Monday, November 30, 2009

Too much bread...and I wish I meant money

I have a ton of leftover bread. I made cinnamon raisin Challah bread for Thanksgiving morning, regular artisan bread for Thanksgiving dinner and hamburger rolls for last nights dinner...needless to say, lots of extra bread.

I needed something for tonight's dinner, something warm and toasty as it had been a long day of hard thoughts, and I also had to use up the bread.

I decided to make a combo bread pudding/baked french toast. I made a cinnamon caramel sauce out of butter, brown sugar, a little corn syrup and dash of salt all brought to a bubble on the stove. I then greased my big Pyrex and added the syrup to the bottom. I cubed up the half loaf of Challah that I had and a half a large boule of bread and pushed it down into the syrup. Then I beat 8 eggs and two cups of milk with a teaspoon of vanilla, two tablespoons sugar, a teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of salt, poured over the bread and pressed down. Refrigerate for two hours then baked for an hour at 375 until a knife came out clean. Then I sprinkled the top with small pats of butter a little more cinnamon and brown sugar and baked ten more minutes. It hit the spot, kids loved it and I used up most of my extra bread!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dinner evolution

I had no intentions of posting until tomorrow, but then I went to make dinner and had one of those moments that folks who love to cook, but also who cook all the time, have. My plan for dinner was a simple meatless baked ziti, bread and salad. As I gathered the items I needed, I saw them...leeks. I had bought them to use when the in laws were here since they like the veggie lasagna I make. With Thanksgiving looming, I really need to use those leeks up, one can go in the stuffing, but the other...well. Then it happened, dinner evolution. My mind started going and a new plan, and recipe, was hatched.

I had a really nice, big, organic leek to use up. I already had my ziti noodles out, as well as my ricotta and mozzarella. Quick scan of the fridge and freezer, and I pulled out about 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Here is what is being made.

I sliced my leek and washed it really well, they are very sandy. I put the leeks in a pan with a blob of butter and a few glugs of olive oil. I then sliced my chicken very thing, and then cut into bite sized pieces. This is really easy to do when the chicken is still partly frozen, plus you avoid the slimy chicken feeling. I then cooked the leeks and chicken together until the chicken was cooked through, adding salt and pepper and garlic when almost done.

The ziti noodles were boiled and drained, then the chicken mixture was tossed in the same pot and stirred well. I added one can of diced tomatoes and a half a bag of leaf spinach, stir well. I then made a simple white sauce (flour and butter in equal portions, cook for a few minutes, add milk,salt and pepper and cook until thickened) then added a good handful of grated parm cheese and poured over the pasta/chicken/spinach/leek mixtures. Stirred in a handful of mozzarella cheese and put in a big baking dish. Added a few spoonfuls of ricotta, sprinkled some more parm on top and baked until bubbly.

The trick is to taste it before you bake, especially checking for salt. Everything is cooked at this point, so it is safe, but the parm cheese is salty, so be careful adding salt. I am not sure what to call this, any ideas??

We have been busy....onward to Thanksgiving

I have been cooking and feeding the family the last week, but we had company and it got crazy, so no posts. I will try to do better...but I promise the kids ate :)

Thanksgiving is creeping up on us, and I am hosting this year.

On the menu:

Spinach and Artichoke Dip (it is required at all family gatherings)
Vegetable Crudite
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Bake
Sweet Acorn Squash
Cranberry Sauce

I am getting a jump on things and starting the cooking tomorrow so that I can enjoy the day on Thursday. I made the bread today, it is out usual recipe but I doubled it since we will be having fresh bread tonight with dinner. The sheer volume of dough is astounding! I also plan to make Challah tomorrow to be used in Thanksgiving French Toast...we need something to enjoy while watching the parade!

I will post some recipes tomorrow, most likely my Sweet Potato Bake which is a spin off of Sweet Potato Souffle. I also will post my stuffing recipe which is made with white wine and lots of veggies. See ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Comfort Food

One of my favorite uses for leftover pasta is fried spaghetti...the kids and I love it for lunch, and it jazzes up boring plain pasta.

To make, I take a pat of butter and melt in my cast iron skillet. If you don't have cast iron, you may want to use a nonstick skillet since this can stick pretty badly, or you may want to add a little olive oil.

When the butter is melted, I add some seasoned bread crumbs, for a single serving, this is around a heaping tablespoon. Add a handful of cooked long pasta like spaghetti or angel hair and cook until the bread crumbs are crispy and the pasta is warmed through. Then stir in some hunks of feta cheese or grate some fresh parm on top, sprinkle with a little more breadcrumbs and cook a minute or two more,

It is simply delicious and a wonderful, comforting lunch!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Breakfast for the bunches

My kids are breakfast eaters, their little eyes slowly open and then they ask to eat. Their father is this way too, and he got them all hooked on eating cereal, which is not a practice I enjoy. The kids needs two big bowls to feel full (and they are a bunch of skinny kids!) and while I only allow healthy cereals, I just feel there are better options. On crazy school mornings, it can be hard to get up and make a hot breakfast, especially with a nursing baby, before school activities and preschool drop offs, so I have found a few good tricks.

Crockpot Steel Cut Oats are a must here. In fact, I pretty much use my crockpot for oatmeal only! There are a million recipes out there, so I won't repeat how to make it, but I did want to share some of our favorite varieties.

A big favorite is for us to add our home canned apple slices or apple pie filling to the pot at night, by morning the oatmeal is filled with the fresh apple flavor. We also like it with brown sugar or maple syrup. You can add berries in the morning, or dried fruits the night before, apples and raisins are faves here. If your family can eat nuts, I bet they would be delicious mixed in too.

The best part about the oats is the cost. We get our steel cut oats at a local grocery store in the bulk area. They are organic and cost us $1.67 a pound, and every few weeks the store offers a dollar off the bulk bins! We only use a cup to a cup and a half of oats which means we are paying between 40 and 60 cents for a breakfast that feeds 5 people with extra left. Not to mention that steel cut oats have a better nutritional value than rolled oats, it is a hot and filling breakfast and my kids love it!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Granola Bars-coconut chip

I have kids with food allergies which can make getting some items tough, especially if you are looking for healthier options of kid favorites. We always have a hard time locating granola and granola bars that are nut free, so I learned to make them myself. The bonus to this is that I can customize the recipe to what I have on hand or what the kids like, and once you make it a few times, you learn when it looks "right" and can do a lot of it by eye. I posted the basic trail mix granola bar recipe on my other blog and it can be found here

Today the kids requested granola bars, so this was what I put together.

Coconut Chip Granola Bars

2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup flax meal
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup apple butter (we had homemade on hand, can use apple sauce too)
1/4 cup veg oil (you can up applesauce to a cup and not use any oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2-3/4 cup shredded coconut (we usually use unsweetened, but I had sweetened today, if unsweetened, you may want to add a 1/4 cup of honey)

Basically just toss in a bowl and stir until very well combined. It should be wet and be able to hold together when pushed on, but not at all soupy. If it is too wet, and there is excess liquid, add some more flour and oats, too dry, a little more applesauce or oil. Basically mine looks like a thick oatmeal cookie dough. Press evenly into a greased dish, I use a large Pyrex dish that I greased, and bake at 350 30-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and cooked through. These will cut into nice bars for the kids, and you know they are filled with healthy stuff. The best part is you can sub any mix ins you want, we love raisins, dried cranberries, figs, dried apples and blueberries (this is excellent with maple syrup in place of some of the sugar or honey). No nuts here, but if you can have the, they are an excellent option as well!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Spiced Chicken

is a staple meal around here. It is something the whole family will eat and I can use it a number of different ways. It is also a pretty cheap meal, filling and healthy.

Tonight we are having Spiced Chicken Enchiladas. I use chicken leg quarters to make the chicken, and get them really cheap at Wegmans, I think they are .47 a pound!

To make the spiced chicken, take as many of the chicken leg quarters that you think you need, we use at least five or six for a meal, more if I plan to use the extra for soup. Put the chicken in a pot, cover halfway with water and add spices of choice. I use cumin, salt, pepper, cayenne and chili powder. Cook until the meat is falling off the bone,remove from the pot and save the broth to be strained and frozen later as stock.

Remove the chicken from the bone and shred, add to a skillet with diced onion and saute until well shredded. Add either taco seasoning or seasoning of choice, I use cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes and garlic. Add some of the stock if it gets too dry or starts to stick to the pan, then add a half a can of Rotel with lime and cilantro.

Then make the sour cream cheese sauce. Make a simple roux of butter and flour, then add a few cups of milk. How much sauce will depend on how many enchiladas you are making, I make our huge baking dish full and we like it drenched in sauce, so we use probably 4 cups of milk. Once it begins to thicken, add the rest of the can of rotel, salt and pepper, remove from heat and add a few handfuls of shredded cheese and three to four tablespoons of sour cream, stir well.

Take a corn tortilla, spoon some chicken inside, add some shredded cheese and roll up and place in greased baking dish seam side down. Repeat until all the chicken is used and then pour the cheese sauce over the top slowly, making sure it gets down the sides and between the enchiladas and doesn't overflow! Bake at 350 about 35 minutes until all bubbly and yummy, adding a few handfuls of cheese in the last 10 minutes. Serve with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. When I have it on hand, I add fresh cilantro to the chicken and to the top of the enchiladas when done baking.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ain't cookin'

Sorry crew, but mama has to work and has parent teacher conferences before work and the baby sitter is coming so, I AIN'T COOKIN'!

See, everyone takes a night off. We are ordering pizza!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pot Yoast

So, the cookies I made the other day are gone and the husband has requested more. He may need to wait until tomorrow, I am not sure I will be able to pull it together enough today.

Tonight we are having pot roast, or as my oldest used to say, "Pot Yoast"

I love pot roast, it is easy, delicious, healthy and cooks in one big ole pot all day long making the house smell yummy! I never make it exactly the same way each time, but today I am going with my more "traditional" version.

In my big Le Crueset I put some very thinly sliced sweet onion with a few swirls of olive oil. I cut them really thin since no one else in my family has my deep love of onions, and they cook down to almost nothing if they are thin enough. I then take my chuck roast and brown each side while the onions are cooking all in the same pot. Once that is done, I add salt and pepper and enough liquid to reach halfway up the roast, preferably use beef stock, that is what I do and it gives loads of flavor. I then add either 4 large fresh diced tomatoes or a can of whole tomatoes to the mix and let cook. After a few hours, I will go and add carrots and potatoes, some roux I made earlier and cooked until deep brown, more salt and pepper, a few red pepper flakes, a dash of hot sauce, and garlic powder. Let cook with the top off until the veggies are tender, the meat is falling apart and the gravy is thickened. The time will really depend on the size of your chuck roast, and you may need to add liquid if you cook too long without a top. I like to start breaking up the roast when I add the veggies, especially when I have a huge roast like I do today, it helps it get tender.

I will make drop biscuits and egg noodles to go with the pot roast and we will have full bellies! We go a little heavier on the spice and flavor since that is my family's preference. The hot sauce doesn't really make it hot, it just adds flavor, I actually add it to chicken soup to give a nice tang with little to no heat, but feel free to make it as spicy or mild as you prefer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lemony admissions

First, I must admit that I gave my son Easy Mac for lunch...yes, EASY MAC, probably one of the more offensive kid food items. See, he had preschool and we had a few packs in the pantry that I got a rockin deal on, and well, I am tired today. I did make him eat carrots from our garden with it...but this is just proof that there are some days everyone needs a break!

I was planning to make fish for dinner, but Grayson asked that we have lemon chicken, so I am indulging him, he is really cute and huggable and he knows how to play that card with me. The lemon chicken is really easy. I cut chicken breasts into bite size pieces and dredge in flour that has salt, pepper and lemon peel added. Cook the chicken in a a few pats of butter and a few Tbs of olive oil. When cooked through, I add some chicken broth to the pan and the juice of 3-4 lemons and their freshly grated peel. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the sauce is thickened and everything on the house smells yummy. Tonight I will also add some peas to the mixture in the last ten minutes and I will toss with cooked orzo. A delicious, easy and healthy one dish meal.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Cooking between naps

Teagan's naps.

I had a lot to accomplish today and on top of what I HAD to make, I had promised the kids some cookies. I started the bread early this morning as we needed it to make rolls for dinner. When it is in between weather, not too warm, not too cold, I am thankful that the dryer is always running so I can put the bread to rise. Soon enough the fireplace will be going and the bread will sit there to get ready to bake.

After starting the bread dough, I decided to cook up some bacon. I really wanted a BLT for lunch and wanted to make a quiche for me to eat through the week. I haven't been eating as much protein as I should and I can feel it, so a quiche is an easy meal to have handy. To make the quiche I used a store bought refrigerated crust...I know, I know, but I had it and it was quick and easy between the baby's 10 minute cat naps! I put the crust in a pie pan, then made a simple roux in a pan using a bit of butter and flour, salt and pepper. I added defrosted and lightly squeezed spinach (I wanted some of the spinach water) and cooked with garlic. Usually I add onions, but I am running low so I skipped it :) I put a blob of cream cheese, about 2 Tbs and a small splash of cream in with the spinach and cook until thickened. Put the spinach mixture in the crust, crumbled a few strips of bacon on top and added a few handfuls of shredded cheddar cheese...although I wish I had Jarlsberg! Then I took 6 eggs and some milk, about 1/2 to 1 full cup depending on egg size and whipped together and poured over the mixture. Bake at 350 until no longer jiggly in the middle, turn off the oven and leave the quiche in the warm oven for 15 more minutes. Yum!

After making the quiche, I made some cookies for the kids and prepped for dinner. Tonight we were having steak sandwiches with sweet potato fries. Took two of our top round steaks left from our cow order and cut them into bite size chunks. Added loads of black pepper, some salt and worschester sauce and tossed together. Cooked on a very hot cast iron skillet with melted butter until just medium rare. This goes on the homemade rolls with lettuce and cheese. Sweet potato fries were sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper a little cinnamon and a small dash of cayenne pepper. Bake at 400 turning often until cooked through and starting to brown, I often have to finish mine under the broiler to get a little crisp on them.

So that is what we ate today :)

Shiny New Blog

Since I have found that many of my updates on Facebook and on my other blog revolve around the meals I make at home, I decided to create a dedicated space just for what we do to feed our bellies.

This blog will discuss how we eat, why we eat this way, and the best part, WHAT we eat! I think my kids have a wonderfully diverse palette and that this is in part due to the foods we cook here at home.

Food is a huge part of our lifestyle. Our oldest has food allergies and some other health issues, and we have found that following a very natural, close to the source, balanced diet is what is best for her. The benefit to us is that we eat tons of good, healthy homemade foods and our diet is as local as possible.

Whenever possible, I will try to include recipes. I often just toss stuff together in a way that sounds good, but if I can, I will provide the specifics.

I am happy to answer any questions as we strive to eat well, live well, and treat the environment well while feeding the tribe!