Cratchiting and Cooking in Kentucky

it sure is pretty here

Greetings from gorgeous Louisville, Kentucky! 11 days ago I arrived to take part in a splendid production of A Christmas Carol at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. I’m playing Mrs. Cratchit and aside from the fact that I’m missing my fella and my pup like mad, I couldn’t be happier to be here, doing what I love.

Here’s the challenge when I work away from home for any length of time: staying on a schedule, and a budget. It’s pretty easy to let myself go and pretend that I’m away at summer camp with my super swell cast and crew, because, well, it’s actually kinda like that. This is when being in this business is THE BEST. Yes, there truly is challenging work involved, but there’s also seeing other theater in town, late night bourbon, betting on horses at Churchill Downs and doing it all with a fantastic group of new friends. Not bad, right? But guys, I’m totally a grown up. How can I reconcile my desire to stay out late and drink mint juleps with my need to keep some amount of healthy structure in my life? By exercising regularly and trying not to eat like an idiot, of course! My goal while here (aside from BEING THE BEST MRS. CRATCHIT I CAN BE… ah, life!) is to prepare most every meal I eat, save for a weekly blow out dinner at one of the many amazing restaurants that Louisville has to offer. Not only that, but it can’t be just sandwiches and salads and pre-prepared things… I have to cook proper dishes made from real food, and make them meatless (I save the meat for restaurant day. Hey Proof burger, tonight I’ve got my eye on you. Coming to Louisville? Get to Proof, stat. I’ll be devoting a whole post to the fun finds, food and other treasures that I’m discovering in Louisville, so stay tuned!).

The other challenge? My kitchen. I’ve been put up in a fantastic 100 year old apartment building that’s so charming, I can hardly stand it. High ceilings, gorgeous wood floors, deep tubs- it’s well cared for and delightful and also there’s complimentary homemade baking every so often in the lobby because apparently that’s the way they do in the south. What’s not to love? Well, maybe my kitchen? Nothing! Each unit in this 10 floor structure seems to be a little different from the next, and this year, my kitchen is well, petite. It’s a closet. But I’ve got four burners and an oven, and it turns out, that’s all I need. Yep, I miss my food processor and my mixer, my good knives and my cutting board. I’m missing access to my spice cupboard and various oils and vinegars and the convenience of having my car to get all the things that I’m missing. But I’m discovering that I really don’t need any of it. With simple ingredients and a little time, I’m eating… really really well.

Some things I’ve cooked so far: kale chips, granola, kale salad (I know, I know, I just love kale, leave me alone), mushroom fried rice, french toast, mixed lentil soup… all of it quick, easy and so stinkin’ satisfying. Thanks to Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks for having arguably the best meat-free blog on the internet- most of my cooking while here has been inspired by her recipes. The two I’m going to share with you below are riffs on recipes I found there.

The Simplest Ever Homemade Bread (inspired by Easy Little Bread from 101 cookbooks):

You can do this, yes you can! It’s a sure way to feel like a champ and have the house smell a treat as well. Butter it or top it with goat cheese, use the left over dry pieces for french toast- you’re gonna love this easy little charmer.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups warm water

1 packet rapid rise yeast

1 tbsp. agave (or honey is fine too! I just use what I have kickin’ around)

*2 cups white flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. butter, melted, for oiling the pan

Preparation:

1) Pour packet of yeast into warm water. Once it dissolves, add agave and let sit for 5-10 minutes until a foam forms.

3) Measure flour and oats into a large bowl, add salt. Pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix well with a spoon.

4) Pour the dough into a greased loaf pan, or whatever you have. (I found a small enamel pot and my loaf came out lovely and round).

5) Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place for a half hour. Heat oven to 350 and bake bread for 35-40 minute. Broil for an additional few minutes to brown the top.

6) Remove bread from pan to prevent it from steaming, and serve warm, with just a ton of salty butter, if you know what’s good for you.

*The original recipe calls for a cup each of white and whole wheat flour, but my arms didn’t want to carry two sacks of flour home from the ghetto Kroger (the closest grocery store to my apartment, totally fine if a little rough around the edges.) This recipe is simple, forgiving and delicious. GO! Make some bread!

the easiest bread you'll ever make, ever

Mixed Mushroom Soup (inspired by Mixed Mushroom Chowder from 101 Cookbooks)

This is perfect rainy day soup. Leave out the tofu and add cooked barley or rice, leave out the curry powder and red wine vinegar and add soy sauce… I used the things that I had around and you should too. Because, just yum, guys. Just yum to the max.

Ingredients:

4 tbsp. olive oil, or butter, or a combo of the two

1 lb mixed mushrooms, cut into small pieces

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 small red onion, diced

1/2 pkg. firm tofu, cubed

1 tbsp curry powder

6 cups vegetable stock

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

salt, pepper to taste

Garnish with cilantro and add a scoop of greek yogurt to your bowl, if desired.

Preparation:

1) Heat 3 tbsp. oil in large pot. Add mushrooms, season with a tsp. of salt and cook for 8 minutes.

2) Remove mushrooms to a plate, add remaining oil and sauté onion for 2-3 minutes. Add cubed tofu, season with curry powder, 1 tsp. of salt and pepper and continue to cook for 3-4 min longer.

3) Add stock, more salt and bring to a simmer. Add mushrooms and vinegar and simmer for 10 minutes. Add sesame oil and check for balance- season with more salt, pepper,  sesame oil, and vinegar as necessary.

4) Serve up a bowl with a tbsp of greek yogurt and bit of fresh cilantro, if that floats your boat. Eat with above Simplest Ever Homemade Bread and be happy!

mixed mushroom soup