Putting Off ‘Til Tomorrow…

Keeping track of the grocery list as I run out of things is helpful. As soon as I use the last of the olive oil, it’s on my list. The Parchment paper, the Parmesan, the milk, the pickles (my kids can eat a jar every couple of days). Staples really.

But, today I’m putting off the list. I am daring myself to go as long as possible without going to the store. We are out of eggs, but I’ve got lots of frozen egg whites (I make frozen custard) that will do for many recipes. I bought a family size amount of ground beef that I portioned and froze in 8 oz, so we should be fine. Milk may be a problem, but we’ll see. I last went to the store on Monday, I’m trying to make it to next Wednesday or beyond.

How about you? Want to dare yourself to go as long as possible to make what you have before eating out or grocery shopping?

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Lasagna for Two

Lasagna is delicious, but it can be expensive and then there's lots of leftovers. It reheats great, but what if you don't really want to eat 12 servings of lasagna.

I wanted to make just enough for my husband and me. I bring him dinner on most Wednesday nights at work, and this is perfect to make and take. Also, I usually have all of these ingredients when I make pizza or spaghetti.


No boil noodles are great. My sauce is this easy arrabiata, so it has kick. I only had about 1 cup left. Perfect for two. I cooked a small amount of ground turkey with Italian sausage seasoning. I like provolone as well as mozzarella. And I make it all in a bread loaf pan.

Usually I would mix my meat and sauce in a bowl, but why make a new dish.

I mixed 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 t Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan.

I grated 2 ounces each of provolone and mozzarella and tossed it right on the cutting board with a little more Parmesan.

All it takes is three noodles, and I snap 1/3 of the length off each to fit in my pan. Waste not, the pieces equal a fourth noodle.

After spraying the loaf pan I add 1/4 of the sauce.

Then a noodle and cottage cheese mix then grated cheese then sauce.

Repeat for three layers. (Noodle, cottage, cheese, sauce, noodle, cottage, cheese, sauce, noodle)

Top with the last of the sauce and more grated cheese. Spray some foil so it will come off the cheese. Tightly wrap the pan.

Place it in a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes. Rotate it half way if you think if it.

After 30 minutes remove the foil. Bake or broil for 15 minutes or until the top cheese is melted and a little browned. Watch it! Don't burn it. And just like kids, every oven is different.

Remove it to cool and let it rest. Please please rest your lasagna. It is more likely to cut if you let it cool down. Leftover lasagna is the proof.

Cut in half and serve!

Just the Recipe…

Makes 2 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 c marinara or pasta sauce
  • 4 oz cooked ground meat (preferably with Italian seasoning)
  • 1 c cottage cheese, or ricotta, or sour cream. It really does work too.
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/2 t Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz grated cheese, mozzarella and provolone, or whatever you like
  • 3 no boil lasagna noodles, 1/3 snapped off and reserved
  • Non stick spray

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray.
  • Mix meat and sauce, set aside.
  • Mix cottage cheese, egg, 1/2 c Parmesan, and Italian seasoning, set aside.
  • Grate cheese and toss with remaining 1/4 c Parmesan. Set aside.
  • Spread 1/4 c sauce in pan. *Place one snapped noodle on top. Spread 1/3 cottage cheese mixture then 1/4 grated cheese then 1/4 c sauce. Repeat twice from *
  • Top with final noodle or the combined 3 snapped noodle, last 1/4 c sauce and 1/4 of the grated cheese. Wrap tightly with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with non stick spray. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking.
  • Remove foil carefully and broil on high for 5-10 minutes, or continue baking for 15, or until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown. Check often.
  • Remove and let rest on a cooking rack for 15 minutes. Cut and serve.

Caramelizing Onions (Slice, Cry, Stir, Stir, Stir)

Aldi had 3 lb bags of vidalia onions for 79 cents. I bought three and caramelized 2 1/2 of them. 

This is my work station…

I use a mandolin, but I’ve done it with a knife too. I’ve done it with a food processor, but I like my slices more controlled than it makes them. 

This is my bowl full of peels for the compost pile…


This is my face in agony…


It was awful. I lit candles. I chewed gum.  Like three pieces. That helped a little. 

I filled a pot…


I divided the pot…


All it takes is about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and tons of onions and some salt. I used kosher. And time. Like an hour… after you slice them all. 

Cook stirring frequently on medium high until they’re soft and starting to brown. (About 20 minutes)


Reduce heat to medium. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to each batch and stir almost continuously for 30-40 minutes (yep) until onions reduce to a jam like consistency (and your face has an onion facial.)


After this point I was able to put it in one pot to get dark. An enameled Dutch oven promotes browning better than nonstick and a light pan helps you judge color better than a dark pan. 

Jam like…



Made 3 cups. That’s a lot of work for such a tiny yield, but this keeps in a fridge a long time. 


I use my onions on hot dogs and sausages. 

I add a good amount to broth for instant French onion soup. I stir it into my mixture for quiche for the BEST quiche you’ve ever had. 

How about you?  What’s a labor intensive recipe you make that’s totally worth it?

Way Better than Progresso: Chicken Noodle Soup

I have a special place in my heart for canned soup.  But since I’ve been cooking from scratch more often, my preservative tolerance is lower.  Canned soups now taste so salty… because they are, unfortunately.  I’ve been perfecting my chicken noodle recipe over the years and I think I’ve got it just right now.

First… the chicken.  I use a boneless skinless thigh.  Just one to make 4 servings.  My husband and I each eat two bowls, so if you are only serving this soup, make more for more people.  Thighs render great tasty drippings for cooking your vegetables and boneless and skinless is so convenient.  Bonus, they’re typically cheaper than breasts.

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Next the vegetables.  Mirepoix, which is fancy and French for onion, celery, carrot.  (We read a lot of Fancy Nancy in our house.)  I’m using ¼ of a large yellow onion that I slice pole to pole, 1 large carrot (though sometimes I like more) sliced, and 2 stalks of celery chopped small.

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Broth – I use homemade almost always.  Actually, I wait to make soup until I have homemade broth usually.  Sometimes I want soup, but I don’t have broth so I plan to roast a whole chicken… for the broth and less for the meat.

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Noodles – Stumbled on using rotini instead of egg noodles.  We love egg noodles, but with rotini I can cook them al dente (by 3 minutes undercooking, and by the time I stir back in the chicken and seasonings and serve, it’s perfect and what’s left in the pot doesn’t overcook.  Plus the starch gives a great natural thicker mouth feel to the soup.  I’m using 6 oz (1/2 the bag) to only 4 cups of broth, so our chicken noodle soup is heavy on the noodles, like my husband likes.  It’s almost more a pasta in chicken sauce than a soup.

 

Flavoring – I want the balance of flavor the 5Ss bring in almost everything I make.  Sweet – ½ t sugar, Salty – I salt the chicken thigh before browning, I salt the vegetables as they cook down, and I salt again when I taste.  Sour – I add about 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice when the noodles cook.  Spice – Louisiana hot sauce, just a few dashes.  Savory – Granulated garlic in the last 10 seconds of cooking the vegetables before adding in my broth.

Herbs – Fresh parsley is so pretty mixed in and sprinkled on top for garnish.  I also use celery leaves too.  Waste-free kitchen.

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Happy Soup Season!

 

 

5Ss

I first learned the 5 Ss from an article explaining the necessary components of any marinade.  Sweet, Salty, Sour, Spicy and Savory mixed with a fat makes a marinade.  You can make endless marinades by mixing up things you like in each of the 5 Ss.  But these 5 are also the backbone to balancing anything you cook.  Soup or stir fry or marinara or dip or almost anything you cook will taste better if you have all 5Ss.

1. Sweet – sugars, honey, molasses, syrup.

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2. Salty – salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, etc.

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3. Sour (Acid) – citrus or vinegar or wine

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4. Spicy – pepper, chilies, red chili flake, hot sauce, cayenne, chili powder

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5. Savory – Almost any form of garlic (minced fresh, granulated or powdered) or sometimes ginger or onion can count.

Once I learned the 5 Ss, I saw them everywhere.

For instance, spaghetti sauce usually has of course tomatoes (which are fruit and are sweet as well as acidic, sour) and salt and garlic and some spice, usually red pepper flake. If my own tastes flat I add red wine vinegar (sour) and up to a teaspoon of sugar. Sugar is an underused seasoning by the American home cook. I really learned to use it in Thai cooking, thank you Nancie McDermott for writing Quick and Easy Thai. Thai food is often sweetened with palm sugar, but brown sugar substitutes well.  When you use fish sauce you almost always add sugar to balance.  When you eat Thai and everything tastes crazy good while be balanced, it’s because Thai food has mastered sour, spice, sweet, savory and salt.

Sugar is in all our prepackaged meals for a reason, it makes things taste better, though food companies use crazy amounts and now everyone is diabetic. Why not use a little in your homemade things for taste with more restraint than big food business demonstrates.

Almost any of your favorite recipes you’ll find a balance of the 5Ss.  Salsa: Tomato (sweet and acid), salt, lime juice (sour), chili peppers (spice), garlic and onion (savory).  A BLT: tomato (sweet and sour), bacon (salt and spice and savory all in one).  This will blow your mind when you start to look at ingredients on your condiments…

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Barbecue Sauce: Corn syrup and molasses (sweet), Vinegar and pineapple juice (sour), sodium benzoate and salt (salt), Jalapeno Pepper (spicy), garlic (savory)
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Hoisin Sauce: Sugar (sweet), Salt, Garlic (savory), chili peppers(spicy), Acetic acid (sour)

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Sweet Chili Sauce: Sugar (sweet), Red Chilli [sic] (spicy), Vinegar (sour), Garlic (savory), Salt
Remember, when you use these 5 ingredients with almost any fat it can be a marinade.  img_6347

Use them with extra virgin olive oil and make it a vinaigrette. When you have stock of the fab 5 in variety you never need to buy dressing or marinade again.  Even many of your condiments can be homemade.

When your vinaigrette needs an emulsifier, grab a teaspoon of mayonnaise or mustard.

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I don’t know if this will be as enlightening to you as it was to me, maybe most people know this or at least know it in their gut (nice pun!), but it has made me a better cook for sure.

 

Vegetable Summer Rolls and Peanut Sauce

img_6096No stove required!  This may be the perfect summer dish, but I make these all year long.

The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair taught me the proper way to soften the rice paper and Anna Langbein’s cooking show on PBS is where I learned this simple method of making peanut sauce.  I only need a cutting board, a knife, an electric tea kettle and a pie plate to make these restaurant-pretty all-vegetable fresh summer rolls. They don’t have to be all vegetable, add chicken or pork by all means.  In the Steamy Kitchen, Jaden Hair has a great recipe for lemongrass pork that is awesome in these, but we most often just do vegetables and don’t miss the meat.

1. Gather ingredients…

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I use a bell pepper, green leaf lettuce, a hot house cucumber, carrots, cilantro, crunchy peanut butter (or creamy and chopped dry roasted peanuts), and sweet chili sauce.

2. Chop your vegetables and start your tea kettle to boil.

3. Once your water is boiling, make your peanut sauce.  Mix almost equal parts crunchy peanut butter, sweet chili sauce, and boiling water.  About 1/4 or 1/3 cup each.  I add a little more peanut butter than chili sauce, but it’s by your taste.  Stir together then set aside.  The boiling water makes the mixture look awful, but it will smooth out while you stir and then while it sits.

4. Soften the spring roll wrappers.  Pour more hot water into your pie plate.  It should be hot or warm but not boiling.  You’re putting your fingers in it, DON’T BURN YOURSELF!  Working one roll at a time, place a round in the warm water and hold it down with your fingers, then turn it and submerge again, then pull it out.  It will still be stiff, but it becomes more pliable as you load it.

5. Load and roll.  Place a lettuce leaf (usually just the tops of the lettuce and let it come out the top, makes it pretty), carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers and cilantro and roll from the bottom up.  Place each roll on a plate as you make it.  Don’t let them touch or they will stick.

6. Serve with small dishes of your peanut sauce.


Click here for the recipe card.

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Let me know if you try these!

Right under your nose

New recipes saturate today’s home cook. Pinterest, food blogs and recipe websites have given me access to endless things to cook. But a 7 day week limits how many meals I can make. Choices must be made and I can either make an old favorite or take a chance and the extra prep time to make something new. 

I’ve also been burned (not literally) by making recipes found online that haven’t been tested like a published cookbook often has. 

I was in the mood to cook things I hadn’t before and I wanted to go to trusted sources. 

I am on a cookbook adventure through my books I cook from all the time, but I’m specifically seeking the recipes I’ve overlooked. 

This is a blast. Like serial reading all of the books by a favorite author. 

I can’t wait to make these wonderful sounding recipes that have been right under my nose. 

When I’ve got meals in mind I stick them like amendments on my meal plan note with the page number in parentheses. 


How about you?  Do you find yourself making just a few recipes from your cookbook collection?