Recent Adventures in Food Prep

I’ve been trying some new recipes and whatnot in recent months and have finally uploaded some photos to share.

Photos & notes after the jump.

Naan

Homemade Naan

I love Indian cuisine. My wife makes several different chicken curry recipes, and until recently we’ve bought frozen naan to go with it. We are lucky in that we can get it (sometimes) in the local grocery stores, but I’m now taking that as an affront to my newly-minted baking skillz. I found a very easy recipe at AllRecipes.com and have made it a few times. Making the dough is easy, and a baked them in my 12″ cast iron skillet with melted butter. It produces a tasty end product that goes great with any kind of Indian dish, and as an added bonus it freezes well, which is nice since the basic recipe makes around 12 naans.

This particular bread won’t wow any healthy eating proponents since it’s made with white flour and a small amount of refined sugar. I’m sure it could be made with whole wheat flour and a natural sweetener of some sort, but I haven’t crossed that bridge yet. As it stands, there are no preservatives in this recipe, it’s tasty and it’s inexpensive compared to the store-bought version. While I made it to go with Indian foods, I’m betting it would go well with other cuisines as well.

Macaroni & Cheese

My wife went out of town this weekend, leaving ol’ Bart to play single parent to the two young ‘uns. In years past this would’ve meant multiple runs to the various fast food emporiums around town, or perhaps dinner with one set of grandparents or another after some clever negotiating (“Hey, how would you love to spend some quality time with your grandchildren?”) on my part. Not this time, though. Having read through parts of Nourishing Traditions a few times, I’ve made the decision to start eating better. I’ve stumbled across a number of blogs and websites in recent weeks and have updated the “Food” section of my blogroll with new finds. One particular site I’d like to plug is Harvest Eating. This site features a number of video recipes (free registration required) for making all sort of healthy, organic recipes that look damn tasty.

I’m a Mac & Cheese kind of guy, but my wife sadly can’t stand the stuff. The kids like it, so with the Mrs. out of town for the weekend, I trucked off to the grocery store and procured the necessary items to make this Healthy Mac & Cheese recipe. I freelanced a bit, using extra-sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack instead of the sharp Cheddar & Gruyere combo called for in the recipe. The cheapest block of Gruyere I could find in the store was $10, and I’m interested in finding recipes that are both healthy and at least relatively inexpensive. I probably could have used plain Swiss, Emmental or Jarlsberg instead, but I went with the Monterey Jack.

The end result looked pretty good both in the serving dish:

Mac & Cheese

and served up:

 

 

I pulled the bubbling dish out of the oven, let it sit for a few minutes, and served up small helpings to both of my children. The oldest one’s verdict was ‘Yuck!’, and the younger one simply spit it out of her mouth. After tasting it myself, I think I can see why. First, both kids are used to the boxed mac & Cheese with the orange powdery stuff. My recipe had more real cheese taste versus the ‘melted Cheetos’ taste that’s probably produced in a factory somewhere near the New Jersey Turnpike. Also, I had to make a Mornay sauce for the first time, and I don’t think I cooked the roux long enough, for the sauce was gritty and somewhat floury tasting. I was scared of over-cooking the roux so I probably finished it a bit too fast. Also, I used lower-end cheese for the recipe, which might account for the grittiness, or it could simply be that I’m not used to cooking with any cheese food product that isn’t made by Kraft.

I think the recipe, though aimed at kids, probably is better suited to adult tastes, especially if you use a nutty cheese like Gruyere or any of the other Swiss varieties. I was crushed my my kids’ reactions, but this battle isn’t over. I’ll try another recipe at a later date. If nothing else, I know the whole wheat macaroni wasn’t the problem, and I now have had my fill of Mac & Cheese until some time in 2008.

Cheese

No pictures, but I made a quick Mexican-style Queso Blanco today using a gallon of whole milk and about 1/4 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar. I used the recipe found in Home Cheesemaking, which produces a pretty bland, white cheese with minimal work and no special ingredients. The only two tools you need are a 2′ square of butter muslin and a thermometer, since you need to get the milk close to boiling (~185F – 200F) but not actually boil it.

The cheese itself is nothing to write home about either taste-wise or looks-wise. It’s main claim to fame is that it’s easy to make, even in warm conditions, it soaks up the flavors of whatever you’re cooking it in, and it doesn’t melt, so you can fry it like tofu cubes. I’ll put the last idea to the test next week sometime.

 

 

 

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2 Responses to Recent Adventures in Food Prep

  1. I’ve never been able to get rid of the gritty taste either. I’m planning to work on it this winter. I know I can do the required roux because my scalloped potatoes come out fine, but adding the cheese causes it to go sideways.

    Good luck!

  2. Bart says:

    Hmmm… the more I think about it, I make a roux of sorts when I make biscuits & gravy, and that turns out just fine. The grittiness is most likely from the cheese I think… those damn Velveeta commercials are right! 🙂

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