I am currently blogging about everything. Jump in where you are and thanks for coming by!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Miracle of the Pork Roast or One Roast, Three Ways

I know I started to talk about this in my previous post, but let me go into a bit of detail about my miraculous pork roast. I bought in sale at Publix for $1.59 per pound (which in my neck of the woods is very cheap). I was determined to make the most out of the meat, but since I am not a huge pork fan I was not relishing the thought of eating it several nights in a row. My best bet, I realized, was to make true "planned-overs" and transform the meat as entirely as I could from night to night.

Night one: Pork loin roast, simply seasoned and roasted. Next time I will cook it to a slightly lower temperature, because even though it had a generous layer of fat over it, I still felt it was *thisclose* to being too dry. I made asparagus and cabbage with the roast. (See previous post)

Night two: Pork Stew with multiple veggies served over mashed potatoes. My nearly dry roast was rehydrated in a flavorful veggie and chicken broth. I pan roasted the vegetables in a dutch oven, and salted them with kosher salt to help them break down. I tossed the cooked cubes of pork in flour with salt and pepper in it. As I cooked my Yukon Gold potatoes I also cooked a peeled and chopped parsnip in with them and mashed them all together. My husband is not terribly fond of parsnips, so I was looking for a way to use up my last one without having to confront hubby with the dreaded root vegetable. In the future I may add more parsnips to the potato party as no-one seemed to notice them. I am not really into all that "sneaky chef" stuff because if you are always "tricking" people into eating vegetables, they never learn to like them on their own. However, *I* like parsnips, so this way I can have them and not make a big deal. Huzzah. I brought the soup to stew consistency with a little slurry of cornstarch and water. I have also used arrowroot flour and water to make stew and I am fond of both as a thickener, they seem to thicken at lower temperatures than flour and you don't have to "cook" the flour flavor out of the food as much.

Night three: Pork BBQ, took the last third of the roast and put it on a dutch oven with oil, chopped onion, garlic and green pepper. Topped with with a generous amount of BBQ sauce and lots of Mr. David's pork rub, some ketchup and some mustard. (The mustard and ketchup were added to account for the fact I did not think I had enough BBQ Sauce.) The sauce application was to keep the meat from drying out during the re-heating and veggie cooking stage. Side dishes were steamed broccoli and leftover reheated mashed potatoes.

In keeping with my philosophy of offering a fruit and vegetable at every meal we also had apple sauce every night with dinner. Apple sauce and pork are a classic combination and this week made me remember why. The sweetness of the applesauce contrasted perfectly!

This roast provided 3 dinners and 6 lunches for a family of 2 adults and 2 children. (There is still pork stew in the fridge.) I estimate it was a 4-5 pound roast. I wish now I had noted the exact weight. Anyhow this proves my oft stated maxim that if you treat meat as a flavoring component and not the center of the meal you can get a lot more for your money. You just need sufficient veggies and starches. Other meals I could have prepared were pork fried rice and stir fry vegetables, or perhaps pork fajitas. This type of roast is also exceedingly easy to cut into your own pork chops, especially if you have an electric knife and a steady hand.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What we had for dinner, 12/9/09

Last night, pork loin roast, seasoned with David's special pork rub, thyme and onion powder. Asparagus spears (steamed), red cabbage and a bit of onion sauteed in pork cooking juices and a splash of apple cider vinegar (to keep the color red). The kids also had a side of apple sauce, since I didn't think the cabbage would be found very appealing. Both of them gave good faith efforts to the cabbage and B ate all of her asparagus. For dessert the kids had pound cake (Thanks Deana) and peaches with a tiny dab of whipped cream. DH had some too, but I didn't want any dessert.

Tonight, we have leftover pork turned into a pork stew with zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, parsnips, and onions. I may or may not serve this over mashed potatoes.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Things to Do

I think we all have day to day "to-do" lists, but I also have great big LIFETIME to do lists. Here is a sample...

*Learn to ride a motorcycle
*Learn how to knit
*Make some real clothing,(e.g. sewing, advanced)
*Travel to Italy, stay in a villa, gain 10 pounds
*Learn to snow ski
*Go surfing (learn to surf)

Those are some of the "fun" things on the list, there is also harder stuff.

*Be honest. Be really honest with people.
*Go to college
*Be financially responsible
*Face things I find challenging
*Stop bluffing.

Then there is some random stuff that I may or may never accomplish.

*Win an award that requires a ball gown to accept it
*Create a vegetable garden and cook and eat out of it
*Own a house with a wrap around porch
*Drive a semi-truck

My brain is feeling crunchy-fried right now, so I am not going to flesh this out more. What's on your life time list? Do you have one? Do you have a list of things you never want to do (again?)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cook Once, Eat Twice

"Cook once, eat twice" is my mantra; living by this simple principle allows me to make food for my family every night. Even on super-busy "book night and dance recital" sort of nights. Friday night I made a pot roast with oven-roasted veggies and green beans. I served the food and saved all the beef drippings and put them in a small glass bowl. Today I took the leftover roast and cubed it and dusted the cubes with flour. I took a stock pot and sweated some onions and celery, then I added a the beef cubes. After they browned I deglazed the pan with some red wine and added the reserved beef drippings, 1 c. of beef stock and some water (enough to cover the beef). After they came to a boil I added the leftover carrots from last night, then the leftover potatoes and then the green beans in the last 5 minutes. If the flour from the beef does not sufficiently thicken the broth you can add a tsp or so of cornstarch mixed with water to the stew. Salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pumpkin bread!

So, something happened to me the other day, something unexpected. The pumpkin patch at church had some bruised pumpkins they could not sell so they gave me one. A whole pumpkin. A great big, partly bruised and soggy pumpkin.

I gingerly brought it home; taking care to position its bruised side up from the car floor and bringing it upstairs like a bomb squad tech cradling a live grenade. I could just imagine losing my grip on it and seeing it smash Gallagher-like down the stairs.

When I got it to the kitchen I washed off the outside of the gourd and carved it into rough quarters. I removed the strings and seeds, combing my fingers through the gooey stringy pulp to remove seeds for roasting. This was my first cooking pumpkin, I wanted the whole experience. After the insides were cleaned out I chopped the quarters into big chunks and set it in a large pot to boil. When it came to a boil I reduced the heat to simmer and left the lid on for about an hour. I fished out the steaming hot pumpkin and cut off the rind and placed the pumpkin chunks in a mixing bowl. After they were all peeled I pureed them with an immersion blender and tried bagging one cup increments in sandwich baggies for freezing. At this point Lee asked if the (still extremely hot) pumpkin puree would melt the baggies. I panicked and threw the whole bowl into the fridge to take care of tomorrow.

Tomorrow of course turned into the day after (today) where I finished bagging the puree and reserved 2 cups for making 2 loaves of pumpkin bread. I found some recipes online but used my own best judgement to cobble together my own recipe. I have never made pumpkin bread before, but I have made quick breads, most often banana bread. Here is what I came up with...

It's the Great Pumpkin Bread!

2 C. pureed fresh pumpkin or
1 (16) oz. can pumpkin
1. C. white whole wheat flour
2 1/2C. regular all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups sugar or 1 1/2 C. white sugar plus 1/2 C. brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup water if you are using fresh cooked pumpkin
2/3 cup water if you are using commercial canned pumpkin
Makes 2 loaves.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together all dry ingredients. Add pumpkin puree, water, beaten eggs, oil. Mix just to combine (do not overwork). Add nuts if desired. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Pour batter into pans. Bake for approximately one hour or until loaves are a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out with a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before they are removed to a cooling rack to cool completely.

The smell as these babies cooked is just incredible! They were delicious. I am going to experiment and see how these freeze. Banana bread freezes well so I am sure these will as well.

I washed and dried the pumpkin seeds, then misted them lightly with olive oil. I toasted the seeds for about 20 minutes all together with frequent trips to the oven to rotate the pan and check for browning and doneness. I scooped the seeds off the cookie sheet with a spatula and placed them in a small brown lunch bag with a few teaspoons of salt. I shook them in the bag to coat with salt. My daughter loved them so much she has requested they be packed in her lunch. So I think my first pumpkin deconstruction went very well overall.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Random Pop Cultural Musings

Regardless of your political affiliation the Nation should be outraged by Tom DeLay's "dancing" on DWTS. I am even more outraged by the camera work focusing on his buttocks in the opening moments of the song.

Jon Stewart and the "Daily Show" have been having a good year, some great interviews, especially the one with Jim Cramer.

Project Runway, most boring season ever. Where the hell are Nina Garcia and Michael Kors?

Is it just me or is SYTYCD focusing less on the crazy auditions and more on the real dancers? I think so, and I approve whole-heartedly.

Neil Patrick Harris is my secret TV boyfriend and I have a budding girl crush on Felicia Day. Even when she is in those annoying Sears commercials.

Rachel Maddow rocks those glasses. She rocks them like a hurricane.

I sort of want to call 1-888-OOPS-JEW.

Martha Stewart's annual Halloween issue is looked forward to in this house with the fervor one usually associates with Christmas presents or birthdays.

I follow three cast members of ST:TNG and I especially love Wil Wheaton and I dream of the day he re-tweets me. The other two are LeVar Burton and Brent Spiner. So cool!

I don't always get Michelle Obama's high-waisted belts, but I love her personal sense of style. At least she is not robotically wearing solid color skirt suits and a strand of pearls.

Qaddafi at the U.N. -- Joan Rivers, melted in the sun, wrapped in butcher paper and placed on auto-babble. Even the translators sounded like "Really? WTF is this guy saying?!"

The frozen 360 degree view of the cast of CSI was actually kind of cool. I haven't watched an episode of that show since the Tarantino directed one.

ANTM is on the fence for me. This may be the last season I watch. I feel like Tyra needs to stop trying to make "smize" happen.

Dollhouse is on tonight, premiere at 9 p.m. Set the DVR's kiddo!!!

How about you guys? Anything out there in the pop-cultural universe I need to know about?

(Above image from wilwheaton.typepad.com )

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cooks and Books

My favorite things in the world are food and books and I definitely need both to live. Or I need both to live happily for sure. Here is a list of some books about food and even housekeeping that I find indispensable!

CookWise by Shirley Corriher, she deftly reveals the science behind recipes. Why does bread dough change with what type of flour you use? The answer (different levels of protein affect gluten formation) and a billion other answers are here.

Bernard Clayton's New Book of Bread (along with a few frantic phone calls to my friend Donna Lea) taught me to bake my own bread. Whole wheat, white, multi grain, veggie breads, they are all in here! Fabulous!

Seasoning Savvy by Alice Arndt (my cousin!) I go back to this book over and over again. It is an encyclopedia of information on herbs, spices and flavorings. My number one tip from this book is if your recipe calls for juice of a citrus add zest, if it asks for zest add juice. Wonderful. I miss her so much.

Salad People by Mollie Katzen, a children's cookbook with unique illustrations that allows even pre-readers to make their own food with minimal help from Mom and Dad.

Homekeeping Handbook by Martha Stewart, if I can't figure out how or when or how often to clean something guess who knows? Martha. She is my idol and I love her.

Big Book of 30 Minute Dinners by Better Homes and Garden, well before Rachel Ray I had this awesome little book filled with terrific weeknight dinners. I don't use it as much now, because I have absorbed the techniques and adapted them to my own cooking style and ingredients I have on hand.

And an indispensable resource online? www.savingdinner.com all recipes by LeAnn Ely. She is a mom and a nutritionist and her food is delicious and easy to make. You can sign up for a Menu Mailer to make grocery shopping and meal prep super easy! I like her 5 for the Freezer series. You make 5 meals in 20 minutes and freeze them for future use! I did some before I had Bela and they helped out on those frantic first few weeks home with the baby.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Healthy Fat

I have a picture of me at my absolute skinniest. I am sitting on my bed with Daus, he has brought me a rose as a goodbye gift. I am leaving for California soon. He didn't know but my abuela had just died that day. My eyes are shadowed from crying, and my hair is a mess. But when I look at the picture I notice my tiny bird-like little wrists. You can see my collar bone jutting out a bit. My shoulders are narrow. I am swimming in what I know intellectually was a size small t-shirt. But it is baggy on me.

I go to California and immediately kind strangers offer me diet and exercise tips to lose the extra weight. Some offer me diet pills, another tells me she counts every cracker out of the box and only consumes an exact serving. She spends lunch putting together cracker fragments to make whole crackers to count.

I come home for a visit. Everyone asks if I have been feeling okay. The bridemaid's dress I was measured for before I left has to be taken in a bit. I end up staying in Florida. I never return to California. Not even for a visit.

Gradually I put on weight, all my new clothes get tight. I keep a size 6 pink brocade corset-style top for a long time. Just to admire it, maybe, it hangs in my closet like a memento from a trip long ago.

My weight goes up and down. I get married. I have a baby, then 5 years later another one. Maternity clothes, transition clothes, I even had one of those dreaded velour tracksuits once in those long weeks between having the baby and wearing your old clothes again. Sometimes I lose weight and buy new pants. Sometimes I gain weight and wear the same 4 garments over and over till I break down and buy something comfortable. I have been in size XL tshirts for awhile. Even when I fit into an L shirt I buy bigger so they don't shrink and get too tight. I weigh myself at the doctor's office, but only when I am pregnant so I really don't know where I am at right now.

I want to begin a diet and exercise program. I really do. I think it would help me feel better, keep up with two little tornadoes I call my kids. Being in better shape would help me enjoy all the outdoorsy stuff we do here more. I might take up ballroom dance or learn to scuba dive. But mostly I want to live to be a really, really old lady and see my great-great grandkids. And flying cars. And the first nobody cares about his/her race/gender/orientation president, you know. Crazy future stuff!

But everytime I try and set some sort of goal I get scared, freeze up and pig out on chocolate. I want to be healthy, not a scary skinny super-model. I want to be happy, not hungry. I want to enjoy my life and enjoy my family, not be some exercise facist and give my kids' (both girls) some sort of complex. But everytime I put myself into the mindset, my brain goes back to the bad place, where I am always trying to lose about 30 pounds. Sad-eyed Suzanne, back there? The one holding the rose and trying to smile? Sad, wishes she could lose about 30 pounds and that belly pooch of hers. Skinny Suzanne, post baby 1 and after a year of breastfeeding? Wishes she could lose that last 30 pounbds of baby weight. 8th month pregnant Suzanne, moving her family almost single handedly from one house to another, as she hauls boxes and her giant belly upstairs and down; she wants to lose the baby weight plus about 30 pounds.

I think I have wanted to lose 30 pounds since I weighed 130 pounds, in grade school. And no matter how much I lose, there is always another 30 pounds to go, its like an infinite goal line that stretches ahead of me. I can never come near it.

So here's the thing... Can I be healthy fat? Can I just say, it doesn't matter what size clothes I wear? Can I just acknowledge that clothing size is an artificial construct of the fashion industry? Can I ignore my weight when I am in exercise and diet mode? Can I just move my body because I want to? Can I stop fantasizing about buying a bathing suit in some other color than sold black when I magically lose "all the weight"? Can I just be present, in this body, and be thankful to it for two healthy miraculous pregnancies and not deride it's stretch marks and saddlebags?

I really don't know. But I am going to try.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In which I take a vacation from Facebook

I tend to be a person who edits herself. Oh, not when I am speaking, no. Things, often very, very inappropriate things come flying out of my mouth at an unseemly rate. I once knocked over an unopened can of coke as I was ringing up the youngest, cutest professor at the bookstore of my hubby's law school. I apologized and urged him to be careful opening the can. He said, "Ah, if it gets on my tie, you mean I might have to take the darn thing off?" I said, "Yes, but what if it gets on your pants?"

So, in my writing, I tend toward careful editing. Its practically the only chance I get to think about what I am trying to say.

I have had some bad Facebook experiences with people who could perhaps use a bit more of an "editorial process". It started with everyone going bananas about Health Care reform. I posted links to several independent sources that pointed out, "Why no, Obama is not going to kill your grandfather." I want to debate the issues; I don't want to rehash the scare tactics. This began a 27 post reply process from many people I have known for years. Most of them were posting about their own trials and tribulations with insurance companies or the difficulty they have had getting insurance at all. However one of my friends, let's call him D compared my friend N's dying of AIDS (due to his inability to get quality health care or insurance) to D working to repair people's computers for free. What the what? We took a wrong turn down the free-market expressway with that one, baby. Somehow adding a non-profit component to the healthcare system is like you working on computers for free? And that won't work? Well, thanks for clearing THAT up. We can all rest easy, apparently to get rid of AIDS all you need to do is reboot and trust the invisible hand of the market.

Ted Kennedy's passing brought out a whole 'nother level of vitriol I was unprepared for. You know, when Nixon died, I would no sooner have trashed him to all of my friends than I would have travelled to his grave to dance a jig. Sure, Nixon was not my favorite president, but when someone dies you do not begin the wretched smack talk. I was raised to believe in basic civility. So after the last tasteless and horrific "joke" about his passing I decided to take a break. I'll be back. The lure of the "Crack"book is strong, but I won't be on as often ever again. It's a time drain and not necessary to my life. And apparently it brings out the crazy in a lot of people that I love. If I wanted that, I'd just go to a family reunion...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What do I do all day?

Somebody recently said my Facebook posts were looking awfully domestic lately. I immediately felt kind of sad and defensive. Here is a list of things I do every day.

*Clean things
*Feed people
*Run errands
*Watch the Daily Show

What could I be blogging about other than my "domesticity"? I am a stay at home Mom. I go to church almost every week. I volunteer at my daughter's school. I bake bread, I have recently taken up quilting. I buy organic foods at a co-op. I made a lot of my own baby food and my kid wears cloth diapers. Am I a tie-dye wearing hippie mama? No. Am I a calico-wearing quiverfull churchy mama? No. Am I a crisp shirted Martha Stewart perfectionist mom? Hahahahaha. No. Am I a modern day June Cleaver? No. Am I a "Yummy Mummy" with perfect hair and nails? Nope...

I'm just me, the same old Suzanne, now with two kids. I have frizzy hair and I rely on jeans. I am an intellectual who never finished college. I am a sci-fi loving nerd girl. I am a red lipstick loving diva. I am a reader and a poet. And of course, I am a very busy woman. I have to clean-up after and feed my kids so I try and make that as interesting as possible, teach myself new cooking techniques, create recipes, learn to bake. I haven't figured out a way to make the cleaning more fun but maybe soon. If I had more time or less children maybe I'd take up painting, or go back to acting, or do more with my writing. But I *do* have two kids that I love with all my heart. I just can't love them with all of my twisty-twirly brain. So, with no time to learn a new art, I apply my rather prodigious ambition to the domestic arts. In essence I am a multi-tasker, keeping myself and the kids amused, fed, educated and maybe, sometimes, on a good day, inspired. I make my kids laugh, they make me laugh. They teach me things, hopefully I am teaching them. Meanwhile the earth keeps turning, the dishes pile up, the sun goes down and another day ends. My sphere of domesticity leads me to think about things, why does bread love salt as we learn in King Lear, when I know now that salt kills yeast? Baking bread is chemistry and poetry, keeping the rainbarrel full and I am a meterologist. Reading the kids books; I am an early learning specialist. Applying bandaids and dispensing antibiotics; I am a nurse. I write thank you cards and christmas lists. I forge letters from the Tooth Fairy. I am still my husband's girlfriend and his best friend and I have a circle of long time friends whom I love and cherish. I am the big sister and the oldest daughter and the granddaughter that loves to watch the Oscars.

I am always me, the girl who could never settle down.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Florida Lobster and Stone Crab

The prices for these delicacies will be going way down this season, as supply is far outstripping demand. If you live where these items are sold, I suggest stocking up as they freeze beautifully. Also ask the fishmonger if they are fresh or previously frozen foods. Those of you living in Florida, this is the ultimate in "eat local" treats. The Stone Crab is not even killed to harvest the claws; talk about sustainable fishing! Each crab has one claw removed, which it then regenerates. It has its other claw to eat and protect itself with until next year. Florida lobster is also abundant. So eat up and protect our local fisherman in this economy, and enjoy some delicious, nutritious seafood!

Grilled Florida Lobster Tails

Cut along top and down the middle of tail with kitchen shears. Pull meat up and rest it on top of shell, rinse meat under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Top with a light seasoning blend such as Adobo and a small amount of butter. Grill until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. You can also add a bit of Florida Key Lime juice as tails cook.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Eggplant Eggstravaganza

I belong to an organic food buying co-op. Every Tuesday the kids and I go to the Health Food Store and pick up a big box of farm fresh goodies. I usually pick up towards closing time, when the give away box is pretty full. The give-away box is where people put stuff they don't want or can't use. For weeks there we got an extra head or two of collard green. Who gives away collards? People who don't know to cook them with bacon fat apparently. Anyhow, this week I scored some extra red peppers and Ellen told me if I came back tomorrow I could have an extra eggplant.

The next morning I stopped by on my way to story time at the library with the kids. She gave me 4 eggplants! I already had a HUGE eggplant at home. I managed to give away 2 eggplants to some friends at the library. I made a terrific batch of eggplant parmigiana, but now I still have 3 eggplants at home? What do I make now? I'd love to make some hummus and some baba ganoush, but finding tahini in our town is kind of like finding real breasts in Los Angeles.

I wish I knew some good eggplant side dishes, as Lee caught 4 lobster yesterday and we have some lovely grouper that will be our entree tonight. Today I research, but if anybody out there has any good ideas I'd certainly love to hear about them!

Brandy sent me a good Eggplant Parmigiana recipe, so without further ado...

Eggplant ala Brandy

Cut eggplant into rounds. Dip each round in a dish with beaten eggs, then roll each round in a pie pan with seasoned bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. Put eggplant pieces on a cookie sheet, bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Make your usual sauce, and boil pasta while they bake. Serve with a salad and dinner can be done in 20 minutes! I love that this parmigiana isn't fried! I felt like you could really taste the eggplant flavor. Each round was served on pasta, topped with a bit of sauce and a sprinkle of mozzarella.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blueberry Oatbran Muffins


1 2/3 C. fresh blueberries
2/3 C. of sugar
1/3 C. vegetable oil
1 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. oat bran
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use muffin cups or grease muffin tin well. Mix berries with sugar, oil and eggs until mixed. Stir in dry ingredients just until moist. Spoon batter into muffin tins. Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes on rack, loosen sides of muffins and take them out of the pan. Makes 6-8 muffins.

Now for the alternatives. If you do not have oat bran, use 1/2 C. of whole wheat flour or oat flour. Oat flour can be made by buzzing some whole oat meal in the food processor for a few seconds. I have also used strawberries in this recipe. Canola oil can be substituted for the vegetable oil. Also I use a scant 2/3 C. of sugar in the mix and add a dusting of sanding or sparkling white sugar (a coarse grained sugar) on the tops of the muffins before baking. It adds a lovely crunchy, shiny top.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Last Night's Dinner: A Festival of Antioxidants

Leftover "Soup"er Green Soup
Baked Salmon Patties
Sauteed Spinach
Fresh blueberries (for dessert)

The green soup is kind of a family legend at this point. Any green vegetables (and curiously always leeks) make it into the soup. You boil all your gorgeous green veggies in chicken or veggie stock, along with onion and carrot for sweetness. When everything is nice and soft, add salt/pepper to taste and blend it all together with a stick or immersion blender. Sometimes I top it with a little parmesan cheese or perhaps a spoonful of pesto. Any green herbs that take your fancy can be added as well, fresh towards the end of cooking time, dried herbs go in at the beginning. Examples of green veggies I have used include kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, peas, green beans, leeks, and green onions. This soup is wonderful for veggies that are starting to get a little past their prime. Alternatively, if you have some cooked broccoli left over from dinner the night before it can be thrown right into this.

The salmon patties were a HUGE gamble, but one that paid off. I loooove salmon so much, it's kind of sick, but I worry over environmental concerns associated with farmed salmon. Wild caught salmon is very expensive... unless it is canned. Canned salmon is kind of dicey in how you prepare it. You don't want it to taste canned or "off". These salmon patties went together very easily, and baked up beautifully. I think all the fresh ingredients, especially the lemon juice added a nice flavor and kept things moist. Recipe is included at the bottom of the post.

I sauteed the spinach with diced yellow onion in bacon fat I have been saving in the fridge. Yeah, I did, and your grandmother probably did too. Maybe she just kept an old Crisco container on the back of the stove filled with "drippings". One tablespoon of the stuff won't kill me, and it won't kill you either and it adds silky, yummy, clingy fat and a lovely smokey flavor. So there.

Salmon Patties (found this on about.com, but it was uncredited)


1 can (16 ounces) salmon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
cold water
2 med. eggs, beaten
dash pepper
1 slice bread, fine crumbs
1/4 cup finely minced celery (with leaves)
2 tablespoons finely minced green onion
1 tablespoon finely minced bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola)

Preheat oven to 350°. Drain salmon, reserving liquid. Discard skin, but save bones. Flake salmon lightly, but well, with a fork. Crush bones and mix with the salmon.
Add the lemon to the reserved salmon liquid and enough cold water to make 1/2 cup liquid; add to the salmon. Add all remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Form into 4 patties. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

** I used three 6 oz. cans for a total of 18 oz. of fish. I lacked bell peppers, added diced carrot. I lacked green onions, subbed in green shoots from a sprouting onion growing in my garden. I was also missing celery entirely. I could have used some celery seed spice, if I had any. I crumbled up fresh bread to make crumbs but it kind of disappeared. I added in 1 tablespoon of seasoned bread crumbs also topped patties with those crumbs to add some "crunch". Also re-reading this recipe today I never saw that it called for baking powder at ALL! Apparently you won't miss it. Hm. Next time I will lightly oil the pan as the patties kind of stuck a little.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back to school

I went back to school "shopping" in my kid's art box. It is a three drawer plastic cart that holds various arts/crafts items, which at any given time can be markers, ribbon, glue, macaroni, tin cans, balloons, straws, sticker, crayons or small twigs. It is usually some simmering polyglot of all of the above. Many hours later I had retrieved enough pencils to last her through till college, a gallon size bag of markers and all of the pens I can never find when I need to take a message. You can see some of my haul here. Now all she needs from the store is a plastic pencil case, back-pack, 2 folders and some glue. Yay!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy Accidents

Tonight's dinner was a snap decision. I was looking at a single quick-thaw chicken breast, onions and garlic, some bacon, leftover spaghetti noodles, some mushrooms and a can of artichoke hearts. I knew there was a good dinner here, I just needed to find it.

When in doubt, fry bacon. I put three strips in the pan. My oldest wandered up and said, "Mommy can you not cut up my bacon? I want a slice all for my own." I love this kid. I told her the chopped bacon would be in everyone's dinner. She then asked for a slice of bacon for dessert! I took the bacon out and put it on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. I added the chopped onions and garlic to the sizzling bacon fat. The kitchen was starting to smell really good now. I suddenly remembered the quickly decomposing half a lemon I had in the back of the fridge and I ran to get it. Ducking into the fridge I spotted the lemon and an open bottle of white wine. Grabbing these I ran back and deglazed the pan with lemon juice and a dash of the wine. To this I added my chopped mushrooms and then the opened, drained can of artichoke hearts. I threw in the leftover spaghetti and fearing a lack of fat I added a tablespoon or so of butter as I sauteed. By now the chicken breast was thawed, I seasoned it all over with lemon pepper and placed it in a hot pan with olive oil. When it was cooking I added some more lemon juice from my now husk of a lemon rind. I removed the chicken to plate, cut into bite size pieces and added it to the other pan with all my now yummy sauteed ingredients I heated them all together till I was positive the chicken was cooked through. I cut up my bacon strips with kitchen shears and added them in at this point. At the last moment I covered it all in salt and pepper and a generous helping of parmesan cheese.

When I first started cooking on my own, I read a lot of recipes, and I still do. However I was never afraid of using a recipe as a jumping off point, or trying an "experiment" just to see how things came out. At this point after cooking for my family for 9 years I trust myself and my ability to match flavors. This has actually made me enjoy cooking more, as it frees me from the burden of much measuring or studious gathering and sourcing of ingredients. I see what I have on hand and start from there. I waste less food this way (see my lemon carcass above) and I make fewer trips to the store for a single ingredient. I do rely on recipes for a number of things; I am not baker enough to whip up my own improvised bread dough for instance. But I hope some day I could be!

So how did this crazy mess come out? Wel,l I did use three different kinds of fat, for those of you keeping score at home, that had to improve my odds. Frankly, this might have been the yummiest thing I have ever made for myself. After the first bite I was secretly hoping the kids would decide it was "yucky" and let me eat theirs while I made them hotdogs; but it was not to be. These ingredients made exactly 4 bowlfuls, parcelled out three bears style, with the baby getting a tiny bowl, Sarah getting a small bowl, Mama getting a medium bowl and Daddy getting a big bowl. And it was all juuuuusssst right!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Seasoning Savvy

Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook With Herbs, Spices, and Other Flavorings by Alice Arndt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book has the research and information of an encyclopedia, the detail of a quirky travelogue, and a lovely companion in the voice of the author. Speaking of rosewater Alice Arndt writes, "The classic Persian combination of rose water and saffron is so luscious that it's almost embarrassing."

The scope of this work is to synthesize information on herbs, spices and flavorings from around the world and throughout history. It reads like a novel; I find myself returning to it again and again to peruse the entries as though leafing through a beloved story.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, July 13, 2009

Variation on a theme of Meatloaf

Meatloaf is something I make pretty much once a month. But I never make it the same way twice. It changes with the seasons or my whims or by what's on sale at the market. My grandmother's recipe called for a blend of ground pork and ground beef. I usually use a blend of ground turkey and ground chicken. I sometimes still use beef if it is on sale; my next experiment will be using ground cooked lentils which I have heard works well in some ground meat recipes.

Meatloaf Variation 1: Just like Mom used to make
Mix ground meats together (about 1.5 pounds total) add chopped onion, garlic, and celery. (These veggies, especially in concert have proven anti-cancer properties). I then add montreal steak seasoning and worcestershire sauce, some seasoned bread crumbs, and 2 beaten eggs. Place in a well greased loaf pan (or one lined in foil) and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Variation 2: Use this super-straightforward type of meatloaf as a base and use any or all of these ways to trick it out. Include different veggies, such as carrots (well diced), chopped tomatoes, shredded zucchini, or anything else you have on hand. This is a great food to "hide" extra nutrition in as the ground beef is super kid friendly and the tiny bits will not be noticed. You can use oatmeal instead of bread crumbs. I have even used smashed blueberries in meatloaf with none the wiser. Some ground cold pressed flax seed will just disappear in here as well.

Meatloaf Variation 3: Make either type of meatloaf (or your own mystical blend) and pack meatloaf into individual well greased cupcake/muffin pans. These cook quicker than a whole loaf, maybe 40 minutes? Turn them out onto a plate when baked. Everybody gets their own individual meatloaf. My daughter once requested a cupcake for dinner, frosted with macaroni and cheese and topped with a propellor. I made these meatloaf cupcakes, "frosted" with super cheesy sticky mac and cheese and sliced bacon into thin strips to create the propellors. What can I say? She had gotten a GREAT report card and I did say she could have anything she wanted for dinner.

A list of things I make for dinner

We subsisted on leftovers this weekend, but I did cook all week. I also posted on Facebook about a couple of my baking projects. I got a lot of oohs and ahhs over the homemade pizza I made, and a lot of comments about the bread I baked (Farmhouse White from the Year In Bread Blog).  Dana asked if I would post what I make for dinner because she "makes the same things over and over".

The thing is, I think I do too! And furthermore, I think it's a really good idea to do it. If you have some good go-to recipes it can take a lot of the headaches out of food prep, you can buy in bulk for certain items that you make all the time, and you have a good base of foods for experimenting.

Things I make all the damn time:

Roasted whole chicken
Black bean and chicken burritos
Chicken soup
Vegetable soups
Mac and Cheese
Baked fish
homemade pizza
stir fry/fajitas
beans and rice
dinner salad

I will start with one easy-peasy menu for a quick but impressive dinner:

Tastes-like Homemade Tomato soup
1 can tomato soup
1 can diced tomatoes
1 package french onion soup mix
1 pt. heavy whipping cream

Heat up soup in sauce pan, add can of undrained tomatoes, stir in onion soup mix, when all is heated and bubbly, turn down heat and add heavy whipping cream.

Now, I have made this soup with sauteed diced fresh onions, a dash of beef bullion, and some milk when I lacked other ingredients. I have used the Italian diced tomatoes, never tried the mexican style diced tomatoes, but I bet it would be good too. The thing is when diced tomatoes go on sale for buy one get one, I stock up! Same thing goes for soup; I try to have these ingredients on hand all the time. My husband's half and half that he likes for coffee also works well in this recipe, we buy it in the largest size available and use it for coffee and cooking and baking.

Next for dinner: Simple salad:

Freshest greens you have
homemade vinaigrette dressing:
use a 3-1 ratio of oil to vinegar
add a dab of good mustard
mix all in a lidded container and shake to combine. 3 - 1 ratio can be anything from tablespoons to gallons, just depends on how much you want to make. Use the same measure for both and you cannot go wrong. But what oil? What vinegar? I dunno. What do you have on hand? About the only thing I can say is don't use regular white distilled. Rice wine works well, balsamic, apple, red wine whatever. Olive, vegetable, sunflower oils all work fine. If you have sad kind of wilt-y salad greens, you can soak them in a sink of ice water with a slug of the cheap distilled vinegar and get back that lost turgor pressure! Crispy greens in 20 minutes!

Beggar's Purses: believe it or not a Martha Stewart Recipe
1 can of croissants
1 bag of baby bel cheese
dijon mustard
chopped nuts

Pop the can of croissant dough. Instead of separating into triangles pinch closed the seam and make squares. In center of each square add 1 unwrapped baby bel cheese, 1 dab of dijon mustard, and a few chopped nuts. Pull dough closed at the top and pinch shut. It will kind of look like a little bag. (Martha ties her with ribbon and tops with an egg wash, I skip that step) Bake according to package directions in oven. YUMMY goodness in like 12 minutes.

If you don't have croissant dough, take leftover bread (even bread ends) spread with butter and top with cheese and put under the broiler until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

These three dishes have never failed to impress the heck out of guests, family, my landlord, neighbors. Thanks to my MIL Deana for the tomato soup and beggar's purse recipes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Things to Top Casseroles With

Sometimes you're supposed to top a casserole with toasted bread crumbs, and you don't have any bread to toast and then to um, crumb..le? Anyhow a list of alternative crunchy toppings.

*panko breadcrumbs
*crumbled saltines
*crumbled ritz
*corn flakes
*cornbread crumbles
*smashed croutons

Or, you know, always keep some bread in the freezer!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lists, a love story

I make lists. Lots of lists, some I write down, some lists live in my head. I make lists of things to do, things to eat, places to go, things to eat when I go some place, lists of things to try, buy or see. I make grocery lists, packing lists, and lists of reasons that I love my husband.

I think the above paragraph is a list of my lists.

This little blog is a place for my lists. Yay me!