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!!

Flavors of Spring ~ Cooking in the Catskills

So here in the Catskills, spring doesn’t always mean warm. Today is a glorious day, though. The sun is out. The birds are singing. The windows are open! Although the day will be comfortable and the heat is off now, the evening temp will still dip and become chilly. So soup again tonight for Barry. And today I have prepared a brisket for dinner tomorrow. Plan! Plan! Plan!

I looked at dozens of recipes for brisket. Of course I did! And though the southern Texas brisket with it’s BBQ sauce and chipotle seemed tempting, I opted for a sweet and savory type recipe. You know I didn’t use a recipe I found, but made my own from the tastes that Barry loves.

So. The beef is marinating in the fridge. 24 hours will make it ready to sieze up and then break down as I sloooooooooow cook it tomorrow. I kept it simple. First I took the meat and gave it a good rub with salt and garlic. For me I would have used pepper too, but hubby just isn’t a fan.

brisket rubbed

Now for the liquid. The flavors Barry enjoys include red wine (in cooking, he won’t drink it….go figure!), tomatoes, and for a touch of sweet, cherries. In a small saucepan I stared with about 1/2 cup of water and 2 tbsp of tomato paste. I dissolved the paste thoroughly and added 2 cups of a red wine. Then, in a sweet twist, I added about a half of a jar of cherry preserves. I know. Who would have thought it. No salt. No pepper. I did add some garlic powder. Bring to a quick boil and turn off, stirring constantly.

Now before pouring this over a cold piece of meat that you want to put in the fridge for 24 hours, make sure to cool it down. I put a few ice cubes in to speed the process. The cooled liquid, which of course I tasted, was then poured over the meat. Aluminum foil over the top, I placed it on the bottom shelf of the fridge. See you tomorrow morning!

brisket swimming in flavor

We will talk about putting it in the oven tomorrow. I prepared the carrots and celery. There will be onions in there too.

The promise of summer, with its salads and fresh yummy produce is right around the corner. But here in the Catskills, the lovely sunny cool days are a teaser. These nights still call for food that warms.

Going out to enjoy the sun and get my vitamin D. Enjoy!

Finding Balance ~ Portions and how we learn them…

My Moose was home for a visit last week. We made many scrumptious items…her Moose Quinoa Fiesta Salad, quesadillas, white pizza, and others. We also enjoyed a trip to the Bluestone Grill. Mmmm…

Me and MooMomma & Moose

When she and I were shopping one day, we were doing the comparison thing. Barry asked me to pick up Oreos. I had bought a package for the Valentine’s dinner dessert and he enjoyed munching on the rest of the package, so he asked me to pick up more. Moose grabbed for a generic called something like “twists and dips” or some silliness like that. Anyway, I said, NOPE. Some things you do not buy generics. And I told her a story…

When I was a little girl, my mother bought generic everything. Money was tight and there were many mouths to feed. Four kids on a tight budget was a chore at times, I am sure. When it came to creme sandwich cookies, we never got the Oreos. I told Moose about Hydrox cookies… Now no slight to the brand, but they are a poor man’s Oreo, for my taste. And mom counted out four cookies each. I mean every time… four cookies. At some point, I suppose mom counted the number that came in the package and did the math on how long they had to last and divided it by four kids… and got four. Moose thought this was funny enough…

In 1981, I graduated college, got my first teaching job, and moved into my first apartment. I remember one of the silly things I did was go to the store and bought Oreos… not a generic creme sandwich cookie…. Oreos. Then I went home and ate FIVE. Not FOUR, I ate FIVE. Another night I ate SEVEN. It felt rebellious! I had Moose laughing. Then I asked her about cookies when she was little…

There was a package of cookies and they ate one. Or none. Then if they wanted a second, they could have it. She had no recollection of me counting cookies. And most times she would choose an apple instead. I told her that the sad lesson learned was not just that I should limit myself to four cookies, but that I ate all of them, whether I wanted them or not. The portions were strict and there was no extra if you got hungry later.

Now, there are two lessons here…
One: Some things are not worth eating if they are not the ones you really like. So there are some things I will not buy generic. Balancing that, they are things I buy as a treat, not often.
Two: There are lessons learned in how we ate as children. Note that in my story I ate 5 or 7 once I controlled my own intake. I never said I ate only 2. And I never did.

I grew up in a household where tight control was put on food. It was a concern when you had your plate and that was it. If you were hungrier, there was no extra. If you weren’t hungry for it, you cleaned your plate anyway. There were no choices. How did I handle this as a mom? I did the opposite. There were always choices on the table. And we always ate family style. The plates were out and the girls were taught to take what they wanted but eat what they took. They always started small, knowing they could always go back for more. One rule was that they had to have a balanced plate. So a little protein, a little starch, and something from the veggie/fruit category. Did I say fruit? Yes. I often put out fruit as a choice. for the meal. And there were always two veggies because I spent way too much time at the dinner table as a child, waiting out my parents and stubbornly going to bed rather than eat peas.

What do you think is the result? I was a terrible eater. I became a carb addict, and until recently I was a BIG girl… 😦   No more, I am on a good journey now… LOL 😀

My girls? They are slender and lovely… and smart eaters. They actually stop eating if they aren’t hungry (imagine that!) ~ a practice I had to train myself to do.

Pretty girls
Photo courtesy Moose: (L to R) Moose, Kenz, Tammy, and Jamie (cousin extraordinaire!) at Lyon Hall, Clarendon, VA

Consider your memories about food and how they affect your eating habits now. With thoughtfulness, and good planning, your habits can be tweaked and your eating become healthier!  I subscribe to a mantra learned from my doctor’s team… “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels!” So I plan my meals carefully, I make sure they are DELICIOUS, and then I ENJOY!! ❤

 

On being a flavor seeker…

Moose is on a train from Chicago to NY. She managed to get out ahead of the current snowstorm, Saturn, and is mere hours from her destination. She is visiting a friend first and then will come home tomorrow.

moose photo from Moose

Tammy is likely snowed in, though I have not heard from her today. I have to wonder if she is in the dark… power outages were expected in the DC metro area.

Saturn photo courtesy of The Weather Channel

Barry’s school robo-call came about an hour ago. After school activities are canceled today. Always interesting to me that they call staff members during the day when they are in school. {giggle} I have kept busy with some preparation for Moose to come home. And I am doing my thing, scouring the net for recipes. This time I am looking for lentils. I have a yen for them, and I think they would be great for Moose to try.

Remember there is cucumber salad setting in the fridge, and it is delicious. I will pick up cauliflower to make pizza crust early next week. Moose and Kenz made them last week and enjoyed them. Tomorrow will be pizza and salad. I have chicken in the cast iron goddess in the oven. Chicken salad, I think. And I made fruit cake cookies from the drunk fruit I assembled yesterday. They are rolled in parchment paper and tomorrow I will cut and bake them.

Barry and I had a great conversation last night about the change in my diet, and in his. I have to tell you that he made me laugh out loud. As much as he enjoys the food I prepare, now and then he gets a “hankering” for some processed something or another. Last night we were talking about vitamins and I reminded him that his D was low, not only because of the weather {no sun!!} but also because he doesn’t consume milk anymore. He used to eat raisin bran every morning for breakfast. No more. He got a very serious look on his face and said, “Well, I can’t help it! All this gourmet food you feed me, I can’t eat cereal anymore!” LOL 🙂 I “apologized” through my laughter.

When I think of the transition in our diet, I sometimes wonder if there are foods I would like to eat again…ones that are processed, or carb-laden. Truthfully, I do not. In fact, my two favorite snacks used to be M&Ms and ice cream. Now they are almonds and edamame. I seldom eat anything sweet anymore. I much prefer savory.

As I improve my cooking and baking, we have certainly developed new favorites. There are recurring foods, but I continue to strive to make each dish taste better each time I make it. And I work to find new tastes and flavors all of the time. As I look at lentil recipes, for example, I see flavor pairings that seem to be recurring themes. So these will be part of my lentil sidedish. Actually, I bought some salmon and it seems salmon on a bed of lentils will be an excellent flavor combination. There will be onion, garlic, and though I see a lot of thyme, I like dill with garlic. And then dill and lemon on the salmon will be delightful. Of course, I did see quite a few recipes with some bacon! 😉

I will make risotto for Moose, using veggie broth for her, of course. And I have saffron. As far as the other flavors, I will leave it to her what veggies we might throw in there. I would love asparagus, but I don’t think that is one of her favorites, so perhaps peas… and I see a lot of recipes with leeks in risotto… hmm…

So clearly, the main theme in my planning is flavor. Every meal I make now, I try to make sure that it is tasty. If you are going to eat something, it should taste good! Right? Even with the leftovers, I change them and add flavor so that the new meal I create with them is better than the last. Sauces, dips, herbs, and spices have all become more important and I attend to them with greater enthusiasm. Do you?

Remember that looking for great flavor takes planning, but planning out your meals ultimately fills you with fresh food, good food, and flavorful food. Just my thoughts…

So hey, my chicken smells like it needs to come out of the oven. Be a flavor seeker… and always, enjoy!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Thoughts of a Foodie ~ It’s the end of the week…

It is the end of the week, and it is payday. You saw my slow steady “ick” of not feeling myself, and yesterday I didn’t have the gumption to post. Sorry about that!

So the end of the week is time to review the fridge. I had some buttery marinara and it is now in the freezer. There are 2 quart sized storage bags…inside a gallon freezer bag. Each of these is the right size for a pizza… or to add to a pasta dish. They are in storage bags so I could lay them flat to freeze and they take very little space in the freezer.

Also in the freezer now is soup. There are two healthy sized containers of chicken noodle soup. One is plenty for a meal for Barry, the other is smaller, so a perfect soup and sammie night size.

Do yourself a favor, never waste. Make it a ritual to check the fridge once a week. Pick a day that works for you. For me it is Friday. We generally choose that day as a “go out to eat” day, especially when it is payday. Then my thinking and planning kicks in over the weekend and I start the cycle.

Planning has so many benefits, but the best is that you won’t waste food. Planned leftovers fit food preparation into your busy life. Planned items also support you when, as I was this week, you are not at your best. It is good to know your plans will keep food at the ready with minimal effort, and will keep the others in your home well fed.

When I put the good food in the freezer, I assess my previous stash. I have beef lentil soup which I will pull out on Sunday so Barry can enjoy some next week!

So get up and go look in your fridge. Plan to save and use some of your leftovers for another day. You will always be glad you did.

MooseMoose is coming to visit next week. It is spring break and she is visiting us. I will be thinking and planning for her visit this week. Remembering she is vegetarian and remembering her favorite foods, I will plan meals that she enjoys. I also have good food in the freezer if that vegetarian meal is not Barry’s favorite.

Hope you have plans for some fun this weekend. And as always, folks… enjoy!

A look at today’s accomplishments…

goodies for B and the kidsChocolate chip cookie bars are cooling…

Dutch oven chickenDutch oven chicken cooling…

pizza dough prebakingPizza pre-baking…

I like to pre-bake the pizza dough. Barry likes his pizza well done. This way the dough has a chance to bake some and when I put the toppings on and put it back in, the dough finishes and the toppings cook beautifully, but don’t burn. Also, I now have the dough ready so when Barry comes in I can add the toppings and dinner is ready in a jiffy! On long, cold days, this is a brilliant plan.

Barry likes sauce, cheese, and PEPPERONI, but there are so many great toppings and combinations. And if you want the lighter fair, try that cauliflower pizza crust… so good.

Ok, I am back to the kitchen. Time to get ready to ENJOY! 😀