Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tiny Kitchen

Our tiny kitchen
 Shaun and I live in a small-ish apartment in Minneapolis (we just measured and it's about 400 sq. ft.). One room that is particularly small relative to my idea is the kitchen. When we first moved in we were taken aback a bit the size. Obviously we cook a lot and the space has turned out to be more functional than I originally thought. I figured it would be good to share some of the things we have done to organize the space a bit better.
Peg board backsplash
DIY Pot Rack

 The first thing was to add peg board. We got the peg board at the hardware store and had them cut it for us. I don't remember exactly but I think the peg board and screws for attaching it to the wall were about $20. The hooks were about $10. We used dry wall hooks and haven't had a problem with the weight. You can also see our weird vertical wine rack that we found at a thrift store

Organized Spice Drawer (Finally!)
The most recent thing we did was organize the spice drawer. I am really excited about it. I didn't think to take a before and after picture, but I have been buying spices from the bulk section in little bags for YEARS! Prior to this the drawer (and prior to that a small box) were filled with little baggies of spices, many of them unlabeled (whoops). It was really difficult to find what you were looking for and looked very cluttered. We bought all of the little tins here for $.69 each. We got 20 and when you include shipping and handling the project was about $20. But having organized spices that are easy to sort through has been great. Plus I really like aesthetics of the spice drawer now. 

Shelves that double as additional counter space
Cupboard with baking things and snacks
We were also able to fit one and a half book shelves in our tiny kitchen. Not only do they provide enough storage to make the kitchen functional, the small one is the perfect height for a counter. We got the plastic bins at target for around $1 each. We also found a bunch of mason jars at a thrift store for pretty cheap. I know the internet is full of the many many many used for mason jars, but I'll add my two cents. We use mason jars for glasses, food storage, and food transportation. I love that I can put my morning coffee in a jar, put a lid on it and through it in my bag, then microwave it when I get to work. But the thing I really love about mason jars is that they are STANDARDIZED. So I can go to pretty much any store and buy some lids and know that they will fit any of my jars. Or I can pick up a jar at any random thrift store and know that I have lids for it. I sometimes joke that maybe living in a communist country wouldn't be so bad if everything was like a mason jar.
Cupboard with dishes and glasses
Here are some pictures of our cupboards. They aren't too exciting, it is more to show how we have organized things. Not pictures is the cupboard under the sink which is where we store baking pans and plastic bags. It is not as pretty as these cupboards. Try as we might we still often end up with a lot of plastic bags. You also can't see our dish rack. It usually occupies a square of our tiny counter. But when not in use it lives on top of our refrigerator. 

So yeah, I still hope to have a bigger kitchen someday but I am pretty proud of how we have organized our kitchen and have been surprised at how functional such a small space can be.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Shaun's Special Birthday Menu

Happy birthday to my wonderful partner and best friend Shaun Daniel! Photo by Lindsay Wallace

 Interrupting posts on what we eat during the week. We sometimes make extra special dishes for extra special occasions. Shaun's birthday was a couple of weeks ago. We celebrated by having a special dinner together at home. The menu included: spinach salad with bacon, roast chicken, wild rice, creamy mushroom sauce.

We very rarely eat meat at home, and Shaun had requested that his birthday menu include some. Both the chicken and the bacon came from a small family farm in Minnesota, though I purchased it at the Wedge co-op, not directly from the farmer. This meal was my gift to Shaun, so it is not reflected in our weekly budget of $85. Many of the ingredients were more expensive than we usually purchase. I think everything including a bottle of inexpensive wine cost about $30, but we had leftover chicken sufficient for several other meals. It was a lot of fun preparing the meal together, and it is still less expensive than if we went out.

Spinach Salad
2 to 3 large hand fulls of spinach
2 slices of bacon
1/2 red onion sliced thin
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil

Roast chicken with creamy mushroom sauce and wild rice!
Roast Chicken
1 chicken
1 small apple, cored, and cut into quarters
1 onion, sliced
3 or 4 carrots, sliced
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
salt and pepper

Mushroom Sauce
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp cream
salt and pepper to taste

Wild Rice
1/2 cup wild rice
2 cups vegetable broth

The chicken before it went into the oven
Start with the chicken. Remove any giblets that are inside the chicken. Put the apple in the now empty cavity. Mix spices and butter. I just used my hands to do this. Pry skin away from chicken and rub herb butter underneath the skin. I try to get the butter mixture under the skin around the breast, because I think that is the part of the chicken that is most likely to dry out, and because it is easiest. I usually rub some remaining herb butter over the skin and put a little in the cavity. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the chicken. Put onions and carrots on the bottom of the pan you are going to use to roast the chicken (I used a large cast iron skillet). Place chicken on top of vegetables. Roast at 425 for about an hour, or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees.

While the chicken is roasting start the wild rice. Wild rice is a 4 to 1 ration so use four parts liquid to one part rice. It takes about 50 minutes to cook.

For the mushroom sauce, saute mushrooms in a little olive oil for 5 to 10 minutes. They are done when they have released all of their liquid and turned golden brown. Then just add the two tbsp cream along with some salt and pepper.

For the salad (not pictured) cook the two slices of bacon until crispy and then set aside. Leave bacon fat in pan. Add the red onions and saute in bacon fat until tender. Add all other ingredients and heat for another minute or two. Pour warm dressing over spinach and toss until just wilted. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recipe Review: Vegan Beet Burgers

In the Halloween menu plan that I posted I included a beet burger recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen. They were right, the beet does make the resulting patties look very "authentic". I made some pretty significant changes though that I thought I would share. The biggest one is that I didn't have any cooked rice so I used cooked oatmeal, which is much faster.

Here is roughly what I used:

1 cup uncooked lentils cooked and drained
1 cup uncooked oatmeal cooked in 1 1/2 cups water
3 to 4 small beets, grated
4 tbsp. finely chopped onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fennel
salt and pepper to taste

I don't have a food processor so I just mixed all of these ingredients together and then used an immersion blender to puree it very slightly. I let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. When it was time to prepare the burgers I followed Isa's advice and made very large burgers and cooked them for a full 6 minutes on each side.

Beet burgers with sweet potato fries
I was really happy with how these burgers turned out, and in fact they are making a repeat appearance on this week's menu plan. I liked using oatmeal because it is quicker, and also very sticky so I think it helped the patties hold together without any egg. The fennel taste came through quite strongly, and I realized I am not a big fan of fennel. I will probably change the spices up a bit when I make them again on Thursday.

These patties were also relatively quick to make and the ingredients are very inexpensive, especially if you are buying beets in season (and at the time of writing it is beet season). The most time consuming parts of the process are grating the beets and cooking them on the stove. If you own a food processor, the grating part is no problem at all, and even without a food processor I would estimate it took me 15 to 20 minutes to grate the necessary beets. I made these patties on the stove because I wanted the outside to be slightly charred a la a hamburger, but generally I think it is much easier to make veggie burgers in the oven. I will try the oven method on Thursday and let you know how it turns out.

All in all, I would highly recommend this recipe! Thank you Post Punk Kitchen

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sunday: Roasted Cauliflower Curry over Barley

 This meal was part of the menu plan for the week of November 11th. I like to make sure I have plenty of leftovers on Sundays so that we have something to take for lunch on Monday. Recipes that can be easily doubled or tripled are good. This recipe made 6 servings.

Cauliflower Curry
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Cauliflower curry over barley
1 tbsp oil
1 to 2 cups cooked beans, I used soy beans (about one can if using canned, or 1 cup un-soaked if using dry)
1 can coconut milk
2 cup vegetable broth or water
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 cup raisins
salt and pepper to taste

2 cups barley
4 cups vegetable broth or water

For curry,
Preheat oven to 375. Spread oil on a cookie sheet or in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Add vegetables, onion, and garlic in a single layer on top of the oil. Roast vegetables for about 35 minutes or until tender.

While the vegetables are roasting you should start the barley. You can use rice, or any other grain you like, but I happen to really like barley. Bring vegetable broth to a boil, add barley. Cook covered for 30 to 45 minutes, or until barley is tender and broth is absorbed.

When the vegetables are done combine them all of the other curry ingredients in a large pot and simmer on low for about 15 minutes. This is to give the flavors a chance to combine, but I think it would be delicious even if you only waited a couple of minutes for everything to heat through. Regardless, any leftovers will have plenty of chance to combine flavors. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Menu Plan week of November 11th

Winter seems to have arrived in Minneapolis. It snowed a little a couple of weeks ago, but then it got warm again. I was actually able to where short sleeves yesterday. And then today the high is in the 30s and it is predicted to stay there. I am kind of excited. Moving from Oregon I kind of psyched myself up for a super intense winter, and last year it was very mild (by Minnesota standards). The cold weather is cozy. It is nice to sit in my apartment and thing about all of the delicious things I plan to make this week.

Despite the cold weather and impending snow, we are still receiving our CSA box. I forgot to take a picture of it last week, and will try to remember on Friday when we get our new box (winter CSA boxes come bi-monthly) . In our last CSA box we got: carrots, red onions, winter squash, collards, loose salad spinach, savor cabbage, cauliflower, cilantro, and radishes. We used up the collards and spinach last week, but you will see the other items featured prominently in this weeks menu plan.

Cauliflower Currey over barley

Radish salad

Cabbage and Barley Casserole

Black bean soup with roasted squash

Beet Burgers
Roasted Potatoes

This is when we will be getting a new box of veggies!

I will try to add links to actual recipes as they are completed and tested, but sometimes I find it helpful just to look at ideas for what to serve for dinner. I am sure there are delicious versions of all of these things on the internet somewhere.  

Monday, October 29, 2012

What about those goals you mentioned?

I talked yesterday about menu planning which was part of a series of goals focused on "planning ahead" for this fall. Menu planning has been very successful, but there were five other goals I set for myself this fall. How am I doing on those? Well, let's recap, my goals were:
  • Sign up for a winter CSA
  • Purchase staple items in bulk
  • Can tomatoes
  • Make meal plans at the beginning of each week
  • Give up the clothes dryer
  • Ask farmers market growers about their practice
I have to admit that I have not been perfect on these. I did sign up for a winter CSA that actually starts next week. I am super excited about it. I live in Minnesota and last year found it very difficult to find local food during the winter. For some reason this resulted in my purchasing less organic food, and more processed foods. Hopefully the CSA will help keep me on track. The CSA is through Featherstone Farms.

My tiny kitchen
I have started purchasing more items in bulk. I have purchased bulk items for a long time. I love buying in bulk. For some reason it feels more natural, plus things are often a lot less expensive. In the past this has resulted in having many small bags of 1/4 cup of millet, or maybe quinoa? This fall we purchased several plastic containers, the kind usually used for shoes for about $1 each from Target. We have been purchasing" garbanzo beans, black beans, soy beans, wheat berries, barley, oats and sugar in bulk.

It has been really nice to pretty much always have these things on hand. It has also made it easier to make a big pot of beans a couple of times a week in the pressure cooker and then have them prepared different ways for the next couple of days. It is very convenient to have cooked beans on hand to throw into things. It's not the best picture, but you can see some of the bulk containers on the shelves in this picture. You can also tell how tiny my kitchen is and see the cool pot rack Shaun and I made.

I did not can tomatoes.  I did freeze about 15 tomatoes. What, freeze tomatoes? Yes! You can wash tomatoes and then freeze them in a plastic bag. You don't have to freeze them on a cookie tray first or anything. Later you can just pull out a frozen tomato and through it into soup or something. The resulting texture is pretty similar to canned stewed tomatoes. But it does take up a lot of room in the freezer, and we have already used most of the tomatoes we freeze. I have also not developed a list of questions to ask farmers at the farmers market. Part of me doesn't want to know how they can sell such a giant bushel of tomatoes for $10. Also, I have not had time to do any research on what types of growing practices I particularly want to support. If anyone has a good set of questions I would love to hear it. Though the farmers markets are all pretty much closed for the season at this point, and like I mentioned, my CSA is starting next week!

I will have to talk about line drying in a future post. I need to take some pictures. The drying racks set up in the office are kind of funny.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Menu Plan

One of my goals for this fall was to create weekly menu plans. I haven't written about it recently (technically I haven't written about anything recently), but this is a goal that I have had a lot of success with. I started trying to develop menu plans last year and found it really helpful. My partner and I ate healthier. We also saved money because less food was going to waste and we plan meals so that we have something for lunch the next day, thus saving the expense of going out to lunch. For some reason my menu planning tapered off last winter/spring and had to be re-invigorated this fall.

Minneapolis in the fall - photo by Shaun Daniel
I usually make a menu plan on Saturday morning and then got to the Farmers Market either Saturday or Sunday. This week we went to the farmers market today (Sunday) so that's when the menu plan starts. I thought my efforts at menu planning might be helpful for others. We are predominantly vegan and you may notice that a lot of the recipes come from the Post Punk Kitchen (one of my favorite sites) or Veganomicon, which I recently checked out from the library and will likely have to purchase since I have been using it so much.

  • Tofu Enchiladas - don't have a specific recipe, but I was planning on mashing up silken tofu with some sauteed onions, garlic, cumin and oregano - wrapping this mixture in tortillas - pouring some type of tomato based sauce (I usually add Mexican spices to store bought tomato sauce and call it enchilada sauce) over it and baking it at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  • Salad 
  • Mexican Millet - recipe from Veganomicon
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Biscuits (probably half whole wheat flour, half all purpose)
  • Sunflower "cheese" sauce - the recipe for cheese sauce is also from the Post Punk Kitchen, I really like it because it is tasty, easy, fast, and does not use cashews which are expensive
  • Beet burgers - also from PPK - this is a new recipe, but the picture looks quite "meaty" which is intriguing
  • Sweet potato fries 
Wednesday (Halloween)
  • Pumpkin Saag - from Veganomicon - I am particularly excited about trying this recipe as saag is one of my favorite Indian dishes.
  • Barley (rice would also be good)
  • Pasta e fagioli - Veganomicon - but I know their is also a good recipe in the Vegetarian Epicure 
  • Salad
  • leftovers! 
I'll let you know how some of the recipes turn out.