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! 😉

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!

Sweet cool treats ~ Smoothies and Sorbets

I have been getting more than my money’s worth from my Ninja lately. If you have a Vitamix you can play along with me too. I have been making smoothies and just started with sorbets as well.

I am drinking the last of this morning’s smoothie as I write this.

This is a protein smoothie, so here goes:

  • 1 scoop whey protein
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 banana
  • 6 nice sized strawberries
  • a little water (1/4 cup?)
  • ice cubes ~ mine I use 6 -8 but ice maker may be different

Put the whole thing in the Ninja.

Pulse until smooth.

Drink!

I also put sorbet in the freezer. Ready?

Strawberry/banana sorbet:

  • 1 1/2 banana
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen fresh  strawberries
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (you could use agave or honey if you wish)

Pulse until smooth. Pour into a freezer safe container. Freeze. Eat!

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These treats will be a regular part of my diet this summer. I have ideas and recipes for other fruit and combinations. In fact, you can make some of the a little spicy!

But for now, I am finishing my protein smoothie and waiting for my sorbet to set. I made a luscious salsa for dinner, but I will show you that tomorrow.

Try a smoothie. You can use the yogurt and fruit without the protein too. Either way… ENJOY!!

 

 

 

Summer salads ~ Easy and delicious carrot salad

The weather has been amazing so it has been hard to sit at a computer and write. If I had the photographic talent of others like Saltypalatte, I would be sharing pictures…but suffice it to say I have been drawn outdoors by that big beautiful spherical source of light and joy.

LET THE SALADS BEGIN!

This is a time to put away warm comfort foods and bring on the salads!! I started this weekend with one of the easiest and most delicious… Carrot salad. Now this salad has three – yes I said three – ingredients. That’s it. Two of these ingredients my husband dislikes, but the combination is so yummy it even pleases him.

You need
~ carrots, shredded
~ raisins
~ mayonnaise

Yup. That’s it. Put the shredded carrots in a bowl, add raisins to taste. Barry likes quite a few, so probably 2 cups carrots to nearly a cup of raisins. (You can also use craisins instead.) Put a healthy dollop of mayonnaise on top and mix. Taste a little. If you want more mayo, add a little more.

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The only ingredient Barry likes is raisins. But the mixture of flavored makes a light and tasty salad. And it gets my hubby to eat carrots. This is amazing!

There are so many tasty salads and it is only May!!

Try this one. You can even buy the carrots already shredded … Can’t get much easier!

Ok, back outside in the sunshine to … Enjoy!

Flavor Seeker ~ Make it at home! Endive Salad

I have said before that I enjoy going out to a really good restaurant and bringing the flavors home. We went to a restaurant recently where we had the loveliest endive salad. The other night, I made this treat for dinner.

We decided to have a finger food night. This consisted of a big bowl of boiled and kosher salted edamame, fresh bakery bread with olive oil and balsamic reduction, and endive salad. It was divine.

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In particular, I want to tell you this. I made the balsamic reduction and had the smell of vinegar in my sinuses for the next 36 hours! LOL 🙂 Really, a balsamic reduction is very simple. Put some balsamic vinegar in a saucepan. Use twice as much as you want to end up with as it ends up reduced by half. On a medium high heat, bring the vinegar to a rolling boil. Keep it there until the vinegar reduces by half and gets syrupy. Really, that’s it.

Now, a couple of things. One: DO NOT LEAVE THE POT ALONE! Make sure you watch it and whisk frequently. Two: Be certain to do this is an well ventilated room. Turn on the exhaust fan. Open an window! The steam that comes off as the vinegar reduces is pungent!

I started with 2 cups of balsamic vinegar. It took about 10 minutes. So that is a rough estimate for you. It is delicious. I used it for the bread and oil. I also drizzled it over the endive.

Endive Salad

You need:

  • endive leaves
  • cheese crumbles ~ The restaurant used blue cheese, but we like milder cheeses, so I used goat cheese.
  • honey roasted pecans
  • balsamic reduction

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So yummy!!!

Try it. And enjoy!!