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30 May 2009

Charitable Consumption

We eat a lot of salad and, being lazy, I've grown pretty dependent on those bagged or clamshell lettuce blends. Olivia's Organics "Herb Salad" is still my favorite, but getting harder and harder to find, so I had been buying Fresh Express Organic Herb Salad, instead, until The Husband lodged a complaint. He was, he cried, tired of our salad being full of weird bits and not "proper" lettuce. I've been switched to buying Fresh Express "Sweet Butter" blend (despite it not being organic), instead, and all is happiness in our household.

"Sick of Winter" Salad
Not the kind of salad The Husband likes.

One thing I liked about Olivia's is that the company gave back a percentage of its sales to the Olivia's Organics Charitable Foundation which partners with other charities like Children's Hospital Boston (also a Child's Play recipient) and Cradles to Crayons. Good works, certainly, but I was always wondered what a "percentage of the total sales" really amounted to. Still, I got to feel extra righteous when I purchased my favorite organic salad blend.

Happily, Fresh Express does something similar through its Fresh Funds program. As the purchaser of Fresh Express/Chiquita products you acquire points which can be put toward auctions for goods or donated to charity. Currently, the only charities are "Relay for Life" from the American Cancer Institute and "Go Red for Women" from the American Heart Association.

In Fresh Funds, one hundred points are worth one dollar. If I purchase about eight bags of "Butter Blend" per month at forty points per bag that's three dollars a month donated to charity. A tiny amount, considering the profit Fresh Express is making off me, but more useful to the world than me winning a iTouch.
28 May 2009

Brownie Bonanza

Couldn't sleep so I whipped up a pan of "Easy Double Chocolate Chip Brownies" to take to work. I found my version of this recipe on the back of a bag of Nestlé Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels, but there are many identical copies on-line. Apparently, this is a popular recipe! And, why not? The batter gets made in a saucepan and then it goes in the oven -- no fuss, no big clean-up. Just wash the saucepan, three measuring cups, and two spoons, then sit back with the morning paper and relax while the delicious aroma of baking brownies fills the kitchen ... yum!

Easy Double Chocolate Chip Brownies

I admit I skipped the nuts when I made this recipe, but that omission seems to have made no real difference. The brownies are moist yet light, chocolatey, but not too sweet. Perfect still slightly warm with a glass of cold milk.

Or a scoop of vanilla ice cream and fresh whipped cream! Yay! Brownie sundaes!

Because I couldn't make brownies for work without also making brownies for The Husband, I also whipped up a batch of Stonewall Kitchen's "Tripe Fudge Brownie Mix." They came out awfully cute (managed to not muck up the swirls!) and smell very nice, but I won't know how they taste until The Husband comes home this evening.

Triple Fudge Swirl Brownies
27 May 2009

♥ Bacon

So, yes, The Husband went away and I immediately did take myself off to the grocery store whereupon I purchased some lovely thick cut bacon and the nicest looking tomato my eyes did espy. Yum!

Came home and preheated the oven to 400°F. Lined a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil and arranged six slices of bacon on it so that their edges did not touch. Baked my smoky, savory love for 6 minutes. Rotated the pan. Baked for another 8. Removed bacon from the oven. Drained bacon on lots of paper towels. Snapped each strip in half and arranged, with Butter (aka "Boston" or "Bibb") lettuce and sliced tomato, on a toasted whole wheat Arnold Sandwich Thin spread with light mayonnaise. It was The Nom de la Nom ... smoky, salty, crunchy, tangy, sweet.

♥ Bacon ♥


I could have eaten two.

Not to take any glory away from my BLT, but my salad was pretty fine, too. If you were paying attention, you will have noticed that this week's Menu Plan was big on salad. While salad may seem pretty "meh" to you, I get really excited about salad this time of year and will pack pretty much anything into a bowl and call it such.

This week, with The Husband away, I tossed a monster of a green salad together on Monday to sustain and, bacon notwithstanding, healthify me for most of the week. It is a very green salad and full of just about every sort of vegetable in my refrigerator:
  • Mixed green and red butter lettuce
  • Celery stalks, halved length-wise and chopped small
  • English (burpless) cucumber, quartered and chopped small
  • Leftover steamed green beans, cold
  • Grape tomatoes, halved
  • Red onion, chopped small
  • Carrots, grated
  • Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Nom!
25 May 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Thirteen

The Husband is away for much of this week so my menu planning is just me fighting my inevitable slide toward random-grazing-from-fridge-at-weird-hours. Seriously, with no-one to stop me, I would happily eat ice cream and pickles for supper.

This week's menu plan:

Monday (Memorial Day)

  • Brunch -- Homemade waffles with chopped strawberries, vanilla ice cream, chocolate hazelnut sauce, and fresh whipped cream.
  • Supper -- Beef franks on whole grain white buns with various mustards, Heinz Baked Beans (the British bean), leftover sauerkraut corn salad, and green salad.

Tuesday

  • Breakfast -- Kashi GOLEAN Strawberry Flax waffles with crunchy peanut butter & Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice.
  • Lunch -- Thawed turkey soup with a toasted bagel (for dunking).
  • Supper -- Green salad with hard-cooked egg, watermelon, Kashi crackers, and Cabot Hunter's Sharp cheddar chunks.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast -- Kashi GOLEAN Hearty Honey Cinnamon Hot Cereal with freeze dried strawberries & HW orange juice.
  • Lunch -- Green salad with half a can of tuna, watermelon, and Kashi crackers.
  • Supper -- A Vimes BLT1 with salad and light tomato vinaigrette.

Thursday

  • Breakfast -- Granola with 1% milk and blueberries and HW orange juice.
  • Lunch -- Green salad with the other half a can of tuna, and Kashi crackers.
  • Supper -- Garlicky hummus with vegetable dippers, pretzels, and watermelon.

Friday

  • Breakfast -- Kashi GOLEAN Strawberry Flax waffles with crunchy peanut butter & Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice.
  • Lunch -- Kashi Mayan Harvest Bake with green salad.
  • Supper -- Baked chicken breasts, parsley rice, and salad.

Saturday (CCFA Walk)

  • Breakfast -- Kashi GOLEAN Hearty Honey Cinnamon Hot Cereal with freeze dried strawberries & HW orange juice.
  • Lunch/Supper -- Out (CCFA walk 3-6?)

Sunday (Brooklyn?)

  • Breakfast -- Granola with 1% milk and blueberries and HW orange juice.
  • Lunch/Supper -- Out

1Vimes carefully lifted the top of the bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and smiled inwardly. Good old Cheery. She knew what a Vimes BLT was all about. It was about having to lift up quite a lot of crispy bacon before you found the miserable skulking vegetables. You might never notice them at all.

--excerpted from Thud! by Terry Pratchett
24 May 2009

Memorial Day Picnic Recipes

I brought two salads and dessert to our family's Memorial Day picnic. I'd originally planned to bring a big green salad, but the idea of hauling around all those salad dressing bottles annoyed me so I thought I'd go with something simpler. But nothing milk-based, in case it was left out in the sun or our cooler malfunctioned ...

Eventually, I settled Crisco's "Corn Relish Salad" and a simple cucumber salad:
Cucumber Salad
Slice an English (burpless) cucumber thinly and set aside.
Quarter a punnet of grape tomatoes and set aside.
Chop half a red onion into small pieces and set aside.
Layer vegetables in a serving bowl.
Whisk desired amounts of red wine vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and dill together and pour over vegetables (no more than two hours before serving or they get soggy).
Corn Relish Salad
Combine a scant ¼ cup sugar, ½ cup vegetable oil, ¼ cup white vinegar, ½ tsp. celery seed and ¼ tsp. mustard seed; cook over low, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Set aside. In a serving bowl, combine one can of corn, drained, with one similarly sized can of sauerkraut, drained, ½ cup diced red onion, and one small diced green pepper. Pour dressing over, mix well, and refrigerate overnight. Drain well before serving.
This is the second time I've made "Corn Relish Salad" and even though I reduced the amount of sugar both times, it is still a tad too sweet. Next time, I will try reducing the sugar to two tablespoons and see if that is better. As it stands, the salad was very good gobbed on hot dogs with spicy mustard.

What was dessert? My portable standby -- KAF sugar-free brownies with diced strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Nom!
20 May 2009

Birdie @ My Window

We have several American Goldfinches visiting our yard this spring. Aside from this inquisitive girlie, most of them have been hanging out at the pole feeder. I would have thought she was too big for the window feeder, but she seemed pretty content.


Sheer torture for the cats, of course!
18 May 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Twelve

Rain was forecast for Sunday, so we librarian-types rescheduled our Brooklyn trip. Of course, it did not rain. Here. There. Or, indeed, anywhere in between. Curse those weather forecasters and their lying tongues! I could have been traipsing about the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, laden with chocolates and books, drunk on the scent of blooming lilacs. But, no, we thought it was going to rain ...

Not that my Sunday at home was so terrible -- I went shopping and purchased more mustard than a human being could ever reasonably need. The Husband and I, we are pretty heavily addicted to Stonewall Kitchen's "Blue Cheese Herb Mustard" so there was much gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when we realized, well over two week ago, that we had run out of the "good" mustard. Unlike milk or bagels, which can easily be replaced by a quick trip to the grocery store, replacing the "good" mustard required a special trip to a twee store with no evening hours.

Grr.

Happily, we finally made it to the store on Sunday and a good thing, too, because they were having a sale! Yes, it was Stonewall Kitchen's 18th birthday and everything was 18% off -- even the stuff already on clearance. We walked off with many kinds of mustards, jams, tea, and muffin mixes. I've already gone and brewed a bunch of unsweetened iced tea using the Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Tea (it's very dark, but not bitter as the natural pear and cranberry flavors seem to give it a hint of sweetness). Muffins may be baked this holiday weekend ...

Yes, a three day weekend is upon me and my menu will have to be pretty flexible. There will be a picnic or picnics at some point, but I don't know when (so much depends on the lying weather forecasters) so I'm just listing "options" for Saturday, Sunday, and Memorial Day.

This week's menu plan (with mustard!):
  • Monday: "Italian Chicken Vegetable Bake" with parsley rice and salad.
  • Tuesday: Mr. Bento packed with salad, ham/mustard/grape tomato roll-ups, watermelon, and Kashi crackers.
  • Wednesday: "Creamy Hamburger Casserole" from EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy (Countryman Press, 2009) with fresh green beans.
  • Thursday: Mr. Bento packed with more ham/mustard/grape tomato roll-ups, hummus, snap peas, and Kashi crackers.
  • Friday: Beef franks on whole grain white buns with various mustards, Heinz Baked Beans (the British bean), and salad.
  • Saturday/Sunday/Monday: Picnic (bringing pasta salad and dessert plus beverages) or "Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole" from EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy (Countryman Press, 2009) with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes in light italian or "The B4 (Beef Bulgur Bean Burger)" from Almost Meatless (Ten Speed Press, 2009) with mustard on whole grain buns and salad.
17 May 2009

Black Bean & Turkey Enchiladas

Saturday, I made Friday's "Turkey Enchiladas" from Ladies Home Journal (May 2009) with salad for supper and they were very good. So good, in fact, that The Husband took seconds on everything!

Mexico in a Bowl

This was a very simple dish to put together -- leftover turkey, low-sodium can diced tomatoes, well rinsed and drained canned black beans, garlicky Green Mountain Gringo salsa, Cabot Hunter's Sharp cheddar, light Greek yoghurt, spring onions, cilantro, cumin, and pepper all mixed together then wrapped up in whole wheat tortillas and topped with more tomatoes, salsa, cheese, and spring onions -- so it made a perfect work night supper. It took no more than fifteen minutes to assemble and about 40 minutes to bake which gave me plenty of time to assemble a salad and read the paper, but not so much time I felt I needed some snackage to tide me over!

Turkey Enchiladas
15 May 2009

Pretty, Pretty Curtains

Pretty much ever since we moved in, I have been toying with the idea of quilted patchwork valances for my sewing room. I've daydreamed over many a pattern and fat quarter bundle, but never been able to commit. A lot has to do with the ugly bubbling red and white walls of my sewing room. It's hard to imagine anything looking pretty against them.

Last weekend, I had some kind of brainstorm while browsing Fabric.com in the middle of the night and ended up ordering a jelly roll of "Nouveau" by Sentimental Studios for Moda and two yards of Wilmington Prints's "Essentials Scroll" in light ivory. Alas, by the time the fabric arrived, I had forgotten my brilliant plan! What was I supposed to do with these fabrics? Why had I not jotted down notes? Oh noes!

Today, I unrolled the strips and held them up to the window and, against the bright light of the afternoon, they were beautiful. So beautiful that I decided to bite that darn bullet and piece some valances ...

Every time I started to panic (and I panicked quite a lot), I just held the strip set up to the windows, oooh-ed a bit at the play of light through them, and went back to my sewing machine. The tops are done now -- it took about three hours to cut and piece the two of them -- and now I have to wrap my head around quilting them. I want them to have a bit of body, but not be too stiff. The thin cotton batting I normally quilt with is, I think, too thick for this and so I wonder if felt might work ...

Probably, I am over-thinking a pair of valances.

Lest you think I spent all my time fretting over fabric, I also made turkey soup from the carcass of the one I roasted on Wednesday. The soup, while very basic (turkey with mixed vegetables and barley flakes), is quite flavorful from its afternoon adventure on the stove top and will probably not last long in this house.

I was also smart enough to keep some of the turkey meat back for "Turkey Enchiladas" and we will have the enchiladas for Saturday's supper with a bit of green salad and beer.
14 May 2009

Fast Piccolini Pasta

An easy and delicious week night supper -- Barilla Piccolini Mini Farfalle and with a fast sauce made by doctoring a jar of Muir Glen "Garlic Roasted Garlic" pasta sauce with wilted halved grape tomatoes and browned onion. Pretty yummy for less than thirty minutes effort.

Piccolini Pasta


11 May 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Eleven

This weekend did not go according to plan. Blame it on Saturday's CCFA walk at Wesleyan being pushed back to the end of the month -- in the small kerfuffle which followed, Sunday's Mother's Day Dinner became Saturday's Mother's Day Supper. Sunday, I threw a tiny picnic ...

Happily, picnic = leftovers, so lunches are pretty well set for a few days. By the time we run out of picnic leftovers, the frozen turkey lurking in my fridge should be ready to roast (supper/sandwiches/casserole/soup). This week, Hood ice cream was on sale 2/$5 and I had a $1 off 2 coupon and we like ice cream (a lot) so I needed to stock up and, lo, the turkey simply had to come out of the freezer ...

Thursday, my work schedule has been flipped around so I will be home for supper. Home for supper four nights in a row ... how weird.

Sunday, if the weather holds, a bunch of us librarian types are taking the train to New York to visit the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and buy some chocolate books chocolate books. So no supper on Sunday unless it rains and we all stay home. Then I will have to console myself with a supper of beer and sweet potato fries.

Anyway, this week's menu plan:
  • Monday: Frozen pizza with salad.
  • Tuesday: Mr. Bento packed with leftover pasta salad, watermelon, grapes, and Kashi crackers.
  • Wednesday: Turkey with parsley potatoes, shredded pickled beets, and salad.
  • Thursday: Pasta with sauce (Muir Glen "Garlic Roasted Garlic Pasta Sauce," wrinkly grape tomatoes, and onion) and salad.
  • Friday: "Turkey Enchiladas" from Ladies Home Journal (May 2009) with salad.
  • Saturday: Cheese and potato pierogi with salad and shredded pickled beets.
  • Excursion Sunday: Librarians on the loose in Brooklyn. W00t!
06 May 2009

Clam 'Pasketti With Roasted Baby Beets

See that plate of yumminess? That's "Linguine with Clam Sauce" from The Woman's Day Cookbook for Healthy Living (Filipacchi Publishing, 2008) with "Balsamic Roast Beets" from Robin to the Rescue (Taunton Press, 2008).

Clam Linguine With Roasted Baby Beets

I didn't have any linguine on hand so I used 12 ounces of Barilla Plus thin spaghetti. I also "cheated" and sprinkled the clam 'pasketti with shredded Romano. If I were to make this again (and I probably will) I would use more garlic and, maybe, shallots instead of onion.

The beets were pretty darn awesome and I wish I had tried the sooner -- I've had this recipe copied down since February! It's very easy: toss two cans of drained baby beets with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Roast @ 400°F for about 20 minutes. For even browning, toss the pan half way through.

I made extra beets intending to chop the leftovers up and eat them on salad, but they were so delicious (like beet candy!) I ate rather more than my share and there aren't many leftover ...

Overall, this was a very simple and quick week night supper well worth repeating!
05 May 2009

Not-So-Mexican Turkey Chicken Bake

So I managed to start the week right -- made Doc Thelma's "Mexican Turkey Bake" (using Sunday's chicken) for Monday's supper and it was pretty good considering I forgot to buy enchilada sauce. Yes, five ingredients in this simple recipe and I forgot one! And I didn't realize I had forgotten it until I had already dumped the rest of the ingredients into a big mixing bowl. I couldn't back out at that point, but what could I substitute for enchilada sauce? It was ten-thirty in the evening and I was too darn tired to put my shoes on and go shopping.

What could I do? In a fit of desperation, I grabbed a can of condensed tomato bisque and a jar of chili powder. After all, I reasoned to myself, commercially canned enchilada sauce is just water, tomato purée, and spices ... if I added two teaspoons of chili powder to the soup, would that be close enough to avert disaster?

To my great relief, that combination worked! Oh, I'm sure my casserole tasted quite different from the original, but it was still pretty good. Tomato-y with just a hint of heat.

Of course, one of these days, I will have to try it with enchilada sauce ...
04 May 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week Ten

Despite my best efforts, I failed with last week's menu plan. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all off menu. In some ways, this is fine because I hadn't done shopping for those meals, anyway, so there was nothing to go to waste. Also, even if it was off plan, I still cooked on Friday and Sunday and with greater cost-savings than if I'd went with my plan, because both meals only used items on hand. Who would think my laziness could be economical?

On Friday, I made "Balsamic Roasted Sausages & Peppers" on "Great Grain Pilaf" (Taste of Home Cookbook, 2008) using thawed frozen sweet Italian pork sausages, some iffy-looking peppers, bulgur, quick-cooking barley, and lots of other things which were already on hand.

Sunday, I roasted a thawed frozen chicken ... I know, this Sunday roast chicken thing is getting out of hand, but my freezer is still packed with poultry! Weeks of roasting those delicious darlings and my freezer is no emptier!

Anyway, this week's menu plan with no weekend to worry about, because we won't be home:
  • Monday: Doc Thelma's "Mexican Turkey Bake" (Sunday's chicken) with chopped cucumbers and tomatoes in light Italian. I will prep this Sunday night and The Husband will pop the pan in the oven when I am on my way home Monday.
  • Tuesday: Mr. Bento packed with salad, leftover Mexican chicken, sugar-free gelatin with pineapple, and seedless red grapes.
  • Wednesday: "Linguine with Clam Sauce" from The Woman's Day Cookbook for Healthy Living (Filipacchi Publishing, 2008) with steamed green beans. Uses pantry staples and should take no time at all.
  • Thursday: Mr. Bento packed with salad, blueberries, hard-cooked egg, and sugar-free gelatin with pineapple.
  • Friday: Baked salmon with (low fat) cucumber dill sauce. Serve with salad and homemade pickled beets.
  • Saturday: Take Steps for Crohn's & Colitis Charity Walk starts @ 3 so supper out after, probably.
  • Mother's Day: Taking Mom out for lunch & plan on being too stuffed for supper.
03 May 2009

Comfort Me With Quick Bread

Forgot how comforting baking can be! I have been feeling out of sorts these past few weeks and haven't quite known what to do about that. Friday morning, fidgeting around the kitchen, my glance fell upon a bag of King Arthur Flour's "Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin Mix." I thought, "eh ... why not?" and, in less than an hour, I had a fragrant quick bread for work on Saturday.

Lemon Poppy Seed Quick Bread Ingredients

Did baking this quick bread cure me of my blues? No, of course not! But, it did make me feel a bit better sorted. Much of my life seems to involve throwing my energy into a void with no tangible return ... cake is tangible. My house has been making me a bit frustrated ... a house that smells delicious is a house that's hard to resent. Technology issues have sucked some of the happiness out of my workplace ... baking provided me with a opportunity to return a little happiness to work ...

Cake -- not a miracle worker, but it helps.
01 May 2009

Easy Balsamic Roasted Sausages & Peppers

Friday's supper was supposed to be Recipezaar's "Crockpot Chicken w/ Black Beans and Cream Cheese" on parsley rice with salad. Doesn't that sound so easy and delicious? Boneless chicken breasts, fiberiffic black beans, (low-sodium) corn, (low-sodium) salsa, and (light) cream cheese all mingled together in the slow cooker? Just writing about it makes me hungry ...

Alas, it was not to be.

I discovered three bell peppers hiding away in the bottom of the crisper drawer and, realizing they couldn't keep much longer, I changed my menu plan for Friday to an adaptation of "Open-Faced Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches" from The Woman's Day Cookbook for Healthy Living (Filpacchi Publishing, 2008). Adapted, I say, because I served the sausage and peppers on "Great Grain Pilaf" (Taste of Home Cookbook, 2008), rather than baguettes as I was too lazy to leave the house just to buy bread. Happily, the pilaf worked out really well (I did end up using 6 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth rather than 3 when cooking the pilaf, but I find that usually happens with me and bulgur). The pilaf had a nice nutty flavor which went surprisingly well with the sausage. That said, The Husband thought it was a bit bland and "needed butter."

Balsamic Roasted Peppers & Sausage

Balsamic Roasted Sausages & Peppers

3 peppers, cored and cut into thick strips
1 large red onion, wedged
1 lb fresh sweet Italian sausage, cut into 2-inch chunks
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Preheat oven to
500° F. Toss the peppers and onions around with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil until well coated. In another pan, do the same for the sausage. Pop pans into the oven and roast for about 15 minutes. Give everything a good stir and remove the sausages if they are done. If they are, set them aside and just pop the vegetables back in for another 5 minutes or just until they star to char a bit on the edges. Remove from oven and serve over whathaveyou.
The Husband, of course, was all confused about supper because I'd revised my menu and not posted the revisions. What was, he wanted to know, the point of me posting a menu if I was going to change it without warning? A good question which, alas, only leads to a selfish answer. I post it for me, because it gives me a sense of organization and control. I never consider what he'll think of the menu when he sees it -- although, of course, I avoid dishes he probably won't eat. I'm not that mean.

Yet!
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