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!!

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Thoughts of a Foodie ~ My kitchen puttering… a day in the life…

Sorry I missed you all yesterday. I had technical difficulties. I sat down to write and my iMac froze. RUT ROH! I tried everything to get it “unfroze” but to no avail. I finally turned it off and when it came back I couldn’t type. Grr… turns out the batteries on the keyboard died but it was sometime before I figured it all out, changed the batteries, checked the settings, and was back on track… yeah, I know…

So, we had a busy weekend and ate out more than once! Our delightful favorite, Bluestone Grill, was named Delaware County Restaurant of the Year for the fourth year running and had $4 appetizers on Friday and Saturday night. We were in heaven!! Barry brought home a chunk of focaccia bread that I immediately looked at and thought what a great panini sammie it would make with the “soup-and-sammie-sized” container of chicken noodle soup in the freezer. That was last night’s dinner and he loved it! I never waste, but take advantage of leftovers to (not just warm up) turn into a new meal.

Sunday we tried a new place and came home with a ton of spaghetti and chicken parmesan. Tonight, planned leftovers again, but I will take out some of my buttery marinara to add and freshen it all up. Remember I put two storage bags of marinara in the freezer. Never waste! Be thoughtful and come up with a way to use the leftovers so it is not just a throw-it-in-the-microwave-and-eat-meal.

So this morning I went to the market. Barry eats an apple a day and I ran out. Eeks! So I bought a few other items of course. I came home and put my freshness away and then started a typical day of puttering in the kitchen. Here is the plan today…

  • I had about 8 red potatoes left and while they were fresh, they were going to start growing eyes soon. I boiled them in nice salty water and they are cooling. They will last longer, and are already nice and soft to use for dinner in the next day or two. Yum! There were days in the past when I ended up throwing potatoes away…nuh uh, no more! Never waste!

taters

  • I bought a lovely English cucumber. I love them. I sliced it up and salted it. This draws out water so I can make a wonderful cucumber salad and it won’t be runny. It will simply need red onions slivers and dressing and YUM!!

salty cukes

  • I bought two large honey crisp apples to make Barry his favorite apple bread. I needed flour and sugar so I bought those as well.

honeycrisp apples

  • And I pulled together the ingredients ~ what do we call that class!?!? ~ my mis en place ~ ready to prep the fruit to make fruitcake cookies tomorrow. They have to sit overnight to get ‘drunk.’ 😉 {hic}

mis en place for fruitcake cookies
Those days that planned leftovers make dinner easy, I often do this type of prep and baking. It is a great way to enjoy getting ahead.

Among the other things in my shopping cart, I bought some things to prepare for my little vegetarian to come home for spring break. I got pizza dough, so we can make pizza yumminess. I bought arborio rice to make risotto. I have saffron in the cupboard….mmmm…. I also bough tortellini just because she loves it, and sundry other items.

POPPY AND MOO
Taken at Bluestone Grill June 2012

So, the potatoes are ready to put in the fridge, the cucumbers should be ready to drain the water off, and I am ready to go make some apple bread and get some fruit drunk. What does a day in the kitchen look like for you? Whatever it is, ENJOY!

 

 

 

 

Planning when you didn’t!

Yesterday I talked about how I get my ideas for recipes and eventually make delicious flavors. You can see that my nephew actually helped me tweak it even before I make the sausage, onion, and pepper dish I am planning later in the week. One of my favorite chefs to watch is Anne Burrell http://www.foodnetwork.com/anne-burrell/index.html and the reasons is this: she is always thinking. I love to hear her say “Look at me! Always thinking!” and when I am in the kitchen I often hear those words.

Even when I am not deliberately sitting and meal planning, I am thinking and planning ahead. Currently, I am in the midst of a busy week after a very busy weekend. My plans for meals have suffered for this. That being said, previous planning will save the day. Tonight I will be serving Barry a favorite that I made to taste ~ two weeks ago! In the freezer I had a healthy helping of a casserole that is one of his favorites. It is mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken, which is currently defrosting for dinner!

Now you know that is not a good choice for the carb addict. So looking again at the freezer, I have chicken breasts that I pulled out for me. And I have a half bushel of apples! There will be fried apples as a side dish. And, just because Barry asked, there will be edamame. We haven’t had it for awhile.

I had already planned some treats for Barry so I made those this morning. He loves fruit cake cookies so I had soaked the fruit and today I made the batter. It is getting firm in the fridge and I will bake the cookies tomorrow. I also tried a new treat, and again, I changed the recipe.

Yesterday I watched an episode with Giada where she made Chocolate Chow Mein Noodle Cookies http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/chocolate-chow-mein-noodle-cookies-recipe/index.html. They looked so easy and had the flavors Barry loves ~ a mix of salty and sweet. Of course, I had to make changes. Barry likes walnuts best, so I used those instead of almonds. And he is a fan of dried apricots so I replaced mango with those. Finally, Barry is not a fan of too much heat, so a sprinkle of paprika replaced the cayenne. They are currently sitting on parchment paper. I am pretty excited about adding a new treat to his limited repertoire of favorites. I hope these are keepers.

I have much to do and an appointment to go to soon, so the moral of the story is this. When you plan ahead, your thoughtful plans will help you on the days when you are in a bind. What is your dinner plan tonight? Whatever it is, make extra for planned leftovers. If it is a soup, casserole, chili, or the like, put aside an ample helping and freeze it before you even serve. This planned leftover will delight you when you find yourself in a busy place.

Don’t worry, fried apples are coming! And many more apple treats will follow. For now, I have to go. But remember to always THINK AHEAD, PLAN YOUR MEALS, PLAN LEFTOVERS, and you will find you will always eat healthy and fresh!

Enjoy!

Flavors of Fall ~ Beef Barley Soup

 

I have mentioned that my husband is a soup lover. He is a huge soup lover actually. If I could make every meal for him in soup form he would be happy. So on Sunday I made a big pot of beef barley soup. Dinner on Sunday and planned leftovers for the next three days!

Let me back up and tell you a little about our weekend. We went for a drive on Saturday through Catskill Park. It was lovely. We chose a road we had never driven before and went through towns we had heard of but never seen. The leaves were gold and many had fallen. There were roadside stands selling pumpkins everywhere. It was charming.

Our end point was Colonie, near Albany airport. Balsamic salmon and steamed broccoli for lunch at 99 Restaurant http://www.yelp.com/biz/99-restaurant-colonie was just the ticket. We followed lunch with our first trip into Trader Joe’s. We enjoyed the different and unique choices. In spite of my protests that a hand basket would be fine, hubby went back for a basket and we filled it with some lovely items. One was a small bag of multi-colored potatoes. I picked them up and immediately said to Barry, “Soup!”.

Taking the scenic route back home again, we found a lovely little place in Margaretville, NY, called the “Inn Between.” http://www.margaretville.net/catskills-attractions/attractions-listing.php?id=203 The staff was very friendly, the atmosphere was warm, and the food was tasty.

Sunday was a stay home and cook day! Our friends, Mark and Wayne, came to the house for lunch. I made tarragon salad with apples and cranberries and a three cheese mac. The food was enjoyed and the conversation wonderful, as always.

While I was preparing lunch, I also started dinner. I used those potatoes and made beef barley soup. I love making soups. And I love making ones that Barry enjoys. I especially love when he dubs it a keeper. This was just such a pot.

Here is how I made it.

Beef Barley Soup

  • Onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Oil, S&P
  • Beef
  • Tomato paste
  • Can of tomatoes
  • Beef broth
  • Bay leaves
  • Potatoes
  • Frozen corn
  • Barley

Start with the usual suspects: onions, carrots and celery. Saute them in olive oil and just a pinch of salt until softened.

Next add the beef. I went to my local market and was delighted to find a sale on NY strip steaks. Now I know this seems extravagant, but when this pot is making enough for four meals, two nice steaks are a good investment on sale. So, salt and pepper your cubed beef, and add this to the pot. Brown the meat.


When the meat is nicely browned, add about an inch of tomato paste from a tube, a can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes, and beef stock. I use a full box and 2 cans. (This would be a box and a half, but the other half needs to be used up right away.) Throw in 2 bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to simmer. Keep it covered and simmer for at least an hour. Slow cooking makes the beef tender.

After an hour, add potatoes, a cup of fresh frozen corn, and about a cup of barley. Bring to a new boil and reduce again to simmer. Now it needs at least 30 – 40 minutes but I give it another hour. At this point you will have a delicious pot of soup!

Make a great pot of soup. It will fill your belly and warm your heart. And remember, this is a great way to make planned leftovers.

Enjoy!

Using leftovers ~ A broccoli treat!

So the week is at end and I am pleased to have used my freshness well. There is still a little soup left and that will get frozen for another day. Despite best intentions, I did not steam the broccoli so instead I made a decadent salad. I know, some people want a sweet dessert for a treat. Not me. Give me something with bacon and cheese. I know, I know. Awful ~ but every now and then…

So here is the broccoli salad I made. Hubby loves it, and I hadn’t made it in a long time so it was a nice side dish to our dinner last night.

Broccoli: use only the florets and cut them in nice small bites.

Now add

  • Shredded cheese ~ Barry likes cheddar, but mozzarella, Monterey jack, or any mild cheese will be great too. (What! No fontina!? Yes, you could. This is Barry’s treat and he likes cheddar.)
  • Bacon ~ crispy and crumbled!
  • Chopped red onion
  • Mayonnaise

Mix it up and voila! You have a tasty salad.

It is delicious and truly needs no salt because of the cheese and bacon. You might add a little pepper, but honestly, this delight needs nothing but the simple list. As far as amounts, you be the judge. Add a little, taste a little, and then add a little more! Your salad should be all about which ingredients you like best.

So try this yummy treat. Have a fresh and healthy weekend. And when you go to the market, pick up a head of cauliflower. We are going to talk about those next week!!

See you here on Monday! Enjoy!

Waste not! Using your reserves . . . and planned leftovers!

After a weekend away I had to stop and assess my food stocks. Time to go look at the fridge, pantry, and food racks and see what was neglected. Sometimes we buy with all good intentions and then life has other plans. And as we left for the Boston wedding weekend, Courtney and Mackenzie spent a night at our house, so they ate some good food too.

Waste not people! I look at my baskets and have 2 vine tomatoes, red potatoes, onions, and … ahem … a small butternut squash. In the fridge I still have a romaine heart, one Belgian endive, carrots, a green pepper, a red pepper and broccoli. (I guess the girls ate the Brussels sprouts.) What is for dinner tonight?

I had to go to the store and get deli meat to pack Barry’s lunch yesterday (yes, I pack my hubby’s lunch) and while there I grabbed some ground beef and chicken breasts on sale. So now for the dinner plans.

Here goes:
For Barry ~ stuffed peppers . . . I will use the ground beef and the peppers. He will have one tonight and a planned leftover for tomorrow.
For me ~ pan prepared chicken breast, making enough for a planned leftover for tomorrow

For both of us ~ a small side salad using the romaine heart, the endive, and the tomato.

Then as a warm side ~ roasted potatoes, onions, butternut squash and carrots. And I will likely steam the broccoli…but I will save it for tomorrow as it is fresher than the others. . . planned leftover.

So many good veggies, and each of us enjoying something good.

So folks, do yourself a favor. Go shopping in your own kitchen and pantry. Use the fresh goodness there and plan some leftovers too.

Eat fresh! And enjoy!

Mmmm……time to Nosh!