Making sense of the world by making more of it
Earlier in the week, The Boy cashed in on a bet he won (go Sens!) and had lunch at a favourite smoked meat/BBQ place. For dinner, I made a very veggie-ful “tabouleh” to balance out his lunch. (Which worked beautifully, by the way.)
Basically this lunch was my way of not letting the “appetizer” veggies I’d set out with hummus go to waste. And it worked!
This bento was a little lighter than my usual although the tabouleh tends to be more filling than people think, and I fit a surprising amount of hummus into that teensy glass jar. I especially liked the lettuce “scoops” made from the smaller leaves of romaine heart, and despite my worries that it would make them soggy, drizzling a little of the tabouleh’s dressing on the remaining torn lettuce actually worked really nicely.
Next step: remembering not to pack myself a lunch with Garlic! as a main seasoning on days when I have afternoon meetings with folks…
Let’s talk about something other than food!
Alright, so this is still food-related, but it’s at least a little bit crafty, so that makes it alright, yes? I’ll assume that was a yes. Way back in March I was ogling the oh-so-pretty beeswax food wraps a number of bloggers have been posting about, when I happened to mention to Maria how irritated I was that our local “eco yuppie” store didn’t carry any. She kind of looked at me and was like “Okay, so it’s cotton that’s had beeswax melted into it. Why don’t you just make it?!” and I felt kind of stupid because… uh, yeah? Why not?!
Happily Karen came to my rescue with this piece of brilliance. So then all I had to do was get some cotton (check: I’ve had a huge swatch of cotton muslin sitting in my craft room since I moved away from my hometown), and some beeswax. Lucky for me, the Easter Sale at our farmer’s market (which doesn’t start up for real till Mother’s Day) was coming up, so I headed out, chatted with the two bee farmers (apiarists? I don’t know what the right word is) and came away with a lovely, organic chunk o’ beeswax.
(When I’d found that they didn’t sell the wax in pellets, I had been careful to ask if it was hard to grate on a cheese grater. The lady informed me that it was super easy, and she did it all the time, to use in her chocolate. She went on to warn me that if I did choose to mix the wax into a chocolate, to know that it would create a bloom on the finished product, but I was kind of hung up on the beeswax in chocolate thing. Really? I am at once intrigued and confused by this idea.)
Anyway. So I figured out what sizes I wanted (mostly little ones and one ginormous one for wrapping up dough), overlocked the edges of a couple, then got impatient, grated up my beeswax (it doesn’t take much!), threw it all in the oven, and got… beeswax food wraps! This was back in early April. I wanted to test-drive them a little before reporting back, see?
Thus far, I have used my beeswax cloths to wrap…
- Blocks of cheese. Honestly, I think this is probably the task that suits them best.
- Cut ends of cucumbers. Also pretty good: they hold their shape well around the narrow cuke.
- Cut end of fresh dog food tube (about 3″ in diameter). This they are not so good at. They keep it fresh, but slide off if I don’t supplement with an elastic. Also, for people who get squeamish about washing away (cooked) meat residue with just soapy, cold water, there’s that to keep in mind too.
- Bowls of leftovers. I actually made these slightly too small for the normal sized bowls, so I mostly tested on really small bowls and my bento container. It is not water-tight, but it definitely works in terms of freshness!
- Pâte brisée dough (using my jumbo cloth). I used this both to let it sit in the fridge while making it, and for a little over a week afterwards. When I took it out, the dough was still very pliable, with nary a dry crusty bit; I was impressed!
Honestly, it took me a little experimentation to get the quantity of beeswax right, but these are so easy to make, and I love having something quick to hand for doughs, cheese and veggies. (I put most leftovers in glass containers that already have lids anyway, so that was more to test the wrap than anything else.) I have not yet tried the large wrap over a bowl of bread dough rising, but I feel confident that it would work out fine.
Washing them is super-simple (just remember not to use hot water!!) and I’ve not noticed any lingering food smells after use (even with the cheese ones!) although beeswax has a pretty strong smell of its own. That’s actually the one “warning” I would give with these: if you don’t like the smell of beeswax… you probably won’t like these. I didn’t find that it rubbed off onto any foods (and cucumber is usually pretty spongey about absorbing flavours and smells), but when the sheets are just lying around, you can definitely smell it.
After a couple of uses, there are visible creases where the wrap has been folded around before, although the creases are less visible in the sheets with more wax. (The one shown above has a little less wax in it than some of the other sheets; I would say it has the worst of the crinkling.) I imagine that if that bugged me I could warm them up a little in my hands (or oven) and roll them flat again or something, but so far I haven’t noticed that it’s affected fresh-keeping-ness any, so I haven’t really worried about it. I do regret not finishing the edges of the other little cloths (they look so much cuter!) but there’s no noticeable difference to the stability of the edge, with all that wax.
We don’t eat sandwiches so I didn’t bother making any sandwich wrappers (see also: lazy), but I would suggest that if you’re going to, you find some patterned or colourful cotton to use. (Although if you’re really worried about dyes in contact with your food, then maybe not, yadda yadda.) No real reason you couldn’t do that for all of your wraps, but it seems like kind of a waste on something that’s just holding your cheese in the fridge. If you’re taking your snazzy beeswax sandwich packet to work for lunch though… why not make it awesome and cute?
Last thought: I’d be interested in laying out my large cloth on a surface where I was rolling out dough to see if it prevents sticking. If I ever get around to it, I’ll report back.
And… that pretty much sums up my beeswax food wrap experience!
Our lovely Monkey Queen of Don’t Make Me Call My Flying Monkeys, was our May Daring Cooks’ hostess and she challenged us to dive into the world of en Croute! We were encouraged to make Beef Wellington, Stuffed Mushroom en Croute and to bring our kids into the challenge by encouraging them to create their own en Croute recipes!
Given that I had only just used frozen puff pastry for the first time ever back in March, I was extremely happy to see this for May’s challenge! With that said, I thought the Beef Wellington looked a mite heavy for two people* and The Boy is a well known Mushroom Hater… so clearly I had to come up with something else to wrap up in pastry.
* Given the hugeness of April’s Chicken Ballotine and then this month’s Wellington, maybe I should just start planning to host a feast for my DC challenges? Might facilitate having regular board game nights? Hmm, something to think on…
In the meantime, however, I settled pretty quickly on something we both love: samosas! (To all you purists out there, I know they’re not made with puff pastry, and that they’re fried… but come on! All the deliciousness of a home-made samosa, and all the “virtue” of a baked snack pocket! How could I resist?)
I decided I’d try to make both meat-y and veggie ones, and given that we had just ground up a batch of beef, my mission seemed clear! I had also been hoping to try two kinds of pastry (some with puff pastry, some with phyllo) but sadly that didn’t happen, so they all used puff pastry.
So, first up, fillings!
I diced up parsnip, carrot and potato, boiled it, then stirred in some peas. I divided these veggies between the proteins. For the veggie samosas, I used the dry-spiced dal from The Indian Slow Cooker (but with less salt, because wow, is that dish aggressively salty otherwise).
For the beef, I let the ground beef sit in the fridge for about 5 hours with some minced onion, garlic and ginger, some cumin seed, and salt. If I were doing it again, I’d add a little oil too.
Apologies that I don’t have any real recipes here; I pretty much went with my standby dal, and made up the beef part as I went along.
The next part was similarly straight-forward. Roll out the pastry, cut into rectangles (The Boy suggested triangles next time for added samosa-ness), brush half the edges with egg, seal, bake.
I baked these in a 400F oven for around 20 minutes. I have to say, it was very satisfying to watch them puff into little pillows of tastiness!
Quick cross-sections of the two samosa types (beef on the left, veg on the right). They were equally delicious, in my opinion, and given that I have a tonne of veggie filling left over, I can definitely see making these again sometime soon.
Honestly, I kind of feel like I cheated for this challenge — it was super-fun and so simple!
Figured it had been awhile since I’ve done one of these… and I’ve definitely been plenty wordy in the past week!
Every weekend should be celebrated with cake, no? This one remains one of our household’s favourites. (Thank goodness for those freezer berries from last year’s picking!) ~ A nearby town held their annual garage sale day: some real treasures to be found… and if not, awesome signs for the parish. ~ After-sales waffles! Tried out this recipe and am amazed by the light, lacy texture. Almost like it’s deep-fried! Not sure about the “sourdough-y” taste though… ~ Rounding out the day with some late-night bread-baking (about time!!) ~ Off to Kingston, to meet up with my sister for brunch, after the Antique Market! ~ Friendly gargoyle faces to greet us and… glass… beans? ~ A cold-water-showered Buddha manages to keep his smile… or maybe he’s eeking in the cold?
Let us be clear here: I am really not into making the cutesy, covered in special cut-outs, amazing work of art bento. I think they’re very beautiful, and I like looking at them, but frankly I have neither the time nor the equipment to take that sort of thing on myself.
With that said, I had wanted to try Maki’s “hotdog fish” idea for awhile. Seeing as I have attitude about hotdogs (and also, we had sausages for dinner last night), I made mine out of honey garlic sausage. It’s a small thing, but I am ridiculously happy about this lunch. (One thing I do wish is that I were better at eyeballing how many veggies I need to fill a space when heating them up in the morning. I thought I’d estimated right with the bok choi, but I could easily cram more in there. Ah well.)
Are you wondering how many times in one week I can eat that slaw? Well, this was the last of it, and I added those peas I’d been coveting earlier this week. Delicious!
So, this week has been kind of full with the food confessionals, but I figure since I’m (apparently?) in a rambly mode anyway, and having now packed myself a couple “proper” bento a week for a bit, what have I learned from the experience?
- The first thing is that it makes for a much more predictable portion size. On my bento lunch days, I am predictably full after lunch. (Prior to swapping out the afternoon snack for fruit, I’d even saved my starchy snack for after dinner a couple times. *shock*) When I just bring leftovers to reheat, I try my best to estimate the meal size, but it’s a bit of a toss-up whether it’ll be too much food, or if I’ll spend my afternoon hungry.
That little glass box is exactly the right size for a lunch meal for me!
- I get way more excited about lunch when it’s a bento. (And keep in mind that I love food, so that’s saying something.) At first it was probably the interest in new flavours (or combinations) but over time, it’s become more that the box is actually a composed meal. It may not have all 6 “tastes” in it, but there’s generally a little more variety than, say, a soup. While still tasty, leftovers kind of pale in comparison to a meal which is guaranteed to have a mix of things that are tasty in different ways.
Both of these are easy to fix, though: I just need to be less sloppy when packing my leftovers! Even if it’s just tucking some chutney or pickles (or maybe cheese) into a corner of a lunch to play off the main, that would probably be enough to dress it up. Also, if I planned ahead enough to defrost my leftovers, I could also pack them into my beloved box, which would take care of portion size.
Or, put another way, I could just be less lazy and “bento”-ize my leftovers, and get over my hangup about them being eaten at room temperature. Hmm.