Monday
Brussels Sprouts Breakfast Hash (adapted from How Sweet It Is)

brusselshash

I don’t make hashes all that often, which is really too bad. I like hashes. I like breakfast meals, I just don’t like making them for breakfast. It takes too much time. And unless I’m sleeping until 9am (ha ha, like that ever happens any more), brunch isn’t my thing either. So, breakfast often gets made for dinner. This certainly didn’t disappoint. I used a Japanese sweet potato instead of a regular one, which had a bit of an apple-sweet flavor to it. It went quite nicely with the bacon and Brussels sprouts. I also added mushrooms, because that’s just something I do. I had Geordie fry up some eggs, but I think poached eggs would be better. I had the leftovers with a poached egg, and the yolk added a nice bit of moistness and flavor. The sweet potato was soft instead of crispy, so I might try a slightly different method, as we prefer crisper potatoes with hash. But it was quite tasty as it was and something I would consider doing again.

 

Tuesday
Hachis Parmentier (from Around My French Table) and asparagus

hachisparmentier

I already covered this on Friday’s post, so there’s not much more to say here. Except: delicious. Comforting. Definitely a new winter staple.

 

Thursday
Flavorful White Chili (from Taste of Home’s Everyday Light Meals), Cornbread (from The Little House Cookbook), matchsticked carrots cooked in the microwave

whitechili

So disappointing. I admit, I probably shouldn’t have had such high hopes from a book that promises that you can “indulge in delicious meals without an ounce of guilt.” I thought I had learned that lesson from the Biggest Loser cookbooks, but apparently not. Actually, it wasn’t terrible. It was just really boring. Also, the beans did not cook all the way, even though they were parboiled and soaked and then stuck in a crockpot for eight hours. Their un-doneness really ruined the chili as a whole. However, the chicken (which was thigh instead of breast and cooked with both olive oil and salt – gasp) was nicely done and tasted great. The broth was simply chicken broth flavored with some seasoning: good, but nothing spectacular. Instead of reduced fat Monterey Jack, I used whole fat Colby Jack, and that helped some. The cornbread was a nice addition, especially as a thickening agent. But overall, I would have preferred a much better chili – this one certainly didn’t manage to come anywhere close to “must make again.” Honestly, the best thing to come out this meal was the carrots, which I simply cut into matchsticks and cooked in the microwave with some butter. Something I’ll do again when I want carrots in a hurry.

 

Friday
Pumpkin Mezze Lune with Sage-Cream Sauce (from A Taste of Home Cooking) and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

pumpkinmesse

Just the sauce is homemade, actually. The pumpkin mezze lune was from HEB, one of their frozen all-natural pasta offerings. I love this ravioli – it’s sweet and creamy and filling without being heavy. The sauce went perfectly: heated cream spiked with garlic and sage and finished off with just enough Parmesan cheese to give it an extra depth of flavor. The Brussels sprouts also benefited from a drizzle of the sauce, but they were just as good by themselves. A light meal and easily done, definitely something I’ll be doing again.

My first foodie experience was not in the kitchen. It was with a book, which is appropriate. Long before I ever became interested in food, I was interested in books, and the first time food really interested me was when I read Little House in the Big Woods. It was all so fascinating, how involved everyone was in the making of the food, how it took up such a large part of their lives. I was no more than ten years old, and food only interested me insofar as what appeared on the table at dinner. I was a child of very simple tastes, but Wilder’s descriptions of where their food came from and how it was made enthralled me.

Obviously, food has its place in fiction, but it’s more prominent in some works than in others. The “Little House” books were my first introduction to fictional food. The “Anne of Green Gables” series offered other selections, most notably the raspberry cordial that Anne is so proud to serve to her friend and turns out to be much stronger currant wine instead. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe introduced me to Turkish delight, which I, for many years, thought Lewis had made up. Tolkien gave me lembas bread. The Harry Potter series (which I admit I have not read and have no plans to read) may not have interested me with the story, but who can ignore such culinary entertainment as butterbeer and pumpkin pasties? Most recently, The Hunger Games trilogy practically made food another character, showing just how important it was to the lives of so many in the dystopian world.

And, oh, the cookbooks that abound for each of these various universes! A few weeks ago, Geordie came home with The Little House Cookbook, and a little idea grew in my head. I went searching for recipes from other stories, and they are certainly out there, in abundance. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give some of these recipes a try.

So, here we go, a mini-feature for the blog to give me something to write about. It probably won’t be a weekly thing, but my goal is to do at least one fictional food a month.

I decided to start with Laura Ingalls herself, with something so basic that it formed a major part of the Ingalls family’s diet: cornbread. And it is a very simple recipe that can serve as a basis for so many different types of meals, savory or sweet. I made cornbread to be served with white chili for a cold winter night.

The cornbread that the Ingalls ate would have been bare bones by necessity, and the recipe reflects that. Plain yellow cornmeal (about three cups of it) and a bit of salt is mixed up with enough boiling water to make a soft dough. And that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t make for a very flavorful bread, but, as the author of the cookbook points out, even plain cornbread is better than nothing to eat at all. The dough is formed into two semi-circles, which are placed side-by-side in a greased cast iron skillet. It goes into the oven until the bread becomes dry and a bit crusty. It’s then cut into wedges and served any number of ways.

cornbread

For the chili, I crumbled some cornbread into my bowl and ladled the chili over it. A good idea, because the chili ended up being thin and uninteresting on its own. The cornbread added a nice texture to it, and the corn flavor contributed to the overall flavor of the chili.

Since then, the cornbread has served nicely as my lunches. Broken up and soaked in warm milk and maple syrup, it’s a fairly decent little meal. Simple and sweet, almost like a throwback to childhood. I imagine it would be even better with buttermilk.

sweetcornbread

I also guess it would be pretty decent with some gravy, or broken up to make a stuffing for poultry. A versatile bread, a useful staple indeed. I’ve had good cornbread that could stand nicely on its own, but this works in a pinch when you need a blank canvas to match with whatever you’re intending to serve.

Personally, I think it was a nice introduction to the world of fictional food (though I suppose this is more historical than fictional, but still). I’ve got a list of foods I want to try, from any number of sources, and I’m eager to see how they go. I’m also open to suggestions!

Once again this week, I took the road of least resistance. Instead of beouf à la ficelle (beef on a string), I made hachis Parmentier. I did this for two big reasons (and a third smaller one): it was less expensive, and Geordie and I could eat it all on our own. The third reason is that I could make a “quick” version of the hachis Parmentier by using store-bought beef stock, but then it was suggested by other Doristas that the beef on a string could also be made simpler by doing that. I do want to make the beef on a string, but not at the beginning of February. It would suit us better as a splurge meal, one for guests who can keep Hannah occupied while I’m making bouillon and who can also appreciate the effort and the awesomeness of a good cut of beef. So, Christmas, probably. I look forward to it!

But for the beginning of February, I would prefer something cheaper and less showy. Not that the hachis Parmentier was not lovely to look at. But its strong point is definitely its satisfying nature. It’s a dish that’s made for mid-winter. It is, after all, comprised almost entirely of meat and potatoes.

Sausage and beef are heated together on the stove (andouille sausage and ground beef for us). A little beef broth is added to moisten the meat, and then it’s simply placed in a greased casserole dish. This is covered with a generous layer of mashed potatoes decadently mixed with butter, cream, and Gruyère cheese. And into the oven it goes. When it comes back out, the Parmesan-topped potatoes are golden and slightly burnt (in an awesome, delicious way), and everything smells meaty and wonderful.

hachisparmentier

I mean, really. Is there anything else you could want from this?

Well, some vegetable matter would be good. While the hachis Parmentier baked, I sauteed some asparagus to serve with it. The greenery matched nicely with the heavier meat and potatoes, adding freshness in addition to some color. A nice, homey meal, all things considered.

parmendinner

We really liked how this turned out. Plenty of meat-and-potatoes for Geordie, plenty of flavor and satisfaction for me. I love these kinds of dishes, cozy comfort foods meant to warm a cold winter’s night. I’d be happy to make this a regular dish for February, a month which I am not overly fond of. Maybe meals like this will make it seem a little bit better. I’d like to try making the bouillon next time, because it does sound pretty awesome, and that kind of thing interests me.

So, even though I did not get to indulge with beef on a string (yet), it all worked out in the end, because this was definitely worth making. Will definitely be keeping this one in mind when I’m looking for a good winter meal!

To see how boeuf à la ficelle should be done, check out the Dorista links. Happy cooking!

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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