Three-Thirty, and Almost Time for Tea
It’s been a few months since my major kitchen uncluttering project, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on how well it’s worked out. The clean simple countertop in the photo above looked like this more often than not before the cleanout. It did not take long to learn the new habits of cleaning as we go and not using the main counter as a depository for mail, shopping, etc. The view in the photo is the view from the front door, and from the dining and living rooms, so keeping the kitchen uncluttered and clean contributes a HUGE amount of serenity for the rest of the house.
As you can see, there is nothing special about it. Everything is standard-issue. Nothing is custom except for the painting But it works. People look happy and content while they sip their tea or coffee at the counter. I got rid of so much stuff that I was able to do away with the wall cabinet that used to be where the painting is now. The space is brighter and airier without a wall cabinet in the way.
Most of the things I took out were given away, Read more »
Hummus and Olives, Immediately Before Being Devoured
Hummus is one of the most marvelous things in the world and easy to make. The biggest downside is the cost or even the availability of sesame tahini. Most hummus recipes I’ve seen require quite a dollop of tahini, and a single ten-dollar jar might have two such dollops. Nice stuff, buuuuuuuut….
There are a lot of recipes for hummus without tahini, but there always seems to be a missing depth to the flavor, even the ones that substitute peanut butter for the tahini. So I got to thinking, it’s sesame seeds ground to a paste. The flavor is sesasme. Can I substitute sesasme seeds? Tried it. Nope. Then one day I was rummaging in the fridge for something or other, and there it was, on the condiment shelf:
In no time flat I got out my trusty food processor and cranked open a couple of cans of chickpeas and assembled the garlic and lemon juice and such. I used a half teaspoon of sesasme oil and it really truly improved the tahini-free hummus. Sesame oil is very concentrated, so one bottle, while expensive, can last a long time when kept in the refrigerator. It takes just a few drops to expand its flavor in anything from marinades to flavoring frying oil. It’s certainly less expensive by far than the tahini! So here’s what I came up with, and just in time for holiday entertaining:
Easy Inexpensive Hummus
Assemble in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade:
- 2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained (save the liquid for thinning the hummus if necessary)
- 1/4 c olive oil
- 3 Tb lemon juice
- 3 tsp ground cumin powder
- 1 Tb minced garlic
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
Pulse the ingredients, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until they are blended. Add more olive oil or liquid from the cans if it is too thick. Taste, and adjust the seasonings to your preference. You might like a stronger lemon presence, or stronger sesame or cumin.
Optional: add a pinch of cayenne powder for a spicy kick.
Just about every refrigerator has them: narrow-necked bottles of ketchup, mustard, mayo, etc. with too much left in them to justify throwing away, but next to impossible to shake out. I’ve tried storing them upside down so that gravity will do some of the work, but oftentimes that just leads to more messes like leaky bottles and avalanches of top-heavy bottles.
The only way to get the thick and rich stuff out is by diluting it, which of course negates its value as a condiment. Watery ketchup and mustard is unpleasant. But there’s tons of flavor in those bottles if it could only be retrieved.
Solution? Think of them as soup and sauce ingredients rather than condiments. Add a little water, wine, juice, or broth to the leftover condiment bottle, close the cap tightly, and shake it vigorously. This should thin the contents out enough to make it pourable, and add loads of zing to sauces and soups.
- Pour a mix of diluted mustards in with a pot roast in the oven or slow cooker.
- Same with ketchup or salsas, especially in a meat loaf mixture
- Mayonnaise can be diluted with a little oil and vinegar or lemon juice-shake it really really well and you’ve got dressing for salads and veggies.
- Jams, jellies, & preserves can be diluted with juice or water and used for glazing poultry and pork, or simmered on the stovetop until it is reduced enough to make a topping for ice cream or other desserts.
- Combine fruit preserves with diluted ketchup and mustards, simmer on the stovetop to thicken, and you’ll have a quick-fix chutney.
Bonus: the bottles are now clean enough for most recycling programs. Admit it–you’ve thrown away plastic bottles with stuff still in them because it would be incredibly time-consuming and frustrating to clean them out. You’ve got no excuses now!
Got any ideas to add? Love to see them!
A Stack of Golden Cornbread Muffins
I love cornbread with autumn food–the flavor and texture seems to complement rich flavors, especially in soups and stews. Cornbread can be made in a baking dish, or in a cast iron skillet, but it can get a bit messy when served to a lot of people at a sit-down dinner like Thanksgiving. That’s why I like to bake them in a standard muffin pan–there’s no crumbs or mess from cutting, and they’re as easy to pass as a basket of dinner rolls. Plus the extra baked surface means more of that yummy golden crust–can’t beat that! Read more »
Lovely, Quick, Easy, and Yummy
This recipe first appeared in my cooking ebook, Minimalist Cooking–27 Practical Recipes
. I make it all the time, and it is so easy it is suitable for a second dessert choice for Thanksgiving. Put it in the oven to bake just before you sit down to dinner, and it will be done in time for dessert.
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