Saturday, March 31, 2007
Since my husband is a home brewer, I had my choice of ales for the beer batter, and settled on a Pale Ale for the beer component. I assembled my batter and let it rest. This step is important, I let the batter rest for a full hour on the counter before dipping in the fish. That was okay, because in the mean time I got my tartar sauce together, got my fat melting and heating up, and got my fish ready for dipping. I used straight up cod that I'd cut into smaller chunks so it would have plenty of room in the fryer. I started with a nugget. A small amuse bouche to see if my fat was hot enough, and to check and see if this batter was even any good. My fat was hot enough, and we both thought the batter was excellent. So the batch was fried up, and in no time we were sitting down to some beer-battered fish.
It was very good- the texture is fantastic. It's very light and crispy, and really lets the fish shine. I have decided that Pale Ale was not the beer to use, and for my taste, I would prefer a lighter beer next time, and I also think that a pinch of heat would be excellent. A touch of cayenne or maybe something smokey like chipotle. But overall, for a first time fish fry, this was really very good. We're already planning on a redux very soon when we can get ahold of some better quality fish. The little local store just didn't have much to pick from, and our fish was not of the highest quality. But we did have ourselves some very good fish. My chips were sadly from a bag, and I'll have to work on that next. But for a first time out, the fish was very good and the Beer Batter for Fish is a keeper.
Friday, March 30, 2007
As to the weekend ahead, we're thinking about doing something spontaneous. Don't know what, but it's the beginning of spring break for Abigail, and since next week she has her second dentist appointment, we thought we should do something fun over the weekend.
So today, I thought I'd share some links for some food blogs that I have really been enjoying lately. I don't share links often enough I think. And there are so many good blogs worth noting, it's hard to pick a few, but if you're looking for something good, check out these guys.
First up is Hooked On Heat. Every time I visit this blog I get a serious hankering for Indian food. I need to do something about that one of these days too.
Next you should visit the doctor-to-be, Cooking Is Medicine from down south. Claire is such a sweetie, and always has an eye towards lightening something up a bit. She could cook for me anyday.
A newer blog to me is My Husband Cooks. Their photography is simply stunning, and the recipes as well. The banter between hubby and wife is precious. And speaking of precious, be sure to welcome their new addition!
Simplicity is what I think of when I visit Talk of Tomatoes. Janelle does what Sandra Lee wishes she could do. Use good ingredients in a quick and easy manner to produce spectacular results.
If you're in the mood for a chuckle, be sure to stop by Brilynn at Jumbo Empanadas. Some days the kitchen is out to get her, but the food always looks incredible.
And finally, if you have a craving for some BBQ, you chould check out Sylvie's kitchen at Soul Fusion Kitchen. Silvie has actually won contests with her BBQ, my mouth waters just looking at her pictures!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Quick Applesauce Muffins turned out okay. They are not my best muffin, nor are they my favorite. But they have a nice apple-cinnamon flavor to them, and the almonds and cinnamon add a nice crunch to each bite. The inside is not as moist as I would have liked, but overall, they're not bad. Considering that these took mere seconds to whip up, and mere minutes to bake up- they're not bad at all. They took less than 20 minutes total before I had a pan of piping hot muffins out of the oven. And like I said, while they're not my favorite, they turned out better than expected, and at 20 minutes start to finish... these might just get repeated from time to time.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
We're also heading into the home stretch of Andy being laid off. He could get the call any day now, and we're all looking forward to that! He's been home for over three months now (going on 14 weeks!) and we have actually used this lay-off as a learning process. For example, we have found that it is indeed possible to live on $355 a week. It's difficult, but we can still pay all our bills on time and put food on the table by making wiser choices. When I look at my grocery budget over the last three months, it's quite remarkable to see the difference. Here's my grocery spending:
December 2006 total grocery expense: $719.72
January total grocery expenses: $409.93
February total grocery expenses: $365.97
March total grocery expenses to date: $196.96
Look at that!!! And if I go back further to November and October, it's enough to choke a horse. Now some of that excess was for the purpose of stocking the pantry a bit, but lets just say my grocery spending has gotten back in line. And look at March! I'm going to have to go shopping- probably Friday for milk, eggs, fruit, and chicken breasts, so that will go up about another $40. That's less than $250 for an entire month! That is truly amazing to me. And we have not been starving. We've just been careful, and much better about using leftovers and what needs to be used up. Rather than let leftovers languish in the fridge and go bad, we eat them for a few days for lunch, or wrap it up and tuck it in the freezer for another day. I've been doing a lot of scratch cooking- if I want bagels, I make them. I bake bread several days a week, and we've all taken to enjoying a slice of homemade bread with our dinner at night. I've discovered that not only is homemade pizza delicious, it's actually very economical to make, and we've been able to eat more of our favorite food. And I've travelled the world in comfort food! From Irish Shepherd's Pie to Filipino Lumpia, to British Bangers & Mash, and Indian Curries. It's actually been a blast, and I hope to keep it up.
I'd be lying if I said that we can maintain this grocery budget forever. And you can bet that once Andy is working, one of his paychecks will be like a fortune to us, and I will most definitely be filling a grocery cart or two, but I do think that I've gotten a little wiser. I've realized that sometimes canned soup and grilled cheese is a fantastic meal, and everyone enjoys it! Breakfast has been making a weekly appearance, partially because it's super cheap to make, but also because we all enjoy it immensely. And while I still don't particularly care to eat leftovers, I have gotten really creative at re-inventing them, and that's one of the things I hope to keep up. Right now I'm thinking about the smoked salmon we had a few weeks back. The last little bits are in the freezer, and I can't wait to pick up some cream cheese to mix with my freshly grown chives, bow tie pasta, and some of that smoked salmon.
I do think I've shown over the last few months that it is possible to feed a family well on a budget. We haven't gone overboard with carbs and saturated fats, mostly it's just been good eating all around. With a few more weeks to go, you can bet there will be more to come, but we're nearing the light at the end of the tunnel here, and I'm at the point where it can't get here fast enough.
And for something a little different, pop on over to Kids Cuisine this morning to find out a new way to be a sneaky mom!
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
This past Sunday, for Company Dinner, we decided to do the first burger/hot dog cookout of the year. We couldn't have planned it better. The weather was perfect for grilling, and I think its been long enough since the last burger/dog grill out that we all were in the mood for it anyways. I decided at the last minute to do a dessert, and I decided that a Southern dessert was in order. I turned to the queen of Southern hospitality, Paula Deen, and a yet unused cook book from my collection.
The Lady & Sons Just Desserts is a cookbook that I look through often, I just haven't made anything out of it. It just all sounds so decadent, or it calls for ingredients I don't have on hand at the time. This was also the case with this week's choice, but I quickly remedied that one. The Lady & Sons' Peach Cobbler was calling my name, and all I needed to put it together was some self-rising flour. Not usually a staple in my kitchen, it certainly will be now because this peach cobbler was luscious. It was decadent and sweet, and so darn good!
The procedure was different, I will say that. The first step was to melt the butter in a baking dish, then pour the batter onto that, and THEN put the peaches and their syrup on the top. When it goes into the oven, magic happens, and the batter rises to the top, creating a cakey crust while the peaches sink to the bottom and turn into the sweet and gooey goodness one expects from a peach cobbler. Texture wise, it's very similar to a pudding cake, and just as delicious. This one will be made often this coming summer for cookouts and such because it really was very easy to make. My only complaint is that I didn't check the date on my flour when I bought it. It has a best by date of next month, and with leavening in it, I suspect I need to adhere to the date. So I'll be in search of recipes that use self-rising flour over the next few weeks or so.The Lady & Sons' Peach Cobbler fills the need for a sweet and gooey dessert, and checks another book off my list. Thanks Paula Deen!
Monday, March 26, 2007
I started with pizza crust. I made my own, but you could use whatever your preference is. After stretching out the dough to fit a 16" pizza pan, I drizzle it with olive oil, poked it with a fork, and popped it in the oven to pre-bake. While that was going, I beat two egg yolks and then added ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, black pepper, and 2 cloves of grated garlic. The recipe called for one clove, but Judy recommended two, and two was perfect. I also took a half pound of bacon, diced it, and fried it up. The recipe calls for pancetta, but seeing as how I'm a girl on a budget, I used our favorite hickory smoked bacon instead.
Next, I pulled the pizza crust out of the oven and brushed it with some of the bacon grease- hey I'm not one to argue with the tiny addition of pork fat. Then the ricotta mixture was spread evenly over the crust- the aroma right there was excruciating. Hot crust + bacon grease+ garlic=Mmmmm. Anyway, after the ricotta mixture, I sprinkled a mozarella/provolone cheese blend over the top and then topped that with the crumbled bacon. The whole thing went into the oven to bake for about 12 minutes- or until golden brown and bubbly. I left off the parsley since I didn't have any, but we hardly missed it. This pizza was pure heaven. It was incredibly good and gives me a ton of ideas for variations. It was wonderful as is, but I can't help but wonder how some additions would taste- like grilled portobella slices, roasted red pepper strips, or some caramelized leeks or onions.Carbonara Pizza. It's as delicious as it sounds. Make sure you pop back in tomorrow sometime as a down-home dessert from Paula Deen is making an appearance that will make you swoon.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Anyway. Yesterday I was biting into one of these raviolis, and my thought to myself was "don't think about what's inside." I mean, who knows what random bits and pieces make it into the filling of these canned pasta puffs. That led me to thinking about hot dogs and what goes in those, and other canned meat products like spam. And here comes my profound thought. Why is it that when a major company, like Chef Boyardee, uses the off bits and such to make ravioli filling they are chastised? Companies that make hot dogs are scorned for stuffing those nasty bits into tube shapes. Yet world renowned chefs can take those same awful bits and turn them into something... interesting, and they are praised for it. A chef in New York City can cook chicken bones and serve them up as an appetizer, and be hailed as a genius. Yet when a chicken processing company utilizes those sames bones, they are touted as disgusting.
I understand that there will always be those who rail against big industry and the likes. But there are real people world-wide to whom this is a way of life. They utilize every part of an animal, so that nothing goes to waste. And I mean every part. I fail to distinguish the difference between a chef combining offal to create a delicacy in their restaurant and a manufacturing company who makes a hot dog out of the same bits. And I'm certainly not bashing the chefs who do so. I applaud them for being less wasteful, for opening up eyes to the possibilities. What I am bashing are those people who insist on 100% all-beef or 100% all-chicken hot dogs because they don't want to eat "mechanically separated parts". Yet when it comes time for a nice dinner out, they clamor to order chicken bones and kidney pie.
In some ways, this is along the lines of food snobbery to me. And if there is one thing that I have learned while cooking on a budget, is that a wonderful meal can be created out of practically nothing. While there are still foods that you won't find in my kitchen because I don't care for them, what you won't find is a food snob any longer. I welcome the canned raviolis and the mechanically separated pork parts disguised as a hot dog. I also welcome the Alaskan wild salmon and the prime fillet of beef. I welcome the whole grain quinoa, yet I also welcome plain old white rice and white bread. Local food, and locally produced food is wonderful when I can find it and when it is affordable, but sometimes Chilean produce is a welcome respite in the winter, and a kiwi from New Zealand is the most wonderful treat. There are no food snobs here, nor do I see them returning any time soon.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Anyway, yesterday Abigail stayed home from school because she had a dentist appointment that did not go really well. She had four teeth pulled and three cavities filled, and her mouth is full of hurt right now, so I needed to pack a mouth-conscious lunch. She was on completely soft foods yesterday, so I thought today she might want to try a little bit of texture. So here today for lunch in the green compartment you see Nigella's Ricotta Hotcakes, shaped into sticks for dunking into some maple syrup. I added some tiny bits of strawberries to the pancakes, and they turned out really good. In the blue container is some cinnamon applesauce, and to the right of that some graham cracker sticks that she thought she might be able to try. If not, she could always crumble them into the applesauce to soften. And finally, just a few halved green grapes(sitting next to the maple syrup). I didn't think about it in time to steam some carrots, or I would have done that as well. But I think she'll enjoy this lunch. The ricotta hotcakes I chose because the last time I made them I thought they were much better at room temp than hot. They are very soft as well, so they are a perfect choice for a sore mouth lunch.
And as long as I'm sharing lunchboxes today, here's another one from Wednesday's lunch. She really liked this one. What you see here is a homemade bagel topped with a strawberry cream cheese smear. Since I made it myself, I could make the bagel small enough to fit in her lunchbox- and she loves bagels and smear. Above that are some peppers and cucumbers with Russian dressing for dipping. To the right of that is her dessert of yogurt covered pretzels, and below that some sliced strawberries and green grapes. I think she's missed my lunches, because she's been doing really well at eating them up. To accompany her lunches, she always buys a carton of milk at school, and I send a water bottle along with the lunch, in case she wants more than the milk. Now, next Monday she has a field trip away from school, so I will likely send some Yo-J or some apple juice for her to drink.
And if you're in search of some more ideas for lunches, you simply must check out my blog-friend Janelle's new blog, brown bag blues. Janelle blogs regularly about family and food at Talk of Tomatoes, and I'm really excited about her new project, so be sure you check that out. She has great ideas for lunches for every member of the family, and I can't wait to see more from her on the subject.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
This was a 30 second meal. Macaroni, eggs, evaporated milk, milk, salt, pepper, and cheese are combined in a crock pot and cooked on low for 5 hours. And actually 5 hours was a little long for me- the edges were pretty browned, and while I thought that the tastiest part, next time I think I'll plan for it to be done in 4 1/2 hours. And look at that ingredient list! Economical to boot, we'll be making this one many times over. I have the recipe for Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese in the Recipe Trove, just waiting for you to give it a try. I think that you could get away with using low-fat ingredients as well for the milks, and maybe the cheese. Although I am not a fan of low-fat cheese, so I can't say for sure. Try it, and let me know what you think.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Last week I mentioned that I received two recipes in e-mails from kind people who wanted to share their economical dinner ideas. Last night was the trial run of the first recipe, and it was a home run. Cabbage Patch Stew was sent to me by Carolyn. She originally got the recipe from a 1954 Betty Crocker cookbook, but has changed it up and adapted it to fit her tastes. First reading through the recipe, it looked like a fairly straightforward vegetable stew to me, until the last step. The last step directs you to make mashed potatoes and top the stew with a scoop of them. Oh my...stew topped with a scoop of mashed potatoes just tripped my "must make meter" and the recipe went on the list.
I made very few changes to Carolyn's recipe. And the changes I did make were made to use items I had on hand. The first change I made was with the 2 cups of canned kidney beans called for. I could have bought them, since canned beans are inexpensive, but I happened to have a package of dried cranberry beans that I've been dying to use, so this seemed like the perfect time. I pre-cooked them by simmering them for 45 minutes on the stove before adding them to the stew. I likely had to cook it a little longer to soften them, but I had plenty of extra time yesterday to do so. The second change I made was to eliminate most of the water and just use some homemade chicken stock. I ended up using 1 1/2 cups stock and about 1/2 cup of water. Along with the juices from the tomatoes, it provided plenty of liquid. The last change I made was to add 1/2 teaspoon of Penzey's Sweet Curry powder. I have really been craving some Indian flavors, and the stew lent itself really well to that addition. It was fine without, but I have to say, the curry powder bumped it up into the really good category. I didn't need to make the potatoes on top, as I had some leftover from the other day, so this was a perfect excuse to use them up.
This received two thumbs up from us. Just a few bites in Andy told me that I could make it again, which is a sure sign of a repeater here. It was hearty and warming yet the cabbage and tomatoes gave it a lightness as well that had me scraping the bottom of my bowl and wanting more. Easily adaptable in any way to satisfy the palates in your home, Cabbage Patch Stew is a winner here.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Check out this excerpt from this article on WebMD:
"Want a drug that could lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and colon cancer? That could lift your mood and treat headaches? That could lower your risk of cavities?
If it sounds too good to be true, think again.
Coffee, the much maligned but undoubtedly beloved beverage, just made headlines for possibly cutting the risk of the latest disease epidemic, type 2 diabetes. And the real news seems to be that the more you drink, the better."
There are so many myths about coffee that are just now coming to light to be false. The first being that increasing coffee consumption increases your need to relieve yourself. Of course it does! But if you drank the same quantity of milk, you would have to go to the bathroom just as much. It's not the caffeine to blame for an increase in the urge, it is simply consuming a liquid beverage. Coffee also does not dehydrate. The US Government's Institute of Medicine has found that coffee actually quenches thirst and does not deply the body of necessary fluids.
It's no secret that coffee helps me get through my day. Being a Mom 24/7 I don't get the opportunity to take a nap or sleep through the night without a child needing something. That cup of coffee in the afternoon helps me relax and enjoy the rest of my day. I have seen studies recently that say that up to 5 cups of coffee are perfectly acceptable- and even good for you. That's extremely encouraging to one who drinks about 3 cups a day. The only time I did not drink coffee was during pregnancy. Studies still haven't concluded whether or not caffeine may have an effect on miscarriage, so I felt it best to avoid that for the first half of my pregnancy. And for the second half...let's just say that anyone who's been 8 months along and chugs a grande cafe mocha understands what I mean when i say a caffeine induced fetus is one of the worst things to endure.
I understand that some people take it too far. Drinking a pot of coffee a day will make someone quite sick, and drinking coffee too close to bedtime will keep me up many hours into the night. I know some people also get headaches from too much caffeine, and I am sure not picking on those people. But golly, when I lift that gorgeous cup of black gold to my mouth and someone says "you know coffee is bad for you." That's going too far. Coffee is far from bad for you. It's when you add a half cup of sugar to your cup or a mountain of freshly culled cream. Duh. Of course that venti mocha latte is bad for you, it's half full fat milk, and loaded with sugar. By that point, you might as well just go buy yourself a pint of Ben & Jerry's and indulge that way.
So with that being said, I am going to go pour myself a fresh cup of coffee- black only please. I'm going to indulge in my morning pleasure and just think to myself about how much other people are missing out on all the antioxidants coffee has to offer, as well as the diabetes and cancer warding caffeine. Finally. And for more than you ever wanted to know about all the many benefits of coffee, check out the website Coffee Science.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Last night for Sunday Company Dinner we made Bangers & Mash, and I was all set to do a post on it today, except that I forgot to take a picture, and then after thinking on it, there really isn't a recipe, so... Basically, Bangers & Mash is a British meal that really is simply sausage and mashed potatoes. Sometimes it's served with an onion gravy. Last night's version was a cheddar mashed potato, with grilled fresh Polish sausage and a caramelized onion gravy. It was very good and very comforting, and while I should have taken a picture, I suppose brownish sausages on a bed of potatoes with a pale gravy wouldn't look very appealing anyway. So use your imagination on that.
Instead, I want to talk about cake today. Specifically, a blast from the past, 7-Up cake. I actually found this recipe in a church cookbook, and then set to work looking up other versions online. There were several. There were sheet cakes and pound cakes and bundt cakes, all with slight variations. I did not want pound cake, so I headed towards the bundt cakes and discovered a doctored cake mix recipe. And with 10 ounces of 7-Up as the liquid in the cake, I was intrigued, and had to make it.
I made it as written, except that I added green food coloring to make it a green cake. And overall it was really very good. It was very moist, and nicely flavored. But the star was the icing. And I wasn't even going to make the icing, I was just going to use a glaze drizzle. The icing is a cooked icing. Crushed pineapple, eggs, sugar, butter, coconut and cornstarch are cooked in a saucepan over low heat until nicely thickened. This mixture is cooled, and then you have a delicious pina-colada flavored topping that is most excellent in flavor and texture. Think of German chocolate cake and that pecan-coconut topping. This icing, while good on the cake, would top cheesecake easily, or fill a tart shell, or in a moment of pure desperation, it would suffice, simply scooped up with a spoon. If you made a rum flavored cake and topped it with this...well, that would kind of be an edible pina colada wouldn't it?
I think I'll go have cake for breakfast now. Here is the recipe for 7-Up Cake.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Friday, March 16, 2007
This is why I love blogging. It's connected me with people all over, and so many wonderful people! Just yesterday, my blog-friend Mimi hosted an event called Biscuit Baking Mix Day where a whole group of bloggers celebrated friendship together. It was so fun to play with an ingredient unfamiliar to me and then to see what everyone else did with the same ingredient... some of the results are simply priceless, so make sure you hop on over to French Kitchen In America and check them all out.
And speaking of sharing the love. I have some love to share too. Seeing how tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, I thought I should share last night's dinner with you in case you're still looking for a wee bit o' Irish to put on your table. I am not a fan of corned beef. In fact, I pretty much despise it. The corned beef and anything else that gets cooked in that icky brine. One of the few things that I refuse to touch is corned beef. (Sauerbraten is on that list as well- beef should not be pickled in my world.) So to honor my Irish roots, I need to feature something else for St. Patrick's Day, and one of my favorite touches of comfort is Shepherd's Pie. It doesn't make an appearance often because is is a casserole type dish, and my kids always seem to look at me like I'm an evil alien when I hand them a plate with anything resembling casserole on it. But it's comfort food to me. And last night, it was practically free as well.
I don't have a recipe for you. Just vague directions. However, if you want a recipe, head on over to Recipezaar. I did just that yesterday and found 226 recipes for Shepherd's Pie. Some are all homemade from scratch, some use a canned soup, some use instant spuds, each one is just a touch different. Mine happened to use up a fridge full of leftovers that were languishing away.
I started with a pound of ground beef and browned it up. Well, the beef wasn't a leftover, so I guess technically we can say that cost me $2.29 to add to the pot, even though it was already in the freezer. After that was browned, I added a handful of green onions that were wilting, and some mini sweet bell peppers that were past their prime. As I was seasoning this mixture with salt and pepper, I was mourning the fact that I didn't have any mushrooms when I remembered that I had the tiniest bit of Porcini Pesto left in the fridge. 2 tablespoons to be exact, so that went in. Along with a container of leftover cooked carrot coins, and the remainder of a bag of frozen peas. Then I added about 2 cups of beef gravy leftover from a pot roast I'd made last week. All this cooked together before pouring it into a baking dish. See picture here to the right.
The last step involved about 3 cups of leftover mashed potatoes- also from the previously mentioned pot roast dinner- and a tiny nub of Aged Irish Cheddar Cheese. One of my favorite cheeses, it made excellent grilled cheese earlier in the week, and it seemed that since I was making an Irish dinner to be the best choice of cheese. I shredded up the nub and mixed it into the potatoes. Then the potatoes were layered on top of the stew mixture already in the baking dish. And finally, for a touch of color I added a tiny sprinkle of regular cheddar cheese to the top. This whole thing baked in the oven for about 30 minutes- until bubbly. It was perfectly comforting with some homemade buttermilk oatmeal bread, and I felt great for having used up all the languishing bits from my fridge. What I love about Shepherd's Pie is that it is never the same twice. Sometimes I use shredded beef, sometimes I use turkey. Sometimes I add some kidney beans and corn and a pinch of cumin. Sometimes there's zucchini lurking about and that finds it's way into the pot.
Shepherd's Pie, in my opinion, is the better way to celebrate Irish freedom from the snakes. From a country known for its potatoes, peasant food, and excellent beer, trust me when I say it should be Shepherd's Pie on your St. Patrick's menu, and not the American corned beef and cabbage. ;-)
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I was flipping through my 1960 Women's Day Collector's Cookbook when one particular recipe caught my eye for Sour Cream Raisin Pie. I don't know what it is, but just thinking about what that might taste like made me drool. How could that be bad! I mentally made a note of it and kept flipping through, in my mind adding raisins to my shopping list. Yet sometime between that recipe viewing and the time I was in the grocery store, that pie (in my mind) became a Buttermilk Raisin Pie. So I picked up the buttermilk and the raisins, and pulled a pie shell that I'd previously made out of the freezer. I opened up the book and there it was- Sour Cream Raisin Pie. Well, I'm out of sour cream, and by now I wanted a buttermilk raisin pie. And learning that there was no such creature, I decided to come up with my own.What do you think? Just look at that! It's a baked custard-like pie with plump and juicy raisins studded throughout that custard. The top caramelized while in the oven, and the flavor was exactly as I'd imagined it to be. Sweet, very sweet, with a lingering bit of acidity that you just can't quite place. I am very pleased with how this one turned out. And while it is very good, it is in need a of a few changes for next time. The first being that the sugar is going to be reduced by 1/4 cup. The raisins add plenty of sweetness to make up for it. And the second change is going to be to add a 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon with the flour. Just thinking about the addition of cinnamon is enough to start me swooning. This pie has comfort written all over it.
Buttermilk Pie is a southern tradition (as far as I know). It is a way to make a spectacular dessert with very little. Since buttermilk was a by-product of the butter making process, I suspect that this was just one of the ways to use it up instead of wasting it. I seldom have buttermilk to waste because I just love using it. I use it in my Baked Potato Soup, Banana Bread, Buttermilk-Oatmeal Bread, and another pie- Warm Buttermilk Apple. And I have a new favorite way to use it. My Buttermilk Raisin Pie can be found in the Recipe Trove, my new changes included in the recipe.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
This week, all across the blogosphere, food bloggers (and some not-so-food-bloggers) are re-discovering the joys of a humble kitchen workhorse. That of the baking mix. Most specifically, in this case, biscuit baking mix, also known as Bisquick or Jiffy-mix, or one of the many other versions. To our parents and perhaps grandparents, this was a kitchen staple. Many, many meals were created from that single box of Bisquick. Why, one look at a box today reveals at least six recipes on one box alone! Somewhere along the line, Bisquick and other baking mixes got a bad rap. I know I myself, don't necessarily care for it myself. I don't like it in biscuits or pancakes, things that show off that boxey flavor to me. But when you take that mix and use it in a different way, that's where it shines. The Chicken Pot Pie that I now make began on the side of a Bisquick box. I've changed it in so many ways, and I don't use Bisquick to top it anymore, but that's where it originated. That's where my mother found it so many years ago.
There seems to be a resurgence these days of the classic recipes, and I for one am all over that. I love trying out recipes from another era. Not so much the nouveau cuisine, but the down-home cooking. The recipes that nourished and comforted. The recipes that young girls were taught by their mothers and grandmothers without the aid of a recipe card. What could be better than that! So in honor of Biscuit Baking Mix Day/Week, I went out and bought a box of Bisquick to determine what to make with it. In this case, I picked up the box of Heart Smart Bisquick- hey even a classic can change with the times! I decided my contribution was going to be from the genre of entertaining. I could just see a 1950's housewife in her shirtdress and apron, having her circle of friends over for bridge and brunch, and serving them up a piece of coffeecake. I could see these women raving over every bite, and only the baker would know that it was the convenience of a boxed mix that put that delicious coffee cake on the table. So today I share with my blog friends a Cherry Swirl Coffee Cake. Designed to impress, it is quite tasty, and no one has to know that you used a boxed mix to make it that way.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Previously, I have frosted these brownies and sprinkled with crushed Whoppers, which was pretty good. I have also made a ganache to pour over the top, and to me that was the ultimate brownie experience. But this past weekend, we tried them straight up, with no topping at all, and they are still a decadent brownie. They are rich and satisfying and just the quintessential brownie. I have the original version of Malt-Fudge Brownies in the recipe trove, but I do make a few changes now. I leave out the crushed malted milk balls for one. I add chocolate chips to the batter instead (but nuts would be a good addition too), and if I do top the brownies, I find that a simple ganache is the perfect gilding. Malted milk powder has definitely become a pantry staple now for me, as a result of these brownies. I do have other ideas to top these brownies for more of a bar experience- one being a caramel-pecan truffle experience, but I have yet to go that far with them.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Lumpia is a Filipino-style of egg roll, and my aunt's specialty. A trip to their house was not complete without an all-you-can-eat lumpia feast. Simply dunked in ketchup, I could eat lumpia until I burst, and I still can eat lumpia until I burst, apparently. Lumpia is different from a standard egg roll in that the core ingredient is meat. Filipino cuisine is very different from other Asian cultures, and meat frequently is featured. In this case, ground beef is combined with ground up vegetables and seasonings before being lovingly wrapped up in an egg roll wrapper. The whole thing is then deep-fried to golden perfection. Lumpia is an art form. It can be tricky because the ground beef has to be wrapped up uncooked, and while the hot grease is cooking the outside of the wrapper, the fat in the beef is cooking the inside. It's a delicate dance, the roll has to be wrapped up just so or the hot outer fat meets the inner fat and hot grease spatters and flies.
The first bite of lumpia yesterday transported me instantly to my aunt and uncle's old backyard, sitting around a picnic table with my cousins while we all eagerly devoured lumpia after lumpia. It was such a pleasure to share that lumpia with friends last night, where we all ate lumpia until we were near bursting. A true treasure of Filipino descent, but not nearly as precious as the aunt who introduced us to this delicacy.My Aunt Lita's recipe for Lumpia is in The Recipe Trove. Do make it exactly as written, and don't be fooled into thinking that you could use a leaner ground beef. Use the 80/20 stuff or 75/25. If you try and make lumpia with leaner beef, the inside will dry out before the outside is fully cooked and it just won't be good. Trust me. Aunt Lita's Lumpia is worth every scrap of fat.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
The bonus points I speak of, are the points I garner from actually using one of these relics. And relics most of them are. Flipping through one of these books is like going through a time warp, it's like looking at history. Yesterday's cookbook was one of two I have that are from Woman's Day magazine. I have two of these- the most current one being published in 1970. I sat down and flipped through, really just looking, when a recipe did catch my eye, and I just had to make it. I was looking at bread and pastry recipes when a simple Cinnamon Loaf revealed that I had all the necessary ingredients on hand. This was a very easy bread to put together, and it wasn't long before the aroma of baking cinnamon and dough filled the house. I waited as long as I possibly could before slicing into the loaf, and we were not disappointed.
In a word, it was excellent. The bread was rich and buttery and full of cinnamon flavor and aroma. It was also pretty to look at. Slicing further in revealed that I didn't roll up the dough quite as tight as I should have, and it probably could have used another five minutes in the oven, but overall... I had a hard time putting the knife down and backing away from the bread. One of the things I like about bread recipes from the past is that this was from a time before bread flour. So the tenderness in bread was achieved in other ways, specifically in this case, from the addition of eggs to the dough. This dough also wasn't kneaded, which may sound odd, but for this loaf of swirl bread, it was perfect. I have loaded the recipe into the Recipe Trove exactly as it was written in the cookbook. I think the recipe directions add to the nostalgic feel of the recipe and should be part of the experience. So check out the recipe for Cinnamon Loaf, you will love it.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Yesterday Zander told me he wanted to cook with me. That's about the last thing I want to turn down, so I spied some browning bananas on the counter and told him we were going to make banana bread. He ran to get his chair to stand on, asking over his shoulder if we could put chocolate chips in the banana bread. "You bet." I told him. And so together we measured and mixed. Zander put the eggs in one at a time, and was so proud of himself for mashing the bananas with "Mommy's Smasher." It wasn't long before we had two loaves of bread tucked in the oven, and we would move on to the next activity of building a train track.
I have already posted about this banana bread, but for anyone who needs a good recipes, check out my Banana Bread in the Recipe Trove. We left out the nuts this time because I don't have any, but we did add quite a few chocolate chips and a handful of shredded coconut. It's my tried and true recipe, and although it's very good fresh out of the oven, this is one of those breads that is even better the next day, and quite honestly, phenomenal after it's been wrapped, frozen, and thawed out. The freezing process creates magic, so while we've been nibbling on one loaf of bread, the other is going to be wrapped and tucked in the freezer for another day.
Dinner last night was a repeat, that is quick, easy,and extremely economical. Braised Chicken Legs In Mustard Sauce was just as good last night as I remember it being the last time we made it. It was full of flavor, and a great way to use the economical chicken leg. You could make this with other chicken parts, and I believe we have done so before. What I wouldn't do is use boneless skinless chicken breasts, as I suspect they would completely dry out before getting to them. It also was a free dinner for me. As I had the chicken legs in the freezer from an over-abundance last August. To accompany, we also had egg noodles to soak up the sauce, and some of the carrots that I had processed last fall.
Tonight, we go out to dinner. We are dining out with my parents tonight. We both have gift cards to the same restaurant, so we're going to put them together for a night out on the town. I'm looking forward to both the company and the food. But later this morning I am going to make a recipe from a cookbook from 1970- so check back tomorrow to find out what that is.
Oh, and a quick note about the picture of Zander at the top. That was my son, trying to be just like his Uncle Buggy. How did he do Ben?
Thursday, March 8, 2007
But lately I've been reading a lot about kids and dining out. There are restaurants that are being developed specifically for kids to give them a taste of fine dining. There are restaurants that are devoting one night a week to family night, so parents can bring their children without worrying about other diners. There are restaurants that are creating kids menus that re-invent the kid food, giving it a new twist. But my favorite thing that I have read so far on this matter of kids and eating is an editorial in the March issue of Gourmet magazine. It is like Ruth Reichl read my mind, and put the thought to pen and paper. And even though I am guilty of it's very preparation this week, I want to know (as does Ruth Reichl) why is kid food kid food?
Why? Why is it that when we go out to dinner and there is a kids menu the menu has the same things everywhere we go. Chicken nuggets or fingers, hamburgers, hot dogs (maybe a corn dog), mac-n-cheese, spaghetti, pizza, grilled cheese or PB&J. Why are these foods kid food? It's because we tell our kids that this is food they will like. When we first started going out to eat with Abigail, we were dismayed by the kids menu choices, as she's never been a big protein fan. So at first, we began ordering side salads for her, or ordering things for ourselves that she would like, and we'd give her a portion of our meal. Salad and fruit are her favorite foods, but somewhere along the line we started ordering kids menu fare for her, and now that she's older and can read for herself, that's what she looks for. We made her that way! Had we continued ordering our food with her in mind, or ordering soups and salads for her, she's probably be a much more adventurous eater.
If I were to ever open a restaurant, or even just help with a menu, one thing would be certain. There would be no kids menu. The perfect restaurant in my mind would have a note on the menu that says " in lieu of a separate children's menu, our younger patrons are free to order a child-size version of any item on the menu." My daughter would love a grilled chicken salad, or my son would love to have a tiny rack of ribs for his very own. And while we could always order for them off the adult menu, that would get very pricey, very quickly. Especially since their tastes are very different.
In essence, kid food has become kid food because we tell them that's what they want. I'm even guilty of that sometimes. I'll make fish for dinner, and make some chicken for the kids, not even giving them the opportunity to try the fish. Although I know that right now neither of them particularly care for fish, maybe that could change if given enough opportunity. We have the "bite rule" in our house. Abigail has to take two bites of everything on her plate, and Zander has to take one bite. When Zander turns four he will be subject to two bites as well. Abigail doesn't fight this anymore, and it's amazing to watch her eat things she never knew she liked. Zander's fights with us are getting less and less. I still keep their tastes in mind though. Abigail doesn't care for brussels sprouts or shrimp, so those stay off her plate entirely. Zander doesn't like potatoes or hamburgers, so those stay off his plate. Kid food doesn't have to be kid food. Kids can learn to love the same foods we love, it just takes time and patience.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007
The rub took about two seconds to put together and get on the fish. While the recipe says to let the rub sit overnight, we only had a few hours. Fortunately, these were smalls almon fillets, so the timing worked out perfectly. Had we wanted to, we probably could have used the Foodsaver Marinator to give the illusion of more time, but what he did worked. He rubbed the fish about 3 hours before cooking, and he did use the optional mop. The mop used a portion of the spice rub, vinegar, and oil, and was to be brushed on the fish twice. He went back and forth about using it, but in the end decided to do so, and it was the perfect decision.
The fish turned out perfectly. The dill and brown sugar in the rub made a perfect marriage of flavors with the salmon. And the vinegar in the mop cut into the richness of the salmon and gave it a wonderful tang. If you didn't use the mop, I would strongly recommend squeezing some lemon juice over the fish because the acid was a necessary component. This salmon was so good, our friend who is a professed non-fish eater tried a bite and thought it was really good- I think she even went back for seconds. And while the wild caught salmon was probably perfect for the recipe, I bet you could use store-bought salmon with success. Check out this recipe for Kingly Smoked Salmon if you're wanting to try out the smoker. This does make fresh smoked fish that needs to be eaten- this is not a recipe for cold-smoked salmon, which is a method of preserving, and makes what is known as lox in many places.Even though we all enjoyed it, there was a lot leftover. In my experience, fish doesn't re-heat very well, but I thought it worth trying with this salmon. And I am beyond glad that I did. Last night, the kids had a meal that was a treat for them- chicken nuggets, french fries, and fresh veggies. And while I could have had the same thing, I decided the healthier decision would be to try and create something with the leftover salmon. When I looked at the salmon in the fridge, a jar of porcini pesto caught my eye, as did a box of barley in the pantry. It wasn't long before I had the barley cooking in a saucepan with a few tablespoons on the porcini pesto.
The porcini pesto was a gift from a friend at Christmas Time from one of my favorite gourmet food companies, Bella Cucina. It is so deep and earthy, I thought the barley and pesto would combine to form a sort of pilaf that would be a perfect foil to the smoked fish. At the very end of the barley's cooking time (it was long cooking, so it took almost an hour) I placed a portion of the salmon on top of the barley pilaf and put the cover on the pan, trapping in the heat and essentially steaming the fish back to life. It worked like magic. I had a fantastic dinner from leftovers that really took no effort, just time. And it was infintely better for me than the chicken nuggets and french fries would have been. So my little bit of weigh-in Wednesday advice today is to make smart choices at meal time. Sometimes it is worth it to go out of your way to make two meals, rather than just eat what everyone else is eating. And oftentimes, you get the better end of that deal.
Tuesday, March 6, 2007
Some loser is using my blog content to fill their blog, which on the surface, appears to be non-revenue generating. Until you check out one of the hundreds of links on their sidebar. They all lead to pointless pages of nothing but radnom bits of info and google ads.
I wasted my entire day yesterday trying to get these guys to remove my blog content to no avail. I have most of the information I need to go through some more formal channels, but I'm hoping to recolve it a little more quickly. Through my searching for information, I found other bloggers who are victim to this horrible little platform "Dusk Diary." First of all, Dusk Diary is a scam, it is billing itself as a blog host, but all their blogs are fronts for scraping other genuine blogs.
Here's where you come in. I am going to provide a link at the bottom to the blog that is scraping me. Click on that link, and at the top of the page you will see a littel button that says "Flag". Click on that, (don't click on anything else!)and in the little box provided, please simply type "Stolen content" or "Copyrighted Material-stolen material" Whatever you do, put the words stolen in your message. Maybe if enough people will do this, Dusk Diary will pull the blog. I have learned that Dusk Diary is being run by a little weasel in San Jose, CA, so he is subject to the copyright laws.
I will keep everyone updated as to whether or not this works. Thanks in advance for helping me out. The offending blog is xxx I will remove this link once the matter has been resolved.
One of the things I'm nibbling on this week is leftover from Sunday Company Dinner. Other than Zander, I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy a helping of Mob Potatoes, or Hash Brown Casserole to some. I personally like the name Mob Potatoes, because it really does feed a mob. Frozen hash browns are mixed with cream soup, sour cream, and cheese before being topped with cornflakes and baked. Oh my, it really is good, and obviously, not the best for you, but so good. I did do a few things to lighten it up a bit though. I used reduced fat sour cream and I used Campbell's Healthy Request cream of chicken soup. I also didn't use quite the full amount of cheese, and reduced the butter a bit. I certainly didn't notice the changes. I suspect one could use a reduced fat cheese, but that is one product that will never make it in my shopping cart. This casserole is hearty and filling, tasty, and crowd pleasing. It makes an appearance quite often at potlucks in this part of the country. Leftovers also reheat fairly well, although you do lose the crunch in the cornflake topping. My recipe for Mob Potatoes is in the Recipe Trove. It's a very economical way to feed an army, should an army show up on your doorstep with an appetite.
I also wanted to take a second today to remind everyone that Biscuit Baking Mix Day is fast approaching. You can click on the link for more details from Mimi over at French Kitchen In America. I have my recipe all picked out and my box of Heart Healthy Bisquick in the pantry. What are you going to be making? Are you going to make a comforting favorite or try to upscale this humble baking mix? Remember, any baking mix qualifies, which opens up the realm of possibilities to a doctored cake mix or a cornbread mix or...you pick the mix you want.
Monday, March 5, 2007
Yesterday, much to our surprise, we had found out that the "pork chops" we had thawed for dinner were not pork chops. They belonged to a friend of ours who gave them to us for Sunday Dinner, who had gotten them from our neighbors. So I put them in the fridge to thaw, and yesterday when I went to look at them and see how many were in the packages, I had to take a second and third look. These were small pork chops, and dark in color. In fact, they really didn't look like pork chops, so I had Andy look at them, and he agreed. We thought they looked like lamb chops. (But shaped like pork chops, if that makes any sense). So Andy happened to catch our neighbor outside and went to ask him what they were. I mean, lamb means we cook it one way, pork another. We really didn't expect the answer we received.
Wild Russian Boar.
Apparently our neighbor had gone on a hunt in recent weeks, and thought he'd share the bounty. I admit, that at first I was leery, then a little excited at the prospect of trying something completely new. Then I grew concerned, because how does one cook wild boar properly? An online search didn't reveal very much. But what I did find suggested that we prepare the wild boar similar to lamb. That we wanted to be careful not to overcook it, and basically treat it like lamb. So I actually found a marinade and cooking procedure for the grill on Recipezaar, and we ran with it. Until it came time to put it on the grill. We ran out of gas for our grill, so we went with plan B under the broiler. And while I did overcook it just a tad (I think) we all were a bit surprised with the results.
Wild boar is delicious! It's really, really good! The best I can describe it is that it is almost like a cross between lamb and beef, in that it is better slightly pink in the middle and more tender that way as well. Yet it doesn't really taste lamby, it's flavor is more of a cross between beef and pork. And what surprised me the most is that it wasn't gamey in the least. No gamey flavor whatsoever. In fact, this morning I'm seriously regretting that I didn't go ahead and eat a second chop last night, they really were very good, and I would eat wild boar anytime. I have the recipe I used in the recipe Trove for Grilled Wild Boar Chops for anyone interested. Not only did we enjoy the wild boar, but Andy and I were discussing getting our hands on some more of it, and I would be remiss if I did not share the source I found online for Wild Boar products. In fact, I'm eyeing up the ribs for once Andy is back at work and we can afford to give them a whirl. So for those of you who don't have access to a crazy neighbor who goes hunting for such creatures like Russian Wild Boar, you should really check out Broken Arrow Ranch. They offer free-range Venison, Antelope, and Wild Boar, and the pricing seems really reasonable to me.
We were so thrilled with the boar last night, as well as some wild-caught salmon, which I'll talk about tomorrow, that we're thinking about the goose that our neighbor offered and the bear that a friend can get his hand on sometime. Hey, so far it's paying well to be adventurous. And one thing we learned for sure last night? Wild boar should be eaten by all.
Sunday, March 4, 2007
Here is an example of my current running menu list. It has things on it that I can make from items just inside my home, or things that I have made and there is a family sized portion in the freezer for a quick dinner night. This list doesn't include side dishes, because I've been trying to let Zander pick out the vegetable every night in an attempt to get him to eat them.
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Herb Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Macaroni and Cheese
Hot Dogs (if it ever warms up enough to grill)
Mustard Braised Chicken Legs
Pasties (a stew-filled pastry with Cornish roots)
Lumpia (a Filipino eggroll- but I do need the wrappers)
White Chicken Enchiladas
Flank Steak (again with the grill)
This doesn't include the chicken soup I could make at any time, and the use of leftovers. Like when I make the pork tenderloin, leftover pork will become either fried rice or stroganoff. Leftover chicken will become chicken pot pie. When I make Lumpia it makes enough for two meals, and so on. As you can see, we're hardly starving on a budget. And the items like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs will be for this week, as Andy will be heading to Minneapolis to help my brother with some kitchen renovations this week. So it's just the kids and I, and no need for fussy meals here.
So what have I found lurking in my pantry that I didn't know had been there? To start with, my Indian favorite that I briefly mentioned the other day, Butter Chicken. That really is a simple dish, and with the cashew butter and ginger paste in my fridge, a can of tomatoes in my pantry, and a forgotten about package of chicken thighs, it was almost decadent! I've only made this before with boneless, skinless chicken, and let me tell you, never again! I used skinless chicken thighs and the depth that the dish had because of it was wonderful! I had to leave out the cayenne, but it was worth it since the kids inhaled the chicken. I also omitted the cream at the end. I was going to put it in, but at the last minute, I changed my mind, and while it may not be authentic now, I really thought it didn't hurt the chicken in the least, so if you've been looking at this recipe, feel free to omit the cream at the end.
The second meal I found in my pantry was a lentil soup. I really wanted soup, but I didn't necessarily want a leftover type soup or a clear-broth chicken soup. I wanted something hearty. And the package of lentils in my kitchen annex answered that question for me. I used this recipe for Lentil and Sausage Soup as inspiration, but changed it up for what I had on hand. To start with, the sausage I used was a spinach and asiago chicken sausage, and I didn't want it to cook in the soup and lose it's flavor, so the sausage was added at the very end. Instead of canned tomatoes I had two tomatoes that had seen better days, so I peeled them and chopped them before tossing them in the pot, and I also have fresh herbs around, so I added a sprig each of rosemary and thyme. I also eliminated the potato completely- although that would have been the perfect opportunity to use up the about-to-sprout sweet potato in the pantry had I thought of it. It was the perfect soup, and made plenty so I have another round of soup for another time.
And finally, last night I made a Quick Tortellini and Pesto. This really is a brainless recipe. It is really easy if you have the ingredients on hand, and it's a lighter dish in flavor. I made some homemade bread sticks to accompany and while the kids didn't like it, Andy and I did, and leftovers will make a great lunch for the next day or two for me. I used a Sicilian vegetable blend which added a punch of color, and I used store-bought bottled pesto. It was perfect as I'd been looking for a way to use up a tub of ricotta, and this fit the bill perfectly.
Tonight is Sunday Company Dinner, and company has already dropped off an assortment of meats to prepare...and it is definitely an assortment. We have some salmon, some pork chops, and whatever else I decide to add to the mix. Oh! And if anyone has eaten it, I would love to know what anyone thinks of Cudighi. I have a one pound package in my freezer from a friend. Best I can find is that this is an Upper Michigan sausage similar to Italian sausage, but I'm not entirely sure what to do with it. To the best of my knowledge my package of Cudighi is actually made from wild boar... so if anyone has a suggestion as to how to make this a star, I will be looking for something to do with it for next week Sunday. Anyone?
Okay, I'm editing to add that I have just found out that some of the mystery meat we are making for dinner tonight is in fact wild boar chops. So come back tomorrow to learn a little more about wild boar, how to prepare it, and most importantly...does it taste good?
Friday, March 2, 2007
Thursday, March 1, 2007
I have never made a beignet before. Never even eaten a beignet before, but the recipe in King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion appeared foolproof. Baking powder provides the necessary lift for these fried bits of dough. And oh yes, the deep fryer was coming out of hiding today. This is a cooking tool that only comes out once or twice a year, and usually for egg rolls at that. So to make a homemade fried treat was an event to be sure. The dough did come together very quickly, and they cooked up very quickly. And overall, we were all pleased with our fried bits of dough. When I did some searching online though, I realized that there are actually two different types of beignet, and while the one I made was delicious, the one I most associate with New Orleans is the yeast-raised beignet that is usually rectangular in shape.
No matter. The beignets were delicious- they were light and fluffy on the inside, crispy and sweet on the outside. I actually added a few drops of lemon oil to my batter, and the faint hint of lemon really made these treats sparkle. We all enjoyed the beignets, and it was the perfect little munchie for an otherwise dreary afternoon.
Tonight, after hemming and hawing over dinner, we'll be having some Indian inspired Butter Chicken. My challenge will be to recreate our Indian favorite with little to no heat so our children can enjoy it as well. Thankfully, the Butter Chicken is a pantry meal, as there is no desire to head out into this blustery day.