Monday, June 27, 2011

Killing as many birds as I can with this stone.

Today we are settling back into our routine after a 3 day excursion driving through beautiful Kentucky. The laundry was tackled yesterday... today is meal preparation for the week.

We returned home to a totally stressed out dog, and even though he was more than well taken care of by my in-laws, he is still a bit psychotic. I won't go into details, but lets just say our dog Charlie will be eating a special diet for the next few days until he gets back to somewhat normal.

So the morning started off with boiling chicken and cooking rice for Charlie's tumultuous tummy.
I pulled 3 chicken breast aside for us to make some delicious chicken salad for lunch for the Mister and myself.

Balsamic Chicken Salad
3 cooked chicken breast
1 - 2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup of relish or chopped up pickles
about a 1/3 Cup of mayo (enough to just barely cover the chicken, not coat it)
salt & pepper
fresh basil and oregano leaves
serve over fresh greens with diced roma tomato

Makes enough for 2 to 3 servings depending on the size of the chicken breast you use.

I saved the broth from the cooked chicken to start my stock for the week. I may as well as make it while the stove is still hot, right? I tossed in the remaining bulb of garlic that was trying to root itself right there in the basket, along with the bottoms of a few celery stalks since the girls were having ants on a log for lunch. Finally, I threw in the bottoms and tops of the carrots I was preparing for the next two weeks.  I tossed half the peels in the stock and the other half in the compost.

Our family eats about 5 lbs of carrots in 2 weeks. I shred a third to use for salads, soups, stir-fry and baked goods that we will eat during the week. Another third is cut into carrot sticks to snack on when the mood strikes and the final third is sliced, blanched (5 to 7 minutes) and frozen.

We ended up with 3 jars of broth. This will last a little over a week for us.

When we returned we found ourselves with some very dark strawberries and 4 brown bananas. Since we are all out of nuts I went with a new version of the banana bread I usually make.

Smoothie Bread
4 mashed bananas
1 Cup blueberries
3/4 Cup strawberries
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1 Cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 Cup oats
1/3 Cup flaxseed
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter

Bake 350 degrees for about an hour. Makes 2 short loaves.

I used the remaining strawberries to make a strawberry vinaigrette for salads this week and a bit of strawberry syrup for pancakes.

I set aside about a cup of the rice I made for Charlie this morning to make rice pudding for breakfast tomorrow.

Rice Pudding
1 Cup cooked brown rice
1/4 brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Cup almond milk

Cook over medium heat 15-20 minutes.

Marathon cooking day... but at least we have a good start for our week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making Ahead

Our herb garden is in serious abundance these days. Time to make pasta sauce!

Simple Sauce:
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
2- 3 T olive oil
about 1 lb of ground beef
7 roma tomatoes
handful of shredded carrots
1 celery stalk
handful of chopped fresh spinach
handfuls of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
salt & pepper
1 tspn half & half
1 tspn sugar
water (or broth)
parmesan and mozzarella cheese

In a large pot saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Add ground beef and cook until done. Chop 3 roma tomatoes and toss them in pot. Chop the remaining 4 romas and toss them in the food processor or blender and blend to an almost but not quite smooth consistency. Add the pureed tomatoes and other veggies to the pot. Chop herbs, taking out stems (unless you don't mind them). Throw in pot with remaining ingredients. I add about 1/3 Cup of water or broth to thin out the sauce a bit. Cover and bring to boil.Then lower heat and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes.
Cook your rotini... I used about 3 Cups, give or take.  When the pasta is near done, drain and toss in the pot with the tomato sauce, mixing the noodles and sauce together well. This is a good time to give it a taste and add any additional spices you might think it needs. In my case, it was salt and some fresh basil. Remove pot from heat and place in casserole dish.

I layer my noodles and sauce mixture with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Bake 30 to 35 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

This makes about 12 servings, which will feed our family of four 3 times. You can divide it up and freeze it or just have a pasta-eating marathon for the next few days.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

If your kitchen smells like bourbon at 8:30 in the morning, it must be Father's Day.

I'm trying out this recipe for Bourbon Chicken Wings today. I'll let you know how it goes.

Have a beautiful day!

I totally abandoned the recipe. What can I say... I really wanted to use my crockpot.
I rinsed the wings and salt & peppered them and then drizzled a mixture of bourbon and honey over the chicken. Broiled for 7 minutes, flipped and broiled the other side for 7 minutes.

After they were cooked, I tossed them in the crockpot with a bbq mixture that seemed right to me.

Bottle of KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce
1/3 Cup of Bourbon
1/3 Cup of Honey
about a Tablespoon of lemon juice
Garlic powder, salt & pepper

They simmered on low for 4 to 5 hours. They were awesome... but I felt like they could have been a little better. Next time I will marinate the chicken in worcestershire sauce and soy sauce overnight. And I will definitely be adding some hot sauce to the mixture. Also, after making the recipe I realized that I had a great recipe for BBQ sauce.... too late... maybe next time.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Food Budget

Everyone talks about ways to save money on your grocery bill... I'm not going to try to re-invent the wheel. But... I will tell you what we do.

We buy most of our food in bulk. We purchase our meat once a month.We have a local meat market that is pretty great. Dumas is a short drive for us and well worth it. They offer large bundles but we haven't committed that much to are our carnivorous ways just yet so we usually buy 1 pound of bacon,  5 lbs ground beef and 10 pounds of chicken breast.

Every two weeks we hit Sam's club. I stock up on the huge bags of shredded cheddar and mozzarella and a very large block of colby cheese. Cheese freezes well so it gets divided up and pulled from the freezer as we need it. The cheese usually lasts close to a month. I usually get a large bag of tilapia and salmon for the month as well. We also buy most of our produce in bulk. Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, salad, and oranges. We usually will munch right through this in about a week to a week an half but I try to freeze some to stretch us out to two weeks. We buy the large bags of garden rotini pasta and brown rice and that lasts us a long while... maybe 3 to 4 weeks.

After I divide out all my meat, I count how many dinners I have. This month is 11 chicken dinners and 6 to 7 beef dinners. We eat tilapia or salmon twice a week.   The rest of the month we will eat pasta, pizza, egg, beans and vegetable dishes for dinner. If there is a special occasion I will stop back at Dumas and pick up steaks or lamb.  I make meal plans, but rarely stick to them. We stop at the grocery once a week and spend $40-$50 in little things like milk, condiments, butter, etc. We are a family of 4 and we spend roughly $350 a month in groceries. I have gotten this much lower in the past but everyone complains about being hungry and hating what I make. This is what works for us for now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Way We Eat

I think about food constantly. One because I'm looking at the belly of the third trimester of this pregnancy and two because the majority of my day is occupied by preparing and cleaning up food.  I like the way we eat, but I wish it were better. I think that is true for most of us. I wish we could grab eggs from our own chickens in our own backyard, but our city doesn't allow it. I wish we grew all of our own food, but we just aren't there yet. I wish what we did have to buy was all organic, but we just don't have the budget for it all the time. Ideally there would be more fruits and vegetables and less starchiness.

Growing up my mom made dinner every night and my dad made breakfast on the weekends. We ate the same every night. Meat. Potato. Vegetable. Usually in the form of a breaded and pan-fried pork chop, real mashed potatoes and veggies from a can. My mom worked long days in a factory and when she got home, I'm sure the last thing she wanted to do was put a lot of time and energy into dinner. So she consistently made the same things that were cheap to buy and she knew we would eat. Makes sense, right? We never ate chicken or pasta of any kind. It was either ground beef or pork tenderloins. We never ate salad. It was canned green beans or corn. It wasn't uncommon to have mashed potatoes, boxed macaroni and cheese and bread with butter in one meal. And we drank 2% milk every night with dinner period.  We never ate breakfast. We had pb & j packed sandwiches for lunch with crackers and money for juice. On the weekends we grilled or my dad made a pot of chili.

It wasn't until I was married did I realize that I had absolutely no idea how to cook and no clue to eat well. I was given a Better Homes and Garden Cookbook as a wedding gift. I balked at it. And then one day I was forced to open it and figure out how to feed myself and another person on a very tight budget. I still use this cookbook to this day... it's one of my favorites. (Thanks Aunt Nancy!)

Having children drastically changed my views on food. I think I may have gone a little crazy, to be honest. Our first born ate only organic for almost the first 3 years of her life. I remember almost biting through my jaw when my mother gave our daughter instant mashed potatoes. We planned our vacations contingent upon a natural food store being nearby. It was a slightly manic time for me.

My husband was vegetarian for the first 8 years we were married. While some may have found this challenge exciting and a great way to express their creativity... I was bored and frustrated. I was making three different meals for each of us... and none of them were anything that I was proud of.

Over the past few years I have tried to make food that I feel good about. I gave myself permission to screw up. To burn meals. To try things that weren't in cookbooks... and this has been an awakening. I love to cook now. I love the heat from the oven and bubbling of a pot and the way onions and garlic fill my house with a smell that makes my mouth water every single time.

Tonight I made dinner with my mother on my mind. Simple and easy.
 Meat. Potatoes. Vegetables.

Meat: Pan fried Chicken Breast
Coat a frying pan with olive oil. Drop 3 chicken breast into pan. Add 1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce. 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce and a couple shakes of garlic powder and black pepper. I usually end up cutting my chicken right in the pan to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

Potatoes: Russet Potatoes
Par-boil 3 to 4 medium size sliced potatoes for 5 - 10 minutes until tender but not completely soft. Drain water. Add a bit of olive oil and 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook Potatoes until they reach the doneness you like. For us, that's crispy and brown. Top with parmesan cheese.

Vegetable: Green Beans
Place 2 to 3 Cups of frozen cut green beans in pan. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter and a nice pinch of salt. Cover with lid and let cook until medium softness. Top with parmesan cheese.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ranger Cookies

These are my favorite cookies.... ever.

1/2 Cup butter, softened
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/14 Cup flour
1 Cup rolled oats
1 Cup coconut, chopped
1 Cup raisins

Mix together. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or so.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pizza Dough

My father-in-law made pizza every Friday night for his family. I love this. I love having a night of the week that we know what to expect and so we try to continue this tradition by having a family night every Friday... complete with pizza and a movie.

Simple Recipe:
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 Cup warm water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 to 3 Cups of all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix together yeast & water together and wait about 10 minutes for yeast to activate. Add salt, oregano and garlic powder. Then add flour in little by little mixing dough into a nice elastic ball shape dough. Cover and let sit in oiled bowl for 20 - 30 minutes to rise.  On a floured surface work dough into the shape you of pizza you like. Let rise another 10 minutes or so. Brush crust with olive oil.  Bake 425 for 10  minutes. Remove from oven and add whatever sauce, cheese and topping you like. Bake another 10 minutes. I usually broil my pizzas for about 5 minutes at the end to get the cheese all nice and bubbly.  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blueberry Almond Struesel

There is an evil temptress in the grocery store... well there are many, actually. But lately, it has been anything made by Entemanns. Every time I walk by one of those blue and white boxes my mouth waters and I stare into the plastic window and pine after the fat sweetness that sleeps inside. Here is my own version of something sweet and beautiful.

I started with a simple Muffin Recipe.   Added 1 1/2 Cups frozen blueberries, thawed and 1 Cup of crushed almonds. I used almond milk in place of milk.   Then, I poured the (thick) batter in a greased 9" cake pan and topped with a small version of an adapted fruit crisp recipe:

1/2 Cup Oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons butter

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Check insides with toothpick to make sure it's fully cooked all the way through.  After the giant muffin was cooled I topped with yummy icing.

1 Cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla
2 - 3 Tablespoons vanilla almond milk

Mix together. Adding more milk to make thinner. Drizzle.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Almond Biscotti

The last time I made biscotti was about 10 years ago. We were about to open our little coffeehouse. We thought muffins, scones and biscotti should be simple enough. 10 years later... we make the muffins. Making biscotti is time consuming.... But, if you have an afternoon and you are in the mood for baking, this recipe is fantastic. I drizzle a little bit of almond-vanilla icing over the top for a little extra sweetness.

1 Cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoon of almond milk
Mix together. Add more milk if you like it thinner, more powdered sugar if you like it thicker.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bacon & Egg Salad Sandwiches

Nothing fancy... just what we are eating these days.

makes 6 sandwiches. takes about 20 minutes to prepare

7 eggs, hard boiled
2 spoonfuls of mayonnaise
1 spoonful of relish
6 sandwich buns (yes... sadly mine are store-bought)
6 slices of bacon, cooked
1 roma tomato, sliced

on the side: dill pickles and colby cheese 

Monday, June 6, 2011


Since I started contributing to this blog there has been one glaring habit that I realize about my cooking... I do not measure anything. I just add ingredients until it looks right. So I'm going to post a recipe for granola that was the inspiration for the granola that I made over the weekend.

From the book: Recipes for a Small Planet

1/2 Cup honey
1/2 Cup oil
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup sesame seeds
1 Cup soy grits
1 Cup wheat germ
2 C unsweetened coconut, grated
7 C rolled oats

This recipe calls for heating up the oil, honey and vanilla in a large saucepan or dutch oven then baking at 350 for 15 minutes. I don't do that. I did something like this:

6 Cups oats
about 1/3 Cup sesame seeds
about 1/3 Cup sunflower seeds
about 1 Cup raisins
about 1/3 Cup milled flaxseed
about 1/3 Cup honey
about 1/2 Cup brown sugar (I ran out of honey in the middle of this recipe)
about 1/3 Cup grated coconut
about 1 Cup of chopped walnuts
a bunch of vanilla (maybe 6 or 7 Tablespoons? that's totally a guess)
and enough olive oil to lightly coat the batch

I baked my granola in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or so, stopping to stir the mixture every 7 to 10 minutes. This makes a huge batch. I fill up a one gallon container with a nice tight lid and we munch on it for breakfast, as a snack or use as toppings for desserts and muffins. I'll try to do a better job of making notes and keeping track of what I'm actually throwing in there in the future. I said try. No promises.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Carrot Oat Muffins

When I look up recipes for carrot muffins I find a lot of recipes for carrot cake..... What I'm looking for is a healthy yummy crunchy recipe that tastes likes carrots, because I happen to like carrots a lot. I haven't found one that I really like yet... so I made one up.

When I make up recipes from scratch I try to make them as simple as possible so that I can remember them without having to look them up again. I try to keep the measurements to something I will remember and that looks like the right proportion when I throw it in the batter. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't. This combination worked out extremely well for the first round.

If you want to try them out below is the recipe... but I warn you they do not taste like carrot cake. As much as I love pineapple and cream cheese I omitted them for something more breakfast-y. They taste like crunchy carrot granola bars in muffin form.... my sweet toothed kids loved them.

 (this particular batch of muffins are heart shaped)

2 Cups shredded carrots
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts
1/2 Cup ground up oats (I toss mine in the food processor first)
1 Cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 stick of butter, softened
1 Cup of wheat flour
1 Cup of all purpose flour
1/3 Cup flaked coconuts, chopped up
1/3 Cup milled flaxseed
1/3 Cup raisins
1/3 Cup of applesauce

Bake 350 for 20-25 minutes