Monday, August 31, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

The tomatoes in our garden have slowed a bit, but they are still coming in pretty heavily. Today (Monday) marks day 40 of eating tomatoes every single day. And, we're not talking a slice on a hamburger! Tomatoes have been a huge part of at least one meal every day of the last 40. It's a fabulous time of year to live here!! We have a few straggly cucumbers coming in, a little bit of okra here and there, and the chard is loving our cooler weather. My husband has planted lots of goodies for the fall, so I'm looking forward to turnips and mustard, plus a couple of new varieties of lettuce. Bring on the greens!

I'm having trouble fitting in all the food that I want to cook... So many possibilities and so little time. It really is a fun time of year. When people ask me my favorite time of year, I always answer "harvest time." It's that elusive, no-name time between summer and fall, when the tomatoes are bountiful, and the days start getting shorter. It's a great time. I just wish people didn't look at me like I had three heads. Good opportunity to edjimicate them, I suppose.

Friday: take-out!! a spur of the moment suggestion, made possible by a little bit of lingering birthday money; it was fabulous and well worth it!!

Saturday: out (lunch), nachos with homemade pico de gallo(supper)

Sunday: tomato sandwiches (lunch), carbonara, tomato caprese salad (supper)

Monday: roasted chicken, tomato tart, cucumbers in vinegar, fried okra, cabbage

Tuesday: eggplant parmesan, spaghetti, tomato salad, cupcakes (birthday dinner for my oldest)

Wednesday: tomatillo chicken stew, rice, tomato salad

Thursday: frittata with chard, biscuits, spaghetti squash with roasted cherry tomatoes

As always, check out orgjunkie for hundreds of other menu plans to puruse!

Bristol Date Night

I've said it before, but as embarrassing as it is, we love some Nascar. Fast cars, loud noises, wrecks...really what is there not to love?? My inlaws are forever trying to get my husband to watch golf, but what the man loves is racing. And, my family, well, that's the redneck side of our marriage. Every person in my family has a favorite driver.

We choose to embrace the red. And, one of our favorite races is the Bristol night race every August. The kids of Nascar sing the anthem, Bristol is always exciting, and it's always on a Saturday night. Definitely a highlight of the Nascar season.

So, last week, I made tailgating food. Starting with boneless hot wings.

Spinach artichoke dip with chips.

A family favorite, dried chipped beef dip. It's supposed to be a cheese ball, but I'm lazy.

And, to wash it down? Well, a nod to the Coca-Cola family of racers, of course.

And, as always, I was pulling for my very sentimental favorite. I don't even care that he doesn't win. Go Bobby!!

Dinner and a movie

This week's date night was a simple one. Nachos with homemade salsa. Salsa is always a favorite in my house, and I'll bet that, in my years of marriage, I have made hundreds of gallons of the stuff. Nothing says "I love you" to my husband more than tomatoes and hot peppers.

So, here's to you, honey!!

We also enjoyed some Ben and Jerry's as we watched a fabulous Clint Eastwood movie. If you haven't seen Grand Torino, go get it today! It was a really good one.

Sometimes the best things in life are the old familiars.

Kroger Bargain Meal August 30

This week's Kroger meal is a new recipe that we tried last week. I was reading my Everyday Food (a wonderful little magazine that I--gasp--paid full price for), and this one jumped out at me. This meal is very, very simple. I was unsure about it, right until I took the first bite. It was so very good. The flavors really, really work. So, I know, I know... But give it a chance. It's definitely worth a try.

Thai Beef with Basil and Peppers
Everyday Food, September 2009

1 can coconut milk--$1
1 1/4 cups jasmine rice (I just used regular)--$0.25
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp fish sauce (my bottle is old, and it lasts forever)--~$0.20
2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce--maybe $0.20
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp canola oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped--$0.05
3 long hot peppers, seeded and sliced into matchsticks--$0.20
1 pound ground beef--on sale $1.79/lb--$1.79
1 cup loosely packed basil, torn or sliced--garden!!
lime wedges for serving--$0.25

In a medium saucepan, combine rice, coconut milk, water, and salt. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes.

When rice is almost done, combine fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl; set aside. Heat a cast-iron skillet or wok over high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering; add garlic and half the chiles. Cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Add beef and cook, breaking up meat until completely browned, about 4 minutes. Add soy mixture and cook 30 seconds. Add basil and remaining chiles and stir to combine. Serve beef over coconut rice with lime wedges on the side.

Total cost for this meal--$3.94

I also served ours with a stir-fry of zucchini, scallions, and eggplant. I shop at an Asian market for most of my vegetables, so the prices are from there.

1 zucchini--$0.50
2 Asian eggplant--$0.79/lb--$0.75
1 bunch of scallions--$0.20

Total cost of this meal plus veggies--$5.39

For more bargain meals, check out $5Dinners gathering of bloggers with the specials from their local stores!

Bargain Meal of the Week

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chile Rellenos

We love peppers, in any shape and form. Sometimes, I even splurge and make restaurant style chile rellenos, battered and fried. Tuesdays are not the day for battering and frying. As my children have gotten bigger, they love to help in the kitchen. So, I save deep frying for times when Mike is home. Makes me feel a little safer about the whole thing.

This recipe is from Southern Living, as so many of my recipes are. It is an easier form of a classic Mexican dish served for Independence Day (September 16). Last night, I used an uncooked tomato sauce (throw some tomatoes in the food processor and hope for the best) to top the peppers with. I, um, forgot that tomato sauce cooks down quite a bit. So, these had a huge amount of sauce. No worries--I just made some white rice, and we ate them over the rice, with lots of gravy. If I hadn't known that it was a mistake, I'd never have suspected.

This is a fun meal for us, because it uses both tomatoes and peppers from the garden. I love eating stuff from the garden, and the fabulous Tomato King is always proud to know that he grew supper. Plus, I can throw in the Mexican Independence Day thing, and, for a moment, my kids are fascinated by history.

Also, I cook for 4, but 2 of those are little people. One ate seconds of this--probably as much as an adult serving--, but no pepper. One licked his bite, turned up his nose, and ate a peanut butter sandwich. There was enough for the two adults, plus leftovers for one lunch. So, this recipe is a truly "serves 4" for us. Also, this recipe would be wonderful with some jalapenos and/or cayenne added to the filling. But that little one that actually eats (!), well, he isn't a hot head. So, I'm learning to tone it down in the kitchen and add hot sauce at the table.

Pork Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Cream Sauce
Southern Living, November 2001

8 large poblano chile peppers (I used 5 Italian frying peppers--that's what I had)
1 pound ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 small apple, chopped (a perfect use for the last apple lounging in the drawer!)
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup diced almonds, toasted (I used pecans, which worked great)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (used brown rice vinegar, which is what I had)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato sauce (I used 3 fresh tomatoes, pureed)
1 teaspoon sugar (I omitted)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Walnut Cream Sauce (I did a half recipe of this, and it was plenty)

Blacken peppers in skillet or oven. Place in a bowl with lid for 10 minutes to loosen skins. Peel peppers. Gently split chile peppers open lengthwise, keeping stems intact; remove and discard seeds. Set aside.

Cook pork in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 7 minutes or until onion is tender.

Stir in tomato and next 4 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt.

Stir together tomato sauce and next 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat 5 minutes.

Spoon about 1/2 cup pork mixture into each pepper, and place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Pour tomato sauce mixture over peppers.

Bake, covered, at 350° for 30 minutes. Top with Walnut Cream Sauce.

Note: Small green bell peppers may be substituted for poblanos. (Do not roast.) Proceed as directed. Bake 45 minutes or until peppers are tender.

Walnut Cream Sauce
Southern Living, November 2001
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted (I used pecans--walnuts are better, but my mom has pecan trees)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Thanks for enjoying supper with us! I hope you enjoy this meal. For more recipes featuring tomatoes (my favorite!!), check out this week's recipe swap at Tammy's recipes. We're on day 34 of eating fresh tomatoes. Are you enjoying tomato season???

Monday, August 24, 2009

Meal Plan Monday

Friday: tacos, strawberry pretzel salad (also took dinner to a friend)

Saturday: OUT (lunch), boneless wings, spinach/artichoke dip (supper)

Sunday: leftovers (lunch), french toast, bacon (supper)

Monday: meatloaf, roasted tomatoes, green beans

Tuesday: chili rellenos, beans (these have to be made this week!!)--I'll post this recipe when I make them as well. Check back tomorrow!

Wednesday: thai beef, rice (also from Everyday Food)

Thursday: curry with cauliflower, okra, and tomatoes, rice (from this month's Everyday Food)

As always, orgjunkie has hundreds of other meal plans that people have come up with! Check them out!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal August 20-26

Sometimes, when I type the date of the current week, I'm shocked by how late in the year it is. It's almost September. My oldest will soon have his 3rd birthday. And he was just born last week! ~grin~

This summer, I've loved Top Chef Masters. I love the show anyway, but it has featured one of my very favorite chefs of all time, Rick Bayless. When we were newlyweds, my husband had one request for supper.... tacos. All.the.stinking.time. Seriously, the man wanted to eat them once a week. He grew up in a "it's Monday, it must be meatloaf" sort of house, and weekly seemed normal to him.

This was not going to happen in my house.

So, I had to figure out something. And quick. We got married late June 2001, moved in together September 2001, and in December my lovely, lovely Cooking Light magazine provided a HUGE breakthrough for which I'm forever grateful. They featured an article on Mexican food that was really all about Rick Bayless. I made a couple of the recipes, and I fell in love. My brother bought me his cookbook for Christmas, and I devoured it.

I had my answer! I'd just start cooking good Mexican food, I'd call it tacos, and sure, we'd have "tacos" once a week. And, that's what happened. Now, I can truely say that Mexican food is probably my favorite cuisine, except old school Southern food (isn't your mama's food always the best?). And that, my friends, is why I cook a lot of Mexican food. I worked in a Hispanic clinic for a while, and all the staff used to tease that I cooked more Mexican food than most folks from Mexico. They weren't that far off. We really love the flavors.

So, this week's Publix meal is a Mexican one. Bet ya' didn't see that one coming! This recipe is a bit long, but it's just the style that Bayless uses to write. His recipes are straight-forward, just wordy and with a good number of ingredients. Very, very worth it, though.

This recipe is from his cookbook Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen. It serves 8, with leftover mole. I freeze it, then use it to sauce roasted chicken or for enchiladas. Mole is good stuff. You should try it! Some of these ingredients are a little different, but the Publixes near me have awesome Latino sections, so the ingredients are very easy to find. If you are in Atlanta, there is even a specific Latino Publix down off Jimmy Carter with WAY cool stuff.

Braised Turkey in Teloloapan Red Mole

16 medium (about 8oz. total) dried ancho chiles--approx $1
22 medium (about 51/2 oz. total) Dried Guajillo chiles--approx $1
1/3 C. (about 1 1/2 oz.) Sesame Seeds
1 small avocado leaf (or 1t. aniseed)
3 Bay leaves
About 1 1/2" of cinnamon, preferably Mexican Canela (you'll need enough to yield about 1 1/2teaspoons ground)
1t whole black peppercorns
1t. dried thyme
A heaping 1/2 t. dried marjoram
1/3t whole cloves
The pit from 1 avocado
2 slices dry firm white bread--$0.20
2 stale corn tortillas--we always have these at my house--pennies
2 Cups rich tasting lard or vegetable oil (you need this much for effective frying; not all goes into the sauce)--I have a source for lard, but I'll price it with veg oil, cause that scares people--$0.93
1/3 C. unskinned almonds--$0.75
1/3 C.unskinned or Spanish peanuts--$0.50
1/3 C. hulled pumpkin seeds--$0.20
1/3 C. Raisins--$0.15
1 medium white onion, sliced--$0.20
9 cloves garlic, peeled--$0.25
2 Large (about 5 oz. total) tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut into quarters--$0.30
1 medium large (8 oz.) tomato, cut into quarters--$0.50
7-8 C. Chicken or Turkey Broth--make your own--free
1 Lg. Whole, Boneless (about 3 3/4 lbs.) turkey breast (skin still on), split into two halves--on sale $0.99/lb--$3.75
1 scant cup (about 5 oz.) finely chopped Mexican chocolate--approx $1
Salt, about 3T, depending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about 1/3 C
A bunch of flat-leaf parsley, garnish--grow your own!

Serve with white rice ($0.30) and corn tortillas ($1.29/lb).

Total cost--$11.97 to serve 8 with leftover mole

And, as always, for more $5 meal inspiration, check out $5dinners's bargain meal of the week.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Old South Date Night

Last week's Netflix pick was a documentary on Stonewall Jackson. Fascinating stuff, and now I'm all keen on naming my next baby Jackson.... But I digress.

Because I knew that we were going to watch the documentary (the nerd part of us adores some documentaries) that night, I wanted to make our menu match the movie. What better than an old south theme?

Saturday's farmers' market had beautiful blackberries. One of the HUGE benefits of our own garden this year has been being able to splurge on some really great farmers' market stuff. I used to spend $30/week just at the farmers' market on the produce we ate all week. This year, I'm spending $15, and most weeks, it includes a decadent and over the top treat, like these blackberries. I'm enjoying it very much.

I made blackberry limeade this week. I just muddled blackberries in the bottom of the glass, then made the limeade right in the glass.

I also made our favorite salad. This is inspired by a Frank Stitt recipe (or maybe a special from his restaurant--I can't remember now). It is my favorite salad of the entire summer. Fresh purple hull peas, corn, onions, and a jalapeno, all mixed in a slightly sweet vinagrette, then served over a sliced heirloom tomato. Heavenly.

For 5 years of my childhood, I grew up on the coast of Georgia. It imprinted a lot of low country flavors on my palate. This is one of those memories. We love creole, and it's very easy to make. Saturday night's was catfish creole, made with fresh tomatoes. Similar to this recipe.

And, for dessert... More of those beautiful blackberries!

It was a beautiful night. The weather around here is starting to have (very small) glimpses of fall, and by the time the boys were in bed, it had cooled down to a very lovely 80 or so. We were able to sit outside and enjoy the night.

Can't wait for next week.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal August 16-22

In honor of this week's NASCAR Cup Bristol night race, this week's meal is trashy fun food. Nachos!

There are two ways to make nachos--one is the whole "pile it on" method. Your chips end up looking like the nachos at Taco Bell. Some have lots of toppings, some have a little, and some are naked.

And, then, there is the more fastidious method. Applebee's and Chili's nachos look like this. You lay out the chips, top each individually, and then pop them in the oven. Kind of a pain, but each chip is assured of an equal amount of toppings.

To be honest, the kind we eat depends on what kind of day I had and whether or not my kids went to bed on time (cause nachos are a date night food for us). Nachos are best in the oven to briefly melt the cheese and crisp the chips. But, if I'm running late, my children have been known to eat nachos out of the microwave for a quick meal. It's all good.

Tostitos--on sale--$1.88
Beans--on sale--$0.99
Ground beef--on sale $1.58/lb--$0.79
Cheese--on sale $2.50/16 oz--$1.25
Sour cream--$0.50
Salsa--tomatoes--on sale $0.99/lb--$1
cilantro--approx $0.69/bunch--$0.35
lime--approx $0.20
onion--approx $0.25
jalapeno pepper to taste--$0.15

Total cost--$7.36

Perhaps a bit pricey for a normal meal, but, hey, sometimes date night is worth a treat! Enjoy your nachos! For more $5 meal ideas, check out $5dinners bargain meal of the week.

Bargain Meal of the Week

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

This week is full of so many good things to eat! I'm having trouble deciding which ones to eat first. I love, love, love this time of year with the garden. We have tomatoes covering every surface in the kitchen. And huge plants of basil. Cucumbers still producing, as well as a few squash. We have these crazy huge tomatillos that are almost scary!

The eggplant aren't terribly prolific this year, but I'm out sweet talking them every evening. And, the chard is back! It doesn't like the very, very hot weather of late July, but it's decided to return for the fall. All in all, I'm thrilled with what Mike is producing for us.

And, as a bonus, he ordered a few extra seeds for the fall garden that he promises to plant this week. Cauliflower here we come!

As always, I plan Friday to Thursday. Don't ask me why. It's just the way it is.

Friday--take out Little Ceasar's pizza (and boy was it good!)

Saturday--macaroni and cheese (lunch), purple hull and corn salad, catfish creole over rice, blackberries (supper)

Sunday--leftovers (lunch), chard with raisins and pecans, roasted fingerling potatoes, papaya squash, fried eggplant, corn on the cob (supper)

Monday--gumbo, potato salad

Tuesday--tomato pie

Wednesday--enchiladas with green sauce, beans, some sort of salsa (probably with pineapple tomatoes)

Thursday--chili rellenos, beans, salsa

As always, there are lots more menu plans over at orgjunkie! Hundreds of bloggers contribute every week. There is always something new to intrigue you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Publix Bargain Meal August 13-19

Sometimes, a $5 meal is best obtained at the Little Caesars Pizza that is right next door to Publix. For only $2.50 more, you can add crazy bread and dipping sauce.

The best part was having a little boy say, "Pizza! Yay!! Just what I wanted!"

Totally worth the $5.

For other $5 meals (most involving cooking), check out $5Dinners bargain meal of the week.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kroger Bargain Meal August 9-15

This week's meal is an old family favorite. I remember making it for the first time my senior year of high school. I took leftovers for lunch, and it impressed my home ec teacher at the time! If you've never had this, try it. You'll impress yourself, and it'll become an old family favorite of your own. It's very versatile, too. Canned beans, dried beans, whatever. Canned corn, fresh corn, frozen. It's all good. You can use bottled salad dressing if pushed for time. Add Ro-tel if you have a lot of it hanging around. Eat it with chips. Eat it with a spoon. Add some chicken or avocado, and you've got a main dish. It's good anyway you get it.

Marinated Black Beans
adapted from Southern Living, May 1993

1/3 cup red wine vinegar--$0.20
1/3 cup olive oil--$0.15
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
juice of 1 lime--$0.25
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 pound dry black beans, cooked (or 3 cans)--$0.75
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn, thawed--on sale--$0.98
1 large bell pepper, chopped--on sale--$0.50
1-3 jalapenos, chopped--$0.20
1 onion, chopped--$0.25
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped--$0.45

Combine first 7 ingredients to make dressing. Add other ingredients in a large bowl. Allow to chill 1-24 hours.

Total cost--$3.73 for 10 servings--$1.49 for 4 servings

Serve with grilled chicken--on sale $1.99/lb--$3
and buttered pasta--on sale $0.88/lb--$0.44

Total cost--$4.93

Figtastic Date Night!

Last week, I had one of those days. You know, those days. After giving up on naptime, I threw my kids in the car, and we drove to my mom's house to see her new puppies. The puppies were so cute. And the day was salvaged.

And then, beyond that, on the way home... One of my old-man neighbors had a little sign in his front yard.

Figs for sale

Oh blessed day. And suddenly, that day became a some kind of wonderful day. Figs have that power, you know. At least in my world.

I ate a bajillion of them raw, packed a few in Mike's lunch, and then I made fig preserves with the rest. There was about a pint of the preserve syrup left over. This is good stuff. The figs sat overnight in it, so the syrup is completely and totally figgy flavored. And, I didn't want it to go to waste.

So, I decided that it would become a special drink. I think it's my favorite one I've made so far. Even Mike had two of them. He called it fig preserves in a glass. And, that's about what it was, only better.

The cast of characters. Cranberry juice, orange flavor, lime, fig syrup

This is orange flavoring, made specifically for our seltzer machine. It's not sweet at all. Orange extract would be very similar.

The ratio is about 1/3 each cranberry, fig syrup, and seltzer. Add a drop of orange, and finish with a squeeze of lime. I bet you don't have just one!

You can even see some of the fig seeds floating. Very much summer in a glass.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Our Big Mac

It is crazy hot here. Truly the dog days of summer. And, every year, it catches me by surprise. This year, I saw it coming, but somehow, somehow, in my crazy brain.... I really thought that it would somehow be easier to have two little kids at home, inside, all day long. What was I thinking?? Being inside most of the time causes some kind of bizarre cabin fever, and by the end of the day, we're all loosing our minds. I've had to get more creative, be on my toes a little more, and well, shoot, this hot weather is hard work, just entertaining folks.

If there weren't beautiful tomatoes to compensate for the crazy days of summer, I'd consider asking God to skip ahead to September. But, I'll take a little crazy for tomatoes. This week. I think.

All that to say... We had a birthday party a week ago. And pictures are just now going up. There weren't many of us, I got too wrapped up in everything going on to take all the pictures I wanted (there are none of grandparents!), but it was a fun time celebrating a special baby boy that we adore. Happy Birthday Mac!

a special birthday outfit
even the blocks got in on the action
our centerpiece


more cupcakes packaged for home delivery. Honey and Pappy couldn't make it, due to a laboring dog. So, on Monday, we packed up and hand delivered some cupcakes.
french fry cookies
plates and napkins, just waiting
he loved this big ball, a present from Will
and he really loved getting to drink juice
my brother (the beloved "Uncle Jon") helping figure out a new toy
more juice. But this one shows those fabulous eyes
not quite sure what to do with the cupcake. He never did get into it. This picture also shows the appliqued and monogrammed bib, made by Honey. Very cute.
Will wouldn't eat his cupcake until everyone was out the door. Too exciting to have folks in his house, I suppose.
what was left of the veggie plate
spinach dip

the favorite black bean corn salad
opening presents

pleased with a very happy birthday

and a little visit from "scary Will"
Hope you enjoy your visit to our birthday!