FB Plugin

Friday, July 29, 2011

Broccoli packets for roasting or grilling

Blackberries, lemon-thyme salmon
and broccoli packet
This doesn't have to be done with broccoli or Boursin.  It's just a framework for an easy make-ahead/freezable side dish.  You could do carrot slices, cauliflower, asparagus, squash or zucchini and any kind of soft, flavored cheese.  To make it freezer-friendly, use pre-frozen vegetables and omit the extra liquid. 

Pin It

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cookie Freezer Stash

Color plate from The American
Woman's Cookbook, 1944
I feel naked without dessert in the house.  Just gastronomically naked.  So I like having frozen cookie dough to make dessert fast when we find ourselves in a dessert emergency situation.  But when I want fast cookies, I don't want to have to roll, cut out, shape, drop, dust or engage in any verb other than "bake".  OK, maybe "slice", but that's my limit!  As it turns out, just about all drop, shape-into-balls, roll-in-sugar, slice and bar cookies freeze beautifully in their unbaked dropped, shaped-into-balls, rolled-in-sugar, sliced and barred states.  Yay!

The lime cookies are my signature cookie, although the recipe isn't mine.  It's from Herbst's The Joy of Cookies, but the author does NOT share the secret that these little gems can be prepared in vast batches, shaped, rolled in sugar, flattened and frozen for future cookie needs.  This recipe doubles very nicely.

The Molasses Softies are oldies but goodies too, from Natalie Haughton's Cookies.  I amend the recipe slightly to include my dad's trick of rolling "brown" cookies (like peanut butter drops or these molasses guys) in brown sugar instead of white sugar...it's a much richer flavor and more complementary to the "dark" sweetness of the cookies themselves. 

The coconut kisses are new to me though not new on the cookie block, again from my husband's grandma's 1944 home ec cookbook, The American Woman's Cookbook.  Only four ingredients and no mixer required...perfect!

Pin It

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pasta mezzavera

Everyone knows pasta primavera...the heavily sauced pasta dish with tender early spring veggies.  This is pasta mezzavera, made with heartier mid-summer veggies, fresh herbs and a light lemon-infused olive oil.  I like using zucchini and broccoli, but any combination of fresh, seasonal produce will work.  For a slightly more rib-sticking meal, add a cup or two of cooked white beans.

Pin It

Fried Green Tomatoes

I couldn't wait for all these gorgeous tomatoes hanging on our tomato vines to come ripe (and I'm a little scared of how many tomatoes we'll have when they do), so I thinned the herd and made fried green tomatoes. 

I prefer Paula Deen's buttermilk-and-flour recipe to the cornmeal-dredged recipes I've eaten before.  Using actual buttermilk (rather than reconstituted from dry buttermilk powder) produces a thicker batter coating, but you can get tasty results with the thinner reconstituted buttermilk as well.  The upside to a flour-egg wash-cornmeal coating, however, is that you can do all the dredging ahead and freeze those guys.  Just fry them from their frozen state.  The flour coating will turn into glue in the freezer.  So pick your process and product.

You can also can sliced green tomatoes for future frying.  If you still have a bumper crop of green tomatoes right before your first killing frost in the fall, you can put them up same as you would ripe tomatoes.  Slice them, pack them into clean canning jars, add 2 tbsp of lemon juice to each quart canned, fill with hot water and process for 45 minutes in a boiling water bath.  They'll come out softer than if they were fresh, but they're still dredge-able and fry-able. 

Lastly, an A.Ma.Zing thing to do with leftover fried green tomatoes is make paninis with bacon and provolone...put a few fried green tomatoes on a hoagie roll with a slice of provolone and a couple slices of bacon, and toast it up in a sandwich press (or a George Foreman grill, which is our ersatz panini press).

Pin It

Cafe au lait jello

I ordered a small iced coffee this morning at Dunkin' Donuts (my sin wagon of choice).  Unexpectedly, the chap at the drive-through window handed me a vat of coffee big enough to bathe in and said it was on the house.  As nice as a freebie is, I can't drink that much coffee (after the two at-home cups ::blush::) without serious damage to my stomach lining but I hate to waste free anything.  So we have grown-up jello for dessert tonight :D

This is a good idea for using up partial pots of coffee, or you can make some coffee special for it if you really want.

Pin It

Friday, July 22, 2011

S'mores on a stick

This is NOT my idea.  I cannot claim it in any way.  But I learned enough in the making of it not to take some notes and share them.  Dipping chocolate has ever been my foe, and I learn something new every time I try and fail and retry and fail less badly LOL  If you don't count the time I spent screwing up the first batch of chocolate, going to the store to get more chocolate and starting that part over, it only took me about 20 minutes total to make these.  These can be made a couple of days ahead, if you're making them for a party.

First the DOs:
  • DO push the pretzel sticks into the marshmallows until they stick out the other side a bit
  • DO thin the melted chocolate with a tbsp of shortening
  • DO buy extra chocolate chips, just in case of screw-ups
  • DO use parchment paper or a silicone mat to put the dipped sticks on

Now the DON'Ts:
  • DON'T use anything except shortening to thin the chocolate (not butter, milk, water, or oil...better to use nothing at all if you don't have shortening)

OK, there's just the one DON'T but it's important.  If water or milk or butter or oil gets into the chocolate, it will "seize" or start to turn fudgy and you will have delicious faux fudge but totally undippable chocolate.  This is true for candy coating as well. 

The set-up is more important than the recipe.  Have your pretzel-stuck marshmallows assembled before you start melting chocolate.  Put them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, preferably one wide enough to put your hand down into safely to dip the marshmallows (I have had bad luck with melting chocolate for dipping in the microwave, so I don't try any more).  I rolled just the sides of the marshmallows rather than dipping them straight down as I was worried that the marshmallows would pull off the sticks.  Keep the heat on low under the double boiler to keep the chocolate warm and thin (if you don't have a double boiler, I suppose you could melt the chocolate and put your work bowl over a heating pad to help keep the chocolate from cooling and thickening too much, but I can't swear to the viability of this equipment work-around).  Work with one stick at a time, dipping then rolling then putting it back on the baking sheet before doing the next one.

Pin It

Microwaved Beet Chips

These are delicious and cooking them won't heat up the house because it's done entirely in the microwave.  Woot-woot!  Beets are a sweet veg, and the flavor-texture result here is crunchy but melt-in-your-mouth, lightly sweet and lightly salty all at once.

The two in the back left are a leetle burned, but the rest are as they should be
The tricky part is that I can't tell you how long to nuke 'em.  It depends on how thinly you've sliced the beets, how powerful your microwave is, how many slices you're cooking at once.  I can tell you that these will burn between one second and the next if you're not careful though.  Start with a short time frame, then add time in 1 minute or 30 second intervals when you're getting close.  And watch them like a hawk with your finger on the STOP button in case you start to see or smell carbonization.  As usual, I screw up so you don't have to.

What I can tell you is what I did.  I have a "mid-size" microwave (don't know offhand how many watts).  I used 4 2" diameter beets and hand sliced them as thin as possible (pretty thin, but not totally regular or even).  I made the first batch with as many slices as I could fit in the microwave (about 3/4 of the slices).  You'll see the slices go from hard, to softened, to slightly curled to leathery to burned.  I started with 3 minutes.  They were just starting to look softened, so I added 3 minutes.  Then I added 1 more minute.  After 7 total minutes of cooking, they looked a little leathery but I thought they could use more time.  At 7 minutes 45 seconds, they were done but I didn't pull the emergency stop fast enough.  Fifteen more seconds gave me smoking briquettes and a reeky microwave. 

The second batch was much smaller, so at 3 minutes they were looking just leathery.  I gave them 30 more seconds, and stopped the microwave with 12 seconds left to go.  I spread the cooked chips on a paper towel and let them stand a few minutes.  They crisped up as they cooled. 

Four tennis ball sized beets will give you four small (about 1/3 cup) servings of chips.  Or one big afternoon snack.

Pin It

Roasted Red Pepper Lasagne

This is a recipe liberally adapted from a recipe published in the Washington Post a million years ago for "Subanik", a traditional Costa Rican dish of meats simmered in a spicy red pepper sauce and served over rice.  Many of the ingredients are the same, but I've layered the Latin American flavors onto the Italian lasagne structure. 

You can shorten up your work time by buying red pepper spaghetti sauce (many brands have a "roasted red pepper" flavor), but if you were playing Mystery Dish at home and roasted your red peppers already, now's the time to pull them out of the freezer.

Pin It

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beef Cabbage Casserole

I loves me some cabbage rolls, but the head of cabbage I had in the fridge wasn't really big enough to get decent-sized leaves off of for rolling.  Besides, I'd just spent the afternoon throwing together the next couple of weeks' worth of freezer meals and I was pooped.  So I decided to make "deconstructed" cabbage rolls instead.  A bonus of making this casserole instead of regular cabbage rolls is that you aren't left with that tiny ball of cabbage that you can't get any more decent-sized leaves from.  While it most certainly can be shredded and repurposed into a recipe for coleslaw or salad, some days that's just too much bother.  And it's as easy to make two of these casseroles as to make one.

This recipe can be cooked from a frozen state but it will take at least 2 hours in the oven.  If you want to do this, be sure to assemble the casseroles in metal pans (disposal or regular metal baking pans), NOT in ceramic or glass pans!!!  Ceramic and glass will be fine if you thaw the casserole first, though I'd still leave the dish on the counter for 30 minutes or so to avoid cold-glass-meets-hot-oven fireworks.  With *really* good planning, this can be a crockpot meal as well...just be sure to assemble and freeze the casserole in a pan that is smaller than your crockpot insert (a small cake pan works for mine) or put 1/2 the following recipe directly into the crockpot insert for next-day cooking.

Pin It

No-work freezer meals

These aren't recipes, really, but just ideas of very quick ways to perk up plain-jane food and a reminder that you can usually do what little work there is ahead of time to make life just that much easier on yourself. 

For the salad dressing chicken, I made a double batch to use up all the dressing from one bottle (2 batches of 1.5lbs. marinated chicken breasts each).  Salad dressing tends to hand around at my house, and I'd rather just use it all up in one fell freezer swoop.  I used Greek Vinaigrette and Roasted Red Pepper Italian flavors, but just about any kind of prepared dressing would be good.

Pacific sockeye salmon is particularly good RIGHT NOW (it's the season for Copper River sockeye in particular), so give this one a try even if you think you don't like fish.  Especially if you think you don't like fish b/c it's dry.  Baking it at a lower temp makes a huge difference in the final product, and I'm not sure I'll ever fix salmon another way now.

Pin It

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Quiche is a glory of the kitchen.  It can be as budget-friendly or budget-busting as you want, made with humble chopped ham, caramelized onions and grated cheddar cheese or with luxe smoked salmon, asparagus and chèvre.  It is a perfect vehicle for upcycling leftover cooked meats and veggies.  It can be vegetarian and completely seasonal.  It can be prepped ahead in a pie plate for same day cooking, fully cooked and reheated for next day service or assembled as a kit for the freezer.  It plays well for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or midnight snack.  And it's as easy to make two as it is to make one, so you can double the ingredients to make one for dinner right now and freeze the second.

Some suggested filling combinations: ham with caramelized onions and cheddar, chicken with sauteed mushrooms and pepper jack, leftover pork roast and sauteed zucchini with swiss, leftover salmon and thawed frozen spinach with goat cheese, canned tuna and peas with American, roasted butternut squash and white beans with havarti, diced cooked bacon and radicchio with provolone, sliced baked potato and bacon with bleu cheese.

Pin It

Konigsberger Klopse, or Poached Meatballs with Lemon Sauce

The original recipe comes from a crunchy-hippie sort of book called "Back to Basics" that teaches all manner of rustic survival skills, including how to make this Midwestern specialty.  I have yet to meet anyone in the Midwest who's heard of this dish, but once you mention that there's a white gravy with some meat, everyone gets real excited.

I prefer to make a double batch of this as it's hard to purchase 1/2 lbs. of ground meat at my grocery stores.  If I've got 1 full pound, then by golly, I'll just make 2 recipes' worth and freeze some.  Why prep twice?

This is going into my freezer, so I'll update later with cookery pics, like this one:

Pin It

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bean Patties

Let me start with this: these are delicious, my kids ate them for dinner and reheated for lunch, they're freezable, vegetarian-possible (also baconarian-possible), fairly healthy if you use healthy fats and inexpensive. 

Pardon the kiddie plate, most everything is served on the finest licensed character melamine at our house :D

The 1944 title of this recipe is "mock sausage".  I don't know why.  These don't really resemble sausage in any way, so rather than insulting anyone's intelligence by asking them to be fooled into regarding this some kind of sausage substitute, I call them "bean patties".  Besides which, they're good enough to stand on their own without any nominal porcine support.

American Woman's Cookbook, Anacostia HS 1944 home ec textbook

I used limas b/c the original recipe calls for those beans specifically and b/c my dear husband lerves lima beans.  You could use whatever type of bean you want.  The original recipe calls for sieving the cooked beans to mash them up and presumably to remove the skins.  I wonder if removing the skins would have been so important if food processors had been available in 1944.  I think not.  I chopped mine up in the food processor...skins still present without noticeable defect in the final product. 

I reduced the number of eggs used b/c I thought 3 eggs would have made the mixture far too wet, so you will only see 2 in mine (difference in standard egg size from 1944 to present?...I feel a reference question coming on).  I served ours plain, no tomato sauce as suggested in the OR, but feel free to whip some up for your dinner. 

Lastly, I LOVE the advice to serve the dish with "milk, egg or cheese" to present a nutritionally complete meal.  It makes you stop to think about how much we "know" to be "true" about proper diet and nutrition and how in 60+ years, it will all be bunk anyway.

Pin It

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eat it the way you found it : Corn Cobs

I know making one's own jelly out of corn cobs sounds like tragically hip foodie meets crunchy granola hippie meets total whackjob off-the-gridder and that I risk losing some of my 7 readers by suggesting it, but hear me out!  The cobs have a ton of that sweet, summery flavor that you like so much about corn, so why throw them out?

I wouldn't use corn cobs that teeth touched for making stock. I know they'll get boiled, but it still squicks me out. So I keep cobs that I've cut the kernels off in a ziptop bag in the freezer until I've got enough to make stock. If you use raw cobs, you'll need fewer to get more flavor than if you use cobs that were boiled or roasted once already.

The original jelly recipe was found in a Depression-era cookbook that clearly demonstrates the frugal zeitgeist of the time.  You'll get every last drop of flavor outta that corn, by golly, if you just boil them up and use the stock to make jelly.  You can actually use corn stock in more than just jelly (like creamed corn or corn chowder, below), but the jelly is interesting enough to discuss here.  It's like making your own honey without all the stings. 

I'm doing a version that uses less sugar than the original.  A low-sugar jelly will always be slightly soft-set and won't ever pass the "sheeting" test (a metal spoon dipped into the boiling jelly will form two drops of jelly that merge and "sheet" together).  I compensate with extra pectin and a longer boil time for a firmer set.

Pin It

Stay In Take Out: Fried Fish

This is a lighter version of take-out batter-fried fish, but just as crispy.  Adapted from the Frugal Gourmet's Three Ancient Cuisines (again!)...it was actually a "freebie" meal that I prepared in order to have leftover fried cod (sounds weird, I know).  It turns out the fried cod itself was better than the stirfry the leftovers were destined for!  Depending on which carry-out joint you want to mimic, you can serve this plain with horseradishy-mayo dip or on a bun.

Pin It

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sesame Almond Chicken Wings

Almond Sesame Wings with sauteed zucchini
and Sichuan Peppercorn Dry Drip
This is the wing recipe I mentioned a few posts ago regarding grinding almonds for pie crust.  I saved a few tbsp for this very recipe.  You don't have to make pie crust to make these wings though ;)

The original recipe is from the Frugal Gourmet's Three Ancient Cuisines, but I gotta say that the Frug was awfully stingy on his dredging mixture.  I've doubled the marinade, the wet dredge and the dry dredge for the same number of wings.  It was scrumptious btw.  The kids didn't want any, but they had Other Issues tonight and I think I could have served them ice cream covered cheese sticks with a side of cookies, muffins and bananas and they still wouldn't have touched it.  Whatevs, more for the grownups.

Rice flour is probably not a pantry staple at your household.  I have some b/c I had a fit of DIY-osity awhile back and thought I would be making my own baby powder.  I made some, it's great, but I don't need so much as to use up an entire 2 lbs. of rice flour.  Rice flour also makes meltingly tender shortbread and is a useful gluten-free wheat flour replacer.  If you need ideas for using up 2 lbs of rice flour.  Or you can use enough all-purpose flour and cornstarch to add up to the required amount of dredging material and skip the rice flour (conversely, if you want gluten free, you can skip the AP flour and use rice flour and cornstarch...also be sure to skip the soy sauce, if you do GF).

Last thought...if you fry these in a deep-fryer, you'll probably have a lot of sesame seeds loose in the oil afterwards.  You might want to consider frying in an electric skillet or making this the last use of the oil in the deep-fryer if you want to maintain pristine frying oil.  I screw up so you don't have to.

Pin It

Sichuan Pepper Dry Dip

(Edited: I've since decided that I prefer this with the salt untoasted and unprocessed...it's what I'm currently using as my "house" salt-and-pepper seasoning on EVERYTHING)

I'm on a Frugal Gourmet kick this week.  Three Ancient Cuisines is the cookbook I'm working with.  To go with Sesame Almond Chicken Wings (also from 3AC), I made Sichuan (or Szechuan) Peppercorn Dry Dip.  This salt and pepper combo was just right with the relatively low-salt wings.  Also a nice change from sloppy wet sauce.  I think it will also be delicious with hard-boiled eggs (!!) and sprinkled on grilled veggies.

Sichuan peppercorns are peppery and floral at the same time.  If you don't have any, I'd also try using a floral dried herb like rosemary, thyme or marjoram. 

Pin It

Friday, July 8, 2011

Savoy Cabbage Rolls

The first time my parents went out of town and left my teenaged brother and I home alone for the night, I seized freedom with both hands and...cooked cabbage rolls.  What a rebel I was ;)  I have ever since had a soft spot for all sorts of cabbage rolls, as I mark that recipe as the first time I ever *really* planned and cooked a meal.

The original recipe comes from the behemoth European cookbook "The Silver Spoon", though I have experimented wildly with storage and delayed-cookery options, rewrote the recipe to use less weird measurements and upped the vegetable ante.  SS assumes that you will have time to prepare the leaves, prepare the filling, roll the rolls and cook them all at once.  Bwahahahahahaha!  I made the rolls and froze them individually, then cooked mine from the frozen state on the stovetop.  Turned out really well.  I'd guess that the crockpot will work just as well, though thawing the rolls first would make fitting them into the pot (on the stovetop or in the crockpot) easier.  You can also bake them in the oven, but that will take longer and you really will need to thaw them first. 

Pin It

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Low carb, high protein snack foods

If I titled the post Tofu Jerky, would you have bothered to read?  Thought not.

It's been a bazillion years since I made this, and I forgot how much I actually like it.  Granted, you gotta like jerky in general.  But let me tell you, the kiddos are loving it...their gateway into the world of truck stop food :D  And it doesn't need refrigerated (which a lot of low-carb snack foods do).

The trick here is to press as much water out of the tofu as possible first so that it takes up as much marinade as possible.  That means this is a 3 step process (press, marinate, bake) and none of those steps are short ones.  So make a lot at once to make it worth your while.  Also, slice the tofu as thin as you can manage to get a better finished product and to shorten up the baking time...more thickness means more moisture means longer baking. 

If you have a food dehydrator, you can use that too instead of baking or Alton Brown had some kind of jerky-making set-up involving a box fan and an A/C filter that you can try, if you're so inclined.

Pin It

Grilled Zucchini Meatloaf

I'm taking a page from the South Beach cookbooks and using oatmeal as a binder in this meatloaf.  The old-fashioned oatmeal (not quick or instant) will absorb more liquid in the meatloaf, and you'll need less and get more fiber.  All good things for reducing glycemic impact.  In fact, the recipe is so low-carb, I feel at liberty to use a shmear of jalapeno jelly on top as a glaze, but feel free to skip the extra carbs/calories if you desire.

I'm experimenting with cooking this puppy on the grill (ETA: experiment was SUCCESSFUL!!), cuz it's that time of year, it keeps the kitchen cool and everything is better with a little smoky grill flavor (and I love hearing my 3yo say, "Looklooklook, Daddy cooking dinner OUTSIDE!").  I threw foil-wrapped potatoes on the grill at the same time as the meatloaf, and put sliced zucchini directly over the coals for the last 10 minutes of cooking for a complete grill meal.

This makes a LOT of meatloaf, so freeze extras ahead, cook for a crowd, give them as gifts, whatever.  With only egg in play, it's hard to scale down.  But if you REALLY wanted to, you could use 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of liquid egg substitute per loaf, or use 1 whole egg but add some more oatmeal to compensate for the extra liquid.

Frozen wine and tomato paste
I dip into my freezer stash for the tomato paste and red wine.  I freeze extra wine in ice cube trays, and leftover tomato paste in a small ziptop bag.  That way, I can cook with small amounts (as called for below) without having to crack a whole new bottle or can.

Pin It

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aglio e olio

I think by the time one graduates high school, everyone should know how to cook 4 dishes:
  1. your favorite meal (so that you don't have to rely on anyone else to make you happy)
  2. an inexpensive and relaxed menu for having a few friends over
  3. something impressive suitable for special occasions
  4. something you can throw together quickly and with minimal effort at the end of a long day so that you don't spend your life eating crappy take-out
This is my #4.  All the ingredients are pantry or freezer staples (freeze whole peeled garlic cloves), except the fresh herbs which can be left out if none are available. 
Pin It

Mushroom lasagne

Prep intensive, but delicious!  I know I say that a lot, but really this time.  To scale back the prep work, you could make this a red lasagne instead of a white lasagne and use store-bought spaghetti saucefor the leek bechamel sauce .  I substituted roasted whole mushrooms for one layer of lasagne noodles for dietary reasons, but you could also use 3 layers of noodles and save yourself the prepwork on the whole mushrooms. 

Nutritional info reflects whole wheat pasta, part-skim ricotta, whole milk, about 2 tsp of salt added and full fat gouda.

Lastly, if you're wondering how much of the leek you should use, get rid of any parts that feel like you could never finish chewing them.  Or just cut it like this:

Pin It