Monday, February 28, 2011

*sheepish grin*

Yeah. So. I haven't been cooking. We've been eating.....but.....[insert excuse here]. *crickets*

I'm cooking tonight, though! With no groceries!! So beat that, Martha.

I have two week old corn tortillas, onions, diced green chilies, black beans, red peppers, three mushrooms (I don't know why, shut up), and a little cheese. Mostly in individual snack sizes. Who knew this blog would turn into adventures in scrounge-cooking?

So I'm going to make fajita-ish quesadilla type thingies.

Google says I can do it with some olive oil, garlic, lime juice, soy sauce and cayenne. So I'm going with it.

The red pepper were already cut up for snacking.

I sliced the onions and mushrooms. Chopped the garlic. Or diced. I don't know the difference, remember?

Added soy sauce and lime juice and cayenne.
Grated some cheese, and chunked other.
Made a filling of black beans, chilies, and cheese.
Cover the bottom of the pan with oil - veggie, olive, a little of both. Fry one side of the tortilla lightly. Flip, fill, fold, flip.

Cover with fajita-ish mix.


Am culinary genius. You may worship me now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Break Week

Next week Cuz is out of town, so that means I'm taking a break this week. But I have to tell you about the Mac and Cheese I made last night.

I am sick. The baby is sick. It is cold - again. The girl-child is turning 4 and depressing me. Dog days of winter, indeed. So. I needed comfort. Comfort in the form of carbs, of course. Does it come in any other form??

I made PW's recipe. I went in with my usual blind trust. Experienced brief, but intense, doubt in the form of much gloppiness. But 'twas a success!! Very, very nummy. Don't doubt the P-Dub. Ever. Even if it looks like this:

I had an even better kind of break this weekend and went to Madison to meet Best Friend. We braved the protesters, found parking even, and ate at Nostrano. Best Friend's cousin and his wife are the owners/chefs....and it was all delightful (though the company and comped desserts might have colored my opinion, I kinda think my delight was genuine). But I can't stop thinking about the oxtail and scallop appetizer. I can still taste the texture difference between the stringy ox and the perfectly cooked scallops. Mmmmm......The rabbit confeit was a close second, the pork shoulder very yummy, and the brussel sprout salad a nice addition. The desserts I don't remember much about except that they involved really yummy, house-made gelato.

Also, brunch at the Old Fashioned (also on the square) where I had some tomato jam that I'd really like to experiment with in the fall. I hope I remember. Not that I'm prone to making grand plans that then get aban....Hey look! Shiny! But this recipe looks good. Actually, I have some frozen tomatoes in the freezer. Perhaps an afternoon nap project? I'll keep you posted (snigger, I do love a good pun. And also bad ones. Sorry. Done now).

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


You know what's awesome? Putting tequila on your grocery list. *Heart*. You know for a legitimate purpose! Like Broiled Chicken with Tequila and Lime. From the regrettably out of print book the 5 in 10 Cookbook: 5 Ingredients in 10 Minutes or Less by Paula Hamilton (Hearst Books, 1993)....borrowed from the Lovely Susan.

It's a marinade (tequila, honey, lime zest and juice, cumin [God, I love cumin {my parenthetical asides might be getting out of hand}])....but I'll probably have to test the tequila. Just to make sure it's ok. You know. Like Julia.

Also going on the list: stuff for White Chili (I think I'm going to stick with the alterations I made here. It was so good, why mess?), the Stuffed Peppers, and Moroccan Hamburgers. Yesterday I made a veggie lasagna using the same recipe for marinara that I used for the manicotti and then ricotta, mozzarella, shredded zucchini, and sauteed mushroom for ours - none for Cuz. Basic, but it was tasty.

I deeply regret that I will, once again, miss my Thursday night chance to see Mutt and Jeff. Sad, sad. I hope they are still working next week. To make up for it - some gratuitous NPH:

Spanish Chicken Redux (and other sundry updates)

Hey! Remember this:
  Chicken and Spanish Rice ?

Husband and Cousin liked it, I thought it was fairly meh. But do you know what I did last night?? I used the left over rice that I had frozen. I thawed it out, browned up two bone-in skin-on chicken breasts in about two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil. Then I threw in the rice and an extra handful of olives, covered and cooked until done. SO MUCH BETTER. Seriously. The extra fat (probably), the extra cooking? I dunno. But, yum. Even the baby loved the rice.

In other news -

Big hits so far:
Bulgur Stuffed Peppers
Italian Polenta Casserole
White Chili
Morroccan Root Veggie Stew
Hawaiian Chicken

After three weeks of deliveries for 5 days a week, the Cuz reports three meals still sitting in the freezer (you know, life happens). Interestingly, one of those in her freezer is shrimp fried rice, which is still sitting in my freezer as well. Hmmmm....perhaps there is some part of the human psyche that rejects frozen shrimp fried rice? Surely it's not just chance...maybe fate?The hand of God? Anyway. We're going to take a break next week.

This week I'm cooking one night at a time because I'm doing a jailbreak on Friday and going to Madison with Best Friend. No kids!!! Hot tub!!! And we're going to eat here. Which I'm so excited about, because I like eating even more than I like cooking.

Cooking for the body:
I think the olive oil facial cleansing thing works pretty well on my dry cheeks and black-head prone nose and chin. But for some reason is clogging my totally normal forehead!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh lord.

This is not a gig for a week with no parenting back up. It's 7:30pm. Kids are tucked in. The table is covered in Play-doh.
The box of wine
and my comfy bed beckon, as I will be called out of it in a few hours. But I've got sloppy joes and a quiche to make! Plus tasty sides! Yay.

Two days ago I made some homemade marinara sauce - I used the Don't Panic recipe.
But it's just basic sauce (I know it seems silly to freeze Ball jars. But there's really no reason you can't. And since we're going to use it soon - like within a week soon, why not?). And I stuffed some manicotti - again from Don't Panic, but again super basic (ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan). The only thing I have to say is don't use manicotti. Why would you use manicotti? That is dumb. The stupid things just split up the side. Use jumbo shells. They're already split! Though the  manicotti do come in handy little trays, into which you can reinsert the filled manicotti and then wrap them in plastic and toss 'em in a freezer bag. Dun and dun.

Google says you can freeze quiche guts. So I bought a pre-made crust, and am going to toss this recipe from Epicurious into a freezer bag to be served with a green salad. Again: dun and dun. But, dude. Check it:
I haven't used my mortar and pestle in ..... um? Ever? So exciting to use kitchen gadgets.

The sloppy joes are always a big hit around here. From Rachel Ray's 30-minute Meals 2. Some people hate on the Rachel Ray. I like her. Well, yeah. She is kind of annoying. But I like the recipes. And they really do only take 30 minutes. I usually sub in turkey for beef, as Husband doesn't eat the cow. But I'm getting wacky and using buffalo for this batch. To be served with some acorn squash. I was going to do a fancy-schmancy PW recipe for the squash. But upon reflection, I think it's better to just give them the squash with instructions to hack it open and bake it with butter and brown sugar.

So this week, in summary:

Poor Man's Chicken Cacciatore with roasted red peppers and cauliflower (theoretically, as it's not made and I don't know when I'm going to make it. Also, I forgot to buy capers. But it looks good!)

Broccoli and Garlic Quiche and salad

Manicotti and salad

Sloppy Joes and acorn squash

Wild Rice Soup and roasted carrots (again, theoretical. But I do have the carrots and it's mostly about writing out instructions. Which I can probably handle. Maybe.)

Good frickin' night, y'all. Mwah.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The *Other* Cacciatore

This does not look like the other cacciatore. I think the other cacciatore is probably better (shhh....don't tell Cousin). But! This one freezes! And!
Do you notice how it's in a bag? Know how many dishes I dirtied making this cacciatore? Yep - zero. Know how many I dirtied making the PW cacciatore? Um. I'm not going to tell you.

For this one (from Don't Panic- Dinner's in the Freezer by Martinez, Howell, and Garcia) just toss all this in a freezer bag:

2 med. onions
2 cloves of garlic
15 oz. diced tomatoes
8 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 bay leaf
1/4 c. white wine
6 boned chicken breasts

To serve: Thaw and cook in  crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

 Related note: Librarian friends, what percentage of recipes can I post from one cookbook before I'm a big ol' plagiarizer?

Unrelated note: I think I'm ready to expand this little enterprise, if anyone knows of a family who might be interested. Western Chicago suburbs, northern IL or southern WI.

Husband is out of town this week. So I'm just making meals here and there, when I can. I just fried bacon for North Woods Wild Rice Soup.
Then I ate half of it. But luckily I was pretty sure I would eat half of it. So I made plenty. See? I'm a planner. God. I never get bacon. I need a moment.

Ok. I cooked the chicken breasts for the soup while I was assembling the rest of the breasts into cacciatore last night. The wild rice is cooking while I chop the onion and celery. I have a confession to make. I don't really know the difference between chopping and dicing. Maybe I'm dicing the onion and celery. I really don't know. But I can 100% assure you that I'm not dicing the onions and chopping the celery.

I'll never make Top Chef now that I've spilled the beans. Because, you know, that's all that was standing between me and being Top Chef.

Anyway, another totally simple recipe. Done in one naptime even!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Don't Freeze This. You won't want to, anyway.

So I wasn't planning on posting this, because you can't freeze it. So there are no pictures. I was just, you know, going to cook it and eat it. Like normal folk. Luckily the recipe is from PW, who takes better pictures anyway. Cause they pay her to.

The Pioneer Woman is awesome. I love her. And I love her husband - Marlboro Man. I have to admit, the rest of her blogs have run their course for me. I followed her for a long time, but I'm done with pictures of cows and baby cowboys and Marlboro Man's tush (well, not totally done with that one).

However, I still stalk the cooking blog. And this recipe for Chicken Cacciatore is why. I will stare at as many pictures of cows as you want me to if I can eat this once a week.The meat slides off the bone, the sauce is perfectly comforting on a cold day. Nom nom nom. I used those nice, thick, solid look Amish egg noodles. So good. Yum.

It's still for a crowd, even if you can't freeze it. I had planned on making it for friends, so I had purchased 4 thighs, 4 whatertheycalled....leg quarters? Is that when you get the thigh and the leg? and 1 breast. But then various health issues, scary and not scary, reared their heads and I took them dinner instead. Apparently it keeps well for an hour assembled in the oven because I got a text later that night raving about it.

I started this recipe, with the above mentioned chicken bits, in my (new! from Marshall's, but still new!) 6 qt. Dutch Oven. It wasn't big enough. Which is ok, since I ended up splitting it up anyway - 3/4 for them, 1/4 for us. So just before I put it in the oven, I put 1/4 of the veg/wine mix in a second oven safe pot and put them in side by side. I also ended up using a little cornstarch to thicken the sauce up in the final step. Put a little of the liquid in a small bowl, whisk in a tablespoon of cornstarch until lumps are gone, add to main pot whisking constantly.

Rosie was confused as to why we were using the cornstarch for something besides goo:
Appetizing, no?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

I have always wanted to try making bagels. I don't know why. I guess I'm a New Yorker at heart, even though I don't really like living in big cities. And the east coast is too uptight for me. But anyway, I had a vague notion in the back of my head (not unlike the notion that you can't refreeze meat) that they are time consuming. Except! This time my notion was right! But we'll get to that.

Serendipitously, or so I thought, I came across this post via Virginia Cooks! on the dawn of my snow day. All day to putter around the kitchen! Perfect! Unfortunately, they were apparently "craptacular" bagels. I think this is the PG version of "asstastic."

Not to worry. I have always had this recipe from Smitten Kitchen in my head when I was lusting after a steamy bagel making session. Oh yeah. I can see it now...flour, steam, gentle submersion. Mmmmm. But then! Out of nowhere, like a shot of cold water - they require high-glucose flour. I took my heartbreak to Facebook, who seemed to think I could overcome that with some therapy and a little all-purpose flour. So there I was, ready to dive in. Only to find the bagels need to retard in the fridge overnight. Thwarted. Bagels and I are going to take a break. Get a little space. See other carbs.

For example, I've decided to see an English Milk Loaf.

This loaf loves me for who I am, all-purpose flour and all.

And it will be ready to go when my left-over split pea soup is thawed in a couple hours.

BTW, I made this soup with the left over organic ham from Christmas dinner. It is so satisfying and delicious. Just sayin' (Oh the smell is better and better. I'm almost in tears that this is the last batch in the freezer...I may need to get another exorbitantly expensive ham from Kathy at Open Range Meats in Pecatonica).

snOMG! Why don't I make fresh bread all the time?!?! Nom nom nom.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I'm curling up on the couch on the eve of Snopocalypse Comes to Rockford, with a glass of wine and a hand-me down copy of Don't Panic- Dinner's in the Freezer (the previous owner of this book said it wasn't helpful because it doesn't actually make the meals and put them in the freezer. So she passed it on to me). And before my gay husband, NPH, comes on, I have a few random thoughts for you:

Leftover night is like a buffet!
I've never been into leftovers. I go through periods of dutifully storing them away in the fridge. Until they mold. And then awhile longer. Usually until I have to just throw the whole container out because I don't want to smell what's in there....though I'm probably setting medical science back decades by not donating some of it to research. But we're on a budget now, and I'm cooking lots and lots. So tonight we had leftovers and it was awesome! I had Italian Polenta Casserole and Quinoa Salad. Matthew had some of that over-purchased chicken that I browned with taco seasoning and refroze before Claudia's grandmother was proven wrong re: thawed meat. It was delightfully easy. I think I might be a left-over convert.

Cooking for your body -- an experiment.
So at Thanksgiving, my sissy made me a delightful coffee and olive oil body scrub, and extolled the virtues of olive oil as a facial cleanser. I've been meaning to make the scrub, but I was hesitant to do the facial cleanse. I mean, I've always had oily skin - pouring oil on top of oil doesn't seem like the best plan. But it is so effin' dry around here these days! I thought it can't hurt to try. So this afternoon I massaged olive oil into my face, particularly around my eyes, put a steaming washcloth over it for a few minutes until it started to cool, then wiped my face clean and splashed it with cool water. I'll let you know if tomorrow I look fresh and dewy, or like my 16 year old self *shudder*.

So I know just enough about search engines to stand in the front of a high school class and sound like I know what I'm talking about. I know that you have to link to external sites for the "spiders" to eventually find you (done) and list you in the engine. Then you have to have the search terms. Here's where I get hazy on the details. So here goes:
Here, Spider, Spider, Spider!! Make ahead meals! Freezer dinners! Make and freeze! Frozen dinners! Ok, computer'd I do??

Gratuitous NPH picture: