Ham and Beans

I’m trying to cook more, and to use what I have. One of the things I have is several freezer bags of ham, left over from a bout of Christmas cooking. Another thing I have is a variety of dried beans, from a bout of frugal shopping without a plan. So yesterday I went through the pantry, pulled out the Crock Pot, and made a batch of ham and beans.

Friday night, I took the ham out of the freezer and sorted, rinsed, and soaked the beans overnight (after a few hours of soaking, I drained the water and continued soaking them in fresh water).

Saturday morning I moved the beans out of their bowl into the Crock Pot, added the cooked ham, poured approximately a cup of pureed tomatoes in, and added dried minced onion (Mr. Sandwich hates the texture of onion, so I try to minimize its effect as much as possible). I set the heat on high for about an hour and then turned it down to low.

After several hours, the sauce was okay, but pretty bland. Considering how few ingredients were in there, I’m surprised that this surprised me. So I added dried sage, paprika, some chipotle powder, some chili con carne, ground black pepper, and a little bit of sea salt–plus a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar. Then I continued to let it cook for a few more hours.

The end result was better than I’d dared hope–rich, flavorful, a little smoky, and a tiny bit sweet. Although the original recipe claimed to be a soup, this is definitely not that. I ate it over rice, and Mr. Sandwich ate it plain. Both of us plan to eat more.

Not bad for an experiment!

Birthday Extravaganzas

We worked hard to avoid one. My contention? A one-year-old doesn’t know it’s her birthday. She doesn’t know what birthdays are. So the party isn’t really for her.

That’s why we went with a party we wanted–cookout and cake, served to family. Mr. Sandwich wood-grilled steaks and sausages, and I grilled salmon and asparagus on the gas grill. I also made a tomato-rice-parmesan salad that I saw in Real Simple and couldn’t stop thinking about. And then there was cake (with a cupcake for Baguette) frosted in an unintentionally poi-like shade of purple.

As for the basic premise, I was totally on target. She had no idea why all those people were there, and passed out on her grandpa’s shoulder for most of the party. But I can’t blame her. Turning one is hard work.

What’s in a Name?

Mr. Sandwich had his second surgery today, to separate the graft. The surgeon tells us that it looks like the grafts took 100%, which is a relief. It’ll be more of a relief when his pain goes away, and his stitches come out.

While I was waiting to pick up his prescriptions, I had lunch at a nearby restaurant. The signage was a little confusing. Is it Amer’s Falafel? California Mediterranean Grill? Well, the menu clears this up: California Mediterranean Grill by Amer’s Falafel.

I had the falafel plate (hey, falafel is right there in the name of the place!), which came with a vast number of tiny balls of falafel and three sides.

The falafel was good, but the sides were the stars. The rice wasn’t particularly distinctive, but the avocado salad was delicious. What really stood out, though, was the hummus. Smooth, creamy, flavorful…this is the best hummus I’ve ever had. It was so good that I got a side order to go, so that I can have more over the weekend.

The good news is that there are lots of places to get Mediterranean food in this area, which means that I can compare versions of hummus. But Amer’s Falafel has set the bar pretty high.

Sam Woo BBQ

In our continued quest for good Chinese food in the San Fernando Valley (yes, we know about the San Gabriel Valley; we just don’t live there), tonight we went to the local Sam Woo BBQ restaurant.

Sam Woo BBQ restaurant is part of a chain large enough to have its own Wikipedia entry. This explains why we also saw what appeared to be a related restaurant in Chinatown last Saturday.

The restaurant is very bare-bones; the first thing you see is the takeout counter, with roast ducks hanging in a display case. For sit-down service, you write the number in your party next to the first open number on a list, and then write down that number on a slip of paper. You sit when you’re called, and the dishes come when they’re ready–not all at one time.

We had beef with black bean sauce, BBQ pork and roast duck with rice, BBQ pork fried rice, and porridge with minced beef (neither one of us had tried this before, so it was our adventure within an adventure). As our waiter pointed out, that’s a lot of rice.

But everything was excellent, and we’re looking forward to leftovers. As well as to a repeat visit.

Yes, I Actually Cooked Dinner

And mostly from scratch! I made roasted chicken drumsticks, cheesy green beans, saffron rice (from a mix), and beans (from a can, for J).

It was pretty easy, on the whole, and that makes me wonder why I don’t do this more often. However, as I look into the kitchen, I’m reminded of why. No counter space, no dishwasher. Which means that the sink and the drainer are full, and neither will stand empty for quite some time.

But the fun doesn’t stop with dinner; there are leftovers of chicken and saffron rice, so I have lunch for tomorrow. I really liked the saffron rice–it was delicious and salty. And if you’ve noticed a recurrence of praise for salty food in this blog, it’s because I love salt. I mean, I really love salt. I’ll eat it straight. I could be the incredible salt vampire from the original Star Trek series (“The Man Trap”–first regular episode aired, sixth filmed. Have I mentioned that I am a total nerd? A salt-loving nerd.)