Saturday, February 28, 2009


I clipped this recipe out of a recent Family Fun Magazine that showed up on my doorstep. I'm too tired to type the whole thing... I believe they post their soups at I simplified the recipe and it came out so delicious...

This was the first time I ever made chicken soup, and I loved it. I served with falafel and hummus in mini whole wheat pitas.

Angel's simplified mulligatawny

Sauté for ten to fifteen minutes in a tad of olive oil or butter:
shredded chicken (I used leftover cooked chicken)
an apple, peeled, cored and chopped
three carrots, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup flour and about two teaspoons curry (mixed together)

Sauté another five minutes. [If it gets dry add some of the broth early]

Add about three to four cups chicken broth. [I used one small can, about one cup water, and about 3/4 cup white wine-herb-chicken broth.] Simmer for about an hour, partially covered.

The original recipe also called for celery, green peppers, rice and tomatoes.

Forks Mediterranean Deli

This may be my best blog entry ever by the time I get done. I stopped at Forks Mediterranean Deli on the way home, and simply that is a story in and of itself. When I worked at the news editor at Lafayette College, I went to every Hillel Society function because they had the best falafel I had ever tasted and hummus to die for... And finally, the Jewish chaplain leaned over to me, after a year or so, and said "Angel, I get the platter at Forks Mediterranean Deli."

A love affair was born. I don't get there nearly as often as I should, maybe once every four months. I'm planning on homemade chicken curry soup for dinner and for some reason thought "falafel."

Now, on many occasions, Edmund, the owner, has falafel in the case all by itself ready to go. Not tonight. So I asked him. "Can I have some falafel to go with dinner, no sandwich." Of course he said sure and told me he normally puts three patties on a large sandwich, how many would I like? We settled on eight.

I have $10 in my pocket. I look at the wall. A falafel platter is $5 or $8. A large falafel sandwich is $7. How much would eight falafel patties cost? I rationalized a small shopping spree to justify use of my bank card. After all, it's such good food. All homemade and since he has groceries... I can apply it toward the March grocery budget.

So my daughter and I shop.

We buy:
  • dried papaya
  • random dehydrated fruits and veggies (including green beans and I have no idea what else)
  • hot wasabi snack mix
  • sesame nut brittle
  • nougat candy and apricot nougat candy
  • hummus
  • whole wheat mini pitas

Then he asks my daughter what kind of candy she likes. She likes the jordan almonds, but he was out of those. He feels terrible he doesn't have any. He went back to check on our falafel. (He makes it fresh.) When he comes back, he insists on giving her some of her next favorite. She picks the sugar coated chick peas, which are really good.

The bill came to $26.09. The irony is: The falafel was $4. But I never feel guilty about money spent there. The food is too good. (And cheap.)

My daughter says she wants to work there, and Edmund told her he'll pay her in food. I laughed and said he'll lose on that deal. Then she gave him a big hug.

Friday, February 27, 2009


Health goes out the window... Today ended up being the most stressful day of the week, so I stopped for homemade soup and deep-fried soft tacos at Geakers out in Bethlehem Township. Kevin Geake has worked tremendously hard to flavor his ground beef. His HUGE beef tacos sell for $3.65 each and require a fork to eat. He stuffs them with lettuce, tomato, cheese, and, of course, meat, with hot sauce, salsa and sour cream as desired.  I love them, and I get them about once a year. I con myself into believing the lettuce and tomato counts as a vegetable... 

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Turkey and Brie sandwiches

The flood has turned our regular eating habits upside down. Subway, boxed mac and cheese, pie for breakfast. Nutrition has fallen to the wayside.

Today for lunch I packed potato chips from Aldi. Cheap-o lunchmeat my inlaws bought on white bread... Which I dressed up...

How does this sound?

White Italian Bread, with soy mayonnaise. Cheap turkey, some brie, some organic spring mix and a thin layer of organic raspberry jam from Wegmans.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Life Gets Crazy... bake a cake

Yesterday, none of us ate very much. My daughter is recovering from her illness and the insurance company sent people to dehumidify our house. My husband and daughter made a run to Aldi last night, more or less to keep someone out of the way, and they came home with less than $20 worth of stuff, primarily carrots, broccoli, potatoes, coffee, generic peanut butter cereal and potato chips.

So my daughter had a big bowl of cereal and I did what I do when life gets overwhelming: I baked a cake.
I adapted the microwave blueberry cobbler from Eileen Bresslin's vegan cooking class to be a right-side up poire tarte tartin. The recipe has been posted for both, click the Eileen Bresslin link for her recipe and French for the tartin.

Let's see...

Angel's Microwave pear-butter cake

Mix in one microwave safe deep dish pie pan:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder

Add and stir:
3/4 cup milk

About about 1/3 to 1/2 cup butter and pour evenly over mixture.

Add pears to top. And drizzle with honey. Microwave for about 15 minutes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My first chicken salad!!!

After surveying my friends and my cookbooks, I have decided to try my hand at chicken salad.

My friends all recommended curry. And various fruits. And since my favorite chicken salad on earth is that of my high school English teacher and involves grapes... and my second favorite is the Apple Walnut Chicken Salad at Java's Brewin at New and Broad Street in Bethlehem...

A random little cookbook from my mother, Salads and Dressings Varied and Delicious by G&R Publishing, 1993, lists the following for chicken salad:

Chicken Salad
from Salads and Dressings Varied and Delicious

2 cups cooked chicken, diced coarse

1 cup celery diced
3/4 cup peeled cucumbers
1 TBS finely cut green onion
Dash salt
1 cup salad dressing

Angel's Chicken Salad with Fruit

1 3/4 cup chicken
1 cup chopped apple
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped grapes
1/2 cup nut topping
1 tsp. it's a dilly
3/4 cup Nayonnaise/ soy mayonnaise

Budget blown and eating gone to pot

Yesterday, we had a healthy breakfast of blueberry muffins, peaches and homemade granola. Then the day just fell apart. My mom took us out to lunch after the art museum, where my daughter had turkey and spinach with rice.

When we came home, we discovered that the bathroom faucet had turned itself on full force, flooding the bathroom, dining room, stairs and basement in the three hours we were gone. We lost our newest computer, as I was doing homework on the dining room table when I left. My school books are soggy and my cell phone quasi-ruined.

So amid the mopping and talks with the insurance company, my daughter's dinner became a slice of leftover pizza my in-laws left in our fridge Friday and my husband and I had Brie, homemade bread and peanut butter after she went to bed.

My daughter woke up with a fever in the middle of the night. So, my husband suggested doughnuts and coffee today. The monthly food budget is already blown. I've spent $200 on groceries and $125 on dining, roughly. We need coffee and some other odds and ends from the store, but with the insurance adjuster coming we may just be living from the freezer for a couple days. But in the freezer we have: a ham hock, spinach-cheese filling for calzones or lasagne, homemade bread, vegetable beef soup, chili, lots of chicken with fruit, croissants, brownies and blueberry muffins...

Oh! And I have some beef for beef stew in there...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Chicken and Dumplings

My dad occasionally talks about chicken and dumplings... He gets hungry for them, but can never find anyone to make them the way he remembers his mother making them. So, he asked me if my mother-in-law had a recipe. Of course, the Pennsylvania Dutch call it Chicken Pot Pie.

My mother and law made the soup. I brought it to my dad's, added the milk to the dumpling ingredients, boiled the soup and cooked the dumplings. I didn't get a picture. It was yummy and she even made a molasses cake for dessert.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chicken Salad à la Oua Oua

That lame title is my idea of a joke. I'm trying to make chicken salad sound fancy by making it French. Chicken Salad à la Oua Oua. Otherwise known as Wawa. I think I've mentioned before that I like Wawa. 

For a convenience store, they have a good variety of real food. When we vacationed in Cape May, we survived on Wawa... Our daughter was 2 and she didn't need a $10 kids meal like what we found in many of the restaurants. So we bought lots of fruit and chicken salad at Wawa.

That may even be how we discovered the chicken salad at Wawa. I like a good chicken salad. My high school English teacher makes incredible chicken salad with grapes. Then I tried the chicken-apple-walnut salad at the coffee shop by my office. Also great. When my husband came home with the American croissants from the warehouse club, it made me hungry for chicken salad. Except I've never made chicken salad and I don't have chicken.

Since the family had salad for lunch, and homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast, and peaches for snack, I had chicken salad and (GASP) potato chips (Herrs Salt and Pepper Kettle Chips) for dinner.

Tomorrow my mother-in-law is prepping chicken and dumplings for me to make for my dad. Oh, and I made bread today, but it... well... was impotent. I left it rise while I went to class, and the dough was gorgeous when I got back. But when I formed the baguettes and left them for the final rise... They didn't expand. I can only guess I had left them rise too long during class. Then two of the three stuck to the pan. So I have three short, stubby loaves... 

Blueberry Muffins

I have bread dough rising. My husband packed salads with organic spring mix, apple, blueberries, peeled carrot and cheese for himself and my daughter. I embarked on blueberry muffins...

Let me remind you that most recipes calling for egg in cakes or muffins can be "veganized" using 4 TBS applesauce instead of the egg.

Years ago, I asked my mother-in-law for a generic muffin recipe and today I turned to that instead of my Betty Crocker cookbook. The generic recipe from my mother-in-law was given to me over the phone and apparently I never wrote down the flour. I totally blanked out on what book contained my usual blueberry muffin recipe. And I couldn't believe something that basic wasn't in my binder. But it happens...

So I made it up. And they are currently in the oven... They could be yucky. The dough was slightly thick, but seemed about right.

Angel's Blueberry Muffin Experiment

1 egg  
1 single serving cup natural granny smith applesauce
1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
about 3/4 cup oats (plus more for top)
about 1 cup flour
about 1 cup wheat flour
1 1/4 cup milk, maybe slightly less
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt  
1/3 cup plus a little more cooking oil
about two cups blueberries

I had my daughter mix all this stuff up. We got 15 muffins. Then we had some crumbs from a pie in the freezer, so we sprinkled the top with those and oats. We put in the oven for 15 minutes at 350. 

I'll let you know how they turn out.

They have been in the oven 20 minutes and they have failed the spaghetti test. These are dense muffins.

The verdict: 25 minutes and SCRUMPTIOUS.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cheese Platter

I wanted to take some chicken with fruit out of the freezer for dinner, especially since a small crisis came up at work destroying my plans to swing by the grocery store. But my daughter wanted to go to the store anyway... I was hungry and tired, but my husband agreed to go... He said he's have no idea what to purchase. I suggested a cheese platter. He wanted to go out to Wegmans. I suggested if he planned on going that far that he go to the warehouse club as I've wanted to try their brie. It's French, only double cream, but worth a shot.

He got a massive container of blueberries, what appears to be 5 lbs of apples, a tray of the airy Americanized croissants (nice try on his behalf, but sure ain't the real thing), the brie, tuna, organic spring mix for the tortoise, the bog old block of cheddar... for $40. Then he stopped at the liquor store and bought TWO bottles of Vouvray. $25.

He prepared the cheese platter and set the table with peanut butter and various mustards as well...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yogurt Mixins

Baked oatmeal for breakfast. Man oh man, am I getting sick of that. Today my daughter and husband will have one of their Tuesday picnics. Somehow, the groceries are getting slim around here and lunch seems to be the area where supplies are lacking. Especially with the crowd I'm packing for today. So, I decided to make lunch an activity.

Each person got a Nature Valley Peanut Butter granola bar. Then I packed a small dish of vanilla yogurt, but I included the following mix-ins:
  • banana
  • raisins
  • rainbow sprinkles
  • a couple chocolate covered raisins 
  • sliced almonds
  • homemade granola
  • pretzels
And a juice box! Can't beat a juice box. And some random carrot sticks.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Poor Man's Calzone

I emerged from class this afternoon starving... and I also had an acute awareness that several dairy products in my fridge were approaching their expiration date. Among them was a $4 container of large curd cottage cheese. I don't have any riccotta, and we're low on cheese in general, so I thought maybe I could somehow make the cottage cheese more riccotta-like and make some homemade pizza dough and build funky calzones.

I mixed the
 cottage cheese, shredded mozzerrella, italian seasoning, fresh garlic, grated parmesan and drained c
an spinach (someone gave the spinach to me, 
I usually buy fresh and frozen). 
I also mixed in the last of the commercial spinach dip.

I can't help but think it won't be gross as Mimi used to always use cottage cheese for such things. I don't know if she didn't know about riccotta or what but...

I made my usual pizza dough and made five little calzones to serve with sauce. Hopefully they are edible because I have a freezer bag of stuffing for another batch.

The verdict is in. The family loved
 them. It made so much we have enough for lunch AND one to freeze. For dessert, we're having Lindor Truffles from Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Baked Oatmeal?

Our daughter begged for boxed macaroni and cheese for breakfast. I told it we could IF she picked out a vegetable to go with it. So, we served mac and cheese with peas. Since we're alone today, (the preschooler having gone with Mimi) we opted for the broccoli soup in the freezer. That's the one I made a couple weeks ago that came out super peppery. And since I don't know if/when my daughter will come home today, I think I'll reverse the normal order of meals and have oatmeal for dinner.

Baked Oatmeal
(from a restaurant someone ate at many, many moons ago)

1 cup butter   
2 cups brown sugar   
4 eggs, beaten   
4 cups oatmeal   
4 teaspoons baking powder   
2 teaspoons salt   
2 cups milk   

Preheat oven to 350. Butter pan. Mix ingredients. Pour in pan. Bake 30 minutes.

I reduce the sugar and the butter. I also add fruit. I may add grated apple and golden raisins today. But these things are open to interpretation.

Another good oatmeal recipe is Crockpot Oatmeal. I got this recipe from the Soft Key Home Gourmet software my husband bought me years ago... I made this one for the French exchange student. Crockpot Oatmeal is easy to "veganize."

Crock Pot Oatmeal

Grease crockpot and combine the following, then mix or whisk:

2 cups milk  
1/4 cup brown sugar   
1 tablespoon melted butter  
1/4 teaspoon salt  
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
1 cup rolled oats  
1 cup chopped apple   
1/2 cup raisins  
1/2 cup walnuts

Prepare before going to bed. Leave crockpot on low. Serve in morning. I reduced the sugar.

Well, while I'm an oatmeal kick... Here's another, even simpler than crockpot oatmeal. This came from Eileen Bresslin's vegan cooking class at Northampton Community College.

Vegan Oatmeal 'Pudding' 

Combine and refrigerate overnight:

2 cups oats  
2 cups soy milk  
2 tablespoons raisins  
1 teaspoon cinnamon  
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Eek! No posts...

I knew I hadn't posted in a while, but now I'm ashamed to see I haven't cooked a meal since Thursday night... My husband made scrambled eggs and homefries for breakfast friday and we both took leftovers to work. I had leftover egg noodles and peas my mother-in-law had made and added the leftover tuna from my husband's work lunch Wednesday, but then I never ate it because I got to work and discovered a gluttonous cacophony of foods...

We had special training for facilitators in one of the programs that isn't mine and there was a spread of coffee, orange juice, cream cheese, bagels, bananas and scones. Then at lunch, they served sandwiches, salad, fruit, soda and cookies. It felt like I ate the entire time I was there... the food was right outside my door.

Then we had dinner at my dad's, which meant eating at the diner. Our daughter had clam chowder and shared more or less with everyone. I had a grilled cheese on rye because of everything I ate at the YWCA. Then, we went to my dad's house and my daughter iced and served a boxed cake she had made with my mother-in-law.

Today was Valentine's Day so my husband found the Green Mountain Southern Pecan coffee I fell in love with and got me croissants and raspberries from Wegmans. We did a family outing to the art museum, but misjudged when we would get out. That meant we stopped for lunch at 2 p.m. out. I had soup and a burger that left me full for the rest of the day. My daughter had soup and the turkey-ranch-bacon wrap which she finished for dinner.

So I just haven't had the chance to make a meal...

Thursday, February 12, 2009


I made chili today, and tried not to make it spicy, but failed. I used four types of beans: organic black, organic dark red, organic light red and pinto beans. And corn. And the last loaf of the goofy looking bread that is one of the best-tasting loaves I've made in a while.

Breakfast Salad Wrap

Yesterday my daughter asked for a wrap for breakfast. Knowing that she would spend the day with my in-laws, I thought I'd use the opportunity to front-load her with veggies. So my husband made her a salad wrap with spinach dip and some cheddar. She inhaled it. Not your typical breakfast... but nothing is typical in this house. Have you noticed that?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More creamsicle smoothies/ On Sorbet

I made another batch of creamsicle smoothies this morning spiked with mango sorbet. My father-in-law brought the Häagen-Dazs mango sorbet some time ago, but I didn't have any use for it so I ignored it.

Well, this morning, as I finished it to make another batch of smoothies, I read the label. Yeah, I do it on anything. The nutritional info on rainbow sprinkles is appalling.

I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, the carb count was high (37 g in a 1/2 cup) but the vitamin content was good. In the same serving size, the RDA of vitamin A was 20% and Vitamin C was 10%. That implies they use real mangos and not mango-flavor.

So I check the ingredients. Water, mango puree, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, carrot juice concentrate, pumpkin juice concentrate, natural flavor and pectin. May contain trace amounts of milk protein.

Staff meeting

Perhaps this is off topic. I host staff meetings several times a year and I am responsible for food. When I started, I was told we alternated between Subway and pizza with a budget of $30/meeting. We have about ten staff members. My staff range from college students to teachers to retirees so it's a challenge to find something palatable for everyone.

The meetings are at 6 p.m. so for some people, it's dinner. That includes me.

When I ordered pizza the first time, I discovered that the employee who'd be with the program the longest cannot eat wheat. So that also rules out Subway. Subway and pizza did not impress the adults either. Plus, getting accurate figures on who would attend made guessing how much food to get difficult. Too much food was going to waste. I asked for suggestions and got none.

So, I started focusing on ideas for food that my wheat-intolerant employee could eat. And on munchies that could stick to your ribs since some folks had dinner before had and some did not. And what I wanted for dinner.

Last time, I went to Giant (the grocery store of choice for our office) and got oranges, raisins, cheese and crackers. This time, I had a budget of 20 dollars. I got crudités (a small platter of celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes and cucumber), organic baby carrots, mixed nuts, Spinach dip, hummus, cheddar cheese (I thought I got Muenster too but I bought two cheddars, oops), triscuits and gluten free spring onion rice crackers. The platter was demolished!!! Everything but some triscuits, a couple carrots and three cherry tomatoes disappeared. Even the executive director commented that it looked delicious.

Oh-- and the cost: $20.13

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Paprika Chicken

Remember the Chicken with Fruit from last week? Well, here's another from the same cookbook, The Big Book of Casseroles.  I noticed this recipe while searching for the "chicken with fruit" one.

Chicken Paprika

From the book: "In this classic Hungarian dish, the flavors mingle as the chicken bakes with the onion, bell peppers and broth. Sour cream is added at the end of the cooking time, creating a pretty, creamy pink sauce. Serve with spaetzle or rice."

1/4 cup flour  
1 teaspoon salt  
1 chicken cut into serving pieces (3 to 3.5 pounds)  
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil  
1 cup chopped yellow onion  
1/2 cup green bell pepper chopped
1 tablespoon paprika (preferably Hungarian)  
Fresh ground pepper to taste  
1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup light sour cream  

1. Preheat oven to 350. On a sheet of wax paper, combine flour and salt. Toss chicken pieces to coat and reserve flour.

2. In a Dutch Oven, over medium high heat, melt butter and oil. Brown chicken, five to ten minutes on each side. Remove to a plate.

3. Reduce temperature to medium. Add onions and bell pepper, and sauté until tender. And pepper, paprika and remaining flour and stir until bubbly. And stock and stir until thickened.

4. Return chicken to dutch oven and cover and bake about 50 minutes until chicken is no longer pink. Stir in sour cream and bake uncovered about ten more minutes.

Now my version:

Angel's Paprika Chicken Tenders with Broccoli

1/4 cup flour (plus one tablespoon)  
1 teaspoon fresh ground sea
1 teaspoon fresh ground multi-colored peppercorns  
1.25 pounds chicken tenders, sliced in half  

1 tablespoon butter
1.5 tablespoons olive oil  
1 tablespoon paprika  
1 dash Hungarian hot paprika  
One large head broccoli, chopped
2 cups white wine, chicken and herb culinary broth  
Sour cream

1. Dredge chicken in flour, pepper and salt mixture. Cook in skillet until brown as described above. Misread directions.... 
2. Add a few splashes of broth to skillet and add paprika. Yes, I left the chicken in, not noticing the part about removing it. Add remaining brown, stir. Add one tablespoon flour and stir while mixture heats. When flour lumps disappear, add broccoli. Stir.

3. Transfer mix to baking dish and plan to follow original directions from here...

Daddy's Turkey Ranch Salad

Today we're going to the theatre to see our first live performance as a family. We're going to see James & The Giant Peach. We read the book. We watched the movie. And today the play! It's very exciting.

After the play, my friend Gayle is joining us for chicken paprika. My husband prepared lunch while I prepped dinner to be heated later...

He reheated the leftover peanut butter noodles. He cut the fresh mango. Then, he engineered this salad of red leaf lettuce, carrot peels, bits of turkey breast and bites of wisconsin cheddar. He added Annie's Organic Cowgirl Ranch dressing and served as his "Turkey Ranch Salad."

I never use regular ranch dressing because it usually has MSG. Organic ranch dressings do not. And since my child adores ranch, I figure it's better to go organic on this one.

The child devours the mango, as she usually does, and so does the tortoise. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Botched Bread

I made bread today, one batch, 50 percent white flour and fifty percent whole wheat. I don't know what happened exactly, but I had trouble with the texture of the dough. Then the loaves wouldn't shape nicely. I tried cutting some lines into them to give them some more definition and they rose so much that the lines became frighteningly deep grooves. So this batch of bread looks deformed, but tastes delicious.

Thai (Peanut Butter) Noodles

I don't quite remember where this cookbook came from, but I'm fairly certain Shannon gave it to me probably 15 years ago. Okay, so the copyright is 1996, so it's more like a decade ago. It's called Quick & Easy Recipes Pasta and Noodles Food Writers' Favorites. I was surprised to see that includes a recipe for kugel that is attributed to the wife of my former boss and favorite editor at The Morning Call.

It's been a year, maybe two, since I've made peanut butter noodles. The name sounds gross, so I often call it "Thai noodles." We'll be serving it tonight with a side salad, and maybe some fresh mango.

The recipe came from Christine Randall, who was then asst. features editor at The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C. She writes: "When I first came across this recipe, it sounded a bit offbeat, but I figured I'd try it once because it was so easy-- and I loved it."

Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles
Makes 2 to 3 servings

1/3 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy  
2 tablespoons vegetable oil  
2 tablespoons soy sauce  
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (can be adjusted to taste)
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar  
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped  
8 to 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine

1. In a bowl, combine peanut butter, oil, soy sauce, cayenne, sugar, vinegar and garlic. With a rubber spatula, work mixture together until creamy and smooth. If time permits, refrigerate, covered, for four hours. (If time does not allow, don't worry, it will still be good.) Bring to room temperature before using.

2. Prepare spaghetti. Drain. Combine hot pasta and peanut butter sauce. Mix gently. Serve immediately.

Ode to Kelloggs

My husband opened a box of cereal this morning. We haven't had cereal in this house since before I started this blog. So it seemed an occasion worth marking. Of course, my daughter had hers with a side of chocolate soy milk and a banana smothered with extra-crunchy peanut butter.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Amazing Turkey Sandwiches and Cauliflower

I nabbed this recipe from Parenting magazine and made my own adjustments, as you could expect. I love grilled cheese sandwiches. My mother was a horrible cook, but she had worked in a diner for many years so she can make two things well: omelettes and grilled cheese.

I learned some of her secrets and can also make a mean grilled cheese, but my mother's remains a comfort food to this day. All she has to say is, "Ange, you want a grilled cheese?" and I'm at the table, whether I'm hungry or not.

 I also love hot turkey sandwiches with apples and had a craving for one several weeks ago that I never got the chance to indulge. As you may have noticed, we rarely use deli meats in this house. I try to choose foods that are as nutritional dense as possible and lunch meats, in my opinion, are too processed.

So I decided to buy some turkey breast and adapt Parenting's Honey Ham and Cheese...

The original Honey Ham and Cheese

2 TBS grated cheese
2 slices bread 
1 thin slice deli ham
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 TBS honey

1. Sprinkle grated cheese on one slice of bread and top with ham. Top with second slice of bread.

2. In small skillet, melt half the butter over medium heat. Add the sandwich and cook about three minutes, pressing down with a spatula. Flip and add remaining butter to skillet. Cook another two minutes.

3. Drizzle with half the honey and let cook another minute. Flip once more, coat with the rest of the honey. Cut into quarters.

Now my version: 

Angel's Amazing Turkey Sandwiches 
For one sandwich: 
2 slices Flax and Fiber bread 
about 1/4 cup grated extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar 
2 hearty slices turkey breast 
1 teaspoon olive oil
Several thin slices apple 
1 TBS honey

1. Slice each piece of bread in half. And apply thin layer of margarine to one side of each portion.

2. In skillet, warm very thin layer of oil. Place two of the halves in the pan. (Butter side down.) But not the 'lids.'

3. Sprinkle on some cheese, then apple, more cheese, then one slice of turkey folded, the remainder of the cheese and put lid on.

4. Cook, pressing with spatula. Don't let it get too brown. When almost done, add a slight amount of honey on top of each and flip. As that side cooks, add honey to other side (not too much) and flip again. The honey will burn very quickly so be careful.

Now, to prepare the cauliflower,  I removed the sandwiches and kept them in the oven so they wouldn't get cold. I microwaved a small bag of cauliflower and drained. I wiped the skillet clean, but didn't wash it. I added some margarine and olive oil and put the heat on medium high. I tossed in the cauliflower, salted it slightly, added a few drops of honey, and cooked until it got a tad yellowy with some brown spots. Then I sprinkled with the remaining dregs of cheese. Probably two tablespoons for the whole bag.

The helpful household cookbook

I have shelves upon shelves of cookbooks, plus at one point I had recipe software, and subscriptions to Vegetarian Times, Vegetarian Journal (a great vegan magazine) and Bon Appetit. Friends give me recipes. The internet provides a wealth of cooking info at your fingertips. How do you store everything?

I noticed long ago that I pulled recipes but never tried them and then when I needed to find a specific one, it was impossible. Or I didn't even have the slightest idea what was in the pile. So I developed a system. I have a pile for new recipes that I have not tried. I have some bookmarks in cookbooks, but for the most part, I use a binder.

ANY recipe I use on a regular basis, gets inserted into a plastic sleeve and stowed in a three-ring binder. The binder is separated into the following categories: appetizers (including soup), baking/desserts, bread, breakfast, drinks, entrées, salad, sandwiches, sides, snacks and vegetables.

In order to earn a place in the binder, it must be tested and approved by the family. The binder contains print-outs from my database when I had it, magazine clippings, hand-scrawled items even web pages printed. I have even copied pages from cookbooks I own. Because now I can flip through the volume and find a dinner recipe lickety-split. Without trying to remember where the recipe is stored. And the plastic means it cleans easily. The binder means it's easy to add pages. I love it.

Brownie Sundaes

Warning: The following blog entry contains items that are not good for you, are not homemade, and are not necessary. But they may have saved my marriage.

I wanted brownies. Then my daughter and my husband started screaming at each other. Okay, he was screaming and she was crying. She was trying to play in the drain with the chemical drain cleaner. So the yelling was warranted. The commotion, and a very long day, screamed "warm brownie sundae."

My husband volunteered to go out for the goods.

"Vanilla?" he asked.

"Vanilla bean," I specified.

Then he called me an ice cream snob and reminded me that he remembered my ice cream idiosyncracies.

"What's my budget?" he asked.
"Thirty bucks if you're using the MAC card."
Out the door he went. My cell phone rang ten minutes later.

"They don't have anything remotely brownie like," he said and then described the contents of the bakery department. "The only thing that looks like something you'd like is a tray of brownies, but it's like nine bucks."

"How many brownies?"

"Seven on the top row."

"Buy it," I said. He laughed.

It had 16 brownies. We ate four (two each, warmed in the microwave with the ice cream on top). We kept three aside to enjoy as a family tomorrow. The remaining nine we wrapped individually in wax paper and taped shut and packaged into two freezer bags.

Total cost: $13.07 and that included half and half for our coffee.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Baked Chicken and Fruit

As I mentioned another day, I own many cookbooks and I don't get to read them often enough to remember what I want to try... 

This particular recipe was the dinner I made when we had our first post-baby dinner party. Our neighbors had a baby one week older than ours so we shared this casserole one night. It comes from The Big Book of Casseroles by Maryana Vollstedt. 

Baked Chicken and Fruit (pictured before it goes into the oven): 
1 chicken, cut into serving pieces (3 to 3.5 pounds)
[I have always used about a pound of chicken breasts, cut into small chunks]
salt and pepper to taste
paprika [I don't have any today]
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil [I use olive]
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins [I use golden and regular, we like raisins]
1 cup pineapple chunks [I use one can]
4 peach halves [I use one can sliced peaches]
8 dried prunes [I skip]
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups orange juice

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprika.

2. In Dutch Oven, over medium high heat, warm one tablespoon oil. Brown chicken until golden, five minutes on each side. Add more oil if needed. Add remaining ingredients. 

3. Cover and bake until chicken is no longer pink in the middle, about 50 minutes. Baste with sauce while cooking. Remove
 lid and cook 10 minutes longer. [I don't imagine the covering and uncovering is necessa
ry with my little pieces.] 

I made brown rice to accompany. My husband had three plates. I had three small scoops, which more or less equaled one big serving. My daughter ate one serving. I divided the leftovers into three containers: two containers each with one serving for an adult lunch and one big container with enough for all of us to have for dinner. If I had to figure it out, I would guess the whole batch cost less than $10 to make and more or less covered three meals for the family. 

February's main grocery shopping

I had no intention of doing the bulk of my grocery shopping today. I didn't have time, for one. My priority should have been my daughter's bath. The budget said I could comfortably spend $30, which implies a "tide us over a week" trip, but the list starting looking more and more like a $100 shopping trip. So, I whipped out the charge card and bit the bullet.

As my blog documents, if you avoid the grocery store, especially when you're busy, the combination of lack of time and lack of food equals no desire to cook. Whereas, if you have the food, something looking good might be enough motivation to squeeze a budget and health-friendly meal into the day. I went to a stress management seminar and at that seminar we had to take a self survey. That survey dealt with our tools to deal with stress and how prone to stress we should be. The survey said to give oneself five points for everyday of the week where you ate ONE nutritional balanced meal. Not three, one. The person next to me gave herself a zero. And she was a heart attack survivor. I was shocked. I think me
als are an easy lifestyle habit... but anyway...

Today I went to Giant, hoping to keep it around $100 but knowing the reality was more in the $120 range. The list included toilet paper ($8= 8 triple rolls); bathroom items like shampoo, conditioner and antiperspirant for the stinky man ($4 for 2 bottles of conditioner and one bottle shampoo, $2.19 for the unstinky man), the Dryel starter kit ($8, remember I was dumb and bought the refills last time without the kit); Liquid Plumber ($4); chicken, $8, but I hope to get four meals out of it... Several budget hogs on there.

And before I resorted to the chemical drain cleaner, I tried the vinegar/baking soda volcano, the natural enzymes and plunging.

Now, on to "how I did." Total: $128.57, no coupons.

The purchases:

Pantry supplies: two cans vegetable broth ($1.54), one splurge of white wine/herb/chicken broth (32 ounces/ $2.15),  chicken broth (74 cents), JIF natural (28 ounces, $2.99), nut topping (1.29), slivered almonds (1.69), Arnold Flax and Fiber bread ($1.99), Simple Seasonings Organic chili powder and ginger ($1.69 each, the McCormick was $2.69), sugar (5 pounds/ $2.50), organic canned beans in several varieties, black, light red, and dark red (five cans/ 99 cents each)... I meant to get dried beans but forgot... Five pounds unbleached white flour ($2.29), five pounds whole wheat flour ($2.95), organic rainbow peppercorns in grinder ($4.29, grrr... I thought it was cheaper) 

Fruit: the BIG canister of raisin
s, the box of Sunmaid Golden raisins ($2.39), sliced peaches in pear juice (3 cans/ 99 cents each), sliced pears 
(also 99 cents), crushed pineapple and chunk pineapple (1 can each, 20 ounces, $1.03 each), broccoli crowns (almost a pound, $2.27), bananas (two pounds, $1.09), two red delicious apples ($1.83), mango (fresh, $1.25), four watermelon slices ($1.08), 

Coffee: [I count this separately because I feel coffee and associated supplies would be wiped from our budget should finances dictate it. It is totally a luxury. Caffeine addicts, don't argue with me on this.] Folgers French Vanilla coffee (11.5 ounces, $3.99), Coffeemate biscotti creamer (16 ounces, $1.99)

Dairy: chocolate Silk soy milk ($2.99), unsweetened Silk ($2.99), half gallon whole milk ($1.60), Light and Lively large curd cottage cheese ($3.21, the big one), one pound of cheddar cheese, shredded mozzarella, 32 ounces of yogurt

Bathroom: see introduction

Other: Club soda, 1 liter, and lemon seltzer, 1 liter (50 cents each); baking soda, three little boxes (43 cents each), two cans sliced ripe olives (95 cents each), deli counter turkey breast (3/4 pound, on sale, $4.73), fresh garlic (99 cents), packaged salad for the tortoise (that we can share $2.50), one pound organic carrots (99 cents), orange juice with calcium ($1.99) 

I may have missed a few things but here's some of the meals I plan to make:
  • pizza
  • chicken and fruit casserole
  • grilled cheese with turkey and apples
  • hungarian paprika chicken with broccoli
  • beef bourgogne (I still have beef in the freezer)
  • chili
  • ham soup? (We still have a ham hock in the freezer)
  • peanut butter noodles (think Thai)
And for snacks:
  • orange creamsicle smoothies
  • cottage cheese and apple butter
  • mango and watermelon

The photos are just a portion of our bounty. My daughter took the one of me putting groceries away and one of our cats.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

On Vouvray

I am no fine wine con...conno...connosieur?... expert. As a matter of fact, I never really drank wine until my birthday party in May 2007.  

I had never had a "theme" party as a kid, so my husband threw me a big "pink poodles in Paris" party where we served brie, fruit and wine.

I had no idea what wine to purchase, but I knew it had to be French. I remembered my French professor remarking in college that for a cheap but drinkable table wine you can't go wrong with Beaujolais.

I went to the liquor store and bought five or six wines in the $10-$15 a bottle range, different brands and colors. Then my friends brought more. I drank wine for months. And tasted many I liked and many I didn't. All French.

My favorites in that price range are Beaujolais (red) and Vouvray (white). French people usually cringe when I say it, but in that poor American price range, I like Barton & Guestier. (Célia brought me an incredible bottle of 2001 Château Beau-Site and told me "Now you have a good bottle of French wine.") My girlfriend Rachel bought me a 2003 Château de Paillet-Quancard which was dryer than we usually liked but also delicious. And it knocked our socks off. That's as sophisticated as I get with the wines.

Considering my mother drinks Chateau Luzerne in the gallon jar that goes for $7 and tastes like someone brewed it in their hamper, I think I've progressed. But I recently had someone ask me what kind of wine Vouvray was. I answered as best I could, but today I noticed this on the back of the bottle:

  • Grape: Chenin Blanc
  • Region: Touraine, in the Loire Valley
  • About the wine: "a lovely wine with floral notes, peach and pear flavors and a refreshing finish."
  • Serve: As an aperitif, with cheese and light desserts
I don't have a bottle of Beaujolais in the house right now. They didn't have any last time I had the spare cash. Instead I opted for a Beaujolais-Villages (also red like Beaujolais). What's the difference? I don't know. But this is what the back of that bottle says:

  • Grape: Gamay
  • Region: Eastern France, on the right bank of the Saône river
  • About the wine: "easy drinking wine with soft red fruits and a fresh, fruity finish."
  • Serve: Deli meats, grilled poultry and cheese.

Mother-in-Law Vegetable Soup

It's chilly and one of those days where I didn't get home from work early. My daughter asked my mother-in-law for some of her beef vegetable soup. Sometimes my mother-in-law's soup is bland and kinda mooshy but usually it's fantastic. And today it was. My husband took my last loaf of homemade wheat bread from the freezer and we all pigged out.

I was disappointed to hear they had pizza for lunch, not only because we had pizza for dinner last night (and leftovers for lunch tomorrow) but because my father-in-law has Type II diabetes and I worry about the impact of all that crust on him. Plus my mother-in-law is always complaining about her weight and her blood pressure, so it's not good for her either. Ah, well, not my problem I suppose...

I had a snack of peanut butter crackers today. My husband and I both took a slice of pizza for lunch. I did make another splurge. I treated my husband to a Green Mountain coffee in the college snack bar. He and I each had a small. $2.

For breakfast we had the homemade cobbler. There is only one serving left, and three of us.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Not a single meal at home...

I once had a colleague who saw my lunches and asked: "Do you ever hide in a closet and scarf down a bag of Doritos?"

And ironically, the answer is yes, if they are cool ranch flavored. I'm addicted to those things.

Today was a Doritos day, in a figurative sense.

We had peach cobbler for breakfast and my husband packed peanut butter crackers and broccoli for he and our daughter for lunch. I had a 7:30 a.m. executive committee meeting for extension on campus, so we headed out early.

Since it was snowing, and my meeting didn't end until 9:30 a.m., I opted to stay on campus rather than leave for the hour before class. So my daughter and I walked in the snow and went to Wawa for fruit.

She selected watermelon. I selected apples (with caramel dippings... mmm.) Then we picked a mixed fruit bowl with blueberries for Daddy. My daughter asked for the roasted red pepper hummus with the pita rounds. How can I say no to that? We spent $11, but made some healthy and satisfying choices.

After we had our fruit picnic, I dropped my daughter and the extra fruit at my husband's office. I headed to class. When I got back, my daughter noticed that the international students were giving away food. So, despite the fact that she had stolen my husband's fruit and ate her weight in raw broccoli, we joined the line. Curry, jerk chicken, flat bread, mashed yucca, various slaws and salads, mysterious meaty substances, rice pudding with mango, coconut candy, samosas... And this spinach/corn stuff that was incredible.

By dinner, I had exhausted myself and the still falling snow made me hungry for a real pizzeria pizza. Blame PMS. We had so many fruits and vegetables throughout the day, a splurge seemed nice.

We ordered soft drinks, a large plain pie, breaded cauliflower, and garlic knots. Then we each had a scoop of ice cream. Our child had cotton candy. My husband had chocolate Moose Tracks and I had some sort of Cappucino crunch. The bill came to $25 and the tip another $5. Maybe I don't have the money to splurge (after all, we went for Mexican last week) but it felt right.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Microwave cobbler

I got out of my Intro to Political Theory class at 3 today. I left campus at 3:05 and was home before 3:15. I have to leave my house by 4:23 to return to campus to get my husband when he gets off work so that left about an hour. I ate a handful of trail mix, poured a cup of coffee and sat to check my email. Then, I told my daughter if she wanted we could make a cobbler. She was thrilled.

This cobbler can be a real life saver! And it's so adaptable. I snagged the recipe in one of my vegan cooking courses at Northampton Community College. The instructor, Eileen Breslin, had adapted it from a newspaper clipping. She made it vegan, but it certainly doesn't have to be.

One quick side discussion before I reveal the secret to the 30 minute start-to-finish fruit cobbler. If you're looking for a vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine that mimics real butter in flavor and cooking, try Earth Balance. I love it, but lately I have not been able to afford it.

Commercial done. Now, the recipe:

Microwave Blueberry Cobbler

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup milk or soy milk
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2.5 cups blueberries

Mix dry ingredients in 8 x 8 microwavable pan. Stir in milk. Melt belter and pour over batter. Drop in fruit. Microwave 12-14 minutes until batter sets and butter dries.

Now my version today was a peach cobbler and I didn't have quite as much fruit. My ingredients were more like:

Angel's peach cobbler

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp honey
1/3 cup margarine
1 small can peaches

I drizzled the honey on the batter before the margarine and sprinkled cinnamon on the peaches before cooking.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Homemade Potato Green Vegetable Soup

I am not good at soup. But something has me wanting to make soup. I pulled a homemade honey-wheat-oat bread from the freezer, got my biggest pot and found a recipe for broccoli potato soup from the Internet.

The original recipe calls for two cups chopped onion and two tablespoons margarine... I think I'll use two cloves garlic... a little bit of four-color peppercorns and some garlic powder... Next it says add 4 cubes chicken bouillion and five cups boiling water. Let's see, I have Wegmans vegetable stock. That will do.

Add 2.5 pounds peeled and cut potatoes, cover and boil, then 
reduce heat and cook about 15 minutes until potatoes are tender. I have three or maybe four pounds that are starting to look questionable...

Okay, so I think I salvaged enough taters... Next step: Remove tough outer skin and cook broccoli. It suggests three cups fresh broccoli, but for all the peeling and puréeing, can't I use frozen and save the fresh for something where the crispness would be appreciated? let's see what we've got. I think I'll mix. About a cup frozen, a cup fresh and green beens...

Next you combine the veggies to the soup, purée half in the food processor and return to pot with three cups shredded cheese. Serve when the cheese melts. We'll see what I do to it...

Okay, so note for next time, use blender not food processor as no matter how full I made the food processor it sprayed hot liquid all over the kitchen...

Add a few ounces of monterey jack... or is this mysterious white block cheddar? I want to reduce the cheese since we don't have much... I'll add 2/3 cup half and half to make it creamy. It smells like broccoli soup. It needs more milk and some more thickness.... cornstarch? a little flour? Nope... just leave it alone and keep adding that four pepper blend and garlic pepper for flavor. Stay tuned...

Okay, dinner time is here and Oops! I over-peppered the soup. It's still good, just peppery. 

To compensate I serve with Motts Natural Applesauce No Sugar Added (country berry for the child and granny smith apple for the grown-ups), Vouvray (for the grown-ups) and parmesan goldfish crackers. And the oat-honey-wheat bread.

Boxed Mac N Cheese for breakfast

I had planned to make a nice peach cobbler for breakfast. The leftover peaches would be a great meal for Blue, our tortoise. But our daughter, being silly, requested boxed mac and cheese. We keep some in the house for culinary emergencies, when we work late or have no food left in the house. I shocked the child. I said sure. Daddy makes it, because he says I'm too impatient and won't let the water come to a real boil before adding the noodles. So anything that involves boiling water is his job.