Tag Archives: cooking

Something warm and tasty

Autumn brings with it a whole new menu. Out are the grilled veggies and burgers and in come roasted root vegetables, soups and stews. In the summer, the thought of turning on the oven or even stove-top can be exhausting. The heat of summer means you don’t want to make your house any more uncomfortable. Everything changes though in September and October, suddenly cooking is appealing, baking cookies a joy.

Looking for something tasty to welcome autumn? Here is a recipe for one of my favorites, beans and greens. This dish can be used as a main meal or as a side to braised short-ribs, pork chops or a perfectly baked chicken.

Beans and Greens

1 medium onion, chopped
1 t. thyme
1 t. red pepper flakes
1 bunch greens (kale or chard) sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 can white beans (small white beans or cannellini beans)
2 c. diced tomatoes
1/2 shredded Romano cheese
  1. In a large saute pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and cook for about three to four minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Stir in kale stems and cook for another three minutes or until the onions begin to look translucent. Mix in the kale leaves and add the thyme and red pepper. Set on a medium-low heat and let cook for fifteen minutes or until the greens are soft.
  3. When kale is tender, stir in the drained can of beans. Once warmed through, mix in the diced tomatoes and let cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle the Romano cheese on top. Serve.
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Not quite tortillas

I love food and I love to eat, but I’m not above confessing that during the week my dinners are less than extraordinary. Weekends are meant for good food, weeknights not so much. To be honest, weeknights are the path of least resistance (and fewest dishes). I’ll eat ice cream from the carton (spoon), cereal (bowl and spoon) or, most often, tortilla with cheese (cutting board, plate, knife). Great meals with more than a bowl or heaven forbid a pot are not in my regular Monday thru Friday rotation.

So, I live on tortillas. I tried for a long time to find an easy, delicious tortilla recipe. The results were just that: easy and delicious – but they were also hard and crisp. I ended up experimenting and came up with the following easy, delicious and soft recipe. No, they aren’t traditional, but they are good…Really good. I keep them in a zip-top bag in my fridge and pull out one or two a night for dinner.

1 1/2 t. yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 t. sugar
2 t. olive oil
3/4 c. (plus or minus) flour

1. In a medium bowl, combine yeast, water and sugar. Let sit 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and combine until it forms a slightly sticky ball.
3. On a well floured surface knead dough for 3-4 minutes. Return to bowl and cover with towel. Let rest 15-30 minutes.
4. Divide dough into 8 balls. Roll out to 7-inch disks.
5. Heat a dry skillet. Place dough on the skillet one at a time, cooking 45 to 60 seconds each side. Place cooked tortillas onto a plate to cool.

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Savoring a short season

Fall has barreled its way for a far too short stay. In Upstate New York, Spring fails to commit, Summer creeps in them lays heavy in the air, Fall suddenly arrives with gorgeous colors and cooling crispness only to be quickly butted out by bitter, clingy, miserable Winter…Can you tell how much I looove winter?

Anyway, the truth is that September is my favorite month. This is the kind of weather we should have for 12 months not just one. It has clear, sunny skies. Warm, crisp days and chilly nights. September even offers a few wicked rainstorms to keep you on your toes.

Veggies are still abundant in backyard gardens and roadside stands. Summer foods, dinners made entirely of sweet corn are even still possible. But the chilly breezes also make you crave chicken soup, pot roast, clam chowder and stew. Warm, hearty and delicious friends that took a vacation while the sun shone and the humidity hovered. This past week I made my first lasagna of the year, Friday was a roast chicken and Sunday afternoon stew simmered away on the stove top. Soon I’ll have regular pot of chicken stock bubbling and boiling. I’ll freeze the stock by the quart to help me get through the winter.

For now though, I’m going to savor each moment Fall has to offer. Pumpking ice cream, apple pie, roast chicken, sweet potatoes and all the while enjoying the last bits of summer that hang on…sweet corn, salad greens, tomatoes and the like. September means combining all the things I love in the happiest, most relaxed and truly delicious ways. Following is my recipe for Beef Stew. The ingredients list may seem a little overwhelming, but really the whole process is pretty simple.

Beef Stew

2 – 2 1/2 lbs. stew meat or diced chuck
1 T. parsley pesto
1 T. Worcester sauce
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine
1 med. onion (1 inch dice)
1/2 green bell (1 inch dice)
2 cloves garlic – diced
2 large celery ribs (1/2 to 1 inch slices)
2 large carrots (1/2 to 1 inch slices)
1 can petite diced tomatoes (or 2 c. freshly diced tomatoes)
3/4 c. beef stock
1 T. fresh oregano (chopped)
1 large potato (1 inch dice)
1 T. parsley pesto

Marinate the Meat

1. In a large bowl mix meat and parsley pesto. Add salt, pepper and Worcester sauce. Combine completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours.

Make Stew

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven or large stock pot. Add meat in groups of 7 to 10 pieces. Sear pieces and remove to paper towel lined plate, repeating until all meat has been seared.
  2. Add red wine and onions. Stir to deglaze the pan. Stir in bell pepper, garlic, celery and carrots. Return meat to pan. Mix in tomatoes, stock and oregano. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Leave for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in potatoes. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Add parsley pesto and any additional frozen vegetables (corn, green beans, lima beans). Stir to combine and let cook for additional 10 to 15 minutes.

If the stew is thin, combine 1 T. flour with 1/4 c. cool water until completely smooth. Stir flour mixture into stew, allowing the stew to thicken.

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A lazy day?

If you were to ask me, my weekends are shamefully lazy. I sit around and watch a movie or two. I read a book. I paint. I write. Sure I do practical weekend things like do the laundry, go grocery shopping and/or meet a friend or two. But to be completely honest I end up feeling like a perfectly contented sloth most of the time.

But, at the same time, I am surprisingly busy. I say this because today I realized that in all these lazy hours I am amazingly productive. I may remember hours on the couch or in a wicker rocker, but the point of fact I’m up and about more than stationary.

In the last 24 hours I have:

  1. Made a yummy batch of Valencian empanadas
  2. Made carrot-blueberry buttermilk pancakes
  3. A pot of fresh tomato sauce is currently bubbling on the stove
  4. And a bowl of bread dough is rising on the counter

All this culinary activity is ongoing. Dinner will be chicken parm made with the sauce and accompanied by a crusty slice of freshly baked bread.

My freezer is literally bursting from my lazy day efforts. I have six sandwich bags with empanadas, eight containers with pancakes all neatly portioned out for future use. I’m honestly going to have to figure out how to fit some of the bread in as well.

Recipes will follow throughout the week with stories, but right now I’m going to curl up with my current read and in exactly twenty minutes I’ll go punch down the dough. How can so much work be so relaxing? And it is relaxing.

I think that maybe I cook when I’m happy or in turmoil and that maybe, just maybe, I’m a little of both right now. I had a very intriguing date/interview with Mr. B the other night. I say interview because he had a list of questions that have been clearly on his mind…He’s been pretty quiet since. I think it’s because he needs some time to process the responses to his questions. In the mean time I’m cooking.

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It may be Lent but…

So, Lent begins today. We were all supposed to have our last hurah over the past week, eating decidently, living vicariously and after last night’s Shrove Tuesday dinner of pancakes we are now meant to give something up for 40 days. I’m not a particularly religious person, but 13 years of Sr. Mary Elizabeth and a Catholic education don’t exactly fade either.

I decided to do something rather than give something up. This year is some form of exercise every day. I’ve fallen off the wagon with the running (must get back on) and my middle has all too happily accomodated the lack of movement.

So, for those of you who have given up chocolate – I’m sorry. And for those of you who are a bit subversive (like me) – enjoy. Being naughty can taste really good.

Oatmeal Brownies

1/3 c. butter

3 oz. baking chocolate

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. sugar

1 c. flour

1/2 c. quick cook oats

2 eggs beaten

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 t. vanilla

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan melt the butter, baking chocolate and chocolate chips. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the sugar and eggs.
  4. Mix in the flour, oats, buttermilk and vanilla.
  5. Pour into a prepared 8×8 baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

These arerichand delicious so a little piece and a glass of cold milk will go a very long way.

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Home economics

Two years ago I lived on a very tight budget. I’d been let go from a consulting job and was working part-time at a local farm (see January 2010 posts). I had student loans and rent and a whole lot of worries. During this period I lived on a $20/week budget  for all groceries. I did it and did it well, never really feeling like I was terribly deprived and only once eating Ramen noodles. I ate healthy, satisfying meals – or dinners at least.

Today I am again living on a tight budget. I have a wonderful full-time job in a field I love. I am not as burdened with the immediate financial worries as I once was, but it doesn’t mean that I have forgotten the lessons learned either. I’m back to having a very low grocery budget – $30/week. This may blow some minds but as I said all those years ago – it just takes some planning and some know how. I’ve realized that know how is a rare commodity in today’s world.

Question: Do you know what to do with a whole chicken?

I ask because a $5.00 chicken ($4.92 to be exact) has provided me with a week’s worth of meals.

Sunday I roasted it on a bed of potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. I put the meat aside in containers for later use.

Monday I had chicken salad and crackers for lunch while the carcass boiled away in a large pot to make stock (click for recipe). And for dinner I had cream of tomato soup (below) with grilled cheese.

Tuesday’s lunch was left over roasted veggies with about 1/4 c. of shredded chicken and dinner was a quick saute of the final roasted veggies, 1/2 c. of chopped chicken and frozen green beans.

Today is leftovers from last night for lunch and a piping hot bowl of chicken and rice soup for dinner.

Thursday will be leftover soup for lunch and chicken parm pasta for dinner.

Friday will be more soup for lunch and, well, dinner hasn’t been decided yet.

One chicken has provided me with all these meals plus many more. I have 3 quarts of stock still in the freezer and that’s not counting the 2 I have in the fridge waiting for tonight’s soup. I have one serving of tomato soup and 3 servings of diced chicken in the freezer too. And after tonight’s soup I’ll have another 2 servings of that tucked in the freezer as well.

And no, I am not sick of chicken… yet…but I won’t be doing a repeat next week – that featured food is yet undetermined. Careful planning, creative menus and know how – that’s how this single girl is happily living on one tiny (but delicious) budget.

Quick and easy tomato soup (2 servings)

1/4 c. finely diced onion

1 c. tomato sauce

2 c. chicken stock

1/4 c. heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a sauce pan saute onions in 2 tsp. olive oil until translucent.
  2. Stir in tomato sauce and let cook 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Turn heat to low and stir in cream. Let cook for another minute or two or until soup comes back up to temp.

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A girl’s got needs

Sometimes a thought pops into my head and I just can’t get it out. I need something…bad. It could be a run, a kiss or a sweet treat but I’ve just got to have it and my mind won’t rest until I’ve gotten whatever the “it” is.

I house-sat this week for friends in my old stomping ground. I realized just how much I missed having a space of my own, surrounded by the people and the place that make me feel complete, like the best version of me. So, maybe I’ve got some searching to do, some big changes to make and some moving in my future…I’m not sure just yet.

But, back to the craving I’ve had going around in my head for the week – oatmeal pancakes. Yes, I said pancakes. Soft and supple, hearty and sweet, I’ve had this need float around with little ambition or opportunity because seriously what’s the point in making a batch of pancakes if it’s only you who is going to eat them?

So, back on the farm, I woke up early while everyone was out in the barn this morning and made a very successful batch of oatmeal pancakes. A nice treat for those coming into the smell of comforting, warm perfection and a treat for me to see how eagerly they got snapped up.

Below is the recipe, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Oatmeal Pancakes

1 1/2 c. quick cook oats

2 c. buttermilk

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

2 T. maple syrup

1/4 c. canola oil

1/2 t. salt

1/2 c. flour

1/2 t. baking soda

  1. Stir the oats and buttermilk together in a large bowl and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Beat the eggs with the vanilla, syrup and oil, then stir into the soaked oats.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients and add them to the oat mixture as well, stirring until fully combined.
  4. Cook in a skillet over medium heat. Flip when bubbles for in the center of the pancake and the edges are firm.

These pancakes are truly satisfying…and filling!

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