Parent challenge! ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

24 December 2008

Parent challenge!

When we got to NC for holidays, John and I immediately took over my parents' kitchen and made lots of dinner. The whole "parents' kitchen" business is challenging because they eat really differently than we do. Everything is way more traditional.

Them: cold cereal and milk, coffee, eggs, toast with margarine. MARGARINE. I have a hard time believing anyone is still in the "margarine is not just ok but better for you than butter" school. Even the vegan population is way more about olive oil and etc. But then I guess that's the generation past WWII experience. Ugh.
Us: nothing, tea, bananas. Brunch eggs and coffee on some weekends. Certainly not margarine.

Them: soup, sandwiches, leftovers (meat and veg), sandwiches made out of leftovers, milk.
Us: big salads, leftovers (big entree), water.

Them: separate small portions of meat and vegetables, milk, tea or coffee. Examples: 1. Pork chop, green beans, milk. 2. Pasta with meat sauce, unrelated vegetables such as peas, milk. 3. Ham, corn, milk.
Us: one single large entree with lots of vegetables, water or wine.

So we wanted them to actively like what we make, yet eat how we eat and see that it's not so bad. There was also the "Kevin's girlfriend is coming and she's vegetarian so for once there will be more than one vegetarian in the house" factor. So we had even more motive to show them how to actually cook for vegetarians.

Here's our dinner:

Black bean and sweet potato soup with parsley instead of kale. We made a cubic foot of this so we would have a serious amount of vegetarian supplement around whenever we got hungry. It worked: we ate soup for Days On End. It was still delicious, though, especially because I found a jar of ancho chile in my mom's spice cabinet and used some of that in the spicing. Oh man: do that if you have it.

Tostadas with refried black beans.

black beans
olive oil
salt, pepper

flour tortillas
avocado, either sliced or as guacamole
shredded cheese if you want it

Refried beans are easy, especially if you have precooked beans. At home we'd use a frozen block of beans from our latest batch of dried; this time we used canned black beans.

Peel and chop an onion or two; soften the pieces in olive oil in a big saute pan. Chop up several cloves of garlic and a jalapeno and add them as well. Spice with cumin and let everything soften together. When onions are translucent, add black beans. Stir the business together, adding water if it's too dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Then simmer the business, mashing the beans with the back of your wooden spoon, until the whole pan is your preferred texture. Leave the beans slightly wet so evaporation won't turn them super dry.

Tostada assembly: Warm tortillas in a foil packet in the oven. We used one per tostada, but in retrospect, I'd make more of a tower with multiple tortillas. Put a tortilla on a plate. Cover with layers of beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce (use lots), and diced tomatoes/salsa. Then, if you want to, add another tortilla and make another layer. Repeat until you have enough for everyone.

Eat these with a knife and fork. I like to mix mine totally up, so it's a huge warm messy tortilla salad.

The jalapeno was the only real sore point in this dinner. We used one for three cans of black beans, where normally at home we'd use one per can/approximate two cups. So this proportion should have been fine and mild, right? Not mild enough, apparently.

For the most part, though, it went over well. It seemed like the biggest change for my parents was serving size. We're used to eating one huge plate of one thing; they're used to eating a plate of several smaller things. They're used to eating meat at every meal, such that they have to eat less to get full, and they drink milk, which is a lot more filling than our normal water. We also do a lot more exercise, and are used to coming home actively hungry. I was trying to accommodate their normal idea of multiple-item dinner, to make the construction familiar, but wasn't thinking about serving amounts very much. So the full bowl of soup plus 1-layer tostada was too much for them, while John and I both ate everything.

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