All posts by Serene

I run The Mom Food Project, which was born out of love for my mom and a desire to preserve the recipes of my childhood, which didn't actually exist in written form until I quizzed my mom and wrote the recipes down.

Thanksgiving geeking

Mom has just invited three people to join us at Thanksgiving. That makes us seven total rather than four.

That’s more like it. :-)

Current menu:

Turkey/stuffing/giblet gravy
Ham/pineapple gravy
Potatoes Dauphinoise  (I use Dorie’s recipe)
Roasted Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds
Sweet-potato casserole with pecans and maple syrup
Canned cranberry sauce
Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish
Relish tray
Pumpkin Pie
Lemon meringue pie
Marie-Helene’s apple cake

I think two roasts and three desserts are enough for seven people (yeah, I know). However, I’d like to add a side dish or two. Can’t decide between simple homemade dinner rolls and my friend Mirella-Pandora’s Angel’s Bread/cake.

And then I think Dorie Greenspan’s stuff-baked-in-pumpkin thing, which has been a hit in the past. I would serve soup in the pumpkin shell, as I’ve done in the past, but then I have to add bowls to the service, and I don’t think we have seven bowls handy. Hmm, tiny pumpkins as bowls? Buy cute bowls? Hmm.

My ears and mind are open. What would you add?

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Pork loin dinner (sorry, no pics!)

I’m finally settled in at Mom’s. Well, for now. We moved here in October, and we’re here for good, because it was becoming hard to be of any help from five hundred miles away. We are staying in her guest room, which we renovated first, while our apartment is being renovated. It is SO nice to be near her, both to offer some help, and just to be closer and hang out with her.

I’ve been doing most of the cooking for the four of us: me, Mom, James, and my Uncle Ed, who moved in a couple years ago when my aunt died. I’m trying to make dinners that are homey, interesting, and diverse, so that everyone enjoys them and I have lots of veggies to eat. Tonight’s was a big hit with everyone: Very juicy roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, steamed carrots/squash, and a salad. Even better than the food was the feeling I was nurturing my family and having a good time doing it.

The roast was super-easy. Just rubbed it with olive oil and spices, then put it into a pan in a preheated 450F oven until my probe thermometer said 135F. Pulled it and let it rest a few minutes until it reached a safe 140F before slicing. Very good.

The gravy was also very easy:

1) Slice onions and mushrooms (however many you want) and take out a saute pan that will hold them all — but it doesn’t have to be a saute pan; you can use a big stockpot, even, if you have to
2) Put some butter (anywhere from a tablespoon to several) into the saute pan and heat the pan on medium until the butter melts
3) Add the onions and mushrooms to the butter, and sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the top. If you have it, now’s the time to add a teaspoon of garlic granules or a chopped garlic clove.
4) Let them cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid cooks away, then add just enough chicken stock or water or heavy cream to barely cover, and let it come back to the simmer. If you used chicken stock or water, you’ll have to do step 5. If heavy cream, just continue to heat until it thickens a bit and you’re done.
5) In a little bowl, mix a tablespoon or two of cornstarch with a tablespoon or two of cold water. Add to the simmering gravy and stir constantly until it returns to the boil. As thick as it is now is as thick as it will be, so if you need to do it again (to make it thicker) or add water/stock (to make it thinner), do that now.

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bucatini casserole

Bucatini and sausage casserole

bucatini casserole

One of the dangers of cooking the way my mom does is that using up leftovers sometimes makes more leftovers, in an endless cycle. Over the years, I have had to break myself of some of her habits. There are things I don’t do that my mother does. Some of them are:

  • saving a small amount of vegetables from a dinner
  • saving any amount of food that we don’t like or won’t want as leftovers (most fish, for instance, just doesn’t keep well, in my view)
  • saving any leftovers in the fridge that don’t get eaten within three days

Don’t tell my mom that, okay? (Mom, you didn’t hear that, okay?)

One thing I do that mom does, and I have to keep it in check, is make a new dish out of the leftovers from something else. This casserole is a good example. A night or two ago, I made bucatini with a simple sauce of Italian sausage, mushrooms, and a jar of good tomato sauce. Contrary to my habit (and completely in line with my mom’s principles), I made more than we would eat, on purpose, because my kid was coming over to dinner, and I wanted her to have plenty of yummy food (and even to take some home if she wanted). What that ended up meaning was way too many leftovers.

bucatini casserole

We could easily have eaten that same pasta, just heated up, but I was in the mood to cook, so I tossed the pasta in a baking dish, mixed in some green olives (stuffed with anchovies, but any olives would have worked), topped it with some French-fried onions (bought at Ikea) and a shake of grated Parmesan cheese, and baked at 350F until the top was brown and the pasta was heated through (I’d say about 30-45 minutes). Essentially the same dish, but the crunchy topping made it feel like a new thing. Fortunately, we were hungry, and there’s none of this dish to try to figure out what to do with tomorrow.

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fish ball soup in coconut ginger broth

Fish ball soup in ginger-coconut broth

Soup can be such a comfort.

My mom had only a handful of soups she made–my dad preferred canned–but when he was out to sea, she made them fairly often, and what they lacked in variety or complexity, they made up for in deliciousness. Her clam chowder has four or five ingredients; her split pea is just split peas, ham hocks, carrots, onions, and celery; kneidlach soup is a bit more of a production. I can’t remember any others that she made with any regularity.

Me, I could eat soup every day.

Here’s a soup that was a bit of an accident. I was in the mood for kimchi soup, but I was out of kimchi and didn’t realize it until I got to the fridge. Oh, woe!

I have made several iterations of this, and as I always was with mom’s soups, I’m impressed with how flavorful and complex it seems with so few ingredients (and some of the ingredients there are are optional, so you may have even fewer).

Soup isn’t about spending hours in the kitchen, usually, at least not for me. Soup is about comfort. And comfort is about love.

Please have this soup recipe from me, with love. Even better, serve it to someone who will feel loved because of the gift.

fish ball soup in coconut ginger broth

Fish ball soup in ginger-coconut broth
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Thai-ish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This improvised soup is reminiscent of a Thai coconut-milk soup. Fish-lovers will really enjoy it.
Ingredients
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil or other oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup potatoes, chopped (optional)
  • dash salt
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth (homemade or low-sodium)
  • 1 can (15 oz or so) coconut milk (I use organic to avoid the additives)
  • Vietnamese fish sauce to taste (or use soy sauce or tamari)
  • 1 cup (5-10) Japanese fish balls or other fish-cake-like item (or use cubes of fresh boneless fish, or shelled and deveined shrimp)
  • ¼ to ½ cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan on medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion, celery, carrot, potatoes (optional), and salt to saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion starts to turn translucent.
  3. Add garlic and ginger and cook for a couple more minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
  6. Add fish sauce to taste. I usually start with a few tablespoons and taste the broth, then add more if necessary.
  7. Add fish and peas and cook about 10 minutes more, until fish is heated through.
  8. Garnish with cilantro if desired, and serve.
Notes
I used 4-5 purple marble potatoes (very small new potatoes) in this, but any kind of potato, or none, is fine, and noodles or rice would be fine, as well -- just cook them first, place some in each bowl, and pour soup over the top.

If you don't have an East Asian grocery near you, some ingredients may be harder to find, so I've offered substitutions that I know from experience are good.

 

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Homemade dips

I just posted this to my cooking group on Facebook and I wanted to save it here. May do posts about these later, and please feel free to point me to your own dip recipes.

 

I hate store-bought pre-made dips because they have some chemical in them that tastes off/sour to me. I used to do the Lipton onion soup dip thing, but no more. In general, we don’t use packets to make dip any more. We either eat salsa (store-bought or homemade) or I make the dip. They’re easier than I thought they would be before I started doing them. My go-to dips:

French onion: sour cream, dried onions, and something salty/umami: sometimes beef Better Than Buillon, but if we don’t have that, then oyster sauce, or failing that, just a bunch of salt and maybe a pinch of MSG (we’re not sensitive to it).

Green onion: Sour cream, sliced scallions, salt (or seasoned salt), LOTS of black pepper, and something acidic (some combination of lemon juice, vinegar, mayo).

Sour-cream salsa dip: Exactly what it sounds like

Nacho sauce: Make cheese sauce; best to use a screaming orange cheese so it looks right, but any cheese sauce will do. Add some pickled jalapenos that have been diced, along with some of the liquid from the jar.

Bean dip: Fry up some onions in oil/butter/water/whatever. Add refried beans (canned or homemade, pinto/black/whatever) and whatever salsa is on hand, along with whatever cheese is on hand. Heat through and serve.

Spinach dip: 1 cup sour cream; 1 cup mayo; 10 ounces spinach, cooked and drained well; 1 bunch green onions, chopped; 2-4 tablespoons dried onions or dried soup vegetables; salt and pepper to taste; 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped (optional).

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