Monday, September 29, 2008

Roasted Tomato Soup

My own adaptation of this recipe.

Roasted Tomato Soup

5 medium tomatoes (any variety, use 6-7 if they're smaller Romas)
1 large carrot
olive oil (to drizzle or spray)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock (or 2 tsp/cubes bullion + 2 cups water)
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Quarter tomatoes. Arrange cut side up on baking tray. Peel carrot, cut into large pieces and add to tray. Spray with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 45 min at 375*F.

2. Dump veggies into blender or food processor. Add garlic, basil, vinegar, and 1 cup stock. Blend well. Taste, add more stock to thin to desired consistency. Serve either hot or chilled, ideally with a cheddar grilled cheese sandwich.

This soup will freeze well, and is a great way to preserve some of those wonderful summer tomatoes. I wanted to add a sprinkle of chipotle powder... but I seem to have misplaced it. It was yummy the way it was.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Homemade Pastry and Apple Pie

A long time ago, I took Home Ec and learned to make pie crust. Then my mom took over the farmer's market pie-and-coffee stall for a summer and we had to make pie weekly. This is the crust that got us through. It's just plain delicious. I know most of you fancy-pants cooks have a food processor do all the work, but I don't own one (and neither did my mom or grandma, who make a damn fine pie). So these are purely manual directions that may be adapted if you're more technologically advanced than I am.

Basic Pastry
1 cup shortening (Crisco, lard, butter, or marg)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 egg (beat and discard 1/2)
1/2 tbsp vinegar
1. Beat egg w/ fork in measuring cup. Leave 1/2 egg in cup. Add vinegar to egg and then add enough liquid to make 100 ml (scant 1/2 cup) liquid.
2. Measure dry ingredients into bowl. Stir. Cut in shortening using a pastry blender or 2 knives until the size of peas. Add liquids. Stir lightly with a fork, then mix into a ball with your hands.
3. Divide pastry in half. Roll between waxed paper. Ease one portion into pie pan. Remaining portion is for top crust.

Apple Pie
5-6 apples, peeled cored and sliced
2/3 c sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter/margarine
1. Preheat oven to 425*F.
2. Combine apples, flour, cinnamon, and sugar. Put into crust. Dot with butter.
3. Add top crust. Be sure to cut a few vents (holes), and seal the crusts together.
4. Bake 15 min. Reduce oven heat to 350*F and bake until crust is lightly browned - about 35 more minutes.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mmmm, chicken.

Well, we have indeed been a hungry bunch. So far, the recipes have been hits. Chicken fried rice did pretty good, although I'd make a few changes next time. I undercooked the rice a little, and it didn't really cook through on the reheating. So I'd advise cooking it to done. It also needed more carrots. So 3/5 as made, but it can easily be better.

Chicken Souvlaki was great - I will make it again, just the same. Big pieces are the key, as they get very well marinaded. To leave a bit of chicken taste, the pieces should be about twice as big as they would be if you were eating them the day they were made.  5/5

Chicken in Enchilada Sauce - also great. The sauce definitely thins upon thawing, but it's still very tasty. Served with Black Bean and Corn Salad and tortillas. A nice, easy meal for after we got back from our weekend road trip. 5/5

I really feel like I'm getting better at choosing recipes that freeze well. I have my doubts about the Pineapple Chicken Curry, but time will tell.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Chewy Granola Bars

I was looking to make something new and a little healthy last night, and I came upon this recipe.

Then I read all the reviews and modified it kind of a lot. So I present to you:

Uncanny's Chewy Granola Bars
3 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 cup rice crispies
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter/margarine
1 mashed banana
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips (mini if you've got 'em)
1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
1/2 cup slivered almonds (or other nuts)

1. Preheat oven to 325*. Grease a 9" x 13" pan.
2. In large bowl, mix everything except the chocolate raisins and nuts. Add those after the oatmeal mixture is well mixed. Mix it up so everything is well distributed.
3. Press into pan. Bake for 18-22 min, until golden brown. Cool 10 min, slice. Cool completely before removing from pan.

There is lots of room to change this recipe to your liking - add more fruit and less chocolate, more chocolate and less nuts. Use whatever strikes your fancy. Add some puffed wheat. Take out the rice crispies. As long as the general proportions are right, it'll be fine.

And my oh my, is it fine. About a hundred times better than anything that comes in a wrapper.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fried Rice

The recipe I used was from the Looneyspoons cookbook. I can't find it online anywhere, but I'm off today so you're lucky enough to get it typed:

The Rice is Right (Fried Rice)

Original recipe:

1/2 cup eggs (2)

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp canola oil

1 c chopped onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 c each chopped carrots and celery

1/2 c chopped green onions

1 tsp grated ginger root

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp honey

4 cups cooked brown rice

1. Whisk eggs and sesame oil. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet or wok. Pour in eggs, cook until set (about 3 min). Remove from pan and cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Spray skillet with a little more oil/nonstick spray. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, green onions, and ginger. Stir fry over medium heat for about 5 min, until veggies are softened. Add soy sauce, honey, egg, rice. Mix well, cook 2-3 min until heated through.

Modifications I made last time:

Subbed chicken for egg (about 2 breasts, we like it chickeny)

Used half white/half brown rice

Used only carrots and snow peas, as DH doesn't like onions, celery, or green onions. I do add a lot of onion powder to replace the flavour.

It's a yummy, really easy recipe.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

How to shop... big.

I've read every Once A Month or freezer cookbook my library has to offer. One wonderful thing I picked up from one of them was how to strategize a shopping list. You're probably thinking "I've been shopping for years. How hard can it be?" Harder than you think. It's condensing a few weeks of random meals into one trip. It's also kind of hard to keep track of what you need to buy vs. what's already in the house.

So I present to you the Once A Month Cooking Shopping List . It makes it easy to record what each recipe requires, sum it all up, subtract what you've got, and then move it over to a printable, easy to follow in the store list. Considering the fact that half the published cookbooks seem to screw up the shopping list, using a method like this is a godsend. If you're the type of person that just menu plans every week, or if you're just learning to cook and slowly getting a full pantry going, this would also be useful. It makes it much easier to buy exactly what you need - no more, no less.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Aching Feet, Full Freezer.

Mission accomplished! Today's mega-menu included:
1. Simple Lasagna
2. Sloppy Joes
3. Grilled Fish
4. Sweet n Hot Pasta Sauce
5. Ham and Swiss Quiche
6. Chicken Fried Rice
7. Chicken Enchilada filling
8. Chicken Curry with pineapple
9. Chicken Souvlaki

I used the usual plan of attack. I put the meat into the fridge last night to thaw. It didn't quite make it to "thawed", but the chicken just went into the oven anyway. The hamburger spent a couple minutes in the microwave and turned out fine. As soon as the chicken was roasting, I put on the rice. I like to cook my rice like pasta - lots of water, drain when the time's up. It works better for me that way, and it's impossible to burn.

I did the beef dishes first. Lasagna was a little fiddly for a Big Cook day. It will be good, but I'm not sure I'll try to do it in with everything else again. I lined the pan with foil before filling it, so the plan is to reclaim my pan after the lasagna is a nicely frozen brick. Sloppy Joes went much quicker and again smelled so good I can't wait to eat them.

Chicken came second. I avoided vinegar-based sauces this time. The fried rice looks fabulous, and the enchilada sauce is always great. I will admit: I don't even really know what an enchilada is supposed to be. I live a loooong way from Mexico. I do know that this sauce + chicken = delicious.

Last but not least, I did the other stuff. Mixing a marinade for the fish, whipping up some pasta sauce, and assembling two quiche. Quiche is currently on my shit-list, as it's impossible to get frozen without making a mess. I think I give up, and I doubt I'll make them again. Which kills me, as they are so, so tastey. I guess I'll have to suck it up and just make one the day I want it.

Once again, it took about 3 hours of actual cooking and another 20 minutes or so to do the dishes and clean up. I expect this will last us about 6 weeks, although it could be a little less as we're both more busy now that fall has come.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

One Bite At A Time

Okay, I know you're all dissappointed because I was going to do a round of cooking this weekend, and I didn't. I got distracted. See... after Easter, there was a sale and frozen turkeys were 88 cents a pound. That is some cheap poultry, so despite the fact that I've never cooked a turkey, and despite the fact that we are a two-person household... I bought a turkey. I rooted around and bought the smallest one I could find, which was about 9 pounds. Then it slowly migrated to the bottom of the freezer, where I've ignored it since April.

Well, while looking for recipes for this round of cooking in this book, I realized it was time to get the turkey out of the freezer... and probably, back into the freezer. I managed to remember to throw it in the fridge to thaw on Thursday, and yesterday, I cooked my very first turkey all by myself. I wish  I had taken a picture. I didn't. We were in a hurry to eat and get to church, so I'll just pretend this is my turkey:
I mean, it looked like a turkey. Only I threw some potatoes in for the last 45 minutes to roast along with it. And then I made some stovetop stuffing, and we had a lovely turkey dinner for no reason at all.
So now we're in the blessed "leftover turkey" phase. This afternoon, I made a batch of turkey-noodle soup from scratch, including boiling the carcass and bones and skin and everything else that was too much work or too icky to eat on it's own. I considered trying to make some more interesting turkey dishes to freeze... and then realized that my husband is actually really enjoying having some ready to eat meat in the fridge. So I think I'll just leave it as is, and throw some of the meat into the freezer tomorrow if it looks like we won't eat it all. 
Oh hey - and the book I linked to up above (Frozen Assets: Light and Easy) looks like a very cool book. It's organized into "mini-sessions" that only deal with one protein source. So there's a chicken breast section and a ground beef section and so on, designed to be done in 2-3 hours. It's organized well, but I'm not sure I'll do it as I'm finding when I make stuff we usually eat, we like it, and when I make a  bunch of new recipes, it's very hit and miss.
Don't worry, fair reader, my freezer is bare. Soon it will be time for a real cooking session, and then we will be ready to eat well for another month.

The last couple ratings...

Sweet and Sour Ginger Chicken: It was pretty good, very gingery - 4/5. I'm glad ginger seems to freeze well. Again, the vinegar in the sauce became much more pronounced. I'm thinking I need to leave the chicken in bigger pieces if I try the "dump chicken" method again. I had it in 1 inch cubes. I think I would cut each breat into at most 4 pieces next time.

Ginger Beef: 4/5 as prepared... could be a 5/5 dish if the brocolli wasn't totally cooked to mush. Next time I would just barely blanch the veggies. Cooking the beef ahead worked well, and premaking the sauce sped up the whole meal a lot. And I just love that sauce.