Author Archives: betsy

Cooking in the Time of COVID-19 {CtBF} #EverydayDorie

Strange times… Staying at home for the duration is obviously wreaking havoc on us all.

Being an introvert, I haven’t found being physically isolated overly challenging.  Fortunately, this is 2020, so technology allows powerful ways to stay connected while remaining sequestered while we try to flatten the curve.

I am fortunate that I don’t have anywhere I’m supposed to be.  My schedule is mostly my own.  Thankfully, many of the events that give my week structure have moved on-line.  I can still “attend” classes at my yoga studio via Zoom.  My early-morning boot camp friends have organized for an abbreviated workout also on Zoom.  The video lets me see familiar faces, though not so much chatting.  My book group even met on-line this week.  And I had a video meetup with my sisters with cameo appearances by their other family members.

I’ve also reintroduced daily walks that petered off after our dog died.  Sometimes I walk with Howard, sometimes alone.  I now realize how much I miss checking what’s going on in the surrounding neighborhood with a daily tour.

I also forced some forsythia from the yard for some early spring cheer.  And, I gave Howard a haircut, with clippers.  In the long term, I won’t be replacing the barber, but I did a good enough job to fill in for now.

My sourdough starter, normally relegated to the refrigerator between loaves, has taken up residence on the counter.  In the past week, I’ve made baguettes twice plus baked an olive-rosemary loaf.  And I just pulled a country boule out of the oven.

Grocery shopping is an activity I adore, and normally, I go almost every day.  You could almost call it a hobby.  In trying to steer clear of germs, for the first time in recent memory, it’s been a week since I stepped foot in a grocery store.  This means I’m successfully making progress on my never-ending goal of reducing the contents of the freezer.  I’ve found some treasures.  We are eating well.  There’s plenty in there: a chicken, a duck, CSA vegetables I froze over the summer, leftover scraps like chunks of corned beef and roasted turkey, frozen homemade soup and tomato sauce.  Obviously, we’ll need to refresh the perishables soon, but it’s been a fun ongoing challenge .

All the exercise seems to be countering the increased cooking and baking I’ve been doing.  I’ve actually lost weight.

On my last foray to the grocery store, I planned ahead for this week’s  Cook the Book Fridays recipe challenge Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt and picked up a bunch of bananas.  I have an interesting relationship with bananas.  My perfect eating banana is well past where most people will have made a banana bread.  I’m someone who buys a bag of bananas off the seconds table and still waits a week before I consider them edible.  I can’t stand any hint of that “green” flavor bananas have.

When I was ready to bake the banana Bundt, I used the first of the bunch, not the last.  The other bananas are still waiting to be ready for me to eat.

Almost ready for me to eat!

I made a few adjustments to Dorie’s banana Bundt.  For one thing, I don’t like coconut.  I’ll eat Thai curry made with coconut milk, but the texture of shredded coconut repulses me.  I wasn’t sure what would happen if I left out that volume of ingredients, so substituted chopped pecans.  I also chose to use extra butter instead of coconut oil for the same reason.

As you might guess, Howard doesn’t eat bananas at all, not even in cake.  I’m not currently comfortable about the safety of sharing food I prepare with people outside my house, and the last thing I want to do is eat an entire cake by myself.  So, in the interest of minify-ing, I divided by the eggs and made half the batter.  Many years ago, I bought a mini-Bundt pan that’s never been used.  This was the perfect occasion for its maiden bake.  For fun, I followed through with the icing.  My milk had soured, so I used cream instead.  It took quite a bit to make the icing thin enough to drizzle.  I wasn’t so artistic with that.

The end result: half a dozen mini-Bundts giving me a week’s worth of darling sweets to look forward to with an afternoon cup of tea.  This was a nice cake!  I liked the addition of bittersweet chocolate.  It offset the sweetness of the banana.  The pecans worked well too.

If you have bananas, you probably already have the other ingredients on hand.  Last-of-the-Bunch Banana Bundt makes a good candidate for “distracti-baking” while you’re social distancing at home.

To see what my blogging friends from Cook the Book Fridays thought of this banana cake, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe on page 251 of Dorie Greenspan’s Everyday Dorie.

Keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.  You are in my thoughts.  I’m grateful that we’re connected across the miles, oceans, etc.  We’re all in this together.

In Need of Comfort Food {CtBF} #EverydayDorie

The world feels upside down. The COVID-19 pandemic is sobering and scary. At my house, we are fortunate that we don’t have anywhere we must be and have the luxury of staying put: limiting excursions from the house, substituting trips to the gym with brisk walks outdoors, and cancelling all social engagements. I’ve been travelling over the past few weeks, and though my health is robust, I don’t know what I might have been exposed to or what I might unknowingly be exposing others to. In addition to avoiding exposure, everyone needs to do what they can to keep this virus from spreading. From afar, I’m concerned about a loved one whose immune system is currently suppressed and about older relatives who aren’t taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously.

For me, in times of stress, cooking is always a calming activity. This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is a perfect recipe for improvising with what’s on hand. In Everyday Dorie, Dorie says that before she wrote it down for the book, Ginger Fried Rice was something she just made to clean out the fridge.

Fried rice is not something I’ve eaten or cooked much. When my family went to Chinese restaurants, we always had white rice, never fried rice. As an adult, I find that some of the people I got to Chinese restaurants had the opposite experience, and they always order the fried rice. And, though I think I’ve made it at home once or twice, it’s not something I usually think of.

In the spirit of Dorie’s fridge raiding, I tweaked her recipe for Ginger Fried Rice to mostly match what I had and was delighted by the result. I did purchase baby bok choy, but otherwise, I had the other ingredients around. I cooked the rice in the morning and put it in the fridge for the day so it was “leftover” by dinner time. I used a leftover soy dipping sauce for the ponzu and thawed some frozen corned beef from a past St. Patrick’s Day to add some protein. The dish was so simple to throw together.

How big/small is a baby bok choy? I wish cookbook authors would provide weights for vegetables because the size of most vegetables is highly variable. It would help judge how much and how big. I quartered my baby bok choys as instructed, but, in retrospect, given that bok choy was the only ingredient in the finished dish that required me to use a knife, I should have sliced them into strips to be more bite-sized.

I also wondered why only half of the vegetables were stir-fried and charred at the beginning. The second batch of vegetables added after the rice was still raw when it was hot. I ended up just cooking everything longer, but with so many ingredients in the pan, that second set of vegetables just steamed. I think it would have been better to stir-fry all the vegetables in batches, adding rice to the last batch and then adding the already cooked vegetables back in. Live and learn.

We really enjoyed this recipe. It was particularly good served with a salad tossed with more of the soy dipping sauce I had. My typical way of using up the fridge and freezer odds and ends is a savory tart, but I will try to remember fried rice as a delicious (and simpler) alternative.

My Cook the Book Fridays friends share their reviews of Ginger Fried Rice here. If you’d like to make it yourself, it can be found on page 239 of Dorie Greenspan’s Everyday Dorie.

Take good care of yourself and your family. Even if you’re healthy, if you are able, staying at home and social distancing are sensible things to do for the next couple weeks. For the common good, we all need to limit the spread of this virus.