Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feeding 20 people for $30, or "I'm a recession rockstar"

Last night was my week to help provide dinner for the Leadership Development group at Mount Zion, our synagogue. With the ever-present economic pressures, we decided we would opt for potluck-style dinner instead of having them catered. As a personal challenge to myself, my goal was to make an amazing meal for as little as possible. Not only that, but it had to be semi-kosher (no meat with cheese), and since Howie, one of my sous-chefs, is vegetarian, that was a requirement as well. How's this for exceeding expectations? $30.94 for ~17 people, or roughly $1.50/person. *RECESSION ROCKSTAR* Just sayin'. I also had some of my leftover chocolate-toffee cookies and white chocolate-lemon cookies from the holidays (from frozen logs -- I'm not serving month-old cookies, I promise!)

There are no pictures of this deliciousness, because it was eaten too quickly. Take that as a sign and run to your kitchen and get a-cookin'. Hoping to have pictures in the near future, since I know I'll be making all of this again very soon. Want to come over for dinner?

Eggplant and golden squash tagine with chickpeas and raisins

From William-Sonoma's Eat Well
Serves: 4 (multiplies well)
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash
1 lb slender eggplant
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp ras el hanout (sub equal parts ground cumin and ground coriander)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 C vegetable broth
*1/2 C orange juice
*zest of one orange
juice of one lemon + 1/2 tsp salt
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 C chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 C toasted sliced almonds
*1/2 C raisins or currants (original recipe called for 1/4 C)
(* items are additions/alterations I made to the original)

Peel and halve squash, scoop out seeds, and cut into 1-inch chunks. Trim eggplants and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks.
Heat oil in a large pot over mediumhigh heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in ras el hanout, turmeric, and 1/2 tsp salt; cook for 1 minute.
Add butternut squash, eggplant, chickpeas, broth, *orange juice, and *orange zest; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until squash and eggplant are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in additional salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, mix parsley, almonds, and raisins. Stir 2/3 of parsley mixture into tagine. Sprinkle remaining parsley mixture over top and serve.
Top with harissa or any other spicy chili paste/sauce if you wish.
Serve with mushroom-herb couscous (or any kind of couscous you prefer)

Nutritional info (per serving; does not include couscous):
360 cal/14g protein/13g total fat/1.5g sat fat/15g fiber

Cold Wild Rice Confetti Salad
From Sara Rice
Serves: a ton (assume ~20 1-cup servings)
2 C wild rice
4 C vegetable broth/stock
1/4 dried apricots, diced
~8 dried black mission figs, diced
enough white wine to cover the apricots and figs in a small saucepan (or whatever liquid you choose to plump them with)
seeds from one pomegranate (~1 C)
6 green onions, chopped
6+ sweet peppers, diced
3 granny smith apples, diced
Any other colorful, crisp fruit or veggie would work well in addition to or instead of those included here.

Dressing Ingredients:
Inspired by 101 Cookbooks' Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh recipe
1/2 C reserved wine from poaching
1 C orange juice
1 Tbsp minced ginger (I used the kind from a jar)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp garlic oil (or 1 Tbsp EVOO + 1 clove minced garlic)

Prepare wild rice. (Bring broth to a boil, add rice, reduce heat to simmer, cover, let cook for 40-60 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Drain.) Let cool.
Poach/plump apricots and figs - add wine, apricots, and figs to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Let simmer for ~10 minutes. Drain, reserving at least 1/2 C of the wine for the dressing. Set fruit aside.
Mix fruits and veggies into chilled rice.
Mix dressing ingredients together, blend well. Add enough dressing to the salad to coat (you shouldn't need all of it).

Nutritional info (per serving)
128 cal/4.3g protein/0.7g total fat/0g sat fat/3.2g fiber

Roasted vegetables

Serves: 16?
2 parsnips, peeled, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
3 sweet potatoes, chopped
2 white onions, cut in 1/8th sections
one head fennel, greens removed, chopped
1/4 C canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
couple Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare vegetables. Mix with 1/4 C canola or olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Line baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place vegetables on baking sheets in the oven. Cook for 30+ minutes until carrots are fork-tender, turning after 15 minutes. Finish with balsamic vinegar (you can add this before roasted too).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't be jealous

Being unemployed (or as my pal Lisa prefers to call it, funemployed), anticipated or not, is not vacation perhaps it was supposed to be. Our condo is only so big, so only so much cleaning needs to be done -- as in, I Pledge-d ALL the woodwork in our unit today (If you've visited us, you know that that's a lot) because I've pretty much exhausted everything else except for the two loads of laundry I plan to do tomorrow.

My other vice -- and no, I wouldn't say cleaning is actually one of my vices as the only thing I enjoy less is job hunting -- is baking. It's a fun hobby when you only get to do it once a week or so. It's a dangerous and often-overused skill when you have nothing but free time spilling out in front of you like Lake Superior, and an ample supply of ingredients. My hips don't need any help staying flabby, and I'm running out of neighbors to share my buttered sugar-calories with without earning myself some enemies. And since I don't have co-workers to pass the goodies off on anymore, that means being judicious about how often I bake.

I'm running out of things to do.

I'm used to having a list of tasks two pages long at any given time. And then getting them done. My cats don't hold me to the same level of accountability my clients and bosses once did. :)

I have a running list of those things I've always said I would do "if only I had the time." Well, now I have the time, but no motivation. These things that once had a glimmer of excitement and the allure of distraction from the quotidienne are now tasks I only undertake begrudgingly. Fixing the cracks in the bathroom ceiling and walls? Next week. Painting? Only once the cracks are fixed. Finish a video game -- any video game? Meh. Sit and monitor my myriad news sites, blogs, and social networks, while passively watching a couple of movies or TV shows? Getting warmer... You can only go to the gym so many times in a given week before your body cries uncle and your friends start giving you concerned looks because you're on your 6th trip in the last week. It's not obsession if you're not avoiding other activities, honestly ;)

So it seems it may be time to begin my job search in earnest. I don't have a clear idea of where to go with it, though.

So here goes: I am looking for a job that involves regularly learning new things, problem solving, project management, and writing or some other form of communication. I've worked in public relations, communications (I include both for those who know the difference), and most recently in corporate training. My employers/clients have been in supply chain management, retail, IT, food, pharmaceuticals, academia, and the non-profit sector (I told you I liked the challenge of learning things quickly!) I've volunteered for a number of organizations and have served as a leader in a couple of them, including currently serving as Rosh Noazim, the chair of Mount Zion Temple's 20/30s group. I graduated magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Journalism-Strategic Communications, with a minor in French Studies. Here's my LinkedIn profile for the details.

Got any ideas for me? They don't even have to be leads -- I'm willing to take whatever suggestions you are willing to share!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year!

New Year's resolution #1: Post to the blog more often...

Other resolutions I'm currently considering formalizing:
  • Sell the condo and buy a house!!!
  • Corollary #1 to previous resolution: Save more money
  • Corollary #2 to previous corollary: Shop less...
  • Make dinner at home more often
  • Corollary to previous resolution: find more things Eric will eat :)
  • Attend services more often
  • Find a place to volunteer regularly
  • See siblings and parents more
  • See family more -- not just our parents and siblings
  • Compete in Finish a triathlon
  • And of course, the obvious ones -- eat healthily, get to the gym frequently, make sure Eric doesn't eat too much junk food, etc.
  • Oh yeah -- and find a job!
Here's a delicious, extra healthy and super colorful recipe we made tonight:

Pineapple Salsa
a la Not Your Average Joe's
8oz can pineapple (crushed or diced is fine)
1 red chili pepper, or other brightly-colored pepper of desired hotness, minced
half an onion, give or take, diced (I like red onions for this, but tonight I only had a white onion)
1 orange bell pepper, diced
small handful of fresh cilantro, minced (probably 2-4 Tbsp minced)
kosher salt to taste

  1. Prepare all ingredients.
  2. Mix.
  3. Enjoy with tortillas, or my favorite good-for-you carby snack, All-Bran Crackers! NYAJ's served this with grilled salmon and asparagus, and it was *stellar*. It probably makes anything taste yummy.
  4. Feel happier and healthier -- who doesn't love some good, bright food in this season of sunlight-less tundra?
  5. I also recommend throwing in a margarita or a bottle of fizzy pilsner (yes, yes, I know this doesn't fit the "healthy" idea -- it's for the "happy" part!) and two or three commisserators.
To making today better than yesterday!
Sara (and Eric)