Cooking in handcuffs

Now that it’s colder out, I am much more inclined to cook. I think I went to the grocery store perhaps four times over the summer. In New York, it’s way too tempting just to run around all day and eat in restaurants when the weather is nice. In winter, with it getting dark so early and going out in the evenings not appealing as much, I prefer to cook.

I particularly enjoy having restraints placed on my cooking, such as when my friend Courtney was coming over last night. She’s allergic to milk and does not eat meat, which forced me to get creative. (Same thing with going to someone’s house and seeing what I can cook for us using only what they have on hand. I would have loved to have been a Ready, Steady, Cook participant.) I have a strong interest in milk-free cooking because I have a few loved ones who are allergic. Ditto gluten-free food.

So what did I make, cooking in handcuffs?

Brown rice pasta with broccoli rabe

First, I modified Smitten Kitchen’s pasta with garlicky broccoli rabe by using brown rice fusilli and adding sautéed onions and baby portobello mushrooms, plus fresh lemon juice. I also used frozen broccoli rabe because that’s what I had, and I would use it again – I like the texture with al dente pasta. This dish looks very plain (this photo was before I added the mushrooms and onion) but oh my gosh, it is excellent. I am very anti-grain in my daily diet, so I sadly sent all the leftovers home with Courtney.

Veggie, dairy-free dinner

I also roasted some baby carrots, let them cool, then tossed with fresh, torn mint and pomegranate seeds. I will be making these as frequently as possible – they were just the best. I love the combination of the carrots with the sweet, crunchy pomegranate and fragrant mint. Big love. (This is a good base recipe for perfect, simply prepared roasted carrots. No need to get fancy, these are great on their own, but I was in the mood for something different.)

Courtney brought over a big salad (spring greens with artichokes, avocado, mushrooms, walnuts, tomato, and alfalfa sprouts) and an addictive batch of roasted butternut squash. I selfishly kept those leftovers for myself.

Easy homemade "ice cream"

For dessert, I made a few different things. First, the easiest “ice cream” ever; it really does have the perfect soft serve consistency. One banana makes one small scoop, so I used two bananas and flavored the results with organic wildflower honey and some vanilla extract. The ice cream went perfectly with the blueberry persimmon crumble, which we split between the two of us. (I modified this recipe to make just one serving, substituting coconut oil for the butter, using barley flakes and almond flour in the topping, omitting the egg, and incorporating blueberries instead of cranberries). I also offered those brownies, which Courtney loved and said reminded her of the (super pricey) Emmy’s dark cacao macaroons.

What didn’t work? The brown rice salad I was going to make. I forgot to rinse the grains, and so it turned out super mushy and bleh. I then tried to rescue the results by making a sweet version of arancini, incorporating almond butter and almond flour, but I didn’t like the texture. Not that I minded. In cooking, as in all of life, sometimes you have to fail in order to win.

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6 thoughts on “Cooking in handcuffs

  1. Totally digging your food posts…..I’m going to try that ice cream recipe! And I’m always jealous of people who like to cook…..I don’t really enjoy it, but I’m trying to make an effort. My husband cooks most of our meals, so I’m a little spoiled.

    1. Thank you! I only make stuff that is super easy and I only really love it when I’m doing it for other people. I can enjoy just cooking for myself, but it seems more like a chore. I need people to feed if I really want to get into it.

      Do you have a slow cooker? They are a godsend generally, but especially for those who hate to cook.

  2. Yes….we have a crockpot that we use occasionally. My problem is that I work so much, I am usually exhausted when I get home. Thankfully, my husband handles the shopping and most of the meals. I’m trying to step it up and contribute more, especially since I’m more restrictive with what I eat. I have to say that I cannot believe how good I feel now that I have cut all grains, dairy, and sugar out of my diet. I have celiac, so have been gluten-free for a year….but even so, the dairy and small amount of sugar were affecting me more than I ever realized. I will never go back!!

    1. I probably only cook a few nights a week. The rest of the time I am just assembling (e.g. smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or charcuterie and salad), or heating leftovers. (I have no problem eating the same great meal two or three nights in a row.)

      Have you ever tried prepping parcels of fish or poultry and veggies, plus herbs and spices, and making meals en papillote? You can buy parchment parcels so you don’t even have to cut and twist your own parchment or foil. Super fast – 18 minutes in a hot oven and you have dinner. You can prep the parcels in advance in one go.

      I often take a Sunday afternoon or evening to make a few different things – say, a chicken in the oven, a roast in the crockpot, and a stew on the stovetop. Then I’ll freeze individual portions in freezer bags for later. It gives me more variety to have that stuff on hand whenever I want it.

      Roast chickens are the best thing if you want minimal work and a variety of possibilities (e.g. salads, soups, thrown into a pan of sautéed mushrooms or stir-fried with veggies – endless remix combinations).

      1. These are all fabulous ideas!! I’m going to share them with my husband. We do use the roast chicken idea….same thing, put them in salads, soups, etc. But the fish and veggies idea en papillote sounds amazing…we’ve never done that before. I also am good eating the same meal two or three days in a row…the freezing part is what I’m not good at. I don’t know why, but I have an aversion to freezing food. I think it’s because I don’t know how long I can keep it? Do you just put it in Tupperware? This might sound silly, but you’re talking to the woman whose husband had to show her how to hard boil eggs last night….ha!

      2. Not silly at all! I once had to learn, too!

        No, I don’t use Tupperware for freezing. Get gallon- and quart-sized freezer bags (they must specify freezer-safe, not just “storage”) and use those – gallon for freezing larger meals, quart-sized for freezing single servings.

        How you pack them is important for space and ease. Once you put the food in, squeeze as much air out as you can and make the bag as flat as possible while doing so. That way you can stack them and keep everything tidy and not waste space. (I have a food post coming soon on one specific recipe for which I do this, with a photo to show what I mean.)

        Not everything will freeze well. If in doubt, Google it (I do this all the time!). But things like prepared roasts, stews, chilli, soup, muffins, pâtés, etc freeze spectacularly well. Right now my freezer contains single servings of pot roast, liver and onions (hush, I love it), chicken soup base, and beef mince for use however I fancy. Gives great peace of mind as time is so often at a premium over the holidays!

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