29 October 2009

Squash & Apple Mash

Had half a butternut squash lurking in the back of my fridge since my failed butternut barley bake experiment (don't ask). Didn't want soup, but still wanted something creamy so I thought I might mash it. Didn't want to boil it, because I thought the squash might come out a bit watery and bland. So I thought I would try roasting the squash with one of those monstrously huge mutsu apples I brought home from the cider mill ...

Butternut & Apple Mash

Butternut Squash & Apple Mash

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss peeled, cubed butternut squash and mutsu apple chunks in a eight inch baker with ginger, cinnamon, a little butter, and a smidgen of brown sugar. Bake, covered, for about thirty minutes. Stir and bake, uncovered, about fifteen minutes more. Mash with fork.

28 October 2009

Garlicky Potato Soup

I made a really awesome soup for Sunday's supper using the recipe "Hearty Garlic Potato Soup" from Taste of Home. Thick and creamy with potatoes, it was rich and yummy -- really excellent comfort food! Of course, I made a few tweaks to this recipe but that was more for my convenience than for taste.

Garlicky Potato Soup

The original recipe called for using three different pots! I don't know about you, but I like to do as little washing up as possible so I condensed it down to one. Yep, cooked the veg then set them aside and wiped down the pan, cooked the sausage and onion, set them to drain in a colander lined with paper towels, then wiped down the pan again, melted the butter and finished the soup. Still time consuming, but only one pan.

The recipe did call for mashing only half the boiled veg, but the soup seemed too thin and chunky that way so I gave the whole pot a gentle mash at the end. Then I let everything simmer for about fifteen minutes -- the soup was much thicker and more lovely that way. I also whacked in some Garlic Garlic while the soup was simmering as a soup with "garlic" in its title can never be garlicky enough!

Unfortunately, I am now out of Garlic Garlic seasoning blend and don't know what to do. I'm loathe to contact my (too darn chirpy) local Tastefully Simple consultant and shell out nine dollars (plus shipping) for 4.5 ounces of dehydrated minced garlic, minced onion, salt, garlic powder, chives, and a proprietary blend of spices. Surely, I could make my own?

Penzeys will sell me dehydrated minced garlic, onion, and chives so that's no problem. The problem is -- what's in that seasoning blend? I can't find anyone else on the Internetz who has reverse-engineered Garlic Garlic seasoning blend so I can't use someone else's hack. No, I'm all on my own here ...

Let the experiments begin!

26 October 2009

Burnt Saucepan Remedy

Over a week ago, I burnt tomato soup to the bottom of a saucepan. Seriously burnt -- a perfectly uniform layer of stone hard charred material about 6 millimeters thick adhered to the entire bottom of the saucepan. Repeatedly attacking the char with boiling water, soap, and a scrubbing pad did absolutely naught. So I left the saucepan in the sink, filling it with boiling water whenever I thought of it, while I pondered the remedy to my situation.

The remedy turned out simpler than I had hoped -- I boiled a can of Cherry Coke in the pan for about fifteen minutes and then I used a teaspoon to scrape at the bottom until I had scraped away about two thirds of the char. Chuffed, but not done by a long shot, I dumped the last of my Bar Keepers Friend powder into the bottom of the pan and scrubbed at it quite ruthlessly with a scrubbing pad until my fingers were worn down to mere nubbins ... et voilĂ , a usable pan!

Teaches me to read Georgette Heyer whilst making supper!

25 October 2009

Apples to Apple Sauce, Slow Cooker Style

Stopped at the orchard this weekend and picked up four pounds of slightly bruised Macoun "seconds" and a gallon of unpasteurized cider. Came home, drank down a glass of cold sweet cider, and made a big pot of slow cooker apple sauce!
Slow Cooker Apple Sauce v1.4

Core, peel, and chunk four pounds of apples. Place in a slow cooker with a half cup cider, a heaping half teaspoon cinnamon, and a heaping half teaspoon ginger. Cook on High for about three hours and then give the apples a good stir until the bigger chunks fall apart.
I love to freeze little cups of this stuff and take it to work. Each little cup functions like an ice pack in my lunch bag and, by the time I get to afternoon break, has half thawed to create a delicious apple pie slushie! Yum!

23 October 2009

Easy Chicken & Black Beans on Barley

Chicken & Black Beans, IngredientsFriday night's supper started as "Easy Mexican Chicken & Beans" (Betty Crocker Magazine #218), but took a slight detour on the way to yumminess. I came home from work pretty hungry and started the barley in the rice cooker right away. Since I knew the chicken would take much less time, I wandered off to the living room for a bit of Drawn to Life.

Many stormy clouds later, the barley was done and the chicken ... the chicken was not. I was starving and it was almost seven o'clock! In a rush, I sliced my chicken breasts in to strips and tossed them with Penzeys "bold" taco seasoning before sautéing them in a pan with a little olive oil. When they were a rich golden brown, I tossed in "Mexicorn," black beans, and a can of Muir Glen diced fire roasted tomatoes. I let everything cook for about ten minutes (until it was good and bubbly). Then I served it up on the cooked barley.

The dish was really tasty considering I didn't look at the recipe once. I presumed the recipe in my brain was the recipe I had read when planning this week's menu and just went charging ahead!

The original recipe did not call for tomatoes, but a little bit of water. The chicken was not to be cooked with the seasoning -- the seasoning was to be added in with the beans, corn, and water ...

Did it matter? I don't think so. Matter of fact, I think I will stick to making it the "wrong way."

20 October 2009

Cider & Popcorn

Ever since I was a wee kidlet, my favorite autumn snack has been hot, buttered popcorn with cold, sweet cider.

Favorite Autumn Snack

And, apparently, I'm in good company! Almanzo used to eat cider and popcorn, too:
"Almanzo sat on a footstool by the stove, an apple in his hand, a bowl of popcorn by his side, and his mug of cider on the hearth by his feet. He bit the juicy apple, then he ate some popcorn, then he took a drink of cider. He thought about popcorn.

(from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder)

18 October 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Thirty-One

Yay! Menu Plan Monday! Lots of new recipes to try out over the next few weeks -- my mother was tidying her bookshelves and gave me a big box of her old Betty Crocker cookery magazines and I'm just having a grand time sorting through them.

  • Crescent dogs with garlic mustard (carried over from last week's menu), "Cannellini with Tomatoes & Sage," and cucumbers in light Italian. Ingredients: light beef franks, reduced fat crescent rolls, no-salt-added Muir Glen diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, sage.

Tuesday (work)

  • Taste of Home's "Savory Mushroom-Barley Soup" with Kashi TLC crackers and mango spears. Ingredients: vegetable broth, mushrooms, barley, onion, celery, carrots, tomato paste.


  • "Dijon Pork Chops" with "Spinach Orzo" (Betty Crocker Magazine #158) and carrots. Ingredients: pork chops, Dijon mustard, orzo, carrot, low sodium chicken broth, spinach, basil, Parmesan.

Thursday (work)

  • Leftover barley soup with home-made apple sauce (from freezer) and Kashi TLC crackers.
Friday (work)
  • "Easy Mexican Chicken & Beans" (Betty Crocker Magazine #218) on rice cooker barley with salad. Ingredients: chicken, Penzeys Bold Taco Seasoning (reckon 2 Tbs = 1 packet), black beans, corn, barley, low sodium chicken broth.


  • Pasta with freezer tomato sauce and green beans.

Soupy Sunday

  • Taste of Home's "Hearty Garlic Potato Soup" with biscuits and salad. Ingredients: potato, garlic, carrot, onion, loose sausage, milk, parsley.

Chicken & White Bean Stew

"Chicken & White Bean Stew" (Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications Shortcut Holiday Cooking) with biscuits and salad.

Chicken & White Bean Stew

Ingredients: chicken, light Alfredo sauce, cannellini, low sodium chicken broth, red onion, chile peppers, garlic, Cabot mild cheddar, cumin.

This recipe calls for two pounds of chicken and one can of cannellini beans, but I used one pound of chicken and two cans of cannellini with perfectly tasty results.

Can't wait to make this again!

13 October 2009

Plus Pumpkin

Columbus Day, I made "Pumpkin-Bean Soup" (Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications Shortcut Holiday Cooking) and pumpkin-cornbread muffins to take to work for the rest of the week. The soup was very easy to make -- mix pumpkin puree, coconut milk, broth, cannellini beans, sage, salt and pepper together in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Flavor-wise, it was definitely pumpkin-y with a nice hint of sage, but I will double the amount of beans next time as I thought the soup needed more texture. Happily, I had a brainstorm at work and started crumbling my pumpkin-cornbread muffins into each bowl -- thickened the soup up quite nicely and gave it an interesting flavor.

I'd suffered some confusion when baking the muffins -- was the pumpkin puree supposed to replace the egg and water in my corn bread mix or be added in with them? Thankfully, Denise on Nestle's Very Best Baking live chat was able to tell me that the pumpkin did indeed go in with not instead of the egg and water. My muffins baked up very high and fluffy with a strong pumpkin aroma.

Continuing with the pumpkin theme, I have also made Libby's "'Vegged-Out' Pumpkin & Black Bean Soup" and pumpkin-peanut butter spread (very good with baby carrots or on wheat toast with sliced banana). Again, I would add more beans to the soup next time. And, maybe, some corn.

11 October 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Thirty

Oh no, another Menu Plan Monday?! I don't know why, but writing up this week's menu plan was, for once, a real chore. I thought I would be excited and challenged by all the deliciousness we picked up at the Saturday farmers market and the Connecticut Garlic Festival, but instead I was bored. Did I have to cook? Couldn't we just eat the air, promise-crammed?

Well, no. So I cobbled together a week of easy no-thought meals ...

Monday (Columbus Day)
  • Easy roast boneless pork loin with carrots, potatoes, and salad. Ingredients: pork loin, Garlic Garlic, olive oil, potatoes, carrots.

Tuesday (work)

  • "Pumpkin-Bean Soup" (Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications Shortcut Holiday Cooking) with Cabot Seriously Sharps cheddar chunks, pumpkin-cornbread muffins, and slow cooker apple sauce. Ingredients: pumpkin puree, cannellini beans, sage, coconut milk, vegetable broth.


  • Easy pork stir-fry with parsley rice and salad. Ingredients: leftover roast pork, carrots, celery, onion, peppers.

Thursday (work)

  • "Pumpkin-Bean Soup" with salad, pumpkin-cornbread muffins, and Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar chunks.
  • Pasta (with freezer tomato sauce and mushrooms) and salad.

Saturday (work)

Soupy Sunday

  • "Chicken & White Bean Stew" (Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publications Shortcut Holiday Cooking) with biscuits and salad. Ingredients: chicken, light Alfredo sauce, cannellini, chicken broth, red onion, chile peppers, garlic, Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, cumin.

10 October 2009

Apples to Apple Sauce

Stopped at the Saturday farmers market and picked up four pounds of slightly bruised "baking" apples (a mix of Granny Smith and McIntosh) to make sauce. I had made apple sauce a couple times last year and it was so good that none of it managed to last more than a week or two in the freezer.
Slow Cooker Apple Sauce v1.3

Core, peel, and chunk four pounds of apples. Place in a slow cooker with a half cup cider, two teaspoons sugar, a half teaspoon cinnamon, and a half teaspoon ginger. Cook on High for about three hours and then give the apples a good stir until the bigger chunks fall apart.
I used Penzeys new cinnamon (a combination of China, Vietnamese, Korintje, and Ceylon cinnamon) which smells so good that I am tempted to sprinkle myself with it every time I open the jar ... surely, that is why it came with a shaker top?

08 October 2009

"Southwestern" Pork Chops W/ Black Beans & Rice

I was supposed to make Kraft's "Southwestern Chicken with Black Beans & Rice," for supper on Wednesday, but accidentally thawed pork instead of chicken -- the package was clearly labeled, but I didn't pay attention at the time. With fingers crossed, I prepared the pork as if it were chicken ... and it worked out fine. The pork was tender, moist, and delicious.

"Southwestern" Pork Chops W/ Black Beans & Rice

Besides swapping pork for chicken, I modified this recipe by omitting the chopped ham and used a whole can of black beans. Of course, my stewed tomatoes were no-salt-added, beans low sodium, and Italian dressing light.

If I were to make this again (and I probably will to see what the dish tastes like with chicken), I would use diced tomatoes (Muir Glen fire-roasted) rather than stewed so the beans and tomatoes might blend together better.

07 October 2009

Fast Tomato & Tortellini Soup

Fast Tomato & Tortellini Soup

Made this soup for lunch earlier in the week (although I've been eating it for breakfast). I think it's quite good, but The Husband refuses to eat it as he thinking "it tastes funny" ... make of that what you will!
Tomato & Tortellini Soup
In a large sauce pan, combine:
2 cans condensed low-sodium tomato soup
2 soup cans 1% milk
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 cup frozen peas
1 package refrigerated tortellini

Bring pan to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until tortellini is just tender, but still firm to bite, about 5 minutes.

04 October 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Twenty-Nine

Another Menu Plan Monday! As October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, I thought it would be a good time to go more veg* by adding more vegetables, beans, and grains to my menu. Not that I'm planning on revisiting vegetarianism, but a balanced diet rich in high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains does a body good. Coincidentally, this is also the time of year where I start craving beans and grains like barley. Ohhhh, barley, I love you!

Monday (late supper)
  • Meeting after work and then an AIDS/HIV vigil, so supper will have to be fast and easy -- "Creamy tomato Soup" with salad. Ingredients: refrigerated tortellini, low-sodium condensed tomato soup, 1% milk, basil, parsley, Parmesan.

Tuesday (work)


  • Kraft's "Southwestern Chicken with Black Beans & Rice" (omitting ham) with cucumbers and grape tomatoes in light Italian. Ingredients: thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts, no-salt-added stewed tomatoes, black beans, spring onions, hot pepper sauce, light Italian.

Thursday (work)

Friday (work)
  • Pasta with vodka sauce and salad. Ingredients: pasta, vodka, cream, garlic, onion, sugar, crushed tomatoes

Saturday (CT Garlic Festival?)

  • "Ground Beef, Shiitake Mushroom, and Barley Skillet Dinner" from The American Heart Association Low-Calorie Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2003) with salad. Ingredients: barley, shiitake mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, broth, and ground beef.

Soupy Sunday (CT Garlic Festival?)

  • Pillsbury's "Easy Pasta e Fagioli" (moved over from last week) with salad and rolls. Ingredients: onion, garlic, cannellini beans, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, macaroni, Parmesan.
We're going to the Connecticut Garlic Festival this weekend, so Saturday and Sunday's meals may flip-flop depending on which day we go and how tired I am when we get back.

Dump & Cook Beefy Barley Stew

Saturday night, I had some car troubles and ended up coming home late enough I no longer felt like making "Saucy Pepper steak." However, I knew the beef steak was thoroughly thawed and would have to be cooked on Sunday and, while I could simply have made the pepper steak, I was no longer in the mood for something even remotely fiddly. Basically, I wanted a dump and cook slow cooker stew.

I settled on a modification of "Hearty Beef Barley Stew" from Lipton's Recipe Secrets. I used "Beefy Onion" for this and, as the sachet was high in sodium (4,270 milligrams), used no-salt-added Muir Glen diced tomatoes and low-sodium broth.

The stew came out pretty well -- deliciously thick and hearty with a nice tomato tang. Don't have any more "Onion" or "Beefy Onion" sachets left so don't know if I'll make it again -- the stew was tasty and convenient, but that's still a lot of salt.

(Upon refrigeration, all the broth was absorbed by the barley so I stirred in some vegetable broth when I reheated the stew).

03 October 2009

"English" Pizza

When I used to visit The-Not-Yet-Husband, back in my bad old college days, he would feed me pizza with sweet corn and tuna (oh, those crazy English people and their "cuisine!"). He was very put out to discover, after emigrating to the U.S., that pizza parlours here don't do that kind of thing.

"English Pizza"

Happily, ten years on this shore, The Husband recently discovered that the pizza guy at Chunky Tomato would put sweet corn and tuna on a pizza if The Husband supplied those ingredients ... et voila, pizza with sweet corn, tuna, mushroom, and chicken! Oh, the waves of nostalgia which swept through our kitchen the night this entered our home!

01 October 2009

Lemon Garlic Chicken

For Wednesday's supper, I made Lipton's Recipe Secrets "Lemon Garlic Chicken" with steamed green beans and parsley rice. I'd wanted something fairly fast and easy for supper and this recipe certainly fit the bill. It was certainly quick and quite tasty -- moist and garlicky with a nice burst of lemon.

Lemon Garlic Chicken

Of course, I made some changes -- used a tablespoon of butter instead of not-butter spread, the juice of a whole lemon, and coated the chicken in King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat flour. Initially, my sauce did not thicken as the recipe had led me to expect (too much lemon juice?), but turned out fine after I whisked in a corn starch slurry.