What a busy fall!

Let me begin by saying HAPPY BIRTHDAY KATIE!!!! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZA!!! My beautiful niece and beautiful ‘adopted’ daughter share this birthday. It’s the big 21 for Liza….I wish you both love and joy!!

This has been an amazingly busy month and it’s not over yet. Two weeks ago our younger daughter was home for the weekend. Last weekend number one child was here. We had a visit from Liza, and there is more to come. This weekend a childhood friend is coming to visit. Phew!

Of course this means there was a lot of food prep and consumption! For our Moose there was an amazing Harvest Minestrone soup. The recipe is from MindBodyGreen and is amazing.

I made a six quart pot of it….. And then for my carnivorous hubby, I took out two quarts, added 16 oz of beef stock and mini meatballs. Everyone was happy.

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I made kisir with both Moose and Liza. The recipe can be found in my previous post “Food is love…… A totally fun afternoon…..”. Both girls enjoyed it and will hopefully make it themselves.

With Tammy there was a trip to the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival. So much fun! And a leisurely dinner at Aroma Thyme. where we enjoyed great food and lovely company. The festival was a hoot too.

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All of the usual suspects continued in my day to day planning….. Meatloaf, quinoa, chicken…..ooooh!!! So for Sunday dinner with Tammy here, I made a YUMMY pasta dinner….
Pasta
Pesto
Sundried tomatoes
Chicken medallions
OH MY MY HOW DELISH!!! And super simple.

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This morning I prepared the fruit and nuts in sherry for the first fruit cake cookies of the season. Thanks Ina Garten!

What have you been cooking up?

The flavors of fall are the best. Get cooking people! And enjoy!!!!

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Flavors of Fall:: Comforting food for a Blustery Day

The weather has turned colder quickly and the leaves are turned and falling. The telltale crunch of leaves makes me smile. I remember fall with the girls….apple cider and Halloween costumes.

When they were little I always made spaghetti and meatballs on Halloween. It was easy to prepare ahead and eat whenever they were exhausted and had their bags full of goodies….. Sigh. My babies are all grown up.

But I still make spaghetti. Tonight we are having it. Of course, over the years I have changed and improved it (I hope). LOL

Now….planning ahead….. I will be making meatloaf again at the end of the week. I have made it the last two weekends and Barry can’t get enough. I wanted meatballs for tonight’s meal, and more to add to a soup I am making on the weekend with our veggie-tarian, Moose. I am going to make a Harvest minestrone for everyone…. and for Barry I will add meatballs to it. He likes his meat!!

First I put on the sauce. Today I mixed two large cans of crushed tomatoes, one small can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of paste…a can of water too…the small one from the paste. I wanted the sauce rich and creamy. I put a large onion, peeled and only cut in half, three garlic cloves, and a stick of unsalted butter into the pot. Cover, bring to boil, and reduce to simmer. I have already removed the onion, but the garlic I will pick out later. Rich creamy sauce….mmmmm. Now it really doesn’t need anything else, but I wanted it to marry with the flavor of the meatballs I was going to make so I put s&p, basil, and oregano in this time.

At the market this morning I bought 3 pounds of ground beef. I buy 80% so it has good flavor. And it was on sale! Then I looked for ground pork, and since there was none, the butcher went and ground it fresh….yes thank you…. 1.5 pounds and it looked fabulous!

At home I put both meats together and mixed them well. Then, of the 4.5 pounds, I pulled off three and bagged it to freeze for meatloaf. The rest was enhanced with flavor….s&p, basil, oregano, and onion powder. In meatloaf I use fresh onions and peppers, but I am going to make these small, so onion powder gives the flavor without the veggies causing the little guys to fall apart.

Anyway, all mixed…and I use the cook’s best tools – my hands – to do this. I began to roll them into small one inch meatballs. Into a sauté pan to brown the outside, turning them to get a nice crust. You need to babysit and turn them, but small ones take 5 minutes so not a biggie.

I put 18 meatballs in my sauce and gave them a gentle stir. This sauce will simmer all afternoon so the meatballs and the sauce, and all the flavors will cook together and be so yummy!! In fact, the house smells great already.

To stick to the spirit of Halloweens past, we will have spaghetti pasta. I often use penne or something fun like cavatappi, but today it is tradition all the way. Yum!!!

Now I know that it is not traditionally Italian to serve meatballs with pasta. And especially not acceptable to cook the meatballs in the sauce….but I’m sorry…..it’s good. So forgive my deviation from tradition.

Oh, so the meat I kept for meatballs actually made 18 for my sauce for dinner tonight. And it made another 28! They are cooked and cooling. I will store them to add to Barry’s soup. In fact, I believe that there will be enough for another meal.

So let’s recap…..sauce made, check! Meats mixed and divided, check!! Meatloaf mix in freezer for the weekend, check!! Meatballs made, cooked, and divided, check!! Meatballs in sauce, check!! Meatballs cooled and frozen for later this week, check!!

Planning meals ahead doesn’t take tons of work, just some thought. Spaghetti and meatballs will be enjoyed tonight and tomorrow. And soup will be made Friday. Meatloaf will be made Saturday. Wednesday and Thursday I have to plan, but easy enough. For the working folks who check me put now and then….planning is the key and Sunday should be your prep day.

What are you planning this week?? Whatever you have, enjoy!!

Flavor Seeker:: A fun new way to make roasted potatoes

I kept seeing these “Hasselback” potatoes in recipes and the more I saw them the more intrigued I was to make them. Nothing tough or complex, but the technique makes the ordinary baked or roasted potato …. Well, whimsical!

Preheat the oven to 450*. Take your potato and slice one side to make a sturdy bottom. Then cut slices down to about 1/4″ from the bottom and about 1/4″ apart. A gentle oil coating and a sprinkle of salt (I would put pepper too, but Barry isn’t a big fan) and in the oven they went. I baked them for an hour. Then I removed them….mmmmm……they already looked great. Crispy on the outside edges and creamy inside. But I didn’t stop there. Cheese was not only sprinkled, but tucked into the crevasses and back into the oven for 5 minutes until the cheese was melted and golden.

Whoa. So I made soup for dinner for Barry. Specifically I made broccoli cheese soup, so a cheesy baked potato made a nice side.

Who am I kidding…they are AWESOME! And they went right to the top of the keeper list.

Give them a try….you are sure to enjoy!

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Food is love….a totally fun afternoon….

My friend, Susan, is a chef. Our beloved Friday night restaurant was hers. Recently, the Bluestone Grill burned down. We are sad over this tragedy. Susan and Lauren are trying to put their lives back together and set a new course.

The upside is the time they both have to rest and rejuvenate from what was an extraordinarily busy and tiring venture. This free time has allowed me to see her outside the restaurant and last week she came to my house and cooked with me. It was so much fun!

We made kisir and cauliflower pizza … And a mess of the kitchen! LOL So much fun and so delicious!!!

The Bluestone served a dish with kisir (tabbouleh) and hummus with flatbread…..mmmmm….. I loved it. I had no idea how simple it was….

You need:
* one onion
* bulgur
* tomato paste
* s & p
* cumin or paprika ~ your preference – we used paprika
* tomatoes ~ as many as you like, but Susan used 2 or 3 plum tomatoes
* flat leaf parsley

Prepare the bulgur according to the package. Much like quinoa or couscous, it absorbs all the water when finished cooking.

While the bulgur is cooking, dice one nice sized onion...white or yellow, not red….and sauté until soft.  A pinch of salt will help break it down. When the onion is translucent, add s&p, paprika to taste and tomato paste.…we used a tube…probably about 2 tablespoons?

Let that sauté. Dice tomatoes and add parsley to them.

Now, into the bowl of diced tomatoes, add the bulgur and the saute mix until combined. SO GOOD!

Again the restaurant served this cold with hummus and naan (flatbread).

We ate it hot. I could hardly wait. As we ate, we talked about how it was good hot or room temperature.  It would be lovely with an egg over it for breakfast or sliced chicken for dinner.

**********

Susan wanted to make cauliflower pizza crust, which she had never made before. I was crazy nervous to cook with this woman who made food into magic for the mouth!!! My recipe of February 15, 2013  (https://neatnosh.wordpress.com/2013/02/15/success-and-a-simple-endeavor-for-today/) was our guide.

We used 6 cups of riced cauliflower and 6 cups of cheese….but I thought that 6 eggs would be too much and she agreed. We settled on 4 and that was great. She couldn’t help herself, so she added s&p and I think a bit of oregano! LOL All about YOUR taste I always say.

We made one large crust on parchment and a cookie sheet. And we made a smaller one to eat right away on a ceramic pan. Both cooked well….but…….

****** NOTE!!!!! ******

BE SURE TO DRAIN THE CAULIFLOWER WELL. WHEN DRIER THE CRUST WILL BE ‘STURDIER.’

I was so nervous, that was my mistake. Still tasted yummy!

Susan deciding which piece to devour first!

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photo 2Cheesy and divine!!

We ate our fill and relaxed on the sofa to talk….Susan said her belly was doing the happy dance with all the yummy cheese!

We had a lovely afternoon….. Thanks Susan!!! I really did ENJOY! 😉

Food is Love….. Food is Love…..

Good friends of ours lost a niece the other day….so very young, so tragic. G flew south to be with his sister, and J is here feeling sad and wishing there was something to do. We felt the same. So we invited J to come have dinner after work. She works too hard…long hours and then comes home and does sub calling for not one, but two school districts. We wanted her to have the chance to sit and eat a meal without having to fix it or clean up after it.

She came and I put out the makings of BLT sammies. Lovely bacon cooked in the oven, not in a pan. My friend Susan encouraged me to put parchment under the rack the bacon bakes on….clean up is a breeze. Lettuce was cleaned and dried, big beefy tomatoes sliced, and the bread was from the bakery at my local market, then sliced and lightly toasted. Mmmmmmm…….

To complete the comfort food fest I also made mac and cheese and a farfalle with spinach and Alfredo…..a favorite of J’s. Just to add fresh and light to the table I cut up a pineapple and several oranges for a light fruit salad. Dinner was light, fun, and relaxing for our friend. But it didn’t end there…..

Earlier in the day I prepared food for J to take home. My goal was to make sure she at least got through to the weekend without having to cook so maybe she should get some rest!!!! Here is what she took home:

….. 3 single serve containers of tortellini salad
….. 3 single serve containers of macaroni salad with lots of tomatoes and peppers
….. 3 single serve containers of Mac and cheese
….. 3 single serve containers of farfalle with spinach Alfredo
….. In addition I gave her a container of the fruit and the leftover lettuce and tomatoes so she could chop it quick for a side salad

I did tease her that she was on her own for breakfast. LOL She couldn’t stay long, and we certainly understood, but she left full and satisfied, and knowing she was loved. Mission accomplished!

A picture of their westie on my hubby’s lap was texted to G I hopes it would make him smile….

Food is love people. When times are hard and you don’t know what to do, feed the person who is hurting. It is a small effort with a reward of great warmth. And always…. Enjoy!

That two soup day…..happy fall!

So on Sunday I soaked a pound of a 15 bean mix to get them ready to make soup. And I thawed a roast, not entirely with a plan, but thawed it nonetheless. Monday I got to work on my bean soup early, because beans need a long time to soften to the consistency my man likes. Have I mentioned that soup is Barry’s favorite go-to food? Mix that with his love affair with beans and bean soup is the height of good eats for him.

Now to it….I seasoned, braised and put my roast in a pot with a box of stock and a can of crushed tomatoes. I put that in the oven on 300 for an hour, then lowered it to 250 for another four.

So PART ONE: 15 BEAN SOUP

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To make the bean soup flavorful I did this….

While preparing the soup pot I put the beans in a pot with enough water to cover them well. These came to a boil and I set them aside to drain and cool a bit.

In my soup pot I sautéed one diced onion in some oil. I tend to use olive oil, but for this I used canola. A pinch of salt got them going. Then I added …. Wait for it ….. four teaspoons of minced garlic. and a cup of diced ham. It sounds like a lot of garlic, but trust me you won’t find the soup garlicky, just flavorful. When the onion is soft and translucent, put the beans in the pot, cover with water, and stir. Then add a 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes, juice and all. Then a box of stock. I used veggie stock, but you could use chicken.

To season, I didn’t measure, but I added a healthy pinch of salt, several grinds of freshly ground black pepper (about six), and two bay leaves. Stir. Cover. Bring to a boil. Stir. Lower the heat to medium for an hour or so. Stir. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for hours. I mean hours. Bean soup likes attention so make it when you can be home all day and stir often.

Trust me it is delish! Oh, you can add parsley towards the end….or basil, or both.  And for goodness sake, remove the bay leaves before eating. Remember any kitchen magic should be tailored to your taste, or that of the person you are cooking for. Barry had a bowl for supper, and went quietly to the kitchen and helped himself to another bowl. It’s a keeper. It also made great planned leftovers. He ate it Tuesday again and I put the rest in the freezer today for another day.

PART TWO: BEEF VEGGIE SOUP

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Yup. I decided to make soup with the slow cooked roast. Now you might wonder why, but listen, with just us two, a lovely roast on sale makes amazing soup and a huge pot. It will be dinner for at least three nights. So here goes….

When the bean soup was well on it’s way and the smell of the roast was filling the house, I took it out and put it on my board to rest. I actually used to laugh at that. But when, against my ‘better judgement’ I tried it, I realized oh my, it keeps the juices from going everywhere and makes the meat better. Yeah.

So let your roast rest….say that three times fast! LOL

The beef soup was simpler to throw together. I started again with a diced onion, oil, and a pinch of salt. Because Barry loves pepper I added that too. When they were softened I put two boxes of stock in the pot. I seasoned with parsley, pepper and oddly enough, oregano. I have found this to be a flavor Barry likes and gives a bite he enjoys. Bring this to a boil, then lower to medium to simmer a bit.

I cut the beef into healthy bite sized chunks and added those. After a bit, I threw in a fistful of pastina. You could use any tiny pasta. Now for the last veggie….corn. Yup. Tradition used to make me put peas and carrots in, canned ones. But not anymore. I am all about fresh, and all about what tastes good to us. Corn it is! I pulled out a small bag of my fresh frozen corn and added that.

At this point I would add potatoes. But here’s the thing. This soup was made to eat later and I intended to freeze most if not all of it. So I left the potatoes out. They just don’t freeze well. They get a weird consistency after they’ve been frozen. So two helpings of potatoless soup are in the freezer. A third of it will be Thursday dinner, when I will cook it up and add potatoes. Yum.

A good day in the kitchen. Two pots of soup to welcome in the fall. Try either one. Oh and the bean soup can be thrown in a crock pot for the day! Either way you make it! ENJOY!!!

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Sweet corn and a two soup day

So yesterday I spent a great deal of time in the kitchen. I call it puttering. Among my other kitchen accomplishments I froze two bags of corn for the holidays. Freezing corn is so simple. I read a number of sites and suggestions and went with what seemed simple and sensible.

Here goes…. Shuck the ears of corn. Get all of the silk. No one wants to eat corn off the cob and get silk in their teeth! Put it in your best corn pot, cover with water, and boil for 3-7 minutes. I chose 5! After it is boiled, you have to shock it in ice water for the same number of minutes as you boiled it. Longer is fine, but no less. You can prepare a big bowl of water and ice, and at first I did. Then I thought, if I take the pot to the sink, run cold water in the pot until it cools and throw ice in there, it is easier. And I am always looking for easier. LOL

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Now I will give you another trick that I saw a number of chefs do and it works like a charm. To cut the kernels off the cob, and not make a huge mess, put a small bowl upside down inside a large bowl….

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Now use the small bowl to steady the ear and cut the kernels off as close as you can to get all of the deliciousness, but not so close to get hard pieces of cob….

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When you are done, take the small bowl out and break the kernels apart….

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Put the corn into freezer bags. Mark them with the contents and date.

Everything I read says that without blanching (boiling and shocking) the corn should stay fresh for 6 months. With blanching you can go 8-10. Frankly, I have frozen about a dozen bags of corn, and we have already eaten two, and I pulled one out today to use in soup…. So if I still have some left for the holidays I will be happy. And that is only three months away.

Phew! Now go freeze some corn and stop buying processed stuff!!! LOL

I made not one, but two pots of soup today. What better way to usher in the fall!? I made a yummy 15 bean soup and beef vegetable. Barry had the bean soup for dinner. He had seconds, so it’s a keeper.

I don’t think there are many soups he won’t eat, but he LOVES beans…all kinds. So bean soup is always a hit for him.

So we will talk more about soups, but I am tired. My kitchen is cleaned up, the soups cooled and put away, and lunch made for tomorrow. Time to put my feet up and ….. Enjoy!