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31 January 2012

Oatmeal Scotchies -- I Blame Netflix

Ever since Netflix sent us the first season of Warehouse 13 a couple weeks ago, I've been jonesing for oatmeal scotchies. While they're referenced very briefly in the pilot episode, that was just enough to trigger a very persistent craving for what was once a favorite cookie I used to buy, still warm, during my mad, bad college days. Oh, oatmeal scotchies, I didn't even realize I missed you, but now you're all I want to bake.

Oatmeal Scotchies

So (obviously) I baked some! I used Nestle's recipe for "Oatmeal Scotchies" (recipe is on the back of the butterscotch morsels' bag) and, woo, these were tasty cookies. Crispy on the outside with chewy centers and lots of delicious butterscotch bits.

Oatmeal Scotchie

This recipe is supposed to make 48 cookies, but I was a bit heavy-handed with my cookie scoop and only managed 35 large cookies -- of which I took half to work and kept the other half for us. This turned out to be an error on my part as The Husband and I could definitely have used more cookies at home. Cookies, om nom nom!

(My co-workers really enjoyed the cookies and certainly didn't think I brought them too many!)
28 January 2012

Tomatoes All The Time w/ Amazon Subscribe & Save

I wasn't joking when I said we've been going through a lot of tomato products since I started the pantry challenge. Oh, I mean, I must have known we normally go through a lot of them as it feels as if I'm always buying more, but I never really tracked usage as obsessively as I have since I started the challenge. I'm thinking I should really start buying tomato products -- diced, crushed, and fire-roasted -- by the case.

Back in 2009, I talked about buying Muir Glen products through Amazon's Subscribe & Save, but I whussed out because buying groceries from Amazon seemed like the height of laziness. I'd probably still think that if I hadn't broken my ankle and been off my feet for six months -- Subscribe & Save became The Best Thing Ever at that point as all the things I needed came to me. So, yes, maybe I should subscribe to some tomatoes already!

What have I been making with all these tomatoes? Many delicious things! Most recently, I made a heavily adapted version of Rachael Ray's "Gemilli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce" for the pantry challenge. It came out really well, but I should really try the original one day!

Pasta!

Easy Pasta with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce & Chicken

1 large shallot, chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
6 oz frozen cooked chicken strips, halved
1 cup low-sodium tomato sauce (leftover from other recipes)
½ cup white wine
2 tsp Penzeys Tuscan Sunset (salt-free Italian-style seasoning blend)
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz whole wheat fusilli, prepared as directed
Parmesan, as desired

Puree red peppers using whatever appliance you prefer -- I used my immersion blender, because I am obsessed with it and must blend all the things.

Heat oil in a French/Dutch oven. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent and a little gold around the edges. Add pepper puree and cook, stirring occasionally, for two minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, chicken, and seasoning blend. Cover and cook at a low simmer for about 10 minutes (or as long as it takes you to make the pasta). Season to taste. Toss with pasta. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan. Eat. Serves 2 hungry people.

26 January 2012

Taste of Hartford: Firebox Restaurant

So it's Taste of Hartford, again. That delicious time of year where my kitchen grows cobwebs and I accrue many OpenTable points as I bop from restaurant to restaurant. It's impossible, with my work schedule, to eat at every restaurant but we still manage to make a good go of it, anyway.

Wednesday night, we dined at Firebox which is a restaurant I've been meaning to try for *cough* years now, but somehow never got around to. More fool me. The food -- all locally grown or sourced as Firebox is all about farm to table -- was delicious and I can't wait to back to try the duck confit pierogies or duck confit salad (I  duck).

What I ate:

Greznyk Farm Potato Leek Soup
garlic
 thyme 
croutons, 
chive oil


Braised Sepe Farm Lamb
Brussels 
sprouts,
 baby 
carrots, 
pearl
 onions,
 lamb 
jus

White Chocolate Bread Pudding

raspberry sauce, whipped cream

I would happily eat all of these things again. The Husband, alas, was not so keen and I do not know when I will be able to cajole him back.
23 January 2012

Pantry Challenge Update: Week 3

Still plugging away at the pantry challenge. Did pretty well, I think, last week -- not only did I made everything on my menu plan, but I was also inspired to make two extra recipes! Admittedly, one turned out pretty pants, yes, but I tried.

Pork chops with Taste of Home's "Gnocchi with White Beans." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: shelf stable gnocchi, canned diced tomatoes, and cannellini beans. Delicious and so simple! Look forward to making it again with the remaining package of gnocchi.

Monday Supper

Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: canned diced tomatoes, black beans, quick-cooking barley, (very old) low-sodium beef bouillon granules. I know I said this couldn't hold a candle to the pumpkin curry I made (and it can't), but it is still a very good, very filling, very simple soup.

Soup!

Pasta loosely based on Rachael Ray's "Gemelli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: random open box of whole grain pasta, jar roasted peppers, open jar of tomato sauce, open bottle of wine (admittedly, more of the wine went in me than in the sauce). I liked this a lot, but I should try the real recipe one day.

Pasta!

Cooking Light's "Couscous with Artichokes, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: canned quartered artichokes hearts, julienned sun-dried oil-packed tomatoes, Israeli couscous, low-sodium chicken broth. This was really quite good (and easy).

Chicken Artichoke Couscous

Betty Crocker's "Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders" with Rachael Ray's "Baked Beets" and peas. Pantry Challenge Ingredients: panko, canned beets. Enjoyed the chicken, but thought the beets would have benefited from a splash of balsamic vinegar. (I baked the beets at the same temperature and time as the chicken -- did them no harm).

Chicken & Beets

Campbell's "Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole." Pantry Challenge Ingredients: tuna, cream of celery, whole wheat bread crumbs. This was not a good idea. Even after I jazzed the recipe up with salt-free Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, black pepper, paprika, and parsley ... it was bland. Boring. Meh.

Bowl of Meh

Plimoth Plantation's "Indian-Meal Pudding." Cornmeal isn't actually on my pantry challenge inventory as it's a baking supply and I'm not (yet) doing a baking challenge, but I'm counting this dish toward the pantry challenge because I wouldn't have made it if I didn't feel inspired by the challenge to try new things in my kitchen. It was really good stuff, too.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Unfortunately, I won't be cooking nearly as often this week and inventory reduction is going to slow right down. It's not a big deal -- there's always next week -- but it irks me because I've been doing so well. However, I must admit I'd much rather fail a little big at the pantry challenge than give up Taste of Hartford!

Menu Plan Monday, 23 January

Last week went well, I think. I stayed on task, stuck to my menu plan, and my pantry challenge inventory shrank a little bit more. Unfortunately, Taste of Hartford, Winter 2012 runs for the next two weeks and we fully intend to take advantage of as many delicious prix fixe $20.12 menu as we can. Therefore, there isn't a whole lot of cooking going on this week -- I made a big pot of soup to get me through work and I've planned home-cooked meals for the weekend, but that's it -- and our pantry inventory will not shrink much at all.

Monday (OT)
Easy vegetable-bean-barley soup with 0% lemon Chobani Greek yoghurt and pretzels.

Tuesday
Easy vegetable-bean-barley soup with 0% lemon Chobani Greek yoghurt and pretzels.

Wednesday
Supper at The Firebox -- mixed greens, Stonington fluke, white chocolate bread pudding.

Thursday
Easy vegetable-bean-barley soup with 0% lemon Chobani Greek yoghurt and pretzels.

Friday
Supper at Trumbull Kitchen -- roasted beet salad, ten hour veal and pappardelle, lemon peel pot de creme w/ raspberry sauce.

Saturday
Campbell's "Skillet Garlic Chicken" over parsleyed brown rice with greens and carrots. Ingredients: low-fat low-sodium cream of chicken, sage, thyme, garlic, boneless chicken breasts, low-sodium chicken broth.

Sunday
Betty Crocker's "Tomato, Beef and Barley Soup" with garlic toast. Ingredients: ground lamb, canned tomato soup, low-sodium chicken broth, quick-cooking barley, frozen mixed vegetables, Parmesan.



22 January 2012

Behold! The Adorable Baby Pineapples of Antioch!

January's selection from Melissa's Exotic Fruit club arrived last week and it was ... baby pineapples! Adorable baby pineapples. If the crowns weren't so darn prickly, I'd be tempted to cuddle the wee things. Seriously, aren't they cute? (Also, for some unfathomable reason, they make me want to quote from Monty Python and the Holy Grail whenever I look at them).

Baby Pineapples

Not the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch

While The Husband tried to feed me some nonsense about how they're to be eaten rind and all, he was clearly confused (he also thought they came from trees). Because the baby pineapples are so small, the cores are quite tender and can be eaten, but the crown and rind cannot. The core is firmer than the surrounding flesh and reminded me a bit of eating a crisp apple.

Baby Pineapple

These baby pineapples were delicious and we ate them up, yum! Can't wait for February's selection from Melissa's exotic fruit club -- blood oranges! (Blood oranges and satsuma mandarins are my favorite citrus fruits).
21 January 2012

Indian Pudding in My Slow Cooker, Pilgrim-Style

Friday, the weather actually felt like proper January weather. There was snow on the ground and the wind had a bitter edge to it. It was the kind of day that called for a hot bowl of Indian (corn meal) pudding. I'd never made Indian pudding before, but I had molasses, corn meal, eggs, and the Internet. How hard could it be? Not hard at all!

I used the slow cooker recipe for "Indian-Meal Pudding" from Pilgrim Seasonings, a Plimoth Plantation blog, as it had lots of photos to follow along with. I like lots of photos if I'm making a dish I'm not really sure of. I want to be able to look at my pot and then the pot in the photo and see that we have arrived at the same results.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding
Gather all your ingredients!

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Bring corn (Indian) meal, milk, and salt to boil. 
 Cook, stirring, for 5 min. Cover and simmer for 10.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Remove from heat and whisk in butter.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Mix your molasses, eggs, and spices together. 
Whisk in a little cornmeal mixture to temper.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Add molasses mixture to cornmeal mixture.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Dump in hot, buttered, slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

Come back after 2 hours & check your pudding. 
Panic, because it looks burnt.

While my pudding only cooked for two hours on High, it looked overcooked. The recipe said "the finished pudding will be firm around the edges than the center" and my pudding looked uniformly firm with brown edges that had pulled away from the slow cooker insert. When I took the lid off my slow cooker at the two hour mark, I could hear the pudding sizzling. I freaked out a little bit, you know, and was quite certain I had burnt the pudding.

Happily, my pudding still tasted very good. Redolent of spices, the pudding was soft and custard-y with a strong molasses finish. I ate some of it warm with unsweetened fresh whipped cream and the leftovers were tasty reheated for breakfast with a splash of milk. I'd guess this pudding makes four generous servings or six more healthful ones.

Slow Cooker Indian Pudding

(I fed some to The Husband and he said, in very snooty British tones, that it wasn't the worst thing I'd ever fed him so ymmv, etc).
19 January 2012

Cookies, I Baked Them

I had promised The Husband cookies over the long weekend, but ended up using the last of the all-purpose flour in Sunday's silver dollar pancakes. I considered going to the store for flour, but in the spirit of the pantry challenge, it seemed a bit lazy to go buy flour when I had a mostly-full bin of King Arthur Organic White Whole Wheat Flour on hand. Surely I could make cookies with it? I use white whole wheat in roux, cakes, brownies, and quick breads so why not cookies? But could I find a recipe The Husband would like?

Happily, I found a Betty Crocker recipe for "No-Roll Sugar Cookies" which used white whole wheat flour. Since sugar cookies are the most basic, bog standard cookies I figured there was nothing about them The Husband would find displeasing and gave the recipe a go.

Sugar Cookies

And, you know, these turned out to be really lovely cookies -- crisp on the outside, tender on the inside, and richly perfumed with the heady scent of Penzeys Mexican Vanilla. I'm encouraged to try white whole wheat flour in more cookie recipes!
18 January 2012

Pantry Challenge: Clean Out The Cupboards With Soup

Trying to stay on track with the Pantry Challenge, I made a couple soups. There's nothing as comforting or forgiving as soup, after all, and it's always an excellent way to use up odds and ends.

First I made a batch of Pillsbury's "Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup." It was a really tasty, easy soup with lots of good curry flavor. I admit I used 1 tsp more curry than called for and I bloomed the spices with the sauteed onions before adding the remaining ingredients, because that's what I learned from Cook's Illustrated -- always bloom spice blends like curry powder to help develop their rich, complex flavors. I wanted a flavorful soup, so I bloomed.

Did it work? I think so. Certainly, I was so interested in eating it that I never stopped to take a picture of the finished soup! This is one of the best recipes ever! Simple and healthy and yet also so rich and flavorful.

Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup, Ingredients

Ingredients: pumpkin, frozen mixed vegetables, broth, curry powder, paprika, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can pumpkin, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can turkey broth.

Emboldened by my success, I went on to make a big pot of Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup" which not only allowed me to use pantry challenge ingredients, but also some limp celery and ancient frozen chopped spinach.  Unfortunately, this soup was not quite as tasty as the pumpkin soup. Rich and hearty, yes, with lots of vegetable goodness and I'm sure I'll make it again, but ... the pumpkin soup was just the bomb, you know?

Vegetable Bean Soup, Ingredients

Soup!


Ingredients: black beans, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, no-salt powdered beef bouillon, quick-cooking barley.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can black beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, partial box of quick-cooking oats.
16 January 2012

Pantry Challenge Update: Week 2

I think we're doing pretty well with the pantry challenge. My cupboards definitely have fewer things in them and we're even managing to eat down the freezer a little bit as I try to come up with ways to use pantry stuff. I think, actually, that is what I am most loving about this challenge -- that it encourages me to stretch my cooking muscles and really think about the food I have at home and the ways I can use it instead of running to the grocery store for "just one thing" (which always becomes several things).

Today, I was off from work so I spent the morning puttering around the house, baking cookies, and annoying the cats. Come lunch time, I realized there wasn't anything "lunchy" on hand. I had a choice -- I could get dressed, go down to the corner store, and buy a grinder to split between us. Or I could stick my head in the freezer.

Lo, I stuck my head in the freezer! Found two packages of chicken dumplings we'd bought for New Year's and forgotten about. I made up one package for lunch and they were quite good. Now that's a tiny bit of freezer space freed up and I didn't have to get out of my jammies.

We also had cookies for lunch, of course. There probably wouldn't have been cookies without the pantry challenge. I'd run out of all-purpose flour when I made silver dollar pancakes on Sunday (another thing I tried because of the pantry challenge -- no pancake mix left, but surely I could make them from scratch?) and I didn't want to run to the store for "just one thing" so I looked about for cookie recipes made with white whole wheat flour, found one The Husband would probably eat, and baked delicious cookies.

Now, I know, the charm will wear off at some point and I'll be all "To heck with this! Let's go to Whole Foods and buy all the things!" and that's okay, too, because this challenge isn't about not grocery shopping, it's about making better use of what I have on hand and figuring out what I really use. By the time I have my Whole Foods moment, I'm pretty sure I'll know exactly what I need for an us-appropriate pantry. Right now, it's looking like a lot of Muir Glen tomatoes!

Menu Plan Monday, 16 January

The pantry challenge continues! So far, I think we're doing pretty well with it -- there's certainly less stuff in my cupboards than there was two weeks ago and we're also managing to eat down the freezer a bit, too, as I rack my brain for ways to use different foods. So far, it's not too hard, but I expect things might get a little weird around the end of the month!

Monday:
Pork chops with Taste of Home's "Gnocchi with White Beans." Ingredients: gnocchi, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, baby spinach, Parmesan, mozzarella, onion, garlic.

Tuesday:
Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup" with yoghurt and fruit. Ingredients: diced tomatoes, black beans, thawed frozen chopped spinach, onion, carrots, celery, garlic powder, black pepper, quick-cooking barley, low-sodium beef bouillon granules.

Wednesday:
Rachael Ray's "Gemelli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce" (using random whole grain pasta) with garlic bread and green beans. Ingredients: roasted red peppers, crushed tomatoes, garlic, shallot, white wine, salt, black pepper.

Thursday:
Leftover pasta with yoghurt and fruit.

Friday:
Cooking Light's "Couscous with Artichokes, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes." Ingredients: artichokes hearts, julienned sun-dried tomatoes, Israeli couscous, cooked chicken, feta, parsley, black pepper.

Saturday/Sunday:
Betty Crocker's Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders with Rachael Ray's "Baked Beets" and greens. Ingredients: chicken tenders, egg, water, bread crumbs, Parmesan, light ranch dressing, canned beets, shallot, olive oil, black pepper, salt.


15 January 2012

Scratch Silver Dollar Pancakes

As a child, pancakes were the first thing I learned to make. I wasn't actually allowed to cook them, of course, but I could be trusted to get out the Bisquick and follow the instructions on the back of the box. Even now, as an adult who is comfortable in her kitchen, I still turn to mixes when I want pancakes. Until today.

Today I woke up craving buttery, maple syrup-soaked silver dollars of deliciousness. But I had no pancake mix and couldn't be arsed to leave the house. What to do? With more than a little anxiety, I pulled out my trusty red-and-white Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book and made a batch of silver dollar "Buttermilk Pancakes." They were awesome. And easy. Too easy, maybe, for I can see myself making them every Sunday!

Silver Dollar Pancakes

I suspect some of my success was to do the quality of the ingredients I used -- King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour, Butterworks Farm Organic Cultured Nonfat Buttermilk, and Farmer's Cow eggs. Obviously, you can make these pancakes with whatever brands you prefer, but I am superstitious and am going make them exactly the same way next time.
Easy Silver Dollar Buttermilk Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 cup buttermilk

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, beat egg and whisk in buttermilk and oil. Dump egg mixture into flour mixture and whisk until just moistened, but still lumpy.

Heat a heavy non-stick skillet. Add a dab of butter and slide it around until melted. Pour about 1 tablespoon of batter onto the skillet (mine held 4 tablespoon-sized splodges) and cook over medium heat about 2 minutes until the pancakes were dry around the edges with bubbly surfaces. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes or until pancakes are golden brown.

Drizzle with melted butter and warm maple syrup. Eat!


Making Sunday Pancakes
Yep, thirty-five years old and only just now learning how to make pancakes from scratch.
13 January 2012

Bulgur in a bottle is better.

Our trips to Whole Foods have recently become even more dangerous as we have discovered Cocoa Metro Dark Drinking Chocolate. It's yummy, decadent stuff and a little bit goes a long way. It comes in glass milk bottles and, as I've been loathe to simply recycle ours, I've acquired quite a collection of them over the past few months. Surely, I thought, I could do something with them? If it were summer, I would use them for storing homemade salad dressings and marinades, but it is winter and we are no longer Salad People.

If I had dried beans, they'd make perfect storage jars, but I am lazy and only buy canned beans. Then I opened a new bag of bulgur and had a brilliant idea ...

Better Bulgur Storage

The bottle fits in the cupboard so much better than the bag ever did, too.

Better Bulgur Storage

I feel all smug and organized.
10 January 2012

cookies and milk after lunch

I brought Better Homes and Gardens' Very Merry Cookies (Wiley, 2011) home from the library last week and told The Husband to pick out a couple cookie recipes he liked. Ten minutes (and one chapter) later, the book was studded with sticky notes. Among others, The Husband desired "White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies," "Mini Raspberry and White Chocolate Whoopie Pies," "Strawberry Cheesecake Tartlets," and "Raspberry Cookie Sandwiches." While they all looked delicious, I thought I should start with the simplest recipe -- the one for "White Chocolate and Raspberry Cookies."


Maybe it's because it's been a while since I ate a cookie, but these were really good cookies. And so easy to make! I will definitely be making them again -- perhaps next week? Or is that too soon?

Rasberry White Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients: white chocolate morsels, unsalted butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, all-purpose flour, seedless raspberry jam, shortening, red raspberry extract.

The recipe doesn't actually call for red raspberry extract, but I thought a cap full couldn't hurt (and it didn't). Also, the recipe says not to fill and decorate these cookies in advance but to wait until you were going to serve them. I don't know why it says that as I filled and decorated mine as soon as they had cooled and they kept fine for a week in snap/lock container. The trick seemed to be to poke little wells in the cookies' middles as they came out of the oven to hold the melty jam in. I didn't have this brilliant idea until my second cookie sheet came out of the oven, so some of my cookies didn't get wells and I didn't fill them with jam -- just drizzled the white chocolate over them and called them good enough. And they were.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cookies

Anyway, the wells keep the jam from running about and, once everything is properly cooled, the chocolate hardens up and there's no reason you can't store these cookies all filled and ready to go. They don't stick to each other. They don't ooze. They just sit in the container and say "Eat me! I'm delicious!"

09 January 2012

Pantry Challenge Update & Menu Plan: Week 1

I came late to Good Cheap Eat's Pantry Challenge so the first week(end) was mostly just me taking inventory and complaining to myself about my shopping habits. I assure you that, at various points, the air in the kitchen was quite blue and the cats had all taken refuge in the living room as I liberated yet another unexpected canned food from the dusty depths of a cupboard. Some women have a weakness for shoes and cosmetics. I appear to have a weakness for groceries. And it's so easy to justify grocery purchases, you know. Probably much easier than with shoes. A family has to eat, after all, and it would be terrible to open the cupboards one day and find them bare ...

As if that would ever happen in my house.

While I'd written up my weekly menu plan well before deciding to go on the challenge, I still managed to use some things from my inventory:
  • straw mushrooms, 1 can
  • baby corn, 1 can
  • tomato sauce, 1 can
  • bulgur, partial bag
  • boil-n-bag brown rice, 1 packet
Tonight, I had planned to use up two cans of minced clams, an open box of whole grain linguine, and a large can of diced tomatoes to make Betty Crocker's "Linguine with Red Clam Sauce," but my post-work meeting ran long and I was tired so we had Chinese takeout, instead.

Go, me.

Anyway, I just moved Monday's linguine to Wednesday and I'll make a batch of Betty Crocker's "Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup" tomorrow morning to take to work since there will be no Monday leftovers for Tuesday's supper.

Pantry Challenge Menu Plan, Week 2:

Tuesday
Betty Crocker's "Curried Pumpkin Vegetable Soup." Ingredients: frozen mixed vegetables, diced tomatoes, curry powder, pumpkin puree, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, onion, garlic, paprika.

Wednesday
Betty Crocker's "Linguine with Red Clam Sauce" with green beans. Ingredients: tinned clams, 28 oz can whole tomatoes in sauce, garlic, whole grain spaghetti, red pepper flakes, parsley, salt, black pepper.

Thursday
Leftover linguine with random yoghurt and fruit.

Friday
"Betty Crocker's Tex-Mex Beef-Topped Potatoes" with green beans. Ingredients: potatoes, lean ground beef, chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, tomato sauce, chopped green chiles, shredded Mexican cheese blend. (Serve half the filling on two potatoes and save the remaining filling for lunch wraps).

Saturday/Sunday
Goya's "Chicken Veracruz" over brown rice with peas. Ingredients: sliced pickled jalapenos, capers, tomato sauce, boneless skinless chicken breasts, adobo, onion, garlic, oregano, cooked rice, lime.

Pantry items to be used this week:
  • tinned clams, 2 cans
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes in sauce, 1 can
  • chipotles in adobo sauce, partial container
  • tomato sauce, 2 cans
  • chopped green chiles, 1 can
  • sliced picked jalapenos, partial container
  • capers, partial container
  • pumpkin, 1 can
  • chicken broth, partial container
  • diced tomatoes, 1 can
08 January 2012

First Cake of '12

Started 2012 on a sweet note with "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake" from the June 2009 Gourmet.  This is  a dynamite emergency cake for those days when you crave a fast, fruity, homemade cake. What? You never have cake emergencies? Well, we have them a lot in our house! Cake goes with everything, you see. So everything needs cake.

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Ingredients

Although the recipe calls for vanilla extract, I used Cook's pure red raspberry extract for extra raspberry-ness. You could just as easily use orange or almond or what have you depending on the kind of berry you use in the cake. Yes, it's officially "Raspberry Buttermilk Cake," but there's no reason it couldn't be blackberry or cranberry, instead. The recipe is a forgiving one -- just mess about and make what you like!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, Oven-ready

While still warm from the oven, we ate this cake plain and then, when properly cooled, with vanilla ice cream and more raspberries. It's good either way. A lot depends on whether you're eating it as breakfast or as dessert.

06 January 2012

Pantry Challenge: I'm On Board

Although I freely admit my lack of sticktoitiveness when it comes to these things, I've decided to join Jessica's Pantry Challenge at Good Cheap Eats because there's just too darn much stuff in my cupboards! Again. I need to start shopping with blinders on so I only see the things we need and not the extra, random things I want. (Although heaven only knows what I wanted with that jar of sorrel packed in brine. I have no idea how to eat it. Heat it? Chill it? Straight from the jar?)


I began this challenge by emptying out my food cupboards and creating a Google spreadsheet listing everything I found therein. While I initially intended this challenge to include the contents of my freezer, too, I found so much stuff in my cupboards that I never made it that far. Indeed, I'm pretty sure there's so much in my pantry that I'll need to do this challenge for more than a month to make a real dent!

And then, maybe, I'll move on to the freezer ...

Looking at my spreadsheet, it's already clear how some things can be used:
Anyway, I'm supposed to have goals for this challenge. Goals ... goals ... goals ...

Yes, cook all the things and end up with a smaller, better-shopped pantry (mostly) full of foods we regularly eat instead of random things that caught my eye.
05 January 2012

Hot! Hot! Yo, we got it! Hot chocolate!

The Husband likes hot chocolate, but hates making it at home as he feels it never comes out tasting as nice as the really good stuff he sometimes gets at a restaurant or bakery. So, when I saw the Froth & Pour Hot Chocolate Pot on sale at Williams-Sonoma, I knew I had found the perfect Christmas gift.

Hot Chocolate Pot

I bought him the pot, a box of "artisan-crafted" marshmallows, and two tins of bittersweet chocolate shavings. I fiercely debated the purchase of the marshmallows as I really wondered just how good they could be. Turns out they're ruddy mahvelous, dahlings. Put the Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows to shame. Soft, puffy, vanilla pillows of delicousness. Bet they'd make brilliant s'mores if paired with Vosges' Mo's Bacon Bar!

Hot Chocolate

The hot chocolate is velvety smooth with a rich aroma and deep, but not bitter, flavor. The higher the concentration in milk fat, obviously, the smoother this beverage is. I usually make it with 1% milk, but have used 2% milk with extremely tasty results. There's a recipe included with the pot for hot chocolate made with a combination of heavy cream, vanilla, sugar, and milk which I kind-of want to try, but I suspect it might just be too decadent for my delicate taste buds. Also, The Husband might like it so much it will become something I have to make all the time!

Yes, I have been delegated The Maker of Hot Chocolate. The Husband loves drinking chocolate from the chocolate pot, but can't be arsed to make it when there is a wife around. So far, I've been happy enough to make cups for him, but he may soon find himself indoctrinated into The Way of the Chocolate Pot.

I have no secrets. Let the whole world know The Way of the Chocolate Pot:
  • Pour 8 oz milk in chocolate pot.
  • Put pot in microwave, uncovered, and microwave until milk reaches 180°F (about 1 min 40 sec in our microwave)
  • While milk heats, fill mug with hot tap water and set aside to warm.
  • Add 5 Tbsp chocolate shavings to pot.
  • Attach frother.
  • Hold down button and let frother works its magic for 1 minute.
  • Empty mug of hot water.
  • Fill mug with hot chocolate from the chocolate pot.
  • Garnish with whipped cream, marshmallow, and extra chocolate shavings.
  • Drink.
(Makes 1 serving hot chocolate. Double or triple as needed).

Making Hot Chocolate

While The Husband is loving this gift -- clear runner-up for best Christmas gift ever -- I am becoming increasingly suspicious of its longevity, because the pot has already been pulled from the Williams-Sonoma site as a seasonal item (isn't it winter for months yet?) and the Chef'n Corporation's (the company who manufactured it for Williams-Sonoma) site has no listing for it. If the frothing mechanism dies or I smash the pot, I see no clear way to acquire replacements. Must not break all the things, I guess.
02 January 2012

Menu Plan Monday, 2 January

Happy 2012, everyone! We rang in the new year with meatloaf, Skip-Bo, and cheap fizzy pink wine. Oh, we were pretty wild! And now back to regular life with menu planning and whatnot? Maybe.

I certainly want to get back to weekly menu planning, but I'm not sure I'm ready to give up mistletoe and holly or tasty pheasants and Christmas presents (and I haven't seen a countryside covered with snow since October). I feel I've only just gotten into the holiday spirit while the rest of the world is busy boxing up their tinsel and putting away their dreidels. Bah. I'm content to listen to Pink Martini's "Joy to the World" and bake cookies straight through to February. It's not as if January has much going for it, anyway!

So, be warned, I'm going to be blogging about cookies when no-one wants to hear about cookies (unless they're fat-free, whole-grain, cancer-curing cookies).

Monday
Beef-vegetable stir-fry over rice. Ingredients: beef, red onion, garlic, carrots, celery, bell pepper, straw mushrooms, baby corn, olive oil, stir-fry sauce.

Tuesday
Leftover stir-fry with strawberry Skyr.is and mummified satsuma mandarins.

Wednesday
Probably chopped salad and flatbread at Brio Tuscan Grille after errands.

Thursday
Random vegetable soup from freezer with 0% lemon Chobani Greek yoghurt and the last mummified satsuma mandarins.

Friday
"Lamb-Bulgur Meatballs in Quick Tomato Sauce" from Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook (Wiley, 2011) over brown rice with green beans. Ingredients: lamb, bulgur, parsley, onion, garlic, fat-free egg substitute, cumin, low-sodium whole peeled tomatoes, low-sodium tomato sauce.

Saturday
"Stir-fried Greek Chicken" from Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook (Wiley, 2011). Ingredients: chicken tenders, red onion, cucumber, grape tomatoes, oregano, whole wheat farfalle, lemon zest, lemon juice, reduced-fat feta cheese.

Slow Cooker Sunday
"Chicken Thighs Osso Bucco" from Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook (Wiley, 2011) with carrots over brown rice. Ingredients: Muir Glen organic diced tomatoes, reduced-sodium chicken broth, carrot, onion, garlic parsley, skinless chicken thighs, lemon zest.
01 January 2012

Feijoas, The End

For my last feijoa dish, I made Frieda's "Feijoa-Chicken Curry" which was a very simple, straightforward recipe that took almost no time to prepare. I used Penzeys "Maharajah Style" curry powder which is a mild, almost sweet, salt-free curry with a scent so intoxicating that I'd happily buy it as perfume! Seriously, it's good stuff. (Sometimes, I just open the jar and take a long sniff. Do the same thing with cinnamon -- chases the blahs right away).

Feijoa-Chicken Curry

Ingredients: chicken, carrots, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, feijoas, curry powder, salt, black pepper, allspice, cornstarch, low-sodium chicken broth.

I served the curry on a bed of quick-cooking barley and it was pretty darn delicious. I didn't garnish the curry with raisins or shredded coconut as it didn't seem to need it.

The Husband won't eat curry or dishes that combine fruit with meat, so I took the curry to work for lunch all week and didn't mind a bit, because it was that omnomnomdelicious. Indeed, I looked with sadness on the empty bowl Thursday evening and wished I had more feijoas so I could make another batch!

Of the three feijoa dishes I made, this was certainly the best. If you have feijoas, I recommend making Frieda's "Feijoa-Chicken Curry."

And that's it for feijoas. It's been interesting, but I'm ready to move on to January's selection from Melissa's exotic fruit club -- baby pineapples!

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