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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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!

photo 1

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! 😉

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!

Thoughts of a Foodie ~ When planning is your best friend… and why.

Today I woke up and thought…GUH! I don’t feel well. Pfft. I got my first cup of coffee and while it was in the microwave (yup, I nuke the empty cup 30 seconds, then nuke the cup of coffee the same…perfection) I pulled out the soup pot and put chicken stock and 2 bay leaves in it… and I left the beginnings of chicken soup to simmer while I woke up and had that all important first cup. 😀

When I went in for cup number two I chopped 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery (super small, as we like it!) and added that. I prepare my veggies when I come home from the market so they were cleaned and ready for chopping. Good planning, huh!? So now I have the beginnings of easy and delicious chicken soup. Perfect not only for a cold week, but for a funky day when it feels like I am fighting a cold.

I ran to the store for a few needed items. I certainly didn’t feel like fussing, so it was one of those rare times I snuck into the store in sweat clothes and big sunglasses… LOL. I got what I needed and am home again bundled up in a very warm homemade quilt, one my mother made when she was still alive. It offers warmth and comfort.
Momma's blanketMom’s Masterpiece

The soup stock is slowly simmering, and it will for hours. Later, I will cut up some chicken from yesterday’s Dutch oven chicken, another great plan. And of course, there will be small pasta, perhaps a ditalini. In the meantime, I made Moose Quinoa Fiesta Salad from the quinoa I made yesterday. By adding black beans, frozen corn, diced tomato, and chopped colorful sweet peppers, my quinoa becomes a most delicious treat. Feeling funky, though, I wanted warm. So, I warmed the quinoa salad 30 seconds, then added crumbled feta, and warmed again for 1 minute. YUMMO!!

So good planning has me in a good space, even with having an off day. There will be chicken soup for dinner (minimal effort), and there are three slices of last night’s pizza left. Barry will enjoy soup and pizza, while I have a cup of soup and maybe some more quinoa salad. I hope it is only an off day, but should I feel poorly in the coming few days, I will have chicken soup and there are also planned leftovers in the freezer. I made Barry beef lentil soup and there are two helpings frozen.

Here is the wonderful thing. As a person who works hard to eat well and eat fresh, it seems like I spend a lot of time thinking about food. I do. The better I think ahead, the better I plan, the better Barry and I eat ~ and the healthier! There were way too many times in the past when poor planning lead to poor eating. With a busy schedule and a stressful job, there was very little energy put into what I ate. Careless eating was bad for my waistline and my health.

Those days are gone. I enjoy planning ahead. I enjoy planning, shopping, and cooking good food. How about you!? Think about the things you eat. Plan ahead. You will find that it makes life easier, and more delicious!

I am going to go make a hot cup ot tea now. Please go do some planning. Consider it an investment in your future! As always, folks, enjoy! 😉

IMAG0154

A cooking kind of day… Comfort food…

I ran to the store and did a few errands this morning. Right on cue, the snow I heard about arrived. It started snowing around 12:30 and I went to work. Barry loves his apple bread. I make it A LOT and always put walnuts in as well.  You can find this recipe in my previous post of September 12, 2012 https://neatnosh.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/flavors-of-fall-lets-talk-apple/?preview=true&preview_id=136&preview_nonce=8ddc9fd8be .

APPLE BREADIn addition to that, I put together a casserole for Barry with some of the ham and potatoes left from our special dinner. Red potatoes sliced very thin, small ham chunks and cheese sauce from a simple bechamel layer into a delicious meal he loves.

I grease the pan and then slather a little cheese sauce (below) on the bottom… one layer of potatoes, a little salt, cheese sauce, ham… now do it again. You can make as much or a little as you like. This was just for Barry, not an army, so I used two very thinly sliced potatoes for each layer, and a handful of ham chunks. All up to you.

That went into a 350 oven about 40 minutes ago. It is a forgiving dish, so i will pull it out and when Barry calls that he is on the way home, I will sprinkle shredded cheddar on top and put it back in the oven to melt that. In the oven with that is a dish of Brussels sprouts with oil, salt, pepper, dill, and garlic powder.

DINNER!!!While all of that was cooking, I made my quick chicken salad with chicken breast I had frozen from my Dutch oven baking on February 7, 2013. https://neatnosh.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/more-chicken-goodness/ This time I added pecans instead of cucumber. I like to change it up!  So Barry will enjoy casserole and apple bread. I will have chicken salad and Brussels sprouts!

The buzzer just went off and I took out the casserole. I gave the sprouts center stage for ten minutes to finish roasting them. When Barry calls, it is a 20 minute drive so I will put shredded cheddar on top, and put the pan back in the oven to let it melt, and for Barry, to brown.

BrownedLook how delicious that looks! And it isn’t even done yet!!

If you haven’t made cheese sauce I promise it is easy. A simple bechamel sauce and then add the cheese to melt. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add butter and melt, then add flour (equal parts). I add some paprika and whisk together over heat until roux bubbles then cook a minute more. Next I whisk in milk and sprinkle with a little dry mustard and a pinch of nutmeg. Raise the heat a little to bring sauce to a quick boil. Simmer sauce to thicken about 5 minutes. When the bechamel is ready you can add cheese and melt it in. YUM!!

Once you master a good bechamel it is a handy beginning to many sauces. In a recipe with chicken, broccoli and pasta, I may add stock to the sauce too.

Ok, well, I just cleaned the sidewalk and the parking spot of snow for Barry. My Brussels sprouts are warm (and cheesy!) so I am going to eat them and wait for Barry to get home!

MINE

Be safe out there all! AND ENJOY!!

Planning leftovers…and sometimes just being creative…

Last night we had the leftovers from Valentine’s Day. Though I did have to make more pineapple gravy. In lieu of potatoes there was cauliflower mash, but with all of the broccoli,  green beans, and pineapple gravy on the ham, who needed it? So now I have ham left and I have a half bag of red potatoes I bought at the market. AH HA! A casserole I have not made for some time. I am going to make a potato and ham casserole with cheddar cheese sauce for Barry. For me there will be lighter fare.

So I have my list for the store and I will make this delightful dish later. It is hearty and warm and today will be perfect for it. Barry has a meeting after school, and he is tutoring a homebound student so he will be home late and very tired. Comfort food will be exactly what the doctor ordered. I have chicken breast from the freezer (remember from about a week and a half ago) and that is thawing for my dinner.

It really is all about planning and being frugal. It is also about not wasting the leftovers. The casserole I will make tonight will be big enough for four servings, or three hungry man servings! LOL So Barry will enjoy it tonight and the next two. If it was not potatoes, I would freeze half. Take my word for it, potatoes do not freeze well. They get a funky consistency when they thaw. OK, hardheads, if you don’t believe me, freeze a little of something with potatoes in it and see. Yuck.

I have to go to the store, but I will probably be back later and show you the casserole. I also have thoughts to share about some finger foods we ate over the weekend.

See you later! So much to enjoy!!