Archive for June, 2012

June 29, 2012

Just add color… (Mexican flag snack!)

by Kathryn Baldwin

Black, White, Brown, Yellow, … I like to call myself peach…

In an effort to humor American culture’s obsession with colors, I will share a meal that was inspired by colors. Here’s the story:

It’s 8:15am, Wednesday morning. I have 45 minutes to make my way through East Bay traffic and settle in my desk at work before I’m officially late. I’ve already run up and down the stairs a million times since 7am: I forgot my ring; dang, I left the bathroom fan on, I forgot mascara; gosh, this shirts’ way too tight! (sound like a familiar morning?) I consider blowing through the front door without a packed lunch, but remember that being two minutes late is better than spending six bucks on a random, expensive, unmemorable lunch. (I know what you’re thinking: “wooord!”) My purse already on my shoulder, I yank on the fridge door. “Vegetables!” I think. “Find some vegetables!” I snatch cottage cheese from the shelf, a zucchini from the drawer, a tomato off of the bunch on the counter, and the cayenne out of the spice cabinet. Four hours later, I sit on the patio at work with a Mexican flag and a spoon…

When the juice of the tomato mixed with the cheese and cayenne, I felt like I was eating fluffy spoonfuls of chilled, pepper jack cheese. The zucchini added a crunch, making each bite unique. It was sweet and sour; bitter and spicy, Light and filling; simple and complex.

Most importantly, the meal was vibrant. I couldn’t help but think about how much the colors in my bowl changed my mood as I ate. I thought of cultures, of Latin flags, and of course, of Mexico.

What do you think of when you see certain colors? Does pink give you energy? Does black depress you? Does yellow make you hungry? Wearing blues, greens, and silvers can cool you down whereas reds, oranges, and golds can heat you up. When you see red, white, and blue do you think of the Fourth of July… or do you think of the Chivas?

Make a meal this week thinking of colors. Then, look around at who’s sitting with you at the table: what colors do you see? Is your friend really black?… or is he or she closer to cappuccino, peanut butter, or cumin? Is your cousin really white?… or is he or she closer to wheat, a pealed almond, or cous cous? What beautiful colors we have. I am so lucky to live in a place where I get to see laughing, and loving rainbows of color at every turn.

Black, White, Brown, Yellow, … I like to call myself peach…

…and you can call yourself purple if you so please.

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June 22, 2012

American Capirotada

by Kathryn Baldwin

What do you think about when you dredge a slice of bread in whipped eggs, milk, cinnamon, and sugar? Do you think of French Toast? Well, I would like to propose a recipe that will alter your vision of French Toast forever.

Here’s the story:

It all began when I realized that my aunt’s famous “French Toast Casserole” is an American version of the Capirotada. According to my Mexican cuisine cookbook, the Capirotada was designed as a delicious way to use up last night’s leftovers:  cinnamon syrup is made over the stove and poured in a casserole dish that’s already filled with stale bread slices, raisins, almonds, and some cream. The bread and parched toppings soak up the syrup and, voila, leftovers never screamed “EAT ME!” so loud in their lives! Casseroles in the U.S. have a similar history: wilted green beans don’t look half-bad once they’ve been baking in cream of mushroom soup for an hour (hence the green bean casserole…).

Thus, inspired by the blending of cultures, I decided to try making my aunt’s American Capirotada. At about 9pm the night before, I sliced up a loaf of French bread and staggered the slices in a buttered casserole dish. In a separate bowl, I whisked together 8 eggs, 1 cup of half and half, a cup of sugar, about a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a couple dashes of nutmeg. After pouring the egg mixture over the staggered bread, I put the soaking bread in the fridge and climbed in bed…

Lying in bed, I thought about that dry bread soaking up its flavor. “Lucky bread…” I thought. But hey! Why can’t we all be like that French bread before bed?

Sometimes, when I’m finally headed to my bed late at night, I’m feeling exhausted, limp, uninspired: dry, if you will. Why can’t I soak up all the flavor of my life right before bed, just like that dry bread did before taking his spot on the refrigerator shelf? Why can’t I lie on my soft, cool bed and soak in every positive thought from my life as I wait for dreamland’s arrival?

We CAN be like that French bread. When I soak up (or think about) all the greatest things in life right before bed, just like that dry French bread did, I spend all night blanketed in positivity. Then, what am I like in the morning? I am as inspired, as refreshed, and as vibrant as the flavor, texture, and smell of my Aunt’s American Capirotada in the morning.

As for the Casserole, in the morning, just:

1) Mix a stick of butter, a cup of oatmeal, a cup of brown sugar, and ½ cup of white sugar (will be a clumpy, crumbly goodness!).

2) Scatter the mixture over the soggy bread.

3) Bake at 350 degrees, covered loosely with foil, for an hour.

4) Serve with warm syrup and the option of slivered almonds and/or raisins to sprinkle on top.

So, as your dry bread settles in its flavor over night, you can climb under the covers of positivity and happy thoughts. Call it your night time Prayer of Gratefulness, your Meditation of Gratitude, or even your Happy Place.

I call it my American Capirotada.

June 15, 2012

Cooking with a History

by Kathryn Baldwin

Sometimes a memory can enhance a flavor, just like a memory clings to a song. Do you ever find yourself holding onto a song long after others are sick of it because it reminds you of… that one dance club in Mexico?… or that one car ride in high school? I do.

For me, food is the exact same way. Sprinkling sesame seeds on my mole enchiladas isn’t a meal-altering flavor boost; it reminds me of my host mother and makes me feel more and more nurtured with each bite. Eating ice cream out of a tall mug with added milk and a long, skinny spoon doesn’t change the flavor of the ice cream; it reminds me of my Pop and how I grew up admiring his quirky traditions.

Of course, this is all explained through Miguel de Cervantes’ words, written in Don Quixote (year 1605):

Translating from one language to another, …is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they … cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.

As we choose our meal menu, or lost in thought as we chew, sometimes our dinner dates are sitting on the other side of the tapestry.

We may be thinking, “These purple potatoes remind me of that meal I had, sitting next to the clucking chickens in a rural Peruvian village.” But our dinner guest may be thinking, “Oh God, my ex boyfriend loved his stupid, purple Lakers jersey: I officially hate purple!”

The culture, the colors, the flavors, and the memories, which seep through our taste buds and into our souls with each bite, are ours to keep. I can try to describe why recipes or flavors speak to me, but you must cook with the passion that you find in your own history.

Recipe:

Giada tips her hat to Peru every time she cooks with Quinoa. I followed her recipe for “Quinoa with peas, potatoes, and olives” from her newest cookbook. I had tri-color Quinoa already in the cabinet to work with. Also, I didn’t hunt down “Peruvian potatoes,” I just used the darkest ones I could find (Did you know Peru has literally thousands of identified potatoes with names and distinct flavors?). I also packed the meal in a casserole dish and brought it to my sister’s for dinner a day later. Plus, I had it for lunch the day after that! Half of the recipe could feed a family of five as a side dish. My sister marinated chicken with lime, oregano, and red pepper flakes as the main protein. They were perfect together.

Come queens, come crooks! Come climbers, come quitters! Come coaches, come crews! This colorful, carnival of quinoa can calm cranky kids, can comfort complaining cooks, can connect cultural cues.

Keep cooking …

June 8, 2012

Taco Soup, My Adopted Brother

by Kathryn Baldwin

 

 

You are desperate for this soup recipe and you don’t even know it yet. Taco Soup was the fourth child born into my family (or adopted? Yes. we legally adopted my younger brother named Taco Soup). Since Taco Soup’s integration into the family, scouts honor, the Baldwin household is incomplete in his absence.

It’s time for you to take my mom’s Taco Soup recipe card and plant it in your family recipe book (or digital file?) permanently!!!!!!!

 

Making Taco Soup is as easy as eating ice cream; as soon as you do it, you know right away you’re going to do it again reeeal soon. Actually, if you fetch all of the ingredients, a stack of cans on the counter with a sticky note can leave the rest to someone else. I promise, you can confidently assign the cooking to any teenager or seemingly incapable significant other. Or you could get someone else to fetch the goodies, and make the soup yourself… behind your back…  with your eyes closed.

(Disclaimer. Please don’t actually close your eyes while making this soup. I don’t want KathrynGuacamole getting sued or anything crazy.)

Sometimes, you need a bowl of hearty, warm, Mexican goodness, and you don’t want to mooch off of your Mexican friends who are still served insanely elaborate meals daily (cough, boyfriend, cough). Good news! This Americanized, quasi-Mexican-esque tortilla-soup-ish dish saves you from that Mooch-Off-Of-Mexican-Cooks Syndrome. Trust me, your friends will be asking you for this recipe. Plus, the taco truck doesn’t always serve soup and sometimes you just NEED it. (I should have posted this recipe Superbowl week. I can’t watch the Superbowl without Taco Soup. Just one of those things…)

 

MAKE TACO SOUP!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of ground beef (Or, I used 1.5 lbs of ground turkey. Beef is probably better in the winter)
  • one large onion (chopped)
  • 15oz can Ranch Style Jalapeño Pinto Beans (I couldn’t find it this time around so I just used Chipotle style Jalapeño pinto beans)
  • 15oz can regular pinto beans
  • 11oz can white shoepeg  corn
  • 4oz can chopped green chili (I use the “hot” version. This way the soup is spicy but perfect with the sour cream that cools it off.)
  • 14oz can Mexican Style Stewed Tomatoes
  • 14oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 10oz can Rotel Tomatoes
  • 1 package of Original Ranch Style Salad Dressing powder
  • 1 package of “Taco Seasoning” powder
  • 2.5 cups of water (I added a vegetable bullion cube to offset this water… and for extra antioxidants of course.)

 

 

 

 

Directions:

  1. Chop onion.
  2. Brown ground beef with the onion and drain grease. (I don’t drain the grease with turkey)
  3. Add a pinch each of Salt and Pepper.
  4. Add EVERYTHING ELSE to the pot!!
  5. Heat mixture until it starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 30 mins.
  6. Assemble as though it were a TACO!!!!  (Crush tortilla chips into a bowl. Ladle soup on top. Add a spoonful of jack or cheddar cheese and/or sour cream. Add avocado, DUH! Possibly a squeeze of lime? If I have cilantro, I add that too!)
  7. EAT. YUM. Pack leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Assemble. EAT. YUM AGAIN!
June 1, 2012

“Wine Down”

by Kathryn Baldwin

I have officially begun a 9-5 job and as I scramble to get situated, I crave a daily routine. (I also didn’t have time to cook a meal worthy of discussing: guilty. I’ll make up for it next week I promise. Annyyyways…) I feel like I just completed my first day of kindergarten: I know everything will be fine but everything seems so new, I can’t imagine getting used to it all, and I still feel like a baby. Has anyone else ever felt that way?

Yet we are not babies. I am learning what my delicate constitution needs in order to still the waters. As I try to find my work/life balance, I will be adjusting to different aspects of my daily routine. (If you have a busy brain and a go-get-em personality, routine constructs the basis for a healthy body. This is a cornerstone of Ayurvedic teachings and I swear by this practice.)

For me, meal times and beverages help me to find a daily and weekly rhythm. So, I save time for breakfast in the morning and pack a healthy lunch and teas for work. Still, by the time I get home from work, my brain is reeling with the day’s positive and negative events. I do not want to suffocate my closest friends with my workday recap (amplified by I-680 traffic), so I need a way to turn off my work-brain until tomorrow.

Thus, the term is born: “Wine Down!” Mental health supports physical health, both of which bring a more balanced life and healthier relationships. Find a bottle of wine you love (Avalon Cabernet Savignon, which I love), the best deal at BevMo (current deal presents buy one, get next one for five cents), or even just a wine bottle with a label that speaks to you (The Middle Sister Wines). Put down your keys, take off your shoes, open a bottle, stop counting calories, and wine down. One bottle could last all week, and leaving it on the counter will remind you again the next day: “It’s time to wine down.”

Whether you’re with a best friend, laughing with Ellen Degeneres, or staring out the window at the descending sun, just let work dissipate with the smooth venom of gentle alcohol. It’s not a sin; it’s therapy. That’s my plan.

I hereby swear to wine down.

PS: Please help me with my transition!!! What’s your favorite aspect of your work/life routine?