A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Second Chances: Follow-up on Rajma & Stock Projects

Although modern people — and Americans in particular, it seems — seem to have forgotten this in their frenzy to amass the latest version of everything from shoes to software, there's a real satisfaction that comes from finding new ways to use things you already have lying around the house, especially when said things seem to have outlived their usefulness.  

Even if it's become a cliché, haven't you ever experienced a little thrill upon converting an empty wine bottle into a candle holder?

Around our home, we have taken this theme of recycling to a perhaps extreme level, giving new life to many seemingly unpromising objects:

An unliftably heavy marble bowl becomes a leash and coat caddy for the Chihuahuas!
A stack of unneeded books becomes a sofa support!
A bicycle that hasn't had air in the tires for 4 years becomes. . .er. . .an objet d'art?  a theft-protection mechanism for a bookcase?  A reminder to exercise?  (I really must speak to my DP about this bike.  Some objects just don't have a second life in them.)
This week in my kitchen, I had the satisfaction and fun of giving new life to some seemingly unpromising foods.  Stock is the quintessential example of this kind of recycling process; not only is it made out of scraps, but also the stock itself gets made into new dishes.   I made a batch of stock over the weekend, and on Wednesday, I turned it into lunch.  

First, I threw into a saucepan some leftover rice (more recycling!), some chopped cabbage, and some very-thin-sliced carrots and baby zucchini.  (I sliced them thin and chopped the cabbage into pretty small pieces so they could basically just steam to doneness in the hot broth without needing a long cooking time.)

Then I poured my stock over the top (it was about 4 C), stirred, and brought it to a simmer.  OK, I accidentally brought it to a full rolling boil for a minute or two, but only because I was distracted by trying to obtain a urine sample from one of my dogs — not a happy marriage of activities, but sometimes life presents us with challenges.  In this case, I achieved a double success: one pot of soup + one tiny jar of dog. . .er. . .sample.

On my way back from the gym, I will stop by the Big Booty Bread Company (cutest baker in Chelsea, btw) and pick up a couple of their exquisite Dominican "cheese rocks," more traditionally known as pan de yuca con queso.   These are gluten-free, fist-sized rolls, made from Yucca flour, with a crispy outer crust and a fluffy, cloudlike inside with gooey bits of cheese here and there.  Heated up in the toaster oven, they are a treat that always makes us moan with pleasure.   They'll be the perfect accompaniment to my homemade soup.

Cheese Rocks: Perhaps the most delicious baked good in all of Chelsea

For yesterday's lunch, we ate another second-chance food.  I transformed my slightly-too-oniony rajma into a sort of mild kidney bean chilli, by cooking the crap out of it on the stovetop in an attempt to beat those onions into submission, which did the trick and also converted the chunks of sweet potato into a thick, oozy sauce.  Although I'd have liked a little more of a kick — having read that chili pepper can become bitter if cooked too long, I'd used almost none in my first slow-cooker project — the dish actually tasted pretty good, served over plain white rice and with a grating of cheese over the top.  I used a variety called Cabot Clothbound Cheddar.  This cheese didn't really grate. . .more like crumbled. . .and tasted more like an aged Gouda than like any cheddar I've ever had, but it was delicious with the rajma/chilli.

The perfect snowy-day lunch
The perfect snowy day (my balcony garden at 6:30 am)

WARNING:  I will close with another image from this morning that sensitive readers may find unsavory, especially in such close proximity to food photos, but I want to include it as a caution for other pet owners out there.   Please be sure that you give your little athletes a chance to relieve themselves fully before you plop them on their treadmills.  Otherwise, your pets may find it necessary to get creative themselves, finding new uses for your living-room rug:


  1. Oh, Michael! I've had my morning laugh! If only I could get my dogs to use a treadmill (or had a treadmill)! I'm glad you managed to salvage your rajma. Unfortunately, some things still need to be seared before going into a slow cooker, and onions is one of them. I love garlic in my food also and try to keep some reasted garlic on hand as it works better in the slow cooker than raw. And quit peeking!

  2. Did you know that when food was still cooked in a fireplace doges where used to turn the rotisserie? These devices are called a "Clockwork Jack" . They were usually in large castles in Europe or inns here in the US. A dog was placed on a treadwheel (just like a hamster) to run the mechanism that turned the roast in the fireplace.

  3. As the owner of 3 dogs and a Florida resident, the snow pic was more unsavory than the poopy one. ;-) But I'm guessing it was kind of hilarious to see the poop rolling off the treadmill like some I Love Lucy assembly line. Payback for the little jar of sample from earlier?

  4. If only I could get *myself* to use the treadmill ;)

  5. I think I need to instate a new rule, which every commenter today so far has broken: do not be funnier or more informative than the blog host! You'll have to excuse me now, as I'm experimenting with ways of hooking up the dog treadmill to power my convection oven. . . .

  6. Oh my goodness, I didn't expect that shot!
    So you cooked the crap out of your rajma, and ran the crap out of your 'huahuas?
    So did they 'go on the fly' like Huskys in the Iditarod? At least it missed the belt of the treadmill, right?
    When I scrolled down and saw that picture I almost gave my own sample.
    Really enjoying the blog BTW, especially your writing style.

  7. OMG--another hilarious comment! Tomorrow I may just provide a seed phrase like in improv comedy and leave it up to commenters to write the post.

  8. Wow, so many references to elimination in this post. Dog pee, dog poo, cooking the crap out of the rajma.... I just hope the dog urine sample was kept well away from the soup!

    The yucca bread sounds delicious! I like to eat yucca but I've never had it in bread form. And cheese, well, I can never say no to cheese.