Friday, May 30, 2008

Food Section Recipes

Terrific food, cheaper checkout
With grocery prices up, we offer three delicious meals that won't break your budget

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle


• Oatmeal for pricey breakfast cereal

• Portobello mushrooms, beans, tofu and peanut butter for meat

• Canola oil for olive oil

Home strategies
• Buy cheap, flavorful cuts of meat and use the bones to make stock.

• To avoid expensive takeout food or delivery, freeze homemade meals for days when you're too tired to cook.

• Recycle leftovers into the next day's meals (steamed rice into rice pudding, mashed potatoes into shepherd's pie).

• Keep track of leftovers so they don't migrate to the back of the refrigerator and go bad.

• Rescue old ingredients, such as sour milk and stale bread, in recipes that call for them, such as buttermilk pancakes and bread pudding.

Shopping strategies
• Make a list and stick to it.

• Clip coupons.

• Watch for store sales and plan your week's menus based on them.

• Get to know your grocery store; wandering the aisles can lead to impulse purchases.

• Don't go shopping when you're hungry.

• Avoid the "gimmes" by leaving the kids at home if possible.

• Buy whole chickens and cut them up at home.

• Forget brand loyalty and use generics, which often are packaged by the same manufacturers.

• Buy organics when it makes a difference: strawberries yes, pancake syrup no.

• Check unit pricing and buy good deals in bulk.


In these recipes, we classified certain items as pantry staples and did not include them in our budget calculations. They are: salt, pepper, most spices, garlic, vinegar, butter (in small amounts), oil, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla extract (a single recipe uses tiny amounts of the last three). So check your cupboards first; then you're ready to cook.

The goal: three affordable meals that serve four to six people.

The context: rising food prices.

The parameters: delicious food at reasonable prices without hours in the kitchen. We want the Ikea of food, inexpensive yet stylish.

And nothing drastic, like the Sludge from M.F.K. Fisher's 1942 How to Cook a Wolf. That recipe, in brief: Borrow 50 cents, mix ground beef and mix it with whole-grain, bulk cereal and "wilted or withered" vegetables. Add water. Boil; simmer for three hours.

"It it obvious to even the most optimistic that this Sludge, which should be like stiff, cold mush and a rather unpleasant murky brown-gray in color, is strictly for hunger," Fisher wrote.

Thankfully, we are not that hungry. Perhaps food prices will stabilize long before we are.

While planning, shopping and cooking these three meals, I encountered or recollected common-sense lessons, real but with metaphorical echoes.

Waste not, want not.

Recycle. Corncobs add wonderful flavor to stock. Pasta water thins and rounds out pasta sauces. The salsa from last night's takeout Mexican dinner will perk up today's pot of beans.

Eat locally and seasonally when possible. Consider how much fuel it takes to jet an off-season grape from Chile to Texas.

Be flexible. You planned on buying a watermelon; you could practically taste it. But at the store, watermelon is dear — and mangoes are a steal. Buy the mangoes.

I also ran into an embarrassment of resources. I ran a Google search on "cheap eating" and got 385,000 hits, from "Las Vegas on 25 cents a day" to a news article on how rising food prices will make Americans even fatter.

A tip from a colleague sent me in search of Whole Foods Markets' "Meals for 4 Under $15" program. Once I got over my shock that the company many call "Whole Paycheck" offers bargain menus, I checked out the recipes: Black Beluga Lentils with Endive Citrus Salad, Coconut Red Pork Curry, Fish Po' Boy with Tartar Slaw and Sweet Potato Fries. Unsurprisingly, the program steers you toward in-store products. No matter. The recipes look promising.

It was hard to tear myself away from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's curious Recipe Finder database (, intended "to help families spend less and eat healthier."

First I searched for recipes that would appeal to an American Indian parent of a teen. Two hits: Carne Adobado, a spiced pork, and Misickquatash, an Indian succotash. The recipe for Misickquatash called for frozen lima beans. Does any teen like frozen lima beans? Does any grown-up?

Next I asked the database for toaster-made recipes that would appeal to Hispanics and use whole grains. Zero hits. Just as I was about to look for desserts low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol and tempting to a Southerner, I remembered that this story was due. I moved on.

University of Houston business-school graduate student Jamie Waldron, described to me as "the frugal gourmet," outlined in detail her own meticulous system for saving money. Lately, rising prices have forced her to adjust her food budget up, but she isn't griping.

"People are getting really frustrated by the increasing prices for gas and food. At the same time, the cost is going up for the companies that are putting that stuff out there," said Waldron, who is 26. "I think people need to be a little more understanding. Hopefully, people's employers will be understanding, too, and maybe give their employees an increase."

Even without that unlikely increase, do splurge occasionally, if you are able. For me, that means top-quality bread and cheese. I won't scrimp when I'm buying those items.

For Waldron and her Ph.D.-student husband, a big night may mean frozen tilapia fillets with garlic, lemon and herbs and accompanied by rice pilaf. Because she's saved by using frozen fish, she allows herself to splurge on fresh vegetables. Then the pair rent a movie and enjoy a reasonably priced bottle of wine.

For a couple of grad-school students, she says, "That's a really big deal."

You can buy a smaller car and save on gas. You can take better care of yourself and, with luck, save on medical bills. But putting dinner on the table, you have some degree of daily control.

Menu 1: Pasta With Garlic, Parsley and Chickpeas; Green Salad; and Strawberries With Balsamic Vinegar

1 lemon half, strawberries (tempted, I bought more than I needed)


A fast, satisfying, inexpensive dish made with ingredients you probably have on hand.

* 1 (14.5-ounce) box whole-grain rotini pasta
* 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
* 1 large bunch parsley, minus the stems, chopped coarsely
* Hot red-pepper flakes
* Salt
* Lemon half
* 3 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the rotini. Cook until al dente. Drain, saving some of the pasta water.

Gently heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the garlic and cook over very low heat for about 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas, parsley and red-pepper flakes to taste. Warm all ingredients over low heat.

Combine the chickpea mixture with the drained pasta. Season with salt to taste.

Squeeze the lemon over. Drizzle in a bit of pasta water, if needed, to make the sauce silky.

Divide among 4 plates. Sprinkle each with Parmesan.


Combine torn lettuce leaves with 2 tomatoes, in wedges, and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.


Slice about 4 cups strawberries and divide among 4 bowls. Drizzle a scant amount of balsamic vinegar over each portion. Serve immediately.

Menu 2: Spicy Baked Beans, Cornbread Sticks, Creamy Coleslaw and Watermelon


Watermelon, most of a bag of cornmeal, most of a jar of molasses, beans for two more meals, several carrots, an orange (minus zest), 1/4 head cabbage, several tablespoons cumin seeds


I often put the beans in a slow oven and let them cook while I'm sleeping. You can also make them in a slow cooker on low, which will keep the kitchen cool.

* 1 cup dried kidney beans
* 1 cup dried cannellini, Great Northern or navy beans
* 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
* 1/2 pound smoked slab bacon, diced
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 2 jalapeño chiles (or more)
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 1/2 cups whole canned tomatoes, with liquid
* 3 to 4 tablespoons molasses
* 1 dried bay leaf or a handful fresh
* Grated zest of 1 orange
* 1/4 cup cider vinegar, plus more if needed
* Salt
* 1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water overnight. Toast the cumin seeds in a large, dry dutch oven for about 1 minute until fragrant. Remove and set aside. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Heat the bacon in the dutch oven for about 1 minute; add the onion and carrot and sauté for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are softening. Add the cumin seeds, jalapeños and garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes.

Crush the canned tomatoes with a fork, reserving their liquid with enough water to total 3 cups. Drain the beans. Add to the pot with the tomatoes, molasses, bay leaf, orange zest and tomato-water mixture. Bring to a simmer. Cover. Place in the oven and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, for 2 hours. Stir in the vinegar and salt to taste. Cook for another 2 hours until the beans are tender but not mushy and the liquid has mostly been absorbed.

Taste for seasoning. Add more vinegar if necessary. Stir in the cilantro.


You can also make this in a 9-inch iron skillet.

* 3 tablespoons butter, plus more for pan
* 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
* 1/2 cup flour
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar, to taste
* 2 eggs
* 1 1/2 cups buttermilk or sour milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the cornbread-stick pan in the oven; melt the 3 tablespoons butter in a saucepan on the stove. If you are using a skillet, melt the butter in the skillet.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a different bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Add the melted butter to the liquid ingredients. Melt 1 to 2 tablespoons extra butter on the stove and use it to brush on the stick pan.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry. Stir with a wooden spoon until just mixed. Pour the batter into the hot stick pan (or skillet). Bake 10 minutes for the sticks, about 25 minutes for the skillet, until golden and crispy. Eat warm!

Makes about 18 sticks.


Adapted from Good Housekeeping Great American Classics Cookbook (Hearst Books, $25)

* 1 lemon
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
* 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
* 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
* Salt and ground black pepper
* 1 1/2 pounds cabbage, shredded (about 6 cups)
* 2 carrots, shredded
* 1 green pepper, julienned

Zest and juice the lemon. Combine the zest and juice with the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, and celery and caraway seeds. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place the vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss. Chill for an hour to let the flavors meld.

Menu 3: Savory Bread Pudding With Corn, Green Salad With Jicama and Mango and Crazy Cake


One ear corn, 4 ounces cheese, eight eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, heel of a loaf of bread


Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (Broadway Books, $40). The original calls for bread without the crusts, but why waste them when they enhance the rustic nature of bread pudding? You can spice up the recipe with chopped jalapeños, a spoonful or two of salsa or a shake of hot sauce.

* 2 2/3 cups whole milk
* 4 cups corn kernels (from about 5 ears fresh corn; reserve the cobs)
* 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
* 1 bunch green onions, sliced into rounds
* 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
* Salt and ground black pepper
* Bunch chopped cilantro (about 1/2 cup)
* 4 eggs
* 5 cups 1-inch cubes of stale bread
* 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart gratin or casserole dish.

In a medium-size pot on the stove, scald the milk and as many corncobs as will fit in it. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool and infuse. When the milk has cooled, remove the cobs; reserve 1/3 cup milk separately and set remaining milk aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the corn kernels, green onions and chili powder. Sauté a few minutes until the onions have softened. Season with salt. Stir in the cilantro.

Whisk the eggs with the larger portion of cooled milk. Place the bread in a large bowl. Pour the milk mixture over it. Stir in the corn mixture and the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape into the prepared casserole. Drizzle the remaining 1/3 cup milk over the pudding. Let stand 15 minutes before baking. Bake for about 45 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.


Julienne 1 jicama. Cube 1 mango. Combine in a salad bowl with torn leaves from 1 head lettuce. Dress with an oil-and-vinegar dressing of your choice. If you like, sprinkle with toasted pumpkinseeds.


As a girl, I delighted in making this homey eggless, butterless cake, also known as Wacky Cake. Sure enough, I unearthed the recipe on a 3-by-5-inch card written in my childish script. It's said to date to the Depression, when it was an affordable treat. It's "wacky" because it's made in the baking pan by stirring three liquid ingredients into three "holes" in the dry ingredients.

* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons white vinegar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
* Confectioners' sugar, to dust

Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the baking pan, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Poke 3 holes in the dry ingredients with your index finger. Into 1 pour the vinegar, into the second the vanilla, into the third the oil. Pour 1 cup water over all (or 1 cup cold, leftover coffee) and mix thoroughly, taking care to stir in the dry bits at the edge of the pan.

Bake for about 25 minutes until the cake is springy, just pulling away from the edges of the pan, and the batter is domed. Cool. Cut into squares. Dust with confectioners' sugar.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Pork shoulder, a well-marbled cut available at most supermarkets, turns tender after long, slow cooking. Ours is especially succulent with a spice rub and vinegar.

* 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* Coarse salt and ground black pepper
* 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), cut into 4 equal pieces
* 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 8 soft sandwich rolls, split
* Store-bought barbecue sauce, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in lower and upper positions. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cayenne, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Place pork in a 5-quart dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot; rub with spice mixture.

In a medium bowl, combine vinegar, garlic and 1/2 cup water; add to pot. Cover and place on oven's lower rack. Bake until pork is very tender and separates easily when pulled with a fork, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Transfer pork to a work surface, reserving pan juices. With two forks, shred meat. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with pan juices to moisten (you may not need all the juices). Pile pork on rolls and top with barbecue sauce, if desired.

Makes 8 servings, each 416 calories, 14.2 grams fat (4.7 grams saturated), 29.4 grams protein, 40.7 grams carbohydrates, 2.1 grams fiber.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

* 1 cup reduced-fat sour cream (8 ounces)
* 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
* Coarse salt and ground black pepper
* 8 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 4 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together sour cream and cheese; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, rub potatoes with oil. Bake on upper rack until tender, about 65 minutes.

To serve, cut a deep cross in each potato; push ends together to open. Season with salt and pepper; top with sour-cream mixture and, if desired, green onions.

Makes 8 servings, each 298 calories, 10.3 grams fat (5.6 grams saturated), 9.8 grams protein, 43.2 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber.


Prep time: 10 minutes

Total time: 10 minutes

* 3 English cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on the diagonal
* 1 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, halved and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
* 3 tablespoons olive oil
* 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
* Coarse salt and ground black pepper

In a large bowl, toss together cucumbers, onion, dill, oil, lemon juice and vinegar; season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 8 servings, each 70 calories, 5.2 grams fat (0.8 gram saturated), 0.9 gram protein, 6.2 grams carbohydrates, 0.8 gram fiber.


Prep time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes, plus cooling

It takes only 10 minutes to create a colorful ice cream topping that makes the most of a well-loved warm-weather combination: sweet strawberries and tart rhubarb.

* 1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
* 2 rhubarb stalks, cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (2 cups)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 pints vanilla ice cream
* Store-bought shortbread cookies, for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, sugar and 1/4 cup water; bring to a simmer over high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb begins to break down, 6 to 8 minutes.

Refrigerate until the sauce is cool, at least 1 hour and up to 1 week.

Spoon strawberry-rhubarb sauce over scoops of ice cream; serve with shortbread, if desired.

Makes 8 servings, each 269 calories, 12.8 grams fat (8 grams saturated), 4.2 grams protein, 35.5 grams carbohydrates, 1.5 grams fiber.


Good-quality cocoa powder is quite dark and makes the cookies almost black. It can be difficult to tell when they're done, so keep a close eye on them. These will bring serious chocoholics to their knees.

* 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa powder
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
* 1 1/4 cups sugar
* 3/4 firmly packed cup dark-brown sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
* 1 1/2 cups dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate and sour cherries.

Form balls of dough or drop blobs of it onto the cookie sheet from a spoon. Bake until puffed and cracked, 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets partway through. Cool on a rack.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Well, last week I wasn't feeling so great all week. All the meals ended up being made finally, some out of order - the Zuppa Toscana was made for today's lunch. And since I have leftovers of the French Onion Soup, I'll use that to make a Crock Pot Beef Roast this week (instead of using either a dried soup packet or a canned soup).

Today, since I was feeling better, was quite a cooking day for me. This morning I made bread, half of it went so hubby can have bread for his sandwiches for lunch and the other half of it went for our buns for hot dogs. I boiled potatoes for our potato salad. I made the Zuppa Toscana. It pretty much tired me out. Good thing dinner tonight was just cheese hotdogs, potato salad and corn on the cob. :)

Tues: NC Mustard Style BBQ Chicken, potato Salad
Wednesday: CP Beef with egg noodles and Caesar Salad
Thurs: Leftovers
Friday: Pizza

Visit I'm an Organizing Junkie for more Menu Ideas:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Recipes from Food Sections

Sticky Lemon Chicken

6 servings

1 large chicken, cut into 8 pieces

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 head garlic, halved horizontally

2 to 3 sprigs thyme

1/4 cup sherry vinegar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup dark soy sauce

1 lemon, finely sliced

3/4 cup hot water

1/2 bunch flat Italian parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook chicken, garlic and thyme, in batches if necessary, turning as needed, until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Return all chicken to the pan; add sherry vinegar. Cook over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add honey and soy sauce; shake pan to mix. Add lemon slices and hot water; raise heat to medium-high. Cook until the liquid has reduced to a syrup, 10 to 15 minutes. If chicken has not cooked through, add more hot water if necessary; continue cooking until done. Remove to platter; sprinkle with parsley.

Per serving: 400 calories (51 percent from fat) 22 g fat (5 g saturated), 89 mg cholesterol, 20 g carbohydrates, 29 g protein, 885 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.

(Adapted from “Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food,” Key Porter Books)

Cheap Eats
A backyard barbecue you - and your wallet - will love
By JIM ROMANOFF - For The Associated Press

Throwing a barbecue is one of the joys of summer, but it can get pricey. The secret to backyard entertaining without breaking the bank is to build the meal around foods that are good values or sale items. Pantry items and ingredients that add multiple flavors with one stroke complete the package.

This impressive, yet easy to prepare Mediterranean-inspired meal can comfortably serve 10 people for around $3 a person. Plus, most of the dishes can be prepared ahead, leaving you with more time with your guests.

Tomato-balsamic barbecued chicken starts with chicken thighs and drumsticks, which cost little and tend to be the most flavorful parts of the bird.

A flavorful, tangy glaze takes advantage of pre-seasoned tomato paste and the complex sweet acidity of balsamic vinegar. For this recipe, inexpensive balsamic works as well as more pricey kinds because a bit of sugar is added to the mix.

Mediterranean orzo salad marries perfectly with the flavors of the barbecued chicken. The main ingredient is the traditional rice-shaped pasta, which usually cost around $1 for a 1-pound box.

And because the salad includes a good amount of feta cheese, the dish is substantial enough to serve as an entree for any guests who are vegetarian.

To finish off the meal there is an indulgent treat that is made with just four ingredients. A simple brown sugar shortbread is layered with rich and tangy jarred lemon curd to make sweet little sandwiches that are both crunchy and chewy.


To make this tangy dish even easier to prepare, make the tomato-balsamic glaze and par-cook the chicken ahead of time. Refrigerate both and when guests arrive, you can finish the chicken on the grill about 15 minutes before serving.

Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

Servings: 10

For the sauce:

6-ounce can basil-garlic flavored tomato paste (or a 6-ounce can of tomato paste mixed with a teaspoon of prepared pesto)
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the chicken:
5 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

To make the sauce, in a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place on two rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal fire.

Remove chicken from oven and cool for 5 minutes. If desired, remove the skin. Brush the chicken generously with the tomato-balsamic sauce.

Grill the chicken, turning and basting frequently, until well browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.


For the best value, buy the exact amount of olives for this salad from the bulk olive bar found in many larger grocers. For the dressing, use convenient squeeze bottles of lemon juice found in the freezer case.

A bottle costs a little over $2 but contains the juice of around 7 large lemons.

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Servings: 12

1 pound orzo pasta
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound tomatoes, diced
1 seedless cucumber, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to package instructions. In a colander, drain the cooked pasta, then rinse with cold water and drain well. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, olives, feta cheese and the reserved pasta. Add the dressing and toss well to coat. Season with salt and pepper just before serving.


Butter and eggs make prepared lemon curd so rich and flavorful that it can stand on its own as a filling for these golden shortbread cookies. You can find it with the other jams and jellies at the grocer.

Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active), plus 2 hours cooling

Servings: 12

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Coat a 7-by-11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Press a piece of plastic wrap over the bottom of the dish, letting the ends hang over the sides; smooth out any wrinkles.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and butter. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

On low speed, beat in the flour until the mixture is well blended and holds together when pressed. Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the ball in half and press one half into an even layer over the bottom of the prepared dish.

Grab the edges of the plastic wrap and lift the rectangle of dough out of the dish. Set aside.

Press the remaining dough over the bottom of the dish in an even layer. Spread the lemon curd on top. Invert the reserved first half of the dough directly on to the filling. Peel away the plastic wrap.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the dish to a wire rack and cool completely, about 2 hours. Cut into 12 rectangles.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Well, since I defrosted the chest freezer last week, I'm going to try to use up a few things that are in there. I also found I had a few more boxes of generic Mac & Cheese than I thought - we don't eat it all that often, but it does come in handy when all you have to do is add a can of tuna and some frozen mixed veggies and there's dinner.

Monday: Rogan Josh (CP - reicpe below: marinate and throw into the CP can do the skillet stuff if you have time it makes it taste better but if you don't you don't need to you can also freeze (with the tomato stuff and just dump when thawed I've found.)
Tuesday: Cheesy Tuna Mac (add canned tuna and frozen mixed veggies to packaged Mac & Cheese)
Wednesday: French Onion Soup (I save some of the CP Caramelized Onions for the soup and freeze the rest the rest of the recipe is below the caramelized onion recipe. The sweet onions put off a lot of broth so save it!)
Thurs Turkey Burgers and Baked Potatoes (using some of my major stock of Turkey burgers I found in the freezer!)
Friday: Zuppa Toscana (From Top Secret Recipes, although made lighter)

I might change my mind on Friday since I don't have any kale in the freezer and I'm not sure that I'll want to go to the grocery store for it - but we'll probably need milk by then anyway - we'll see.

For more menu ideas visit I'm an Organizing Junkie:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Rogan Josh

Recipe By :"Great Curries" by Manisha Kanani
Serving Size : 4 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Ethnic Lamb

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
2 lb lamb sirloin
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 c plain nonfat yogurt
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
4 tbsp oil
1 Tablespoon Curry Powder
1 onion -- finely chopped
1 Tablespoon Garam Masala
2 Bay Leaves, Whole
14 oz can chopped tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 Cups White Rice -- to serve

Trim away any excess fat from the meat and cut into 1 inch cubes. In a
bowl, mix together the lemon juice, yogurt and salt, 1 garlic clove and
the ginger. Add the lamb and leave in the marinade overnight.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the cumin seeds for 2 minutes
or until they being to sputter. Add the bay leaves and cardamom pods and
fry for another 2 minutes. Add the onion and remaining garlic and fry for
5 minutes. Stir in the ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper and fry
for 2 minutes. Add the marinated lamb and cook for 5 minutes, stirring
occasionally. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and 2/3 cup water. Bring to
a boil then reduce the heat.

Cover and simmer for about 1-1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.
Serve with pain rice.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 1263 Calories; 55g Fat (39.3%
calories from fat); 48g Protein; 144g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber;
127mg Cholesterol; 788mg Sodium. Exchanges: 7 1/2 Grain(Starch); 4 Lean
Meat; 5 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1/2 Non-Fat Milk; 8 Fat.

NOTES : The most popular of all lamb dishes, the lamb is
traditionally marinated in yogurt then cooked with spices
and tomatoes which give this dish it's rich, red

Nutr. Assoc. : 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

* Exported from MasterCook *

Caramelized Onions-CP (4 pts)

Recipe By :Slow Cooker Cooking, Lora Brody
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Cheap Eats Crockpot

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 pounds sweet onions -- cut into 1/4" thick slices
8 tablespoons butter

Place the onions and butter in the insert of the slow cooker, cover, and
cook on low for 12 to 14 hours, until the onions are deep brown and very
soft. It's almost impossible to overcook these; make sure to let the
onions cook until they are mahogany colored.

"3 1/2 cups"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 213 Calories; 16g Fat (63.6%
calories from fat); 3g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 41mg
Cholesterol; 162mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Vegetable; 3 Fat.

NOTES : While this recipe calls for Vidalia onions, you can use
other sweet onions such as Maui, Walla Walla, or
Texas1015s. If you have a large slow cooker, you can
double the onions. It is not necessary to increase the
amount of butter.

Don't blanch at the amount of butter called for here.
When you drain and chill the onions, the onion-flavored
butter will congeal on the surface of the cooking liquid.
Skim it and use it when you saute other vegetables, over
pasta, or in risotto.

3 lbs of onions is about 4-5 onions, 3 to 4 inches in
diameter, peel and cut them into 1/4-1/2" thick slices

Nutr. Assoc. : 0 0

* Exported from MasterCook *

French Onion Soup (4 pts)

Recipe By :
Serving Size : 6 Preparation Time :0:00
Categories : Soups & Stews

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/2 Lbs onions -- (5 cups) sliced into rings
1/4 C Butter
6 C fat-free Beef Broth
Salt and Pepper
6 french bread slices -- toasted
8 tbsps Grated Parmesan Cheese

Slice onion thin. Brown lightly in butter. Add broth and simmer,
covered for 30 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve: Place soup in bowls, cover with a toasted slice of french bread
sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 223 Calories; 11g Fat (36.8%
calories from fat); 17g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 26mg
Cholesterol; 863mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2
Vegetable; 2 Fat.

Nutr. Assoc. : 0 0 0 0 0 0

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Zucchini Picadillo

Recipe to try when zucchini is plentiful and cheap!

Zucchini Picadillo

The Washington Post, May 14, 2008

Picadillo is a Latin dish typically made of ground beef, tomatoes, raisins and olives. This complex vegetarian variation is great as a side dish with broiled steak or as a main dish for lunch. According to cookbook author Linda Larsen, it can be made at a cost of 96 cents per serving.

Makes 6 1/2 to 7 cups (6 to 7 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 zucchini (ends trimmed), cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4-inch half-moon slices
1 14 to 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their juices
2 cups cooked brown rice or white rice
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup pitted and sliced green olives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook for about 4 minutes, stirring; the onion should be crisp-tender and not translucent. Add the zucchini and tomatoes with their juices. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook just until the mixture starts bubbling at the edges, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the rice, raisins, olives, salt and pepper, stirring to combine; increase the heat to medium-high just to bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until well blended. Serve hot.

Recipe Source: Adapted from her "The Everything Meals on a Budget Cookbook" (Adams Media, 2008).

146 calories, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, n/a cholesterol, 408mg sodium, 24g carbohydrates, 3g dietary fiber, 3g protein.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick for The Washington Post.
E-mail the Food Section at with recipe questions.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Two whole grain recipes that looked good

From the SF Gate

Walnut Bread Strata with Swiss Chard

Serves 10-12

The Walnut Bread Strata with Swiss Chard is a play on a breakfast dish
that usually features fluffy white bread and loads of eggs and cheese.
Reducing the amount of custard and cheese and substituting fresh whole
wheat walnut bread turns it into a whole different animal - it's dense
and crunchy with the slightly sour, deep character of grainy artisan bread.

The strata needs to soak overnight, so all you do the next day is bring
it to room temperature for a half hour - this reduces the cooking time
and the risk of it drying out in the oven - and bake it for 45 minutes.

This strata needs to be assembled the night before baking. It's pretty
hearty, so you can serve it to quite a few people; it would be nice for
a brunch buffet. Serve with fruit salad and sausages, or add 2 cups
cooked and crumbled sausages to the bread when you toss it with the
Swiss chard.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, finely minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves ripped into smaller pieces
3 cups low-fat milk
8 eggs
-- Pinch nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/2 pound of whole wheat walnut bread, such as Acme, or whole wheat
levain, bottom crust removed and the rest of the loaf cut into 1-inch cubes
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded

Instructions: Use butter or olive oil to grease a 9-by-13 inch baking pan.

Heat the olive in a medium skillet. Add the onion and saute until
tender, 8 minutes. Add the chard and saute for 3 minutes, then add a
splash of water, cover, then cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Set
aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, eggs and nutmeg until smooth.

In a bowl, toss the bread with the cheese and the Swiss chard. Spread
out in the prepared pan. Drizzle with the egg mixture so that the bread
is evenly coated. The egg mixture won't cover all of the bread, but try
to poke down any pieces that can be further nestled in the custard (this
way the top will be crunchy and crisp).

Refrigerate overnight then bring to room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bake until egg mixture is set and casserole is bubbly, 40-45 minutes.
Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 200 calories, 13 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat (5
g saturated), 162 mg cholesterol, 280 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Apricot Coffee Cake with Oatmeal Crumble

Serves 10-12

Lest you fear Mom will think you're trying to force her to be too
healthy, make the Apricot Coffee Cake with Oatmeal Crumble. Each slice
has a layer of dried apricots and streusel running through the center,
making an elegant and delicious addition to a brunch spread.

Supplemented with whole wheat pastry flour, the cake bakes up lighter
than one made with regular whole-wheat flour. Other nourishing
ingredients include rolled oats and low-fat yogurt rather than sour
cream. Though it also contains butter and white sugar to ensure a
delicate and moist texture, the cake ends up having a lot less fat and
more fiber than your typical breakfast pastry, something that mothers
will appreciate.

Filling and topping:
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar, lightly packed
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Coffee cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

To make the filling and topping: Soak the apricots in hot water for
20-30 minutes or until soft, then drain thoroughly.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl, squishing the butter
with your fingers or a pastry blender until the ingredients are well
combined. Set aside.

To make the coffee cake: Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan or a
9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350°.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed
until creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs, yogurt, and vanilla and almond
extracts, then beat again until smooth.

Whisk or stir together the all-purpose flour, pastry flour, baking soda
and salt in a medium bowl, then gradually add to the butter mixture
while on low speed, until just combined.

If using a Bundt pan: Sprinkle half of the topping evenly over the
bottom of the prepared pan. Pour one-third to one-half of the batter
evenly on top, then sprinkle with the remaining topping and all of the
apricots. Add the rest of the batter in large spoonfuls, then use a
flexible spatula to gently spread the batter to an even thickness (it
helps to grease the spatula first); it's OK if some of the filling mixes
in. Follow baking directions, below.

If using a springform pan: Pour one-third to one-half of the batter
evenly in the prepared pan, then sprinkle with half of the topping and
all of the apricots. Add the rest of the batter in large spoonfuls, then
use a flexible spatula to gently spread the batter to an even thickness
(it helps to grease the spatula first); it's OK if some of the filling
mixes in. Sprinkle with the remaining topping.

Bake until a toothpick placed in the thick part comes out clean, 40-45
minutes for a Bundt pan, 40 minutes for a 9-inch pan. Let cool on a rack
for 10 minutes, then use a thin knife to loosen the edges of the cake.
If using a Bundt pan, invert it onto a serving platter; with a
springform pan remove it from the pan and slide onto a platter.

Per serving: 325 calories, 6 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 14 g fat (7 g
saturated), 62 mg cholesterol, 185 mg sodium, 4 g fiber

Menu Plan Monday

Ok, so far for the next few days it's to use up the meals that I cooked yesterday (well the parts of it that I cooked see this post

Monday: Herbed Turkey Burgers (just ground turkey with some Italian seasoning) and I'm thinking about making potato salad. I wish is was warmer here though - I may just make garlic fries.

Tuesday: Spaghetti and Meatballs (finally!) with Garlic bread

Wednesday: Gyros (not sure what I'm going to serve as a side with this since tomatoes aren't exactly tasty yet, probably just a Greek-style salad)

Thurs: Herbed Sirloin Steak with baked potatoes

Fri: Far East Grillers

With that last one, it could change, you see, the chicken is just that, frozen chicken breasts, so it could actually be whatever I want it to be and we may be leaving Friday night to head up to my mothers so I'm not even sure if I'll just use leftovers from Thursday and make steak sandwiches anyway. We'll have to see what happens.

For other meal ideas check out I'm an Organizing Junkie:

And then our grill died. It's been dying and when we researched last year how much it would cost to replace the burners and such we found out that the company doesn't technically make that model anymore so the parts are pretty hard to find and pretty expensive. It doesn't help that they are cast-iron so the shipping and handling are pretty high too (but that's also why they've lasted for a while too). To but new ones will cost as much as buying a new grill almost - and we're not even sure if they'll fit either. And to top it off, we're not even sure if that will totally fix the problem we're having. We do know that we need to replace the burners (there's 3 separate ones) but we're having problems finding the rest of the parts to fix the rest of it. We really hate to "waste" the grill and the fact that most of them seem to be disposable. From what we've heard and read, Weber seems to keep a pretty good back stock of parts so we're going to look into getting one of those and hopefully we won't have to go through this again. I do have a charcoal grill (it's also a smoker) - but there's a few problems: 1)it takes so long to light it for just 2 people and 2)the smoke give me problems with my allergies so we haven't even used it yet. I wonder if there is a way to convert a former gas grill to a charcoal grill - that would at least help with one problem hubby has with charcoal grills - he's afraid of a fire starting since the one I have is so close to the ground. All this to say mom is going to give me her grill that she hasn't used in years until we can afford to get a new one. Yay!

I'm aaaaalive!

Yes, it's true, I still breathe. ;)

Not much has been going on here at Chez JJ. From the list of meals, I didn't make the Far East Grillers and I've been trying to make Garlic Meatballs & Spaghetti for a few days now. I haven't been feeling so great - headache and tired, and my throat's been hurting me - not sure if it's from allergies or what. I fell asleep Friday evening before hubby got home and he got home really late, so by the time he got home and woke me up I was out of sorts and we just went out to Goochland and ate at Hardees instead. I made a quiche for breakfast on Saturday (ham & broccoli) and we ate leftovers for lunch and hubby put me to bed for a nap at 3 pm, and I slept until 9 pm! He said he tried to wake me up a few times, but I didn't move. So it was leftovers again, and we really didn't have that many in the fridge to begin with - this week was pretty slim since most of the meals I had were packaged just for 2 or we had eaten the leftovers earlier in the week. I had also pulled a few more stuff out of the freezer on Wed to make room for a sale of Sirloin Tip roast (1.97/lb) and 2 loaves of homemade wheat bread:
the ham for the quiche
Ground Beef Gyros (from's freezer menu)
ground turkey
frozen shrimp
and the Garlic meatballs.
Luckily it takes a few days for stuff to thaw in my fridge depending on where I place it. Well, since I didn't want the meat going off before I got around to actually fixing it since I've been behind this weekend I cooked them today. I feel all productive. Course it probably would have been more productive to have done it last night when I couldn't sleep since I had slept all day, but oh well.

So I went ahead and made the meatballs - all I had to do was stuff the meatballs with minced garlic and I baked them. This means I just need to boil the pasta and throw them into sauce to reheat them once hubby tells me he's on his way home from work. I also went ahead and baked the Gyro patties, so all I need to do is make the taziki and reheat the patties and make a side dish. I made herbed turkey burgers with the ground turkey meat (got it for 1.97 since it was short dated) and went ahead and broiled those so once more all I need to do is reheat those and make a side and they're ready to go too. That will use up the rest of the hamburger buns leftover from the Sloppy Joes. And we used the shrimp tonight (from a BOGO sale) - I made a Greekish dish - sauteed garlic, added a can of diced tomatoes and a dash of vermouth- reduced that while the fettucine boiled. When the pasta was almost done added the peeled shrimp (if I had olives I would have added those) and then drained the pasta. Added the pasta and a touch of lemon juice and parsley. I tossed it together and added black pepper and feta cheese. Very tasty. :) So this way if I don't feel good a few of this weeks dinners will be a bit easier.

We did make it to the Goochland Farmer's Market on Saturday. Hubby went with me. I only had $13 with me - so I didn't get much - some pork bratwurst and some beef heart - but that's enough. I didn't want any salad fixings and I didn't need any eggs and I didn't have enough to get any other beef cuts and they chicken person didn't have any chickens this go round. As for the other stuff - didn't really need it and some of it I didn't have the money for. There was a really nice booth with doggie stuff - and we got samples of cheese breadsticks for the guys that they loved - course it's food and they're pugs - that's a given. And there was a booth with a knitter that had some nice stuff. I didn't spend too long there since hubby was with me and he was looking kinda bored. There was a lot of booths and people there, Yay! We won't be able to go next week since we're probably heading up to MD for my niece's college graduation. There was someone there selling loaves of bread - I wanted to buy some to support them, but I just couldn't especially since I had just put two loaves of my own in the freezer. I can't wait until it's a bit further into the growing season and there's more veggies to chose from!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Recipes that caught my eye

From the

Cheesy pastas can be eaten now or later
By Marge Perry
Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

It is a rare soul who does not appreciate creamy cheese and pasta baked together and served piping hot out of the oven. For the cook, these dishes offer flexibility in timing; all may be prepared well in advance and baked just before serving.

Chicken Parmesan Pasta Casserole
Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces pasta
2 cups (10 ounces) diced roasted chicken breast
2 cups tomato pasta sauce, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded light mozzarella, divided
6 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and toss with chicken and 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of parmesan. Transfer to prepared baking dish.

Spoon the remaining 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the casserole ingredients; sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella and 2 tablespoons of parmesan. Bake 10 minutes, or until cheese is thoroughly melted.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 345 calories, 33 grams protein, 32 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 9 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 548 milligrams sodium

Cheesy Cauliflower and Shells Casserole
Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces small shell pasta
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets (about 6 cups)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch nutmeg
2 1/2 cups skim milk, divided
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cups shredded light Cheddar
8 ounces Canadian bacon, diced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; add pasta and cook 4 minutes. Add cauliflower and cook another 3-4 minutes, until pasta is al dente and cauliflower is crisp-tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine flour, thyme, nutmeg and 1/4 cup milk in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Place the pan over medium heat and slowly whisk in the remaining milk and mustard. Cook, stirring, 7-8 minutes, or until mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese and bacon.

Combine the pasta-cauliflower and sauce and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the parmesan and bake 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 385 calories, 31 grams protein, 45 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 44 milligrams cholesterol, 902 milligrams sodium

Greek Shrimp Casserole

When freezing leftovers, separate into individual portions for reheating. Wrap each portion in layers of plastic wrap, then place several in each freezer bag, squeezing out excess air. Makes 6 servings.

8 ounces orzo
1 (1 0-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach
1 (14. 5-ounce) can diced tomato
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup crumbled feta
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2-quart baking pan with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add orzo and spinach and cook 9 minutes, or until orzo is al dente and spinach is thawed. Drain.

Toss the pasta mixture with the diced tomato, orange juice, olive oil and marjoram. Stir in the feta and shrimp and transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Bake 22-26 minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through. If the top begins to brown too much, cover it loosely with foil.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 334 calories, 27 grams protein, 36 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 10 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 137 milligrams cholesterol, 526 milligrams sodium

Chipotle-Honey Glaze
By The Denver Post

From Tyler Wiard of Elway's Cherry Creek, this glaze would be good on lamb, pork or chicken. Searing the meat before glazing and finishing in the oven allows the glaze to caramelize. "You want that sweet smoky spicy finish, not burned," says Wiard.

1/2 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Juice of 1 lime

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Season meat with salt and pepper and sear in hot oil in a skillet. Place meat in a shallow dish and spoon on glaze. Finish in a 400-degree oven about 20 minutes for rare.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

This week we're eating from the Freezer. I'm using up some recipes that I had put in there from Leanne Ely from They are from her freezer recipes so I won't be posting the recipes. I'm clearing out the freezer so I can add some more back in. :) This will leave me about 3 meals in there. For more Menu ideas check out I'm an Organizing Junkie:

I was hoping to hit the Goochland Farmer's Market this weekend, but I wasn't feeling so great. It was the first weekend for it, and it's still a little early for there to be much for veggies, so I didn't miss much. And since my freezer is still pretty full, I wouldn't have room for the chicken and buffalo that were there (one of the other reasons that we are eating the meals out of there this week too).

Yesterday was a pretty bad day, all the ads in the paper for Mother's Day hit me pretty hard. This week is going to be pretty hard I think - and this weekend isn't going to be much better. We were thinking of doing something with MiL but after yesterday, hubby and I have pretty much decided to just do a card and not worry too much about it. We don't think that she'll be able to not say anything, and we also think that we'll be too fragile not to say anything back if she does. It just wouldn't be worth it in the long run. Father's day won't be much better I'm sure since it will be after the surgery. Will it ever get easier?

Country Fried Chicken and Peppers
Polynesian Steak
Apricot Barbecued Chicken Legs
Dad's Favorite Sloppy Joes
Far East Grillers
Garlic Meatballs with Spaghetti

Friday, May 02, 2008

Bagna Cauda

I actually got to use my Lil Dipper crockpot thingy that came with my 6 qt crockpot for this. it hold about 1 1/2 cups and worked perfectly for this. I also saved the oil that the fillets were packed in (it was olive oil) and used that instead of regular olive oil. I didn't have to add any salt to the Bagna. I sauted the garlic and warmed the cream in the skillet and then put it in the plugged in little crockpot for about an hour until hubby got home. The unplugged crockpot kept it warm afterwards while we ate. Yes, this served just us fine with leftover veggies but no dip - we did try to eat more veggies than bread too.

I know there are recipes based more on olive oil, but I decided to go with this one since sometimes when I have too much olive oil I have liver pain - I didn't from this - although I worried that I might. CI tested (not surprising) and said that the olive oil ones separated and the anchovy/garlic sunk to the bottom which I could see happening because that's what happens when I do the balsamic/pepper/garlic dip for bread. They tried half-and-half and said that they missed the texture and heft that the heavy cream gave. I think next time I might try it with regular whipping cream and see what it's like though.

Bagna Cauda
Serves 8 to 12
From Cooks Illustrated "The Best Italian Classics"
This sauce should be served warm, so use a fondue pot or double boiler for serving. Serve with crudities-style vegetables and either rustic pieces of bread or fresh breadsticks.

1 cup heavy cream
3 oz anchovy fillets, drained (about 35 fillets)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
5 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and ground black pepper
12 cups prepared vegetables
several cups cubed rustic bread or 12 to 24 fresh breadsticks

Place the heavy cream and anchovy fillets in a blender and blend until smooth, about 5 seconds. Set aside.

Heat the oil, garlic and cayenne in a small saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is translucent, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the anchovy cream mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm with the vegetables and bread.

Crudites: Each of the preparations listed below yields about 3 cups vegetables. Choose at least 4 vegetables for serving with bagna cauda.

Asparagus:Snap tough ends from 12 oz asparagus. Blanch in boiling salted water until bright green, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again, and pat dry.

Broccoli: Cut florets from 1 small bunch (about 1 lb) into bite-size pieces. Blanch in boiling salted water until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.

Carrots: Blanch 3/4 pound baby carrots in boiling salted water until bright orange, about 15 seconds. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.

Cauliflower: Cut florets from 1/2 medium heat (about 1 lb) into bite-sized pieces. Blanch in boiling salted water until slightly tender, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.

Celery: Trim ends from 4 medium stalks (about 1/2 lb). Cut stalks in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 3-inch lengths.

Fennel: Remove and discard the stalks and fronds from 1 medium fennel bulb (about 1 lb). Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and remove the triangular core from each half. Cut into slices 1/2 inch thick. Blanch in boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again and pat dry.

Green Beans: Trim ends from 8 oz thin green beans. Blanch in boiling salted water until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again, and pat dry.

Bell peppers: Stem and seed 3 small red, yellow, or orange bell peppers. Cut into strips about 3 inches long and 3/4 inch wide.

Sugar snap peas: Remove ends and strings from 8 oz sugar snap peas. Blanch in boiling water until bright green, about 15 seconds. Drain, shock in ice water, drain again, and pat dry.

Tomatoes: Stem 1 pound cherry tomatoes.

This week's Menu Plan and a bit of a rant

Sorry about not posting my menu plan this week. I did have one, but I haven't been feeling so great this week. My allergies are really throwing me for a loop, and then my period started - which really makes me tired and all that comes along with that. I have been quite frankly exhausted this week. It's always quite scary how much I sleep until my period starts and then both hubby and I breathe a sigh of relief. We're never quite sure if it's liver related or not - although usually my liver stuff comes with pain.

So what have we eaten this week?

Monday: Bagna Cauda : this is something I've wanted to make for a while. Hubby and I have been watching Babylon 5 (he's seen it, I haven't) and one of the characters is trying to smuggle the ingredients onboard even though he's been put on a diet by the onboard doctor. Hubby asked me about it, and I remember that I had recently seen a recipe in a Cooks Illustrated book I bought at Costco. It was great, and was an easy way for us to get our veggies in. And an great way to keep some par-cooked (?) veggies on hand for the rest of the week for me to use as sides that won't go bad either. I'll post the recipe I used at the end. Here's a brief explanation

Tuesday: Grilled chicken that had been marinated in a Mustard-based North Carolina style BBQ sauce with some of the leftover veggies (I was supposed to make it on Sunday but it hadn't thawed yet.)

Wed: Tacos

Thurs: Hamburgers (and grilled BBQ chicken) I did both only because I didn't have a lot of ground beef and I bought a whole chicken on Monday and I wasn't sure how long it would last so I went ahead and cooked it because we'll eat the leftovers over the weekend. I'm glad I did since the grill went out [it's a gas grill] after I put the bbq sauce on) with tater tots (I'm craving tater tots because of my upcoming surgery - emotional eat much?)

Friday: Pasta with Goat cheese sauce or Pizza (depends on how hot it gets today and how tired I am - if the pizza doesn't get made then it'll be made tomorrow)

This weekend: Leftovers (or the pizza or pasta depending on what doesn't get made today).

I just finished reading "Three Cups of Tea." It had to be a fast read because it's only on a 14 day loan from the library since it's a new book on high demand. Usually books are loaned out for a month (yes, we're lucky - in the city we only got 2 weeks). It was very good, a bit disjointed -but the writer explained the reason for that in the preface. I did cry a few times while reading it. It was interesting reading a bit of the backstory before the war and during the war too. I actually would have liked to read a bit more about that, I felt like the ending dealing with that part was a bit rushed. The other reason that it was a quick read was the fact that the other book I had put on hold also came in at the same time, "In Defense of Food". I never did get to finish reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" (I have the CD on hold though) and this is also on 14 day hold and I've got 7 days left. Wish me luck. I am also listening to Peter Walsh's "It's All Too Much" but that on is on my Ipod and I've got a month for that. I did finish "The Red Tent" it was good a bit too much sex stuff for me though. I really thought that distracted from the story itself.

Now for the Rant [some of it may be TMI] (Feel free to skip, I just need to get this out since I am sure hubby is tired of hearing it and I am tired of complaining to hubby about it).

My surgery is scheduled for June 5 at 7:30 in the morning. I don't think I've talked too much about it here. This is kind of related to my liver stuff in the fact that it's possibly what started my liver problems. My periods have always been wonky - lasting for longer than they should and being heavy. I started on birth control pills to regulate my periods when I was in 10th grade not to actually prevent a pregnancy (I didn't start dating until I was in college). I am 35 now (I'll be 36 on June 21st) and I stopped taking birth control pills hoping we could get pregnant. I was never able to, but we didn't go as far as to try any fertility treatment or anything yet because other medical problems started.

Once I did stop the pills, my periods started back to becoming a problem again, with occasional need for hormones to help shed the endometrium and talking about possibly needing a D&C (where they physically remove the tissue) but never actually having to get one since the pills would work. Well since the tumors in my liver were found, and they are sensitive to hormones, I can't use the pills to control the shedding of my endometrium anymore and the only way to help my periods is with a D&C. And since I really don't want to have to keep going back for a D&C every few months the best thing to try now is to go and have what is called an ablation. This is where they will use (or what the doctor will use) a short burst of electricty to kill the endometrium itself (there are other ways to do this, freezing and such, but this is what the doctor uses).

This makes my uterus unable to host a fertilized egg, and I need to have my tubes tied so that should I get pregnant, an egg won't try to implant (either ectopicly [in a tube] or even try to implant in any tissue that might be missed) and cause problems later down the road since any hormones that are released from a pregnancy could cause the tumors in my liver to burst and cause me to bleed out (the tumors in my liver are filled with blood).

So, even though hubby and I have been dealing with the fact that I can't get pregnant for quite a while now thanks to the liver stuff, this just puts a stamp of finality on the whole thing that has got us both quite a bit down and me quite a bit weepy. At the end of April I had to sign a paper stating that I was planning to do all this, since in Va there is a 30 day waiting period to do such since I haven't had kids (men apparently have the same thing to sign). Talk about a long tunnel of darkness. It will occasionally hit me and make me want to eat everything in sight or just want to withdrawl totally. Most everyone has been quite helpful, and even people who talk about adopting and such, I understand where they are coming from even if it is something that we are too raw to think about at this time.

BUT my MiL (hubby's mom) is driving both of us up the wall. She feels that I should NOT have signed the paper. It was not "GOD's will" for me to sign that paper. She is treating me as if signing that paper was like me having an abortion. Now let me state that she has a grandchild by her daughter, and will probably have more - they have only been married for over a year now. The problem is that she wants one from her son. She knows that if I have one it will kill me. She has been there for all my surgeries and stuff. It doesn't make any difference because all she cares about is the fact that SHE wants a grandchild. Every conversation is dominated by the fact that we can't produce one and how much she wants one. We have told her over and over that we can't have one and why we can't have one, and it's gotten to the point that we dread seeing and talking to her. She doesn't realize how much her selfishness is ruining what she does have. We are trying our best to look at what we have instead of what we don't.

At this point we aren't even telling her when the surgery is. She will find out afterwards. During my other surgeries, she drove hubby crazy with her blathering on. Yes, he even said that, he was glad my mom was there to talk to her - my mom who works in a Dr. office is used to talking with the older patients and she said that's how she treats her. She is actually younger than my mom. I take food to her every week - she has gotten to the point where she has mostly stopped cooking for herself and eats frozen foods (Lean Cuisines and such) so this way we can make sure that she's eating. We've got some problems with her (once more I'm not sure how much I've written about it before), and we're not even sure how much truth she tells us as it is when she tells us stuff as it is. A lot of what she tells us reminds me a lot of when my grandmother was going downhill. She's not there yet, but I can see it getting there in a few years. It's not going to be a fun journey with my husbands habit of putting his head in hole either.

Ok, I should stop....I'm getting worked up and I don't need that either...