May Cookbook of the Month
Originally, I planned to restart this segment with the iconic Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but with my recent diet change, I decided it might be wise to look for recipe alternatives. In this new age of cooking, there are plenty of cookbooks full of alternative recipes for those with restrictive diets. I found something fun. I found this:
Thug Kitchen haunted my recommended section on Amazon for literal months. I’m new to this game of good blogging with any seriousness, so I had no idea who they were, what they did, or why it kept showing up. I was especially confused when I finally caved and purchased it through Prime Reading to do some investigation. To borrow from Thug Kitchen, every fucking thing in the book was vegan.
I am definitely not vegan. Hell yes, I will put cheese on anything. I do recognize there are some health benefits to the new diets that have come up over the years, and I can recognize a good technique when I see one. This is a way to fill the space between pescetarian meals now that my diet has changed.
Their introduction stresses that anyone can do this. We are not the sum of our frozen pizzas, and I like that. Thug Kitchen came up just at the right time for me to do some exploration in keeping one vegetarian meal a week in the rotation, so here we go.
Week one is moroccan spiced couscous, a side dish. It appears that a lot goes into it, but couscous goes over very well in this house. It’s a grain that can sometimes be tricky to get right. I so rarely cook it without it coming from a box and a spice pack. This will be a good test for ne.
In case you hadn’t noticed, we love noodles of any kind in this house. That’s why week two and three revolve around more noodle dishes. I’ve picked these up specifically to try and convert my husband. If it’s vegetables with noodles, they are more likely to be eaten.
Tofu scrambled tacos piqued my interest, so I figured why not give it a shot? It’s a good weekend recipe for us, something to share on a day when we both aren’t working.
Thug Kitchen has a number of cookbooks available, but they also run a blog! You can check them out on facebook or pick up a copy of Thug Kitchen on amazon for as long as it remains on prime reading or kindle unlimited.
If you want to follow along, this is the schedule for this month
As of April 26, I am a full blown pescetarian. I never really thought I would be one of those people to put eating restrictions like this on myself because I typically love steak and chicken and pork and bacon and all of it, really. My stomach, however, does not. The effect of eating livestock and poultry has been cramping and nausea at the worst of times. Very rarely did I get out of a meal without side effects.
So here I am, eliminating it from my diet. The good news is that I’m living on the Delmarva peninsula, surrounded on three sides by fertile fishing and crabbing ground. The bad news is that I am really going to miss chicken wings. Still, I am sure this change of diet will be good for me.
Not only have I had a lot of stomach trouble the last few years, but my weight has steadily climbed without reaching a plateau. Maybe my diet is less to blame than factors like exercise and medication, but it IS part of the equation. Cutting out red meat and poultry will force the focus of my diet more on healthier proteins like fish and meat substitutes like tofu (which I have learned to love lately).
I have been a lazy pescetarian for the last month or so to see if it had any real effect on how I felt. I have decided that it has. So I am entering a new chapter of my life both as a home cook and an eater-- no meat. The strangest part is how different my grocery cart looks at the end of the trip. I have never bought so many veggies at one time in my life.
What this means for Eating Normal is that the recipes and the food featured from restaurants will change. You’ll see more fish and more vegetarian options here. We started trending toward this the last tme I was active, featuring one vegetarian meal a month for the failed Cookbook of the Month (which is coming back).
Here’s to a healthier me!
Pratt Street Alehouse
Saturday, April 21st, I visited Baltimore for the first time and we ate Pratt Street Ale House in downtown. It was a beautiful Spring morning, and their outdoor seating area was completely full. I thought this was a good sign about what we would find inside, and it turned out that I was right.
This English style Ale House had a complex and full beer list, many of which are brewed by their own company, with only a few outside guest beers on the list. I decided to try their seasonal Cherry Wheat ale, brewed for the Cherry Blossom festival over in DC, and I was in love. A good, sour beer is always a hit to me. This hit the mark, and the slight flavor of cherry beneath it brought it a new life that a traditional sour would not have.
The food was what you might expect out of a Chesapeake Bay ale house. Seafood everywhere. Their starters ranged from a common dish, crab dip, to the less common crab pretzel. We had to try the crab pretzel, and we were not disappointed. Imagine a giant, salty pretzel covered in crab dip and cheese. Now imagine the taste of that masterpiece paired up with a local beer. When the crab pretzel arrived, we were in awe of it.
The pretzel goes a little soft under the heep of cheese and crab dip, but it holds up just fine. You cut into it, take a piece for yourself, and eat a perfect section of cheese, dip, pretzel. The pretzel doesn't get soggy, only soft, and the cheese forms a light crust over the dip after its melted on top. It took us back to pub pretzels of the past with a Chesapeake twist.
For my entree, I played it safe with a haddock fish and chips. I love the fish in this part of the country, but haddock is in my heart. Flakey and thick at the same time, this fish held onto the texture that I love so much without carrying too much oil in the breading. The tartar sauce on the side was perfect, just acidic enough to cut the richness of the fried fish.
The service was friendly even if we were the out of town Indians fans popping in for a meal before the game. They sat us in an area with another family of Cleveland folks only to tell us ‘this is where we hide the Indians fans’. Eventually, the company mixed a little, but it was a memorable moment of our experience.
I have not had a bad meal in the east, and Pratt Street Ale House is one of the best I’ve had. If you’re downtown in Baltimore and looking for an easy place to reach, check it out.
Technique Tuesday: Cleaning Shrimp
Introducing Technique Tuesday: a day where we learn together how to do something new, annoying, or difficult. I will try to post these every week as I expand my culinary knowledge.
Today, we start with cleaning shrimp, one of the most fiddly and small processes in cooking. I revisit it in order to make shrimp tacos.
Some bags of frozen shrimp claim to be ready to cook out of the bag, but it isn't always true! Here is what to look for:
Shrimp have a very thin shell around most of their body that is easily peeled off. This is the easy part. Start from the head and make your way down to the tail. Make sure you take the legs with you. They aren't pleasant to eat. If you have trouble peeling from the top, you can start at the feet.
AKA The Vein. Trust me, they’ll be there if the shell is still on. You can see it through the flesh of the shrimp: that dark line about the back. This needs to be removed, or you’ll hit a gritty spot in a bite that is most definitely not something you want in your food.
Start with a small peering knife and cut along the back of the shrimp near the vein. You won't have to go deep. This cut is so that you can pull the gut out of the shrimp cleanly. Once this is done, start and the head and pull the line out. If it breaks, don't worry. You can wash the grit out and keep pulling.
It can be a lot of work, but knowing how to do it will save your meal if you wind up with an uncleaned bag. Good luck out there. May your shrimp always be clean, but if they aren't, now you’ll know what to do.
Approximately one month ago, I made my first loaf of bread, and it was a disaster. I killed my yeast, the dough didn’t rise, and when I baked it, the center was raw. I don’t think I have ever failed a bake so miserably in my life, and yet I wanted more. When I produced a much more acceptable loaf the next week, I knew I was hooked.
There’s just something different about baking bread. I think it all has to do with producing an everyday thing- not just a sweet treat for a special occasion. Just this weekend, I made my second loaf of Italian Bread. The first one wasn’t very pretty, but that didn’t stop me from using it in everything. Egg in a basket, garlic bread, toast… It had a purpose everywhere.
And oh my god, the smell! Fresh bread, baking in your oven, makes the your whole house smell like a bakery. The activating yeast, and then the baking afterward.. It brings something in that I can’t describe. It makes the place feel homey, truly homey. It’s a sign that more is coming, that the bread in your oven is full of promises.
The great thing is that it’s more accessible now than it ever was before. Recipe sites like Allrecipes, food network, pinterest, and other sites like mine all have good information to give. If you bake at all, you already have most of what you need. I started without a loaf pan in sight. All I had to buy was yeast. Since then, I’ve gone through flour faster than ever before, but it is always going to something useful.
I highly recommend giving bread baking a try. Here are some of the resources I’ve used for recipes, tips, and tricks.
I can’t stress enough that you need to be prepared to fail, no matter how much you prepare yourself ahead of time. After my initial disaster, I nearly gave up despite really wanting to make my own bread. I wondered if I had the ‘touch’ for it, but we all do. It’s just a matter of learning. Like all food, you have to feel it. You’ll come to know how it’s supposed to look, feel, and smell. It takes a few attempts. You can watch as much GBBO as you want, and it won't really prepare you for a raw dough in your hand.
Every time a loaf comes out looking spectacular, I am so proud of myself. It’s not the same as making dinner, providing a meal for a family. There’s a sense of reward. You coaxed this living thing into making you this. Yeast made your bread, you only helped it along.
An idea born in Normal, Illinois, Eating Normal hopes to chronicle the eating Experiences of a Red bird.
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