30 October 2010

Pasta in My Slow Cooker

Friday, I made "Wild Mushroom Pasta Alfredo with Walnuts" from Southern Living's Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes. It was a very easy recipe and only took two hours in my slow cooker, but I don't think I'll be making it again as neither of us thought that much of it -- The Husband thought it had too much spinach in it and I thought it was just too salty.

Ravioli Alfredo

To make "Wild Mushroom Pasta Alfredo with Walnuts," you just layer refrigerated mushroom agnolotti (they look like big oval ravioli) with Alfredo sauce, shredded Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts, and cherry tomatoes in your slow cooker. Cook everything on High for about two hours, then stir in baby spinach and let sit until the spinach is wilted. Dead easy.

Since I couldn't find a commercially prepared low sodium Alfredo sauce,  I went with Bertolli's Garlic Alfredo with Aged Parmesan Cheese ... because it promised to be garlicky (and it was). I usually cook with light, low, sodium free or no salted added ingredients so it's possible "normal" people wouldn't find this dish overly salty.

(I toasted the walnuts by stirring them around in a hot pan for about three minutes -- they turned a beautiful golden color and smelled so good, more went in my mouth than in the slow cooker!)

27 October 2010

A Poor Start

First, on Monday, I burnt all the tuna-potato cakes. All of them. What began as a very promising supper ended up a charred mess at the bottom of my favorite skillet. While the cats enjoyed a veritable feast of burnt tuna bits, we humans had takeout.

Then, I discovered my camera's digital memory card was corrupted and I lost all the photos I hadn't transferred to my laptop ... which would be every photo I'd taken since last Wednesday.

And today's supper was not the amazing deliciousness I hoped for. Oh, Southern Living's "Braised Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes" was okay. The chicken and vegetables were perfectly cooked, but unexpectedly bland. Yes, everything smelled tantalizingly garlicky and onion-y, but it didn't taste garlicky or onion-y. It didn't even taste particularly chicken-y.


25 October 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 25 October

Lots of easy and (hopefully) delicious recipes this week. My menu plan started off much more adventurously, but the longer I worked on it, the simpler it became. Slow cooker veal osso bucco will have to wait for another week!

  • "Tuna Potato Cakes" from Better Homes & Gardens's Quick-Fix Family Favorites with salad. Ingredients: low-sodium tuna, leftover mashed potatoes, dry bread crumbs, celery, black pepper.
  • Mr. Bento packed with vegetable soup, pineapple, whole wheat crackers, Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cubes, and garlicky hummus.
  • "Braised Chicken Thighs with Carrots and Potatoes" from Southern Living's Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes with green beans. Ingredients: skinned chicken thighs, new potatoes, carrots, onion, low-sodium chicken broth, wine, garlic, thyme.
  • Ms. Bento packed with peaches, whole wheat crackers, Greek yoghurt with honey, pistachios.
  • "Wild Mushroom Alfredo with Walnuts" from Southern Living's Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes with sliced baguette and salad. Ingredients: Alfredo sauce, agnolotti pasta, Parmesan, grape tomatoes, baby spinach, toasted walnuts (added at the end to my serving).
    • "Corn, Black Bean, and Rice Burritos" from Good Housekeeping's Family Vegetarian Cooking with salad. Ingredients: rice, low-sodium black beans, low-sodium corn, chiles, Cabot Monterey Jack, Green Mountain Gringo Roasted Garlic salsa, reconstituted dried cilantro, flour tortillas.

    24 October 2010

    15 Minute Supper

    While I've made Taste of Home's "Creole Tuna" a couple times now, I still continue to be surprised by how tasty it is considering how little time it takes to make -- fifteen minutes, not counting the time it takes to cook the rice. If I used minute rice, then the whole thing really would only take 15 minutes, but I prefer to use my rice cooker.

    Ingredients: red onion, red bell pepper, flour, salt, pepper, sugar, milk, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, low-sodium tuna, thyme, garlic powder, paprika, and cumin.

    While the recipe calls for green bell pepper, I use red as that's what I always have on hand. I also sauté a quarter cup of diced red onions with the peppers, because I think a little onion can't do any harm.

    As I don't own any Creole seasoning and (as far as I can see) Penzeys doesn't sell anything similar, I substitute ½ teaspoon each Hungarian Sweet paprika and garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon each French thyme and cumin.

    23 October 2010

    Too Many Library Cookbooks!

    I run amok at the library and have borrowed an unseemly number of cookbooks! They weren't all borrowed on the same day, but it is still an almost embarrassment of riches:

    Admittedly, I borrowed four for Thanksgiving menu-planning:
    • Autumn Gatherings by Rick Rodgers
    • The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan
    • Vegetarian Times's Complete Thanksgiving
    • Betty Crocker's Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook
    I used recipes from Betty Crocker's Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook last Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as the Thanksgiving before that. It's a very good cookbook and I should probably just buy my own copy before it goes out of print (or my library's copy self-destructs).

    Since I returned to work, I've been trying to use my slow cooker more as it's a great time-saver and it's very nice to have supper ready and waiting when I come home from work. I've made a few recipes from Southern Living's Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes with good result, but my choices have been limited as many of the recipes require ingredients The Husband will not eat -- Picky McPickyPants than he is. Frankel's Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes has more recipes to The Husband's taste, but the recipes are a little more fiddly -- more weekend cookery than workday.

    The other five cookbooks where borrowed on impulse. I either chanced upon them in the library catalog and though "hmm, that sounds interesting ...." or their pretty covers caught my attention and I had to get my greedy little hands on them!

    21 October 2010

    Presto Pesto Meatball Stew

    Wednesday, I made slow cooker "Pesto Meatball Stew" from Better Homes and Gardens's Fast-Fix Family Food for supper as I knew we would be tired at the end of the day and craving something immediate. Unless supper was waiting, we would likely end up dining on pretzels and chocolate.

    Ingredients: frozen meatballs, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, my Italian seasoning blend, low-sodium cannellini beans, refrigerated pesto, shredded Parmesan.

    Overall, we liked this stew, I was a little disappointed by the meatballs. Commercially prepared frozen meatballs are never as good as homemade -- too smooth and spongy and never seasoned quite as I would like. However, for a lazy midweek meal, they did pretty well. I just don't think I'd feed them to company!

    (I would recommend making this stew with bite-sized frozen meatballs rather than the larger dinner-sized meatballs as I found the larger ones overwhelmed the beans and tomatoes, but I could not find bite-sized ones at my grocer).

    19 October 2010

    Oh, The Delicious Burning

    Monday, I made Taste of Home's "Black Bean Nacho Bake" from The Busy Family Cookbook for supper with salad. It really was a quick and easy weeknight recipe -- with only seven ingredients and minimal steps, it was on the table in under an hour. The Husband liked it enough to eat the leftovers for lunch, which is itself a great compliment. Mind you, he wimped out and ate the leftovers sans Fiery Topping of Tongue Death ...

    The recipe calls for nacho "cheese" soup, but I couldn't find any at so I simply doctored a can of condensed "cheddar" soup with a tablespoon of Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning. I also added in a can of diced Muir Glen tomatoes with the black beans, because I thought the casserole might be a bit bland without them. Then I topped the dish with a layer of crushed unsalted tortilla chips and Cabot's Hot Habanero cheddar. What was I thinking?? Oh, I know what I was thinking. Cabot 50% reduced-fat cheddar I was thinking "this casserole sounds a bit bland. I should spice it up a bit."

    And so created The Fiery Topping of Tongue Death.

    You see, the Cabot people aren't joking when they call it "Hot Habanero." The wee bits of pepper were hot and the instant they touched our tongues, they fried our taste buds. We gasped and wheezed and wept our way through supper. Ohmygodtheburning! The delicious, delicious burning!

    When I to make this casserole again, I'll use a can of Muir Glen's fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies (the fire roasted adobo-seasoned diced tomatoes would be better, but it doesn't look like those exist anymore) and Cabot's Chipotle cheddar for a less painful, but equally delicious, taste experience.

    18 October 2010

    Menu Plan Monday, 18 October

    • "Black Bean Nacho Bake" from Taste of Home's The Busy Family Cookbook with salad. Ingredients: small pasta shells, condensed cheese soup (I know!), Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, low-sodium black beans, shredded Cabot's Chipotle Cheddar, crushed tortilla chips.
    • Better Homes and Gardens's "Veggie Stuffed Quesadillas" with rice and salad. Ingredients: bell peppers, onion, cumin, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, fresh parsley, cream cheese, flour tortillas.
    • Slow cooker "Pesto Meatball Stew" from Better Homes and Gardens's Fast-Fix Family Food. Ingredients: frozen meatballs, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, my Italian seasoning blend, low-sodium cannellini beans, pesto, shredded Parmesan.
    • Leftover stew with salad.
    • Slow cooker "Barley Vegetable Soup" from Better Homes and Gardens's Fast-Fix Family Food with cheddar biscuits. Ingredients: low sodium-red beans, thawed frozen corn, pearl barley, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery, my Italian seasoning blend (basil, oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary), low-sodium vegetable broth.
      • "Creole Tuna" from Taste of Home's The Busy Family Cookbook with rice and green beans. Ingredients: bell pepper, butter, flour, tinned tuna, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, my "Creole" seasoning (garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, cayenne).

      15 October 2010

      Out of One Turkey, Many Meals

      So, Monday I roasted the last freezer turkey and we had a little unThanksgiving feast with cornbread stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and braised green beans. It was all delicious, but made for a huge amount of leftovers.

      What to do with all those leftovers?

      Salad! And such yummy one at that -- mixed greens, red cabbage, red onion, cucumber, celery, red bell pepper, yellow pear tomatoes, chopped leftover roast turkey, goat cheese crumbles, walnuts, and blueberries all drizzled with fig balsamic vinaigrette. I ate this salad for three days running and did not tire of it.

      Soup! A modified version of "Chicken Tortilla Soup" from Better Homes & Gardens's Quick-Fix Family Favorites topped with sour cream and diced avocado. Used leftover roast turkey instead of chicken, Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes instead of stewed Mexican seasoned ones, three tablespoons Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, and a whole bag of sliced frozen mixed peppers.

      I served this soup with tube biscuits I coated with shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar before baking and they came out pretty well. If I made them again, I'd sprinkle them with a little garlic powder and maybe brush them with a little butter ...

      Pot Pie! Filling is made of diced leftover turkey, gravy thinned with low-sodium chicken broth, thyme, black pepper, leftover braised green beans, mushrooms, onion, celery, and garlic.

      And, of course, manymany sandwiches!

      Delicious as it all was, I don't think I want to see another turkey before 25 November!

      12 October 2010

      CT Garlic & Harvest Festival, A Garlicky Good Time

      Sunday we took my parents to the Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival at the Bethlehem fairgrounds. We had a lot of fun sitting in on workshops, eating all sorts of garlicky deliciousness, and browsing the many vendors of garlicky loot. This was the third year we've attended the Festival and it's hard to believe how much its grown in that time. There were so many more vendors and visitors than last year that it was almost overwhelming!

      I brought a shopping list with me, of course, and did manage to find just about everything I'd planned on buying at the Festival:

      • One dozen beautiful brown eggs and a pound of green beans from Killam & Bassett Farmstead of South Glastonbury.
      • Pint of tangy sauerkraut from Horman's Best Pickles of Glen Cove, NY.
      • Always yummy Vinegre de Garlique from Josie Porter Farm of Stroudsburg, PA. The blue labeled bottle is made with agave & the green with brown sugar -- the agave vinegar is a new product and is a little harsher (but still awesome).
      • "Mild" Can't Beet It! from East Windsor.  I love this stuff on sandwiches or pirogi.
      • Olive Oil Factory's fig balsamic vinegar from Twin Pines Farm of Thomaston. They were also giving away bits of 4-yr-old Cabot cheddar on thin slices of pickle -- a surprisingly tasty combination.
      What's missing from my loot? Plain ol' garlic! The vendor I usually buy from wasn't at this year's Festival and the other garlic vendors just couldn't tempt me. Better luck next year?


      Roast beet and carrot flatbread topped with whole milk mozzarella, fresh thyme, honey, and greens from Farm to Hearth! Farm to Hearth specializes in making delicious, all natural, organic made-to-order wood-fired personal pizzas made with locally sourced ingredients. It was nice to see their booth at the Festival as I've never seen them outside the Coventry Regional Farmers Market (where they're usually surrounded by a huge crowd of hungry people).

      Big, beefy hot dog topped with roast garlic cloves from Spacey Tracy's. Hot dog has a nice bite to it and the roast garlic was all that is nutty, garlicky, and good. Would have been absolutely perfect if the bun had been toasted.

      Can't wait until next year's Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival.

      11 October 2010

      Menu Plan Monday, 11 October

      The weather has cooled, the trees are turning, and this woman's heart turns toward ... turkey.  We've had a thirteen-pound turkey in the freezer for about six months now and it's time to eat it up.  Considering there are only two of us in our household, this turkey should last the week.  Once it has been well picked over, I'll freeze it for after Thanksgiving when I can combine it with the Thanksgiving turkey and make a huge batch of soup.

      Monday (Columbus Day holiday)
      • Last freezer turkey, roasted, with garlic mashed potatoes or wild rice pilaf and buttery dilled carrots.
      • Salad (greens, diced leftover turkey, walnuts, dried cranberries, goat cheese grumbles) with whole wheat crackers and melon.
      • "Chicken Tortilla Soup" from Better Homes & Gardens's Quick-Fix Family Favorites topped with diced avocado, sour cream, and crushed tortilla chips. Ingredients: leftover roast turkey, low-sodium chicken broth, bell peppers, stewed tomatoes, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, avocado.
      • Leftover turkey soup with whole wheat crackers, cubed Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, and melon.
      • "Chicken, Black Bean, & Goat Cheese Tostadas" from America's Test Kitchen's The Best Simple Recipes with salad. Ingredients: leftover roast turkey, black beans, onion, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, cumin, cilantro, goat cheese, leftover corn tortillas.
        • "Tomato-Tortellini Soup" from Better Homes & Gardens's Quick-Fix Family Favorites with grilled cheese sandwiches. Ingredients: low-sodium chicken broth, refrigerated tortellini, chive and onion flavored cream cheese, tomato bisque, fresh chives..

        07 October 2010

        Fruity Crab Salad

        This week, I've been eating the very tasty "Curried Crab Salad" from Better Homes and Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weightloss for lunch. I love fruit in salad -- especially melon and berries -- and do not understand people like my mother or The Husband who think fruity salads are just wrong.

        Oh, well, more fruity salads for me!

        Salad ingredients: cantaloupe, honey dew, strawberries, blueberries, surimi, celery, and mixed greens.

        Dressing ingredients: light mayonnaise, low-fat milk, farmers' market goat's milk yoghurt, and Penzeys Maharajah Style Curry Powder (sweet, not hot).

        05 October 2010

        Rainy Days Are For Soup

        Oh, it's been a gray, rainy week! And gray, rainy weeks call for soup! Wednesday I made "Vegetable Minestrone Soup" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes and it was pretty darn good for something that took almost no thought to make (a good thing as too many rainy days in a row slow my brain right down).

        Ingredients: carrots, celery, onion, garlic, low-sodium vegetable broth, low-sodium cannellini beans,low-sodium kidney beans, low-sodium stewed tomatoes, thawed frozen spinach, uncooked broken whole wheat spaghetti, basil, thyme.

        Served with bread sticks and salad, this soup made a tasty meatless mid-week supper.

        04 October 2010

        Menu Plan Monday, 04 October

        Much of this week's menu uses recipes from Betty Crocker'3 Steps to Easy Weightloss -- another cookbook I've owned for yonks and seldom used. I don't know why as it's a lovely book and I've made the cover recipe ("Roast Tarragon Chicken") so many times I could probably make it with my eyes closed.

        This week marks my return to working full-time which means it's back to the old routine of Tuesday and Thursday being work suppers (The Husband feeds himself).

        • Electricians are supposed to be at our house for much of the day and we will be without power. Either make a pizza or go out.
        • "Gazpacho Sandwich to Go" from Better Homes and Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weightloss with melon chunks. Ingredients: baguette, small fruit tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, fresh mozzarella, fresh mint, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, olive oil.
        • "Roast Tarragon Chicken" from Better Homes and Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weightloss with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. Ingredients: thawed bone-in chicken pieces, tarragon, garlic, olive oil, black pepper, small fruit tomatoes, shallots.
        • "Curried Crab Salad" from Better Homes and Gardens's 3 Steps to Easy Weightloss with whole wheat crackers. Ingredients: melon, strawberries, surimi, celery, light mayonnaise, farmers' market yoghurt, milk, curry powder, greens.
        • "Pulled Pork Burritos" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes with steamed green beans. Ingredients: pork loin roast, onion, barbecue sauce, salsa, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, flour tortillas.
          • "Mixed Mushroom Stroganoff" from Betty Crocker's Vegetarian Cooking with salad. Ingredients: garlic, onion, mushrooms, parsley, sage, low-sodium vegetable broth, sour cream.

          03 October 2010

          Delicious Connecticut Noms

          Saturday was the last day of Connecticut Farm-to-Chef Harvest Celebration Week so we decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go get some Connecticut noms:

          Doesn't that look tasty? It's pumpkin bisque and a Gyro Burger from Plan B Burger Bar in Simsbury:
          Lyman Orchards's spicy pumpkin bisque with candied pecans and a bourbon crème fraise ...

          Fresh ground lamb blended with our all natural and certified beef topped with Rosedale Farms inspired Tzatziki sauce, diced local tomatoes, organic red onion and feta cheese served in a warm pita pocket and with a side of crispy rosemary salt dusted fries.

          The Husband ordered the Salmon Burger (Atlantic salmon, red onion, corn spread, organic lettuce) with truffle fries and while the fries weren't as good as truffle fries we've had elsewhere, the little bit burger he deigned to share with me was very good.

          We followed up our burgers with ice cream from J. Foster's in Avon. The Husband stuck with safe choices -- cake batter and chocolate fudge brownie -- while I went straight to the good stuff and tried the maple bacon ice cream ("Bacon from locally raised pork mixed with CT Sugarhouse maple Syrup"). Oh, it was tasty with a good, strong maple flavor and lots of crispy, smoky, salty bacon bits.

          01 October 2010

          Deja Vu Slow Cooker

          I was looking for a recipe that would let me use up some of the many leftover corn tortillas still lurking in our refrigerator when I stumbled upon a recipe for "Beefy Tortilla Casserole" in Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes. While the recipe sounded quite promising, I didn't have quite the right ingredients. Rather than nip out to the grocery store, I went ahead and cludged together my own version of the recipe:
          Mexican Moussaka

          1 lb lean ground turkey
          14½ oz. can Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes, undrained
          10¾ oz. can low-fat low-sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup
          4 Tbsp. Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning
          ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
          6 small corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch strips
          1 cup Greek yoghurt
          1 cup Feta crumbles
          3 green onions, sliced (green & white parts)

          Cook turkey and taco seasoning in skillet until turkey is browned and cooked through.

          Combine turkey, tomatoes, soup, broth, and tortilla strips in your slow cooker. Stir gently to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 8 hours.

          Shut off slow cooker. Remove lid. Spread yoghurt over top of casserole. Sprinkle with feta and green onions. Cover and let sit for about 5 minutes or until the feta has gone all melty.
          When the feta and yoghurt melted together, they formed a thick creamy topping which reminded The Husband of moussaka -- hence my new name for this dish. We both liked this dish a lot and I will certainly make it again.

          (Amusingly, it turns out that I had made a variation of Pillsbury's "Beefy Tortilla Casserole" before -- back in January 2009 -- and for the same reason!)

          Slow Cooker 'Cue ... It's Heaven

          I'd been craving a good pulled pork sandwich since I ate a not-very-good one at a local fair, but I don't know where to find a good one locally. I thought about making my own, in the oven, but was a little intimidated by the prospect. Then I found a recipe for "Georgia-Style Barbecued Turkey Sandwiches" in Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes and I reckoned I could run the risk of ruining one supper this week. It helped that Pillsbury's recipe was simple, straightforward, and used a meat I really enjoy cooking, but see so few recipes for.

          (Turkey thighs are delicious, you know, and hard to ruin by overcooking. I tend to roast mine with vegetables, but I bet the slow cooker cacciatore I made earlier in the week would be awesome with turkey thighs!)

          Anyway, I thought this dish turned out really well -- just a little sweet with a nice bit of heat and the perfect amount of smokiness. I used Lazy Kettle's hickory liquid smoke and, oh my, does that stuff taste good! And the smell! I'm half-tempted to wear it as cologne.

          I was so pleased with how this recipe turned out that I borrowed a copy of Merrell and Quinn's Cheater BBQ: Barbecue Anytime, Anywhere, in Any Weather (Clarkson Potter, 2008) from my library and I'm full of plans to make more barbecue in my slow cooker (and oven) as soon as possible.