Wednesday, August 29, 2012

German Pancakes

One of my cheapskate codes of conduct is that if someone offers you a food that you do not hate (and that is healthy), and asks if you can use it, you say, "Yes." Even if using it will require a little bit of effort or creativity. Such a thing happened several weeks ago when a friend who has chickens brought by no less than 4 dozen eggs right after I had just bought 2 dozen eggs and one of our ducks had decided to start laying. "Can you use them?" she asked.

"I'm sure I can," I said.

But as the days went by I wasn't making my way through them very fast. Six dozen eggs plus a few duck ones called for a few drastic measures. I made this egg bake and these waffles (doubled). I made crepes. Also, I remembered this recipe for German pancakes (sometimes called Dutch Babies) that my sisters had introduced me to. It was easy enough to assign to a 7-year-old (minus a certain hot butter step), used half a dozen eggs, tasted good, and could be eaten with savory or sweet toppings. Also, it puffs up in this groovy kind of way. Perfect.

My kids were a little skeptical, but when I told them they could sprinkle a bit of powdered sugar on it, they agreed (oh, how gracious of them) to give it a try.

German Pancakes
makes 1 8x8 inch pan, thick OR 1 9x13 inch pan, thin (we opted, sort of accidentally for the 8x8)
Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Cost: $1.35
eggs: .60, flour: .10, milk: .15, butter: .50

1/8-1/4 C butter (you'll use 1/8 in a 8x8 inch and 1/4 in a 9x13 inch)
1 C flour
1 C milk
6 eggs

Heat oven to 450 and set rack in middle. As it heats, put butter in pan and stick that pan int he oven so the butter melts.

In the meantime, mix eggs, milk, and flour until mostly non-lumpy (mine always retains a few lumps and they are never noticeable in the finished product).

Take out your pan of butter, wait for the oven to finish heating, and then dump (careful not to splash the butter) your batter in and put it into the 450 degree oven. (Note: The butter won't all stay on the bottom; some will swish around and even get on the top of your German pancakes. Not a problem.)

Bake for 15 minutes or until eggs are at least 160 degrees and preferably a little hotter (they'll be firm when a fork is inserted and just beginning to brown at the edges).

Remove and top as you like. You can use sweet things (my favorite one is powdered sugar with a sprinkle of lemon juice) or savory ones (roasted tomatoes anyone?).

Note: These stay hot for a while so don't chomp right in and burn your mouth. I think the butter keeps them extra hot for a little longer than you'd expect, especially if you made the thick ones.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Best White Cake

(Wait a second, you charlatan, that's the cake you just posted and it was chocolate. Okay, you caught me. The thing is: When you have a house full of 7 children, thinking about taking pictures just doesn't rank very high in brain function. And then, before you know it, the cake is gone.)

Since we're talking about cake and all, let me tell you about this incredible one we made several weeks ago. It. wasn't. chocolate. I know, you've hit the floor. Your relatives are calling 911 as we speak. Well, get up because if you die of cardiac arrest, you want to die after you eat this cake.

As you know, chocolate is definitely the cake of choice around here. Partly because Kip loves it with his whole soul and part of my stay-thin plan is to have him eat the majority of the sweets I make (Does this make me a bad person? Yes. But it's a variety of bad personness that Kip rather enjoys. Which is no excuse. But still.) Also, I've spent a lot of time (probably more time than a person should be proud of) finding some perfect chocolate cake recipes and perfecting my chocolate cake skills. And, while the white and yellow cakes I've tried have come out fine, they just haven't been good enough to sing about. Nevertheless, a couple of weeks ago, my sister and nephews were visiting. Apparently, they didn't get the memo about chocolate cake being the only cake and my nephew Noah requested, gasp, a white cake. A white cake dyed in a rainbow of colors, mind you, but a white cake at heart nevertheless. What was I to do?

Fortunately my sister-in-law had sent me a recommendation for a killer white cake months ago. I'd been needing a reason to make it and here that reason stood in cute little blond-headed form.

Now I have to tell you that if my cake goddess sister-in-law hadn't recommended it, there's no way I would have picked this cake out of a line up. Why? The ingredients are posted kind of weird and the instructions are whacked. Still, I have to give the person who posted this credit. Because it's awesome. Not to toot my own horn or anything (toot toot), but it'll be even more awesome with the instructions below. (P.S. After writing this boast, I nearly forgot to list the sugar; don't worry; I caught it; whew.)

Best White Cake
adapted from food
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $1.85
eggs: .50, milk: .15, flour: .30, butter: .85, other stuff: .05

Note: You're going to have egg yolks on hand after this. Make yourself a lovely pudding. Or some ice cream. Of just add them to some regular eggs for a rich omelette.

5 egg whites
1 C buttermilk (or 1 scant cup milk mixed with 1 Tbsp white vinegar)
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp vanilla
3 C cake flour (which I did use, although my sis-in-law says all purpose works too)
2 C sugar
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, very soft (if using salted, omit some or all of salt)
1 C boiling water
food coloring if your nephew is requesting a rainbow

Preheat oven to 350. Take 2 9-inch pans, grease them, line them with wax paper, and grease them again.

In small bowl combine buttermilk (or milk and vinegar) and baking soda.

In medium bowl whisk together egg white, 1/4 C of the milk mixture, and the vanilla. (Just whisk it until it comes together; you're not going for a lot of air in the whites or anything.)

In large bowl, combine remaining dry ingredients (including the sugar). Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 C milk mixture. Mix on low until moistened and then increase the mixing speed to medium and beat until well incorporated.

Gradually add the egg mixture, mixing to incorporate. (We kind of did this in batches. We added 1/3 of the mixture, then beat, then another 1/3, beat, then the last 1/3, and beat.) Scrape down the sides as you do this.

Add the boiling water and beat until everything is incorporated. It's going to be runny and you might feel nervous. Don't feel nervous. It'll be great.

Add food coloring if using. We poured our batter into the pans and then just gently swirled to get a green and a blue layer.

Bake 15-20 minutes. It should be taken out when you stick a fork in and it comes out with a few moist crumbs and is just barely starting to pull away from the edge (just barely). (Note: The original recipe said 35 minutes. I don't know what it is about cake recipes. I feel like many of them have you bake your cake until it's 2 days old. Maybe it's my oven, but I'm pretty sure it bakes at the correct temperature. Anyway, we checked ours at 20 minutes and it was definitely done, but if yours takes longer, don't despair.)


Thursday, August 23, 2012

'S' Is for Awesssome: A Cake Decorating Idea

Savannah is my best helper chef. Thus, it seems fitting that she be the one to set birthday trends around here. Last year, she started the four-layer rainbow cake thing (every birthday kid after that also requested this cake). This year, we took it to a whole new level with the teeny tiny flower rainbow-colored cake.

The good news about this cake is that it's easy. If, by easy, you mean 'does not require much skill or artistic gifting.' However, if by easy you mean 'takes 15 minutes,' you will have to look elsewhere. Because I'm not going to lie, the tiny flower creating took about an hour to do. On the one hand, it was kind of meditative. On the other hand it made my hand hurt. On the hand you don't have because you already used two, there was that frustrating moment near the end when Emma swiped her fingers down one side of tiny flower-dots and promptly shoved that hand in her mouth before I could cart her off to her room.

I found the idea for this on Pinterest. There's really no skill necessary, but you do need a frosting bag, a coupler, and the tip that makes the little flowers. If you're doing multiple colors, multiple bags and couplers would be nice so you can just put your colors into bags and then move your tip around. Here are some ideas.

(Don't expect a flower like that unless you're good. I just squirt some frosting out and mash it and it makes a sort of flower-dot/blob like you see in these pictures.

Or you could use one like the top one in this set. I think that's the kind that was used in the Pinterest picture. It should also give a bigger flower and that would save some time and hand cramping.

I use disposable bags because it keeps me off the crazy farm.

And these are couplers. They're the little white things that make it so your tip stays on your bag.

To create this cake, all you do is make the flower dots in one color all over the cake, but not touching. Then add another color and another and try to keep the same colors from touching. Like this:


Then blue.

Then green. 

Then yellow.

And purple

And dark blue

A couple of tips:
1. You'll notice that I pre-frosted the cake with a thin layer of colored frosting. This is a good idea because if you run out of steam or time or frosting, the cake still looks really really good.
2. When you start with a color, put the flower-dots closer together than you think you should. Otherwise, you'll be mixing more colors near the end in order to fill up holes. This cake, for example, was supposed to only have 4 colors. It wound up with 6 because there were places that needed to be filled with a new and exciting color so that none of the same colors (heaven forbid) touched each other. Whew.

I made this 3-layer cake and frosted it with a recipe and a half of this vanilla frosting.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Basil Spinach Pesto

It's that pesto time of year. Basil is on and oh, I love it.

While basil, in and of itself, is not at all devoid of nutrition, it's still not quite the powerhouse that other things green and leafy are. I'm okay with that, but I did start wondering what would happen to my pesto if I mixed some spinach into it. Because, you know, when you're mixing green stuff into pasta made from white flour, well, you (and by 'you' I mean 'me') want to feel kind of good about yourself. I mean you really don't want to feel like the pickiest nine-year-old alive who is sitting across from you and eating his pasta with tomato sauce is actually getting more nutrition. Because that's just embarrassing. And then one day as I was pondering about spinach pesto, I found this. Okay, so I'm never the first one to a party, but that doesn't mean I can't take home a party favor.

Since pine nuts are expensive enough right now to set into a gold band, I used walnuts in this. I also omitted the Parmesan (as I always do in pesto, figuring you can add it into your dish later if you want it).

I was worried that the spinach and parsley would overpower the basil, but basil--she's a strong girl and can carry her own. I had this for lunch today and while it was a wee wee bit less basil-y than my classic pesto, it was still a basil-based pesto through and through. Truly, if I hadn't been trying to compare the spinach to the sans spinach versions, I never would have thought to notice a difference. In fact, if there is someone in your family who doesn't like classic pesto because it has so very very much basil-y kick (cough, Kip), this might be just the ticket as it is slightly more subdued. How awesome is that? You can please your picky eaters and trick them into eating spinach at the same time. I'm kind of freaking out about it it.

This was great on pasta and would be delicious on sandwiches, pizza, and over meat. You can also use it in your pasta sauces and meatballs (two places I love me some pesto), although here I must say that I do prefer the classic pesto in my meatballs and spaghetti sauce. That said, 'prefer' doesn't mean that this spinach-y one wasn't still very good in those things. It was good (and the difference was not noticed by anyone but me); it just wasn't quite as good.

Basil Spinach Pesto
adapted from Gluten Free A-Z Blog
Makes about 2 Cups (about enough to fill up an ice cube tray)
Prep time: 20-30 minutes (the de-leafing of the herbs gets you)
Cost: $2.00
basil: mine's from the garden and free; I'm guessing it would be .50-1.00, but don't know as I haven't bought it in several years; parsley: .20, spinach: .50, olive oil: .50-1.00)

Note: This recipe also calls for parsley (not too shabby nutritionally either). I did use parsley and this pesto really was great, but I think that if you don't have it, you could probably add another cup of spinach, basil or a combo of both to very good effect as the parsley adds only a very subtle mildness to the pesto.

2 C basil leaves
2 C spinach leaves
2 C parsley leaves
1/2-1 C walnuts (use sunflower seeds for a nut-free version)
4 cloves garlic
1/2-1 C olive oil

Clean and remove leaves from their stems. Peel and crush the garlic. Add ingredients to food processor or blender and process until smooth (The blender gives me a smoother pesto if you care about that sort of thing).

Store it. I freeze mine in ice cube trays, then plop them into a Ziploc bag. Then I can add 1 or 2 to sandwiches or a dip or whatever if I just need a small amount, which I often do.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Gadget for Back to School

My kids started school this week.

While I was buying the hordes of school supplies necessary for their free public education, I saw this:

And I bought it. I wasn't sure how well it would work or how much my kids would like it.

Let me say this: My girls have only had bread in heart shapes since it got home. In other words, it's a huge hit. Not only that, but it really fits very well--meaning that it cuts off pretty much just the crust on a typical square shaped loaf (on the more rectangular loaves, it leaves a bit, but still not an excessive amount). My children remove crusts or anything that appears remotely crust-like from all their bread products, so this was a win for me. In fact, my kids are sometimes sloppy about their crust removal and end up taking off half the sandwich so this was even better than a win for me. If you have kids that eat their crusts, I envy and admire you. If not, buy this product, make your children feel loved, and be happy.

Now. I'd like to tell you that you should all buy it from Amazon because if about a trillion of you did that, then I'd make about 4% of a trillion dollars, which would pretty much take care of the rest of my life and would be very nice. But about those trillion readers.... As it is, I have a little less to lose when I tell you that I got mine at Walmart for $1.99 and that's a better deal (although if you buy it from Amazon you get 2, so that's not half bad either). You can't run a cheapskate blog without telling people these things. Go on, now, make a heart-shaped PBJ with no crusts. You only live once.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Quick Pickles

You know one thing I love/hate about the garden. Most of the food comes on in kind of a rush. You get hordes of something for a week or two and then it's gone. You can call me crazy (it's happened before), but there's something about this garden rush that I kind of appreciate. It demands your attention. It demands that--if you want to have a bit of bounty later--you take a little notice of it now. In that way, it sort of mirrors life. Especially family life. You can ignore your kids if you want, but they might end up rotting and then reproducing with something from the compost pile. And we all know what that means: a whole lot of unruly squash plants sprouting up everywhere. To avoid this, you have to take a little bit of notice of your, um, vegetables when they're ripe for noticing. And sometimes this can lead to a blessed winter bounty. Although sometimes things still reproduce in the compost, but at least you know you've done all for the vegetables that you can...(Have I digressed yet?)

Anyway, my point is that you often end up with more than you can eat and if you don't want it to go to waste, you have to find a way of preserving it.

This is all well and good if you have just oodles of produce. Then you can pickle or can or ferment. The problem that I, as am imperfect gardener, run into is that I have a little too much of something. Let's take cucumbers, for example. Let's say that, theoretically, you have 7 too many. Seven is not enough to whip up a full-on brine, sterilize everything, and bust out the canning pot. But it sure is sad to watch them go all wrinkly and rubbery in the refrigerator. And so, today, I offer you a lazy woman's solution because if there's something you've come to expect from me, it is this.

My mother used to make quick pickles when I was little. She'd slice the cucumbers into rounds and put them in vinegar and water with salt, pepper, and a little sugar. She'd store it all in an old Cool Whip container, of which we owned approximately 70,000 (Mom, you know it's true--and also, exactly how much Cool Whip did you let us eat?) You can do that too. But the recipe I give you today is just a wee (wee) bit more difficult for which you get a slightly more complexly-flavored pickle (P.S. Has anyone tried the word 'complexly-flavored' on Words with Friends lately? Just asking.)

It is not--I repeat--not exactly the same as a dill pickle you get from the store. I personally like it much better, but my kids were like "These aren't pickles." So, there you go. However, my kids' opinions aside, these taste great alone and make butt-kicking additions to tuna sandwiches or salads or chicken salad or whatever. I also really like to eat a couple at the end of a meal. The punchy acid seems to signal to the taste buds and the stomach that the meal is over and it (supposedly) helps with digestion. 

As a note, you might want to tinker with the amount of vinegar and water. We like ours with some serious vinegary kick. You can also tinker with the flavors you add. You can add hot peppers or regular peppers if you're one of those types. You can add a bunch of garlic. This recipe keeps it pretty classic, but there's plenty of room for experimentation.

And as one final thing: One of the advantages of quick pickles is that you're still eating a raw cucumber with all it's veggie might. However there is a trade-off because, unlike their canned brothers, these things won't last forever. Yes, you are extending their refrigerator life. They totally perked my wrinkling, yellowing cucumbers up and gave them another 2 weeks of life. But they are still far from immortal. You can store these in the fridge for at least 2 weeks and I'm betting 3 or even a little longer. However, don't come back to them in January (or even October) and expect them to be alright. They won't be.

A Tip for the Intensely Lazy Home Gardener/Preserver:
-If you really just don't want to pickle at all or don't have the time, you can get a decent quick pickle by cutting the pickle into rounds and throwing the rounds into your old pickle juice, then letting it sit for several days. That's right. Eat the store-bought pickles and then use their juice for your over-abundance of cucumbers. After several days, they won't taste exactly the same as your store-bought pickles did, but you'll be surprised how pickle-y they've become. And you'll extend the life of your cucumbers by a couple weeks.

Quick Pickles
adapted from The Chicago Tribune
makes approximate 3 pints
Prep and cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: oh, maybe $.25 if you're using garden cucumbers and Sam's Club vinegar

Note: You don't have to use the freshest cucumbers. Mine were yellow and wrinkling. However, you cannot use rotten cucumbers, so have a taste first if yours are getting a little sketchy. I'm not sure if it can transform a bitter cucumber as none of mine were bitter, but I'm guessing that the acid could save even a bitter cucumber from its composted fate.

Note: Feel free to add hot peppers or any other seasoning that sounds groovy to you.

Note: If you have a "pickling spice" you can use that in place of the dill and peppercorns.

3-4 short, fat cucumbers, cut into rounds with any big old icky seeds removed (small seeds are welcome)--these can be peeled or not
2 C vinegar (any kind except balsamic)
1 C water
4 tsp salt
2 tsp dill seeds
2 tsp peppercorns
3 clove garlic per jar, crushed (optional)
2-4 tsp sugar, optional (I didn't use, but ours had serious punch)

Peel, slice, or seed your cukes as necessary. Put the cucumbers in clean mason jars (I used pint sized ones and got three). Add one crushed garlic clove per jar.

Combine vinegar, water, salt, dill seeds, and peppercorns in a pot. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat and pour this hot, nose-stinging mixture onto your cucumbers until jars are full. Let them cool a few minutes, then add lids and refrigerate.

This will keep for 2-3 weeks. Probably. We eat ours before then.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Broccoli Salad (Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

It's another Secret Recipe Club post.

This month I got Angela's Kitchen, which features gluten-free and dairy-free cooking. I myself could probably gnaw on gluten all day, but I have a friend with Celiac's, which means I do have an appreciation of the challenge of finding gluten-free foods and the joy in finding ones that taste good. Angela's blog is packed. Also, she does all kinds of cool things, like educated restaurants about gluten-free/dairy-free options for their menus.

I went for something veggie-based because I was nervous about unusual types of flour and also because I love broccoli salad and have been meaning to get one up on this blog, oh, forever. Some of you may know that raw broccoli just isn't my thing. Oh, sure, I can get it down, but it's not love. Broccoli salad, however, I adore. (I guess that's what happens when you add some fat and sugar to your unloved veggies; I didn't say this salad was an act of strong moral character, okay. I only said it tasted good.)

Broccoli Salad
adapted from Angela's Kitchen
makes 6 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cost: $3.00
broccoli: 1.50, raisins: .25, walnuts: .50, bacon: .50, other stuff: .25)

Note on nuts: Angela uses sunflower seeds, but I didn't have enough; The sunflower seeds would be perfect for a nut-free salad, but if nuts aren't an issue I bet you could sub a variety of different nuts in this salad

5 C broccoli florets
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C walnuts
1/3-1/2 C cooked, crumbled bacon
2 Tbsp finely minced red onion (since Kip hates onions, I left this in a separate bowl to be added according to taste (And, yes, he is obscenely spoiled.))
3/4 C mayo (you're going to need gluten-free and dairy-free if that's what you need)
1-2 Tbsp cider vinegar (I've also used balsalmic to good effect and I'm betting lemon juice would kick butt too)
2-4 Tbsp sugar (original recipe called for 4, but I scaled it back to 3 and maybe could have scaled it back a bit more)

Cook your bacon. While it's cooking, make your dressing. Combine mayo, vinegar, and sugar. Whisk. I recommend starting with 1 Tbsp vinegar and 2 Tbsp sugar and then having a taste and adjusting it according to your needs for sweet and sour.

Cut your broccoli into bite sized (or smaller) pieces. Crumble bacon and add it. Add nuts and raisins.

Drizzle dressing on and then add salt and pepper to taste (I found I liked it without either).

Chill and then eat eat eat.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Ideas for Making Meals Ahead of Time

You know those ideas you wish you'd had a few years earlier because then you'd be rich (and also brilliant, forward thinking, etc.)? Yeah, I have a lot of those.

One has to do with making food ahead of time so you have something to eat on those cramped nights that pop up in this thing called life.

A quick google shows plenty of blogs about make-ahead meals. I do wish one was mine because a meal in hand--in the freezer or refrigerator--is a great way to save money in that it keeps you from eating out or taking in or (horror) running to the store to buy those pesky things you don't have (and, if you were unwise and sent your husband or took your kids, also buying 17 other things that you didn't need until you got into the store and saw them and realized you needed them desperately). When I read books and blogs about how to eat cheaper, they often sing about making your meals ahead.

It also keeps you from the puddle of tears a night with a stressed/late/rushed/messed up dinner can bring. Not that I speak from experience or anything. We would never eat a starved, haggard, haphazard meal at 7:00 o'clock, especially not tonight, nope not us.

Do-ahead meal preparation also saves you time in that you can combine your prep times (i.e. chop all the vegetables you'll need in one session) and that you don't have to make dinner every night of the week. As the start of school approaches with soccer and homework and piano students at my house a couple nights a week, this sounds even more appealing. Did I mention a puddle of tears earlier? Good.

Since I am not exactly brilliant at this myself, I offer you Some options for those who want to start planning ahead. My sister (always a step ahead of me in these things) has tried several. Here are a few she recommends:

The Fresh 20. You have to pay for this one, but it is fairly cheap and it saves you money in that it's built not to waste any food (i.e. you'll buy a head of cabbage and use half for one meal and then half for another, but in completely different and delicious ways). This is the idea I wish I'd most thought of. It's not so much making your meals ahead as perfect meal/shopping planning put out in front of you so you don't have to think. My sister really liked this--she said the recipes were delicious (and whole foody) and they didn't waste stuff.
Once a Month Mom. Freezer meals for a month. The idea is appealing, but I found the site a little daunting, but then I find the idea of making 20 meals at once a little daunting too. A little time on the page and I'm sure I would have been soaring along.
Five Dinners in One Hour. According to my sister it was more like 1 1/2 hours, but still. Also, they tend to use some processed ingredients (canned soups and the like), but it's still more wholesome than Denny's. By a long shot. Can I get an Amen?

As for me, I'm not quite ready to jump on the wagon just yet (at least not completely). Whah? After all that build-up? Well, I can't entirely pretend that laziness isn't a factor. Preparing your meals ahead takes some thought and planning. But it's not the only factor. My kids, have I mentioned it?--they're picky. As is my husband. That makes a lot of these websites tough for me to use because I'm the only one who would eat the food. Which means I'd have to plan my stuff my self.

Furthermore, I have no problem with a casserole here and there, but a casserole every night is not my thing. I realize that that not everyone is doing casseroles for their plan-ahead meals, but casseroles (and their canned chicken soup components) still often play a significant role.

Yet perhaps my biggest reason for dodging the do-ahead meal is that I kind of enjoy the ritual of preparing my meals every day (except, of course, for those puddle-of-tear nights). You can call me crazy if you want, but the process of whipping out the skillet and chopping some stuff to put in it relaxes and centers me in a way that whipping something out of the freezer and plopping it in the oven does not (and in a way that spending 2 hours to 1 day preparing all the week/month's food also does not). I notice that many of the people who advocate freezer meals or plan-ahead cooking don't always really like to cook. They just want it done so that they can save money and eat healthier. I have no problem with that, but it's not me. That said, there are days when it's 4:45 and we need to eat at 5:00 and I'm not ready. A few eggs and a salad can save the day, but not, you know, every day. And not when you're out of eggs and salad. And school and soccer and dance and 2 nights with piano students--it's coming. Sometimes, when I don't take deep breaths, it's enough to make Burger King start to look appealing.

Thus, there are a few planning ahead things I've determined to begin doing. (Especially after tonight; did I mention that it was a bit rough?) They're lazy things. They're just the type of thing I think I can actually pull off because they don't require too much thought. Things that will actually make it so that eating at home really does seem more appealing, delicious, and easy that going out.

1. Doubling stuff. Wow, that's pretty brilliant. I mean, why don't I have my own blog about prepare-ahead meals? And yet. This is kind of hard for me. I tend to undercook. In a way this is a method of controlling my portions and not overeating. In a way, it's a form of denial (do we really eat that much butter in one week?) that can't be avoided if making 5-7 breakfasts or dinners at a time. Nevertheless, with a little teeny forethought, doubling a meal should be pretty easy. You don't have to plan and coordinate meal components and be really brilliant with your food planning. You just have to do twice as much. And so, undercooking be darned, I've determined that if I make something that can be kept in the freezer, I'm going to make twice as much. This goes for breakfast cookies, casseroles, soups, breads, etc. I gave it a whirl tonight with the cornbread I made. It felt kind of nice.
-To make this work, I need to stick the to-be-frozen parts somewhere besides the countertop, lest it be eaten by me or the minions before it can be frozen in order to avoid the overeating-of-the-food-that-is-to-be-saved-for-later issue.

2. A salad or some vegetables for the week. I can easily prepare my own "bagged" salad mix (kale and romaine anyone? yum) so that we can have a quick one when we need one. Even better if I also cook a little bacon and hard-boil some eggs. A friend of mine sometimes preps dippable veggies for her kids for the week--carrot sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. (which could also be plopped into grown-up salads as well). And Tamar Adler roasts and sautees vegetables enough for a week. I can do it too.

3. Make extra parts of meals: browned meat, sauces, bacon bits, or whatever. To me, this is the riskiest type of pre-prep since parts of meals are the easiest forgotten. Nevertheless I think it's worth a try. These bits can be thrown onto pasta, bread, tortillas, or stuffed into vegetables to make a meal so much quicker.

So while I don't know that you should expect to see a meal plan for an entire week from me anytime soon, I'll be working to be more efficient and prepared. Take that tear-puddle nights.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

I love Indian food. Kip doesn't. Every year for my birthday, I ask to go to an Indian restaurant because, you know, it's a day when I've got some leverage. And then this year, Kip ordered chicken tikka masala. He liked it a lot. So did I.

I'm not a dummy. I know when a gift horse looks me in the mouth. I know when it's time to learn to make something at home and stop enjoying some of my favorite food only once a year.

Chicken Tikka Masala
adapted from Happy. Mormon. Housewife
Serves 2-4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Cost: $6.20
chicken: 4.00, onion: .15, tomato paste: .50, cream: 1.25, all those other seasonings that I really have trouble estimating costs for, um, let's say: .30

Note: The original recipe called for a marinade. I don't fully believe in marinades (I can rarely taste that they make a difference in the final product). Instead I coat the chicken with the marinade ingredients (the stuff in step 1). Usually I let it sit for a bit while I mess with other stuff, but I think it could be cooked right off to good effect too. However, if you want to do a marinade, don't let my cynicism stop you. Marinade away with the ingredients in step one.

Another note: I found my garam masala at the Asian market for cheap. You probably can too.

Step 1:

4 smallish chicken breasts, cut into cubes and all the grody bits removed (You can also use dark meat, but Kip prefers white, so we ran with that)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger, minced (or 1/4-1/2 tsp ground ginger)
2 tsp lime juice
dash (or two) cayenne pepper
2 tsp cilantro
1 Tbsp olive oil

Step 2:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion (or a couple dashes onion powder)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cardamom
1 tsp paprika
3 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 C cream
1 can tomato paste
1 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Step one:

Mince the garlic and ginger. Chop the cilantro. Add lime juice and cayenne pepper. Rub this onto your chicken cubes.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add the chicken cubes and cook until browned on the outside (it's okay if they're a wee bit raw still in the middle; they'll get more cooking in a minute).

Remove from pan and keep warm.

Step 2:

Heat oil. Add onion or onion powder. Cook onion until tender.

Add tumeric, cumin, cardamom, paprika, and garam masala. Heat until fragrant (30 seconds or so).

Add cream, tomato paste, and lemon juice. Whisk.

Add chicken and juices back into pan. Simmer until chicken is fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper (we're usually fairly generous here). If you like your sauce saucier, add more cream or milk. We served ours fairly thick and it was a hit.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Chocolate Orange Mascarpone Cheesecake Pie

I am the type of person who sometimes apologizes too much. Generally speaking, I don't actually believe this is a bad thing. I'd rather over-apologize than under-apologize. However, I almost began this post with an apology--an apology about posting another creamy chocolate-y pie-y thing when I just posted one last week. Well, that would be silly. Because posting multiple creamy chocolate-y pie-y things is definitely not reason for apology. Especially when they are both incredibly, fantastically delicious. Especially when they use a very different ingredient set so that if you're really pining for chocolate pie, you can make the one for which you have the stuff. Especially when they are both fast and easy to make. Especially when they can be made in teeny ramekins or dishes so that you don't have to eat too much. And especially when the ingredients are sweet, yes, but made with mostly whole foods.

So instead of "I'm sorry" let me give you a big "You're welcome."

Chocolate Orange Mascarpone Cheesecake Pie
adapted from Chocolate Treats
Makes 1 8-inch spring form pan, or 4-8 ramekins, depending on size
Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 3-4 hours of chill time
Cost: Oh, heck, it's more than I'd like, but it's still just so incredible for a special occasion or for any occasion when you find mascarpone on sale. Also, I usually halve it and that cuts cost. Also, let me state for the record that it's still so much cheaper than going out for a treat. The whole thing costs about $6.75
butter: .25, mascarpone: $4-5, sugar: .40, chocolate: 1.00, other stuff: .10

Note: You can probably make this with cream cheese instead of mascarpone. I realize that it is way cheaper. And it would probably be fine. But it will not be the incredible, amazing, awesome dessert that this is unless you use mascarpone. It just won't.

Another note: This crust is really great, but sometimes I just skip it and it's completely great anyway.

Another note: This is supposed to be made in an 8-inch spring form pan. I only have a 10-inch, so I always make this in ramekins.

Still another note: You can omit the orange if you don't have it or don't like it. However, if you do you might want to add 1/4 tsp almond extract to give it just that little something special.

And one more: You can omit the zest if you'd like, but I recommend adding at least a pinch (at least if you like orange) because it really ups the flavor.

4 Tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for greasing
1 C (about 15 squares) finely crushed graham crackers
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp cocoa

Creamy part:
1 lb - 1 lb 12 oz mascarpone cheese (Does that range sound odd to you? The original recipe called for 1 lb 12 oz. I made it that way. Then the next time I made this, I somehow skipped the 12 oz. part and only used 1 lb. It still turned out great when I skipped part of the mascarpone. It was a bit thicker, yes, but not too thick. Don't you just love it when a recipe can be screwed up and still turn out tasting gourmet? To me, that's the definition of a perfect recipe.)
1 1/2 C confectioner's sugar, sifted
juice of 1/2 orange
finely grated zest (Note: The original recipe said to add that from your orange. I think this is toooo much. I added a tsp or two. I'd say to go by taste, but know this: The strength of the orange taste will increase as this chills, so go a little less than you think you'd like.)
6 oz dark chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp vanilla

To make the crust:

Put crushed graham crackers, sugar, cocoa, and butter into a bowl (or your pan if you're lazy like me). Mix it together and press evenly into pan or your ramekins.

To make creamy part:

Beat together mascarpone and sugar. Beat in juice and zest. Beat in melted chocolate (I melt mine in the microwave in 20-30 second intervals, stirring in between). Add vanilla and beat.

Spread this over your crust.

Chill for 4 hours.

Garnish with curls of orange rind if you're fancy. I'm not.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...