Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snowy Day Soup

Steamy Sausage Soup for a Snowy Halloween  Week
   Dan brings in the last of the white eggplant from the garden, 3 medium and one tiny.  We also have two straggler tomatoes. As I am cooking up the last of our summer harvest in October, fat snowflakes are starting to fall.  When I heard the weather forecast, I assumed that it was one of those storms that may bring in snow and after all the excitement and lines at the store it just blows out to sea leaving us with a little rain and stocked pantries. As I simmer the sausage the snow is really starting to come down.  By the time I finish cooking dinner it is actually piling up on my car.  It's a good thing I didn't leave anything in the garden to freeze!
Summer Soup (on a Snowy Day)

1 package of hot sausage (5 double links)
3-4 white eggplant
oregano, garlic, basil
2 tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes

This is not from a cookbook so bear with me as I estimate amounts.  Saute the sausage for 20 minutes while peeling and dicing the eggplant into tiny squares.  Add the eggplant with the olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano and cook everything for another 10 minutes, until soft.  Remove the sausages and slice in circles, then put them back in the pot to cook thoroughly another 10 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and fill the can with water letting that simmer for another 10 minutes.  Dice the tomatoes and add towards the last 5 minutes to keep them from getting mushy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bean There, Done That

The very full colander of beans
      I didn't feel like going to the market, yet peeking in my refrigerator indicated that we were on "Old Mother Hubbard" alert.  Fortunately it wasn't the cupboards that were getting bare, just the fridge.  I decided to raid the pantry to come up with something for us to eat.  I had a bag of kidney beans from the co-op that had been kicking around for months.  I had stocked up on an assortment of goodies from the bulk aisle yet every time I went to make chili, soup or anything that required beans, I always opted for canned beans to get the job done quicker.  I had never planned ahead to let the beans soak overnight.  It was time to let the beans out of the bag rather than having to face the Sunday grocery crowd.
    I opted for my Betty Crocker Cookbook  rather than sorting through a bunch of clippings in my "New Recipes" binder on how to prepare dried beans.   Their directions were for 1 cup of dried beans to make 2 cups prepared beans.  I poured the whole bag in the pot figuring I could use the beans in chili, salad, soup, or freeze half the batch.  I didn't soak them overnight, but used the quick boil method. My bag of beans produced 9 cups of prepared beans.  That's a lot of raw material for meals! 

Preparing Dried Kidney Beans  
from Betty Crocker Cookbook Bridal Edition

Sort beans, rinse and drain. Place 1 cup legumes in 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Add enough cold water (about 3 to 4 cups) to cover beans. Heat to boiling. Boil uncovered 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer (do not boil or beans will burst), stirring occasionally for 1 to 2 hours or until tender.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catch of the Day

  For some reason, I am reluctant to work with fish.  I have this concept that it will go bad before I can cook it.  If it is previously frozen you really should use it right away, as opposed to "regular meat" that you can freeze if you don't get around to using it is two days. 
  I cooked the fish plain in the oven  simply because I thought it would be easier to not have to stand over the stove.  It was good, but I must say I prefer the way Dan prepared it last week.  His method is to put a stick of butter in the skillet, add a pound and a half of haddock and pan fry it for about 10 minutes. 
   However, my homemade tartar sauce was a big hit both times.  This time I made a big batch of sauce so I added ketchup to the leftovers and used it on roast beef for sandwiches.  I also cut up a sweet potato to bake since I had the fish in the oven.  I recommend putting these in first since they need an additional few minutes cooking time.

Baked Fish Fillets from: Betty Crocker's Cookbook Bridal Edition

1 pound fish
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a rectangular pan with cooking spray. Cut fish into 4 serving pieces; place in pan. Mix remaining ingredients; drizzle over fish. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork.

Tartar Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle or relish
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
2 teaspoons chopped pimento
1 teaspoon grated onion

Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crockpot Sanity

Turkey Meatloaf and Baked Red Potatoes
   I'm not a morning person, but realizing that I have an appointment at four followed by a meeting at 6 or 7 (I'm not sure what time yet) prompted me to put dinner in the crockpot at 8am today.  As much as I would like to just get the morning routine done and get going first thing (or hit the snooze button) I know that it is better for me to have dinner ready when I get home.  Let's face it we are all pulled in 100 directions each day whether you have kid activities to attend or are getting home from work after a long day at the office.  For somebody who likes to cook, I rarely actually want to cook at dinner time.  It will be a relief during our busy evening to have dinner ready, plus the mess is all in one pot. 
   This recipe would work with beef, I just happened to have ground turkey available.  I don't use any bread crumbs since I am eating a gluten-free diet, but feel free to add your usual meatloaf fixings to the pot. I threw this together without a recipe, so I will attempt to be coherent in my explanation. I hope there are some leftovers to make sandwiches for lunch tomorrow.

Micky's Meatloaf

1 package ground turkey 20.3 oz
1/2 lb frozen spinach
basil, oregano, minced garlic, minced onion
1 egg
ketchup, mustard
4 red potatoes

Place ground turkey into the crockpot. Pour 1/2 of a 1 lb bag of frozen spinach over it. I didn't measure my spices so I will have to estimate 1 tbsp each. Add less if you prefer less spice. I didn't add an egg, but I felt I should put it in the recipe. Squirt about 1/4 cup ketchup over the mixture.  I use a sugar and cornsyrup free ketchup that contains Agave nectar.  Add about 1 tbsp mustard.  Now get your hands in there and mix everything together.  Tuck the meatloaf in the corner and top with a squeeze of ketchup and mustard.  Scrub the potatoes and place them in the pot.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours.  I have veggies leftover from last night, but you could add a quick steam-in-the-microwave bag to round out your meal. Top the potatoes with plain yogurt and chives.

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Apple A Day...

Grab your cup the press is flowing.
   There is just something about fall, the crisp scent in the air and the crunch of leaves.  As much as I mourn the closing of the pool and the need to put away my sandals, fall has it's own special traditions.  In my house these include making apple cider.
   My father-in-law decided to build his own apple press about 5 years ago and ever since then we have been enjoying gallons of the sweet drink and the production time together.  First we gather apples from our neighbor's tree.  My husband climbs up and shakes the tree like a monkey in the zoo.  Once the apple meteors stop falling, we gather them up from the tarp spread below and fill the bucket to haul to the truck.  One year we had the bed of the truck filled.
     Apples get washed in one bucket and rinsed in the next.  Then they are thrown in the grinder.  This is another homemade gizmo where the apples spin around and are shredded.  Then we gather the apple mash up into a burlap cloth and place it in the press basket.  Pull the handle and the hydraulic press descends on the mash pile. This squeezes out the juice which flows into the bucket unless a cup intercepts the sweet flowing cider.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Extreme Couponing

  I've been thinking a lot lately about how to save money.  I'm not about to start rinsing out sandwich bags to save a few cents, but I do have my ways of stretching the budget.  My favorite way of saving money is my babysitting co-op.  My friend formed it 4 years ago .  The great thing about it is that the kids play with their friends while we are out at an appointment, Christmas shopping or having a date night with the hubby.
   This is how it works.  We pay in coupons.  Each coupon equals one half hour of babysitting time.  There is a discount for multiple children so you only have to pay 3 coupons per hour for 2 children.  There is a maximum of 20 families in the group so that everyone is familiar with each other.  Whenever you need a sitter, you e-mail the group and whoever is available can answer your request.  Some people prefer to sit during the daytime; others are willing to come over to your house so the kids can go to bed.  There are also opensits.  This is when you babysit even though there is no appointment scheduled.  If I have an opensit, other mothers can work on a project, go to the store or go to the gym while their kids have a playdate without Mom.
   The best thing about the co-op is that there is no guilt.  You don't feel like you are taking advantage of a friend by asking for a favor.  You don't have to feel bad about how much money you need to pay a teenager while you go to a movie or dinner. If you aren't available to help out a friend, you know that there are other members in the group to answer the call.  When I joined I had envisioned occasionally using the co-op for that yearly OBGYN visit without the children in tow.  Now I use it for date nights, car shopping, and anything that is more easily done without the children present like getting the taxes filed.  The children really enjoy being with their friends.  I always thought the little ones would cry if we went out without them. When I told my husband a friend was having an opensit to earn coupons one night, my 3-year-old cut out a restaurant coupon and told us we needed to go to dinner so he could have dinner at his friends' house.  It turned out to be a very nice recommendation and a relaxing night out.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Go Bananas!

   The weekends were made for a leisurely breakfast.  If you need a gluten-free recipe for pancakes, look no further.  It's also nice to use this simple back up recipe when you find you are out of pancake mix.  With very few ingredients you can whip up these delicious, from-scratch pancakes in a jiffy. It's a great way to use up those aging bananas in the fruit bowl.  The bananas add their own sweetness making syrup unnecessary.  The recipe makes one serving so make sure to repeat for everyone in your house.

Banana Pancakes
2 eggs
1 spotty banana

Mash the banana with a fork.  Scramble the eggs over the banana.  Melt a pat of butter in a skillet over low heat.  Pour the batter into the skillet and cook until the edges solidify. Flip the pancake.  Put a pat of butter on top so it starts to melt.  Sprinkle the pancake with cinnamon.  Cook until firm. Serve with a pat of butter.  Makes 1 serving.