Friday, February 25, 2011

Stuffed French Rolls, an old family favorite.

Bet you can't eat just one!

These fabulous hot pockets are simple to make and fabulous to freeze for your one for now, one for later meal planning.

I recommend preparing a double batch.

What you need:
1 1/2 dozen french rolls
1 lb grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 large onion-diced
1 clove garlic-minced
2 2 1/2 oz cans diced black olives
2 2 1/2 oz cans diced mild green chilies
1/2 cup canola oil
1 14.5 oz can plain tomato sauce
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients with the exception of the rolls and set aside.
Slice rolls across as you would for a sandwich, only make your cut so the bottom piece is thicker than the top. You will be scooping out the insides of the bottom to hold the filling mixture ( you can save the crumbs for breadcrumbs later on).
Fill the rolls, place them back together and wrap individually in foil.
Bake for one hour or freeze for another day.
Enjoy with a nice green salad.

You'll be a fan!

7 Quick Recipes Under $15 - Pulled Pork

Here's my take on the pulled pork from the 7 Quick Recipes Under $15.
I was going to cook the pork shoulder in the crock pot since I never have time to roast a cut of meat for 5 to 7 hours and then let it rest for up to 2 more.  However, the cut of meat I bought was smaller than the recommended one AND we are in the midst of yet another big snowstorm so we weren't going anywhere this afternoon.  So, roast slow and low I did and, to be honest, I wish I used the slow cooker after all.  In the end, our meat was not tender enough to pull apart with two forks.  I have cooked pork loins and roasts in the crock pot and had much more success at getting the texture I wanted.  The entire dinner would have come in around $15 IF you already had all of the spices (we did) and you didn't need to buy the hot sauce and salsa (we didn't) and you got a fab deal on the meat (try Costco for a large pork shoulder at under $2 a pound).  There is so much meat, that this would feed a crowd and is a pretty good deal in that sense.   I guess this was quick if you only counted the prep time and not the cooking time.  Don't get me wrong, the meal was pretty good and the flavor of meat was nice.  The kids ate it too with minimal complaining (except for my  5 year old son who almost died when I made him eat two bites of avocado!), so that's a big plus.  So if you're interested, here's the recipe in it's original form.  Happy Cooking!

3 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 Tbsp white pepper
1-2 tsp cayenne or chipotle
1 pork shoulder, about 8 pounds
Flour or corn tortillas
Hot sauce

Mix all spices together.

Dry the pork shoulder with paper towels, place in baking pan that is bigger than the shoulder by at least a inch in length and width, and at least 3 inches deep. Sprinkle dry rub onto the surface of the shoulder and massage in such that it adheres to the surface. Coat all sides. Make sure the fat layer on the shoulder is facing up before cooking.

Place baking pan uncovered in a 225 F oven on the middle rack. Roast until the center of the shoulder reaches 190 F. This could take 5 to 7 hours. When the shoulder has reached 190 F, shut off the oven and let the roast cool for a couple of hours before removing from the oven. If the bottom of the pan is dry (or crusted with dried spices) then cover the pan with foil to retain internal moisture of the meat during the cooling period. When the temperature drops to 170 F or slightly lower, remove from oven.

Place on a large, clean work surface such as a cutting board, and remove the large sheet of crusted fat on the top. Pull apart with two forks. It will pull apart very easily.

Fill tortillas with the pork, sprinkle some of the rub on the meat, and top with salsa, guacamole and hot sauce. This dish will feed about 14 hungry friends.

***We (a family of 4) had PLENTY of meat left over from a 3.5 pound shoulder.  We'll be cooking it up with some bbq sauce, shredding it up a bit more, and having bbq pork sandwiches with cole slaw and oven fries later this week.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Brussels Sprouts, really?

Well, I have nothing to say for myself but, "really"?

My whole life parents and grandparents have tried to get me to eat Brussels Sprouts. I tasted once or twice and quickly became a vociferous naysayer. I wouldn't, couldn't, not gonna, ever, eat them. I could sit at the table for hours not eating them and the only things I like less than those bitter cruciferous sprouts are lima beans. So there. None. For years.

One day about 6 or 7 years ago I had a bite of my friend Anna's grilled Brussels Sprouts at Houston's Restaurant. They were not bad. But, it didn't convince me. And anyway, I don't live near a Houston's and reasoned  it must have been an anomaly of sorts.

Then a funny thing happened. Joan, of the Organic Kale Salad, offered to cook the mean little guys for our Thanksgiving celebration. I couldn't exactly turn down a dinner contribution. I figured I'd just have extra salad and forget to put them on my plate. But then something happened. I tasted them. And voila, I changed teams there and then. I love them. I love Brussels Sprouts and would eat them anytime, anywhere. Really.

Here's the trick:

Buy them organic. Buy them fresh. Cut away the base of the core. Peel any tarnished leaves. Cut them in half.
Heat a skillet to medium high with plenty of good olive oil*. Add the sprouts and a pinch of salt, and skitter them around in the pan for a while, til they start to just roast. You want some brown on the leave. Then add a bit more fresh olive oil - a sprinkling and the juice of 1/2 a lemon or so.

Then you eat them. Mmmmm.

My sister recommends finishing with Balsamic Vinegar. Or add a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar to the olive oil while their cooking and finish with either the lemon or the vinegar.
You really could eat them every day.
There are tons of recipes out there.

My mom (the one who tried to make me eat the boiled to death kind of Brussels Sprouts for all those years), was shocked when I served them with turkey the other night. Those are them swimming in the shimmery wine & stock gravy. Oh yes, they were very happy. And she was thrilled she'd finally convinced me!

All I have to say is "who knew"?

* Always Cold Pressed Extra Virgin and preferably organic. Laleli is my hands down favorite and you can buy it over the phone from the rep: Mary Landis.  (She's my friend and a fellow kitchen lover.) The flavored varieties are superb because they mash the olives and the fruits (herbs) together so there's some crazy marriage of flavors. (I suppose mashing will do that.) I prefer not to live without the lemon, the basil and the garlic flavor in my kitchen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cooking with Wine

After Ellen's tasty post where wine is incorporated,  I was thinking about how much I love to cook with a little wine here and a little wine there. I  don't always have a bottle of wine open like you would in a restaurant setting. And, I don't particularly like buying the little screw top bottles of cooking wine. I'm fine with some Two Buck Chuck in white or red for this job. So in the case of Ellen's recipe, you need 1/2 a cup of white wine. (I'd almost never have this around, I'm not a white wine drinker.)

So, an easy, simple step I take, is freezing left over wine. If I need a cup of wine for cooking, I open the bottle then repackage the rest for later.

Because of the alcohol, wine doesn't freeze too terribly hard and thaws pretty easily. Think about the shape of the bottle or jar you use. One simple way to do it is to use an ice cube tray and bag the frozen cubes. I'm not big on plastic in the freezer though and I tend to want a bit more than a cube so I freeze it in the perfectly shaped ramekin.

I don't think I ever leave the drippings from a roast or steaks or turkey. Do you deglaze your pans? It makes for the tastiest sauces and isn't something that should be particular to chefs. You may have deglazed, just by adding water and making gravy. But when you make steaks, try this:
  • Pour off a little bit of the fat
  • Make sure to removed blackened pieces (brown is good and carmelized)
  • Pull the pan off the fire for a minute
  • Add wine 
  • Return the heat
  • Scrape with a spatula
  • Let it boil down and concentrate
  • Finish with a little bit of butter
Taste it, and add salt, pepper if you like. Now you have a perfect accompaniment for the steak, etc. Or, a wonderful thing to freeze and add to a soup base.
All from some extra wine in your freezer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Guest Contributor: Ellen Pastusak and Creamy Tuscan Chicken

My friend Ellen is fun. She's one of those people who seems to just be in love with all aspects of life. She has an ease and simple humor in her approach. She's also straight-forward without the extra wrapping.

She offered this delicious and fairly simple recipe. As I read it, I dreamed of the history, it must have come from some fabulous trip with her husband to some wonderful corner of Italy. So I asked about the history. She replied, "I actually saw this recipe on the package of Fosters Farm chicken I got at Costco." She said something about it being more elegant if she'd found it in GOURMET magazine, at which point I forgot all about the little Tuscan village and got a little teary eyed (I do miss GOURMET).

Well, this is elegant simplicity at it's best and I bet you'll love it. (Don't you wish you could dip a little rustic bread in that pan!)

Ellen's right about the sum of the parts, each ingredient in this recipe is good, but when you put them all together they are perfection!  And the ingredients together are Ellen's take on a quality, comforting dinner entree. A proven winner. And she promises, it tastes splendid reheated.

Here's the recipe.:
Creamy Tuscan Chicken a la Ellen
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup packed fresh spinach
1 cup fresh basil, rough chopped
1.  Heat oil in non-stick pan on medium high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook on medium high heat for 8 minutes per side.  Remove chicken from pan and set aside for later use.
2.  Add white wine to hot pan and let reduce by half.  Add mushrooms and saute for 4-5 minutes.  Add heavy cream, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  Mix well and bring to simmer.  Add spinach and basil and cook until spinach becomes tender.
3.  Place chicken back in pan with sauce to reheat - simmer for 5 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165.  Serve alone or with pasta or risotto.
(to quicken cooking time, flatten chicken with mallet before cooking)

Give it a try and leave your thoughts in a comment!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Trader Joe's Compilation Meals - Carnitas & Roasted Veggies

Last night I had a sick kiddo and Grama stopped for dinner so, quick and easy was a must, as was tasty.

I grabbed some pre-cooked Trader Joe's Carnitas and warmed them in big saucepan with some (lightly sauteed in olive oil) onion. Add yummy Trader's tomatillo salsa thinned with a bit of chicken stock and while it cooked with the lid on over a medium to low fire, slowly, I moved on to the veggies.

Chopped cauliflower, carrots,  beautiful onions and red turnips tossed with olive oil, a bit of salt and lemon juice and were popped into a 400 degree oven for a bit. For a beautiful roasted cauliflower or broccoli, I love this recipe.

Add the tortilla, creme fraiche (ok, Crema would be good, but this was in the fridge) and salsa and you have a quick, delicious and by no means expected dinner.

The grain? It's quinoa. More on that later. High protein and tasty with a little salsa sauce.

This probably deserves a recipe, but for now: Bon Appetit & Que bueno!

TJ Carnitas look like:

Organic Kale Salad - The Recipe

Joan's Favorite Organic Kale Salad
1 head of organic kale (the curly kind)
Olive oil
1 orange
1 grapefruit
1 pomegranate
Handful of the following raw and unsalted seeds:
Sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Flax seeds
Sunflower seeds

Wash the kale and strip/cut the leaves from the stems. With a sharp knife chop the kale leaves to fine bite size pieces (the finer the better) and place in a glass bowl. Add olive oil, approx 2 tablespoons to the kale leaves and knead the oil into the leaves making them tender and soft. Add the juice of 1 fresh orange and knead it into the leaves as well. Do not add the oil and orange juice at the same time, you will not achieve the right tenderness. Set the bowl aside. Seed the pomegranate and add the seeds to the salad. Add the raw seeds of your choice. Mix it all together and enjoy and see who fights for the last little bits left in the bottom of the bowl.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Osso Bucco

I took this recipe from 7 Recipes under $15, a selection Joan, Kerry, Mary and Vicki and I are testing. (Just for you! Join us?)

I  fiddled with it a bit, to meet both ease of use and budget constraints for a lovely Sunday night dinner with family.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 120 minutes
Serves: 4
Cost: $11 per person-ish (not quite under $15)

4 large 2 ½-inch thick veal shanks, each patted dry and tied securely with kitchen string-I chose 2 shanks and two chops to see how their end result would vary. My family liked the chop (not entirely Osso) a little better, less fat and more meat to savor. I also skipped the stringing process, I've been known to cut a corner or two in the kitchen- you know, busy mom thing.
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging the veal shanks/chops
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 ½ cups finely-chopped onion
¾ cup finely-chopped carrots
¾ cup finely-chopped celery
1 tsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 ½ cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped
Cheesecloth bag containing 6 fresh parsley sprigs, 4 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf-I passed on the cheese cloth and let these ingredients mingle with the above elements freely. I removed the bay leaf at serving.
4 Tbsp flat parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon zest

Dust shanks with salt and pepper then dredge in flour. Shake off excess flour.

Heat Dutch oven with 1 Tbsp each oil and butter until very hot. Brown shanks, adding butter and oil as needed. Remove browned meat.

Lower heat and add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste. Add wine and bring to a boil. Let the wine boil for about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes, and cheesecloth bag. When this boils, cover the pan and simmer until meat is falling off the bone, about 1 ½ hours.

Snip kitchen string off shanks and top with parsley and lemon zest.
The suggested side serving is creamy polenta- I chose couscous.

When the final meal was prepared I served the shanks/chops over couscous and ladled with sauce for a delightful dinner mimicing Sunday dinners from days gone by.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meal Planning: I'm Fancy!

Here's the plan for meals at our house for the next two weeks.  I didn't do any power cooking this weekend, although the veggie egg bake I made for dinner was big enough to last through a few lunches and breakfasts as leftovers.  It's always nice to have a few things tucked away in the fridge for mid-week busy-ness.

Here is the recipe for the bounty rice dish and for a pizza similar to the one I have planned for Friday.  Our pizza this week will include caramelized onions... my new thing.  I'm fancy now you see... I figured out how to make caramelized onions.  Not too tricky at all I must admit.
Here's how I do it:
4-5 cups of thinly sliced onions
3-4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp white wine
3 tsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp water (plus more if needed to keep the onions from browning too much)
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp sea salt
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium low heat.  Add all ingredients and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally and adding extra water if necessary (I sometimes add another tablespoon or two) to prevent the onions from burning.  The onions should be done after about 30-40 minutes.
after 5 minutes in the pan
after 30 minutes in the pan

They have a sweet tang to them that we usually enjoy on a flatbread or pizza.  I'm sure they would also be marvelous over a steak or maybe as an appetizer in a dip like this one.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Organic Kale Salad

When I was growing up in Ireland we would eat kale (curly kale) once or twice a year around Halloween. My mom would cook it and chop it fine and add it to our mashed potatoes (this dish was called colcannon), she bribed my brother and I to eat it by wrapping coins in tin foil and placing them underneath the colcannon and we weren't allowed to dig for the money, we had to eat the colcannon until we reached the silver gifts.

I have to say I didn't enjoy colcannon at all, but it sounds delicious to me now. I re-discovered kale about 2 years ago, as many of my friends did too and I started to explore different recipes and this one is my favorite. In fact I love my kale salad so much that I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I can't get enough of it. This picture was taken at my birthday party last weekend. Although my hubby didn't want me cooking anything for my own bday, I was very happy to make my salad.
Here's the recipe:

Joan's Favorite Organic Kale Salad
1 head of organic kale (the curly kind)
Olive oil
1 orange
1 grapefruit
1 pomegranate
Handful of the following raw and unsalted seeds:
Sesame seeds
Pumpkin seeds
Flax seeds
Sunflower seeds

Wash the kale and strip/cut the leaves from the stems. With a sharp knife chop the kale leaves to fine bite size pieces (the finer the better) and place in a glass bowl. Add olive oil, approx 2 tablespoons to the kale leaves and knead the oil into the leaves making them tender and soft. Add the juice of 1 fresh orange and knead it into the leaves as well. Do not add the oil and orange juice at the same time, you will not achieve the right tenderness. Set the bowl aside. Seed the pomegranate and add the seeds to the salad. Add the raw seeds of your choice. Mix it all together and enjoy and see who fights for the last little bits left in the bottom of the bowl.

When I made this salad last weekend I added the juice and fruit of a delicious sweet white grapefruit that I bought at the farmers market, which turned my salad into a delicious brunch salad.

Prep in advance: I usually wash / prepare 2 heads of kale at once so that I can be prepared to make another salad the next day. I save the prepared leaves in a glass container in the fridge till I need it. Unlike a salad made with lettuce, kale salad tastes even better the next day when the leaves and seeds have soaked up the citrus juices. Kale leaves can also be added to veggie soups, yum.

Unlike when I was a child, my 14 year old girlie will sit down with a big bowl of kale salad and finish it to the last bite, I feel pretty good about this and I don't have to add money wrapped in tin foil to bribe her, she sometimes helps to seed the pomegranate.

This is a healthy, nutritious way to eat your greens and seeds.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A green smoothie...

Good morning dears,
This weekend we were inspired to make green smoothies, though ours had more than just green ingredients. My kids watched me put all of the fruit, juice, juice-ice (we freeze orange juice in ice trays to make 'Popsicles') and spinach into the blender and then quickly drank it down. KNOWINGLY drinking spinach. This was a parenting accomplishment.

So, if you let your preschoolers help you, they may be more willing to eat what you're giving them. Just sayin'
Good for you Green Smoothie
3 pieces or more of Juice Ice (just frozen juice cubes)
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 a lime juiced
1 banana
1 tangerine juiced
handful of frozen raspberries
handful of spinach

Blend the heck out of it until it smells amazing and all the chunkies are gone.
Pour into glasses and watch as your little people get a days worth of fruits and veggies! Woo-hoo!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Power Cooking Night

I heartily agree with Kerry and everyone else who does a little power cooking. Sometimes I plan mine, ya know, its Saturday, the kiddo's schedules don't demand and I can take a couple of hours in the kitchen to prepare for the meals ahead.

There are times when a cooking night is driven by USE BY dates. And on occasion, the opportunity just presents itself! Last night my girlie's volleyball practice was canceled and my boy's guitar lesson could move, so we came home right after school/work. Ahhh.

I dived right in and the kitchen was suddenly filled with the fragrance of onions sweating in olive oil.
Here's what I prepared:
  • the cut chicken version of Spatchcock Chicken
  • a pot roast
  • Layered Chicken Enchilada's a la my sister - kinda like this recipe (no canned soup here!)
I browned the pot roast and got it in the pan then popped the cut up chicken in a 400 degree oven all dressed up with olive oil, salt, garlic cloves and cherry tomatoes, then, over to the casserole. It took a little over ninety minutes and I'm set for a couple of days. The chicken yielded left-overs for lunch and a snack (I am all for a tasty cold chicken leg for a snack and am offering protein instead of simple carbs at my house.), I'm having some for lunch too. The pot roast will finish tonight when I do step two, placing it in a pan with baby onions, potatoes and carrots, a little beef stock and wine to finish the braise and warm the house. Left overs will be used on taco night. And the layered enchilada business is perfect for Friday night. Leftovers to the freezer!

There's power in the simple nights in the offing!

Ok, share. Do you do power cooking?

I know Kerry does.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A way to their hearts is through these fabulous chocolate chip cookies

Colonial American Chocolate Chip Cookies.
( discovered Women's Day Magazine over a decade ago and credited as being created first in Colonial America in the New England area)

This recipe was given to me by a dear friend who's husband is a chocoholic. She said they made a batch at least once a week.

What I like is this tasty dough's simplicity, making a weekly dose doable if need be. I rarely buy cookies anymore, preferring the warmth and love that goes into a nice warm batch of cookies like these.

This Valentine's day bake up a batch of these delightful chocolate wonders and you will be sure to win the hearts of the ones you love.

3/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I add another 1/8-1/4 cup to make them puffier)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 12oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (walnuts work well too)

In a mixer beat together sugars, butter, egg and vanilla. Add in flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold in pecans.
Drop by rounded teaspoon, 2" apart.
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes in a 375 pre-heated oven.

Remove and enjoy while warm.

Monday, February 7, 2011

7 Meals for under $15

I was breezing through my email and What to my wondering eyes did appear, but a miniature post with 7 quick recipes under $15 (well, it started out like the poem).

I really like a lot of these recipes. And, I'm all for a vegetarian dinner at least once a week.

I, like Kerry, enjoy CSA fruits and veggies. Mine come straight to my door every other Monday in a box from my milkman. It's like a Christmas present every week. My teen son looks forward to it. He runs out to bring it in and almost always takes something to school. It's these Monday nights when I really get down to inspired menu planning, but I digress.

Here's the recipe list.

I think we'll each try one or tow and post as we go. Kind of a modified Julie and Julia deal. But, on a budget and not French and there is no Julie here.

Let us know if you try one and how it works out for you!
  1. Warm Chick Pea Stew

  2. Hearty Matzo Ball Soup

  3. Hungarian Goulash

  4. Falafel “Buffet"

  5. Pulled Pork Tacos

  6. Vegetarian Dahl

  7. Osso Bucco 

    Photo from Cooking Light magazine

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Guest Contributor - Kathy Soloman - A point of view on dinner and service

Let's face it, some days cooking dinner is fun and some days you don't want to be faced with "what's for dinner?" And there's always someone walking in the door daily with that on their mind!

Well, I am learning in a current Bible Study about being a Proverbs 31 woman and how it is my role to do good. (Prov 31:12) Summing it up within a family: doing good happens by giving. That's my calling.... no matter how I feel any moment. And to top it off later, Prov 31:15 speaks of getting up early to yet...well I'm learning to put it together and to plan my days better. And about that nightly meal, doing whatever I can early in the day to have most of it prepared so doing the final steps won't "throw me over the edge" when I am feeling tired. Hopefully I can take a deep breath and continue to "do good."

In meal prep, I find that if I can simply remember to thaw meat, then we should be fine! Tonight tho, it's a simple meal because we have different people going in all sorts of directions. So I am depending on my Bear Creek soups and trying the vegetable beef version tonight. Along with some warm yeast rolls that bake quickly, dinner will only take about 15 minutes to prepare.

Blessings to any lady out there in role of mom, sister, daughter, friend, aunt, etc. As women we have a great role of "doing good and not harm all the days of our life" if we are filled with wisdom from above.

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's not food, but i's still good for your soul!

Hello What am I Cooking? Friends!

I am hosting a workshop called, Revisiting Sanctuaries: a workshop for daily seeing.

This workshop is set up on a five week schedule. Each Monday you'll get a new workbook on a new facet of seeing-- with journal prompts, videos, thoughts, interviews, tutorials-- each week experiencing seeing in a different way. An 8x10 printable poster by artwork made by me. A private blog for deeper discussion, a private forum for conversations. 

Registration continues through February 14 for $40. The workshop begins February 14th. But each week is set up to work along as you can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Alone for Dinner - A favorite salad

Tonight I found myself on my own for dinner and I swear my car drove itself to grab a few bits of this and that for the perfect salad.
I ate it before I could take a picture. So, sorry. But, so happy.

As I sat in pure dinner bliss my dog stared deeply in my eyes. I sent him back to his dinner. And then, my dear husband who didn't want dinner used his famous opening line, "whatcha got there?" The rest of the meal quickly became history.

Don't you just love a good salad!

The Un Deux Trois Salad
One head crisp romaine torn (or chopped!)
A couple of ounces of bleu cheese - tonight Stilton
One peeled and chopped Granny Smith
A couple of teaspoons of almonds (or walnuts)
A handful of shredded chicken (from last night's dinner)

Nora Ephron's Dijon Vinaigrette
Mix 2 tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard with 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar.
Whisking constantly,  add 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, until creamy.

Actually, I've been making it so long, I forgot about the red wine vinegar. I've always used organic apple cider vinegar. And Melissa D'Arabian shared a secret, that when making his vinaigrette, a Parisian cafe owner added a few drops of soy sauce as a secret ingredient. Here's that link.

You can always make it more complex, adding minced garlic, minced shallots, fresh herbs you love. I always return to the basic and enjoy it with champagne vinegar and even the subtlety of rice wine vinegar. Leave out the vinegar, add lemon juice and grate Parmesan. Variations and flavors are endless.

For my taste this simple recipe means I never have to buy a bottle of dressing.

Trader Joe's Compilation Meals

Every now and again all we really want to do is put a few things together for E-Z dinner. Right?
So Trader Joe's has some goodness in the aisles. I'll make it my job to share some compilation dinners from TJs.

This Monday night we had a fun one. There was no school, so right about 1:00 when relaxin' and practicin' and chores were done,  my Dear asked the kids if they wanted to go bowling.  I added, bring a jacket and off we went (surprise!) to Disney's California Adventure for 5 quick rides. (Yes, we invested in passes. Yes, no one was there, but another family from our school. Yes it was fun.)

At the end of the trip, my youngest was begging for a hot dog but I don't really wish to give the mouse empire all of my money, so we headed home for a simple bowl of Trader Joe's Chicken Chili.

Heat it up.

We serve it over the TJ's organic corn chips with a little dollop of organic sour cream and about a teaspoon of (hand) shredded Cheddar. Not a tremendously balanced meal, but just enough - this bowl full of fun.
  • For tex mex taco salad - make your taco salad and pour warm chili on top
  • For chili soup - add chicken stock, additional chicken meat and top with scallions
  • Some like chili mac with noodles
If you aren't making chili from scratch, I really like the Trader Joe's version.
How about you?
What's a super-quick meal at your house?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crepes! The best breakfast for dinner around!

Breakfast for dinner is my go to meal in a pinch. Last week I tried my hand at Crepes thanks to Everyday FOOD magazine and WOW!
I am in a committed relationship with this french favorite!
Try it yourself and you too will fall in love. The possibilities for this relationship are endless. You can choose savory fillings as well as sweet. I chose to go sweet.
Here is a bonus, you are bound to have all the basic crepe elements on hand in your pantry and fridge at all times.

Start with
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tblspn sugar
1/4 Tblspn course salt ( everyday iodized salt will do)
1 1/2 cups whole milk ( I used 2%)
4 large eggs
3 Tblspns unsalted butter-melted (I salted butter)
Blend above ingredients in blender, puree until mixture is smooth and bubbles form on top-about 30 seconds.
Allow batter to sit at room temp for about 15 minutes

Then the magic happens...

Heat 12 inch skillet over medium heat (I love my stainless steel pan)
Lightly Coat with butter
Add 1/3 cup of batter and swirl to cover bottom of skillet
Cook until underside of Crepe is golden brown, about 2-3 minutes
Loosen edge with spatula, then with your fingertips, quickly flip and cook for 1 minute
slide from pan to plate and add your favorite fillings

I offered either

a few mini chocolate chips scattered across the flat surface of the crepe, then rolled up and dusted with a light coating of powdered sugar and topped with whipped cream
a light spread of raspberry jam, then rolled and dusted and creamed.

Happiness will envelope your whole dinner table and you might even start speaking french!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meal Planning: Takin' it easy

We've got a lot going on in these next few weeks.  I'm keeping things nice and easy when it comes to dinners.  By planning simple meals, cooking and prepping ahead, and making good use of leftovers, I hope to keep things in the kitchen under control.

One of my time-saving strategies is to work ahead.  This weekend was a big cooking weekend.  On Saturday afternoon I made cookie dough and bread dough.  I made a whole roast turkey on Sunday.  While the turkey was cooking I cut up all of the veggies I need for my turkey noodle soup and the veggie egg bake and stored them in the fridge in reusable containers.  After the turkey was out of the oven I baked cookies for the charity bake sale at my hubbie's work on Wednesday.  I scrubbed up a few potatoes, sprinkled them with kosher salt, and wrapped in aluminum foil into the bottom of the oven to bake at the same time as the dozens of cookies.  Those baked potatoes made for a quick and tasty dinner last night.  While I was working on the cookies, I took the turkey carcass and leftover roasting veggies and made stock for the soup.

A lot of my power cooking and prepping is done on weekend afternoons while my kiddos are napping or in the evening after they are settled in bed.  I find that listening to my favorite radio stations and sipping a cup of tea or a nice glass of wine makes for a relaxing time even though I'm getting things done.

How do you make cooking fun and relaxing?