30 September 2010

Pollo alla Cacciatora

Tuesday's supper was "Easy Chicken Cacciatore" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes over whole wheat rotini with salad. I was a little suspicious of this recipe as I had made other versions of slow cooker cacciatore with only mediocre results. Happily, Pillsbury's recipe worked out really well and I will be making this again.

I did make a few alterations to Pillbury's recipe -- I used six skinned chicken drumsticks, a large red bell pepper, four cloves of garlic, low-sodium chicken broth (wine would work well here, too) and dried mushrooms. I think the dried mushrooms were what made this cacciatore so good as they gave the sauce a rich, hearty flavor that really made me go nom. They also absorbed a lot of the liquid in the pot and kept the sauce from becoming too soupy.

At the end, while the pasta was cooking, I removed the vegetables and chicken from the pot and picked out all the bones (easy to do since all the meat had fallen off them). Then, after I thickened what little sauce there was with a cornstarch-water slurry, dumped the cooked pasta and chicken-vegetable mixture back in. I covered the slow cooker and let it sit for about twenty minutes -- time enough to for the flavors to marry and for me to play a little Plants vs Zombies.

Based on my success with this recipe, I suspect the other cacciatores failed because they used boneless chicken breasts (too dry/bland) and fresh mushrooms (too much liquid). Bone-in pieces of dark meat and dried mushrooms are key, apparently.

29 September 2010

Pure Comfort

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.
Sheila Graham

Monday's supper ended up being all about comfort food. While I had planned on serving "Baked Salmon & Vegetables" from Better Homes & Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weight Loss over parsley rice with salad, my plans went awry due to a lack of salmon and preponderance of gnarly-looking potatoes.

While it was obvious I needed to do something about the potatoes, I knew I would be too tired and achy after physical therapy to stand around peeling and mashing potatoes. But ... as soon as I decided against mashed potatoes, I developed a tremendous hankering for them!

So I made mashed potatoes in my slow cooker using About.com's recipe for Crockpot Garlic Smashed Potatoes. I used regular white potatoes and, since I didn't have flavored cream cheese, used plain cream cheese and dried chives. I also substituted low-sodium chicken broth for the water.  The potatoes came out really well -- hot, creamy, buttery mashed potatoes with a nice, but not overly assertive, chiviness.

What goes with mashed potatoes? Dr. Praeger's fish fingers and ajvar! What goes with fish fingers?  Buttery, dilled carrots.

A far cry from salmon en papillote, but delicious nonetheless.

27 September 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 27 September

Much of this week's menu is taken from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes (Pillsbury, 2003). I bought this book in 2003, because I adored my library's copy and kept checking it out. While Slow Cooker Recipes remained my go-to slow cooker book for a long time, it has been a few years since I used it last. There are a few recipes like "Salsa Chicken" which I still make quite regularly, but having made them as often as I have, I don't need to consult the cookbook.

So, do I still need to own Slow Cooker Recipes? Hopefully, I'll know by the end of the week! As with last week's Better Homes and Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Meals, if the recipes are good, I will keep the book. If they aren't good or are merely "meh," then I will donate it to my library's cookbook collection.

(I am donating Better Homes and Gardens Big Book of 30-Minute Meals as only two of the four recipes I made were worth repeating. I have copied down the recipes for "Tangy Thyme Fish" and "Stir-fried Chicken with Feta" plus two salad recipes -- if they are successful, then I can always borrow the book back and try a few more).

  • "Baked Salmon & Vegetables" from Better Homes & Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weight Loss over parsley rice with salad. Ingredients: salmon fillet, carrots, mushrooms, scallions, orange peel, fresh oregano, garlic.
  • "Easy Chicken Cacciatore" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes over buttered parsley noodles with salad. Ingredients: thawed skinned chicken drum sticks, low-sodium tomato sauce, mushrooms, onion, oregano, bell pepper, garlic.
  • "Vegetable Minestrone Soup" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes. Ingredients: carrots, celery, onion, garlic, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, low-sodium cannellini beans, low-sodium  kidney beans, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, thawed frozen spinach, uncooked broken spaghetti pieces.
  • "Georgia-Style Barbecued Turkey Sandwiches" (halved recipe) from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes with salad. Ingredients: skinned turkey thighs, brown sugar, mustard, ketchup, cider vinegar, hot pepper sauce, red pepper flakes, liquid smoke, sandwich buns, deli coleslaw.
  • "Beefy Tortilla Casserole" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes with salad. Ingredients: thawed ground farmers' market beef, diced tomatoes with chilies, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, low-sodium low-fat cream of X soup, leftover corn tortillas, light sour cream, shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, scallions.
    • "Smothered Buttermilk Chicken Over Biscuits" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes and green beans. Ingredients: thawed boneless chicken thighs, carrots, onion, chicken gravy mix, thawed frozen peas, buttermilk, refrigerated biscuits.

    26 September 2010

    Confounded Comments

    Because I've run amok this week, deleting comments I meant to publish, I've turned comment moderation off and turned word verification back on. This means your comments will publish immediately without any interference from me.

    Sincere apologies to Mrs.HansenHomeschools and the nice people who visited me through OrgJunkie's Menu Plan Monday. I do appreciate your comments!

    obviously, i need moar teechings

    Saucy Salmon

    Of the four dishes I've made from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals, I think it's safe to say "Tangy Thyme Fish" was the best of the lot and well worth repeating. I don't usually poach or sauce my salmon as I prefer to glaze and bake it, but this poaching method worked really well -- the fish was moist, flavorful, and perfectly cooked through.

    It's an easy recipe -- poach salmon in a combination of low-sodium chicken broth, minced onion, fresh ground pepper pepper, and dried thyme. When the fish is just cooked through, move it to a hot plate, and make the surprisingly yummy simple sauce. Just reduce the poaching liquid by half, thicken with a water-cornstarch slurry, whisk in light ranch dressing and chopped parsley, pour over fish, eat.

    It truly is a thirty-minute dish and I can see it becoming a weeknight regular.

    24 September 2010

    In Which I Rant A Little

    "Easy Tuna Pasta" was the fourth recipe I made from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals and probably the weakest of the bunch. While you, undeterred by my complaining, might try this dish out for yourself, I will never make it again.

    Part of my unhappiness is driven by pure snobbery, I know. Many people are happy cooking with condensed cheddar cheese soup. Apparently, I am not one of those people. While I had never cooked with condensed cheddar cheese soup before, I have eaten many bowls of yummy cheddar and ale soup and so approached this new ingredient with some enthusiasm. I knew it wouldn't taste the same, but still looked forward to some modicum of cheesy goodness.

    Well, there was not even an iota of cheesy goodness. Condensed cheddar cheese soup has a disturbingly long ingredients list, looks like orange colored pudding, and does not taste anything like cheddar.


    Soup aside, I still cannot recommend this recipe. I presume most of the dish's flavor was supposed to come from the soup (??), but the soup doesn't really have much (any?) flavor so the whole thing was very bland. While I ended up tripling the amounts of dill, mustard powder, and black pepper called for in the recipe, it did not make much of a difference. Blandblandbland.

    23 September 2010

    Time for Soup

    Last week, since it was starting to feel a little like autumn, I dusted off my slow cooker and made Taste of Home's "Mexican Chicken Soup." It was a pretty quick (four hours!) and tasty recipe (mmm .... spicy, tomato-y, bean-y goodness) and I will definitely be making it again -- especially when I'm looking for something to do with leftover roast turkey.

    Since the recipe called for pre-cooking the chicken, I really think you could just as easily substitute leftover cooked chicken or turkey rather than going to the extra effort of cooking chicken specifically for this recipe. Personally, I am not a big fan of slow cooker recipes that require a lot of pre-cooking. I put stuff in the slow cooker. It cooks. I eat it. It should not be more complicated than that.

    Anyway, as I didn't have any leftover chicken, I did precook a pound of diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Because I don't buy envelopes of taco seasoning, I used four tablespoons of Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning (four tablespoons is, according to jar, the amount you'd use for a pound of ground beef when making tacos).

    Ingredients: chicken, low-sodium vegetable juice, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, black beans, corn, farmers' market salsa.

    Here's a little kitchen chemistry weirdness for you: straight out of the slow cooker, the soup was almost unbearably spicy. The next day? Rather mild. Where did the heat go? I've never had soup mellow like that before.

    21 September 2010

    Fake Chili

    Last week, I made "Mexican Beef and Black Beans" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! as a speedy post-physio supper. Unfortunately, I didn't think this dish was very good when I sampled it and ended up dumping in a bunch of extra ingredients to make it taste better. Did I succeed? Well, it was better ... but I'm not dying to make it again.

    The Husband called this "fake chili" and would not eat the leftovers. I did eat some of the leftovers rolled in tortillas with shredded cheese and salsa -- it was pretty good that way -- but a bunch of it went to the cats.
    Fake Chili

    1 pound ground turkey
    1 tsp parsley flakes
    1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
    1 tsp grated lime zest
    3 Tbsp Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning
    ½ tsp red pepper sauce
    1 red bell pepper, diced small
    1 15 ounce can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
    8 can oz low-sodium tomato sauce
    4 green onions, thinly sliced

    Cook turkey and peppers in large skillet until turkey is browned and peppers are tender; drain if necessary. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook about 5 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with onions.
    Unfortunately, this was the third dish I've made from Cook It Quick! that needed doctoring up so I will be donating this cookbook to my library's Friends sale. May some other cook have better luck with it!

    20 September 2010

    Menu Plan Monday, 20 September

    All the recipes on this week's menu come from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals. I picked this cookbook up on clearance for eight dollars sometime last year and have never used it. Frankly, if I'm not going to use it then I might as well not own it as it is taking up valuable shelf space!

    I reckoned I'd make a bunch of recipes from Big Book of 30-Minute Meals this week and, if they were good, I would keep the book a bit longer. If they weren't good or were merely "meh," then I would donate it to the Friends book sale bin.

    • Fast "Tangy Thyme Fish" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals with parsley rice and salad. Ingredients: salmon, low-sodium chicken broth, onion, pepper, thyme, ranch dressing, fresh parsley.
    • "Pasta and Peas Au Gratin" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals with salad. Ingredients: refrigerated cheese-filled whole wheat tortellini, frozen peas, flour, cream, diced tomatoes, Parmesan.
    • "Stir-fried Chicken with Feta" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals with green beans. Ingredients: boneless chicken breasts from freezer, orzo, onions, garlic, stewed tomatoes, feta, fresh basil.
    • "Easy Tuna Pasta" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals. Ingredients: tuna, pasta, cheddar cheese soup, frozen mixed vegetables, dill, mustard powder, onions, pepper.
    • "Chicken and Rice Soup" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals. Ingredients: ground turkey from freezer, long grain and wild rice mix, evaporated milk, pepper.
      • Food on a stick at the Durham Fair.

      19 September 2010

      Farmers' Markets Fun

      Sunday morning we visited CT NOFA's Taste! Organic Connecticut festival at Manchester Community College. While this was CT NOFA's tenth festival, it was the first time we had ever gone and we weren't sure what to expect. Mostly, it seemed like a large farmers' market with workshops and music. Some of the workshops sounded quite interesting -- "Pickle This!" and "Extended Season Gardening," in particular -- but we arrived too late for the pickling workshop and were ready to leave well before the gardening workshop started. Maybe, next year? I already make pretty good dill and bread 'n' butter pickles, but I'd like to pickle my own garlic and giardiniera.

      While we didn't end up buying any produce at the festival, we did pick up a baguette and beautiful rhubarb pie from La Brioche. Farmer's Cow was giving away free pints of ice cream, so we snagged a pint of "Hay! Hay! Hay! Vanilla" to go with the pie.

      On the way to pie and ice cream, we had to walk past Joy Newton's beautiful display of jewelry, note cards, prints, magnets, and paperweights. I stopped, thinking I might buy something for my mother (never too early to start Christmas shopping for difficult giftees), and couldn't resist buying myself a pretty dogwood and faux-pearl bracelet. Isn't it lovely?

      Of course, "on the way home," we did a quick sweep through the Coventry Regional Farmer's Market and picked up:
      • Salsa from Salsa Loca
      • Goat's milk yogurt from Ladies of Levita Road
      • Gnocchi from Pasta di Modena
      • Red bell peppers
      • Macoun apples

      16 September 2010

      A "Sort of" Supper

      Sort of made "Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Over Tortellini" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals for supper Monday night. I say "sort of" because I found that, when prepared as directed, the sauce tasted very "meh" and I ended up doctoring the heck out of it.

      Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

      12-ounce jar roasted red sweet peppers, drained
      ½ cup chopped onion
      3 cloves garlic, minced
      1 tablespoon olive oil
      2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
      2 tsp minced fresh oregano
      1 cup heavy cream
      ½ shredded Parmesan cheese
      1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
      1 cup leftover diced cooked chicken breast
      Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

      Run roasted peppers through food processor until mostly smooth. Set aside. Heat oil in saute pan and add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is tender. Add peppers, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Cook until fragrant. Add cream and cheese. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened. Add in chicken and peas. Stir until heated through. Pour sauce over prepared pasta and toss to coat.
      Pretty okay in the end, I think, but definitely less healthy than the original! (What wouldn't cream and cheese make better?)

      15 September 2010

      Awesome Ajvar

      Two years ago, I bought my first jar of ajvar. Today, I cannot imagine how I ever got by without this tangy-sweet, smoky stuff. What is ajvar? Ajvar is a spread made from fire-roasted pepper and eggplant. You can usually find it in international markets or import shops in hot or mild, cheesy or non-cheesy versions. I prefer the mild, non-cheesy variety because it tends to go well with just about everything. Seriously, it has displaced ketchup in my hierarchy of condiments.

      How do I use ajvar?
      • Spread on a sandwich, burger, or plain toasted bagel
      • Spread on a water cracker with a thin slice of Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar
      • As dipping sauce for fries
      • As a relish for roast or baked meats
      I bet it would even taste good tossed with hot pasta!

      A video slide show of home ajvar production:

      Want to make your own ajvar? Try this recipe for "Red Pepper-Eggplant Ajvar" from the 19 January 2010 New York Times. A great way to use up an overabundance of garden peppers and eggplant.

      14 September 2010

      Green Walnut Confusion

      Browsing the aisles of an international food store in Waterbury, I stumbled across jars of pickled green walnuts. I knew I had to buy a jar as I've been hankering to try pickled green walnuts ever since Clarissa Dickson-Wright made a pheasant and pickled walnut terrine during the "Game" Episode of Two Fat Ladies.

      Except I didn't buy pickled green walnuts! No, I bought green walnut preserves. While green walnuts are pickled in malt vinegar infused with lots of spices, these preserved green walnuts are cooked with sugar, vanilla sugar, citric acid, and vitamin C. Also, while pickled green walnuts are generally served with game meats or a strong cheese like Stilton, preserved green walnuts are used in cookies, cakes, and sauces.

      Somehow, I do not think I can use green walnut preserves in Saveur's "Braised Beef Brisket with Pickled Walnuts" or Delia's "Venison Braised in Guinness and Port with Pickled Walnuts." However, I think I can still get away with serving them next to baked pears stuffed with blue cheese ...

      13 September 2010

      Menu Plan Monday, 13 September

      This week's menu is kind-of special since it's my "back to work" menu.  Yes! Starting work, again. Only half days this week, because everyone wants me to start out nice and easy ... and I'm grateful for that because going back to work makes me both excited and scared.  Excited to be going back to "normal" life and scared, because I haven't been to work in four months. What if I've lost all my librarian foo?

      Needless to say, this week's menu is full comforting foods -- pasta, cheese, soup, beans, and fish sticks!  Don't ask me why fish sticks are comforting as I couldn't tell you. I never ate them much as a child so don't have any conveninetly cozy memories to point you to.  Probably, they're comforting because they're mild-tasting and deliciously carb-y?

      • Brought forward from last week: "Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Over Tortellini" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals (except over farmers' market gnocchi instead of tortellini) with steamed green beans. Ingredients: gnocchi, jarred roasted peppers, onion, garlic, butter, dried thyme, fresh oregano from my garden, Parmesan.
      • "Mexican Beef and Black Beans" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! over rice with salad. Ingredients: ground turkey, black beans, scallions, white wine vinegar, lime zest.
      • "Fish Stick Casserole" (copied many years ago from a 60s era community cookbook) and salad. Ingredients: fish sticks, rice, tomato sauce, bell pepper, onion, vinegar, worcestershire sauce.
      • Taste of Home's slow cooker "Mexican Chicken Soup." Ingredients: chicken, taco seasoning, black beans, corn, salsa, low sodium vegetable juice.
        • Homemade pizza with salad. Ingredients: pizza dough, tomato sauce, mushrooms, garden tomatoes, grilled chicken, garden basil, red onion, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

        12 September 2010

        Free Pizza Stone With Purchase

        When we moved into this house, the kitchen cabinets were full of odds and ends the previous owners had left behind. Mostly baking stuff -- cupcake liners, cake mixes, jars of sprinkles, plastic cookie cutters, and a pizza stone. I tossed the cookie cutters, sprinkles, and out-dated mixes but retained most of the cupcake liners, a few mixes, and the pizza stone.

        Three years later, the mixes and liners are long gone but the pizza stone remains. We've used it a few times to cook Kashi frozen pizzas or reheat carryout pizza. Mostly, though, it lurks in the bottom corner cupboard, occasionally brought forward by the washer's vibrations to jam our lazy Susan and bar The Husband's access to our embarrassing large stash of nibbly things.

        Then I read Cathy Erway's The Art of Eating In and it change my life. No, I haven't taken a vow to only eat in -- I've discovered home-made pizza. In the chapter "Not Ordering In," Erway writes about her success making pizza at home using dough from a local pizza shop. When I read Erway's description of her first homemade pizza, a little light went off in my head. I had a pizza stone ... surely, I could make pizza at home, too?

        And I have! My first two pizzas used a store-bought pre-baked whole wheat crust and I made my pizzas up "English" style using:
        • kernels from leftover ears of roasted corn
        • sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
        • very low-sodium albacore tuna, flaked
        • low-sodium tomato sauce
        • generous amounts of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan
        • sliced home-grown 'Ceylon' tomatoes
        The pizzas were so easy to make! I just put the stone in the oven and preheated it to 425° while I made the pizzas. I transferred a pizza to the stone and baked it for 11 minutes. Turned the oven to broil and broiled the pizza until it was a beautiful brown (about 3 minutes). They were delicious. They were easy. I don't see why I haven't been making pizza every week!

        11 September 2010

        Easy Corn & Black Bean Salad

        Made a lovely side salad for to accompany this week's turkey tacos using leftover roast corn, tinned black beans, diced red onion, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh parsley and basil. It was really yummy and making it got me over my fear of stripping ears. Williams-Sonoma wouldn't try to sell me a special stripping gadget if it weren't hard, right?

        Maybe ... because it's easy and painless. Just take a small, sharp knife, hold the ear steady, and make long, smooth downward strokes, separating the kernels from the cob. The trick seems to be lie in mastering the depth of your cut -- too deep and you'll end up with woody bits of cob mixed in with your corn. Too shallow and you're leaving half the corn behind. Personally, I err toward shallow cuts as I can always go back and "milk" the cobs by flipping the knife over and running the blunt side down the length of the cob.

        Easy Corn & Black Bean Salad
        15.5 oz can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
        1 ear leftover roast corn, stripped and milked (or about 1 cup thawed frozen corn)
        2 cups cherry and pear tomatoes, halved
        ¼ cup minced red onion
        ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
        ¼ cup basil chiffonade
        garlic vinegar, to taste
        olive oil, to taste
        fresh ground pepper, to taste

        Combine all in a large bowl and let sit on the counter for about an hour so the flavors marry.
        Going back to the tacos, for a minute, I used Eatingwell's no-fry recipe for "Crispy Taco Shells" to make my own "homemade" taco shells. As the recipe's description says, they are surprisingly easy to make and do taste better than the store bought ones. I will definitely use this recipe again and recommend you try it, too!

        Refreshing summer salads!

        10 September 2010

        Not Following the Recipe

        Tuesday, I had intended to make "Fresh Mushroom Fettuccine" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! for supper. When I added the recipe to this week's menu plan, it was because I owned all the ingredients it asked for -- "Fettuccine? Mushrooms? Parmesan? Fresh rosemary and parsley? Got 'em all. Let's get cooking!" -- and not because I had actually read the recipe through.

        Standing in my kitchen Tuesday evening, reading the recipe, it became obvious I could not make the dish for supper. The Husband was not going to go for a supper of hot noodles and raw mushrooms and I couldn't blame him. So I changed the recipe!

        Creamy Mushroom Fettuccine

        9 oz refrigerated fettuccine, cooked as directed
        16 oz sliced brown (crimini/baby bella) mushrooms
        2 cloves garlic, crushed
        2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
        ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
        ¼ cup red wine vinegar
        2 Tbsp butter
        2 oz plain yoghurt-cream cheese spread
        ground pepper, to taste
        shredded Parmesan, to taste

        In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp butter. Add the mushrooms, pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are golden brown and no liquid remains in the pan. Add parsley, rosemary, and vinegar and cook until no vinegar remains. Add remaining butter and yoghurt-cream cheese and stir until both have melted and thoroughly combined with the mushroom mixture. Add pasta. Toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and more black pepper, if desired.
        I thought this came out well for a complete hack job and The Husband seemed to like it a lot. When I make this again, I might add a cup or so of halved cherry tomatoes.

        Dogs & Eggs

        I had some hot dogs leftover from our Labor Day picnic and decided to make a breakfast from my childhood -- hot dogs and scrambled eggs. I'm sure my mother saw this dish as a fast, easy, and economical way to repurpose leftovers, but to me it was just pure delicousness. Drowned in ketchup with hot, crunchy toast on the side? Heaven.

        Tomatoey Dogs & Eggs
        Serves 1 hungry person

        2 hot dogs, sliced into rounds
        1 small tomato, seeded and coarsely chopped
        2 eggs
        2 Tbsp low fat milk
        Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

        Cook hot dogs in a hot pan until browned on one side. Flip over, add tomatoes, and cook until the other side is browned. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with milk and pepper.

        Pour egg mixture into pan and cook without stirring. When eggs in bottom of pan start to thicken and firm, stir gently. Cook, still stirring gently, until eggs are slightly firm but not runny. Sprinkle with more pepper and eat.

        09 September 2010

        Labor Day Potato Salad

        For our Labor Day picnic, I made a twist on my mother's potato salad by adding in a little garlic vinegar, prepared mustard, and minced celery. I think the salad came out pretty well, but celery is one of those potato salad additives I can take or leave.

        Mom's Potato Salad, Twisted

        2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
        3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
        ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
        1 rib celery, finely chopped
        2 Tbsp parsley flakes
        1 cup light mayonnaise
        1 Tbsp Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese & Herb Mustard
        1 Tbsp garlic vinegar
        Fresh ground pepper, to taste

        Heat water in saucepan to boiling; add potatoes. Cover and bring back to boiling then reduce to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a knife; drain. Cool slightly; pour into a big bowl, sprinkle with vinegar and toss gently. Set aside. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, and pepper. Pour over potato. Add parsley, celery, onion, and egg. Toss gently until potatoes are evenly coated. Best if refrigerated overnight.

        08 September 2010

        Labor Day Pickled Beets

        Made pickled beets for our Labor Day picnic using a new (to me) recipe from Favorite Recipes From Quilters (Good Books, 1992). It was a very simple recipe -- just bring ¼ cups of sugar, water, and white vinegar to boil with a little ground pepper and a thinly sliced red onion. Simmer 5 minutes. Pour into a storage container with one can undrained low-sodium sliced beets. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Eat.

        For a tasty twist, add a cinnamon stick to the simmering vinegar-sugar mixture. Also, if you were so minded, you could use Splenda instead of sugar.

        While I am decidedly partial to my mother's tongue-twistingly sour pickled beets, these made a nice change and I'm sure the recipe will make it into my regular beet repertoire.

        Easy-Peasy Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob

        My mom brought corn to our Labor Day picnic and showed me an easy way to roast it:
        Oven-Roasted Corn on the Cob

        Preheat oven to 350°F.
        Remove any loose outer leaves and as much of the tassel as possible.
        Lay on a jelly roll pan and roast for 35 minutes.
        Remove from oven and eat.
        My mother's corn came out so tasty and sweet -- it needed very little butter and no salt or pepper to make it perfect. Can't wait to try this method again.

        06 September 2010

        Labor Day Picnic Menu

        ~ Potato Salad ~

        ~ Pickled Beets ~

        ~ Corn on the Cob ~

        ~ Marinated Tomatoes ~

        ~ Cheeseburgers & Hot Dogs ~

        We had my parents up for a Labor Day picnic and dominoes tournament. Mom's oven-roasted corn on the cob were pretty awesome, as was the new pickled beets recipe I tried and I will blog about them later -- when I am fully recovered from my stunning victory in our last domino game (The Husband was so certain he was going to win again, but no).

        Menu Plan Monday, 6 September

        If I stop playing Plants vs Zombies long enough to cook, this is what we'll be eating this week:

        • Labor Day picnic -- potato salad, pickled beets, marinated tomatoes, corn on the cob, pickle tray, hamburgers, and hot dogs.
        • "Fresh Mushroom Fettuccine" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! with salad. Ingredients: fettuccine, mushrooms, Parmesan, fresh rosemary and parsley from my garden.
        • Tacos and salad. Ingredients: corn tortillas, lean ground turkey from freezer, Penzeys bold taco seasoning, shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, chopped garden cherry tomatoes, salsa, sour cream.
        • Homemade "English" pizza and salad.  Ingredients: tinned tuna and sweet corn, fresh sliced mushrooms, shredded mozzarella, pizza sauce, pizza dough. 
        • "Roasted Red Pepper Sauce Over Tortellini" from Better Homes and Gardens's Big Book of 30-Minute Meals with steamed green beans. Ingredients: tortellini, jarred roasted peppers, onion, garlic, butter, dried thyme, oregano from my garden.
          • "Salsa, Bean, and Cheese Pizza" from Better Homes and Gardens's Quick-Fix Family Favorites. Ingredients: leftover corn tortillas, onion, jalapeno, garlic, low-sodium black beans, chopped fresh garden tomato, shredded cheese.

          05 September 2010

          Coventry & Coo-beasties

          Today, we visited the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market at the Nathan Hale Homestead for the first time this summer. Missed all of June, July, and August, but the market runs through October so there's still plenty of time to shop.

          We bought:
          • Giardiniera and pickled garlic from Christine's Country Kitchen
          • Peaches, eggs, and bacon from Highland Thistle Farm
          • Gnocchi from Pasta di Modena
          • A half pint of blueberries
          • A quarter pound of shiitake mushrooms

          We also bought some yummy beef from New Boston Beef:
          • ground beef
          • flank steak
          • tenderloin steak
          • sweet Italian sausage

          I meant to go back round and pick up a beautiful watermelon from Four Fields Farm and a container of Beaver Brook Farm's lamb bolognese sauce, but my ankle was pretty tuckered out by then and we decided to head back to the car ...

          And then we drove to Storrs for ice cream at the UConn Dairy Bar. The Dairy Bar makes all of its ice cream (24+ flavors) on the premises from UConn milk. The ice cream was quite wonderful -- very creamy and rich -- and we were pleased to call it lunch. Total ice cream consumed: one scoop each each black raspberry, vanilla, strawberry cheesecake, and cherry vanilla. While the Dairy Bar does not sell milk, it does also sell UConn eggs and cheeses at extremely reasonable prices (2½ dozen eggs for $5!) and we will surely pick some up next time we visit.

          Full of "lunch," we drove a little way to UConn's animal barns where we saw ships and coo-beasties. Happily, we managed to arrive at the Kellogg Dairy Center in time to watch the one o'clock milking. Must admit that, having grown up on Farmer Boy, I am always surprised by the massive amounts of stainless steel and rubber whatsits used in modern milking. Where is the tin milk bucket? The three-legged stool?
          Almanzo took his own little milking-stool, and a pail, and sat in Blossom’s stall to milk her. His hands were not yet strong enough to milk a hard milker, but he could milk Blossom and Bossy. They were good old cows who gave down their milk easily, and hardly ever switched a stinging tail into his eyes, or upset the pail with a hind foot.

          He sat with the pail between his feet, and milked steadily. Left, right! swish, swish! the streams of milk slanted into the pail, while the cows licked up their grain and crunched their carrots.
          Of course, UConn milks about a hundred cows three times a day with each cow yielding ten or so quarts of milk per day. Nostalgia aside, who would want to do that by hand?

          We also visited the meat cattle barn ("Cattle Resources Unit") where I was, much to The Husband's amusement, licked on the arm by an overly inquisitive caramel-colored beastie. The Husband was also amused by sight of a cow peeing and had to point it out to me. Boys.

          02 September 2010

          Tasty Caesar Tortellini Salad

          For lunch today I made Betty Crocker's "Caesar Tortellini" using refrigerated chicken-filled tortellini, chopped tomatoes from my garden, and a Dole "Ultimate Caesar Salad" kit.

          While Betty Crocker's recipe made an easy and tasty lunch on a mind-meltingly hot day, I think I could do better with fresher ingredients.
          Caesar Tortellini Salad

          1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated tortellini
          1 romaine heart, finely chopped
          12 grape tomatoes, halved
          8 strips crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
          Freshly ground pepper, to taste
          Your favorite Caesar salad dressing, as needed [Newman's Own Caesar Dressing]

          Cook and drain tortellini as directed on package.

          Toss tortellini, romaine, tomatoes, bacon, and a little dressing together. If too dry, add more dressing. Season with pepper to taste.

          01 September 2010

          Menu Plan Wednesday

          We didn't eat anything off last week's menu plan as the In-Laws were here and cooking just wasn't in the cards so I've abridged that menu and carried it over to the remainder of this week ...

          I'm also making Betty Crocker's "Caesar Tortellini" for lunch on Thursday using refrigerated tortellini, garden tomatoes, and Dole's "Ultimate Caesar Salad" kit.
            • Beef burgers on whole white wheat buns with "Summer Squash Saute" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! Ingredients: farmers market summer squash, red onion, garlic, my tomatoes, my basil, balsamic vinegar.
            • "Chicken-Pasta Salad with Pesto" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! Ingredients: pasta, cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, farmers market peppers, farmers market zucchini, red onion, store bought pesto.
            Saturday/ Sunday
            • Boneless chicken thighs, from freezer, thawed and marinated in Greek vinaigrette with "Spinach Orzo" from Betty Crocker's Cook It Quick! and salad. Ingredients: orzo, garlic, carrot, low-sodium broth, thawed frozen chopped spinach, Parmesan, dried basil.