29 November 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 29 November

Really simple, straight forward meals on the menu as it's another weird, busy week and even one slightly complicated recipe is bound to send me straight to the phone for delivery of something salty, fatty, and regrettable.

  • Turkey tacos and "Spanish" rice from a box. Ingredients: whole grain taco shells, chopped up leftover turkey, low sodium chicken broth, Penzeys bold taco seasoning, rehydrated cilantro, shredded Double Gloucester, diced grape tomatoes.
  • Ham wrap with diced honeydew melon. Ingredients: lavash, low sodium ham, Double Gloucester, lettuce, pickle.
  • My cousin's totally awesome lasagne with steamed green beans.  Ingredients: I'm sworn to secrecy.
  • Ham wrap with diced cantaloupe. Ingredients: lavash, low sodium ham, Double Gloucester, thin slices of Granny Smith apple.
  • Driving down to my parents to see my cousin before she leaves for New York (and to return her lasagne pan) so, probably, Five Guys.
  • Pan grilled lamb shoulder chops with rice cooker barley pilaf and peas.  Ingredients: lamb chops, rosemary, garlic, olive oil.
  • Potato pancakes (latkes) with pickled red cabbage and salad.  Ingredients: potato, onion, egg, salt, pepper, flour, vegetable oil, Greek yoghurt (instead of sour cream).

28 November 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Egg Stuffing Cups

Lots of Southern Living's "Slow Cooker Cornbread Dressing" leftover from Thanksgiving. Been eating it on sandwiches and used some to thicken turkey soup, but still have too much left! What to do? This, apparently:

Pat leftover stuffing on the bottom and up the sides of a ramekin. Crack one egg into the ramekin. Bake at 350°F for, probably, 15-20 minutes.
I say "probably" because I forgot to set the kitchen timer, completely lost track of what I was doing, and didn't pull the ramekin out of the oven for at least thirty minutes. At which point, I had a hard cooked egg when I really wanted well set whites with a runny center.

(Also, you'll wanted to grease the ramekin well if planning on decanting the stuffing cup onto a plate).

I've been making Southern Living's "Slow Cooker Cornbread Dressing" since 2006 and this was the first time I was not completely pleased with it. It was just too moist and sweet this year. Happily, I know where to place the blame -- the cornbread. To save time, I bought a pan of cornbread from the Stop & Shop bakery and it was just too cake-like for this recipe. Soft, moist, and sugary when I really needed a dry, crumbly, gritty cornbread. Next time, I will stick with Southern Living's recommended Martha White Yellow Cornbread Mix.

Mind you, while I thought this batch of cornbread dressing wasn't quite the thing, my mother and cousin both enjoyed it enough to ask for the recipe!

26 November 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Poultry Plucker's Pie

While I'd originally planned to make a pot pie with Thanksgiving's bountiful leftovers, I had so much garlic mash left that I decided to make a cottage pie by modifying my "Sheepish Shepherd's Pie" recipe, instead.
Poultry Plucker's Pie

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
3 cups leftover roast turkey (dark and white meat), cubed small
1 cup leftover garlic braised green beans, cubed small
1 cup leftover julienned carrots in buttery thyme sauce
1 recipe broth-based turkey gravy (see below)
3 cups leftover garlic mashed potatoes
1 egg yolk
Paprika, as desired

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Melt butter in skillet. Sauté onion until translucent. Stir in turkey, gravy, vegetables. Pour into a 11x9-inch baker.

Beat cold potatoes in stand mixer until softened. Beat in egg yolk. Spread over pan. Sprinkle with paprika. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Let rest about 10 minutes. Nom.
I don't usually use drippings for gravy, but make it from broth because that means I can make the gravy while the meat is still cooking and everything can get to the table that much faster. Also, I simply don't like dealing with drippings ...

This recipe can be modified to use any kind of broth or whatever seasonings you prefer. I often make this gravy with low-sodium chicken broth, 1% milk, thyme, and rosemary.
Gobble-less Gravy

1 14.25oz can turkey broth
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp Bell's Seasoning (or thyme or rosemary to taste)
1½ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. corn starch
Dried parsley, as desired
Ground black pepper, as desired

Bring broth, butter, and seasoning to boil. Whisk together cream and corn starch. Slowly add to broth mixture, whisking constantly while gravy thickens. Whisk in parsley and pepper, if desired. Remove from heat.

25 November 2010

Thanksgiving Feasting

Thanksgiving Menu


~ Simple Heritage Roast Turkey ~
(New York Times November 7, 2007)

~ Slow-Cooker Cornbread Dressing ~
(Southern Living's 2005 Annual Recipes)

~ Mom's Mashed Rutabagas ~

~ Do-Ahead Garlic Mashed Potatoes ~
(Betty Crocker Magazine #225, Nov 2005)

~ Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes ~

~ Garlic Braised Green Beans ~

~ "Roasted Garlic Creamed Spinach" ~
(From the fine cooks at Whole Foods)

~ Julienne Carrots in Buttery Thyme Sauce ~

~ "Golden Creamed Onions" ~
(Diane Morgan's The Thanksgiving Table)

~ Whole-berry Cranberry Sauce ~

~ Floury Rolls and Butter ~


~ Mom's Pies ~


To allow myself a little extra snoozing time on Thanksgiving morning, I made the mashed sweet potatoes, garlic mashed white potatoes, and creamed onions on Wednesday.  Thursday morning, I will gently warm them in the microwave, then decant them into warmed serving bowls and let them sit in the still hot oven while the turkey has its thirty-minute post-roasting rest.

So far, the creamed onions are my favorite dish and I cannot wait to eat it.  Indeed, the little tastes I took while making it made me want to hide the bowl away somewhere and "forget" to serve it to my guests!

This is the first year I've roasted a heritage turkey and the Internet is full of conflicting information on how to do it best.  Decided to go with the New York Times recipe as I've had good luck with other Times recipes.

Even if the turkey does not come up to scratch, we will not starve. I'm pretty sure I've planned too many dishes -- I'm only feeding six people, after all.

Hmm. Maybe I should keep those onions back ....

22 November 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 22 November

Thanksgiving is here! The refrigerator is pretty bare as Peapod won't bring our order until early Tuesday afternoon and, even then, it'll mostly be Thanksgiving groceries ... what are we going to survive on until Thanksgiving? Fast and easy stuff from the freezer and pantry, of course.

  • Cheddar crescent dogs with Heinz ("The British Bean") baked beans and mixed vegetables. Ingredients: uncured all natural beef franks, Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar, reduced fat crescent rolls.
  • Tuna bagel melts with low-sodium vegetable soup. Ingredients: low-sodium tuna, light mayonnaise, whole white wheat bagels, sliced cherry tomatoes, minced red onion, dill, pepper, shredded Double Gloucester.
  • Frozen French bread pizza and tomato soup.
  • Turkey with slow cooker stuffing, gravy, whole berry cranberry sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, garlicky mashed white potatoes, garlicky green beans, creamed onions, julienned carrots in chive butter sauce, mashed rutabaga, and pies. Ingredients: Many!
  • Turkey sandwiches and pie!
  • Turkey pot pie with leftover green beans and carrots. Ingredients: leftover turkey, refrigerated pie crust, leftover gravy, low-sodium chicken broth, thyme, black pepper, onion, celery, carrots, corn, and garlic.
  • Ladies' Home Journal's "Turkey Enchiladas" with cucumbers tossed in a light vinaigrette. Ingredients: leftover turkey, tortillas, low-sodium black beans, rehydrated cilantro, salsa, Greek yoghurt, shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

19 November 2010

Yummy Stew

Made yummy beef stew in my slow cooker today to use up some of the root vegetables leftover from last week's adventures. Served it with hot crusty rolls and it was the perfect supper for a chilly Friday evening.

Yummy Stew

5 carrots, peeled and sliced into half inch pieces
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced into half inch pieces
3 celery ribs, sliced into one inch pieces
1 onion, chopped small
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
4 medium-sized russet potatoes, halved and then cut into half inch thick pieces
1 pound stew beef, cut into one inch cubes
2 Tbsp whole grain white flour
28-oz can Muir Glen fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1 packet Lawry's beef stew seasoning mix

Toss beef with flour. Put vegetables in bottom of slow cooker. Top with beef. Stir seasoning packet and tomatoes together and pour over beef. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours. Stir and serve with hot, crusty rolls.
Lawry's beef stew seasoning mix is rather high in sodium, I must admit, but it made for easy work at eight in the morning! I don't usually buy seasoning packets, but we were at Big Lots last week and it was one of my impulse buys. I cannot help myself -- I go into a store like the Christmas Tree Shop or Big Lots and come out with a sack of odd groceries.

18 November 2010

Behold, My Splendorous Spice Drawer

This week has not been going as planned and I have no recipes or foodie photos to share with you. Instead, behold the mighty splendor that is my organized spice collection.


Disclaimer: I actually reorganized my spice cupboard last month, but didn’t post about it, because I wasn’t quite certain the new arrangement would last. To my surprise, it has worked out wonderfully well.

Hot pads & mits

After I moved the potholders and trivets into another drawer (previously full of odds and ends I mercilessly binned or relocated), I moved the small jars out of the opaque white bin into a tray in the drawer and labeled the jar tops so I could immediately know the contents of each jar at a glance. They’re also alphabetized, because I am a librarian and it is just in my nature to alphabetize things. Seriously, I cannot not alphabetize!

I swapped the white bin for two translucent bins I had been under-utilizing elsewhere in my kitchen. I moved all my Penzeys dehydrated herbs and vegetable packets into one, since they’re a bit floppy and the container’s tall sides corral them nicely. The other contains tall jars of Penzeys salad dressing and dip mixes -- items I don't use every day, but still need easy access to (or they won't get used at all).

I decanted the larger spice bottles into stubby glass (69¢) containers I picked up at the Christmas Tree shop. They just fit the depth of the drawer and the clear lids make it very easy to see the contents at a glance.

In the back of my new spice drawer, I arranged my measuring cups and spoons in two galvanized trays. Now they’re all in one place and right next to the stuff I’m most likely to use them with. Also, if I’m doing a lot of cooking (holiday baking, etc), I can just lift the trays straight out of the drawer and carry them off to whatever part of the kitchen I need them it and they’ll still stay tidy.

[I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible habit of misplacing measuring spoons in the midst of baking … “One teaspoon nutmeg. Hmm. Where’s my teaspoon? @#%$ it! It was just here! @#%$ teaspoon @#%$ hiding on me! ” This is also why I own three sets of measuring spoons].

I also lowered the top cabinet shelf so it's easier to get to its contents -- not that it holds much, at the moment. The translucent white box contains all the packets of pectin I bought for the freezer jam I didn’t make this summer (or last summer!). I tell myself to just buy some frozen peaches and raspberries and just make jam, already, but that task keeps moving further and further down my to-do list.  Someday, when it is no longer full of pectin, I will use it to hold all those N2O cartridges I have rattling around in another drawer.

Overall, I am really pleased with how well this little reorganization project turned out and I am itching to tackle a few more kitchen drawers and cabinets over the Thanksgiving holiday!

15 November 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 15 November

Thanksgiving is coming! The refrigerator and freezer need emptying to make room for festal noms and you know what that means! It means a menu plan cobbled together out of odds and ends.  Will it still be yummy? I certainly hope so.

  • Freezer salmon smeared with Stonewall Kitchen's Blue Cheese Herb Mustard and baked with slightly suspicious wrinkly cherry tomatoes. Served with parsley rice and chopped cucumbers tossed in light ranch dressing.
  • Roasted chicken sausages, peppers, and onions with refrigerated garlic mashed potatoes and microwaved freezer green beans. Ingredients: freezer chicken sausages, wrinkly bell peppers, red onion, Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, Penzeys Greek seasoning, olive oil, black pepper. (Have to do some stuff at the hospital after work, so may not actually get to this!)
  • Mr Bento packed with snap peas, yellow pepper slices, garlicky hummus, unsalted pretzels, cubes of Cabot's Seriously Sharp, and dried apricots.
  • Mr Bento packed with hummus stuffed cucumbers, unsalted roasted almonds, dried apricots, cubes of Cabot's Seriously Sharp, and dark chocolate covered candied ginger.
  • Slow cooker beef stew with refrigerator biscuits. Ingredients: low-sodium beef broth, red wine, carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, celery, potatoes, beef, Lawry's beef stew seasoning packet.
  • Homemade fish nuggets with parsley rice and "Carottes Étuvées au Beurre" (carrots braised in butter) from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume One. Ingredients: crushed garlic croutons, light ranch dressing, cod, carrots, butter, sugar, black pepper.
  • Tacos with salsa rice and microwaved freezer green beans. Ingredients: leftover taco shells, Penzeys Bold Taco seasoning, onion, salsa, shredded Cabot's Seriously Sharp, farmers' market ground beef.

12 November 2010

Delicious Vegetable Candy

I love autumn because, for me, it is the beginning of roasting season. Between now and the beginning of spring, my greedy tummy will hunger for roasted things and, while a perfectly roasted meat can be quite splendid, it's roasted vegetables I really crave. Carrots, potatoes, shallots, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, celery, squashes, rutabagas, brussels sprouts ... you name it, I crave it roasted.

It should come as no surprise then that, yesterday, I made "Balsamic Chicken with Vegetables" from Andrea Chesman's Recipes From the Root Cellar: 270 Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables (Storey Publishing, 2010). Chesman's recipe was very simple, but oh so delicious. The chicken was tender, moist, and a little tangy from the balsamic vinegar while the vegetables ... the vegetables had been transformed into delicious vegetable candy! I was more than happy to eat some of the leftover vegetables all on their own for lunch today and am happy to say refrigeration and microwaving did them no harm. They were still all that was nutty, sweet, and good.

Ingredients: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, rosemary, chicken thighs, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, shallots, garlic, fresh ground salt & pepper.

Making this recipe, I found that all the vegetables and chicken would not fit on one large jellyroll pan so I roasted about a third of the vegetables in a little pan on their own. Even though the vegetables on that pan were never in contact with the flavorful chicken juices, they were still very delicious and would, I think, have made any vegetarian happy.

Yum, yum, yum!

(Admittedly, while I enjoyed this dish immensely, The Husband spent a lot of time picking out the rutabaga. I had hoped he might like roasted rutabaga since it came out rather sweet and nutty, but its inherent rutabaga-ness could not be disguised).

10 November 2010

Applicious Autumn Pasta Salad

For work this week, I made a really nice pasta salad using a Pasta Shoppe mix I picked up at Yankee Candle during The Great Birthday Extravaganza of 2010.

What's in it? Apple-shaped pasta with walnuts, celery, dried cranberries, chopped Granny Smith apples, crumbled bacon, and tiny cubes of Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar. Vinaigrette dressing is made with sugar, salt, pepper, poppy seeds, cider vinegar, and olive oil. (While the package doesn't call for bacon, cranberries, or cheese I think these yummy additions did no harm).

Overall,  I found this salad quite delicious and I look forward to making a my own version with mini farfalle pasta and Betty Crocker's "Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing" or Joy of Cooking's "Poppy Seed Honey Dressing" from All About Salads.

09 November 2010

My Favorite Slow Cooker Cookbook

Way back in 2003, I bought a copy of Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes. I was, at that point in time, not quite the cookbook collecting fiend I have become, but I knew I had to purchase a copy of this cookbook simply because I kept borrowing it from my public library. While my constant borrowing of it gave the item excellent circulation stats, it really wasn't fair to the other library patrons who didn't really stand a chance at ever borrowing it themselves. So, yes, I bought my copy for the greater good of my library's cookbook borrowing community. It was a terrible, terrible sacrifice ...

While I've bought or borrowed tons of cookbooks since then, Slow Cooker Recipes remains one of my favorites. Its recipes are fairly pedestrian and that's fine by me. While I love looking at newer, trendier slow cooker books that utilize exotic ingredients or additional cooking methods, they're not anything I really want to cook from.  To me, slow cooking is a time saver and I should have to do as little prep work as possible before turning on my slow cooker.  I also shouldn't have to try every grocery store in town for an impossible to find ingredient.  The foods that come out of my slow cooker don't need to be fancy or particularly photogenic, they just need to taste good and be ready when I want to eat. Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes gives me what I want.

In September, I started going through my cookbook collection, weeding out the cookbooks I didn't use or particularly enjoy. I thought, perhaps, Slow Cooker Recipes might be a weed as there were only a few recipes I was making from it with any regularity and I had those recipes more-or-less memorized. Well, I was wrong! Since I first thought about weeding Slow Cooker Recipes, I have been using it pretty constantly and I am pretty sure it is still one of those cookbooks I can't live without.

While this is great for Slow Cooker Recipes, it's bad for the remaining weeds as I've run out of space for cookbooks and must make room, before I end up with piles on the floor (again).  Therefore, the cookbooks remaining on my weed list are going to be judged more mercilessly than they might have and don't really stand a chance. Happily, though, my library's Friends group is running a cookbook sale this month so my weeds will probably find good homes!

08 November 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 8 November

Brought home another fantastic cookbook from my public library -- Andrea Chesman's Recipes from the Root Cellar (Storey Publishing, 2010) -- and really look forward to making some recipes from it toward the end of the week. I don't know what The Husband will think of rutabaga (which is why I picked a recipe where it's mixed in with lots of other roots), but I'm very excited!

  • Mr. Bento packed with pumpkin chowder, apple-cheddar-walnut pasta salad, hummus, and snap peas.
  • "Vegetable Minestrone Soup" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes (an extremely tasty repeat from September). 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, orzo.
  • "Balsamic Chicken With Vegetables" from Andrea Chesman's fantastic Recipes from the Root Cellar (Storey Publishing, 2010). Ingredients: skinned bone-in chicken thighs, shallots, garlic, potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, carrots, rosemary.
  • "Creamy Fish Pie" also from Andrea Chesman's fantastic Recipes from the Root Cellar (Storey Publishing, 2010) with salad. Ingredients: cod, milk, peppercorns, bay, onion, potatoes, carrot, butter, Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar.
  • Another yummy "Illinois Prairie Chowder" mix prepared in my slow cooker with biscuits and salad. Ingredients: soup mix, turkey stock, potatoes, cream, shredded Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar, fresh ground black pepper.

04 November 2010

Cheap & Tasty

I am addicted to Planters NUT-rition Omega-3 Mix -- a salt-free blend of crunchy walnuts, sweet-tart dried cranberries, and yummilicious dark chocolate-covered soy nuts -- but I balk at the price. Staring despondently into an empty tin one afternoon, I wondered if I could create a cheaper, but equally tasty, clone of this nut mix.

From NutsOnline, I ordered one pound bags of:
  • Roasted Walnuts (Unsalted)
  • Whole Dried Cranberries
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Soy Beans
When my order arrived, I opened the bags and dumped them into my biggest mixing bowl. Gave everything a good mix and then portioned it out into storage containers. I filled five one-cup square tins for work and one big five-cup storage container for refilling and home snacking.

How does my clone taste? Very close to the original.
Is it really cost effective? I would consider it a good cost savings as it costs about half as much per ounce (37¢ instead of 70¢).

02 November 2010

Cheesy Rice & Bean Goodness

Halloween, I made "Corn, Black Bean, and Rice Burritos" from Good Housekeeping's Family Vegetarian Cooking for supper. These "burritos" were quite tasty and dead easy to make. I think they would serve well as a work night supper -- prepare them the night before and then pop them in the oven upon arriving home from work.

Rice & Black Bean Rollups

Ingredients: brown rice, low-sodium black beans, low-sodium corn, diced chiles, shredded Cabot Monterey Jack, Green Mountain Gringo Roasted Garlic salsa, reconstituted dried cilantro, flour tortillas.

Good Housekeeping says that it serves four, but I found one burrito per person worked just fine. I must admit I did tweak the recipe a little -- stirred the salsa into the rice filling, and topped the assembled with the remaining jar of salsa and shredded block of cheese as more cheese is always better. With less cheese, however, you might want to eat two?

(I think The Husband suspects there's something up as I served him three yummy meatless suppers last week. Oh, The Husband, if you only knew ...)

01 November 2010

Menu Plan Monday, 1 November

It's my birthday this Friday so not a lot of cooking this week and what there is will be easy slow cooker stuff. Oh, I love my little 3.5 quart slow cooker. It's the perfect size for two people, cleans up so easily, and I lovelovelove the timer and "warm" features. I used to think I didn't like slow cookers, but now I know I was just using the wrong one!

  • Super easy and delicious "Salsa Chicken" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes with rice and green beans. Ingredients: boneless chicken thighs, garlicky salsa, low-sodium black beans, low-sodium corn.
  • Mr. Bento packed with leftover corn chowder, unsalted Tam Tam crackers, cantaloupe, and Greek yoghurt.
  • "Cheesy Italian Tortellini" from Pillsbury's Slow Cooker Recipes with salad. Ingredients: whole wheat refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini, ground turkey, mushrooms, marinara sauce, Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, my salt-free Italian seasoning blend.
  • Ms. Bento packed with cantaloupe, Greek yoghurt, unsalted Tam Tam crackers, veggie dippers, and garlicky hummus.
  • My birthday -- The Husband gets to take me somewhere nice after work.