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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Muffin mix yeast rolls

A classic soft dinner roll that can made sweet or not and frozen for browning-and-serving.  I made this recipe recently using my bread machine on the dough setting.  It's a 2 lb. machine and it managed to handle this large and heavy recipe, but I wouldn't do it in a smaller machine. 

N.B...the package size for the muffin mix/cake mix is important.  If you do a sweet cake mix, get a 9 oz. box that makes a single 9" layer (Jiffy makes mixes this size, so does Martha White I think).  The big boxes of Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines mixes are 18 oz.  Same with the muffin mix...make sure it's a small 7.5-ish oz. package of mix, not a great big box.  Constant vigilance!



Muffin Mix Yeast Rolls
Makes 18 rolls

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 3/4 cup bread flour
1 7.5 oz. package bran muffin mix
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110F)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Optional: 2 beaten egg whites

OR

Cake Mix Yeast Rolls
Makes 18 rolls

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
3 1/4 cup bread flour
1 9 oz. package yellow cake mix
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110F)
1/4 cup butter, melted
Optional: 2 beaten egg whites

Stir together dry ingredients.  Add water and melted butter and beat until a shaggy ball forms.  Knead the dough about 5 minutes.  Put in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 hour. 

Punch dough down and divide into 2 pieces.  Divide each of those into 3 pieces, and divide each of those into 3 pieces.  Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place in 2 9" cake pans, lightly greased or non-stick. 

You can freeze the dough now, or let it rise 30 minutes.  Brush tops of rolls with egg whites for a shiny finish (totally optional). 

Bake dough (thawed, if previously frozen) 15-20 minutes at 350F. 

You can also freeze the baked rolls and reheat them, after thawing, at 350F for about 15 minutes.
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Blue Cheese Artichoke Pasta

This is a fairly strong tasting pasta sauce, thanks to the blue cheese.  If blue isn't your thing, you can use less or sub in something you do like...feta, parmesan, shredded asiago, manchego, whatever floats your boat.  You must leave in the artichokes though...they are one of the top 5 cancer-fighting foods on the planet.  I heard it on Dr. Oz, so it must be true ;-)  

When it comes to browning mushrooms, I've found that a little benign neglect is the way to go.  Get your pan hot and your butter melted, put the mushrooms in and WALK AWAY for a few a minutes.  I mean, don't leave the house or anything, but go clean the cutting board.  You more you fiddle with them, the less they brown.

Blue Cheese and Artichoke Pasta
Makes 6 servings
2 tbsp butter
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
3 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1 15-oz can artichokes, cut up
1 13-16 oz. box pasta, any shape

(If prepping ahead for same-day or next-day cooking, measure and chop all ingredients.  Combine 2 tbsp butter and 3 tbsp flour in a container, keep remaining ingredients separate.)

Saute the mushrooms in 2 tbsp butter over medium-high heat, if you like them browned, or over medium heat if you just like them soft (about 5-7 minutes).


Lower heat to medium.  Add the additional 2 tbsp butter to the pan.  When melted, whisk in flour.  Cook 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk 1 cup at a time.  When all the milk is added, turn the heat up to medium-high until the sauce is simmering.  Return heat to medium and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

If preparing a freezer kit, freeze the sauce now and label the pasta and can of artichokes for pantry storage.  When ready to cook, thaw and reheat the sauce.  You may have to add a little milk to get the consistency you like.  Add chopped artichokes.  Boil the pasta according to the package directions.  Toss drained pasta with sauce.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A sauce I use to make enchiladas

I hesitate to label this recipe "enchilada sauce" because there may be a very specific expectation of what "enchilada sauce" will be like.  This recipe certainly claims no regional authencitiy.  So instead, this is a recipe for "sauce I use to make enchiladas", as well as a number of other southwestern/Mexican type of recipes. 
Cocoa and chiles are an ancient flavor combination, so I'm not just being weird with that addition.  It's hard to know exactly what kind of heat you'll get from your chiles, so you may want to taste the sauce every few minutes and pull the chiles out before it's finished simmering.  If you wind up making a sauce that blows your tastebuds off your tongue, just cut the finished product with some canned plain tomato sauce.  It will have a brighter, "raw"-er tomato flavor but you won't have chile-burn from your finished dish.

I'd freeze this in 2-3 cup portions for enchiladas or to make tacos, or use the whole batch for a pan of Tex-Mex lasagne.

Sauce I use to make enchiladas
Makes 5-6 cups

2 dried mild chiles, such as Sandia or ancho (more if you like it hotter)
2 tsp each whole cuminseed and coriander seed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp oregano
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of cinnamon
4 15-oz cans diced tomatoes,  undrained
1 can water

Cut the stems off the chiles and shake out as many seeds as you can.  Leave the chiles whole.  Toast the chiles and whole spices over medium heat in a heavy saucepan (about 5 minutes), shaking the pan and turning the chiles occasionally. 

Add the oil, and saute the onions, garlic and tomato paste over medium heat until the tomato paste browns (about 5 minutes).  It will look like you've screwed up and burned it, but you haven't!  If it looks slightly burned, you've done it right.  Add the remaining spices, including cocoa powder, and saute for another minute or two. 


Add the tomatoes and water.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low.  Simmer 30 minutes, uncovered.  Remove the chiles and bay leaves.  Blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a stand blender or food processor.
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Savory & Sweet Shortbread

I adore shortbread, store-bought, homemade, doesn't matter as long as it's got real honest-to-goodness butter.  And of course, the dough can be frozen ahead for later baking!

The savory shortbread here is from the Argo Cornstarch people, but I used brown rice flour instead of cornstarch for the wee bit of whole grain goodness it gives.  This shortbread is kind of like a biscuit, but more intense...a two-bite square is a good serving size to accompany a roast and something green or to serve as an appetizer.  The original called for twice as much cayenne pepper as I've indicated, but that turned out unpleasantly spicy.

The sweet shortbread is from Natalie Haughton's Cookies and, despite the similarity in batch size, does not make nearly as many servings as the savory...at least not at my house.

Pepper Parmesan Shortbread
Makes 36 servings
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup cornstarch or rice flour
3/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp milk + 1 tsp coarse ground pepper for topping

Combine the flour, cheese, cornstarch or rice flour and spices in the bowl of a food processor.  Add cubed butter and pulse until the mixture looks like oatmeal.  Turn out into a bowl and stir in sour cream until the mixture just holds together.  Press into a 8x8 baking pan (disposable if you want to freeze ahead), or divide in half and form 2 1-1/2" diameter logs.  Brush the top of the dough (either form) with milk and sprinkle on pepper.  You can freeze either form now to bake later.  If you made logs, you'll need to at least chill them for a couple of hours before slicing if you aren't freezing ahead.

Thaw dough if frozen.  Slice logs, if using, into 1/4" slices.  Bake at 325F for 20 minutes for slices and about 45 minutes for the 8x8 pan. 

Scottish Shortbread
Makes 9 cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup rice flour
1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

Beat butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add rice flour and AP flour.  Knead mixture together until no longer crumbly.  Press into 8x8 pan.  Freeze now or bake for 35-45 minutes at 325F. 
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Monday, February 21, 2011

Collard green sausage rolls


Collard greens...aren't they hard to cook?  Don't they taste funny?  Oh, just give these a try.  The original recipe is for a super-spicy ground pork mixture wrapped in collards.  Using ground sausage is so much easier and a lot more palate-friendly too (if you try the original, I'd only use 1/2-1 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes unless you are a serious chile-head or a masochist).  Either way, this freezes ahead very nicely.


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Single Tablespoon Quick Change

Compound butter and flavored olive oil.  Make some ahead, freeze it or fridge it, and turn Plain Anything into an Amazing Something with a tablespoon or two.  Pork chops, chicken breasts, fish fillets, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, rice, pasta, scrambled eggs...it is astounding what you can do with this stuff.

In general, I'd use the oil and clarified butter to cook in and the compound butters and chimichurri to finish a cooked dish.

Mojo de Ajo
Makes about 2 cups
Thank you to Jason and Michelle for this one!

2 large heads garlic, cloves peeled and smashed slightly
1 - 1 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
red pepper flakes (optional)

Heat oven to 325F.  Stir together garlic, oil and salt in a baking dish small enough to keep the garlic submerged in the oil (9x5 works).  Bake 45-55 minutes.  Add lime juice and return to the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove and mash garlic into a coarse puree.  Add red pepper flakes to taste, if desired.  Store in a pint jar in a cool, dry place (I keep mine in the fridge and take it out a few minutes before cooking to let the oil liquify)




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Friday, February 18, 2011

Easy-easier-easiest sides: Mashed potatoes

Lemon Olive Oil Smashed Potatoes
You don't always have to do the full-out Thanksgiving mashed potato rigamarole.  I leave the skins on my taters because that's where the vitamins are (so says my mom) and it's way easier.  Here's how to do the mash with as little on hand as a couple of pounds of potatoes.  Two pounds of potatoes will give about 6 servings, at least that's what goes at my house.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Breakfast Done Yesterday

Breakfast is by far the hardest meal for me to turn out in real time.  I am NOT a morning person, and the feral monsters that emerge from my children's bedrooms at 7 am every day do not morph into pleasant little people until after they've been fed and watered.  Every minute counts, and saving even a few minutes saves a lot of my sanity.

Homemade frozen pancakes and cereal are great for the kiddos, but I like something a with a little more staying power for myself.  Neither the Morning Power Drink nor Breakfast Muesli to Go can be frozen really well, but they can be made in large batches (on Sunday night, say) and kept for a week or so in the fridge to cut a snooze-button's worth of time off your breakfast prep.

Morning Power Drink (makes 6 servings)

2 1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cup orange juice
3 6-oz. yogurt cups (any flavor, or plain)
3 bananas
1 cup soy protein powder or non-fat dry milk powder
Optional: 3 tbsp flaxmeal

Blend all the ingredients together and refrigerate.

Breakfast Muesli To Go (makes 5 servings)

5 cups rolled oats
1 32-oz. tub low-fat plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
5 cups assorted berries (fresh or frozen)
Optional: 1 banana, apple or kiwi per serving

Stir together the oats, yogurt, milk, honey or maple syrup and berries.  Divide into 5 sealable containers.  If desired, slice a piece of fresh fruit just before serving and stir it into one serving of the muesli.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Disposal vs. reusable

We are a pretty environmentally-conscious household.  We compost, recycle, use cloth diapers, have a rain barrel and a clothesline.  We have a large vegetable garden, drive a hybrid car, and support local and organic farming.  We keep our thermostat set low in winter and high in summer.  I am absurdly proud of how little trash we put out every week. 

But my dirty little secret is that I use a lot of disposal zip-top bags and vacu-seal bags in the course of freeze-ahead cooking.  I mean a LOT.  I should own stock in Ziploc, or at least have a bench named for me in their corporate Zen garden. 

When I'm just prepping ahead to cook later the same day or the next day, I use reusable containers to hold my prepped and measured ingredients.  But in the freezer, a hard-sided container consumes so much space compared to a bag...surely the energy saved by chilling less space offsets the use of the disposal item? 

And when freezing many, many meals in advance (in preparation for a new baby, for example), I certainly don't have enough reusable containers to manage it all and buying more just to avoid using disposal bags when I likely won't need them in such large quantities again is rather wasteful in itself. 

It's not the end of the world, but how often I turn to a zip-top or vacu-seal bag is something that I'm mindful of and not entirely comfortable with.  And I just needed to get it off my chest. 

What's your disposable-to-reusable container use like?  How do you feel about it? Pin It

Watermelon Gazpacho

Ohmygosh, I am ready for summer!  When watermelon is plentiful, try this make-ahead and freezeable soup. 

The original Food & Wine recipe calls for a crab salad of sorts to go with the soup, but 1) ick and 2) the crab salad isn't prep-ahead friendly. 




The original recipe also calls for fresh lemongrass, but 1) puh-lease, I live in the Midwest and it's not something we find at the local Kroger and 2) it's a pain to work with anyway.  You can get tubes of lemongrass puree in the produce section of my grocery stores, so that's what I use.  Freeze the leftover puree in ice cube trays or a zip-top bag for other recipes.

Watermelon Gazpacho (makes 4 servings)

5 cups coarsely chopped seeded watermelon
2-3 tbsp lemongrass puree
3 tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 1/2 tbsp mild olive oil
1 small hot green chile, such as Thai or serrano, finely chopped (seeded or not, depending on your preference)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or to taste
3/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Puree the watermelon in a blender or food processor and transfer to a bowl (don't wash out the blender).

Cook lemongrass, shallots, ginger, and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until golden, about 5 minutes.  Add about 1/3 of the watermelon puree and simmer over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. 

Allow to cook slightly, then carefully transfer to the blender or food processor.  Add chile, lime juice and salt and blend until smooth.  Add remaining watermelon puree and blend.  Strain soup through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on and discarding any solids.  Chill soup at least 2 hours before serving. Pin It

Stay-In Take-Out: Spicy Orange Beef & Broccoli edition


I just got the Argo Cornstarch product cookbook in the mail (free with $2 S&H), and I am drooling over the many stirfry recipes.  But I am genetically incapable of leaving well-enough alone, so I already have tweaks to report.

The original recipe calls for just 12 oz of beef.  I'm sure it's very authentically Asian to use less protein and more veg, but I live in the Midwest and there's no grocery store in a 100-mile radius that sells meat in such piddly quantities.  So I'm using 1.25 lbs of flank steak.  I could have bought a full 1.5 pounds and split it to make dinner tonight and freeze a kit of the same recipe, but I didn't want to commit a kit to a totally untried recipe.  Next time! 

The original recipe also calls for using the zest of an orange to marinate the beef in and plain ol' water for sauce.  Why not be less wasteful and more flavorful and squeeze the juice to use instead of the water?  So zest AND juice the orange for this recipe, unless you're using some of your frozen stash of citrus zest.

Tips: I don't peel ginger before grating any more.  It's bothersome, the peel is very thin and really doesn't cause problems and I'm a lazy cook.  Grate away!  Also freeze the beef for about an hour before slicing.  It's easier to cut thinly when it's got a little more backbone.  If you plan to freeze a meal kit for this dish, you can include frozen broccoli rather than needing to get fresh broccoli when you're ready to cook, but the veg won't be nearly as crisp.



And now, I present the Improved Argo Spicy Orange Beef & Broccoli...

Spicy Orange Beef & Broccoli (makes 4 servings)

1 lb (or so) flank steak OR sirloin steak, cut thinly across the grain
grated peel of 1 orange (or 2 tsp frozen zest)
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp cornstarch
--------
3 tbsp sherry
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp beef bouillon granules
1 tbsp sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup orange juice (or water)
2 tbsp cornstarch
---------
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cups broccoli florets

Rice, pasta, or shredded lettuce for serving

If prepping ahead to cook the same day or the following day or for freezing, combine the steak with the orange zest and ginger.  For same-day/next-day prep, combine the sherry, soy sauce, bouillon granules, sugar, crushed red pepper, orange juice and cornstarch and whisk. 


Showing the grain on the flank steak (right-slant) and the perpindicular angular of cutting (left slant)

For freezing, omit the cornstarch from the sauce mixture.  Put the marinated beef, sauce and frozen broccoli (if using) into a large vacu-seal or zip-top bag and freeze.  Make sure to have cornstarch in the pantry when you're ready to cook.

When ready to cook, toss 1 tbsp cornstarch with the zest-ginger-beef mix and set aside.  Add 2 tbsp cornstarch to sauce mixture if preparing from a frozen kit and whisk well.

Heat oil in wok or skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and stirfry for 2 minutes until nearly cooked through.  Add broccoli and stirfry 3 minutes or just until tender.  Whisk sauce mixture well and add to pan.  Stirring constantly, bring to a boil.  Cook 1 minute, until thickened.



Serve over rice, pasta or shredded lettuce. Pin It

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shlurp!: Fruit Smoothies

I made up a bunch of smoothie-in-an-instant before Boy #2 was born thinking that I was going to need all the quick, healthful, easy, homemade snacks I could get (as opposed to my post-Boy #1 snack of choice, Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies ::blush:: ).  Turns out I HATE smoothies.  Good thing Boy #1 digs ‘em!


My smoothie mix is based on a Raspberry Soup recipe from the cookbook from the Cedar Crest Victorian Inn, a beautiful B&B in Asheville, NC.  I substitute local honey for sugar and only use half as much as the original, and leave out the water in order to create a "concentrate" for freezing.  The original recipe also calls for using all raspberry-flavored ingredients; it's very tasty to reinforce the primary fruit with yogurt and juice in the same flavor family, but also fun to mix things up.  Try orange juice with blueberries, apple juice with peaches, and so on. 
You can choose to strain the mixture or not.  I don't strain partly because I think food is at its most healthful when left whole and partly because I'm a lazy cook :D
Ice cube trays are one of the staple pieces of equipment in my kitchen.  Freezing things like leftover broth, extra wine, and tomato paste in cube form gives you versatility in portioning when you're ready to cook later.  One regular ice cube tray holds about 2 cups of liquid; this recipe will require 2 or 3 trays.
Frozen Fruit Smoothie Mix (makes 7 toddler smoothies, or about 3 adult smoothies)
20-24 oz. frozen fruit (e.g. raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches), thawed
1 cup juice
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 whole cloves
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
8 oz fruit-flavored yogurt
Puree the thawed fruit and juice in a food processor or blender.  Transfer to a large saucepan. Add the honey and spices. 



Bring just to a boil while stirring over medium heat.  Allow to cool and strain through a fine sieve, if desired.  Whisk in lemon juice and yogurt. 

Pour into ice cube trays to freeze.  You can store the mix in the trays or pop them into zip-top bags when frozen.
To make a smoothie: Put 3-4 cubes and about 1/4 cup water in a blender for a small smoothie or 6-8 cubes and about 1/2 cup water for a large smoothie.  Blend until desired consistency. 
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Yeast-raised vs. quick-raised pancakes

Pancakes are one of the major food groups at our house.  I have got more ways to make ‘em than you can shake a stick at, but it boils down to two main types: quick-raised and yeast-raised.  Both can be prepped the night before for a quick breakfast or frozen in their prepped state.  You can freeze them fully-cooked, too, for feeding instant breakfast to ravenous toddler beasts (Little Mister eats them fully frozen...chacun à son goût). 

The basic quick-raised recipe is from Better Homes & Gardens.  
Buttermilk Pancakes
Makes 10 4” pancakes
1 cup flour (white, whole wheat or half and half)
¼ cup buttermilk powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup water
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl (or freezer bag) and whisk wet ingredients in another bowl (or freezer bag).  Cover bowls and put in fridge for next-day use, freeze bags for later use, or mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients for immediate use.  Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto hot greased or non-stick griddle.  Cook on a griddle over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per side.
Yeast-raised pancakes (aka Flannel Cakes)
Makes 10 4" pancakes
1 egg
1 1/4 cup milk
1 tsp yeast
1 2/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

Whisk egg and milk together the night before you want to make pancakes.  Stir in yeast, flour and salt to form a thick batter.  (For prep-ahead freezing, put dry ingredients in one container and wet ingredients in another to freeze.  Thaw and mix together the night before cooking.)  Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand overnight.  You can hurry up the process by putting the bowl on a heating pad for a couple of hours, but the longer the batter stands, the more flavorful the pancakes will be. 


In the morning, stir down the batter.  The batter will be very thick and spoonable but not pourable.  Use a 1/4 cup measure to spoon out pancakes onto preheated greased or non-stick griddle.  Cook on medium heat 2-3 minutes per side.




Sweet Variations
Almond: add ½ tsp almond extract
Strawberry: add 1 tsp strawberry extract and 1 cup fresh or frozen sliced strawbs
Blueberry: add 1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries and ½ tsp cardamom
Citrus: add 1 tsp grated citrus zest
Cinnamon: add 1 tsp cinnamon
Honey: use 1 tbsp honey instead of sugar (or add to yeast-raised batter)


Maple: use 1 tbsp maple syrup instead of sugar (or add to yeast-raised batter)
Banana: mash 1 ripe banana and add to wet ingredients, add ½ tsp nutmeg
Chocolate (quick-raised): Add 1/4 cup cocoa powder, increase vanilla to 1 tbsp, increase sugar to 3 tbsp, increase oil to 3 tbsp

Peanut butter: Add 1/2 cup peanut butter to wet ingredients
Apple: add 1 cup chopped apple and 1 tsp apple pie spice
Pumpkin: add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Heart-healthy: use whole wheat flour, add 1/4 cup ground flaxseed and 1/4 cup oatmeal


Grape (quick-raised): omit buttermilk powder, increase baking powder to 2 tsp and use 1 cup grape juice instead of water, optionally add a drop of red and blue food coloring

Cranberry: plump 1 cup dried cranberries in a few tablespoons of orange juice or orange liqueur (zap it for 10 seconds in the microwave to speed things up) and add to batter, add 1/4 tsp almond extract

Savory Variations

Parmesan-pepper: omit sugar and vanilla for quick-raised, add 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese and 1 tsp black pepper

Savory herb: omit sugar and vanilla for quick-raised, add 2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs

Saffron: omit sugar and vanilla for quick-raised, crumble a pinch of saffron into the liquid in the recipe and let stand for 5 minutes before adding to the mix

Cheddar-bacon: omit sugar and vanilla for quick-raised, use 2 tbsp melted bacon fat or sausage drippings instead of oil, add 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Tomato-basil: omit vanilla for quick-raised, reduce water to 3/4 cup + 1 tbsp (or reduce milk to 1 cup + 1 tbsp for yeast-raised), add 1/4 cup tomato sauce and 2 tbsp minced basil 



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Friday, February 11, 2011

Posole


I’m pretty sure I’m committing heresy, but I mix red and green ingredients in my posole.  Gasp!  I also include vegetables which is something my husband’s new Mexico-raised grandmother never did.  Inauthentic, but so good!





I have a tile from a store in New Mexico with a recipe for posole on it that has 6 ingredients: pork, onion, garlic, hominy, chile pods and salt.  My recipe is slightly more complicated than that.  It’s an adaptation of a vegetarian three-sisters sort of recipe that calls for beans and squash in addition to the characteristic hominy.  I use meat (beef  back ribs, short ribs, pork shoulder, pork sirloin roast) instead of beans and beef broth, but keep the extra veggies and seasonings.
This recipe, like most chilis, soups and stews, has a variety of stopping points and can accommodate your schedule beautifully.  Today, I chopped, measured and grouped in the morning to cook in the evening.  You can also chop and measure ingredients and freeze them as a meal kit.  You can also cook this dish entirely in advance and freeze it, so that all you have to do with it is thaw and warm it.  Though chiles are notorious for getting hotter with freezing, so consider yourself warned!
As for handling the broth if you intend to prep-ahead and freeze a kit…you’ve got three choices.  1) Use canned/boxed broth, just label the can or box and store it on the pantry shelf to pull when you do the posole.  2) Freeze homemade (or store-bought) broth in ice cube trays and portion out about 1 quart of cubes to include in the freezer kit (1 standard ice cube tray holds about 2 cups of liquid).  This is a good method if you’re prepping several meals ahead that require broth, though it will take up more room in the freezer.  3) Use granules or bouillon cubes and add the appropriate amount to the squash/chile component.  When you cook, add 1 quart of water.  This saves a lot of freezer room.
Posole (serves 6-8)
3 dried Sandia chile pods (or other mild dried chile, such as ancho or pasilla)
1 tbsp oil
2 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder cut into cubes, beef ribs, short ribs
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp dry thyme
1 tsp dry oregano
1 acorn squash (or other small winter squash), peeled and coarsely chopped
½ cup salsa verde (store-bought is fine, I just happen to have homemade)
2 15-oz. cans hominy, drained
4 cups beef stock (or 2 tsp. granules or 2 cubes bouillon + 1 quart water)
Accompaniments: chopped cilantro, diced avocado, sliced green onions, diced tomatoes, chopped bell peppers, corn bread
Cut the stems off the chiles and shake out the seeds.  Reconstitute them in hot water for about 1 hour.  Coarsely chop them and set aside.

If freezing a meal kit, combine the chopped onion, garlic, celery, and spices in one vacu-seal or zip-top bag.  Combine the chiles, squash and bouillon (if using) into another bag.  Double-bag the meat and place into a larger bag with the two ingredient bags and freeze.  Make sure to label the hominy cans, salsa verde and beef broth (if using) for storage in the pantry.





When ready to cook, sear the meat in the oil in a large pot until well-browned on all sides.  Set meat aside to cool slightly.  If using ribs, cut the ribs into serving pieces.  (Today I'm using a cut of pork that the local farm processor labels "loin end roast".)




Saute the onion, garlic, celery and spices until soft, adding more oil if necessary.  Add the chiles and squash and stir until combined.  Add the broth, salsa verde and hominy and simmer 1 ½-2 hours.  Add any desired garnishes to serve.


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Peanut-butter oatmeal slices


My husband and his grandfather are the only two people I have known in real life who didn’t like dessert.  And my husband can be persuaded to eat some.  You need dessert in the freezer arsenal, end of story.  It's are also handy to have something like this in the freezer when you need a quick thank-you gift for a neighbor who keeps snow-blowing your sidewalk for you, ferinstance.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Muffaletta, or Really? You don't have time to make a sandwich?

If I think back 2 1/2 years, I know that's the question I would have asked after reading what I am about to write.  How can you possibly be so tired, so disorganized, so worn-out that you can't make one little sandwich?  Any soon-to-be first-time parents who are reading and wondering the same thing, please take note of the response I have for my pre-baby self...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Call me back in 3 months and let me know how that "sleeping through the night" thing is going.

Anyway...freezing sandwich fixings is mostly about having something in the freezer so that you don't have to go grocery shopping and possibly snagging a good sale on deli meat.  But deli meat, sliced cheese and rolls do freeze really well (provided you've packaged them airtight), so put an easy-peasy dinner in your back pocket for those days when even take-out is too hard. 

Hummus is a good veggie sandwich option that freezes nicely, too.  You can even assemble some cheese sandwiches for grilling (go ahead and butter the bread) and wrap them invidually in plastic wrap to freeze.  Total lifesaver when there's a screaming baby, a hungry toddler and no lunch plan.

For something a little more interesting than a plain ol' bologna sandwich, I love muffaletta.  Love the New Orleans Central Grocery muffaletta, love this one too.  It's adapted from Emeril Lagasse's muffaletta recipe.  I double the amount of olive relish since the giardiniera called for only comes in containers twice the size required by the recipe at my local stores.  Work once, eat twice.  I also hate standing in line at the deli counter -- Publix...Boca Raton...Parkinsonian retiree with half a loaf of bread stashed in her purse wanting "samples"...'nuff said -- so I'd rather buy twice as much deli meat and freeze it so that I've got all the making for TWO of these delectable sandwiches on deck.  You can make this ahead the night before even, so it's a shop-ahead, prep-ahead and make-ahead meal...fabulous for parties, too.




Emeril calls for some authentic Italian-type deli meats that we just don't get in my neck of the woods, so I sub out a spicy ham for capicolla and P&P loaf for mortadella.

Muffaletta (makes 2 sandwiches, each serves 8)

Olive Relish:
2 cups pimento-stuffed olives, plus 1/4 cup of liquid from the jar
2 cups giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables), plus 2 tablespoons of liquid from the jar (a 16-oz jar is about 2 cups)
1/4 cup drained capers, plus 4 teaspoons of liquid from the jar
1 cup pitted black olives
4 cloves garlic
1 small minced shallot
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Pinch of dried thyme
Pinch of crushed red pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pulse the garlic cloves and shallots in a food processor until finely chopped.  Add the olives, giardiniera, capers in the processor and pulse several times until coarsely chopped.  It's ok if there are some big chunks left. 





Combine the brines, olive oil and herbs and spices in a medium bowl.  Add the chopped vegetables and stir well.  Divide into two zip-top bags.

Deli Meats/Cheeses:
1/2 pound sliced fresh mozzarella
1/2 pound sliced capicollo or prosciutto (or spicy ham)
1/2 pound sliced Genoa salami
1/2 pound sliced mortadella (or P&P or bologna)
1/2 pound sliced mild provolone cheese

Divide each type of meat and cheese in half and put them in zip-top bags.




To serve:
for each sandwich, one large round loaf (10"-12") of sourdough or Italian bread, split lengthwise

When you're ready to make the sandwich, thaw all your fixings.  Cut the bread in half and scoop out some of the crumb from the top and bottom halves of the bread. 




Fill the scooped out part with olive relish. 



Cover each half with slices of cheese.  Arrange each type of meat in a layer over the cheese.  CAREFULLY close the halves together.  Wrap in plastic wrap and put this in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, if you have time.  To serve, cut into wedges.

FYI...if you want to make your own bread for this sandwich, I made a half recipe of the Pain Ordinaire Carême from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. Pin It

Chicken Villaggio

This is one of our favorite recipes ever.  EVER.  I've been making this one for nearly 8 years, and that's saying something.  A lot of recipes come into vogue at our house for a couple of years and then fall out of favor, but this is one of the few that's lasted.  Easy, tasty, low-carb, versatile, quick-cooking, freezable, inexpensive...what isn't good about this recipe?  Although you gotta like lemon.

I bought a big package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs on sale this week for another recipe that only needed about 1/2 the package.  This is what I'm doing with the extra chicken.  I already had packages of pepperoni frozen from a sale several weeks ago and just needed to pick up 3 lemons to turn this out.  Shopping magic!

Note on breasts vs. thighs: I really think you need to use thighs for this recipe.  I've tried chicken breasts because my husband, known hereafter as The Princess, used to claim that he would only eat white meat.  It comes out criminally dry.  If you're going to ask an animal to give up its life so that you can eat, the least you can do is prepare it properly and with dignity.  Using chicken breasts here does not meet that standard IMHO.  If it's more important to you to use white meat than to eat a meal that tastes good, by all means, sub in breasts.  Rant over.

Chicken Villaggio (serves 6)

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
3 lemons
3 oz. pepperoni (any kind you like)
black pepper



Zest the lemons.  Put the zest aside for the moment.  Then cut away the white part so that you have the whole lemon peeled down to the flesh.  Either cut the segments out or just dice up the lemon flesh.  Put the diced lemon in a small zip-top bag.



Combine the thighs, lemon zest, pepperoni and black pepper to taste in a zip-top bag.  Mush it all around, making sure none of the pepperoni slices stick together.  Marinate at least 24 hours, if you're going to cook this without freezing.  Otherwise put the bag of chicken and the bag of diced lemon into a larger zip-top bag and freeze (don't put the lemon into the chicken bag, tempting though that is, since once it's time to cook, the lemon bag will be all raw-chicken-y).



To cook: Thaw.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Dump the contents of the chicken bag into the skillet, NO OIL NEEDED, making sure the chicken is in good contact with the bottom of the pan.  Sauté 10 minutes on the first side, flip all the chicken pieces and as much of the pepperoni as you can manage, and sauté for 10 minutes more.  Add the diced lemon and cook another 3-5 minutes until the pan juices thicken a bit. 

I don't have a picture of the finished dish because it is still sitting in my freezer.  I'll update when I make it.

UPDATE: The particular brand of chicken I bought this time released a lot of water as it thawed.  I had to drain the pan a couple of times to get a good sizzle going, and alas, the chicken didn't brown as much as I usually like.  But here are the pictures!

First side



Second side, with lemons added


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Monday, February 7, 2011

How Pizza Saved My Family

That’s perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but nonetheless, made-ahead pizza has come to my rescue many a time. 
After my first son was born, I was truly surprised by how exhausted I was…I mean, I knew it would be exhausting, but I didn’t know you could be THAT tired and not be dead!  Even on those days when all I had to do to make dinner was turn on the oven and stick something in it, I couldn’t always remember to get the oven turned on in time.  Forget about planning a meal, organizing a grocery list, actually leaving the house and going shopping, coming home and putting away groceries, and then still having to prep and cook.  Nuh-uh, couldn’t do it.  Before my second son was born, I socked away four of these pizza “kits” and pulled them out when I was too tired to do much besides turn on the oven.
The kit gets you most of the way to a pizza, but does require some finish work because I personally don’t have anything that I can seal a fully assembled 16” pizza in.  If you do, go ahead and assemble the pizza and then freeze it…less work on the back end, though it will take up more freezer space that way too. 

I like to make my own dough and pizza sauce, but you can certainly assemble kits with store-bought sauce and prepared pizza crusts.  In fact, making pizza for dinner one night and portioning out the remaining jarred sauce for kits is a perfect way to manage the sauce leftovers. 
Toppings can be just about anything you want.  Meat toppings like pepperoni or browned sausage will freeze well, or you can buy a can/jar of something (sliced olives, artichoke quarters, pineapple chunks) and stash it in the pantry to go with the freezer kit.  If you’re like me, though, you’ll want to label the stuff in the pantry so that you don’t forget and use it for something else!  I don’t recommend freezing anything you want to have  crunch though, like green peppers, or delicate fresh ingredients like sliced tomatoes and basil leaves.  Save those for days when you have a chance to hit the store (or the garden).
This, like so many prep-ahead meals, is a money/time saver, too.  This is a great way to capitalize on a sale on cheese …if you can get a good deal on the 8 oz. packages of shredded mozzarella, just freeze it as is.  Or you can make some nice cheese blends with mozzarella, parmesan, romano, even cheddar or blue cheese, and save yourself some work by shredding a lot at once and freezing the mixture in 2 cup portions for pizza later.
The basic pizza kit components are:
  • 1 prepared pizza crust or ½ of the following Pizza Dough recipe
  • ¼ cup sauce or ¼ of the following Pizza Sauce recipe
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • Toppings (freezable toppings include pepperoni, browned sausage, sautéed mushrooms and onions, roasted garlic; pantry toppings include sliced olives, pineapple chunks, artichoke quarters, roasted red peppers)
Freeze the dough, sauce, cheese and toppings in separate zip-top bags or vacuum-sealed bags.  Label everything with permanent marker (works best if you write before filling the bags).  Place everything into a 2-gallon zip-top bag and write the baking instructions on the large bag (or write the instructions on an index card and place the card in a snack-size zip-top bag inside the 2-gallon bag.
To bake, thaw the pizza kit on the countertop for a few hours (it doesn’t have to be totally thawed).  Press the dough into a 12” pizza pan, and let it rest for 10 minutes or so while you preheat the oven to 375F.  Add the sauce, cheese and toppings and bake for 20 minutes.
The Recipes!!
This dough recipe is an adaption of Tony Rosenfeld’s Pizza for the Grill.  I make a double batch to match up with my pizza sauce recipe which makes 4 pizzas’ worth of sauce.  It really is an easy dough recipe…I make it in the stand mixer or in the bread machine, and I’ve never had to add a pinch of flour or a splash of water…the proportions work out just right every time.
Pizza Dough
Makes 2 12”pizza crusts
  • 1 ¼ cup warm water (110F)
  • 1 package (2 ¼ tsp) yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
Stir the yeast and sugar into the water and allow to sit for 10 minutes.  When you see bubbles in the yeast, stir in the salt and olive oil and 1 cup of the flour.  Keep adding flour by the ½ cup until you have a smooth ball of dough.  Knead for 8-10 minutes.  Put in a greased bowl and allow to rise for 1 hour.  At this point, you can divide up the dough and freeze it in airtight bags or put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. 
Pizza Sauce
Makes approximately 1 cup
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • Salt and pepper

Saute onion, garlic and tomato paste in oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned.  Add diced tomatoes and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.  Let cool slightly.  Puree mixture with a food processor or blender.
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