Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Two-Supper Disaster

It was evening. Darren walked through the door, said hello, and was informed that after the kids finished their supper and we dropped them off at AWANA, he and I (and Daphne) were going out to eat. He didn't argue: I'd earned it.

That morning, I'd got a frozen meal started in the crockpot. It was "teriyaki porkchops," one of ten freezer-bag meals I'd put together at a Homemade Gourmet party back in the summer. These meals were handy, but overall I wasn't very impressed, especially considering what Homemade Gourmet seasonings and spices cost. It was about 5:00 when I checked the meat to see how it was coming along. It was cooked through, and the sauce was, as usual, adequate. Something about the taste bothered me, however, and for the next half-hour I kept going back to taste the chops again. I finally admitted that the meat tasted a little off, and I couldn't serve it.

Saving my family from the dire affects of bad pork may have given me a glow of virtue, but a family can't live on virtue alone. I still had to scrounge up something for supper. I called Darren and explained the problem, and asked if he would mind having leftover salmon steak instead. To some people, salmon steak is a perfectly reasonable leftover. But Darren and I don't like fish very much, and the fact that I'd cooked salmon at all was an adventure. We liked it, but I didn't want to press our luck by serving it too much. However, he said it sounded fine to him.

I took out the salmon and began heating it in a pan. Somewhere it lurked in my mind that you shouldn't serve leftovers in the same form as their debut, so I pondered how to spruce it up a bit. Inspiration came in the form of cream of chicken soup: I flaked up the fish and added the soup, then heated it through.

It is now a new rule in my kitchen: Thou shalt not mix the fish with the chicken soup, for it is an abomination.

We took Addie and Stuart to AWANA, then enjoyed a restaurant-cooked meal of gyro and stromboli. Darren agreed that I had enough credit to my account to afford two supper disasters. "But it's a shame they both cashed in on the same day."

-- SJ

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Looking for a new dessert for the Thanksgiving buffet? I made this for my MIL's birthday and it got rave reviews! Plus, it's easy!

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crust
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 cup whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside. Add pumpkin, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight. Cover with whipped topping before serving.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Freezer Cooking

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Review: Freezer Cooking, Taste of Home Style

Earlier this summer, my friend, Jen, and I started freezer cooking. (Yes, that is how tardy I am in writing this post.) Since then, we’ve done it several times using different methods. I’ll try to post a little review of each, plus some pictures.

Since we are new to this freezer cooking thing, we started small. We still have yet to do more than two weeks of meals at a time. If you are scared of freezer cooking or think you have too small of a freezer, be brave and give it a try! You can do it! The afternoon of work is well worth the time and money saved later.

Another method worth trying is to prepare two of a casserole every time you cook. Eat one and freeze the other for another day. After a while, you will have a decent stash of meals in your freezer.

For our first session we used recipes from Taste of Home’s online freezer recipes and created our own “plan”. You can find TOH freezer recipes here.

Our menu

Pizza Pasta Casserole (2-9x13 pans each)
Colorful Chicken Casserole (1-2 qt casserole each)
Mexican Casserole (1-2 qt casserole each)
Hamburger Stew (5- 2 generous serving containers each)

I'll post recipes if anyone is interested.

Time spent

5 hours, including a run to my house to get more pots and cleaning up the kitchen/dishes

Pros, Cons and Tips

*Taste of Home recipes typically have a very low chance of being duds. All of the above recipes we would make again and are husband approved. (You’ll see why I say this in my next review.)

*Using meals with a variety of meats as main ingredients takes more time than doing all of one kind of meat. This saves time because you can cook all of your meat at once. I think if we had to do this session over again we would have skipped the chicken casserole and done all hamburger dishes to save time.

*When creating your own menu, sit down and make a plan. Think about cook times. Does something need to boil or simmer for a while? Do that first. Cook main ingredients together and assemble like dishes together.

*We used a George Foreman grill to cook all of our boneless, skinless chicken breast.. Most once a month cooking methods recommend cooking and processing whole chickens the day before to get your chicken meat. While I’m sure this is probably cheaper, saving time was more important to us, and, in the end, we may have even ended up even cost wise since we bought in bulk.

*Don’t worry about having leftover ingredients. Just freeze them for later use or make a soup.

*Have lots of pots, bowls and measuring cups!

*Cooking with a friend helps you persevere, gets you out of cooking tasks you dislike, and saves prep time. I hate handling meat and Jen hates chopping veggies, so she did meat and I did veggies. We were both happy!

*Freezing your meals insures that you use all your food and that it won’t spoil waiting for you to eat it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

In Honor of Fall Weather

Crockpot Potato Soup

from my friend Jen, who's husband loves this recipe

8 c. coarsely chopped peeled potatoes
1 small onion, chopped (1/3 c.)
1/2 lb. bacon, crisped, drained and crumbled
1-8oz. pkg. cream cheese softened
3 cans reduced sodium chicken broth (14.5 oz. cans) (or subsitute any chicken broth)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (10.75 oz. can)
1/4 t. pepper

In a 4 qt. crockpot, stir together thee potatoes and onion. Stir in the bacon.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, and pepper. Add the mixture to the crockpot.

Cover and cook the soup on low heat for 8-10 hours or on high heat for 4-5 hours. If you like, mash the potatoes for a slightly thicken consistency before serving.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Salads

Here are some recent salads I've tried:

Citrus Fennel Salad

4 C thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 2 bulbs)
2 C orange sections (about 3 peeled oranges)
1 C lemon sections (about 2 peeled lemons)
1/2 C thinly sliced red onion
2 T chopped mint (fresh is best)
1 T chopped fresh parsley
1 T chopped fennel fronds
1 T virgin olive oil
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
1/3 t fresh ground pepper (opt.)

Combine ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Chill 1 hour. Makes 6-8 servings.

Strawberry, Cucumber, & Basil Salad

4 C hulled strawberries, quartered (about 2 pints)
2 T thinly sliced fresh basil
2 t balsamic vinegar
1 t sugar
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 t lemon juice
1/4 t salt
1/4 fresh ground black pepper (opt.)

Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Combine cucumbers and juice and toss to coat. Add this and salt and pepper to strawberry mixture and stir to combine. Serve immediately. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hot old recipes

So what do you do when it's too hot to turn on the oven, you don't have a microwave, it costs too much to go out to eat, and you don't have a grill, either?

What you do is snag a couple of broken chairs left by the former owner and set the crockpot on the patio. Make sure you're on good terms with your neighbors.

This week we've had:

Garlic chicken thighs. (Which turned out amazingly tasty for how plain they were. Maybe it was the thunderstorm that hit them.)

Huevos rancheros. (This worked really well, too. Put some canned tomatoes and green chiles out to get hot for an hour or so, then add as many eggs as you need and cook for another hour. Top with grated cheese.)

French fries with hamburgers on top. (This didn't work. Save the hamburgers for when you actually have a grill.)

Lentil-rice casserole, which then got chilled with a bunch of vegetables added for a salad for supper.

It's a little odd looking, but it's working well and my kitchen is staying cool.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer Squash Soup

It's kind of warm for soup, but since this is the season to grow/buy summer squash I thought it'd be worth a try. And if you don't want to eat it now, just freeze it for a cold winter night.

5 small yellow summer squash, diced (seeded optional)
2 green onions, cut into 3" pieces (or onion powder if you don't like onions)
2 TB butter or margarine
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 to 1/4 tsp white pepper (black works just as well)
1-1/2 cups whipping cream

In large saucepan, saute squash and onions in butter until tender. Stir in broth, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool slightly. Process in batches in a blender or food processor; return all to the pan. Stir in cream and heat through.

Yield 6 servings.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Works for Me Wednesdays

I just discovered "Works for Me Wednesdays" on several blogs and now I'm addicted. Check it out and get some great tips on all sorts of household stuff!

Picture and a tip

I made the Pad Thai again last night so I thought I'd pass along a picture to go with the recipe. My own variation this time was chicken only and no bean sprouts.

Along the lines of Sara's post earlier asking about frozen meal ideas, I have this tip. I hate touching/cutting up raw meat so when we fixed Thai last time I had Nathan chop up enough chicken pieces for two meals and froze the second half of the meat. All I had to do last night was dump my ziploc bag of thawed chicken pieces into the pan, add the other ingredients and I was done. I loved how easy it made my cooking which means Nathan will probably be chopping lots of meat next time I go shopping. :-)

You could also do this for Chicken Fajitas. Freeze your chicken pieces with a dash of lime juice and some spices, with a second bag of frozen green peppers and onions. Dump it all in a skillet and saute until done. Serve in soft shells with taco toppings.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Stuffed French Toast

This is not a low-fat recipe but it is a yummy treat.

Stuffed French Toast

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans (you could use other nuts)

At least 14 slices of bread
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cans of fruit, any kind, I used apricot, about 15 oz each, home
canned is fine, just no melon or grapes

8 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I thought it would have been good with
almond or half vanilla and half almond, especially with the apricot, or
if you used cherries)

1/2 cup butter, melted

Open cans of fruit and drain in a strainer.

Heat butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in a microwave bowl for about
2 1/2 minutes, stir to completely melt butter and mix everything up.

Spray or butter a large pan (I should have used an 11 X 15, rather
than the 9 X 13 I did, but you can squish them tightly once they are
wet with the egg mixture). Pour the syrup in the bottom of the pan and
sprinkle with the chopped pecans.

Lay out the bread slices. Spread softened butter on one slice of
bread, top with well drained fruit (berries or pineapple can be
crushed). Spread butter on a second slice of bread and use it to cover
the bread with the fruit. Cut this sandwich in half and place it in
the pan on top of the syrup mixture. Make the rest of the bread into
sandwiches like this, cut them in half and put them in the pan. You
can crowd them, but don't overlap the bread.

Beat the eggs with the sugar, cream and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
Pour this over the bread in the pan. Press down firmly on the bread
with a metal spatula. You want to soak all the bread.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil and let it stand on the
counter for about 20 minutes (or you can put it in the fridge overnight
and bake in the morning). Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Take off any plastic or foil. Melt the third stick of butter, drizzle
it over the top of the sandwiches. Bake the french toast at 375
degrees, uncovered, for about 45 minutes, or until the top has browned.
Let pan cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pad Thai

Nathan randomly picked out this recipe for dinner on Saturday. Low and behold it was easy to make and very yummy! We made it with chicken and shrimp, but I want to try it chicken only and stir fry veggies only. I think any combination of meat and/or veggies would be tasty with the pasta and sauce.


Serves 4 (or 2 very hungry people!)

• 1/2 pound uncooked linguine
• 3/4 cup tomato juice
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon white vinegar
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
• 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips/bite size pieces
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 pound bean sprouts, rinsed and drained (optional)
• 1/3 cup sliced green onions and tops
• 1/2 pound cooked baby shrimp, rinsed and drained
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
• Lime wedges (optional) (I added a dash of lime juice to the sauce instead)

1. Cook linguine according to package directions, omitting salt; drain.
2. Combine tomato juice, lite soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch.
3. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in hot wok or large skillet over high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry 1 minute; remove.
4. Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in same pan. Add garlic, bean sprouts and green onions; stir-fry 1 minute.
5. Stir in linguine and cook 2 minutes, or until heated through. Return chicken with shrimp, cilantro and tomato juice mixture. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.
6. Serve with lime wedges.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Freezable Recipes

In anticipation of The Bigness of Pregnancy In Summer, not to mention a third child, I'm realizing I'd do well to have meals already on hand. I don't know many freezer-recipes, though. You can eat only so much lasagna, after all.

I'd love some meal recipes, or even just freezable components ("Pasta freezes. Rice doesn't. Jello is a total loss.")

As a completely irrelevent side note, I tried Sarah's Irish Stew recipe. It was marvelous.

-- SJ

Monday, May 01, 2006

Help needed! Birthday menu ideas

OK, so it's DOB's birthday on Sunday, and I'm trying to come up with a birthday menu. He said for me just to come up with a new menu and a new dessert--or at least a new combination.

So I'm looking for something:
1) A little different
2) EASY--the ducklings don't know what a birthday means yet. ;-)
3) Must involve meat. We have gotten in touch with our inner carnivores and decided our metabolisms need meat.
4) Goes well with blueberry muffins, because that's the one thing I've thought of thus far.

Oh, and I have to decide by Wednesday morning, before I go grocery shopping. (Although if an emergency arises, we do live across the street from the grocery store right now.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

My New Favorite Sandwich

A month or so ago Nathan and I had to eat at the food court in the mall while out shopping. We ended up having these grilled sandwiches that were tasty enough that Nathan decided to recreate them the other night. They were very easy to make and yummy, too, so I thought I'd share.

The original sandwiches were thinly sliced raw meat grilled with cheese and kind of "mashed" by the spatula into pieces. We "cheated" and used the deli meat we had on hand. We also made ours with pita bread instead of french bread.

Slice any deli meat (turkey breast, chicken, ham, roast beef....) into small squares/pieces. Then "grill" the meat in a skillet until the edges are a little brown. Top with cheese and let it melt. Scoop into a pita pocket.

Nathan fixed me a turkey and cheddar cheese pita with dill pickle, but I'm sure you could use any combination of meat, cheese and veggies to make a very tasty sandwich.

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

This dish has quickly risen to prominence in our home since its discovery two months ago, inspired by some marked-down apples that had to be used up immediately. It's quick to whip up, keeps for several days, uses fairly basic and cheap ingredients (at least in my stripped-down version), is pretty nutritious, and makes a simple, easy, yet filling breakfast food.

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

1 Tbl. dry bread crumbs
2 cups flour (I used half whole wheat and half white until I realised that the cinnamon and apples are going to turn it brown anyway)
1 cup plus 2 Tbl. sugar (I just use one cup)
1 tsp. salt
10 Tbl. (1 1/4 sticks) butter, softened (I use half of this, or maybe 1 stick, depending on how much I have out on the butter dish. I use less butter not only because it's healthier but also cheaper, since I always use real butter in baking. Maybe the texture or taste would be better with more butter, but since I've never tried it, I don't know what I'm missing!)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk or low-fat (not nonfat) plain yogurt, room temperature (I make my own buttermilk using the following formula: 1 Tbl. vinegar plus enough milk to make one cup = one cup of buttermilk)
1 large egg, room temperature (but I usually use a medium egg because that's what I have on hand)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium-large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I've used one sometimes)
3/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (I never use this much)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar

-Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9x13 pan and shake breadcrumbs over to coat. Tap out extra crumbs.
-Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large mixing bowl. Add butter and cut in with pastry knife until mixture resembles coarse crumbs; remove 1 cup to separate bowl and reserve.
-Whisk baking powder, soda, and cinnamon into flour mixture in bowl. Add buttermilk or yogurt, egg, and vanilla; whisk until smooth and frostinglike, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
-Stir in apples.
-Pour into pan and smooth top.
-Add nuts and brown sugar to reserved cup of flour mixture. Stir until blended and spread over cake batter, pressing lightly so it adheres.
-Bake cake until center is firm and cake tester comes out clean, 50 to 55 minutes.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Some Breadish Things

Argentine Cornbread

"Hey Dad, get a picture of me next to this cornbread in authentic Argentinian garb!"

This was tried for a missions potluck, but it was good enough to warrant repeating under more ordinary circumstances.

3 T. olive oil
3 onions, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
3/4 c. beef or chicken broth
1 t. salt
1/2 t. crushed dried chili pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes and saute 10 minutes more while stirring. Add the broth, salt and chili pepper. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Sift together:
2 cups cornmeal
1 t. baking powder
1/2 lb. cottage cheese
3 T. butter
Mix well. Add 1 1/2 c. milk, and beat thoroughly. Combine with tomato mixture. Pour into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Bake for 1 hour.

Herb-Cheese Biscuits
I have finally perfected my reasonably-healthy biscuit technique. (The secret is to use a liquid fat and stir everything together at once.) This variation was particularly nummy.

Mix together 1/3 c. vinegar and 1 c. milk. Allow to stand for a minute, then stir in 2 c. whole wheat flour. Let stand for several hours.

Blend 2 c. white flour, 2 t. salt, and 1 1/2 t. baking soda. Add the flour-milk mixture, 2/3 c. olive oil, 1 t. basil, and 1/2 c. or so of finely shredded cheese. (I used monterey jack/cheddar mix, as that was what needed to be used up.) Mix together, then dump it out and knead it just until the flour is well mixed in. Pat out and cut into desired shapes.

Bake at 350 for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. (I'm not too sure on the temperature and time. Keep an eye on them.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

This will make you GLAD for a rainy day ...

Alright, people, if you like hot chocolate you have to try this one! It's been rainy and cold here in Sacramento lately and I've actually been glad because it's given me a good excuse to make this recipe. Sometimes I like to add more espresso to make a truly amazing mocha. You can also play with it by adding peppermit or other extracts in lieu of the vanilla.

Barefoot Contessa’s Hot Chocolate

2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso or coffee powder

Heat the milk and half-and-half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates. When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar, vanilla extract, and espresso and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently and serve immediately. Use a vanilla bean or cinnamon stick to garnish each serving.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Stuffed Pasta Tip

Tonight I made cheese manicotti. (recipe later) It was a breeze thanks to putting the filling in a large zip loc bag, cutting off one corner and viola! An easy way to squeeze filling into the tubes. I think this idea would probably work well for just about any recipe that calls for stuffing/filling pasta.



.....And with cherries on top

For as long as I can remember this has been my mom's company dessert. (She got the recipe from her mom, Carol) She always made it with blueberries on top. Mmmm! I can still remember crushing graham crackers when I was little and graduating to baking the whole thing. Now I'm married to someone who loves cherries so we do cherries. Which by the way, the particular cheesecake pictured was for his birthday. Enjoy!

Filling Ingredients:

8oz. cream cheese

1/2 c. sugar

2 eggs beaten

Crust Ingredients:

1/4 lb. butter, melted

1/4 lb. graham crackers, crushed

1/4 c. sugar


Any canned or fresh fruit topping.

Blend filling ingredients until smooth.

Mix crust ingredients in separate bowl. Press mixture evenly into pie plate.

Pour filling into crust.

Bake at 325 for 25 min. Or until slightly browned on top and filling is set.

Cool and top with your choice of fruit or other topping. Best when served chilled through.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tagged by the Queen

1. How many meals does most of your family eat at home each week? How many are in your family?
19 meals. Two of us eat 19 meals at home; one of us eats leftover lunches at work about 4 days a week and either out or at home for one other day. Sundays we usually only have two official meals and lunch is fellowship snacks at church. Saturday is usually the same with the option to grab leftovers from the fridge if you're hungry. Breakfast is hit or miss for M & me, but Ben's favorite meal. Often I just eat his leftovers.

2. How many cookbooks do you own?
I have about three cookbooks, a couple of gift collections of recipes from friends and bunch of Cooking Light magazines.

3. How often do you refer to a cookbook each week?
Rarely. But I look at magazine recipes (or online) pretty frequently.

4. Do you collect recipes from other sources? If so, what are some of your favorite sources (relaties, friends, magazines, advertisements, packages, the internet, etc)
See above.

5. How do you store those recipes?
I have a box and a photo album and an index card binder and I keep the magazine if it is has a lot I'm going to want to refer to.

6. When you cook, do you follow the recipe pretty closely, or do you use recipes primarily to give you ideas?
I substitute a lot of ingredients and occasionally do improvisation.

7. Is there a particular ethnic style or flavor that predominates in your cooking? If so, what is it?
Just one! Italian, Thai, Indian and Mexican.

8. What's your favorite kitchen task related to meal planning and preparation? (eating the finished product does not count)
I actually like the planning best. It makes me feel very worthy of the title "homemaker" when I'm putting together meal ideas.

9. What's your least favorite part?
Chopping onions.

10. Do you plan menus before you shop?
Yes, except about once a month when I get behind on planning and we fall apart for a few days.

11. What are your three favorite kitchen tools or appliances?
Rice cooker/vegetable steamer, coffee/seed grinder, coffee maker? (I would see blender but mine is no good.)

12. If you could buy one new thing for your kitchen, money was no object, and space not an issue, what would you most like to have? There are too many to choose; a complete set of Caphalon would be nice, or a complete set of Cutco knives. But a new kitchen would be best of all.

13. Since money and space probably are objects, what are you most likely to buy next?
A dutch oven, probably 4 or 5 qt

14. Do you have a separate freezer for storage?
Hah! Wouldn't that be nice?

15. Grocery shop alone or with others?
I like to do my big shopping alone, but if I just have a few items, we make it a family outing.

16. How many meatless main dish meals do you fix in a week??
Probably 5. Though I make a lot of things that can be made with or without meat, so I can eat too.

17. If you have a decorating theme in your kitchen, what is it? Favorite kitchen colors?
Decorating theme? Hmmm....

18. What's the first thing you ever learned to cook, and how old were you?
I made a pie when I was probably 7 or 8, but no one would eat it because my mom thought it had weird ingredients. I ate it all. It was very good.

19. How did you learn to cook?
My mom taught me a little but I'm mainly self-taught with a good dose of Dana R for teaching me creativity, smaller portions, healthy yummy gourmet stuff.

Monday, February 20, 2006

A handy little method I periodically rediscover: instead of adding more salt, use a little lemon juice to brighten up the flavor. Works especially well on chicken, pasta, or potatoes.

-- SJ

Sunday, February 19, 2006

What Do You Keep On Hand?

I have the challenge of a small kitchen but recently realized that I had to keep a larger stash of certain staples on hand for convenience and economy's sake. A few of mine are:

Olive Oil
Whole wheat flour
Organic black beans (Ben's favorite)

What are yours?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Chicken Paprikash

Once again, the vegetarian is posting something she won't eat. But it is a favorite of my husband and quick and easy.

8-oz pkg medium egg noodles
2 t vegetable (or olive) oil
1 C sour cream (reduced fat works really well)
2 T paprika, divided
1/2 t salt, divided
1/4 t black pepper
1 C vertically sliced onion
1 lb chicken tenders cut into 1/4 inch wide strips (turkey works too)
1/2 C chicken broth (go for the low-sodium fat-free)

Cook the noodles according to the pkg directions omitting salt and fat.

Combine sour cream, 1 Tablespoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl; set aside.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1 Tablespoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, onion, and chicken, tossing to coat. Add mixture to the pan; saute 4 minutes or until chicken is done. Add broth; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Reduce heat to medium-low.

Add sour cream mixture; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until thoroughly heated. Serve over noodles. Makes 3-4 servings.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Irish Beef Stew

Serves 4-6 people


2lbs. stewing beef, cubed
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
2 10 3/4-oz. cans tomato soup
1 soup can water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced potatoes
1-lb package frozen peas
1/4 cup water

1. Place beef, onion soup, tomato soup, soup can of water, salt, pepper, carrots, and potatoes in slow cooker.

2. Cover. Cook on Low 8 hours.

3. Add peas and 1/4 cup water. Cover. Cook on Low 1 more hour.

**I found a bag of frozen peas and carrots in my freezer so I used this instead of the carrots AND the bag of peas.

*** I cut this recipe in half so I wouldn't have too much. It fed the two of us for dinner with one set of leftovers, so for those of you who want more keep it as it is or double it.

This is a FAST prep recipe and is soooo delicious!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Easy breakfast casserole

I found this recipe recently and have already made it four times. I halved it for our breakfasts, doubled it to serve my family, and even brought it to a baby shower (so it makes the transition from elegant to hearty!) It's easy to make, tastes great, and consists of fairly cheap ingredients. There, that's my pep talk.

Easy Breakfast Casserole

Six bread slices (I use leftover heels from the freezer)
1 lb. sausage (I use a lot less, especially if it's spicy; I also use just a smidgen of sausage, which is expensive, and mostly ground turkey)
1 cup cheese (I use less)
Six eggs
2 cups milk

Rip up the bread slices and place in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Fry the sausage and sprinkle over the bread; sprinkle the cheese over this. (Note: at this point you could cover the dish and store it in the fridge overnight, if you wanted to save time the next morning.) Beat the eggs and milk; add salt and pepper and pour over the sausage mixture. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Best when hot and fresh!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Easy Stuffed Shells

The other night we had company for dinner and I wanted a tasty, but not ordinary meal. I settled upon Stuffed Shells. There are dozens of recipes out there varying from meatless stuffed shells, veggie stuffed shells or meat/sausage stuffed shells. I found one that sounded good on and it turned out very delicious!

Stuffed Shells III

Jumbo pasta shells stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan, smothered in a mushroom tomato sauce and baked.

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Ready In: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Yields: 10 servings


1 (12 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
2 eggs, beaten
1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28 ounce) jar pasta sauce
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
3. In a large bowl, mix eggs, ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper until well combined.
4. Stuff cooked shells with ricotta mixture and place in a 9x13 inch baking dish.
5. In a medium bowl, stir together pasta sauce, mushrooms and reserved mozzarella and Parmesan. Pour over stuffed shells.
6. Bake in preheated oven 45 to 60 minutes, until edges are bubbly and shells are slightly set.

*You could also add spinach if you were looking for something more than cheese, or for the meat eaters try Italian sausage or ground beef in with the tomato sauce. Mushrooms add great taste, but can be omitted for those with allergies.

**I read in a magazine that you can cut prep time by pre-stuffing uncooked noodles and letting them sit over night. This was recommended for Manicotti. I tried this with my stuffed shells, it worked for the most part, however some of the shells weren't open at all, unless cooked, so I couldn't stuff about 4 from the box. It was ok, there was still plenty to go around for dinner and leftovers.

I started by putting a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan then laying the stuffed uncooked shells on top and topping with the tomato-mushroom mixture. Next, I added a little bit of water before cooking and baked with a foil cover for 45-50 minutes. The last 10-15 minutes I cooked without the foil cover. They turned out PERFECT!

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