but I don't really know. We have tried to keep track of our expenses with varying degrees of success, computer crashes and lack of follow through have been our downfall. I like to think that on an average I spent 600 pesos every 2 weeks at the grocery store, but that isn't accurate, since I also shop at Costco and that stuff lasts much longer (I have half of a jar of sun dried tomatoes in olive oil in the fridge that I bought about a year ago, I use the tomatoes but a little goes a long way.). So I think I am going to keep track of what I spend each day on food, starting tomorrow. I'll share the results with you next week.
I'm pretty sure that I spend less than $3 a day per person, but maybe I am deluding myself?
I also added a poll for you to participate in, how much do you spend?
Monday, December 10, 2007
It is my belief that children need to know (before they go out on their own ) how to cook, sew and various household tasks, I don't care if they never do them again, but they need to know how before they leave home. So the when the opportunity to send Son to professional cooking school came up, we took it. He is a great cook too, but what he likes is baking, he can whip up the most amazing breads and cookies.
Alas, he is living in California, and his roommates get to sample his culinary treats not us.
This all leads to the fact that if I want bread, I have to make it. Oh, I can ask Husband if he thinks the dough is kneaded enough or doubled, but I am left to actually do it.
I am not all that excited about the average bread you can buy here in the panederias, mostly they are fluffy white empty calories. No substance. I think it is because of two things, the lack of high gluten flour and the climate. During the summer it's warm and muggy and I think the bread rises too fast, if I had the space I would make slow rise bread by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight, but alas my fridge is too small. I doubt that a bakery here would want to invest in machinery just to retard the rise of their bread. I don't know enough about wheat to understand why they don't have bread flour here, maybe there is not enough of a call for it. I asked at the cooking school and they told me that they didn't know where to buy it either. I even asked at the reposteria where I buy yeast and they said they didn't sell it.
So I got out Husband's copy of James Beard's cookbook Beard on Bread and decided to make George Lang's Potato Bread with Caraway Seeds. I made a few changes because that is who I am, but the recipe that I am giving you is copied directly from the book. I replaced 8 ounces of the all purpose flour with whole wheat (harina intergral) , I used 2 tablespoons of salt and I used1 tablespoon of caraway seeds (that was actually an accident, I grabbed the tablespoon instead of the half tablespoon).The salt was perfect for our taste but I think I used too much caraway, so I don't recommend that change.
One of the things I like about having a heavy duty mixer is that it comes with a dough hook. Oh, the purists say it isn't the same, but as I said, I am not a baking aficionado. That is when I discovered that my mixer is possessed! I plugged the machine in, I slid the switch to stir, and I was rewarded with a spray of flour. I switched it off, I checked the plug, I gingerly slid the switch to the stir setting, once again the dough hook took off spinning like the Mad Hatters' Teacup ride at Disneyland. After messing with it,and redecorating my kitchen in all purpose flour, I asked Husband to see what was happening. He proclaimed it "broken" a technical term he no doubt learned in the electronic technician's program that he graduated from.
I sighed and dumped the mass of dough on the counter and kneaded it by hand. Of course, as soon as I was elbow deep in dough, the architect whom we thought was coming by in the morning arrived.
I did get the bread baked, in fact, I am munching on a piece while typing, which accounts for my lack of speed. It's pretty good, chewy with a nice crumb. I may make cheese fondue tomorrow to eat with any left over slices.
makes 1 large free-form loaf
3 medium potatoes, or enough to make 1 cup mashed potatoes
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups warm water (110º to 115º, approximately)
2 pounds unbleached all purpose flour (approximately 8 cups)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon caraway seed
Scrub the potatoes and boil them in their skins until tender. Drain them, then peel and mash or put them through a potato ricer while they are still warm. Allow the potatoes to cool.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, mix well with 3 tablespoons of the flour in a large bowl, and let this "starter" rise for 30 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of warm water, the salt and the caraway seeds, then add the remainder of the flour and the mashed potatoes and mix well. Turn out on a floured board and knead until the dough is elastic and supple and has great life to it, about 12 to 15 minutes. Shape into a ball. Oil a bowl, put the dough into it, and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Place in a warm, draft free spot for 1 to 2 hours to rise until doubled in bulk.
Remove the dough, punch down, and knead 4 to 5 minutes. Shape into a large round loaf, place in a buttered 12-inch oven proof skillet with rounded sides, and let rise for about 30 to 35 minutes. Brush the loaf with water, and then make a deep incision in the form of a cross in the center. Bake it in a pre-heated 400º oven for 1 hour, or until it is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped with the knuckles. (The baking time can vary, taking even as long as 1 1/4 hours).
- If you find the dough is not too soft, you might try letting it rise in a free-form shape on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Then slide it directly onto hot tiles to bake (see page 12).
- You may want more salt in this bread the second time you make it; I find that 2 tablespoons is not too much.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Which leads to this post, I thought out of morbid curiosity to list all the spices that I have acquired since I came here. I'll use red for the ones that someone brought from NOB, but the bulk of them were bought at regular supermarkets Walmart, Megabalcones, Chedraui and foreign food section of Liverpool. Whenever I see a "new" supermarket and we have time to stop in, I cruise the aisles looking to see what they have, and I always make a special stop in the spice aisles to see what is available that I might not already have.
Pimienta Tabasco en Grano
Hojas de Laurel
Semilla de Alcaravea
Cayenne (actually a substitute for)
Chile piquin molido
Clavo entero also called clavos de olor to distinguish them from carpenter's nails
Semilla de cilantro
Curry de la India
Hojas de Eneldo
Mexican pepperleaf (Piper auritum)
Nuez Moscada Molida
Pimentòn dulce (also just Pimenòn)
Pimienta Negra, entera
Pimienta Verde Entera
Pimienta Rosa Entera
Friday, December 7, 2007
2 large eggplants (berenjenas)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil (or you can use the bacon grease)
2 tablespoons capers (alcaparras)
1/2 cup chopped green olives (aceitunas)
1 cup cooked brown rice (arroz intergral)
8 strips of cooked bacon, diced
1/2 cup grated Italian cheese (I use the Costco 4 Italian Cheese Blend)
1 tablespoon dried parsley (perejil)
1 tablespoon dried basil (albahaca)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (is there any other kind?)
Halve the eggplants lengthwise. Scoop out the centers, dice the centers. Put the eggplant shells in a glass casserole and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Remove them from the microwave and allow them to cool.
Heat a large saute pan and add 2 tablespoons fat (either the olive oil or the bacon grease) when it's hot (don't let the oil or grease burn or smoke) add the onions and bell pepper and cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the onions are just golden and the bells are tender. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add the remaining fat to the pan and saute the diced eggplant until tender.
Combine the eggplant with the onion/bell mixture and stir in the remaining ingredients.
Place the eggplant shells in a greased glass casserole ( I reuse the one I cooked them in), and divide the stuffing among the 4 halves.
Microwave on high for 15 minutes or until heated through.
1 quart broth (either chicken or vegetable)
1 pound vegetable ( this can be pumpkin, broccoli, carrot, kohlrabi, whatever)
Cook the vegetables in the broth. When they are tender, remove them from the broth and use either the blender or food processor to puree them. Add small amounts of liquid as needed, if you are making a lot of soup, process in smaller batches.
Return the pureed vegetables to the pot and combine with the remaining broth. Add appropriate seasonings, such as salt and pepper and/or ginger and nutmeg for pumpkin or carrot soup. Simmer until the flavours are married.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I often use peanut oil)
1 pound tomatillos (or about 4 medium green tomatoes)
2 to 4 cloves garlic, sliced (I use 4!!)
2 fresh hot green peppers, stemmed and chopped (serranos or jalapeños are good, I also seed them).
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro with stems.
1/3 cup roasted peanuts (I have used the same amount of peanut butter, if it is the kind with sugar added, I omit the brown sugar).
1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin (toast the whole cumin in a dry pan and then grind it).
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (I use azucar standard rather than mascada for this)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Watercress sprigs, for garnish (I have no idea where to buy watercress here, so I omit it).
1. Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes/tomatillos, garlic and chiles. Stir and fry until the tomatoes are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
2. Transfer the mixture to a blender (or food processor). Add the peanuts (or peanut butter), cumin, sugar (if needed), and salt and blend until smooth.
This will keep covered in the refrigerator for 1 month or frozen for up to 6 months according to Laxmi but I have always used it up pretty quickly. If you do freeze or refrigerate, you need to bring the spread to room temperature before serving.