Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Breakfast. It's What's For Dinner.

There is little that is more economical that breakfast. Really. We like to have standard breakfast food for dinner every once in a while anyway because we're not big breakfast people. Breakfast for us is usually a bowl of cereal, so we seldom have the opportunity to have eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc. Lately, since we're on a budget, breakfast is making more of an appearance. One of mine and Andy's favorites is a frittata or an egg scramble. Especially when we have leftover roasted veggies lurking about. We could easily have a frittata a week, except for the fact that Zander doesn't like eggs, and Abigail will eat a little, but they're not her favorite. That's kind of too bad actually, because I can buy 18 eggs for $1.25 at the grocery store- it doesn't get much more economical than that!

Fortunately, the kids love pancakes and french toast. Last night's offering ended up being french toast. I make mine very simply with eggs, milk, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and a tiny touch of vanilla. Last night we topped them with some strawberries that had been frozen last summer during the height of strawberry season. That was an excellent treat at the end of February. I don't have a recipe for my french toast. I just beat everything together, adding another egg if I need to , or more milk if it seems too eggy. I also like using homemade bread- and last night I happened to have a loaf needing to be used, so my decision was made for me. Abigail and Zander both inhaled supper last night. Seriously inhaled. I seldom make french toast, as pancakes get requested more often. But after last night, I think we'll be making french toast again real soon.

Tonight I take the night off. After ballet class tonight, we're going to visit with Grandma and Grandpa for a little bit since they're back from running around the country. If I get a chance, I may bake something today, but we'll see. I did want to mention today that I made a couple of changes over at The Recipe Trove yet again. I have enabled anonymous comments and changed the comment section to a review section. Have you made one of my recipes? I would love to have your review on it. In the next few days I'll be getting the last of my Tummy Treasure recipes loaded in, so keep an eye out for that.

As for Weigh-In Wednesday... no change here. No change is better than going in the opposite direction, so that's a good thing, but I think until I can get a bit of exercise in, I'm pretty much going to be stuck where I am. And 12 inches of snow this past weekend, plus more over the next two days doesn't sound too promising in that regard. So happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

As Promised... those tacos!

I had my Rick Bayless returned to me yesterday. And right away I hunted for that pork recipe. We happened to have had it again just this past Sunday, and it was still incredible. Seriously! And since there were leftovers this time, our friends generously left them with us and we had it again last night. This is the type of pork filling that needs very little adornment. Usually tacos have meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and whatever sauces or condiments you want. Cheese would completely take away from the wonderful flavor, and the lettuce just seemed un-necessary to me. So we had it simply with tomato, sour cream, and salsa. Although last week we had it with a guacamole that was excellent as well, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention that a handful of cilantro would put these tacos straight into the hall of fame.

Smoky Shredded Pork Tacos
are in the Recipe Trove for anyone who's up for a worthy adventure. There is a bit of a process, I must warn you. But our friend followed the recipe to a "T" except for the addition of almonds at the end. The raisins and the spices are definitely a must- so please don't skip that part. I also need to recommend that you do not use store bought tortillas or taco shells for this recipe unless you have access to a taqueria where they make them fresh. I actually recommend you use my recipe for Corn Crepes. After the success of this recipe, let me assure you that I am looking for something else in this Rick Bayless cookbook, Mexican Kitchen. When I first got it, I flipped through, thinking all the recipes sounded so daunting. But if they even taste half as good as that pork...well, they will definitely be worth it. Oh, and sorry about the photo... I couldn't figure out how to get a good picture of the inside of a taco...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Is it a Salad? Or Dessert?

Or both?

One of the many jobs I had was working in a grocery store deli. I really enjoyed that job. I worked in Green Bay at Festival Foods, so it was always busy. It was a high volume deli, so we were constantly busy helping customers and making food. Oh my, we had so many wonderful salads. One thing we excelled at was our prepared foods, the salads, the broasted chicken, and the rotisserie chicken, all wonderful. I actually learned quite a bit working there. I learned a lot about making food in quantity, and I also got a feel for what kind of foods would go together to make salads and such. And I have to say, that is one job that has really stuck with me. If there's one thing that I make well, and people always enjoy eating, is the many varieties of salad. Seriously, if I actually wrote down every salad I've ever made, or have in my head, I could write a cookbook on salads.

A staple of potlucks and church picnics, salads can be humble and the can be spectacular. They can be a main meal all by themselves or they can maintain side status. They can be composed of fruits, vegetables, pasta, grains, meats, the possibilities are endless. Today's salad actually features something completely different, and happens to be one of the many salads I took away from my time in a deli. And that salad is the over the top Snickers Salad. As in Snickers Candy Bars.

This salad contains one of those "controversial" ingredients, in that it contains Cool Whip, but by golly, it's so worth it. Cool Whip, cream cheese, and powdered sugar combine to form your base, and then diced apples and crushed Snickers Bars are mixed in. I've also had it with pineapple tidbits instead of the apples, and it's good that way as well. It's an excellent salad to take to a gathering where you know there will be plenty of pasta, potato, and veggie salads, because it's just a little different. Honestly, you could also spoon this mixture into a graham cracker pie shell and top it with more Cool Whip and a caramel drizzle and call it a pie. So is it a salad or a dessert? It can be whatever you want it to be. Either way, it really is delicious and worthy of company. Try it. Snickers Salad, your friends and family will love you.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pure Genius

Wolfgang Puck is truly a genius. Last night I made Wolfgang's Beef Goulash for dinner, and it was truly spectacular. I found the recipe in my yet-to-be-used cookbook Food Network Favorites: Recipes from our All-Star Chefs. So even better than a stellar recipe- I managed to check off another one of my cookbooks from the list. But back to the goulash.

This is not My Momma's goulash, that's for certain. Here in the Midwest, goulash typically refers to a dish consisting of ground beef, elbow macaroni, and tomato sauce, all mixed up together, sometimes with bits of vegetables thrown in. This was a sure budget stretcher for my family while I was growing up. A pot of goulash stretched a pound of ground beef easily to feed a family of seven, plus it used up all those little bits of vegetables lurking about in the fridge. I have no doubt that my Mom learned this goulash from her Mom. Last night's goulash didn't resemble that one in the least. This was authentic Austrian-Hungarian goulash.

I began by caramelizing onions for 45 minutes with a bit of sugar. Next, garlic, spices, herbs, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and chicken stock were added to create the liquid base of the goulash. Chunks of stew beef, salt and pepper made their entrance, and then simmered gently for 1 1/2 hours. I made this earlier in the day so that I could chill it before heating it up for the dinner hour. Stew is always better the next day, and I figured a chilling would help meld the flavors better. Served up with some freshly baked whole wheat bread, some hot buttered green beans, and egg noodles, this dinner was hearty and packed with flavor. While Wolfgang suggested serving this with spaetzle, after last weeks debacle, I wasn't ready to tackle that again just yet- although Wolfgang's recipe for spaetzle does look promising.

I made very few changes to his recipe. The first being that I did not use the caraway called for. Caraway is one of very few things that I just cannot stand. I really don't like it at all, so instead I subbed fennel seed, which is similar, but doesn't have the harshness I get from caraway. The other change I made to the recipe was to eliminate the hot paprika- since the kids were eating with us, I didn't want to add the heat. Instead, I added about 1/4 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper to give it just a tickle. If the changes affected the dish at all, I couldn't tell you, because Andy and I thoroughly enjoyed dinner. The kids not so much- but they are proving more and more that they are not beef eaters, so they managed with sides and freshly baked bread.

Before making the goulash, I had been looking online for reviews of this specific recipe, and the ones I found were all raving. In addition, I also found a menu link for Spago, one of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants and his beef goulash happened to be on the menu... at $35 a plate. The very same goulash that I made tonight costs diners at his restaurants $35 a plate! When I mentioned this to Andy we both agreed that because I cheated and used egg noodles, that should bring the menu price down to about $30 a plate. So the two of us ate our fill, plus there are about 4 more servings in the fridge, all for about $10. The beef was the most pricey thing, as I splurged and bought it from our local butcher. Factor in the fresh herbs and onions, and that brings the total dinner to about $10. Not bad, considering that for two of us at Spago we could have the same thing for $60- not including gratuity, beverages, or dessert. That's of course if we had Spago nearby.

The recipe for Wolfgang's Beef Goulash is definitely in the Recipe Trove. It does take some time, but the execution itself is very simple and totally worth the effort. This dish is completely company worthy, but also excellent for a cozy dinner for two by the fire. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Slice

Over the last few days on the CLBB, there has been a discussion about Australia and some of the foods there. One of these creatures is called A Slice. A slice in Australia (best as I can tell anyway) is any kind of sliced bar cookie or dessert. And one of the Aussie's on the bulletin board shared a really quick, really simple version of a slice. And let me tell you, a Mars Bar Slice is all that AND a bag of chips. A Mars Bar in Australia is the same as a 3 Musketeers bar here in the states. (Yet a Mars Bar in the UK is similar to a Milky Way, and our Mars Bar is like a Snickers- only with almonds, where is the uniformity!) Anyway, the Mars Bar Slice couldn't be any easier to make.

You take 4 full size 3 Musketeers bars and melt them with 3 tablespoons of butter- this took 1 1/2 minutes in my microwave. Then you mix in 3 cups of Rice Krispies and press the mixture into a 9x13 pan. Allow it to firm up and set, and cut into slices. That's it. So easy, and a really fun twist on a Rice Krispie treat. These are thinner than a Krispie Treat, but the candy bars make them much sweeter, so the proportions work out perfectly. My only problem with them is that I can't stop eating them! They are really good. I also think this would be a perfect way to use up leftover Halloween candy, and I suspect that you could use any of the nougaty candy bars. Give them a try!
Today is day one of a huge snowstorm for us. It could get a bit blizzardy out tomorrow- and the snow is not supposed to entirely let up until Monday, so the kids are very excited that there will be measurable snow to play in. So the weather today has inspired me to attempt to make Hungarian Goulash. And who better to turn to for an Austro-Hungarian recipe than Wolfgang Puck, tomorrow I'll be sharing the results of that adventure. I'll also be updating over at The Savvy Bookworm. I have been reading, but failing to post, so I'll get a couple new books reviewed over there today for anyone interested. Happy Saturday!

Friday, February 23, 2007

A Dud

I was so proud of myself for making a second recipe out of a cookbook for my challenge. But you know that feeling when you are assembling ingredients and you just know that the end product is not going to be stellar? Lately I've been discovering some real treasures of recipes that surprised me, so I really had hope that Baked Chicken Tortillas would fall into that category. It just never delivered. Andy and I both thought the recipe was a waste of salsa and good leftover chicken. And maybe part of that was the execution of the ingredients. They were rolled up into a tortilla, enchilada style, but the scant bit of salsa to top it with was very un-enchilada. Enchiladas are saucy and full of flavor. Maybe, just maybe, had the tortillas been folded into a quesadilla instead, with salsa afterwards for dipping, it would have been better. I was expecting something like enchiladas- which are a favorite. And I got... slightly Mexican flavored roll-up thingies.

If you are interested in the recipe, you can click on the link above, and that will take you to the recipe on Cooking Light. It definitely won't be a repeater here.

Well, today we're off to do a bit of grocery shopping- and just a bit at that. The end of the month is upon us next week, and I'm proud to say that I am way under budget for the month, so I don't want to wreck that with a poorly planned shopping trip. Tonight we'll be taking the kids out for burgers and milkshakes at our favorite burger place- courtesy of some gift cards, so we're all looking forward to the night off. But tomorrow I hope to share a brand new recipe for something... a little unusual from the Land Down Under... so come on back for that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why, Oh Why

So I thought I'd done my daily post, and that would be that. Then I was over on Recipezaar looking for a couple things, and something really annoyed me. When I look up recipes there, I love to read the reviews of recipes. I can learn what other people liked or didn't like about a particular recipe before I take it on myself. But then there are the people who substitute so many ingredients that the finished dish doesn't resemble the original in any form... and then they give the recipe a poor review! What is that!?

As an example, I was looking at an Italian Sausage soup-simple and basic, but one I've made and it is quite good. Well, one of the reviewers says "I didn't have Italian Sausage, so I used ground turkey. And I reduced the salt because we're watching our salt, and we don't really like spinach, so instead I used some sliced carrots. Oh, and we left off the Parmesan cheese on top. This was a really bland and boring soup, we won't be making it again." What?? You replaced a major flavor component of the soup (Italian sausage) with boring and flavorless ground turkey, reduced other flavor components (salt and cheese) and eliminated the spinach, and you're surprised the soup didn't turn out!!!!??? Shame on them for giving a great recipe a poor review.

Now, I'm all for substitutions when they make sense and you know what you are doing. Cooking, after all, means tailoring a recipe to you and your families preferences. But first of all to bash someone else's recipe because you made too many changes (And poor ones at that) is just plain rude. And secondly, you can't just randomly swap out ingredients in a recipe. The worst offenders are bakers. Baking is a science. Chemistry happens during the baking process. And any professional will tell you that even changing an ingredient by a teaspoon will alter the finished product. So why would someone eliminate sugar from a quick bread and use honey? And replace the eggs with yogurt, and then also eliminate the butter in favor of applesauce? You can't make all those changes and expect goodness to come out of the oven. If you want a sugar-free, reduced fat recipe for banana bread, you need to find a specific recipe or create your own.

Sugar is the biggest victim of substitutions.

So many people have come to think that sugar is the big bad evil. And it is, if you sit down with a bag and a spoon and eat it like cereal. But one dessert or quick bread a week made with real sugar is not going to shave years off your life. (And please note, that I am not speaking to those who, for medical reasons, should avoid sweets at all costs.) Sugar has a place in cakes and cookies and quickbreads- and it's so much more than just adding sweetness. Eliminating the sugar and using an artificial sweetener, honey, or sucanat is not going to produce a favorable product. It just isn't. You need a specific recipe for that, and if you are up to the challenge, work on developing one, just know that it is going to take a bit of time, and plenty of trial and error. But please don't mess with someone else's recipe and then tell them that their recipe isn't any good. As Captain Hook would say, that's bad form.

It's Chili Time!

Last night was ballet, so dinner needed to be in the crock-pot. What has become one of Abigail's favorite dinners is a bowl of chili, and it's been a while since I made some, so chili night it was. I am one of those who likes their chili nice and thick, full of chunks of ground beef, beans, and tomatoes. (Yes, beans are a must in my chili.) For Andy's Monday Night Football gatherings I've developed a really awesome thick chili that has beer and jalapenos in it, and a bit of a kick. That is not the kind of chili Abigail likes. In fact, Abigail's favorite chili is My Mom's, and because hers is not thick, we affectionately call it Chili-Soup for Abigail's benefit. There are literally hundreds of recipes for red chili out there. Yet chili is the one thing that I pass by a recipe every single time. I have never made chili by recipe, and don't intend to start.

So yesterday morning I set out to make chili, pen and paper in hand to chronicle the chili. I'd never written it down before, and thought I should do so for other people's benefit. Chili is a very economical meal- especially because one pot of chili for us is at least three dinners, plus lunches. It freezes great, and I love to have a package of it in the freezer to just pull out. The recipe I have in The Recipe Trove is pretty much how I made it last night. For the kids benefit, I just use a mild chili seasoning packet instead of individual chile powders because it just gets too hot for the kids to use powders. Of course, if you like heat, my favorite Chile Powders are from Penzey's- particularly their Ancho Chile Powder. If want a more manly chili, you can add a bottle of beer and eliminate all but one cup of beef broth. You can also add a jalapeno or two when you add the onions. For a thicker chili, reduce the beef broth and add a whole small can of tomato paste- then adjust your seasoning accordingly. Every chili is unique and every one's taste for chili is different.

Here is my Chili recipe, but change it however you see fit. And tonight for dinner, another new recipe from the 2001 Cooking Light Annual- don't you just love recipes that use leftovers!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lip-Smacking Good

The other day I was determined to check another cookbook off my list of cookbooks to cook from. I turned to the "Sunday Game Of The Week" on the CLBB. The premise of the game is that a random number is chosen, and you select that cookbook, learn a little bit about it and choose one new recipe to cook from it. Sounds like a perfect way to force my hand and make me try something new. So I checked out the thread, and the chosen number was 71. I only have 66 cookbooks, so I reversed the numbers and ended up with my number 17, which happened to be a Cooking Light Annual from 2001. Perfect. I knew I would find something to make, and sat down and actually made a list of about 25 recipes I want to try from the book. I found a recipe for later this week, and then something else caught my eye.

On the menu was Chicken Parmesan- one of Andy's absolute favorites. Mostly economical, it requires chicken breasts, which I buy frozen and in bulk, as well as pasta sauce and seasonings. We like to serve it up with spaghetti, as that is guaranteed to make the kids happy. But what caught my eye was a recipe for pizza dough that could also be used for focaccia. I've made focaccia once before, and wasn't totally thrilled about it, but this one had herbs blended into the dough, and it would go perfectly with chicken Parmesan. This dough took no time to put together, and in just a short while, I had a sheet of focaccia cooling on the counter. It was a long wait until dinner, but the focaccia was indeed perfect. I had sprinkled the top with a sea-salt blend that had fennel and citrus in it, and it was the perfect accompaniment for chicken parmesan. Next time though, I think I will leave out the sage and used dried basil instead, but other than that. Lip-smacking good. AND! The kids really liked it- that and the chicken parmesan. They both were proclaiming "mmmm" several times during dinner (Andy too), so the focaccia goes right into the tried and true pile.

The recipe for Herbed Focaccia can be found in the Recipe Trove already- the recipe for All-Purpose Pizza dough is with it, so just scroll down a little further for that part of it. Here is the recipe for Chicken Parmesan as well. One thing about the parmesan. It calls for fresh herbs, which by far make the best chicken parm on the planet. So good and flavorful, we really like it. But this time of year, fresh herbs are quite difficult to come by, so I've started using dried. The trick is to dump your dried herbs into your olive oil several hours before you are going to use it (I also use half the oil Giada calls for as well). That pulls the flavor out of the herbs and infuses the oil, brightening the herb flavor in the dish. Do try it, it will be well worth your time. Finally, last week I was a bit perplexed by something I found in a cereal box. What was it? head on over to Kids Cuisine to see what I think about it...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin

This was a treat for us. Lately, we've been doing a lot of one-dish type of meals, as those are more economical than a meat-n-three type of meal. So to have a dinner which features a meat, that is an occasion for us. The last time I was at Sam's I picked up a package of pork tenderloin for a steal. You get four tenderloins in a package there, so to get it close-dated or on sale is really economical, and we love pork tenderloin here. I wanted to do something a little different to it this time, so I went on a hunt through several websites looking for a roasting method or marinade. I found just the creature on Recipezaar.

Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin was incredibly simple. I took a handful of dried spices along with some Worcestershire and tamari and had a marinade in no time at all. I changed a few things from the original recipe. One being swapping out soy sauce for the more flavorful tamari sauce. I also left out the onion powder, and instead used a generous handful of dried onion flakes. I reduced the oil as well in the marinade, and it didn't suffer in the least because of it. The recipe called for marinating for 2 hours, and I didn't have that kind of time, so I just used my Foodsaver Marinater and marinated it for about 20 minutes, and it worked perfectly. They roasted in the oven for about 40 minutes, and the whole family thoroughly enjoyed the pork tenderloin. In fact, I had made up two tenderloins, thinking to freeze one after cooking for a quick dinner another time, and we ended up cutting into it, it was so good. And according to Andy, the leftovers seem to make excellent sandwiches.

I am positive that this will be even better on the grill, and next time hopefully it will be nice enough to do so. My adaptation of Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin is loaded into The Recipe Trove and waiting. Tomorrow I will likely skip the Weigh-In Wednesday post, as I don't have much to say about it this week. But come back to find out what I made last night that tickled the tastebuds of both kids and my husband.

Monday, February 19, 2007

On Weekend Posting...And Other Stuff

Sadly, this past weekend, Sunday Company Dinner did not happen. Abigail came down with the flu Friday night, spent Saturday on the couch, and then woke up feeling yucky again Sunday morning. So the kids and I stayed home while Andy went to church, but we were optimistic that as the day went on, Abigail would get much better, and we'd still be able to have company. Best laid plans, you know? Because during the few hours that Andy was gone, Zander went from my little sparkle boy to company for his sister. And for Mommy, that means that I get to sit with him at almost all times. So I did get a bit of reading in, and lots of snuggle time, but Company Dinner had to be canceled.

This was a very sad thing. A friend of ours who is a regular for Company Dinner recently borrowed my Rick Bayless cookbook and he was preparing a feast to remember and bring along. So we called him up and told him we were going to have to cancel. About an hour later, there was a knock on our door, and there was a delivery of homemade tortillas, tender Mexican pork, guacamole, homemade salsa, and rice. We were thrilled. Dinner wasn't going to be much, as I was stuck on the couch with Zander, and Abigail, the one with a bit of an appetite requested mac-n-cheese. So Andy assembled tacos, and OMG! Seriously, these were the best tacos I have ever eaten. The pork was spicy and sweet and savory all at the same time. And the guacamole and salsa melded with that pork so well. They were so good, that within seconds we were on the phone asking what he needed to make these for next week's Company Dinner, because these were amazing. In fact, I'm thinking about them this morning wishing we hadn't stuffed our gills with every last drop of pork, because I could have eaten those spicy critters for breakfast!

In the event that I get this cookbook back in this century, I will be sure and share the recipes our friend used. If you happen to have a copy of Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen, it is a pork recipe that is slowly simmered in broth, and somewhere in the recipe is roasted tomatoes and raisins. After the pork is cooked up, it is shredded and crisped up in a saute pan- so good, and worth whatever time it may take to make it. You wouldn't think that the raisins would be a good edition, but honestly I think the bites of taco with raisins were the best part. That tiny bit of sweetness just played off the heat so well... Mmmm.

In other business, I've been paying attention to the number of times my blog is viewed every day. On the weekends, it seems that the people checking in here drops in half. I know I'm not consistent with my weekend posting, and understandably, people are busy on the weekends, but I'm wondering what people think about weekend posting. Are you disappointed when you pull up the page on a Saturday evening and there's nothing new? Do you only check the blog on the weekdays so it doesn't matter? I've gotten into a good rhythm where I try to post every single day, but coming up with content for seven days a week, plus Well-Fed is keeping me hopping, to be certain. So if you have an opinion one way or another, I'd love to know that you think.

Tomorrow I am going to share an awesome recipe for Pork Tenderloin, so make sure you come back for that. With grill season on the way, this one is not to be missed!

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Spaetzle Experiment

It's been a while since I checked another cookbook of my list. Cooking on a budget has had me reign in the number of new recipes I'm trying, so I haven't felt much like flipping through my cookbook collection. Today though, I was determined to find something that I wanted to make. I spent a long time curled up with a pile of cookbooks, looking for a new recipe that met the only criteria I had- I must have everything on hand to make it. I also wanted to find something that wasn't a baked good, since I also had a pumpkin pie in the works for today. It was in Sara Moulton Cooks At Home that I found today's new recipe for Herbed Spaetzle.

I have never made spaetzle, but I have certainly seen it done a few times on various cooking show. Spaetzle are a German noodle that is made by dribbling tiny bits of a basic dough into boiling water. There are specific spaetzle makers out there, but the different recipes I looked at assured me that I could use a colander for much the same effect. Yeah... The dough was easy enough, eggs, flour, salt, and water mix to form a thick pancake-like batter. Then the dough is basically grated through a colander to get these little nubbins of dough in the water. That was a lot more difficult than I'd anticipated. First I tried using a steamer basket, since it actually fit the pot I was using. The problem there being that the dough was beginning to cook in the steamer basket, and the holes were a little small too. So I switched to a colander, but I'd failed to think about the logistics of holding a colander in one hand over boiling water while forcing little beads of dough with the other... I scalded my hand a few times trying to wrangle this dough into it's bathwater.

Eventually though, I did end up with a pot of spaetzle. I ran it under cold water to stop the cooking and put it in the fridge until dinner time. One big benefit to spaetzle is that it can be prepared ahead of time. When the chicken was ready, I melted butter and olive oil together in a saute pan to cook up the spaetzle for dinner- adding a pinch of salt and pepper. The only change I made to the recipe was in the chives called for. I didn't have any, so I used some dried ones IN the dough instead of fresh on top- the substitute worked just fine, in my opinion. The end result? Well, we have mixed reviews here. I enjoyed the spaetzle. I thought it was a completely different side dish, and was a nice change. Zander took a big bite and told me he liked it, but never went back for more. Andy did not enjoy it. Whether it was texture or flavor, I didn't ask, but when I asked what he thought, it took a while for him to answer, followed by "nah", so that's clearly not a good sign. I may try a different recipe at some point in time. But for now, the spaetzle is not a repeater- although like I say, I thought it was good, and would consider making it just for myself sometime- it would be awesome topped with a bit of cheese I think.

I did get the recipe for Herbed Spaetzle in The Recipe Trove for anyone interested. I will say that I am emboldened by this recipe attempt today, and on the horizon I'm seeing myself attempting some more pasta-like creations. A few things I'd like to try making include gnocchi and dumplings. I also think a new batch of pirogi will be in the works shortly. How could you not love pasta in all it's disguises!

I'm not sure I'll have another chance to post this weekend. Abigail seems to have come down with the flu tonight, so Nurse Mommy is on duty until further notice. Happy Weekend!

Editing on Saturday to add that Andy did not care for the texture of the spaetzle. He thought it would have been better had it been crispy- so had I cooked it properly in the saute pan by letting it carmalize, he probably would have loved it. So now I'm thinking that we'll try again sometime.

Product Review

While glancing at the yogurt aisle yesterday, my eyes caught something new. That's quite a feat at Woodman's where I shop, because the yogurt selection is amazing. They easily have 25 feet of fridges space devoted to the creamy product. And that's just one side of the aisle. The other side of the aisle has a smaller selection of Hispanic branded yogurt. Yesterday I found a new product by Dannon, and it just had to go into my cart.

Dannon All Natural's
state right on the package "No Artificial Anything." I placed a box of blueberry into my cart to give it a whirl. The ingredient list is not as short as I would have thought. It includes:



After lunch I sat down with a carton. It was nice and light, full of blueberry flavor- and there were plenty of whole blueberries in my cup of yogurt. It had a slight granular texture, and was not as thick and creamy as standard yogurt. Having made my own homemade yogurt, I completely understand this. Yogurt manufacturers add thickening agents to yogurt, because the homemade stuff is quite thin and runny. Yet it's still thicker than homemade yogurt- I assume from the addition of the pectin and locust bean gum. Overall it is a very good yogurt, and it really does remind me of my homemade yogurt. The flavor was what I enjoyed best. It tasted like yogurt with blueberries. It wasn't overly sweet, and I'd love to see Dannon come up with a natural alternative to sugar in their yogurt.

This yogurt comes in strawberry, cherry, peach and blueberry right now. I have plans to try the cherry yet, as blueberry and cherry are my favorite yogurt flavors. At my grocery store- which is known for it's low prices, a 4-pack of cups cost me $1.59. No more or less expensive than other multi-packs, and in my opinion, worth the purchase. This is good, and as close to homemade as I can get without making it myself.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Budget Stretchers

Yesterday for Wednesday night's crock pot dinner I had planned on heating up some previously frozen vegetable soup. Unfortunately, this particular soup did not do well in the freezer. It had lots of potatoes in it, and potatoes always freeze terribly. It also had cabbage in it, which gave the whole thing an off smell, and it just went down the disposal. So I had to scramble for something else for dinner. Soup still sounded good, but what kind of soup... Scrounging around in freezer and pantry presented something original and quite tasty. I won't share the recipe, because there really isn't one, but I did want to share about two of the components that I used.

The first one being bottled marinara sauce. I am a huge fan of bottled marinara, I am also a huge fan of homemade marinara when the fancy strikes me, but we almost always have jars of marinara on hand. And here's an example why. Last week, Andy made spaghetti dinner for himself and the kids. He used about 1/3 of a 32 ounce jar of marinara. The rest went into the fridge for another time. A few days later, Abigail requested pizza for dinner. Another portion of marinara served as the pizza sauce for homemade pizza. And then last night, as I am combining mystery ingredients for a decidedly Italian take on soup, I was looking for more of a punch of tomato flavor when I saw the remaining bottled marinara. In it went, contributing plenty of flavor to the soup. That was 3 meals out of one bottle of marinara that cost us about $3.00. There are plenty of brands out there to choose from, and everyone has their favorites, but in case any one's interested, our favorites are Classico Organic, Muir Glen, and Barilla brand sauces.

The second budget stretcher is a cousin to the marinara- and that is plain cheese tortellini. I've been keeping this wonderful pasta in the freezer- bought in bulk from Sam's Club. It really is extremely versatile. I've cooked it up and topped with either marinara, alfredo or bottled pesto for a quick dinner. I've also done like last night, floating a few handfuls into some soup for a complete meal in a bowl. Tortellini also makes a fantastic cold pasta salad during warmer weather, and for something truly special, try spearing pesto-drenched tortellini with toothpicks for a quick appetizer. At my Sam's, 3 pounds of tortellini is less than $6, and is guaranteed for at least 3 meals, more if it's used as a filler in a soup or stew. That really can't be beat. The initial sticker stock may take a second to get over, but it will be well worth it in the end.

So what are your budget stretchers? Is there something that you buy knowing that it will be used more than once? Please share, I'd love to know what it is!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

It's Wednesday!

Welcome to the Valentine Edition of Weigh-In Wednesday. First the good news. Between being sick twice in the past several weeks and really paying attention to portion control, I am down a grand total of 8 pounds! Even better, is that according to E-Diets I entered back into the healthy weight range for my size two pounds ago. That's really good news. I still have 12 more to go before I hit my target weight, so hopefully I can keep this momentum going. I suspect that about half of that 8 pounds was strictly to being sick, but that means I've earned the other half the old fashioned way- by watching what I eat and when I eat.

I've really been paying attention to hunger. Being sick I lost my appetite, so once I started eating again, it was in small portions because I really didn't want to eat. But then I wouldn't eat again until I was physically hungry, and I've been maintaining that attitude ever since. I eat breakfast in the morning and I don't eat lunch until my stomach indicates it wants food. Sometimes, that's not until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. And by then, I know the dinner hour is nearing, so I opt for a lighter lunch. Cheese and crackers with fruit or a small portion of last night's leftovers. Dinner I have been eating with my family- regardless of whether I'm hungry, but I am watching my portions like crazy- heavy on the veggies, lighter on the starches and proteins. And I stop eating when I am feeling satisfied, which does mean more often than not, food being left on the plate. My sweet tooth seems to have ebbed a bit as well, so I am thrilled with a single Hershey's miniature to take care of that "little something sweet."

So far it's been working. I am not by habit an evening snacker, so after dinner I am content with a mug of herbal tea if I really want something. Of course, it does help that we don't have as much in the house right now as far as junk food goes. And I've rediscovered the joy of nuts and grapes as a quick bite when the snack monster attacks. So we'll see if I can keep up the practices I've been working on. Fortunately for me, Andy and I don't celebrate Valentine's Day in any way, shape, or form, so I don't need to worry about chocolates or a decadent dessert. It's just another day for us, which is just as well anyway since Andy has fallen victim to Influenza.

It also seems to be helpful to me that my dear daughter has horrible teeth. We've begun the dentist route this week, only to find that she has a long list of dental work to be done- including fixing cavities, cracked teeth, chipped teeth, and having a broken off molar extracted. (And she's only 6 1/2!) Just thinking about that makes my teeth hurt, and of course, it's going to be a nightmare watching her have all this done. So we're going to transition to the house of no candy I think. The kids already have very little candy as it is- they still have Halloween candy, that's how little they eat. But apparently it's too much as it is. Candy will sadly be a treat saved just for holidays and road trips. But that's okay, because if the candy's not in the house, I'm not eating it either just because it's there.

So Happy Valentine's day if you are one to celebrate. And happy Wednesday regardless. Zander and I are going to go find something to do today to keep us out of the sick house...

And if you were hoping to find a last-munte recipe for Valentine's today, you are still in luck, because I have just such a creature over at Kids Cuisine this morning. Valentine Snickerdoodle's.. be sure and check it out!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Education

One of the things that I am trying to do while cooking budget conscious is to find out how "the other people" eat. You know... the people in front of you in the grocery line with a cart full of processed and frozen foods. The people who would have no idea how to make a stew from scratch, and to whom cream of mushroom soup is a weeknight savior. I have also been working on a little project that I can't go into detail about yet, but it has forced me to prepare some foods that I would have passed over otherwise. Altogether though, not an unworthy project I must say. So far, we've been pleasantly surprised by my creations. And last night's dinner was just such a creature.

Yes, folks, we have here the dreaded Tater Tot Casserole. Go ahead. Yank my foodie credentials now because by golly, the hubby and I enjoyed this stuff. Zander proclaimed it really good, and Abigail was disappointed because the tater tots were not all by their lonesome to be dunked in ketchup. Now, this was a different tater tot casserole than others I have had. This one was doctored up to resemble a pizza concoction, and it actually was the perfect solution for using up scraps of leftovers from pizza making the other night.

It started with ground beef, onions, and seasonings browning together in a pan. Cream of mushroom soup was added, and then the whole concoction poured into a baking dish. This was topped with (in order) pizza sauce, green peppers, chopped turkey pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and then the frozen tots. The whole thing baked and bubbled away, and I was sure leery about it as I pulled it out of the oven. But like I said, it was well received. Certainly not 5 star food, but it was quite tasty, satisfied, and it used up leftover scraps. And if I calculate the cost for this dinner- non-scraps would be the beef, soup, and tater tots, it's less than $5 for the whole pan. A side of broccoli and we had ourselves a meal. Andy said I should make it again, and we both agree that some sliced mushrooms need to be added, but otherwise... not bad for cooking on the other side of the tracks, and it goes into the tried and true file. You can find my modified recipe for Tater Tot Pizza-Role in the Recipe Trove

Monday, February 12, 2007

Dessert Can Be Economical Too

Actually, most often a homemade baked good is economical anyway. Yesterday's dessert was economical, delicious, and incredibly simple to make. Last night I prepared a simple Dump Cake for company dinner. Dump cake is what it sounds like. Ingredients are literally dumped into a baking dish, baked and then eaten with a scoop of Cool Whip on top. And yes, it needs the Cool Whip. Real whipped cream, while usually the standard in our house just doesn't cut it with this dessert. I have seen many, many variations to dump cake. Some of which use chocolate cake mix instead of yellow, or some which change out the cherries and pineapple for blueberries and peaches. I think often about trying a different variation, but I always end up sticking with my tried and true combination.

Dump cake always reminds me of growing up. We had family friends that we would get together with on occasion. Dinner was often included, and even though we all thought Mom was an astounding cook, there is just something about eating someone else's delicious food. Getting together with these friends often involved me watching over all the kids while the grown-ups visited- since I was the oldest. Yet before the evening was over, all the kids usually migrated into the adults room where a sing-along would occur. And while we all sat around listening to various voices take center stage, the smell of something heavenly baking would tease us until it's completion. And the result of all that wait was a scoop of easy but delicious dump cake. This was a dessert worthy of licking the bowl clean. Literally. And while the ingredients may not be anything special all by themselves, combined, they perform magic.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Chocolate Chip Cookie of the Moment

I'm a Tollhouse girl. Always have been. Tollhouse cookies were what mom made, and that's the chocolate chip cookie that I hold as the standard for all chocolate chip cookies. I do try other cookies though from time to time. Sometimes I'm disappointed, and sometimes I'm surprised. My favorite cookie always seems to change, but right now, it's the one of the package of Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. It's pretty similar to the Tollhouse recipe, mostly with the amounts changed. Instead of 3/4 of a cup of sugar and brown sugar, there's a full cup of each. Instead of one stick of butter there's 2... okay, maybe they're not so similar. But they are delicious!

These chocolate chip beauties are a crispy, sometimes chewy, buttery cookie. That should tell you right there if you think you'd like them. They are not a cakey cookie in any sense of the word which is good- I'm not a fan of cakey cookies. If I wanted cakey, I'd make cake- which I do happen to love. These cookies spread a lot- they end up as a very flat cookie, with the chocolate chips and walnuts clearly announcing their presence. Whether they are more chewy or crispy depends on the baking time. Some of the cookies I took out earlier, when the dough in the center still seemed undone. Those I left on the sheets for another minute to finish baking. These ones are the more chewy ones. Some I left in the oven until they appeared to be finished-these ones are the more crispy ones. Stored all together in a rubbermaid container though, they're all a nice balance of chewy and crispy.

These are an excellent version of chocolate chip cookies. I have thought about replacing one of the sticks of butter with shortening to see how the cookie changes, but I haven't been able to find the new Crisco yet, so I will wait until I find it to try that. Crispy, buttery, and studded with chocolate and walnuts, these are about worthy of Tollhouse status. The recipe for Ghirardelli's Chocolate Chip Cookies is in the Recipe Trove.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Love Is In The Air

And I'm not talking about the icky gooey mushy luuuuv stuff. The winds of change are afoot in the food blogosphere, and I for one, am rather excited about it. I've been a part of this community for a year and a half now. Every day I spend time perusing my favorite blog links, and I'm always on the lookout for a fresh new blog to garner inspiration from. Lately though, there has been a shift, so to speak.

For a while there, it seemed that food bloggers were headed for superiority. Whose blog can be the best, and by golly, whose blog can eschew the most prepared foods, eat only local, organically, or raw. And, most importantly, those bloggers seemed to feel the need to scoff "the lesser bloggers" for their own food choices. Oh my gosh, someone used cream of mushroom soup? That person should be shunned from the food blogging community. So and so used a store-bought pound cake for their dessert? Such poison will never touch my lips- it must be homemade, made from all organic and locally purveyed ingredients. And I will admit, for a short while, I was caught up in the hoopla.

It seems the root for food blogging, the core reason for food blogging is coming back. Why do we blog? Other than to share stories of home or of times past, or of a disaster just that afternoon in the oven. We share our oft-times misadventures for the pure love of food and what we eat. We share about how a newly discovered dish brought sheer joy to the mouths of those we feed on a daily basis. We take pictures so we can share with the world the gastronomical delights we created. And it's all for the love of food. For putting something delicious and nourishing into our mouths. Whether that be a meal out at a 4 star restaurant, or an odd concoction, created with just a few humble ingredients.

Most food bloggers are not Iron Chefs, nor are we trained in a culinary way in any aspect (there are certainly exceptions to that, and more popping up every day). But we love food, whether it be a plate of foie gras or a plate of blue box macaroni and cheese- it's all nourishing to different souls in different places. What I love about the food blogging community is the diversity! We have food bloggers from all over the world- how can we not be diverse. And there are blogs about eating locally and seasonally- I love those. There are blogs about regional cuisine- Indian food anyone? There are blogs about specifically cooking for kids, and there are blogs that chronicle a food allergy- such as dairy or wheat. There are blogs devoted to baking, cookies, spices, and herbs. And there are the blogs by the travelers, telling us where they've been and where they are going. There are the lunchbox blogs, and the breakfast blogs, and the blogs from culinary students going through the fire. There are the blogs focused on a dietary change, and we all watch as person x attempts to eat vegan for a month. There are vegan blogs and vegetarian blogs, and there are the blogs devoted to meat and charcuterie. I could go on and on! There are so many wonderful blogs, and I love reading each and every one.

What I don't enjoy are the pushers. Those who insist that their way of eating is the only way, and they spend their time drifting from blog to blog bashing others for their chosen preferences. And what I've noticed as of late is that those people are getting fewer and farther between. There is love in the air. Food bloggers are in love with food, and there is a decision being made to enjoy each other's food without the spite and snark. More of the "thanks for sharing that recipe! I'm going to try and develop a gluten free version." Instead of "how dare you make something that is not gluten free. Don't you care about blah, blah, blah...?" Manners and politeness are returning, and it is a wonderful thing.

So having said all that, I want to point my readers and fellow bloggers in the direction of my new friend Mimi. Mimi blogs at French Kitchen In America, and not only does she share the most wonderful stories and memories, but she also cooks some amazing food. And let me tell you, she sure has me hankering for a trip to France sometime in my lifetime. Mimi has put together a blogging event to honor the foodie in all of us. To say to those who persist that we are all tired of the snobbery and the snarkiness. For March 15 has been declared Biscuit Baking Mix Day, and you can head on over to French Kitchen In America for the details, and I encourage everyone to accept the challenge and get creative with the humble box of baking mix.

And if you're looking for more of what I'm saying here, check out this post at Seriously Good.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Dreaded Bechamel

A few days ago, someone posted in my comments about how they could not make a bechamel. That rose a flag for me, because although it sounds impressive and difficult, making a bechamel
is simply a matter of stirring the pot. Literally. Bechamel sauce can be the foundation for a multitude of dishes, including but not limiting to: pot pie, biscuits and gravy, cream soups, SOS, eggs goldenrod, macaroni and cheese, and any number of fish dishes with accompanying sauce. And just as the number of dishes and meals you can make with a very economical bechamel, the variations of the actual bechamel are just as numerous. So here are the basics:

You begin with melted or rendered fat. The fat you use is your preference, and may be dictated by the desired dish. Sausage gravy begins with sausage fat. Macaroni and cheese can begin with butter or olive oil. Pot pie works best with butter or margarine to start, you get the idea. Next, you take an amount of flour equal to the amount of fat. 2 tablespoons of butter = 2 tablespoons of flour. You cook these two together in a saucepan or pot for 1 minute to cook the flour, and then add milk slowly, (for 2 tablespoons of fat, I use about 1 1/2 cups milk). The make or break point in bechamel is after you add your milk. You must stir continuously, or the flour will scorch to the bottom of the pan. The easy solution is to plan a few minutes to be at your stove stirring constantly. Once your sauce has thickened and is bubbling, you can reduce it to a simmer and add your salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Then you can walk away and prepare other things, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming on the top. And that is your basic bechamel.

This can be changed in so many ways... you can simmer herbs and spices, onions and garlic in your milk before adding it to your pot. A true bechamel begins with onions and bay leaf infused milk, but I prefer a blank canvas to build upon. To make macaroni and cheese you simply add a bit of powdered mustard and 2 cups of shredded cheese to your sauce. Mix with macaroni and bake until golden brown. To make pot pie, add thawed frozen vegetables and pre-cooked shredded chicken to bechamel for an instant filling. You can change the bechamel... Add some tomato paste and you have Sauce Aurore. The cheese sauce is also known as a Mornay- and is excellent with eggs as well as macaroni. Add curry powder for a curry sauce.

Once you have mastered this basic technique, the possibilities just go on and on. You can start changing your fat preferences, you can shy away from milk and use a light chicken or fish stock for a Veloute. Add a bit of cream to that stock, and you have a cream sauce worthy of a Michelin-starred chef. Dishes from other cuisines are based on a bechamel. Make a Creole sauce by taking your butter and flour, and browning them a bit to make a fantastic roux for your gumbo or crawfish ettouffe.

As for me and my favorite way to use a bechamel? Biscuits and sausage gravy ranks right at the top. Oh so bad for you, but soooo worth a once in a while breakfast.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Burger Buns

First off a little blog update. Yesterday I spent a great deal of time categorizing my recipes in the Recipe Trove to make it easier to find something in there. You can see the categories in the sidebar over there, and that should help out a lot with searching. I also spent a ton of time taking recipe that were only on Tummy Treasure, and putting them into the Recipe Trove as well. I've gotten all the way through 2006, so there's still some recipes to go, but I am going to do my best to make sure that all my recipes go into the Recipe Trove for reference, and some may end up here as well because I think they're that good.

Secondly, those beans from the other day? Definitely better after sitting in the fridge overnight. The flavors had a chance to really come together, and they were even better.

Last night was ballet night, so we had a repeat of the sloppy joes from the other day. They reheat so well in the crock-pot, they were a perfect choice, and I was thrilled to have some leftover. But my buns left a little to be desired the last time. I just used my standard sandwich bread and shaped it into rolls... um, tasty, but they were really dense for a roll. And when you're eating sloppy joes, you want something that will hold that sloppy mixture in while you are eating it- not squish it out the backside. So I flipped open my King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, and I don't know why, but I was surprised to find a recipe for burger buns.

They came together so easily. Seriously. This was a dump all the ingredients in a bowl recipe and let the stand mixer do the work if you want. I was all for that. It took no time at all before my dough was proofing. I was a little concerned because the dough didn't really rise, it was more like swelling. I carried on though and in just a few hours, I had 8 golden hamburger buns. And they were good. They were still a little more dense than what I have in my mind, but they had an excellent flavor and texture. The all-purpose flour keeps them on the lighter side and keeps them from getting chewy. King Arthur Flour's Beautiful Burger Buns are my go-to burger bun for now until I find the lighter one I'm looking for, but really, these are excellent and shouldn't be ignored.

Today I am menu planning for the next week and I'll be doing some grocery shopping later on. Can I stick to my tiny budget? I tell ya, I'm feeling much more confident this week. I did stick to my budget last week, but then we went way over on the miscellaneous stops at our very pricey local store (hate that place, btw). So this week I'm shopping in Green Bay with the goal to not go to our little local market this upcoming week. Can we do it? Come back and find out.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007


Lately Abigail has been taking hot lunch at school. Despite the cool Laptop Lunchbox and all it contained, she still came to me around Thanksgiving time and asked if she could take hot lunch for awhile. I didn't think that was such a bad idea for many reasons. First of all, it was one less thing I had to worry about during the holiday season. Secondly, I like the idea of her having a hot lunch before going out to play in the winter- I can't successfully pack something hot for her that's convenient for her to eat. And thirdly, especially now that I'm budget conscious, I can't pack her lunch for the cost of her school lunch. The price is very reasonable here- $1.55 per day, and that includes the 25 cent milk that she would be buying anyway. So she's been taking hot lunch, and assures me that she still likes it and tries to clean her tray up. In fact, when I asked her what she didn't like at hot lunch so that we could pack lunch that day, she wisely explained to me that there are two choices for everything, so she always picks what she likes. How could I ignore that logic?

Lucky Andy though, when he goes to accompany Abigail on a field trip, she likes him to stay for hot lunch with her. The last time he went, he told me how excited she was for lunch that day, and then he found out why. She was beyond excited to eat a concoction similar to beenie-weenies! And according to Andy, not only did she assure him that she loved those beans with hot dogs, but she inhaled them. I was shocked! While she does like baked beans and hot dogs, I found myself floored by the idea that she would eat them with such gusto. Further inquiries revealed that these particular beanies were in a somewhat tomato-ey sauce, with hot dogs in it. And so began my mission to find something similar and more healthful to make for dinner.

And the first one out of the cage actually wins the race! Barbequed Kielbasa fit the bill, and was ridiculously easy to make. The ingredient list called for kielbasa, canned white beans, crushed tomatoes, molasses, brown sugar, garlic and onion. Baked for an hour and served up hot. I really waffled back and forth on whether or not to make this for dinner. I mean, my family could hate it, we're not huge bean people. But I forged ahead and started with the beans. On my last shopping trip I opted for the more economical dried beans, so I needed to pre-cook some Great Northern beans. I covered them with water and simmered them for an hour or so to soften. Then I dumped them in a bowl the rest of the ingredients and while still skeptical baked them away. I did use diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes, but other than that, I was true to the recipe.

And the result was really deceiving! These beans and kielbasa were really good! And when I say really good, I mean that Andy spent the entire meal talking about how good they were! They were slightly sweet from the molasses and brown sugar, yet each bite also had a slight tomato and garlic flavor, and the smokiness of the kielbasa really came through. The bites of kielbasa were the best though- that smoky sausage wrapped in a sweet sauce was delicious. Abigail and Zander both enjoyed the sausage, and while we couldn't convince Zander to even try the beans, Abigail had a few bites and said they were okay. I think I undercooked them slightly and she would have preferred them more mushy to be honest. We also had plenty leftover, which I find odd since I halved the recipe. But that will give us opportunity to try them again today, and I suspect they will be better the second day, so that will be something to remember for next time as well. My modified recipe for Barbequed Kielbasa can be found in the Recipe Trove. And the cost for this meal? Without adding in the molasses and brown sugar, I have $3.48 for the entire dish. If I broke out the cost of the molasses and brown sugar, that may bring it up closer to $4.00, but really, another budget friendly winner that gets two thumbs up.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Out of the sick ward

Wow. That one knocked me out for a few days! I still don't have my usual amount of energy, but it's getting better. At least I'm not sleeping or laying on the couch being a vegetable. On the plus side, I had a hard time finding an appetite. I did manage to force myself to eat here and there, but being out of whack for a few days helped me drop a few more pounds. Again, I'm not recommending that someone get sick or eat very little for several days, but it does show that diet can affect weight loss. As a result of the last several days, I am still not eating much. I'm eating much more regularly, but my portions are seriously smaller than they were- which is probably a good thing. I do suspect that some of that weight will come back over the next few days, so I'll hold off on a total until next weeks Wednesday Weigh-In.

I'll leave it at that tonight, just wanted to let everyone know that I'm still here, I've just been completely out of commission for a few days. Tomorrow I'll share a truly unexpected winner of a dinner, so come on back for that one.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Cookbook Challenge MasterList

Here is my Masterlist of all my Cookbooks to be used for my year-long challenge. The ones I have completed are in blue.

Sara Moulton Cooks At Home
The NYT Chicken Cookbook
Everyday Italian
Food Network Favorites
Fresh Every Day
Giada's Family Dinners
Sara's Secrets For Weeknight Meals
Molto Italiano
At Home with Michael Chiarello
The Food Of India
Ball Blue Book
Perfect Recipes For Having People Over
Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook
Ready When You Are
New Indian Home Cooking
From Tapas to Meze
Bittman Takes On America's Chefs
Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Cat Cora's Kitchen
Cooking Light Annual 2001
Cooking Light Annual 2002
Cooking Light Annual 2003
Cooking Light Annual 2004
Cooking Light Annual 2005
Cooking Light Annual 2006
From Emeril's Kitchens
The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
The Bread Bible
Betty Crocker's New Cookbook
The Joy Of Cooking
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
Better Homes and Garden's New Cookbook
The Art of Chocolate
Vegetarian Express
Vegetarian For All Seasons
Moosewood Restaurants Low-Fat Favorites
1,000 Vegetarian Favorites
Celebrate With Chocolate
Bread Made Easy
The All-American Dessert Book
The Lady & Sons Just Desserts
Express Lane Meals
Cooking Round The Clock
30 Minute Meals 2
Mes Confitures
1,000 Mexican Recipes
Vegetarian Time Complete Cookbook
Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
Italian Slow and Savory
Pol Martin Supreme Cuisine
Still Life With Menu
The Barbecue Bible
Fresh Market Wisconsin
Herb Mixtures and Spicy Blends
Pillsbury Slow Cooker Recipes
Fix-It and Forget It Cookbook
Ultimate Smoothies
Pickles & Relishes
BH&G Canning and Preserving Recipes

Preserving Summer's Bounty
Baking From My Home To Yours
KAF Whole Grain Baking Cookbook
Barefoot Contessa At Home
Everyday Pasta
Paula Deen Celebrates!

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Humble Beginnings

I made last night's dinner before coming down with a very sudden case of the flu. It was kind of creepy, sitting down at the computer, and all of the sudden getting the shivers, which of course led to a snowball effect with which I am currently enduring. Of course I have the flu, why would we want to be healthy here?

Anyway, last night's dinner was another frugal one, and one well worth sharing. One of Abigail's favorite dinners is Sloppy Joes, and that was last night's choice. I've always just made them, throwing this and that into the pot and calling it dinner. But last night I wrote down the recipe, and was surprised to find out how little actually goes into that pot. I've always made sloppy joe meat from scratch, and it surprises me how many people reach for "that can" of sloppy joe mix, because I have to say, that stuff really isn't very good. People always seem surprised that I make sloppy joes from scratch when I could just open a can and be done with it. Well, I insist that anyone can make homemade sloppy joes that will taste way better, and can be done very economically.

Budget wise, last night's sloppy joe was actually a freebie for me. I used things from my pantry and freezer that I bought some time ago, and I made homemade buns to serve it on, so there was no expense for dinner. My recipe for Sloppy Joes is hanging out in the Recipe Trove- I promise that you can make it and everyone will love it.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Potato Comfort

Last night for dinner I was going to make a stir-fry. At the last minute I asked Andy if that's what he wanted, or if he'd rather have scalloped potatoes with ham. It just was one of those days where the planned meal didn't sound too appealing. But one for another day sounded fantastic. Scalloped potatoes it was. We had leftover ham from Sunday's Company Dinner, and I had planned the leftovers to accompany scalloped potatoes. Scalloped potatoes is not something we have very often. For one thing, it's potatoes, and I try really hard to cook things that my whole family enjoys, and Zander does not like potatoes. But last night it sure hit the spot, and it was totally economical.

I started with sliced potatoes which I'd layered with the leftover chunks of ham in a baking dish. Then I made a basic bechamel with onions to flavor it. This sauce was poured over the potatoes and the whole thing baked for over an hour, and became magic in a pan. Completely creamy and comforting. I had been debating making the potatoes au gratin by adding cheese, but I was so glad I didn't- the ham was so flavorful that it added the perfect amount of salty smokiness to the dish. We had some homemade applesauce and green beans on the side, and it was the perfect comforting meal.

Now here's the best part. I sat and broke down how much this meal actually cost me to put together. Now, I'm not counting the ham or the applesauce because they were leftovers. And I'm not adding in the small amounts of salt and pepper, but if I break down the cost of everything I used, this meal total cost me $1.78 to make. And no, I'm not kidding. If I had bought a pound of ham to put in, that would have upped the cost to more around $5.00. But still! $1.78 to feed a family of four, plus we have enough for another meal entirely of the potatoes and ham. That, my friends is an extremely economical dish. If you would like my recipe for Scalloped Potatoes and Ham, it is ready and waiting in the Recipe Trove.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Disaster

It isn't very often that I have a true disaster in the kitchen. Last night was one of those nights. While we were at ballet class last night, Andy casually mentioned that he would love chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Sorry dear, not on the menu was what I basically told him. But after we got home, we found that there was nothing on that we wanted to watch, and we've been watching The Lord of The Rings again, disc by disc. So it was movie night for us, and as the kids got ready for bed, I whipped together a quick Brownie Pudding Cake to go with the second half of The Two Towers. After 30 minutes in the oven I opened the door with a tester, only to discover that there was still a layer of liquid in the pan. ????!!!! So I surmised that I had doubled the recipe and it must have needed to bake longer.

Pudding cake is something that I have long loved. I devoted a post to it here, where I discussed the glory of pudding cake, and shared the very recipe I made last night and have made many, many times before. After another 15 minutes in the oven, I began to wonder if my oven was off on the temperature- I've had that thought a few times lately, so I turned up the oven to 375 and let it go further. I checked it every 15 minutes, and finally after about 2 hours total in the oven, I pulled it out, hoping that I could salvage some semblance of dessert. It cooked backwards. The cake stayed on the bottom of the pan, and the pudding bubbled up to the top. The cake part had a dumpling like texture from cooking under liquid, and of course completely stuck to the pan. The pudding part was good- deep and chocolaty, and we still managed to eat it with a bit of vanilla bean ice cream. But it was not my pudding cake. I still have no clue what happened. I didn't spray the pan... that's the only thing I can think of, but the directions don't state to grease the pan at all, and I can't imagine that cooking spray contributed to the failure of the chemistry usually at work with pudding cake. Maybe my baking powder is failing?

Anyway, just thought I'd share that story this morning to show that I'm not perfect, and on occasion, a disaster does befall me and my cooking.