THE REFRIGERATOR WAS overflowing with leftovers again - plain rice, sauteed vegetables that no one seemed to want to eat on their own and half a jar of chopped tomatoes that needed to be used. Individually, each was too boring to be loved, but teamed together with some onion, jalapeno and chili powder they became an exciting side dish.
1/4 cup chopped onion
2-3 Tbs olive oil
about 3 cups precooked rice (I used white basmati but you could use brown)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
3 Tbs chili powder
salt to taste
2 jalapenos, sliced (and/or other peppers for more or less heat)
1/2 cup precooked vegetables
In a medium saucepan heat the oil and cook the chopped onions over medium heat until they are translucent. Turn the heat down and add the cooked rice and tomatoes, stirring gently but mixing thoroughly. As it starts to get warm, add the chili powder and salt in little increments so they mix well, and continue to stir gently.
Finally add the peppers and vegetables.(The vegetables I had left over were mostly asparagus, but you could use chopped broccoli, peas, green beans, limas or any number of others.) I don't like overcooked vegetables, so I prefer to add the peppers and pre-cooked vegetables to the rice after it is already hot so that the heat from the rice warms them and cooks them as little as possible. If you are using raw vegetables, you might want to add them earlier in the process so they can cook a bit more.
I served the rice with black beans and steak fajitas (the steak was left over, too) in a tortilla that I had toasted in the oven. Enjoy!
Editor's note: Last week when Brandy submitted her post for meatballs, she included a photo of those meatballs in a soup which looked amazing to my virus-stricken appetite. I'd been sick for nearly 2 weeks at that point and hot, salty, fragrant soup was the only thing I was interested in eating. She sent the recipe and I prepared the meatballs and soup a couple nights later - it was delicious, warming and a very nice change of pace from chicken noodle. Four stars, Brandy!
Italian Wedding Soup
2 quarts chicken broth
pinch of cayenne (more to taste)
1 bunch Italian kale (dark green, flat leaves)
1 batch pre-baked meatballs
1 cup parmesan cheese
In a large stock pot, bring the chicken broth to a boil. As it is heating, grate the carrots and chop the kale into strips about 1 inch wide. When the broth begins to boil, turn it down to a simmer and add the carrots and kale.
Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, scramble the egg, then thoroughly mix it with the parmesan cheese. Set this aside for a few minutes. After the carrot shreds have softened and the kale has turned a bright green, add the precooked meatballs and bring the soup back up almost to a boil. When it is hot, add the egg and cheese mixture, stirring as you add so that the egg does not become stringy as in egg drop soup. You want the egg to disappear into the soup. Mixing it with the cheese and stirring well as you add it can help with that.
Cook for about 1 minute after you add the egg and cheese, stirring gently but making sure to stir from the bottom up. The cheese tends to want to sink to the bottom. Usually the salt from the parmesan cheese is enough, but you should taste the soup to see if you need to add salt. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. It is great with a piece of buttered crusty bread.
ON TOP OF Spagheeetiii... Though I aspire to be as Martha-Stewart-like as possible in the kitchen, I am often foiled by reality and a humble box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce will save the day on a busy evening. Quick meals are often lacking in nutrition, so I like to make this one a little heartier by putting some ground beef in the sauce or making meatballs.
Meatballs can be very diverse and are good in a number of recipes. They can top your pasta mountain, make a meatball sub, or make a soup dinner-worthy. I like them in Italian Wedding soup (recipe next week!). How do you like to eat meatballs? Here is my recipe for simple meatballs.
Meatballs in Italian Wedding Soup (recipe next week!)
1 pound ground beef or pork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 Tbs oregano
1 tsp salt
1 pinch cayenne (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large mixing bowl, place all of the ingredients. Mix them thoroughly. I prefer to squish them together with my hands, but you can use a spoon or mixer, too. Roll the mixture into 1 inch balls and place them on a cookie sheet (I like to line it with parchment paper) making sure they do not touch.
Put them in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are golden brown on the outside.
Put them in your favorite soup, on a toasted bun with some barbeque sauce, or ...on top of spagheeettiii and enjoy!
IT IS COLD outside! I just want to stay inside and eat warm things, so I decided to make a pan of what I consider to be one of the ultimate comfort foods - Mac-n-Cheese. For me, it's the food equivalent of a fuzzy blanket and a roaring fire.
This is my short-cut version and does not involve starting with a roux to make white sauce. It's great as a side dish or all by itself. I served it for dinner with two other comfort foods, barbequed chicken and baked beans. Cozy up with this cheesy dish.
1 box of your favorite noodle pasta (I used penne)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream
2-3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch of cayenne
1/4 cup bread crumbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 400
Prepare the noodles by box directions. As I've written before, I like to put some salt and a dash of oil in my water when I boil pasta. For this reason and because of the salty nature of the cheeses, I don't add salt to the recipe. When the pasta is al dente, drain it well.
Put the drained pasta into a large mixing bowl. Quickly put the butter in it and stir gently to coat the pasta so that it does not stick together. Add the sour cream, cheeses, cream and spices and mix thoroughly. Make sure the pasta is well coated, otherwise it will get dry and unpleasantly crunchy in the oven.
Pour the mixture into a large oven-safe pan and spread it evenly. If you like them, you can sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Put the pan into the oven and bake it for about 20-30 minutes or until the cheesy goodness is bubbly and hot. I usually turn the broiler on for a couple of minutes at the end to brown the top slightly. If you choose to do this, make sure to watch the dish in the oven. (I have started pulling a chair up to the oven and watching through the little window, otherwise, I tend to think of some chore that I need to run off and do only to be reminded of the dish in the oven by the smoke detector.)
The pasta and cheese will be extremely hot, so resist the temptation to taste it right away. Allow your Mac-n-Cheese to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving and enjoy!
'TIS THE SEASON when we eat and eat and eat. From baked turkeys to smoked hams to roasted beasts, from butter and cream to sugary treats, we load ourselves with the heavy comforts of the kitchen. I love all of those foods, but it is nice to have something light and fresh to counteract all those other things.
This week I am sharing my family's recipe for cranberry relish. It is sweet, tart and beautiful on any holiday table and still tastes great for breakfast the morning after a feast on a leftover roll. My favorite part is that it requires no cooking, just a blender or food processor.
1 lb fresh cranberries
1 navel orange
about 1 cup sugar (more or less to taste)
Begin by thoroughly rinsing the cranberries and removing any that are squishy or discolored. Wash the orange well, too, as you will be using part of the peel as well as the fruit inside. Using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, remove strips of the orange peel, trying not to cut too deep as the inner white part of the peel can be bitter. Set these strips aside and cut the sections of the orange free from the remaining inner peel. Make sure to remove any seeds if there are any.
Put the orange pieces into the blender or food processor and chop them well. Add about half of the cranberries, the strips of peel and the sugar. I recommend adding about 2/3 of the sugar and tasting it after you finish adding all the cranberries. You can stir more sugar in afterwards, but this helps keep it from getting sweeter than you might want. Chop these ingredients together. Finally add the second half of the cranberries and chop it all together. By adding the cranberries in increments, you should be able to get some smaller pieces and some larger. This will make a better texture and flavor. Pour the relish into a bowl and taste it for sweetness. Add more sugar if you like. Serve chilled and enjoy!
Happy holiday feasting. May your table be a peaceful and joyous gathering place for friends and family.
COOKIES! SWEET LITTLE discs of sugar and spice and all things nice. It was a snow day yesterday so we decided to bake cookies to celebrate our extra day at home. Unfortunately, our young baker has recently been diagnosed with number of new food allergies so we had to alter the recipe to fit her dietary restrictions.
Below is a recipe for basic cookies that could be decorated for the holidays or made any time of year to warm up a gray day. We had to take out the eggs and the milk products.
I substituted half of a banana for 1 egg, 1/2 cup of strong coffee for 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup shortening for 1/2 cup butter. If you decide not to use the substituted ingredients, you would need only 1 1/3 cups sifted flour and could use baking powder instead of soda. I used baking soda because baking powder has corn starch, and corn is also a no-no these days. If you have to switch to baking soda, you need an acid in your recipe to activate it. The coffee is the acid in this recipe. Believe it or not, we could not taste the coffee in the finished cookies, but the banana flavor was quite strong and complimented the spices nicely.
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup coffee (room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ground cloves
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 375.
In a mixing bowl, cream together the brown sugar and shortening. It does not cream together quite as nicely as butter, but it worked fine in the finished product. Add the coffee and mix it thoroughly with the shortening and sugar. In a small bowl, mash the banana and then mix it in with the first three ingredients. Sift the flour and measure out 1 1/2 cups. Put the flour back in the sifter and add the baking soda and spices. Sift these together into a separate bowl and then slowly mix them into the wet ingredients.
Prepare a cookie sheet either by greasing it or lining it with parchment paper. Spoon drop the cookie dough onto the sheet in about teaspoon-sized dollops. Bake for fifteen minutes (peek in on them at 13 or so minutes) and place the cookies on a cooling rack.
These cookies are spicy, not-too-sweet and a little chewy. This recipe makes about 2 dozen. Enjoy with a glass of milk... or your favorite allergy-friendly substitute.
OKAY, OKAY I admit it: I like to stock up on sale items at the grocery. If it's not perishable and we use it, I will hoard a few extra containers of sale items. I recently bought, perhaps a few too many, cans of organic pumpkin at the grocery.
I like to bake with pumpkin, so in order to make some space in my pantry for the next round of grocery hoarding, I mixed up a batch of pumpkin bread. I'm pretty sure I didn't buy all the cans, so you can probably still find canned pumpkin at the store now, maybe even still on sale (but don't tell me if it is!).
Pumpkin, spices, chocolate - what's not to like?
1 16 oz can of pumpkin
2 cups flour (or your favorite gluten-free all-purpose bake mix)
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, I suppose) + a few extra for nibbling
Preheat oven to 350
Mix the pumpkin, oil, milk, sugars and spices in a large bowl. Mix the flour and baking powder together and add them. Stir thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips last. Grease a loaf pan or muffin tins (makes about 2 dozen muffins). Pour the mixture into the pan put it into the oven. For muffins, check it in about 20 minutes and every 3-5 minutes thereafter.
For bread, check it in about 45 minutes and use a toothpick to check for doneness in the middle (Poke the toothpick into the middle of the loaf. If it comes out clean, the bread is done.) Allow the bread to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting. The bread is moist, sweet, marvelously spicy and wonderful for breakfast or snacks. Enjoy!
DO YOU HAVE one of these in your refrigerator?
We had plenty of turkey meat in our refrigerator, so it was time to get creative with leftovers. This weekend, I made turkey minestrone and was able to use up some other leftovers, too (sweet potatoes and kale). If you have already eaten all of your turkey, you can easily substitute chicken. Just cube up some breast and/or thigh meat in about 1/2 inch pieces and cook it in the broth. This soup is warm and lovely and, perhaps most importantly after last Thursday's all day cook-a-thon, easy to make.
2 quarts chicken broth
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 pinch cayenne powder (optional)
salt to taste
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 16 oz can kidney beans, drained
about 2 cups shredded pre-cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/2 package of penne noodles (about 8 oz)
1 bunch kale, chopped with woody stems removed
about 12 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (plus extra for garnish)
In a medium to large stock pot, bring the chicken broth to a gentle boil and add the seasonings (minus the fresh basil) and sweet potatoes. Allow to boil for about 10 minutes and then add the turkey, the tomatoes and the beans. Allow to boil for another 5 minutes and then add the penne. Cook it as long as the package directs you to boil the pasta.
Finally, add the chopped kale and basil and stir thoroughly, turning off the heat. If the pasta has taken up too much of the liquid, you can add a little bit of water or more broth. Serve hot with a little basil and parmesan sprinkled on top. Enjoy!
IT IS A STRONG HOPE of mine that sooner rather than later, my children will become fairly self-sufficient in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I like to cook, but I’ll also be happy to share the daily responsibility with two more people. They have always helped with special stuff – like baking bread and of course, cookies. We recently added their own “dinner nights” – they each help plan and prepare a meal once a week. But it was the constant requests for snacks and water that were really getting to me: in our small kitchen, they couldn’t reach the things they needed themselves. So we did a few things to make it easier.
1. Non-breakable dishes. We’re not fond of plastic, so we got some very-hard-to-break Corelle dishes - dishwasher safe, microwave safe, kid safe.
2. Within arm's reach. Our fridge on top, freezer on the bottom set-up makes it a little harder to keep things the kids need within reach. We keep milk on the lowest shelf of the door…and aspire to keep containers of carrots, cheese, etc. on the lowest fridge shelf where they can reach them. Sometimes it actually happens.
3. The stool is now always out. Yes, it annoys me and I frequently knock my shins on it, but I can kick it out of the way, and they can reach the sink handle and hoist themselves up to the countertops to find things when necessary.
4. DIY snack station. The best innovation was this little shelf (pictured above). It keeps cereal (my kids’ favorite snack) and crackers within reach, and also bowls, cups, even a small container of silverware. The top surface is just the right height for my 4 year old to use as a countertop. On it sits a water jug (since we don’t have a fridge that dispenses ice and water). And the whole thing is on wheels – so we can move it out of the way (or next to the dining room table as a sideboard.) I built ours, but most any small shelf would work, with wheels added or not.
I still spend a lot of time serving snacks and packing lunches, and most mornings I DO get up to make breakfast. But this holiday weekend, I’m definitely looking forward to sending the kids out to the kitchen to take care of it themselves - at least once.
I’d love to hear any more ideas!
Check out another post full of great DIY ideas for kids by Jessica Cochran: 7 Ideas for 7am - or, how to keep kids busy when you want to sleep in.
QUICHE. It sounds so fancy, but I'm here to say that it ain't nuthin' but a bunch of eggs and stuff.
We like quiche in our house for quick breakfasts. I often make one on the weekend and heat slices for breakfast throughout the week. I recently made quiche with my class, so I had to individualize the quiches.
Here is a recipe for mini quiches that is quick, easy and can be customized for individual eaters. Using uncooked tortillas as a bottom crust makes this even easier because you don't have to mix and roll out a regular crust.
Preheat the oven to 350°
8-10 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
about 2 cups total of chopped veggies and/or meats and cheeses
olive oil to grease the pan
1-2 uncooked flour tortillas (usually in the refrigerated section of the grocery near the packaged cheeses)
Let your eggs and half and half come up closer to room temperature (about 1/2 hour out of the refrigerator) and chop your veggies, meats and cheeses into about 1/4" pieces. I used sweet peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, ham and cheddar, but you can use almost anything you like. You can even let everyone make his or her own little quiche with his or her own favorite fillers.
Use a round cookie cutter and cut out 12 little rounds of the uncooked tortillas to about the size of the bottom of the cup of a muffin tin. Use the olive oil to grease the cups of a muffin tin and place a little tortilla round in the bottom of each cup. Put in enough of the fillers of your choice to fill each cup about half way.
Thoroughly mix the egg and half and half and pour enough into each cup to fill it nearly to the top but not all the way. If you want, you can sprinkle a little cheese on the top of them. Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes. They will puff up a bit but shrink back down when you take them out of the oven. When the egg is fully cooked it will not look shiny and wet. I do not recommend letting them brown as the egg will become tough and rubbery.
After you have taken the pan from the oven, allow it to cool for a few minutes then, with a butter knife, gently loosen the quiches around the edges and carefully dump them out onto a cooling rack. You can enjoy them right away or let them cool and refrigerate them for future breakfasts, snacks, lunches or appetizers.
Enjoy! Or should I say, Bon Appétit!
Brandy Steinhilber grew up in Kentucky as a member of a cooking family. Breakfast, dinner and larger family gatherings always meant sitting together around a table full of good home-cooked food, and she has carried that tradition into her home with her own family. She is a firm believer in the importance of family meals as a time to be together and listen to each other. Brandy works as an elementary school teacher at the Anchorage Waldorf School, and her hobbies include, knitting, sewing, camping, cycling, skiing, hiking and cooking.