How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Banana Chocolate Milkshake

Because we have a vegetarian daughter, we have a variety of kid-friendly vegetarian cookbooks on our shelf. Mollie Katzen, the guru of vegetarian cooking, has written two such cookbooks, both of which we own. Pretend Soup is written for preschoolers and has some easy and fun recipes. I was looking for just such a recipe when I decided I wanted dessert last night. This yummy milkshake filled the bill. I adapted it just a bit to adjust for things I had on hand. I didn't use the ice the recipe called for, since my banana slices were already frozen, and I used Mexican Chocolate pieces from Taza Chocolate, rather than powdered hot chocolate mix. The bananas and the chocolate chunks were put into the blender along with a cup of milk, and blended until smooth. Refreshing and delicious.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Freezer Fry

Last night we had a quick, healthy and tasty dinner that I was able to make from ingredients we had on hand. It started with Pam's suggestion that I make some kind of fried rice from the small container of cooked basmati we had left over from a few days ago (we are fortunate to have a pretty good fridge and we store things in glass rather than plastic, so leftovers are generally tasty).

I started by pulling a few things out of the freezer. First was the remainder of a bag of uncooked jumbo shrimp, which I quickly thawed in hot water, removed tails, and chopped into half-inch chunks. Foraging for vegetables, I found a small bag of peas, another bag of chopped leeks (I used just a handful), and a bag with chunks of squash (which Pam calls UFO squash because of its funny shape). All of the vegetables are in freezer bags put away during the summer and fall from our Colchester farm share.

I rinsed all the veggies in hot water and drained them for a few minutes in a colander; I also dried the shrimp on a paper towel. The results were still on the soggy side, but I was able to compensate. I heated a generous coating of olive oil (just regular this time) in our indispensable cast-iron skillet; at high heat, I added all the vegetables and stirred them for a few minutes, driving out some of the liquid and searing them slightly. Then I stirred in the cooked rice until it was heated. I added the shrimp, cooking for about 2 more minutes (shrimp cook fast!)  and then stirred in one egg. I lowered the heat and added a few tablespoons of store-bought hoisin sauce.

We often comment that food photography is a specialty, with photos not reflecting how nice a dish actually looks, but even the best food-magazine photograph would have shown this to be a rather ugly duckling. More importantly, though, we agreed that this meal (which I cooked almost as quickly as I wrote this entry) was delicious and nutritious, easy and cheap!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

We are experiencing some bitter cold temperatures here in New England, and we are gravitating toward nice, hot soups to warm up. Since even a trip to the grocery store, in the car, requires some minimal exposure to the elements, we looked for something we could make with ingredients we already had in the house. Since we had both sweet potatoes and black beans on hand, I went searching for a sweet potato and black bean soup. This video from Chef John was easy to adapt to ingredients we had and easy to follow. I began by peeling and dicing two sweet potatoes. The cubes were tossed in with some chipotle olive oil from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium along with some chili powder and a dash of salt. The potatoes were roasted for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Meanwhile, I took my cast iron pot and sauteed some chopped onions. To these I added some tri-colored frozen pepper slices, and a few pinches of garlic salt, along with some cilantro and other spices. Then a can of diced tomatoes was added, along with some water, a T of corn meal and a T of unsweetened cocoa powder. Once everything was cooked and blended for about 20 minutes I added one can of black beans, and the sweet potatoes. I also added some frozen mixed greens I had from last year's CSA deliveries. We get so many greens during the year that I end up freezing most of them, and then I can easily add them anytime I make a savory soup. Everything was simmered together for about 12 more minutes, and then served. This was filling, hearty, and full of texture, color and flavor. It was spicy without being overly so, and was the perfect meal for dark winter night. It paired well with the bottle of "Hot cocoa" ale we found in the back of our refrigerator. I am really not sure where it came from originally. I think it has been there for over a year.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cloud-Forest Pancakes

Readers of this blog will be familiar with several variations on pancakes that we have explored. Today's nutritious and flavorful version is based on a delicious breakfast I enjoyed at CENaturaleza in the Peñas Blancas cloud forest just over a week ago. We were visiting the reserve as part of my annual coffee study tour.

Though it was my third time in the reserve, I had not been aware of the amazing research center near the base of the falls. Our first visit was a treat on many levels. After a wide-ranging discussion of the interactions among climate change, coffee and cloud forests, Alan Bolt and his staff provided us with a wonderful dinner, with many ingredients drawn from the surrounding forest.

Similarly, the next morning, while most of my students climbed to the waterfall (to which Pam and I had climbed last year), I chatted with Alan while he prepared an equally amazing breakfast. This morning was my first attempt to re-create it, combining his verbal instructions with proportions I use in my standard pancake recipe.

Dry Ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk together
1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda (Alan did not mention these to me, but they certainly did not hurt)
a lot of cinnamon (I dusted several times from a shaker, but will try to grind from bark next time. I do not think it is possible to use too much. Alan ground his directly from bark harvested immediately outside his kitchen.)
Alan (near center) in his cloud-forest kitchen, with one of his
staff cooks (right) and two of my students (left).
Wet ingredients: Blend together and then stir into dry ingredients
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 cups orange juice (juice of two oranges plus store-bought; Alan's was all fresh)
zest of two oranges
2 tablespoons blood orange olive oil from E.N. Olivier in Baltimore

I heated our indispensable cast-iron griddle and used butter to cook the pancakes. They cooked up quickly and crispy. All three of us enjoyed them, topped with butter and a bit of honey. Next year I hope to get to Alan's kitchen early enough to study his proportions and technique in more detail.