Monday, January 31, 2011

Everyday Food

If you've got 12 bucks and want easy, varied recipes then subscribe to this: Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

I got this over a year ago because I had some United miles that were going to expire. (I also got the "parenting" magazine Cookie. This was the single most inane "parenting" literature I have ever laid eyes on. With the exception of Gwyneth Paltrow's ridiculous, self-absorbed, oblivious, privileged blog, GOOP. Gwennie thinks she's a "working mom." Yeah. I get that she works. And is a mom. No. Sorry. Anway. Go there for a laugh. The feelings I have on Gwyneth are varied and lengthy, I'll spare you....)

But. Back to the issue at hand (Get it? Issue? Cause its a magazine? Oh hush.). Despite my Grandma Kits' opinion of ol' Marth*, Everyday Food has easy, time conscious recipes that arrive in your mailbox just as you're starting to get bored. Once a month I go through it right away and dog-ear probably two weeks worth of recipes, then take my shopping list directly from the magazine.

Well worth $12 for those of us who rarely make the same recipe twice.

*Kits was the sweetest woman you'll ever meet, always proper, always something nice to say about the situation. But she didn't miss a thing. One day in the mid-90s, Kits was in the kitchen while two rooms away my aunt and I were discussing some of Martha's pros and cons. All of a sudden, sweet Kitser calls out, "That Martha Stewart! She's a drunken slut!" Hee.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weeks Two and Three - the Finale.

Oh my laws, you guys. I am going to have to make Thursdays grocery shopping night, because these two are comedy gold!! Totally without intention, I ended up in the same lane as last week with my favorite checker/bagger duo.

Just as I noticed it was them and was wondering if the dentist had, in fact, punched the guy in the face, the woman in front of me says to Mutt and Jeff, "Could you two quit talking? You'd work faster that way."

HAHAHA! It's true.  But still: HAHAHA! So they clam up and start working fast enough that the glaciers stopped passing us. Jeff the Bagger, who I would place as a senior in high school with hair that weighs more than the rest of him, apologizes to the woman and accepts her conciliatory efforts with a little sucking up so as to avoid being written up. And also, I think his mama just raised him right. He's got the "I wanna be a rebel, but I'm just too sweet and middle class" vibe. But Mutt.....oooooh, doggy. Mutt is not having it. He is glaring. And barely waits til she's out of earshot before unloading on me. I'm non-committal, but friendly.

Mutt is not a nice boy. Mutt is a dweeby "rebel." Jeff looks up to him because he's older, but eventually sweet Jeff is going to realize that it's kind of lame to be a 30 year old checker whose main source of ego is teenage baggers who ask you to buy ironic beers for them.

Anyway. Away we go! So far for the next two weeks, we already have in the freezer (sides are yet to be made):
  - Chicken and Spanish Rice with green beans (Husband liked this, I thought it was good though it
 needed a little something more, and is not worth the time. The rice actually took much longer to cook than the recipe indicates and threw the timing all off.)
  - White Chili with a green salad
  - Shrimp Fried Rice (ahem) with asparagus
  - Layered Mexican Chicken with a green salad

So for today's extravaganza:
 -Marinated Chicken Breasts, with the jicama and apple salad that was a big hit last week
 -Marinated Tilapia with make-ahead coleslaw that keeps for a week
 -Moroccan Root Vegetable Stew (a fave of mine from Moosewood) and a quinoa salad
 -Pork Chops and Apples with a wild rice salad
 -Italian Polenta Casserole with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad (instructions to be rendered to Cousin)
 -Turkey Meatloaf with whipped sweet potatoes

Let's boogie.
I was waiting on a turkey meatloaf recipe from a friend, she swears it's awesome, but it's not forthcoming, so I'll have to Google one. The chicken, fish and pork chops are mostly marinating - toss shtuff in a bag with some meat. You know - classy. I'm going to get the stew moving, since I think that takes some time to simmer and I can work on other things in the mean time.

We'll start with our standard Rock Concert Movement Number One: Chop onions! Woo hoo! I need coffee beans. My hands have not stopped smelling of onions since we started this little experiment.

Two cups for the stew and one "jumbo" onion for the casserole (Seriously? Jumbo? That's just weird. But whatevs.) Ready, go!

GREY ONION! Kahhhhhhnnnnn!!!!

And chopping 5 cloves of garlic, except I'm doing 6 because there's no such thing as too much garlic.

Hmmm....What does it mean when your super cheap grocery store soup pot burns the olive oil almost instantly and then looks like this:

Nothing good, I'm guessing.

Soup is simmering. I'm going to do the non-stovetop marinades while that bubbles away. For the pork marinade, you've probably guessed that I'm anti-"egg product," so I'm going to use one egg and a little water instead. Google says you can freeze raw egg. And if you see it on Google, it can't be wrong. Did you feel that? That was the entire librarian community shuddering.

I'm sure you've also guessed I'm not about to buy "pre-sliced apples" - in part because I once left an open bag of those apples from McDonald's in the car for over a week. Do you know what happened to them? Nothing. Nothing happened to them. They didn't even get the slightest bit brown. Ew. So I'm slicing four actual apples for this recipe. One for each person...assuming the 2 and 5 year old eat baked apples.

I'm only using 1/8 cup of brown sugar because I know I don't have the full serving of apples and just because less sugar is good. I also added a little lemon juice, because I'm feeling saucy today.

Of course, peeling and slicing all those apples means I only got the pork done while the soup was cooking. But now - now is the time on Sprockets when we dance. Because! It's immersion blender time!!! Yay. If a recipe ever makes blending optional, I just read it as a mandate. Because I never pass up an opportunity to immersion blend. Helloooooooo, Nurse!
That's sexy.

On to the Italian Polenta Casserole. I'm a little apprehensive about this one. Reports on the Good Housekeeping Butternut Lasagna were that it was pretty bland. Fine, but not particularly yummy. And the GH Spanish Rice and Chicken last night was also fine, but not particularly flavorful. However, the Stuffed Peppers from Good Housekeeping were phenomenal in my book. So I'm going to give it a shot, but three strikes and you're out GH. Just sayin'.

Aaaaaand, again with the microwave. GH hates the stove top. Once again I'm just following the package directions to make the polenta on the range. Oops. I put all 6 cloves of garlic in the soup. Ha! Oh well. I'm upping the garlic, and adding white pepper and salt to the onions to try to preemptively bump the flavor. (*It worked. We had this for dinner tonight and it was good. What you'd expect out of something called Italian Polenta Casserole, in a good way)

Turkey meatloaf recipe procured on Epicurious. It has 5 forks from over 400 reviews, so I'm going to go ahead with it. Then do the Chicken and Tilapia marinades and move on to the sides. And according to my newly-cooking friend (the woman didn't own a whisk til recently. Or a spatula, she claims she didn't even know what a spatula was....anyway, according to her...) as long as you're cooking, you can drink. You know, like Julia. It is afternoon....(relax, Mother, I'm kidding. Mostly.).

Finished. Ten meals for cousin, five for us:

Wish list at the end of Week Two:
-Still want a decent soup pot. The $11 grocery store special ain't cutting it.
-Desperately want Sexy Mixing Bowls. I need more places for heaps o' chopped stuff.
-Coffee beans for destinkifying oniony hands.
-One of those kitchen odor-eating candles, because cooking odors just hang at the top of my back stairway. Forever. Ok, overnight. But it could be forever.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To Thaw or Not to Thaw?

Ok. I. Do. Not. Get. Thawed meat. If I thaw meat, why can't I just toss it back in the freezer without cooking it? Now, I know that Google could answer this for me, but it's more a theoretical discontent than an actual desire for knowledge. So. Eh.

But here's why I'm discontent: the meat in the refrigerator section at Woodman's yesterday was frozen. Frozen. In the refrigerator. I want to marinate chicken and fish and then freeze it in the marinade. What's a girl to do if it's already frozen, Woodman's?? What, I ask you? Alright, if we're being honest, I'm pretty sure my knowledge that you shouldn't refreeze raw meat comes from a Babysitters Club book. The one where Claudia cooks with her grandmother. And I guess I need to go to Google anyway, because now I'm really overwhelmed with the need to know if Babysitters Club has a possessive apostrophe or not. Is it a club of babysitters? Or is it a club that belongs to babysitters? This is what teaching Foundations of English II has done to me.

Dude. It's not possessive. I could have  sworn it was. And you *can* refreeze!! As long as it's been refrigerated the whole time!! Sweet.

Tonight's dinner: Weight Watchers Layered Mexican Chicken. T'was fine. Fine enough that I'm going to pass along the frozen portion. But not fine enough that I'm going to spend time typing out the recipe. It needed salt. And salsa. And seriously - I have no use for a recipe that calls for "teaspoons" of cumin. When it comes to cumin, go big or go home.

In other news, for this to work optimally, a pantry reorg is in order. I'm embarrassed to show you the before. Don't judge, please. And yes, that is an empty growler. And no, I don't know how long we've had it.
Um. The result is actually a little disconcerting. I'm not sure how to deal with the space and organization....Hold me?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week #2-3: Part the First

Last night we had Minestrone and Stuffed Peppers at our house. YUM!!! Both turned out so well. The 4 year old wanted some leftover casserole, but I think if it had been her only option she would have liked the soup. And maybe the stuffing part of the stuffed pepper. The adults around here loved both. But it was so filling, even with only one pepper each, that there is much minestrone to spare.

Of course, nothing ever goes to plan. So already on the third week of my little enterprise, I have other plans on my cooking day! What to do, what to do. Apparently I'm going to make ten meals this week. But I have a plan. T'will be fine. Instead of using the meals already in my freezer this week, I'm going to cook the next three nights and freeze half. Also, when I opened my freezer on Sunday night, post-food drop, Cousin's share of the Fried Rice was staring at me. Quietly judging me. So that just leaves six meals to cook Friday.

My main concern is how to do sides for two weeks out...I might have to abandon the fresh side idea, or trust Cousin to follow some simple instructions. After all it's not brain surgery (ha.). (Ok, that would be funnier if she was a brain surgeon. But it's not hand surgery either).

So up tonight is White Bean Chili. Now I just so happen to have some browned ground turkey in the freezer...Nope. No particular reason, why? Ahem. Look! Something shiny! Anywho. I'm going to use that instead of the finely chopped chicken breasts. Besides, Paula Deen, chili should have ground meat. It just should. Don't think just because you're all famous, and Food Networky, and stuff that you can make me use chopped meat instead of ground in my chili. So there. I'll show you. Hrmph. And seriously, Paula, who measures garlic in tablespoons? Give me cloves, baby.  Wait, what was I talking about?

So. Paula Deen's White Bean Chili, except with 2 lbs ground turkey, 2 cloves of garlic, an extra cup of broth, and olive oil instead of butter. (Edited: Malia pointed out that a cup and a half of chilis is a lot! I thought so too, I used two 4 oz cans and there's still a bit of a kick.)I didn't double anything except the meat, and it's just right for two families. Dear mother of all that is good and pure and tasty. Make this. I don't care if you freeze it or not. Just make it and eat it. Now. Go. I'll wait. Well, I won't really, cause I'm done talking now. But seriously. Especially if it's as asstastically cold as it is here. I put a dollop of sour cream in for ultimate yumminess...but it was way good without. And it's chili so I'm not the slightest bit worried about it freezing.

My child is going to burn herself. Call social services if you will, but really, at this point I think it would be for the best. Maybe next time she'll listen (ha!). Oh stop making that face, Mother. I'm kidding. Mostly.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Week #1

Yikes!! What have I gotten myself into?! My cart has never been so full, my bill so high, or my freezer looked so small.

 Major downside to such a full cart: extra time to listen to the checker regale the bagger with how wasted he's going to get this weekend. So wasted, it would seem, that he's going to still be drunk when he goes to the dentist on Monday. And he's going to be all, "Dude, do what you want. I can't feel it anyway. See? Punch me." And then, apparently, the dentist is going to be all, "Have you been drinking? I can smell it on your breath."

Riveting stuff, I know.

Anyway. This week's menu:
-Minestrone and Green Salad
-Butternut Squash Lasagna with marinated Jicama and Apples
-Shrimp Fried Rice with steamed Green Beans
-Bulgur and Turkey Stuffed Peppers and Green Salad
-Curried Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie and broiled Asparagus

And so it begins. Rock concert movement number one: count and chop the onions - 2  medium, 3 large, and a half cup (I'm gonna call it a small 'un). Go.

Onion Lesson #1: Bags of onions have many many bad onions in them. But you don't know that until you cut into them and see the delicious grey center. Yum.

Onion Lesson #2: Use a food processor to chop! It's heaven!
Onion Lesson #3: No matter how long you stare at it, you cannot get the kinds of onion slices you want out of the food processor attachment. Buy a mandolin.

Rock concert movement number two: stare at recipes for several minutes waiting for a logical sequence to occur to you. Sigh heavily. Dive into first recipe and hope that as you do this more often, you'll find a groove. Then go get the baby who is joyously splashing in the cat's water dish. Dammit.

Ok. The Fried Rice wants cold cooked rice, so I put the rice cooker to chugging away. Six cups of cooked rice seems like too much for one family (the kids are picky), so I doubled everything except the rice for this recipe. It looks about right.

The other shared ingredient is carrots. Lots of carrots. So before I get going on the Minestrone, I peeled and chopped the 3ish lbs. of carrots - 2 carrots for the rice, 2 c. for the Minestrone and 1.5 lb for the Shepherds Pie. Good thing the husband took the kids out, because this requires country music. Loud country music. Possibly even "Party Country" on Slacker. The husband hates the country music.

Uh oh. Rice cooker is boiling over!
It's fine. Just messy. Whew.

Minestrone done. I was a little wary, as there are no spices, but a taste test shows it to be quite yummy and flavorful, actually. Yay.

Next up: Stuffed Peppers. This is a microwave heavy recipe, which I don't care for. So I'm just following the package directions for the bulgur and putting the peppers in the oven with a little water for about 30 minutes.

While the turkey is cooking, I'm going to get the squash baking for the lasagna. Oh, BTW I substituted turkey for beef in the peppers to make them healthier. The rather nebulous instructions are to "prepare for freezing." I put half the tomato sauce in a Pyrex bowl, cooled the peppers in the fridge then wrapped them in plastic wrap and put everything in a freezer bag together.

Butternut Squash Lasagna is pretty straight forward! Actually easier than I anticipated....Well, would have been easier than anticipated had the 4 year old not returned home and demanded to "help."

These Good Housekeeping recipes really like the microwave. Someone needs to tell them it takes the nutrients out. So I'm tossing the potatoes in the oven for an hour for the Curried Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie. Probably should have done this when I put the squash in. C'est la vie. Oh! Just remembered I should put them on a cookie sheet as sweet potatoes can ooooooze.

Now seems like a good time to go back to the Fried Rice while those bake. I'm adding red peppers to up the veggies and shrimp to make it more meal-y, and omitting the mushrooms by request....sad face. Mmmmm...good recipe.

Oh my. I'm running out of steam for the Shepherds Pie. Also, I bought three extra pounds of meat?? How did that happen? And then I thawed it all. Looks like I'll need to brown it and re-freeze...tomorrow, at Tara. After all, tomorrow is another day. I know that I probably unnecessarily doubled the turkey for the peppers, forgetting it was already a make some/freeze some recipe. I'm not sure where the other two pounds came from.

Wow! Turns out two 49.5 oz cans of chicken broth was just right for this week! Am estimating genius. Except for the meat thing. Ahem.

Wish list at the end of week one:
Large Soup Pot
More Sexy Mixing Bowls for holding ingredients
Wine. Lots.