Friday, December 12, 2008

Check Me Out...

I'm not done with food posts, just done here. I'm merging this blog and my personal one because I just can't keep them both up.
Please visit me at:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Turkey laid to rest

Thanksgiving is OVER!
It went off without a hitch. No crazy people showing up, no fist fights, no complaints. I call that a success. The food, oh glory, the food. It was remarkable thanks to some awesome friends.
Now its D-day. Either use or lose it, folks. Here are some ideas for that turkey that's shelf life will be over after today:
turkey chili
turkey pot pie
turkey alfredo
turkey enchiladas
turkey truffles
Ok, I was just making sure you were still paying attention on that last one.
Tonight I'm making turkey chili. Mostly because it can be made ahead and this week has been and will continue to be CRAZY.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I never thought the day would come...

I am actually happy that it's turning cold. There is something in the air when the leaves and temperatures are falling that makes me want to hunker down in the kitchen and cook. I'm thinking that today is the day I make some bread and muffins. Then, there is a chicken to be roasted and while all of this is in the oven I may try and organize the pantry.
Being a Virgo, I like things neat, orderly and uber-organized but, striving for perfection is the surest way to disappointment. I just try to keep it from being an avalanche zone most of the time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Leftover Intervention

I know you've seen those books on Once A Month Cooking. Heck, I even own a few. But who has an entire day to set aside to cook? I don't. The best way I have found to stock my freezer with meals is to make double batches. This is a simple, straight forward strategy. Some important things to remember when doing this is to pull out half the pasta when it's only half cooked. This will keep it from getting mushy when it's reheated. If you are using canned vegetables in a recipe, add them at the very end and immediately divvy up what you want to freeze. Canned veggies are already cooked so if you cook them and then freeze them, when you reheat they will turn to goo. When using fresh veggies, pull out what is to be frozen half way through so that they will retain color and crunch when reheated.
Another way to stock up that is great is to reinvent leftovers. Meat sauce for pasta can be turned into stuffing for peppers or acorn squash. Roast chicken leftovers can be turned into chicken salad, enchiladas, tacos, pot pie, chili and soup. Pork chops can be made into stir fry or pork and beans. Hamburgers can be chopped up into meat sauce, converted to Salisbury steak, used for topping a pizza or made into chili. Ham can be chopped and put into freezer quiche, casseroles or ham salad.
Next time you have leftovers think about what else you make that has similar ingredients.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Canned Bread

The best (and only) thing to do with black bananas is banana bread, but who wants a whole big loaf? I like it, but not enough to eat three days in a row. That is why I can it. Huh?!
Yes, you can can bread. Just about any quick bread recipe works and will last up to a year. All you have to do is spray wide mouth, 1/2 pint canning jars with non-stick spray. Fill 1/2 full with your favorite quick bread batter and bake at 325 for about 20-30 minutes. Remove the jars one at a time, wipe the rim and screw on the top. The heat will vacuum seal the jars. Just make sure that all the lids have popped, meaning that when you press down on the middle of the lid it doesn't pop up.
The recipe I used this time is as follows:
2/3 c shortening
4 eggs
2 2/3 c sugar
2 c mashed banana
2/3 c chopped nuts (I use pecans)
3 1/3 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp salt

Cream the shortening and sugar, beat in the eggs and banana. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Add to the prepared jars and bake as listed above. This recipe makes 7-8 jars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ike's a b*tch

Thanks to Ike, our poor Fair Shares farmer's have been flooded out. These hard working folks don't get the government subsidies because they have chosen to forgo the feed corn and soy for more edible, nutritious and organic crops. Shame on government!
Tonight's dinner had none of the lovely produce we usually get on Wednesday's. I made steamed carrots, green beans and (burnt) pork chops. Yes, I'm not always a great cook. Everyone has their off days and apparently today was mine. A little scraping and they were good enough. We did; however, have some Companion Bread from Fair Shares. Usually by the time we get around to it, its gone fuzzy. But tonight I wanted something from Fair Shares.
We are running into the late season where fresh anything is quickly going out the window. Luckily, the wonder women that run Fair Shares have contracted with some of the Amish in our area for canned goods.
Speaking of: I bought a book on small batch canning that I may have to put to use soon. I can still pick up fresh green beans at the local farmer's market for next to nothing. I've never been much on canned green beans but why not try it out.

To freeze your own green beans all you have to do is blanch them in boiling water until they turn bright green. Remove to an ice bath, pat dry with towels and lay flat on a baking sheet. I usually line the sheet with waxed paper to prevent sticking and freeze until solid. Store in a labeled zip top bag.
To reheat, just steam until you've reached the desired texture. I like them a little crunchy.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fall into soup!

There's a chill in the air that can only mean fall is on its way. Yay!
Usually on a nice early fall day I will get out all my stock pots (I have a lot) and make every kind of soup I can think of. Roasted red pepper and tomato, chicken chili, steak and bean, vegetable chowder, you name it! All of these soups freeze really well, too.
Here is my Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato recipe:
1 t olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar roasted red peppers, chopped (I use the Trader Joe's brand, but you could always roast your own)
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (or a 28 oz can)
1 1/2 t dried thyme
2 t paprika
1 lg can tomato paste
6 cups broth of choice
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 c fat free 1/2 & 1/2
sour cream for garnish (optional)

In a giganto, mungo pot soften onion and garlic in olive oil. Add in tomato, bell peppers, thyme and paprika. Cook over medium heat until reduced by about 1/2. Stir in tomato paste, broth and cayenne. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Puree the entire batch, then add the 1/2 & 1/2 and heat through. Serve with sour cream. It's also good with some pepperoni sprinkled in.
I want to try it with some other add-in's like: corn, rice, chicken or bacon too.
Try it and let me know what you think!

Oh, to freeze: let cool completely and pour into labeled freezer bags. Lie flat on a baking sheet and freeze solid. This will keep for about 4-6 months.
To reheat: let thaw and either heat through on stove top or in microwave.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pantry Buster

Wednesday is our delivery day for Fair Shares, our CSA. Its usually a surprise as to what we get but I'm rarely disappointed. Since I know that we are going to be inundated with fresh produce, meat and bread then, I try to take Monday's and Tuesday's as "pantry buster" days.
This means I dig around in the fridge, freezer and cabinets to find whatever is left over and combine it into a meal- or several.
Last night I cheated and we went out to dinner because after hauling a couple kids in a wagon all around the zoo I was done in. I didn't have enough brain cells left to think of dinner, let alone enough energy to cook it.
Tonight we're having spaghetti with garlic bread. I know, real original. But it does get rid of a pound of pork sausage, a pound of pasta and the left over garlic bread from last nights dinner. I will probably sneak in some zucchini and yellow squash too.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Bacon in a flash

Yes, I know. I haven't really published any freezable items in a long time. I will share a little tip though...
When you make bacon, lay a cooling rack inside a baking pan. Place as much bacon as will fit without overlapping too much. I usually make a pound at a time. Put this into a cold oven and set the temperature for 400. The cooking time will vary as to how you like yours cooked. This cooking method keeps the bacon from curling up and keeps it from cooking in its own fat. When the bacon is almost (2/3's) done, remove what you know you won't use immediately to drain. Put the rest back in the oven until its to your liking. When the almost done bacon has cooled to room temp, sandwich in single layers between wax paper, wrap in foil and place in a zip-top bag. Don't forget to label with date and name! Stick this in the freezer.
The next time you want bacon, thaw and either oven bake or microwave until done.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You know its summer when...

Tonight we had corn on the cob, sauteed zucchini, squash and eggplant, bratwurst and home made cole slaw. My Mom taught me her cole slaw dressing recipe and I couldn't believe how easy and good it was. Better than the bottled and a whole lot cheaper too!

1/4 cup Miracle Whip, cannot substitute mayonnaise
1 T milk

Blend until desired consistency reached. I like mine kind of thick so you may need to add more or less milk.

1 T sugar
pepper, to taste
couple dashes celery seed (this was my addition)

Whisk everything together and voila! Just toss it with some shredded cabbage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Roast Chicken with Summer Pasta

Last year for our wedding anniversary my husband decided that he wanted to buy me something really nice, either diamond earrings or new appliances. Baby did right and chose the appliances. I'm that kind of girl. I chose a convection/microwave oven. I love this and would recommend one to anyone who cooks on a regular basis. I've done everything from grill pork chops, bake bread and cookies, nuke leftovers and popcorn, to well, roast a chicken! Mine has a little touchscreen where you just tell it what your want to make and it will take over from there. Very Jetson's. Plus, since it goes over my range, I have a double oven. This really comes in handy around the holidays.

Today was my first attempt at roasting a chicken in it. I had a 4 lb bird, summer squash, zucchini, green peppers, onion, tomatoes and fresh pasta from our local farmer's co-op. Along with a little olive oil and some spices, this made for dinner fixings. And plenty of leftovers!
Summer Pasta
1 yellow squash, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 zucchini, chopped into bite size pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup favorite tomato sauce
1 lb pasta
In a large, deep skillet heat olive oil and garlic. Add the zucchini and squash. When they start to soften, add the onion and green pepper. Finally after a few minutes, add the tomatoes and sauce along with salt & pepper to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta of your choice.
If you are to freeze this make sure to under cook the pasta! Place in a zip-top bag with name & date. To reheat defrost overnight in the fridge and microwave until hot. You may need to add a little water since the pasta will absorb any sauce.
Oh and yes, I know my plating skills suck.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Roast chicken
More bread
Zucchini oatmeal cookies

Too busy to do much cooking now.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Major Tom To Ground Control

I'm kind of curious as to who my readers are. Are there even any of you out there?
If you read me, leave a comment! Let me know who you are, if you have tried any of my recipes or have any suggested recipes of your own.
Are there anythings that you would like me to write about? Anything you want me to stop writing about? That is a rhetorical question by the way.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Stuffed Zucchini that stuffed me

My husband has deemed this one "Company Worthy". That is high success, right there. I must say it was pretty tasty and easy.
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 T olive oil
2 small eggplant, diced
2 eggs
1 cup of your favorite tomato sauce, I used a roasted red pepper one
1 large yellow squash
1 large zucchini
Parmesan cheese
bread crumbs
salt & pepper
Preheat the oven to 350.
Brown the lamb and saute the onion and garlic along with.
Remove from pan and add to a large bowl.
Slice the zucchini and squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the middle. Be sure to leave flesh at the ends to hold in the goodies! Chop the flesh and add to pan with olive oil and eggplant.
Saute this until slightly softened.
Add this to the bowl along with salt and pepper to taste. Dump in the spaghetti sauce and the two eggs. Mix until well combined.
Put the zucchini and squash halves into a deep casserole dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Load the lamb mixture into the zucchini & squash. Really fill them to almost overflowing. Sprinkle on a nice layer of Parmesan followed by a layer of bread crumbs.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they are browned and fork tender.
I served them up along side of some rice and it was a fine meal.
The next time I make this I will most likely use ground pork just because I usually have that in the freezer.
Note: if you are going to freeze this, do not freeze the zucchini and squash boats. Just freeze the filling before baking. Thaw overnight in fridge and them fill the zucchini and squash. Or even use this as a filling for peppers or a sauce to go over pasta.

There's what in it?

While reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I came across a recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies. My first thought was, EEeeewwwww. Then I thought I about it, zucchini bread is good and doesn't taste like zucchini at all.
Since I just so happen to have a spare zucchini sitting around and a house of men who love chocolate chip cookies, I made them.
Actually, Gryffin and I made them. He helped measure, peel, shred, mix, scoop, lick and taste test. They turned out really delicious. They are soft and chocolaty and the zucchini adds a bit of sweet and chewy texture.
I will refrain from reprinting the recipe. You can check it out at:
I highly recommend it.

In a pickle pickle

I am forced to relent to the over abundance of zucchini this time of year. My vegetable bins runneth over with zucchini, cucumber and yellow squash. I've pickled to the point where neighbors see me with a jar and shut the blinds and lock the doors. The latter of which NEVER happens in this neighborhood. Apparently they feel as I do, if I eat any more I'm going to be pissing vinegar and pooping vines. Therefore; this week I'm making zucchini chocolate chip cookies and canned zucchini bread. The first to be eaten, the latter to be stored until gift giving season arrives. The eggplant is being roasted with a stuffing of lamb tonight. .Oh, did I mention the three dozen free range eggs that take up prime real estate in my overcrowded fridge? I need to make a HUGE batch of freezer quiche.
I will post recipes as I make them over the next couple days.
What are your favorite uses for zucchini, cukes and squash?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Market Madness

Thank goodness for my corner market. I'm not really up for cooking dinner tonight and have enough left over veggies that all I really needed was meat. Every thing I had required thawing and at 4:30 in the evening, its not really an option. I wandered the whopping block to the market, strolled right back to the deli counter. We are lucky enough to have a hot deli as well. For about $6 you can get a meat and two sides. They also set out the heat and eat stuff like their own recipe ribs, wings, lasagna, brisket and what we are having tonight- meatloaf.
$5.50 bought us just under a pound meatloaf.
I also picked up some, as I found out, locally grown bacon. This stuff is thick sliced and actually has more meat than fat. Did you know bacon still grew like that?
Anyway, the meatloaf is in the oven and the peas and carrots just need a nuke.
I feel guilty about this 'store bought' dinner. I was planning on making zucchini and eggplant stuffed with ground lamb. Time got away from me, so did desire to be honest. Tomorrow night for sure though.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Parmesean zucchini

Today on Healthy Appetite with Elle Kreiger I witnessed her baking up some Parmesan dredged zucchini slices. Mike turned to me and said, "Take notes". I did.
Tonight for dinner we had them and even our three year old ate a couple. Mike had seconds! That's big because I think we are all sick of zucchini.

Parmesan Zucchini

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 large zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1-2 T olive oil

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray. Slice the zucchini and coat with olive oil. Combine the cheese and breadcrumbs. Dredge the zucchini slices in the bread crumb mixture and place on the baking sheet in a single layer. Put under the broiler until they are GBD (golden, brown, delicious). It only takes a few minutes so keep an eye on them.

Sweet Beet Down

I took a sweet potato and two bunches of beets, one yellow, one red and fried them within an inch of their nutritious lives. Damn if they weren't yummy. Unfortunately, the other members of my family had to take my word for it because they don't keep. They lost their crispy within a couple hours. I think I will reserve this recipe for party tricks and late night chip cravings. Here is what I did:

Sweet Potato & Beet Chips

1 large sweet potato
2 bunches of beets
vegetable oil, enough to fill an electric fryer about half full or enough to fill a deep fryer
spicy steak seasoning, I'd name the specific brand if they paid me to

Slice the veggies and 1/8th inch thick, I used a mandolin slicer. Heat the oil to 350 and lay out a wire rack with a paper bag underneath for draining. When the oil is up to temp, add the sliced veggies in small batches, stirring and turning frequently. The sweet potatoes turn a little brown when done, the beets you kind of have to use the curl method. When the sides curl up, they are usually done. Remove from oil to rack with a slotted spoon or spider and sprinkle with salt and steak seasoning. Serve immediately. And I do mean immediately.

I had them for lunch the day I made them. Can I just say that all the cravings of sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy and soft were met. When it comes to the sweet potatoes the middles will still be slightly soft when done but I found this to be a nice little surprise.

For dinner that night, I took the beet greens and sauteed them up in a little olive oil and garlic. They turned out really bitter so the next time I do this I will probably add a little sugar. Otherwise, they were good.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Money CAN buy you happiness!

Fair Shares for this week:
1 dozen free range eggs
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of fresh tarragon
2 eggplants
1lb green beans
5 large red potatoes
1 bunch yellow beets
1 English cucumber
2 regular cucumbers
2 zucchini
2 yellow squash
1 large package of tortillas
6 bagels
1 package fresh chevre
1 bag of tortilla chips
a little over a pound of ground lamb
All of this is either locally grown or produced. Now, could you have bought all this from your big box grocery store for $50?
What do I plan to do with all this local loveliness?
The zucchini, squash and eggplants will be used in a vegetable lasagna.
The eggs will be used to make freezer quiche.
The lamb will be curried in a hurry.
The tortillas will be slapped in a crock pot for a Mexican lasagna.
The green beans and red potatoes will made into my Sausage Bean Pot, scroll through previous posts for recipe.
The chevre and tarragon will be added to a grilled chicken pizza.
The chips and bagels will be devoured all on their own.
Oh and the beets will be added to last weeks purple beets and fried up into chips.
How's that for a menu for a week?!
I will post recipes as I make them so check back.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fast Break Breakfast

So you think you don't have time to make a hot, home cooked breakfast? Think again. Baked bacon and pancakes are the answer. My husband loves pancakes. Me, never been a big fan. They always seemed too heavy, until I came up with these. I believe the recipe originally came from the Food Network but I revised it several times to get them the way I wanted them. This meant cutting out the fat and salt and making them come out light and fluffy.
First off, the baked bacon. Thank you Alton Brown for this one! There's really no recipe to it. All you do is lay the bacon flat on a cooling rack inserted into a baking sheet. Now, take this opportunity to put as much bacon as you can squeeze onto the rack. I try to do a pound at a time, this way I have bacon for sandwiches, salad and casseroles for the whole week. Place in a cold oven, set temperature to 400. Depending on how you like your bacon this could take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. We like ours crispy, so it's about 30-35. Just think how yummy this would be if sprinkled with either brown sugar or freshly cracked black pepper? While the bacon is cooking the pancakes can be made.
1 c flour
1 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 egg
1 1/2 T melted butter
1 c buttermilk
Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Whisk together all remaining and add to the dry. Whisk all ingredients until just combined. There will be lumps! These will dissapate during cooking. If you mix the batter too much the pancakes will be more dense. Let the batter rest for a few minutes until you see little bubbles start to appear.
On a preheated griddle, ladle a 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. When bubbles appear and no longer burst, flip. Remove when they are golden brown.
This recipe makes 12 pancakes. It can be doubled, tripled, whatever because they freeze wonderfully. Just separate each pancake with a piece of wax paper, wrap the whole thing in foil and put into a zip-top bag. Don't forget to mark it with the content and date! These keep in the freezer (if well wrapped) for about 3 months. To reheat, grab as many as you want and pop into the microwave until hot. There's no need to defrost them.
Another great thing about this recipe is that you can add fresh blueberries or chocolate chips, mashed banana and walnuts or just about anything! Keep them plain for freezing because the fruit gets mushy and other things like chocolate and nuts could turn bitter though.
If you try this recipe, be sure to let me know what you think!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Sausage Bean Pot

This recipe started out as a 'throw together'. That means that I had no idea what I was going to make and threw what I had together. Now it has become a regular on the menu. It's awesome for when you just don't feel like cooking but will want a hot, comforting dinner.
What you will need:
1 lb red potatoes, I prefer ones no larger than an egg
1 medium onion, sliced thick
1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 lb polska kiel basa sausage, cut into 2" chunks
1 T dried sage
1/2 T garlic powder
1 T dried rosemary
Prick the potatoes with a fork and lay in the bottom of the crock pot in a single layer. Add the green beans, then the sausage and onion. Sprinkle with the seasonings and add just enough water to come about half way up the potatoes. Cover and set the crock pot on low. The cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes, the smaller they are the faster they will cook. Its done when the potatoes are fork tender. Usually if I want dinner at five I will start the crock pot around noon.
Along with a batch of cornbread this will feed my family of three and give my husband enough leftovers for his lunch the next day.
Price breakdown:
Sausage- $2.50 a lb (when I catch them on sale)
Potatoes- $0.99 a lb
Green beans- $0.99 a lb
Onion- 5 lbs for a $1, so I say about $0.25
Seasonings- about $0.25
So for a family of four, its $1.25 per person!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Another experiment in leftovers

Grilled zucchini and squash + chives + tomato + chevre + a frozen quiche and pie crust = DINNER! I had a myriad of food that had to be used soon. The one thing that I love about quiche is that its a garbage pie. You can put anything into it and it will come out amazing. It was so good Mike didn't even complain there wasn't any meat in it.
Frozen Quiche
4 eggs
3 c milk
1/2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 c shredded cheese
Whisk all of it together and pour into 4 quart sized freezer bags. At this point you could also add any meat or veggies you like such as: ham, broccoli, bacon, chicken, peas, etc.
I usually make at least a couple plain to allow for leftovers when I make it and the rest with whatever accouterments I have on hand.
Double bag and freeze flat.
To cook, thaw overnight in the fridge. You can either make your pie crust or use a store bought one. Shake the bag to combine the ingredients and pour into pie shell until 1/2 full. It will rise during baking so don't overfill! Bake until the crust is GBD and the center is still a little giggly. Let stand at least 5 minutes to firm up.
Tonight I served this with a salad and some toasted multi-grain bread with chevre and fresh basil that I tucked under the broiler for a few minutes.

10 Grain Honey Bread

Mmmm, fresh bread. Upon the discover of a loaf of bread costing almost as much as a gallon of milk, I have rededicated myself to making (at least) a loaf a week. This is the one I made last week and is a variation of my normal recipe. Through our co-op we scored some 10 grain flour and I just can't let that kind of goodness just sit.

10 Grain Honey Bread
1 cup hot water
3 T vegetable oil
2 T honey
2 cups bread flour
1 cup 10 grain flour (or wheat)
4 t vital wheat gluten
3 T sugar
3 T nonfat dry milk
1 t salt
2 1/4 t bread machine yeast
Add ingredients in the above listed order to your handy-dandy bread machine. Set for a 1 lb loaf with medium crust color. Let it slave away while you sit back with a cuppa and enjoy the smell of fresh baking bread waft through your house.
I found this to be especially tasty as a BLTA. That's a BLT with avocado. My son also loves this with PB & J and spread with some cream cheese mixed with basil & garlic its awesome!

And you thought I had given up!

Sorry for the lack of postage. These past couple of weeks have been as messy as pitting cherries. Speaking of: I made a pie. No big deal, right? Ah, but this pie is different than any other pie I've made. When I make cherry pies I use the cherries in a jar from Trader Joe's to make the filling. This time thanks to our awesome farmer's co-op I got to try my hand at making my own filling from fresh cherries- and raspberries too!
I learned that pitting cherries by hand requires goggles, a firing chamber and a red t-shirt because if its not already that color it will be soon.
I put about 2 cups cherries and 1/2 cup raspberries in a pot with equal parts of sugar and water. Brought it up to a simmer and let it reduce until thick. I poured the whole syrupy, sticky, delicious mess into a pie crust, covered with another, made pretty little cut outs because I like Martha Stewart better now that she's a fellon and stuck that baby in the oven. Then I churned up some vanilla ice cream to accompany.
This is the result. It tasted so good that when I read our list of foods we are getting today from the co-op, I was really disappointed to not get any more cherries. Hey, but I do have some blueberries in the fridge! Hhmmmm, wheels a turning.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pickles & Ice Cream

We are ice cream prudes. A couple years ago a quaint little ice cream shop opened up just around the corner from us. They had all fresh, home made ice cream and got as many of the ingredients as possible locally. This year when they opened up for the season it was under new ownership. Now they sell, gasp, Edy's.
If I wanted that crap I would walk across the street to the market. Its cheaper there too! But I cannot stomach the stuff. It tastes like chemicals rather than cream, sugar and milk.
Home ice cream makers have come a long way, baby. I found this little jewel at Sam's (aka- Satan's) Yes, I know. They are a horrid, terrible, evil axis of bulk but they sell appliances, underwear AND meat! Sometimes in the same isle. The box said it could make ice cream in 20-30 minutes. Sure. It did. Granted it wasn't hard ice cream like we like it but soft serve.
An afternoon in the deep freeze fixed that and last night we enjoyed bowls of fresh, home made, I know everything that's in it, ice cream. It was so good my eyes rolled back in my head and I heard angels singing. I would love to share pictures of the finished product with you but I couldn't put my spoon down long enough to snap the picture.
I also made pickles yesterday. Bread and Butter refrigerator pickles even. I used my Dad's recipe and it couldn't be easier. In fact, the hardest part of the recipe is finding pickling cucumbers. These babies are sweet and tart and crunchy. I've been known to sit down with a bowl of them and a fork and call it dinner. I ended up with six jars of them, five of which made the neighborhood rounds. The last one I'm cherishing like Grandma's china. The best part about this recipe is that you can just keep adding veggies to the brine so you never run out.
Here's the recipe:
Bread & Butter Fridge Pickles
About 1 gallon of pickling cucumbers
3-4 onions
1-2 green peppers (optional)
1/4 cup salt
4 cups sugar
4 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/3 t turmeric
1 1/3 t celery seed
1 1/3 t mustard seed
Slice cucumbers, onions and peppers thick, but small enough to get out of the jar. Mix all other ingredients until dissolved. I did this in an old juice bottle and shook it until my left arm fell off. Put your veggies in a large airtight container, or in my case, several small ones. Pour the liquid over. Keep them in the fridge- always.
And no, there wasn't any specific reason I made pickles and ice cream.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Tim Gunn Special

I love to watch Project Runway. The host, Tim Gunn, walks around to these frenzied designers telling them that even though their dress is hideous they have to, "Make it work". I felt like one of those designers today when I opened the fridge to see what I could Frankenstein into dinner.
In the shows challenges they are given all these crazy things to make into a garment. My challenge consisted of: tomato pasta, zucchini, yellow squash, grape tomatoes and Red Lobster leftovers of shrimp scampi, baked scallops and halibut.
I must say that I won this challenge and should get immunity in the next one. It was sooo good it might make it onto the regular schedule subbing crab for the restaurant leftovers.
Here's the play by play:
1 1/2 T butter
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 zucchini, sliced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 pkg. grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1 lb tomato pasta
1 1/2 cups Fat Free 1/2 & 1/2
1 T cornstarch
1 T dried onion flakes
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
salt & pepper to taste
Oh, and few red pepper flakes!
First set the pot to boil for pasta. In a large, deep skillet melt the butter in the olive oil. Add the zucchini, squash and garlic, saute for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and saute another minute. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the 1/2 & 1/2, reserving about a 1/4 cup. Use this to dissolve the cornstarch and set aside. Now add the herbs and the cornstarch mixture. Let thicken on medium low heat.
Drain the pasta and add it and the seafood to sauce when it's thick. I also added some chopped, fresh parsley at the very end.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sure to please Mac-N-Cheese

My husband and I were down right addicted to Velveeta Shells and Cheese. I know, I know- shame. I made the mistake one day of reading the ingredients. I had my mission: make creamy, REAL mac-n-cheese. I tried a lot of recipes. Most were Ok and some were just gross. I realized the quality of cheese made a big difference. I only use Kraft pre-shredded cheese, the generics tended to get grainy. This can actually be a diet friendly recipe too if fat free half and half and cheese made from skim milk is used, which is what I do. Add in some broccoli, ham, tuna, peas, etc. and you have a great casserole.
Mac-N-Cheese (for a crowd)
1lb Pipette or shell pasta
1.5 cups fat free half and half
4 cups shredded cheese, I used the Kraft Mexian blend
1 egg, room temp and beaten
salt to taste
In a large pot cook pasta until just al dente, drain and return to pot. Add the 1/2 &1/2 and temper the egg and add to pasta. This will bind the cheese for freezing. If you're not going to freeze this you may omit the egg, but it does add a richness too. Adding a handful of cheese at a time, stir constantly until it desolves before adding more.
Serve, or...
Prepare to freeze by lining a baking dish with foil.
Fill the dish and wrap the foil over the top.
Freeze in the baking dish so it will retain its shape for reheating. Once frozen remove from dish and label a zip-top bag for it.
To reheat: Spray the baking dish with non stick spray, remove the mac-n-cheese from the foil and put in dish. Preheat oven to 350 and bake covered until hot (about 30-45 minutes). I sometimes add breadcrumbs to the top to make it crunchy, for this remove the lid during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
I usually serve this along side some fish sticks and lima beans for what our family lovingly refers to as School Lunch Night.
(My husband actually made fun of me for taking this picture of my son's dinner plate.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Manicotti on the spotty!

A couple months ago my brother, sister-in-law and their three kids came over. My brother and his boys are known for not eating 'green stuff'. The last time I fed them I had to keep from laughing out loud at the fact that they picked out all the bits of green pepper from the meatloaf. I mean really, just because it's green doesn't mean it's Soylent Green! Anyway, knowing that I had to feed a crowd I decided to make Manicotti the day before and freeze it.
Pasta freezes amazingly well, IF it's not cooked completely before freezing. Cheese freezes well, but it needs an egg to stabilize it. This holds true for mashed potatoes too. The egg doesn't add flavor, just a rich, creamy texture.
2 8oz boxes of manicotti noodles
24 oz small curd, low fat cottage cheese
2 eggs
2 cups low fat shredded cheese- I used Kraft Mexican blend
1/2 cup grated Parmesan- I used the Kraft Italian blend
2 T powdered garlic- No vampires in this house!
1 T oregano (dried)
1 T basil (dried)
1 10 oz box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of all excess water.
Cook the pasta half as long as recommended on the box. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and lay the pasta in a single layer to cool. While it cools, in a large bowl mix the remaining ingredients and put about a third of the mix into a large zip-top bag. Cut one corner off the bag. Start with a small hole, you want it just big enough to fit in the end of the pasta. Its easier to cut a bigger hole later if needed than start over with another bag. Trust me on this one, I found out the hard way. Squeeze the filling into each manicotti shell. Add more filling when needed. If you put all of it in there it's too heavy to manage, at least for me.

Return to sheet in a single layer and freeze on sheet. This will freeze them individually so you can have one or the whole batch. It only took mine about 30 minutes to freeze before I could load them into a zip-top bag for storage.
I knew that I would be using these soon; otherwise, I would have wrapped each one in foil to preserve them before putting them into the bag.
To Bake:
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce (or home made)
1 cup of shredded cheese
Preheat oven to 375. In a large baking dish spread a little of the sauce in the bottom. This will prevent the manicotti from sticking to the bottom. Lay in manicotti in a single layer and spoon the rest of the sauce over them. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover with foil and bake until the pasta is tender. This took me about 30 minutes.
Serve with a salad and voila!
My 'green stuff' hating brother and boys? They ate them up and didn't even pick out the spinach. I lied and told them it was just herbs! Bad, bad me. I fessed up when the plates were clean though.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Change In Scheduled Programming

Last night turned out to be a leftovers night. I used some Cajun chicken left over from a dinner out, green beans that needed to cooked or pitched and some pasta from our farmer's co op. The pasta was a tomato pasta that I tossed in a creamy garlic butter sauce. It was super good!
Here's my recipe for the pasta sauce:

2 T butter (not margarine)
2 t chopped garlic
3/4 cup fat free Half & Half
1 T oregano
2 t basil

Melt the butter in a sauce pan. Throw everything else in and let thicken over medium-low heat. Pour over pasta. Its also good if you melt in some Parmesan cheese.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Monday Menu Challenge!

Time to prepare that weekly menu. I've found that creating a menu doesn't just save the headache of deciding what's for dinner, it saves me money and time as well. I can get through the grocery store in 30 minutes when I know I only need things from a handful of isles. When I don't wander through aimlessly, I don't make that doomed trip down the snack food isles.

Monday: Grilled chicken, broccoli and tomato pasta in a garlic butter sauce
Tuesday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes and corn
Wednesday: Jambalaya and cornbread with salad

From here it gets a little tricky. We get our farmer's coop food on Wednesday's so the rest of the week will have to wait until then.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


We love Jambalaya. Looooove. We used to use the Zataran's mix, then they changed it and all I could taste was salt. Even their low sodium (which is a joke) tasted like a rice covered salt lick. I looked everywhere for an easy and quick Jambalaya recipe that I didn't have to drive to Louisiana for the ingredients to. Paula Deen saved me.
I love that Southern Belle. I haven't had a recipe of hers yet that wasn't the bees knees. They aren't exactly figure friendly but, dang if they ain't good. Besides, going to college in Tennessee gave me a love of Southern food that I still can't shake after over 15 years.
This recipe is a two part-er. First, there is the mix of dry ingredients that you can keep in an air tight container for just about ever. I believe one year for Christmas I actually packaged it up to give as gifts. Second, is the wet and meaty.
Jambalaya Mix
1 cup long grain rice
3 T dried minced onion
1 T dried parsley flakes
4 T beef bouillon cubes ( I omit this altogether and add a can of chicken stock and reduce the water to 1/2 cup)
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t ground black pepper ( I omit this too )
1/4 t cayenne pepper ( I only use 1/8th because I have to feed it to my toddler son too)
1/4 t salt ( yup, I leave this out as well )
Combine it all together and store in an air tight container.
2 1/2 cups water (unless you aren't using the bouillon cube in the mix, then it's just 1/2 cup and a can of chicken broth)
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes & chilies
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 lb meat of your choice ( I generally use more though. My usual is 1 lb sausage and a 1/2 lb shrimp. I've used it with chicken, kiel basa and ground beef too)
In a Dutch oven or large pot cook any kind of meat you might be using, except seafood. Add everything else and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to simmer and do not touch for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp at the end and cook until just pink. Let this sit for a few minutes until most, if not all the liquid is absorbed.
I serve this with, of course, cornbread!
Now, if you are looking to make dinner even easier... got a rice cooker? Throw the mix and liquids in the bottom and the cooked meats in the steamer basket. I tried this the other night and this is what I got: picture above.
It was awesome!
Want a faster version: use minute rice. Brown the meats, add the liquid and bring to a boil. Add the mix, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. That is all there is to it!
Want a vegetarian version: omit the bouillon and use the 2 1/2 cups water. Instead of meat, add black beans, pinto beans and corn.
Now how is that for versatile!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


I dedicate this blog to all hardworking people out there who sometimes dread having to make dinner every night. My husband and I used to argue about what was for dinner and sometimes who would cook it.
I solved this little dilemma by making a menu. At first, I made monthly ones, then semi-weekly ones and now I'm down to weekly. Mostly because I find them the easiest to do. We are also members of a local farmer's co op that delivers weekly and I never really know what I'm getting until I get it. Kind of like a grab bag of yummy stuff.
I love to cook. But I'm not up for it every night. When you're the parent of a toddler, aka ball of fire, you don't get a whole lot of time to cook. When I do get time I take full advantage of it. I cook double, triple, sometimes quadruple batches and freeze the extras in dinner sized portions. On the nights I can't find it in me to cook, I break out a frozen dinner, throw together a salad or a side and call it done.
Not all of my recipes are freezable but are easy, inexpensive and quick to prepare, but most of all delicious.

Frozen Pizza For Those About to Rock

Lives today are so chocked full of work, school activities and sport practices that sometimes the only option to fast food is frozen pizza. Frozen pizzas that don't taste like the box they come in are expensive and are still loaded with preservatives and hard to pronounce ingredients. My solution to this is to make my own. Its really not hard or time consuming, really.
Freezer Pizza (enough for two crusts)
3/4 cup warm water
2 T olive oil
2 c flour
1 t sugar
1/2 t salt
2 t bread machine yeast
Place ingredients in listed order in your bread machine and set for dough. Let it do its thing.
Now, lets contemplate toppings. I've used just about everything but the Chinese leftovers for this. Sausage, chicken, shrimp, ground beef, pepperoni, cheese and sauce. I usually use spaghetti sauce, most pizza sauces are too sweet for me. Veggies are a little more complicated. Onions get stronger when frozen, mushrooms get mushy, black olives, tomatoes and peppers don't freeze well either; however, there is a solution. Fresh veggies can be put on the pizza before popping it in the oven, just sprinkle a little extra cheese over them. I also wait until I'm ready to bake before sprinkling on seasonings such as basil, oregano, garlic and thyme, as herbs can turn bitter when frozen.
When the bread machine has done its duty, lightly flour your work surface. Pour out the dough and divide in half. Roll out.
Preheat your oven to 350 with a pizza stone in it. Use your fingers to press down the crust leaving the edges and giving that dough cute little dimples.
You don't have to prebake the crust but I find that it makes it crispier.
The secret to keeping the crust from getting soggy is in the order of the toppings. For this pizza, add the cheese first. The cheese keeps the sauce from soaking into the crust. Cheese then sauce then meat toppings, if you aren't going to freeze it the veggies can be added now, covered with a little more cheese then baked until the cheese is all melty and looks like this...
If you can hold the temptation off long enough to freeze there is no need to bake. Add your cheese, sauce and meat to the crust. Lay flat and freeze. Do not wrap before freezing otherwise your toppings will stick to the foil. Once frozen solid, remove, wrap in foil then in an airtight bag. You might want to make sure your pizzas will fit into the bags first.
To reheat the frozen pie there isn't even a need to defrost. After adding any veggies, pop it on a pizza stone in a 350 degree preheated oven until the cheese is melted.