Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mac n Cheese n Peas

This recipe was filed under "must-try way to make food I love." I finally tried it and OH MY it was yummy and oh so easy.

First, I put 2 cups of dry rotini in the rice cooker with 2 cups of chicken broth.
While it cooked, I shredded 2 cups of cheese, a mix of cheddar and monterey jack.  Food processors make life better.
The macaroni is done when there is no more liquid in the rice cooker.  Mine just popped up from "Cook" to "Keep Warm."
At that point, I added some milk and the frozen peas and put the top back on to melt the peas.
The last step was to mix in the cheese.  The heat and steam of the "keep warm" function melted it perfectly!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Frolicks in Frozen Dough

We used to buy frozen dough for pizzas, calzones, garlic knots, and other things.  It was around $1.50 for each baggie, and we would make 2 personal pizzas out of it.  It was pretty inexpensive, and the ingredient list was short.  

That didn't stop me from wanting to make it from scratch.  I mean, I have a zillion kitchen gadgets, how hard could it be?!

Answer?  Not hard at all.  

I gathered the ingredients:  3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup water, a squeeze of honey,  a splash of olive oil, 2 t yeast, and some grinds of salt. 
The breadmaker was the appliance of choice.  It kneads, lets it rise, punches it down, and lets it rise again.  So I threw it all in the pan.  
It kneaded, rose, was punched, and rose again.
When it was all finished, I put it into a baggie.  Mission complete.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Meal Plan Monday!

This week is the busiest, most stressful, and most FUN week of the year for me at work.  In case you didn't know, I am a dance teacher.  I also help run the studio of a few hundred students.  This week is our dress rehearsal and recital week, and I will be on my feet at the theatre and running errands all day every day from Monday-Sunday.  WHEW!  To make it through, I pack TONS of snacks.  There usually is not time for proper meals, but when the snacks are packed well, I rarely get hungry. 

Some of the things to cook/ prep for the week:
Wilted Kale Leaves Salad (using this recipe, but not baked)
Kale Chips
Apple Chips
Sliced Pineapple
Nut n Fruit Mix
Baba Ghanoush
Something with Beets.....

Now, to make sure I have time for all of this, I have to break it down.  I will be checking off items as I complete them.  You are basically getting to see my list!

So.. what do i have to do?
Slice Pineapple
Clean Grapes
Clean Lettuce
Snip Lettuce
Mix Salad
Clean Kale
Snip Kale
Soak Kale
Bake Kale
Clean Apples
Slice Apples
Flavor Apples
Bake Apples
Soak Chick Peas
Bake Eggplant
Peel Eggplant
Slice Plantains
Saute Plantains
Mix Granola
Bake Granola

Easy Stuff:
Mix Fruit and Nut Mix
Slice Plantains
Saute Plantains
Slice pineapple
Clean Grapes
Mix Granola
Mix Salad
Stuff that Takes Wait Time:
Soaking Kale
Soaking Chick Peas
Eggplant Cooling

Baking Stuff:
Bake Apples
Bake Kale
Bake Granola

I try to multitask as much as possible to save time.  John will be assisting by making the Hummus and Baba Ghanoush (and HOPEFULLY some yogurt, too!).  Stay tuned!!

This is also posted here!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

'Tater Chips

I have a confession to make.  I had never made real potato chips.  I usually made too-thick baked potato slices.  Blech.  I slice them too thick, oil them too much, and cook them at too low of a temperature.  So I stopped making them. 

The other day, I felt like making John some yummy snacks, and I know how much he loves good potato chips.  We had potatoes, so I figured, why not?

First, I sliced the potatoes in half so I had a manageable pieces of food to handle with the mandolin. 
Then, I sliced them.  Really thin.  In the past, I have had a problem with the mandolin.  I end up hurting my hand because it is not slicing easily.  This time, I checked the thickness thing and realized I had it backwards.  In other words, I was making it thicker when I wanted it to be thinner.  DUHHHH!  So this time, it was EASY.  The slices were really thin.  
The next decision to be made?  What to fry them in.  I settled on duck fat.  We had purchased it a few weeks ago and hadn't used it yet. 
When the fat was all liquidey and hot, I placed the potato slices in a few at a time, making sure not to overcrowd them.
When the edges started to buckle, I flipped them carefully.  I say carefully because I burned my finger on the first one.  Ouch. 
Eventually, they all browned up and were ready.  I salted them as they were removed from the pan. 
John ate them in five minutes flat.  I think that would make it a success, don't you?

This recipe was also posted on Two For Tuesday at A Moderate Life


Friday, June 4, 2010

Beef Stock Success!

I'm not sure if I shared by past beef broth failures.  I wasn't aware that beef broth was not made the same way that chicken broth was.  Oops.  

Our apartment smelled like decomposing animals for about a week after that.  


This time, however, I was armed with the frozen scraps of my dad's rib roast, a thick marrow bone, and Kelly the Kitchen Kop.  Well, not in person, but still, she helped... by writing a post....

Anyway.  I started by defrosting my dad's frozen bones.  

RIB bones.... 

from a cow...  You know what I mean. 

I roasted the marrow bone at 400 until it started to smell really good.  After discarding the grease and choppping off the extra fatty parts, I added it to the crock pot with a sliced up carrot, some celery, an onion, and some potato bits (from a future post).  Then, it was seasoned with roasted garlic, sea salt, oregano, and too much parsley.

I somehow always forget that the parsley jar doesn't have a shaker top.  I shake it as if it's going to come out slowly and lose about 1/4 of the jar before I realize that is it POURING out.  Good thing I like parsley.

The ingredients were then covered in water and cooked overnight.  In the morning I strained it and froze it into 2 cup baggies.  The house smells good, like beef stew!!! Whoo hoo!!!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Budget Time

Food shopping together has been something that John and I have enjoyed since we first moved in together (3 years ago this month!).  When we returned from our honeymoon, we knew that diving headfirst into eating Real Food would cause a shift in our food shopping.  We planned our first food shopping trip before we even left Hawaii!  There were quite a few changes that we needed to consider.  For one thing, Real Food IS pricier.  For another, our old supermarket is open 24-7, the one we now frequent is only open until 10.  That may seem late enough, but considering I don't even get home from work until 7:30 on a good day, 10 is not that late.  

Before Real Food (BRF), we were spending about $35/week at the supermarket and about $20 every other weekend at the Farmers' Market.  In total, we were spending about $120/month.  The first shopping trip After Real Food (ARF), we spent $120.  In ONE SHOPPING TRIP!  Yikes!  The next week we spent about $100 again.  Although we could technically afford it, quadrupling our food budget was not in line with our savings goals.  To boot, these expenditures DIDN'T INCLUDE our trips to the Farmers' Market.  We needed to re-think things.  

We decided to get certain staples at the regular store or online every few weeks.  Things like nuts and dried fruit we order from A Nuts.  The might not have the best selection, but they have really good prices and service.  Paper and personal products we buy from Alice. We still frequent the Farmers' Market every 2 weekends, at least we try to.  That's where we tend to get the majority of our ingredient veggies, like garlic, onions, and leafy greens.  They sometimes have great deals on fruit as well.  Frozen produce, canned goods, grains like macaroni and rice, and dry legumes are purchased at our conventional supermarket when we need them.  We tend to buy a whole lot on sale occasionally.  We have been going there MAYBE once/month.  

That leaves the fresh produce, dairy, eggs, and meat products.  That we get at our new supermarket, Fairway.  We load up on decently priced produce, usually a mix of conventional and organic.  Then we swing to the cheese section and grab a few delicious cheeses.  We've found that a good cheese can take an average meal and make it sparkle.  Then we mosey on over to the meat and seafood.  We'll grab one type of seafood, usually what is on sale, and one cut of meat.  We only buy enough for the week, and we don't freeze it.  It is only the two of us, so when we bought clams, we bought a dozen.  We get 2 fillets of fish, not 5 pounds.  Our meat and fish are supplemented by veggies, grains, and sauces.  Lastly, we pick up eggs, milk, and butter.  

Since we make many of our foods at home, we don't require very much from the supermarket.  As we starting paring down the amount we would buy, and exercising enough self-control to only buy 1 week's worth of fresh food, we have gotten our weekly food spending down to....

About $50/week.  

Yes. Including Fairway, the Farmers' Market, online shopping, and the conventional supermarket, we are spending a mere $50/week.  While it is more than what we were spending, it is worth it.  The food is much more delicious, we are feeling better, and it is better for us.  

What we do might not work for everyone, but is sure works for us!!

This post was added to
Pennywise Platter @ Nourishing Gourmet!
Fight Back Fridays @ Food Renegade!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Starting a Plan...

John and I will hopefully be moving this month.  Our apartment is a wreck right now, with boxes everywhere.  I am not motivated to cook a single thing.  Today I started to pack John's lunch, and realized we did not have a single thing he could eat.  I felt like such a failure as a wife!  By the way, it is still SO WEIRD to say "wife" and be referring to myself.  

In light of the chaos, I am trying to pat myself on the back for what I AM able to do.  I also wanted to keep track of the things I make from scratch so in the new house I can develop a schedule.  I don't ever want to wind up like we did today. 

A List of Home Made Things.
  • Bread
  • Yogurt
  • Granola
  • Granola Bars
  • Hummus
  • Baba Ghanoush
  • Waffles
  • Chicken Stock
  • Crackers
  • Vegetable Stock
  • Fish Stock
  • Beef Stock
  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond Butter
  • Potato Chips
  • Apple Chips
  • Baking Mix (Bisquick Type)


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Raw Milk

We spent Memorial Day Weekend in the Poconos.  It was a great break from reality (as if 12 days in Hawai'i a month ago wasn't enough of a break).  The culinary high point?  Our first taste of rawwwww milk.  

Here in New Jersey where we live, raw milk is illegal.  We have been reading quite a bit about the benefits and were intrigued, but it is not something we can just go to the store and buy.  In Pennsylvania, however, it is legal.  It is available both at farms and in stores.  The store closest to our hotel was sold out, so we pranced to the farm down the hill.  I pranced, at least.  John didn't.  He doesn't prance much.  

Anyway, we grabbed a 1/2 gallon and brought it to the hotel room.  We also grabbed some chocolate chip brownie cookies that were to-die-for.

Looks good, doesn't it!!  It tasted WAY better than regular store milk, the typical kind, but we found the taste to be comparable to that of grass-fed pasteurized whole milk.  It was definitely worth it, though, to experience it!

Want to read more about Real Food?  Check out "Real Food Wednesday!" over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!


Monday, May 31, 2010

My Food Philosophy is Growing.....

Our style of eating as shifted lately, and I have been putting off writing a post about it for a while.  Not because I didn't want to share.  I did, and I do.  I just wasn't sure how to approach it, or explain it.  So here I am, taking a deep breath, and jumping in.

John and I have cooked the majority of our food at home for a while, at least most of the time.  We liked to cook and we did it often, but we also used convenience items to make life easier.  Things like baking mixes and canned paraphernalia gave the IMPRESSION of home-cooked, but without all the time and cost.  While this was helpful, I had a nagging feeling like I was cheating.  I started to make more foods from scratch, and I loved it.  The more I cooked, the more I wanted to cook.  I started reading cooking blogs and cookbooks and felt more and more inspired by each recipe.  I read, and I cooked, I read, and I cooked.  Many of the reading materials I was stumbling across were full of  "healthy" recipes, but they didn't sit right with me.

I reached a brick wall.  ::Warning-What I'm about to share might be too much info, so feel free to click away now!::  I had been dealing with digestive issues for as long as I can remember.  I recall sharing a theory with a friend as a young teen, and I think my theory sums up a part of it, even it if isn't scientifically sound.  I told her that when I ate, the food rushed into my intestine.  It waited there until the next meal or snack came.  When the next food came, it pushed the first meal out.  Forcefully.  Ouch.  In addition, I was lactose intolerant.  So, in a nutshell, I would eat, I would bloat, I would... let the food out.  You get it.  And I would be hungry.  All the time.  So I stopped eating lots of dairy.  I found that preservatives and artificial things in food were making it worse.  So I started cutting that out.  I never liked using them all that much anyway, but I became more aware of them.  That helped, but something was still wrong.  I started gaining weight, and I had never struggled with that before.  It didn't make sense.  The "healthy" recipes and ingredients were not making my digestion better, and I was gaining weight. 

So I gave up.  

I stopped looking for "healthy" recipes and started just started to follow my instincts.  I cooked what I wanted, when I wanted.  The food I wanted to make or cook was never really "bad," but they weren't "healthy."  They included meat of all kinds.  They included carbs.  They included dessert.  When I wanted ricotta cheese, I didn't get skim.  I gravitated towards blogs with the "whole food, whole person" view that my instincts had originally been guiding me towards.  This time?  I didn't fight it.  I started losing weight and feeling better.  My food stayed in.  I felt full.  So I continued.  Around this time, I read Nourishing Traditions.  It resonated with me, and for the first time, I felt validated.  I felt like my crazy way of feeling better wasn't so crazy.  I felt like my instincts were right. 

I tried to get John on board.  He was cool with trying the crazy recipes I was finding, as long as it did not too off the wall.  He ate all the things I cooked, and even liked some of them!  I wanted him to read about the logic behind it, but I knew Nourishing Traditions would be too much for him at first.  I mean, it is a lot of information, not really an introduction.  Enter Nina Planck and her books.  I knew her first book would be the perfect introduction for him.  I may or may not have forced him to read it on our honeymoon.  

The result?  Well let me just say that the day after we got back from our honeymoon, we went food shopping at Fairway for grass-fed butter, milk, and meat, along with free range eggs and other fun things.  

So far, John and I have been both feeling better and looking better.  Our lives have changed for the better.  So, you may be seeing some new things on the blog, or maybe you have already noticed.  Either way, I hope you continue to enjoy and join me on this journey!!

And if you are still reading at this point, you deserve a medal!

This post was listed on Fight Back Friday @ Foodrenegade.com!


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Green Bean Supreme!

Apparently my literary genius has allowed me to progress from alliterative titles to rhyyyyyming!  Go Me!

John and I are actually away for the weekend (remind me to thank Blogger for allowing posts to be written in advance and posted later!).  Since we are frugal and like to eat well, we packed lots of things to munch on....

You get the picture, I'm sure.
In addition to all of that, because that is just not enough for 3 days, 2 nights, I made a green bean dish.  This dish is special to me, because it was one of the first "grown-up" dishes I made in my first apartment.  I made it for a dinner party in 2006 with chicken, but it is good without it, too.
It is seriously SO EASY to make.  It was perfect for this trip because it keeps well and can be served cold.  

First, snip the ends off some green beans.
Next, boil them until the are bright green.  When they are, plunge them in cold water to stop them from cooking.
While the beans are cooking, mix up the sauce.  It is 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  I don't like to taste pepper, so I exclude it.  Feel free to follow suit. 
If you juiced your oranges, drink the excess.
Then, mix it all together.  It is fun topped with slivered almonds!

This recipe was also posted on Two For Tuesday at A Moderate Life


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Super Snack Saturday!

Most of the posts this week have been of meals, dinners to be exact, so I thought the weekend would be a good time to share some of the OTHER things we have been eating.  

Waffles with Peanut Butter/Honey/Banana Topping
Home made peanut butter, sliced bananas, and honey were thrown in a bowl...
And served over a toasted waffle!  The waffle was leftover from when we made them last weekend.  I just froze the extra, and when I felt like a fancier breakfast, stuck it in the toaster!

The other big snack-o-the-week is a riddle.
What do you get when you mix 2 apples...
a mandolin slicer...
and cinnamon?
Why, apple chips, of course!  Especially when the are baked at 250 for an hour or so!


Friday, May 28, 2010

Clams Oreganata and Asparagus Macaroni

We stuck with our meal plan well this week!  On Wednesday night we had Clam Oreganata and a cool asparagus macaroni invention.  It was actually pretty boring, but SO GOOD!  I just realized I say that about lots of the things we make over here.  Hmm.  That's a good sign.  Anyway, on to the clams!

Step 1:  Clean clams.  Little neck clams were on sale for 3 dozen/$10.  We are only 2 people, so we got a dozen.  Only 1 was bad (open before it was cooked) so I scrubbed up 11 clam-o-s.

Step 2:  Cook clams.  Stick the clams in a pot with a small layer of water and boil the water.  The steam will cook the clams.  When they open, they are ready.  If they don't open, don't eat 'em.  We lucked out, they all opened!  Don't forget to save a little of the cooking water to add to the stuffing!

Step 3:  Chop clam insides.  Actually, the real 3rd step is to get the clam bodies out of the little shells.  I didn't take a picture of that because my hands were all clammy.  I just stuck them in the food processor and pulsed it a few times. 
Step 4:  Make stuffing.  I started with about a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs, and then added lots of garlic powder, parsley, oregano, and sea salt.  Then I streamed in maybe a 1/2 cup of olive oil.  As it mixed, I added the clam cooking water to get it to the right consistency. 

Step 5: Fill shells.  This is the fun step!  Scoop up the stuffing, make it into a ball, and add it to the (rinsed) clam shells.  I put the little balls in the shells, and then smushed them down when it was time to cook them. 
Step 6: Serve with awesome macaroni with roasted asparagus in a lemon butter sauce.  This was easy.  Cook macaroni and roast asparagus.  When you pour the macaroni into a colander, use that pot to melt lots of butter.  Then add in the juice of a lemon.  Chop the asparagus and add that into the pot.  When it is mixed in, put the macaroni back in the pot.  This is great because it only uses one pot, and because you can reheat it on the stove when you go back for seconds.  Because you WILL go back for seconds!!!


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lentil and Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Do you remember when I attempted to make a beet and lentil salad?  And it was awful?  I do, and since then, I have been plotting a way to make it again.  Except delicious.  

Challenge accepted.  Enter Bobby Flay.  This was the blueprint.   Of course, I didn't have sherry vinegar, so I used a mix of red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar.  I'm not sure why, but it worked.  I didn't use bacon, because we didn't have any.  I THOUGHT we had dijon mustard, but we didn't.  We had mustard seeds, though so....

I smashed it up with some olive oil.  Go me.

On to the actual cooking.  The day before, I chopped up the beets and roasted them at 375 until they were tender, and mixed the dressing.  I did not photograph those steps.  Bad Blogger!  I also made the lentil broth that night.  

 Nice broth of chicken stock, celery leftover from our fondue-ing, and some onion mixed with tons of spices. 
 The morning I was ready to make it, I added in the lentils and cooked them until the liquid was gone.  
In a separate pan, I mixed onion and garlic with butter, and then threw in the lentils.  I discarded the mushy celery and onion.  

At dinnertime, all we had to do was throw the lentil mixture over some arugula and dressing, throw on the goat cheese, and arrange the beets. 
It was so much better.  It was easy, surprisingly easy, especially with the changes and prepping it in steps.  It was cheap, other than the goat cheese, but you could omit that.  We probably would have, but I wanted to make it just like the meal at the restaurant.  SUCCESS!!