Monday, July 28, 2008

When She' Hot, She's Hot!

And boy have I been hot! Went to the grocery store over the weekend where I scored some goodies at some great prices. MJ and I also checked out a few of the local shops like Let's Meat, a new butcher shop in Del Ray. We picked up some Kobe beef for hamburgers and a beautiful piece of flank steak. Next door, we stopped into the Caboose bakery for a ciabatta. All of the sandwiches that people were eating looked fabulous. We'll have to sit down for lunch one Saturday afternoon. Our next stop was Giant, they had a great sale on frozen veggies, beverages, and chicken. We then hit Best Buns Bakery in Shirlington. I wanted some good rolls to showcase the Kobe beef. We also tried the Chocolate Espresso cookie and the Chewy Ginger cookie. They were awesome! There were samples of their lemon bars. Even they were fabulous. Well, by then it was off to Harris Teeter to fulfill the rest of my list. We needed breads, sandwich fixings, wine and a few other items. It felt good to have the kitchen almost fully stocked again. Okay, you know what usually happens when I have a full fridge, freezer, etc.? I get a block. I don't know what to cook first. I stress over there's nothing to cook.

Well, I decided to plan ahead. Go figure! TY and I used to work at one of those meal prep places. Why could we apply the same concept at home? So we did. The first meal up for grabs was a pack of chicken thighs we just poured a bottle of bbq sauce in. I know two steps. How hard is that? The next pack of thighs got a special treatment courtesy of a TY suggestion. She said why not jerk thighs? I took out the seasoning, some olive oil, and a lime. It smelled great. The third and final prep I did was a Chinese 5 spice chicken. Trader Joes carries some tasty sauces. I had half a bottle of the 5 spice sauce, added some sauce, minced garlic, orange juice and olive oil. Into the bag went a whole chicken. All of these entrees are now safely tucked into our freezer. While in the kitchen, I decided to whip up a little dessert for MJ. He is going to have a mango peach sorbet courtesy of a 99 cent box of mango nectar and two cans of drained peaches. I pureed the peaches, mango nector, lime juice and honey in my blender. Twenty minutes in my ice cream freezer and we had homemade sorbet that is absolutely fabu!

My mojo is coming back. Has yours? What can you do to make some quick meals for later? How do you save time in the kitchen? And what would you make for that special someone in your life?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pizza Pasta Casserole

1 lb. celentani pasta (bowties, penne rigate, shells, ziti would work as well)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup red wine
2-3 tbsp. dried minced onion
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. garlic garlic powder
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fennel and rosemary
1/2 tsp. sugar
4 slices provolone cheese
20-30 slices pepperoni

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pasta according to directions. Drain pasta and pour into baking dish and toss with a little olive oil. In pasta pot, add tomatoes, wine, herbs and spices. Bring to a rolling boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add half the sauce to the pasta and mix well, pour the remaining sauce over the noodles, top with cheese and pepperoni. Place casserole in oven and bake for ten minutes or until cheese browns.

Serves 4-6 as a hearty entree or 6-8 as a side dish.

Old Mother Hubbard Went to the Cupboard

If you're in your 30s, you should know the rest. I was thinking about today's post as I stared at my lunch. You see it was a pantry (cupboard) meal. Last night after a late meeting, MJ and I were hungry. He was going to have leftovers and I'd have none. There wasn't enough for the both of us. So, I started thinking what am I going to do. It was before 11 PM so I could have called Dominos, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut or any number of joints specializing in quick Asian cuisine. Well, lack of funds prevented that.

I glanced at the counter and saw my mise en place for dinner which I didn't get to cook b/c of said meeting. Hmmm, I can boil some pasta to eat tonight and have for lunch tomorrow. My mise en place consisted of a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, dried onions, garlic, salt, pepper, fennel seed, rosemary, Italian seasoning, sugar and red wine. A plan was forming. We had some cheese and pepperoni in the fridge. While the pasta boiled, I sliced the pepperoni. It was the last of a stick we'd bought for flatbread pizza. My colander was in the sink waiting to be washed so I transferred my cooked noodles to a baking dish. I then drained the water from my pot and added my tomatoes, wine, herbs and spices. Ten minutes later, my house smelled as if I had been slaving over a hot pot all day. I poured the sauce over the noodles stirred them together and topped it all with the cheese and pepperoni. I baked it for 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Voila, a tasty pizza casserole for about $4.'

Yeah, it only cost about $4 to make. I have been looking for ways to decrease my grocery bill yet maintain the taste level that my family has grown accustomed to. I was pleased when I had lunch today. How about you? Have you come up with inexpensive and tasty meals? What are some of your faves? Please share!

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Know I'm Sick When

I tell you I don't want anything to eat. Or I'm not hungry. Those are indicators that something isn't right in my world. For the last three or so days, the mere thought of eating has made me sick to my stomach. And that just ain't natural. I couldn't even watch the Food Network that's the kind of shape I was in. For someone who has three squares a day and routinely plans meals days in advance, this was so not good. I mean I even missed work. Some would say, 'You missed work for a stomachache?'. To which I would reply, 'No, not for a stomachache. It was the nausea, headache and the roiling in my belly that kept me at home'. What's a girl to do?

Well, my strategy was to eat something so that I wasn't completely depriving my body. You know it's bad when a comfort food like oatmeal treats you like a redheaded stepchild. Today, some caring friends suggested soup. I had a lovely beef barley from Au Bon Pain. I wanted the loaded baked potato, but I thought it best not to risk it. The chicken noodle soup was totally unappealing. There's something offputting about those noodles. SC agreed. I'm thinking that once I'm feeling normal I'm going back to get some of that baked potato soup.

What is your 'go to' food? Is it a nice bowl of soup? Or a hot cup of tea? I know tea is a drink, but we're going with it for now. How about plain toast or crackers?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Have You Hugged Your Crockpot Today?

I know I thank the good Lord every time I use my crockpot. It has never failed me. While looking out over the sea of food blogs out there, I noticed Stephanie's. She is the force behind A Year of Crockpotting . She's devoted 2008 to testing and tasting recipes using her crockpot. She's had some winners and some that weren't quite as good. She's even made her own cheesecake and her own crayons in her crockpot. In two words, SHE ROCKS! Let me tell you about one of the winners.

A few weeks ago, she prepared Vietnamese Roast Chicken. It was a fairly simple recipe with only a few ingredients. The odd one for me was fish sauce. Worcesthire sauce was the closest thing I had on hand. As I've mentioned before I like to make my crockpot meals at night, this was no exception. I woke up in the middle of the night wanting to open the lid and just inhale deeply. The scent was intoxicating. MJ and I were going to take this for lunch. It was sooooo good. We even had it for dinner. I used chicken thighs as I had those on hand and there were plenty. You would have thought we were a pack of wolves the way we attacked dinner last night.

Once I get Stephanie's permission, I'll post a copy of the recipe. BTW, she's famous. She was on the Rachel Ray show. Check out her site for a link to the show. Also, make sure you check out some of the fabulous recipes. And if you do it before the end of the week, you have a chance to win a new crockpot. Just leave a comment on the appropriate post to enter.

What are some of your favorite blogs? Do they revolve around organic foods? Vegan recipes? Gluten free lifestyle? Desserts? Or maybe the obscure? Let me know. I've shared some of mine. I'm also discovering new ones. As I do, I'll let you know.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Rice Is Nice!

Cooking rice is one of those jobs either you do it well or you burn it. Rice was never one of those things that I did very often. And when I did cook it, I wound up frustrated. Either it was wet and sticky or a little on the chewy side. Yes, yes, I know that I can buy those cook in ten minute bags of rice, but where's the challenge in that. If I can boil water, I should be able to make a decent pot of rice. Yes, yes, I know there's a gadget called a rice cooker, that seems a little like cheating. I know they are prized by many. However, I don't eat enough rice to really warrant one. That's not to say I don't have one. I have a cute little red one that CH and JG gave me for Christmas. It's so adorable I can't bring myself to use it. Okay, the real reason is we just don't eat enough rice. It's not something I cook everyday.

Last night, I decided to get over my rice phobia. I started by carefully reading the instructions. Then, I measured my water and left it to boil. Next, I measured the rice. I used a wide pan and realized that would change the cooking time as I'd have more cooking surface to work with. After adding the rice, I set the time on the stove to go off a few minutes before the directed times. My instincts were pretty good. While not quite perfect, the rice was well received, being a Southern girl I added a little butter and some seasoning. To borrow a phrase from Alton Brown, the rice was Good Eats.

People will tell you using the best ingredients will enhance a dish. However, I'm here to tell you that knowing the techniques of preparing even the simplest dish will elevate your results. Now, what are some of your food fears? Are you like me, terrible at cooking rice? Or does the thought of frying potatoes send you running to the frozen food section? What have you done to get over your fears?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Well, I did absolutely nothing. I had high hopes that I would whip up delicious dishes to put in my freezer. I would make batches of cookies and other treats to bring to my friends at work. I just never happened. The slacker in me took over. I took two or three naps a day while watching who's the baby daddy on Maury Povich. I saw hour after hour of the NFL Networks Top Ten. As a matter of fact, I rarely left my home. The longest trip we took was a four hour excursion to the emergency room. MJ contracted a really bad case of swimmer's ear. This from a guy who can't swim. Go figure.

I was talking to CD this morning. And we were discussing marinades and spices. He gave me a recipe for adobo sauce that I will try. That led us to my true dilemma. My spice rack is sorely lacking. There was a time when I had a wealth of dried herbs and spices to choose from. Now, we only have the bare minimum. Could this be the source of my discontent? Would a trip to Penzeys or World of Spice (Philly) be in order? Or at least a trip down the international food aisle for a little multicultural inspiration. I'll let you know what it will be.

In the meantime, my vacation is over. What meals shall I prepare as I ponder my spicy dilemma? The freezer is full of steak, chicken and shrimp. I know tonight I'll be prepping a whole chicken for a crockpot meal. I'm really looking forward to that. I'm thinking that a ceasar (sp) salad with steak might be a welcome change for us.

What are you spices of choice? What can't you live without? What spice were you introduced to that surprised you? What flavors inspire you?