Friday, October 30, 2009

Sometimes You Lose!

I decided to stretch some meat last night and make a stir fry. I had four, thin pork cutlets. I sliced them into thin strips and stir fried them in a little oil. I added onions, garlic, and broccoli to the mix. I had a bottle of Thai Peanut Sauce which I added to the pan. The last addition was some cooked spaghetti. I figured this would be a Chinese type noodle dish. The Thai sauce added a nice kick to the dish. I liked the meal a family did not. My daughter said it was OK. My other daughter did not even try it and my husband opted for no Thai sauce in his. He is not a peanut butter lover and thought it may contain too much peanut butter flavor.

Not a big hit in my house...even though I liked it! I even had it for leftovers. My lesson here is to try new meals. Just take some ingredients and throw them together to make dinner. Or try a new recipe. Sometimes you have a winner...sometimes you have a loser. You will never know unless you try! The worse that will happen is you all eat cereal for supper.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Corn Chowder

I love Chowder! We get a shellfish license each year and harvest quahogs for steaming, stuffing and chowder. Sometimes though, I just want a nice corn chowder. My husband likes quahog chowder better, but last night my daughter really wanted to have corn chowder, so I made it for dinner with a salad. Here is my recipe. If you want quahog chowder, substitute quahogs for the corn and the claim juice for the chicken stock.

Corn Chowder

2-3 medium-large potatoes diced and boiled until tender, drain
Saute 1 medium onion with about 2 tablespoons of butter and 4 strips of chopped bacon.
Cook until onions are tender and bacon is crisp.
Add about 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for a few minutes.
Add a can of chicken stock or homemade stock.
Stir. This should be fairly thick.
Add the potatoes, a can of drained corn and a pint of half and half, cream or milk.
Heat through and serve.

If you like the chowder thicker, add more flour and butter to the onion/bacon mixture.
If you like the chowder thinner, reduce the flour and add milk instead of cream or half/half.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Surprising Pumpkini Bread

This is the ongoing saga of the pumpkini. With the success of the Pumpkini Pie, I ventured into the area of bread. We love quick breads for a fairly healthy snack. I don't buy a lot of prepackaged cookies and goodies. With all the chemicals and preservatives in prepackaged foods, I opt to bake them myself. Sometimes, I can add ingredients like whole wheat flour or flax seed to boost the nutrients.

Since I followed a pumpkin pie recipe for the pumpkini pie, it only made sense to follow the pumpkin bread recipe. I settled on my old standby The Betty Crocker Cookbook. I received this book some 22 years ago at my wedding shower. It is a well worn copy and my most referred to cookbook in my collection.

The recipe listed 4 eggs...unfortunately I only had 3. Not to be deterred, I put in 3 eggs and added a little more oil to the mix. Substituting in the pumpkini, I noticed that the color was a little lighter than a normal pumpkin pie. Not to worry, I knew it would probably be fine.

The recipe made 2 loaves of bread. It came out more than fine. It was fantastic! I gave a few pieces of the bread to my mother and my husbands grandmother in the hospital. They loved it! In fact, my husband's grandmother requested more from my mother-in-law, so another batch will be in the making.

Sometimes experiments with an unfamiliar ingredient or vegetable does not come out as we hoped...sometimes they come out with amazingly good results! Try something different, you may have some surprising (and fabulous) results.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Chill in the Air--Soup Day!

It's 58 degrees in my house. It's a little cold here. As I was trying to get myself geared up to clean the house, I thought I would cook a big pot of soup.

I always store miscellaneous chicken bones in the freezer for a cool day. First, I sauteed the frozen chicken pieces with a little olive oil and onion. Once nicely browned, I added water, a carrot, parsley, leftover lettuce, peppercorns, bay leaves and let it simmer. The house smells wonderful!

Once the stock is done, I will strain and discard all the bones and vegetables. To the stock I will add another carrot or 2, assorted beans, onions, parsley, maybe some green beans, zucchini (or pumpkini), garlic and whatever else I need to use up or feel like adding. I may add a potato or 2 during the last 1/2 hour of cooking.

Maybe I'll serve it with some homemade bread, biscuits or dumplings. Good eating! You can't get that from a can or package!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can you make a pie with Pumpkini?

My father-in-law plants a large garden every year. He always puts in pumpkins for the kids and zucchini for me. This year he grew what he thought were two zucchini plants. He ended up with one zucchini plant and one that was a little different. He started getting a vegetable that looked like a fat zucchini/watermelon. He did not know what to do with these, so I got them.

At first, I did not know what to do with them. I stir-fried, boiled, made zucchini sauce, etc. with these strange vegetables. A few of them ended up getting so large, I was not sure what to do with them, so I just stored them. They started to change. They started to turn orange like a pumpkin. Seeing this, I decided to investigate. Googling strange zucchini, I found that we may have pumpkini...a cross between zucchini and pumpkin.

OK, now I know what I have. What do I do with it? Since I have made pumpkin pie and squash pie for the holidays, I tried to put this vegetable in a pie. I baked a cut and cleaned out squash until soft. Not sure how this was going to turn out, I scooped out the flesh and pureed the pulp. I chose a recipe from an old Farm Journal Baking Cookbook. I used my own recipe for a one crust pie: 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup of milk, dash of salt.

Apprehensively, I put the pie in the oven for about 1 hour at 400 degrees. Upon taking it out of the oven, I noticed it was much lighter in color than a pumpkin pie. Tasting the pie was going to prove if this experiment was a success. Well, it was! It tastes like a pumpkin/custard pie. I am very pleased with the outcome. When you think about it, there really was not a reason to worry. What would happen if it did not come out OK? We would throw it in the garbage and try again. Now I know I can make a very respectable pie with my pumpkini. But, can I make bread with it? We will see!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Too Busy to Cook?

Life can get busy. Work, kids, husband, mother in hospital, Dad in Florida, In-Laws in Hawaii, homework, housework, gardening... There is so much to do. Dinner can get lost. It's so easy to go to a drive-thru, restaurant, or open a can. No one in my house really cooks except me. My daughters know how to cook a little. They know how to make turkey burgers, mac and cheese, pasta, pan fried fish. In other words, they know how to make the easy stuff. But a full dinner, they have not mastered yet. I am working on giving them lessons.

My mother just had her knee replacement surgery on Monday. I was gone for the entire day to be with her in the hospital. Knowing that my family would go to the drive-thru or a pizza place, I had a plan. I used my trusty crock-pot. I needed something that would be done when they got home and did not need anything else except maybe opening up a can of cranberry sauce or vegetables. A pork roast seemed like it would be the answer. A simple meal that everyone would enjoy. The meal was assembled in about 5 minutes before I left in the morning. Peel a few potatoes, slice up an onion, season up the pork roast and turn it on. Done! All they had to do was warm up some green beans and open a can of cranberry sauce. They were happy. I was happy.

Had I been at home, I would have roasted the vegetables and pork in my Covered Baker. It would have been better but the crock pot is the next best thing.

I had some leftover pork. How to use it up? I put it in a slow simmered tomato sauce. With whole grain pasta and a salad, it's a great meal and I used up the leftovers.

What's for Dinner, Ma? It's not takeout and it's not drive-thru. It's a real meal and it's good!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's for Dinner

I read The Frugal Girl blog everyday. I love her writing and her approach to saving money. I am a little frugal too. I feel it's a game to cut my food bill down without my family noticing or revolting. As long as there is no mutiny and they are healthy/happy, I'm good. Every week, The Frugal Girl posts her menu for the week. This allows her to stay on budget, with no last minute dash for dinner because everyone knows what they are having.

I love the idea of menu planning but I have never been able to make it work. I have decided that my lifestyle and personality dictates a fly by the seat of my pants approach to meals. Most days, I decide what we are having for dinner based on what I have in my freezer and pantry, what my family has requested, the leftovers in my refrigerator and our schedule for the day. I'll give you an example of this week:

Sunday was rainy and we were home all day. I watched the New England Patriots, so I was basically home puttering around the house. This was a perfect day to roast a chicken. We had roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and salad.

Monday was Jewel's birthday, so I asked what she wanted: chicken pot pie or Shepard's pie. She requested Shepard's pie. I thought she wanted chicken pot pie, so that's what we had. She was not disappointed. Chicken pot pie is one of her favorites.

Tuesday is normally an office day for me, so I made something quick. We had pan fried fish, Quinoa with chicken stock and a tomato salad. My in-laws have tomatoes from their garden and they need to be used up. Nothing beats a fresh tomato salad!

Wednesday Victoria requested tacos. The tomatoes were put to good use with the homemade salsa. My husband and I had taco salad. The girls opted for regular tacos with all the fixing's.

Tonight, Jewel will have her Shepard's Pie. Ground turkey, mashed potatoes with either corn or green beans. I will most likely use both corn and green beans in the Shepard's pie...or I will serve the green beans on the side.

Friday...who knows...