Friday, February 24, 2012

7 Quick Takes: I'm back and It's Lent Edition (Vol. 4)

1. It's been so long since I've blogged that I make no promises about the formatting for the rest of this post! Since you'd last heard from me for real, I've traveled to various and sundry parts of the country to visit family (I met 2 nieces for the first time in those travels!). We moved to a new apartment, and I went to Walt Disney World for the first time in my entire life. Sorry mom, but it doesn't count that you were pregnant with me when the family went. I'm pretty sure I didn't get to go on any of the roller coasters, at least I hope I didn't. Although that might explain a thing or two.

2. It's Lent. I'm usually very reticent to talk about what I'm giving up, mainly because I'm not very good at resolve. But whatever you and yours have given up, whether that's Facebook, chocolate, or having the last word, I hope that when we all file into the pews on Holy Thursday, we can look back and see how denying ourselves in whatever small way, has helped us listen a little more carefully to the quiet stirrings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

3. I had wanted to participate in 40 Bags in 40 Days, but as I stated in #1, we just moved, and downsized to a slightly smaller apartment, to cull anymore at this point would be gratuitous. Maybe next year.

4. My sister, who so often impresses me with her wit, insight, and writing, posted about Meatless Mania on Wednesday in honor of Lent. Now when I was little, Lent seemed to last FOREVER. This might have something to do with the fact that my mother's go-to meatless meal was fish sticks. I'm sure she had her reasons. But if one measures one's Lent by the number of fish sticks consumed, of course it seems interminable. But six weeks in grown-up time goes by lot more quickly, especially when you think that after today, there are only six more meatless days in Lent. Makes it seem much shorter, right? If given the choice, measure your life in meatless days, not fish sticks. Trust me on that one. So, to hitch my wagon to Housewife Spice's star, here are some of the meatless dishes we'll be enjoying at Chez Bazin.

5. Awhile back, Mark was a vegetarian, something that shocked both my Texan college friends, and my Midwestern meat-loving family. But they loved him anyway, and I received quite a few vegetarian cookbooks for wedding presents as a result. Some of them are still my favorite cookbooks, especially when I am looking to give my repertoire a facelift, even though vegetarianism as an all-the-time thing has fallen by the wayside among this household's members. One of this cookbooks was this one.

This was the first of the vegetarian cookbooks that taught me that just because there's no meat, it doesn't need to feel like all you're eating is side dishes. And while it's wishful thinking to hope that the blended peas in "Guacamollie" will taste anything like real avocados, some of this book's recipes are still my favorites. For instance, Savory Corn Cakes with Chipotle Cream.  They are so delicious, I bring them to parties when I'm in charge of the appetizer. The general idea behind this recipe is tiny buttermilk pancakes, but instead of pouring syrup all over them, you add corn and scallions and peppers and serve them with a spicy dip. I seldom have buttermilk on hand, but Betty Crocker told me that you can add 1T. of vinegar to your liquid measure and fill it up the rest of the way to the 1 c. line with milk and let it sit for a couple minutes. It's never failed me.

This is actually a picture of a different corn cake recipe, but they look basically the same.

Savory Corn Cakes

2 t. butter
1/4 c. finely minced red bell pepper
2 c. corn (I used canned and drain it)
1/4 c. minced scallions
1/4 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk

Melt butter in a skillet, add the bell pepper and corn. Saute over med. for about 10 min. Remove from heat, stir in scallions and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the center.

Separately, mix together the eggs and buttermilk until frothy. Pour this and the corn mixture into the well you made in the dry ingredients and stir briefly to combine. Don't overmix.

Lightly grease a hot skillet with butter or oil. Go ahead and use the one that's already dirty from step one.  Using a scant 1/4 c. to pour out your cakes, fry them for about 2 minutes on each side. When the top starts to look bubbly, you know it's time to flip'em.

And if you know what's right, you'll always, always serve them with Chipotle Cream, which is really the main reason to make them in the first place.

Chipotle Cream is super simple. Take some canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. Decide how many of the seeds and sauce you want to use (I usually use 2 peppers, one with seeds and one without) and blend them with sour cream (I use about 1 c.) Make the cream first and let it sit in the fridge while you make the cakes. The longer it sits the more the flavors come out. Yum!

6. Another beautiful thing I learned from Mollie Katzen: creative pizza toppings, because, lets face it, cheese pizza can be boring. 

One of the topping ideas she has is caramelized onions (who doesn't have onions in their pantry), drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar (for your sanity, and the smell, you should probably reduce the vinegar with the windows open, do a lot in one batch because it'll keep pretty much forever, it's vinegar we're talking about!) On top of your caramelized onion/balsamic vinegar concoction you can add goat cheese if you have it, or mozzarella if you don't, or blue cheese if you're feeling particularly pungent.

Again, not my recipe but you get the idea. Apartments are sorely lacking in natural light.  You'll just have to excuse me.
If onions aren't your thing, but olives are, try blending 1and 1/2  c. kalamata olives, with a clove of garlic, a little lemon zest, 1 T. of lemon juice and 1 T. of capers (drained and rinsed). Mix it all up in your food processor to make a tapenade, and spread it on your pizza crust, finishing it off with a prinkling of parmesan cheese.

For both of these recipes, I recommend baking your crust halfway, adding the toppings, and then finish baking.

7. Truth be told, I find myself using bound cookbooks less and less, and using the internet more and more to find recipes. My laptop screen is splattered with all kinds of mystery ingredients as a result. I subscribe to Cook's Country because that way I have access to their whole anthology of recipes, and it's a good basic go to resource, both for recipes and product reviews. More and more though, I tend to find and store recipes on Pinterest. I enjoy Pinterest, but it has its failings, especially when you're seeing pins about the most sinfully delicious brownies, 1000+ recipes of boneless chicken breasts drowning in cream and drenched in cheddar, as well as all of these inspirational exercise pins with pictures of uhealthily thin people. It's almost schizophrenic. Side effects may also include dissatisfaction with real life because of  idealizing a dream life, but that's a topic for another day. It is, however, a great repository for storing ideas you came across on the internet and want to get around to someday. It's also great for storing recipes that you can never remember what website you got them from, and the copy you printed out a long time ago is indecipherable from all the spatters that coat it now. Like this recipe, which I just pinned to Pinterest so I'll never have to hunt it down again! I like this recipe because, while Mark hates basil pesto, he loves black olives, and red peppers. And this one has both!


Now, go tell my sister your favorite meatless recipes, and go see Jen for more quick takes!


  1. Oh man, all these pictures and recipes are making this pregnant lady HUNGRY!

  2. Yes, corn cakes and carmelized onion pizza: Get in my belly!