Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Simple but oh so good

Dairy free is stretching me. On the plus side, it turns out that a lot of my calories are from dairy fat. Who knew? Okay, well, I knew. But, I just love some butter and cream and cheese, and I have been reluctant to give those up. This forced diet change might just be good for the size of my rear end.

We can hope.

One of my favorite easy, easy lunches has always been noodles with butter and parmesan cheese. Obviously, not a good contender for now, but I needed a worthwhile stand-in. Some days, I don't have leftovers, and I'm not really going to whip up anything too complicated for lunch.

Enter nutrtional yeast. Yes, the friend of Moosewood. The iconic hippie food. Don't be a hater. It's good, in an earthy, my mom is on a 70s health kick, sort of way.

Mixed with a little margarine and noodles, it becomes a warm, homey, comforting sort of lunch. I topped this with a little bit of red chile flake infused kosher salt, but that's gilding the lily. This is good stuff.

Ah, there are highlights to this dairy free thing after all.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Presents

The best Christmas presents this year were the intangibles. I have a four year old, and I'm convinced that this is the best age EVER to experience Christmas. Every single thing was magical and fun, from seeing Santa at the mall to riding the Pink Pig to donating our old toys to Goodwill. Every. single. stinking. thing. It was wonderful to see him jump up and down when he opened a much desired Lego set, and he has played and enjoyed all of his toys for days. So fun.

My husband took off the week before Christmas for vacation, instead of the usual week between the holidays. This was great for us--it really allowed the Tomato King to get in on the excitement of the holidays, without, as he puts it, the post Christmas hangover. It's the 28th now, he's back at work, and I have to say, he has something there.


I got a lot of cool stuff this year, too, so I thought I'd share some of the highlights.

Mrs. Meyers lemon verbena counter spray. I'd read about it over at The Nester, mentioned it to my mom, and voila! I had some to open on Christmas Day. And, yes, it really is all that.

Also from my mom. Anchovy paste. I know, not something you always get excited about, but I actually love anchovies, and this makes it really easy to use them.

This cutie! No, I didn't get him for Christmas, but I did get this awesomely soft, sweet, I want to wrap myself in it, hemp jersey blanket. I love it, he loves it. All is good in the world. And, yes, that's eczema you see on his face, probably due to the cheese I sampled at the Mexican market before I remembered, um, cheese=dairy. Duh.

Kitsch! These might be my favorite present. Vintage Tervis tumblers. There are 2 more, but I was impatient, and they are still in the dishwasher. Very, very (very!) cool, though. Both Mike and I adore these.

Thanks to Jessica at Craftily Ever After, I printed out this very cool JOY picture. A Christmas present from someone who doesn't even know I exist. Everyone loves me. :)

It wouldn't be Christmas without new reading material. I finally own one of my favorites, Cheap Fast Good, so I can stop checking it out from the library. I also got a fabulous cookbook Bon Appetit, Y'all, and this great magazine, Where Women Cook, that was so frivolous and expensive I didn't even ask for it. I was thrilled to read it, though!

New kicks! My old shoes didn't fit well after my last pregnancy, and I no longer have an excuse for not exercising.

I may return these.

And this wasn't a gift for me, but turns out, it really was. Mike has needed glasses for a LONG time. He's just been too *insert whatever word you want here* to go get them. So, with time off this week, he went and got cool new glasses. Yay. Why is this a present for me?? Cause I no longer have to listen to a single complaint about how he can't see. I'm claiming this present all for me. Thanks, honey!

And, to top it all off, we got this great new Flip video camera, which allows my oldest to show just how excited he is over being alive.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Butter beans and artichoke hearts

Several years ago, one of my friends shared this recipe, and I've made it off and on since then. She spent the year after college in Spain, falling in love with the cuisine, and when she moved back to Texas, she was all over recreating those flavors. (She's really good at it, too, and now owns a bakery and specialty food purveyor--Christine rocks!). Anyway....because of all that back story, we get to enjoy these delicious beans, inspired by Christine, but remade with what I had available.

It starts with the humble lima. These go on sale for 50% off at Publix all winter long, making this a pretty frugal meal, too.

And like almost all good recipes, this started with a sauteed onion.

This recipe also includes chopped tomato. In the summer, when the tomatoes are insane, I just freeze them whole if we can't eat them. When it is time to use them, I just sit them out and let them thaw for about 5 minutes. After that, you can put them under running water, and the skin will just slip off. Chop and use as normal. They are very handy to have in the freezer if you just need a few tomatoes.

After adding the onion, garlic, tomato, and deglazing with a little wine, add the baby limas and artichoke hearts. Season with cumin, salt, pepper, and saffron (I used turmeric in this recipe, which is totally not the same, but good nonetheless). Let that simmer for about 30 minutes, until the beans are cooked, and the flavors are melded.

This is excellent as a main dish, with eggs poached right in the cooking liquid. This night, however, we ate it as a side dish, which is equally delicious.

Enjoy this fabulous recipe!

Butter beans and Artichoke Hearts
inspired by Christine

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 lb frozen baby lima beans
1-15 oz can artichoke hearts, packed in water
1 T cumin
a couple of threads of saffron or 1 t turmeric
salt to taste
1 t pepper

Saute onion, garlic, and tomatoes in olive oil. Add wine to deglaze pan. Add lima beans and artichoke hearts with enough water to barely cover. Season with cumin, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, until beans are done. Serve as is, or poach eggs in cooking liquid. Serve with crusty bread to dip up all those delicious juices.

I'm linked to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. There are always lots of great new ideas over there. Check it out!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

White Chili

We recently have had a stretch of really cold weather (for us). It's perfect soup and stew weather. I pulled out this old family favorite. It's so good! The first time I ever had it was in December of 1992. It was featured in Southern Living magazine in a tree trimming party menu (isn't that funny how you remember the weirdest stuff?). I was a senior in high school, and my mom let me pretty much have free reign over the kitchen that year. I had an easy school schedule, and I cooked a lot. I still use some of those recipe regularly, and it still takes me back to that warm, cozy kitchen cooking alongside my mom.

This recipe starts with navy beans or white beans or whatever you have beans. It's flexible.

You cook the beans, then in a separate pot, cook the onions, peppers, and chicken (or in this case, leftover turkey). Again, oh, so flexible. Last summer, I roasted and froze a lot of in season poblanos, and they are awesome. But, canned chiles work well, too. And, just chopped (not roasted) peppers work, too. This is a perfect use for leftover poultry, but you could leave it out or saute raw chopped chicken with the onions and peppers. Like I said, very flexible. (don't you love recipes like that?)

Add the beans to the sauteed onions/peppers/turkey, simmer away, top with whatever you have, and you'll get this fabulous white chili. Try it. It'll become a family favorite at your house, too.

White Lightning Texas Chili
adapted from Southern Living, December 1997

1 lb dried navy beans
2 quarts chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T pepper
1 T dried oregano
1 T cumin
1 t salt
3 cups cooked chicken or turkey
3 roasted poblano peppers, chopped
1 cup water
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
shredded monterey jack
sour cream
chopped white onion

Soak white beans overnight. Drain and discard water. Add chicken broth and cook until done, 2 hours or so, at a simmer. In a different skillet, saute onion, garlic, spices, and poblanos until onion is soft and slightly browned. Add chicken. Add beans, along with the broth and extra water, if needed, to achieve desired soupy consistency. Simmer for 1 hour, allowing flavors to blend. To serve, top with cheese, chopped pepper, sour cream, cilantro, and onion, as desired.

I'm also linked to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam. Lots of new inspiration over there every week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

Last week's menu plan went much better. We stuck to the plan almost every night (salisbury steaks turned into meatballs), and it made supper time much easier. That time of night can get crazy (and it's when my childless brother ALWAYS calls...then he wonders why I don't answer), so it's nice to have at least one decision made for me.

Friday: burritos with ground beef, rice, spinach, and poblanos
Saturday: takeout
Sunday: chicken noodle soup (lunch), chilaquiles (supper)
Monday: slow roasted pork butt, pickled beets, macaroni and cheese, slaw
Tuesday: Memphis tacos (barbecue pulled pork, slaw in a flour tortilla), turnips, pinto beans
Wednesday: mu shu chicken (will put this recipe up as soon as I make it)
Thursday: red rice with turkey and black beans, roasted tomato salsa

This week, I'm also going to do a little holiday baking. I'm planning amaretto meringues, sugar cookies, and peanut butter cookies. I'll probably make brownies, too. I want to have a lot of variety this year, and I'd love to have enough to gift some of our neighbors.

I hope Christmas is in full swing at your house, too! For more menu ideas, check out orgjunkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sloppy Joe Bake

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This is a recipe born of need. A fast recipe, a family pleaser, and easy, easy, easy. We had spent the day at the Pink Pig (a Christmas tradition around here at our local Rich's/Macy's store), and everyone was a bit worked up. Tired, cold, and hungry. Sloppy joes sounded good, but we didn't have quite enough ground beef, and we didn't have any hamburger buns. What's a mama to do??

Sloppy joe bake, my friends. Sloppy joe bake.

Never have I been so happy to find a random can of crescent rolls in the fridge. ~smile~ I just made sloppy joes as usual, adding in lentils for half the meat. When that was done, roll over the crescent rolls, bake until brown, and voila! A new family favorite. Seriously. This meal took 15 minutes, and everyone ate seconds. Gotta love it.

Sloppy Joe Bake

3/4 lb ground beef
1/2 cup green lentils
1 onion, chopped fine
1 bell pepper, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 T tomato paste
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 T mustard
1 T worchestershire sauce
1 T brown sugar
1 can crescent rolls

Brown ground beef with onions and peppers, adding garlic at the end. Meanwhile, boil lentils in salted water until done, about 15-20 minutes. Add sauce ingredients (tomato paste through sugar) to the browned ground beef. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes as lentils cook. When lentils are tender, drain and add to the sloppy joes. Top with crescent roll dough and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, until top is golden brown.

This recipe is very versatile. It would be a good one to add more veggies to (grated zuchinni during the height of squash season would work well, as would carrots and/or celery). I tend to add this and that from my condiment shelf--this time, I added a couple of tablespoons of red wine jelly, as well as a couple of tablespoons of homemade chili sauce.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thai Red Curry

My littlest one is a rashy little fellow. We've tried lots of stuff, but I'm at the point where I think it might be my diet. So, I'm experimenting with being mostly dairy free for now to see if that clears it up.

And nothing makes you want macaroni and cheese, cream soups, and ice cream more than avoiding dairy. Of course.

But, I'm trying to experiment with other flavors to make this easier. This was a very easy meal pulled out of Moosewood Simple Suppers. It utilizes a very handy convenience product, Thai red chili paste. Sure, I could make my own, but for now, I'm going to spend my time on other stuff.

It's just a basic stir fry. For this one, I used boneless pork loin, cut very thin (my boys called them "worms"), plus broccoli, green beans, onion, red pepper, and bok choy. When I took my last Chinese cooking class, they were talking about how, in Chinese food, you try to cut all the pieces of the dish in the same shape (in this case, long and skinny). Try it. It makes the dish very pleasing to the eye, and it really does add something to it.

Once everything is cooked, you add the sauce. Which couldn't be simpler. Red curry paste and a can of coconut milk, to taste.

Thai Red Curry
adapted from Moosewood Simple Suppers
1 lb boneless pork, sliced thin
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 T oil
2 T (to taste) Thai red chili paste
vegetables of choice--the original called for snow peas and tomatoes; I used broccoli, green beans, red pepper, and bok choy
1 14-ounce can coconut milk (I used about 3/4 of this)
1/2 t salt
2 T lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a skillet or wok on high heat, sear the meat, in two batches if necessary to not crowd the pan. Remove from the skillet.
Add the oil to the pan, and when hot, add the onions, then the other vegetables. Stir fry until crisp-tender. When the vegetables are almost done, add the curry paste and coconut milk, salt and lime juice. Bring to a simmer and add the cilantro. Taste and add salt if needed (it might). Serve hot over jasmine rice.

As usual, I'm linked to Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday. Check it out!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Meal Plan December 6th

So, the first part of last week's meal plan went great. And, then, around Monday, I just didn't like what I had planned. Go figure. We ended up having other stuff. So, I'm putting out what we did eat last week (because sometimes I revisit old menu plans for ideas), as well as what I hope we'll eat this week. We'll see if I feel like my plan this week. Oh, and continuing on last week's experiment, I'm eating mostly dairy free (not worrying about small amounts in baked goods and the like), to see if that improves my littlest boy's excema. Seems like it's working. Sob, sob. Oh, Ben, oh, Jerry, I'm missing you already!

Mon: Thai red curry over rice (post coming tomorrow)

Tues: white turkey chili

Wed: sloppy joe bake, broccoli, salad

Thursday: turnips, cornbread, sweet potato, cornbread

Friday: old el paso style tacos (refried beans, ground beef)

Saturday: leftovers (lunch), tacos de pastor (supper)

Sunday: McRib--on the last day (lunch), pumpkin pancakes (supper)

Monday: salisbury steaks, latkes, salad

Tuesday: Cinicinnati chili

Wednesday: roasted chicken, yellow rice, salad, butter beans

Thursday: black bean soup

I'm also planning on making a batch of hummus to eat for snacks and lunch. I made refried beans in the blender last week, and they turned out incredibly smooth. So, I'm going to try that out on hummus and see how the texture is. We have a local restaurant that makes the smoothest, creamiest hummus that is seriously crave-worthy. If I could figure that out, I'd be in heaven!

As always, I'm linked to orgjunkie's Menu Plan Monday . So, so many great ideas over there.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Date Night

Part of our commitment to having an at-home date night means ignoring the rest of the house. I don't know about you, but there is always something to be done. Another project, another email to read, another blog to lose myself in, another magazine to flip through. For Mike, it's a (yet another) podcast on his Blackberry, some raking to do, or some TV to mindlessly flip through.

But, on Saturday nights, we do our best to ignore all those other distractions. Sometimes (okay, a lot of times) we end up watching a movie or a TV show, but we watch it together, both paying attention, not distracted by anything else. We'll pause it a million times to talk about something that it brings up, and it's really a fun night.

I share all this, cause it cracks me up that there are laundry baskets in the background of this picture. But, I ignored them on Saturday night, and you know what? They were still there on Sunday morning!! Amazing.. LOL. And, as is the constant in my house, there were more on Monday and Tuesday as well. We are more important than folded laundry, and the laundry will always keep. I like talking to Mike a whole lot more.

We had these fun retro wedge salads with blue cheese dressing. I'm slowly easing dairy out of my diet (I think my little one is a bit sensitive to it), so this was the end of some goodies in the fridge.

These great steaks.

And fabulous onion casserole leftover from Thanksgiving.

We finished the night with a movie that had good reviews, but we just didn't get. At least, we didn't get it together, right? Here's to a happy date night with your beloved!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Onion Casserole

For Thanksgiving this year, I volunteered to make this onion casserole that I found reading one of my Silver Palate cookbooks. It looked rich and decadent, perfect for the holidays.

You can see the layers of red onions, white onions, and leeks here. It sounds like it might be too many onions, but the cheeses all meld together to make a most excellent marriage.

We ate the leftovers with a steak for our Saturday date night.

This recipe is a little bit more expensive than my usual fare (okay, a lot), but it is. so. worth. it! Every once in a while, at least. And, thanks to my generous mom, I don't really contribute much to the holiday meal, so it wasn't a big stretch to bring a really great dish for everyone to share.

Three Onion Casserole
from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook

2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 medium leeks, well rinsed, dried and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups havarti cheese, grated
2 (5 ounce) packages Boursin cheese (I used one 8 oz package that was on sale)
1 1/2 cups gruyere, grated
1/2 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 350. Make a layer of onions, using a third each of red onions, white onions, and leeks. Sprinkle with havarti. Make another layer, using another third of onions. Top with the Boursin. Make a third layer, using the last of the onions. Sprinkle the top with the gruyere. Pour the wine over the top. Bake for one hour, covering with foil if the top gets too brown.

The recipe said to serve immediately, but this worked fine to cook at home for 45 minutes, travel an hour and a half, then reheat for 15 minutes in a hot oven at my mom's house. It was perfect.

**it also made so much that it wouldn't fit in one dish, so I used my regular 9x13 dish for Thanksgiving, then had a small (6x8) dish that we had for leftovers. The small dish I baked for 30 minutes, then refrigerated. When it was time for us to eat it, I reheated for about 30 minutes at 350. Both ways worked great, with no loss of texture or flavor.

Definitely try this one. Most first time dishes at Thanksgiving are "one timers", but this one will definitely make a repeat performance. And it was really good with beef, so it would be perfect with Christmas prime rib. You'll love it, too!