"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blueberry Pancakes with Yogurt Topping and the Frustration of Cooking

"Never start cooking when you are hungry and
don't have all the ingredients ready at hand."

I keep forgetting why I don't like to cook.

Dirty dishes is one big reason. Not having all the ingredients is another. All the steps, processes and utensils needed in preparation is another, but frustration is my biggest problem.

While I can reduce frustration by choosing "simple" recipes and other tactics, it is the unexpected that often frustrates me. But, part of learning to cook is learning to be innovative when problems arise.

After mixing the dry ingredients, I went to get my last egg. Oh no, would the egg be good? If not, that meant a walk across the street to buy more eggs, and that meant putting on good clothes etc. That meant making breakfast was going to take longer. Nothing seems quick or simple when I cook. Luckily, the egg was good.

In this case, after I gathered all the ingredients, I assumed that opening a new bag of frozen blueberries would be "easy", as easy as it had been before. But, the "tear here" tab did not come off cleanly and left no ability to open the package easily. After, I got it open, it was hard to open the individual bag of berries. Scissors helped, so did beating the bag on the counter to break the seal.

This diverted my attention from the skillet and I almost burned a pancake. Then, by just turning the hot plate knob to #3 seemed to turn the plate off, so I turned it up a smidgen and the pancakes cooked faster.

In the end, the pancakes survived and the blueberry & yogurt topping was good. In Mexico, most yogurts are in a drinkable form, not a solid, I think a solid yogurt topping would be creamier.

I am still looking for the recipe that got me started on this.

But, until I find it, here's a link to a batch of great pancake recipes:


Blueberry Pancakes with Yogurt Topping

Ingredients:1 1/4 cup flour
2 tspns baking powder
1/4 tspn salt or less
1 1/2 tspn sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
2 tbspns olive oil

Plain yogurt
1 tablespoon frozen or fresh blueberries
Note: Microwave the frozen blueberries for about 45 seconds.

Mix dry ingredients together well.
Add milk, egg, and oil.
Stir and mash until mixture is smooth.
Add frozen blueberries and stir.
Batter should be slightly thick. If batter is too runny, add a little more flour and stir until batter is smooth.

Add a dab of olive oil to skillet.
Use a large serving spoon to scoop up some of batter.
Drop the batter into center of the skillet.
Cook on medium-high.
When the batter bubbles throughout, flip the pancake over to cook on the other side.
Pancakes cook quickly, so be careful not to cook them too long.
The finished pancake should be light to dark brown on each side.

On a stack of pancakes, pour a little yogurt, top with blueberries.
Servings: 6-7 medium-sized pancakes.

In the end, I do like learning how to cook because it is challenging and fits with my frugal philosophy but going out to eat these days is a whole lot more enjoyable after all my preparations, cooking and cleaning.

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Simple Salad without Lettuce and DIY Vinaigrette

Here's a quick post about making a salad with the idea of Use What You Have.

I had some leftover (LO) green pepper, scallions, carrots and some pepino (cucumber) slices left over from making a Pepino Cooler (more on that later). I had cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

So, I diced the green pepper, and a scallion and added them to a bowl.

Then, I grated some carrot over the bowl. I sliced several cherry tomatoes in half and diced the pepino slices. Then I diced some cheese and added all these to the bowl.

Then, I decided to add some spoonfuls from a LO Spanish rice dish

Now, what do I use for a dressing?

I was venturing into making my own dressings. So, I adapted a simple recipe for Vinaigrette dressing from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, UNL Food and now I had a tasty salad.

A Simple Salad without Lettuce

2-3 Pepino or Cucumber slices, diced
5-6 Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Scallion, sliced
1/4 Green pepper, diced
1 Slice of Mozzarella cheese, diced
Grated carrot
1-2 tbspns cooked rice
1/4 lime slice, juice

Add pepino/cucumber, tomatoes, scallion, green pepper, cheese, carrot, rice in a bowl.
Squeeze the juice of 1/4 of a lime slice over salad.

DIY Vinaigrette
Adapted from: http://food.unl.edu/fnh/olive-oil-dressing

1 jar with a lid
3-4 parts olive oil
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Ground black pepper to taste

Add these items to a jar with a lid. Shake and pour.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Battle of the Meatballs -- My Small but Mighty Meatballs

Originally, I had suggested to a friend, C, that we have a meatball recipe contest for fun. While I had made meatballs before, I wasn't satisfied, I wanted to put my best meatballs forward.

I don't know how to post this recipe, so much changed while I was cooking.

I had perused lots of meatball recipes and choose two as my starting point. But, after I made adaptations, I am not sure they resemble those recipes much.

For example, I didn't have an onion but I some shallots, so I diced the stalks of the shallots and used those. I did not use the shallot bulbs because I thought the onion flavor might be overwhelming.

When I went to add the egg, I cracked the egg into a separate bowl just to make sure it was a good egg. It wasn't.

Lately, I have been having problems with the eggs I get from the local tienda. When I first starting buying them, I was surprised all the eggs were double yolked.

But, in the last few weeks, some the eggs have spoiled. Normally, I keep them on the counter and have not had a problem with bad eggs in over a year. Now, I have had issues with the last two egg purchases. For the last purchase, I had washed the eggs and put them in the refrigerator and still one egg was bad. (See resources for information on egg storage.)

The next egg was fine.

Then, I decided to add some bacon bits because most meatball recipes call for pork and I have a hard time finding ground pork.

I thought I had crushed red peppers but no, then I found my container of little spice packets that come with pizza deliveries and found some red peppers.

Then, my hot plate, while set at #2 which I thought was a simmer, burned my minced garlic. I added a bit of water to try and get a simmer. I also turned the dial to #1.5 and it seemed it stop cooking.

Now, I turned it #3 to get some kind of cooking heat and it's was a high simmer.

Then, while I was trying to cook the meatballs, the hot plate seemed to stop working. In the summer, we have brown outs, I suspected a small brown out.

So, I put the rest of the uncooked meatballs in a covered glass casserole dish with dab of olive oil and microwaved them on high for 2 minutes.

The end result, while both the fried and microwaved meatballs tasted very good, I liked the microwaved version better.

Note: I freeze the meatballs then when I reheat them I add tomato sauce for: pasta with meatballs, meatball sandwiches and other dishes.

Small but Mighty Meatballs
Adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/The-Best-Meatballs/ and http://www.cookingnook.com/recipe/meatballs-recipe/

Olive oil as needed
1 garlic clove, diced
1/4 medium onion, diced, or 2 shallot stalks, diced
1 lb ground beef
1 egg
2 tspns dry parsley, crushed
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tspn oregano
1 tspn crushed red peppers
1 tbspn bacon bits
1 cup saltine crackers, crushed, or bread cubes
Ground black pepper to taste
Milk if needed for moisture

Add oil to skillet.
Sauté garlic and onion until soft.
Add cooked garlic and onions to large bowl.
Add ground beef, egg, parsley, parmesan cheese, oregano, red peppers, bacon bits, crackers, and black pepper to bowl.
Stir and mash to mix well.

Use a tablespoon of mixture, roll mixture in palms of hands to create meatballs
Place half the meatballs in a glass covered casserole bowl and microwave for 2 minutes.
Remove and cook the other half.

Note: I put the cooked meatballs in a bowl then put the bowl in the frig to cool the meatballs down for a few minutes before I bagged them for the freezer.

Recipe makes about 22 medium to small meatballs.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cool Off with a Spritzer Festival!

Spritzer Festival!

Spritzers cool you down, and have great flavor with fewer calories.

Your basic recipe is:

8oz glass
Ice cubes
Carbonated water
Garnish: Lime slices, orange slices, pineapple chunks, apple slices, and more (optional)

Fill glass with ice.
Fill glass 2/3rds to 7/8ths with carbonated water.
Add flavoring.
Add garnish, your choice (optional).

Spritzers (Left to Right): Apple Juice, Coconut Cream, Coffee, Grapefruit, Mandarin, Jamaica, Tonic Water, Chocolate Sorbet, Mango, Cola Light, Orange Juice, Ginger Ale

Not Pictured:
Pomegranate juice
Grape Juice
Decaffeinated coffee with a dollop of chocolate sorbet
Ginger root & a bit of sugar
Lime Juice

Other flavor ideas:
Root Beer
Dr. Pepper

Beer Spritzer
Fill glass with ice.
Fill 2/3rds with carbonated water.
Add a bit of beer.
Add a capful of lime juice.

Beer Spritzer

Use your imagination. Make your own Spritzer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Use What You Have and My First Chayote

Several recipes I make are made from what I have on hand.

All health and medical sites and my doctor say: “Eat more greens.”

They’re right. While I eat well, I don’t eat greens regularly. If I get a head of lettuce, it’s salads for a week. If I get cabbage, it works better because I can make a skillet dish and freeze some of it. But, it’s hard to avoid waste even if I buy half a head. and I hate waste, so my produce purchases are limited.

Since I have chosen not to go bulk grocery shopping for a bit, I have to rely on what produce the  local tiendas have and that varies day to day.

Today, I wanted to make a pepino, tomato and onion salad. All I needed was a pepino, but, all the tienda had was one green pepper and one chayote.

Green Pepper & Chayote

I have never eaten or cooked a chayote. It’s a lovely looking vegetable and it is green.

So, after researching how to use a chayote, I found I could slice it and eat it raw. So, I made a chayote, tomato, onion, and green pepper salad with a dash of grated carrot and an oil and vinegar dressing.

Small Chayote Salad

1/4 Chayote, sliced
1/4 Green pepper, sliced
1/2 Tomato, sliced
1/4 Red onion, sliced
grated carrot

Place vegetable slices in a bowl. Top with grated carrot.

Oil & Vinegar Dressing
Adapted from: http://simmerandboil.cookinglight.com/2015/05/29/why-homemade-salad-dressing-is-best/?xid=social_twitter+

3 parts Olive oil
1 part Vinegar (Vinagre La Cocinera)
3 turns of Black pepper
1/2 lime, squeezed

In a measuring cup, add oil, vinegar, black pepper and lime juice.
Pour it into a jar with a lid.
Close lid and shake.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

El Origen Cafe

El Origen is the closest cafe to my departmento.

Plus, they offer Service a Domicilio, so I get a great lunch delivered on Tuesdays!. How lucky can you get?

El Origen's menu has a vegetarian influence. The menu choices are great from stuffed peppers to various chicken or vegetable dishes that are served with vegetable soup, rice, and salad.