Sunday, January 12, 2014

Skyrim Cooking: Apple Cabbage Stew

I'm diving right into things, aren't I?

This time, I made apple cabbage stew. Mostly because I had most of a head of cabbage left over from a previous recipe and I needed to use it up. I used this recipe from Vegan Latina, who apparently is a Skyrim fan, with the slight alteration that I used a mixture of veggie stock, water, and chicken broth instead of just veggie broth. Otherwise, however, I used her recipe as-is, so I'm not going to bother reproducing it here - go over and check out her version.

Anyway, things got off to a good start. I had all the ingredients lined up and ready to go. Following the advice I gleaned from the Moosewood Cookbook, I now have a separate cutting board just for onions, garlic, and other smellies.

Oh right - I just remembered that I used a Peruvian onion instead of shallots, and several green onions instead of a leek, just because that was what I had on hand. Using a leek would have been more true to the source material, though. I chopped up that entire head of cabbage, but wound up using only half of it, if that. So now I have a ton of cabbage I need to use up, yay.

Anyway, I started out sauteing the smelly veggies in the pot with some olive oil, and things were going pretty well.

Look at how pretty that is! Delightful. I think I'm getting the hang of this cooking thing.

Unfortunately, very shortly after I took this photo, the olive oil started to burn, and so did the smelly veggies. I'm more used to stir frying with peanut oil, see, and that has a much higher cooking temp than olive oil. That triggered the smoke detector, and between frantically trying to stir up the veggies and flailing at the smoke detector, I wound up with a burnt, brown-and-black mess on my hands. Great. Well, maybe adding the broth, cabbage, and spices will make things better.

...Nope. Damn, that's an ugly-ass stew.

To make things better, the spices smelled... kinda funky when I added them together. Especially the marjoram. I wondered if Miss Vegan's palate had gone all sideways from the lack of animal products. But there wasn't anything more I could do about it - it's not like I can un-add them - so I resigned myself to the likelihood of a not-great meal. I figured it was bound to happen sooner or later in my cooking adventures.

Then I added the apple.

Hmmm.... starting to look better! The additional color does wonders. The smell of the spices was starting to mellow out too. Maybe this was going to work out, after all. I cooked the apples for the shortest indicated time - I love the texture of apples, so I wanted to retain that in the stew. Then I ladled myself a bowl and plopped some plain yogurt on top.

And you know what? It tasted great! Woohoo!

The only issue with this stew is that it isn't very filling - I had three or four bowlfuls before I felt full, and normally I'm a fairly light eater. Even then, though, I had a decent amount of leftovers, which I'm going to have for lunch at work. I imagine it'll last me only a day or two, but that's a day or two that I don't have to worry about cooking/buying lunch, so I'll take it.

Thrifty Kitchen: Spices

I live in a neighborhood that has a very high Latino population. One of the unexpected perks of living here is the abundance of grocery stores and the increased diversity in food products; there's a little mercado every quarter mile or so, and even the "mainstream" (read: white-owned) grocery stores have more selection than they did in the suburb that I grew up in.

However, as you may know, Latinos eat many of the same foods that everyone else in the US eats. This leads the amusing practice in some grocery stores of offering the same product from both Latino brands and "regular" brands and pricing them differently. Often times the Latino version of the product is significantly cheaper, for whatever reason, and one area in which I've taken advantage of this quirk is with spices.

One of the grocery stores I patronize sells San Miguel brand spices in addition to the standard McCormick and Gourmet Collection brands. They're hidden - they're not with the regular spices, nor are they in the "Hispanic Foods" aisle. They're in the produce section, on an unassuming wooden rack near the bulk beans and rice, and while the selection isn't quite as broad as in the regular spice aisle, if it has what I need I can buy it at a greatly reduced price.

When I buy San Miguel spices, it comes like this:

Eight whole ounces, and for a fraction of the price that a two-ounce McCormick container would cost! Because I'm usually cooking just for myself, this one bag will probably last me for years. Pretty awesome, huh?

The problem, though, is keeping my spices fresh. San Miguel spices come only in simple plastic bags, and once I open one it's hard to keep airtight. If I'm not careful, my spices could go stale long before I'm even halfway through them.

Fortunately, I hit upon an easy solution:

I save old glass jars (pickles and jam, mostly) to store leftovers. They can also keep my spices fresh. A bit of masking tape and a marker helps me track which spice is which, too. If I wanted to get really fancy, I could apply some of that chalkboard paint to the jars and label them that way. But I don't know where to get that stuff, and I'm lazy anyway.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Skyrim cooking: Tomato Soup

As I mentioned before, one of my goals is to cook every food available in Skyrim. (Within reason; I don't think I'll be able to recreate mammoth roast anytime soon, nor horker loaf.) I decided to start with something simple: tomato soup.

Now, I actually didn't like tomato soup for a long time. It was one of those things that I decided I Didn't Like as a kid - I can't remember if I'd even tried it before coming to this conclusion - and this belief that I Didn't Like tomato soup stuck with me up into adulthood. However, as I've been exploring food and cuisine more I've been giving stuff I abhorred as a child a second chance - usually to discover that now I love the stuff! Mushrooms, cottage cheese, chili, spinach, sweet potatoes - they've all been redeemed in my adulthood.

So I decided this was the perfect time to give tomato soup another chance.

I wanted to use a recipe that incorporates fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes because that would be more "authentic." (Never mind that tomatoes probably would not be able to survive in Skyrim's climate.) I also didn't want anything too fancy - access to exotic ingredients is probably limited in Skyrim, especially with the civil war going on! I used this recipe as a result, which has a simple ingredient list and uses fresh whole tomatoes. Because I'm new to this whole food blogging thing, I forgot to take pictures of the cooking process, and D and I were too busy eating the soup to take pictures of it once it was done. So instead I'll give you a picture of how many tomatoes I have left over from the process:

Clearly I over-estimated how many tomatoes are needed to produce four cups.

I'm glad that I gave tomato soup another chance - it was indeed tasty, although when I followed the recipe to the letter it was a bit too salty; there was already plenty of sodium in the chicken broth, so adding more salt was ill-advised. When I make tomato soup in the future, I'll follow the altered recipe that I provide below, which with a few tweaks can be made vegetarian or vegan. D and I ate it with regular grilled cheese sandwiches, but for a truly Skyrim experience you could instead use a chunk of hearty homemade bread with a bit of cheese melted on top.

Skyrim Tomato Soup

Serves 2-3


  • 4 c chopped fresh tomatoes (about 6 tomatoes)
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 c chicken broth or veggie broth
  • 2 Tblsp unsalted butter or margarine
  • 2 Tblsp flour
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • Salt (optional)


  1. In a pot, combine tomatoes, onion, cloves, and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. If too much liquid boils off, add more broth.
  3. Remove from heat. Run the mixture through a blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth, with no chunks. Leave it in the blender/processor for now.
  4. In the pot (which you may want to rinse out), melt the butter (or margarine) over medium-low heat. Slowly add the flour, mixing it into a smooth paste.
  5. Cook the flour/butter paste until it is light brown. Gradually add the tomato/broth mixture back into the pot, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the sugar. If using a low/no-sodium broth (or if you prefer a saltier soup), add salt to taste.