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September 2009

Deconstructed Shish Kabob

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Deconstructed Shish Kabob

1/4 c olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 t dried or 1 T fresh oregano
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper

6 cups bell peppers and zucchini; cut into 1.5 inch dice for peppers and 1/4 inch coins for zucchini
2-3 4oz beef tenderloin fillets

1 pt grape or cherry tomatoes

Combine first five ingredients in a small bowl. Chop vegetables (I used yellow red and green peppers this time because they were all cheap and it looked pretty) and put them into a large Tupperware (Rubbermaid, whatever) bowl with lid. Cut beef into segments - Steve likes rare and I prefer medium so I always do one filet into four equal pieces and the other into eight equal pieces. Same cooking time thus produces different degrees of doneness. Add beef to bowl. Add olive oil-garlic marinade, put the lid on and give the bowl a few good flips to evenly distribute everything.

Put in the refrigerator for fifteen minutes or all day or overnight.

We bought a cheap rectangular grill pan from Target that we use for this (also nice when grilling fish.)

Spray pan with cooking spray (or take a paper towel and rub it with a little vegetable oil.) Heat grill to medium-high and place pan on grate. Add beef and vegetables, spreading them out as much as possible. Cook for five minutes, turning once with tongs/spatula. Add tomatoes and cook one more minute. You want the tomatoes to be hot and starting to split, but not pulverized into mush.    

Notes: After five straight days of chicken I was ready for something different. Tenderloin is expensive but it is the only cut that I have found that can be cooked very quickly with no fuss and always be tender. I would love to hear other cut suggestions, though. In the meantime I just use a little beef and a lot of vegetables.

I served this with brown rice and it was enough for all of us with some leftover vegetables. Edward had those for lunch the next day.


8-6-09

I read your comments on the 8-3 post and contemplated my whole chicken options. I have never beer canned a chicken before and my plan was to try that until I reached two snags: we had no cans (we recycled!) and I suddenly remembered that Patrick has started a tumbling class that meets at 5:30 on Monday nights. So I butterflied the chicken (take a pair of kitchen shears. cut along the backbone and remove spine. flatten with your hands) and left it with Steve to grill while I took Patrick to his class. My intention was to then take Patrick grocery shopping with me after tumbling as we were facing critical shortages and Steve was not available the next day to help me shop with three kids. I made it as far as the store parking lot (with Patrick moaning about how tiiiiiired he was and how hoooooot and how he doubted he had the strength to make it down an aisle) when I discovered that I had left my wallet on my desk. So I took Patrick home and left him for Steve to feed while I went back out to grocery shop alone. I got home at 9:30. It kinda sucked.

Thus on Monday we wound up eating: shell pasta and cooked carrots (Caroline and Edward;) cheese and crackers and turkey sandwich meat and spinach leaves with balsamic vinaigrette and ice cream (Patrick;) grilled chicken legs and sauteed wild mushrooms (Steve;) and ice cream and wine (that would be me.)

Tuesday I stripped and chopped the chicken. I intended to saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic in butter and then add flour and chicken stock to create something like a pot pie filling with peas and the leftover chicken that I could serve over egg noodles. By the time dinner actually rolled around I said to hell with it and made chicken and cheese quesadillas. I pulled out half the chicken and heated it with a can of Ro*tel tomatoes for everyone but Patrick; then I discovered that Caroline and Edward are not quite ready for chiles either. Oh well. Plain quesadillas for the seven and unders.

Wednesday we still had leftover chicken so I again considered the noodle thing but again I ditched the idea for something easier. This time I opened a jar of spaghetti sauce* to which I added garlic sauteed in olive oil, fresh basil, a ton of grated parmesan and the finely chopped chicken. The proportions were about 2 cups of chicken to 1 cup of sauce so that it was quite thick. We had it over rotini and there was leftover sauce.

Today we had friends to play in the morning and I had an epiphany at lunchtime. I looked at the chicken and tomato sauce and a package of flour tortillas and created pizzadillas (I have no doubt that someone has thought of this before me but I felt wildly creative.)

Can I call this a recipe?

1 1/2 c leftover cooked chicken mixed with marinara sauce
large flour tortillas
handful of shredded mozzarella

A little cooking spray on a hot skillet, press together, melt, flip, cut, serve.

Note: Patrick, who refused to eat the chicken on rotini the night before, ate this and said it was delicious. Ha! I learned a little while ago that cheese freezes really well so I keep 8 ounce bags of shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella in my freezer all the time. Today I whacked the bag to loosen the frozen shreds and then put the still frozen cheese on the quesadilla. Took an extra minute to melt.

My friend Noelle pointed out that we could use the same starting point and go in all kinds of crazy directions, like lamb feta and black olives for a greekadilla or Swiss cheese and diced ham for a lorraineadilla. 

Any other thoughts?

* I have no problem using jarred/canned/frozen anything as long as it tastes good to me. However, I have yet to find a jarred spaghetti sauce that I like - they are all too sweet for my taste - so I usually prefer to make and freeze my own. I still keep trying different jarred sauces, though, because it would be really nice to have one to keep on hand in the pantry and I see no reason to martyr myself. This week I tried Newman's Fired Roasted Tomato and Garlic. I didn't love it straight from the jar but with the chicken and the basil and the cheese and the extra garlic it was ok.


Salad Caprese

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Tomatoes, mozzarella, basil... hard to go wrong.

Unless, of course, you go shopping with a crabby children who harass you with their sighs and force you to randomly grab at cheeses such that you return home and discover that you have purchased half a pound of smoked mozzarella. It actually wasn't terrible but it added a fake flavor to something that should have tasted like pure sunshine and summer. So pay attention! Read the package.

I read a tip in Cook's Country magazine that suggested you drain the tomatoes and then add the saved tomato water back into the salad after reducing it with some vinegar. I liked the idea but decided it could use some more oomph. I had a little can of tomato juice to spare so...

1 pt grape tomatoes, quartered (unless you do not have a chokables phobia; halved is probably fine)
1/2 t salt
   

Toss tomatoes with salt (unless I specify table salt I always mean Kosher, by the by) and let sit for thirty minutes. 

Drain tomatoes through fine-meshed sieve over medium bowl. Stir them gently to try to release as much liquid as possible. Pour tomato liquid into measuring cup and then put drained tomatoes into bowl. Add

tomato juice

to bring tomato liquid to half a cup. I experimented and using half a cup of straight tomato juice works really well too. Combine the tomato juice/tomato water in a saucepan with:

1 garlic clove, minced
1 T red wine vinegar (or balsamic)

and boil until reduced by a third. Take off heat and allow to cool. Then whisk in:

2 T olive oil

Set aside. To tomatoes in bowl add:

8 oz mozarella, diced
1/4 c fresh basil, slivered

Toss with the dressing and top with fresh ground black pepper. Taste for salt but I doubt you'll need it.

Note: This served me and Steve and Caroline. You might want to use two pints of tomatoes if you are feeding more/bigger people. The dressing should suffice without doubling, though, I think.


8-3-09

Another Monday morning.

Caroline and Edward have been eating handfuls of Cheerios for almost a year, but today was the first time I put the cereal into a bowl and added milk. Then they had applesauce. Patrick had Cheerios, too, but disappeared before I could get any fruit into him.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for C&E for lunch, plus some leftover Fernanda pasta and then dried cranberries. Edward loved them. Caroline was more hesitant (not to put too fine a point on it, she made a hideous grimace and then scraped out her mouth with both hands) so I rummaged through the pantry to see if I could find any raisins. All kids love raisins, right? Right! Well, apparently Caroline does at least and she then failed to notice when I substituted dried cranberries at intervals. By the end of lunch she was happily eating both. I will forge the twinkles into less picky eaters than Patrick if it kills me.   

Patrick had a bowl of frosted miniwheats for lunch, which I know sounds like a complete cop-out on my part but I feel compelled to add that these are medicinal miniwheats. Patrick has had, ah, issues with regularity since about five minutes after I stopped nursing him. He was on prescription Miralax for YEARS - literally, YEARS - but over the past twelve months we have been successful at getting him off the stuff. Plumsmart juice is a Sunsweet prune product that Patrick likes and we have had moderately good results with it. I recently introduced a few Fiber One things into his diet as well and they are terrific. We have tried their chocolate milkshake and, see, I knew there was a point to this, they have just introduced a frosted miniwheat. So. There it is. After the cereal he had half a red pepper and a cup of raw carrots. Lunch.

My point - apart from the fact that my children are all suffering from culinary ennui today - is that I desperately need to go grocery shopping. We are almost out of milk, bread, cheese, peanut butter and yogurt. I have exactly one apple left in the fruit bowl and those carrots and red pepper represented the last of the fresh vegetables with the exception of half a bunch of celery that looks a little limp but I am hoping I can resuscitate for tonight's dinner. If you soak celery (or cucumbers) in ice water for about fifteen minutes you can usually trick them into firming up. For what it's worth.

Once upon a time I used a grocery delivery service and every Monday night I would spend about fifteen minutes clicking through my online master shopping list and the next afternoon food would materialize in my garage. It was so nice. Then they went out of business about a year ago and I wept. But! They were purchased by a quasi-local grocery chain who vowed to continue service as of old. I cheered. But! They never emailed me to let me know service had resumed so I finally contacted them only to discover that they had redrawn their delivery areas and now cease service two and a half miles from my house.

Bastards.

I'll describe later how challenging it is to grocery shop with twin babies (car seat in basket. car seat in child seat part. where does the food go?) and how challenging it is to shop with twin toddlers (push stroller and basket? push two baskets? push one basket and listen for PA announcement asking for the mother of the lost child to please come to the front of the store?) Right now I need to plan my food for the week and I figure we might as well help each other.

Patrick's requests for dinner:

salade nicoise (I call the cheater's version he likes Wartime Nicoise; it relies heavily on canned things)

homemade pizza (I'll post my dough recipe but I could use a better one)

Steve's request:

shish kabobs

I bought two fryer chickens a few weeks ago when they were on sale for $3 a piece and froze them. Yesterday I was feeling inspired so I took one out to thaw and now I am committed to it. I hate it when I do that, because it is now almost ninety degrees outside and the last thing I want to do is turn on my oven. I had been planning to use this recipe (I have a baguette in the freezer and some onions and a lemon and that celery I mentioned... .) Any ideas on what to do with a whole chicken and a grill or the stovetop?

Tuna, pizza, beef, chicken... what else? Pasta maybe? Gazpacho?

What are you making tonight/tomorrow/this week?

PS I'll post recipes as I go.


Fernanda Pasta

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I went to visit my friend Fernanda several years ago and she made a version of this pasta. When I later mentioned how much I liked it she was embarrassed and said, "Really? I didn't make you an actual dinner?"

I now make this about once a week. First, I like it. Second, I almost always have everything I need on hand and I can go from oh hell what's for dinner to eating in twenty minutes. Third, I start by combining the pasta, tuna, and black olives and then pull out portion for Patrick who is suspicious of basil and feta and ALL FLAVOR... anyway. It lends itself well to adaptation. Recently I started adding the toasted garlic and when tomatoes are in season (and I have an afternoon to kill) I like to roast them and throw them as well.

Fernanda Pasta

16 oz box farfalle

2 cans tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked

4 oz package crumbled feta (my grocery sells a black pepper feta we like)

toasted garlic in 1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c fresh basil, slivered

2 T red onion, finely minced

1/2 c kalamata olives, chopped

3 c slow-roasted tomatoes

Make sure to add salt (I use about 2 T) to the pasta water. While the farfalle is cooking, start the toasted garlic. Cook pasta al dente, drain and toss with about 1 T of olive oil. Let cool slightly and then (provided you do not have a seven year old who needs customization) add feta, red onion, basil, tuna, toasted garlic with oil and olives. Top individual servings with coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes and ground pepper. I find this to be salty enough as it is (and I like salt) so be sure to taste before adding any more. 


Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

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Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

3 lbs Roma tomatoes
8-10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil for drizzling
salt
pepper

Heat oven to 300°. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise and arrange on heavy rimmed baking sheet. Scatter garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for two to two and half hours until tomatoes are browned around the edges but still chewy.

Patrick once watched me eat an entire sheet of these, one after the other.


Toasted Garlic

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This is not a recipe, it is more like an opinion.

Toasted garlic is terrific. Like savory candy.

I use 1/4 cup of olive oil and add 6 large cloves of garlic, minced. I use my smallest, cheapest saute pan and bring the oil to a very slow simmer over a very low heat. I cook the garlic for about ten minutes, shaking the pan every so often to redistribute. When it starts to turn light brown it's done. I like to let it sit off the heat for as long as possible before using it to let the olive oil get all toasty as well. And whatever you do, don't overcook it or it will be bitter.   

I use it the oil and garlic together to dress pasta and salad and I add it to pizza sauce.

What else?


Black Raspberry Cobbler

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Patrick likes to forage (he'd make a good bear, I think) and a recent expedition netted him about three pints of black raspberries.

"Let's make a pie!" he said.

"Let's make a cobbler!" I countered.

"What's a cobbler?" he asked. The actual answer is that a cobbler is what I am capable of making since I cannot make pie crust (I KNOW. feel free to teach me) but I am pretty good with forgiving doughs that are intended to be rustic and ugly.

I told him a cobbler is like a pie but you can use even more sugar. He became pro-cobbler, abandoning his pie platform in the face of my compelling rhetoric.

There are a lot of ways to cover a bunch of berries. You can use biscuit, oats, cake, bread, shortcake... personally, I like to make a sugar cookie dough and just drop it on top of the fruit. Even better is to give your child the ingredients and a chair to reach the counter and let them make it while you read a magazine. So that is what I did.

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Black Raspberry Cobbler  

3 pints black raspberries (or red ones. blueberries. blackberries I suppose)
1 T cornstarch
2/3 c sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Gently combine and scrape into 9 inch deep pie plate. Heat oven to 400°. Cover pie plate with aluminum foil and place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake about fifteen minutes until berries release juice.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix

1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking powder
pinch of table salt  

and set it aside. Then in a medium bowl beat

8 T butter, room temperature
1/2 c sugar

until light and fluffy. Add

1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract

Beat until smooth. Stir in flour mixture until just combined.

After the fifteen minutes remove pie plate from oven. Stir fruit and then drop dough evenly over berries in heaping spoonfuls. Return to oven and bake (uncovered) until topping is browned and fruit is bubbly, about 35 minutes.

Notes:

Patrick's berry haul was shy of three full pints so I augmented the black raspberries with leftover blueberries I had in the refrigerator. It all baked down into a nice purple mess regardless.  

Did you make it? Change it? Have a better idea? Tell me what you think in the comments.


Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

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There is a lot to be said for these pancakes. They are (practically) healthy. They freeze (moderately) well. You can make them (almost entirely) the night before. And they are (emphatically) delicious.

Beebo's Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

2 c rolled oats
2 c buttermilk*

Stir to blend. Refrigerator overnight.

2 eggs
1/4 c butter (melted & cooled)

Mix together in separate bowl:

1/2 c flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t table salt

Add flour mixture to oat mixture and stir until moist.

Preheat griddle. Use about 1/4 batter for each pancake. Flip when air bubbles start to appear.

Makes about 14 pancakes.

Notes:

I usually make the flour mixture at the same time I put the oats into the buttermilk to soak. Then in the morning all you have to do is combine the flour and oats, break two eggs and microwave half a stick of butter for 20 seconds. Not being a morning person I appreciate having to do as few things as possible before I get to eat.

*My grandmother used to drink buttermilk sprinkled with ground black pepper - this is a taste I never managed to acquire. However, I have a shameful weakness for Hidden Valley Original Ranch dip. Not the bottled stuff that tastes like paste but the little packets that you mix with buttermilk and mayonnaise. I just laughed aloud because it suddenly occurred to me to check the nutritional content on a packet in my pantry and I thought, "Huh, 100 grams of fat? That's not terrible." Then I noticed the serving size: 1/4 teaspoon. AS IF. No wonder it's so good.

All of which is to say I usually have buttermilk in my refrigerator and the stuff keeps forever. Seriously. But if you do not have any on hand here is a little trick for this recipe:

Buttermilk Substitute: Combine 2 T white vinegar or lemon juice with 2 c milk and let sit for five minutes.

Did you make it? Change it? Have a better idea? Tell me what you think in the comments.