Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Second School Lunch

Yesterday my daughter was quite clear with what she wanted for lunch. Today she gave me leeway to surprise her. Today's lunch was strawberries and bananas in a thermal cup, one carrot (she likes them whole so she can eat them "like a rabbit"), one marinated chicken drumstick (that was still kind of frozen when it left the house, I hope it thaws in time), one organic raspberry lemonade juice pouch, and some mixed nuts. The mixed nuts are an emergency protein since I'm afraid the chicken might be frozen or even that I should have packed two.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Meatballs Fortano/First school lunch

Today was the first day of school.

For my daughter, we packed:
- peanut butter and blackberry jam on homemade cinnamon raisin bread
- banana
- white grape raspberry juice in a thermos with the same juice made into ice cubes to keep the thermos cold. They were Christmas tree ice cubes.
- About ten animal crackers
- a banana
- two Swedish fish

We packed something similar for my and my husband's lunch. Except we had cupcakes instead of Swedish fish.

For dinner, I got some tomatoes and basil from the garden and made bruschetta before I left for school.

When we got home, I got two everything bagels out of the freezer (last two). I thawed and toasted them, put the last of the cheddar cheese on them, and melted it. I stirred some grated romano into the bruschetta and piled the bruschetta on the bagels.

I got the leftover basil-mango-meatballs from the freezer and served them with the bruschetta bagels.

My daughter called this meal, Meatballs Fortano. She said the bagels reminded her of forts.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Angel's doughnut holes

I decided to try the doughnuts I've been thinking about for a week. School starts Monday here so we only have a day or two left to do something crazy.

This is the recipe from Cooks.com that inspired me:


1 c. milk, scalded
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 pkg. yeast
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
Confectioners' sugar

Pour milk over butter and sugars; stir until melted and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, stirring until dissolved. Sift flour, salt and nutmeg. Gradually add half the dry mixture to milk; add egg and beat well. Add remaining flour and leave dough in warm place for 1 hour. Knead gently, roll to quarter inch thickness and cut into diamonds. Allow to rise 30 minutes to 1 hour. Fry in deep fat, 375 degrees and dust with confectioners' sugar or use confectioners' sugar glaze if desired.

As you can imagine, I deviated from the recipe.
I didn't scald the milk. Merely warmed it to near boiling in the microwave. Matter of fact, I used half soy milk and half two percent milk.
I didn't sift all the dry ingredients together, I simply put two cups of the flour in, mixed it, added the nutmeg, mixed it, added the egg, mixed, added the other cup of flour and before I mixed it I added the salt.

I used about 3/4 to 1 cup of canola oil in my smallest sauce pan to fry these suckers, and I could have probably used a little less than that, more like the 3/4 cup mark. Because I made doughnut holes usually slightly smaller than a golf ball that was plenty.

For toppings, my daughter's favorite was local honey and powdered sugar. I liked brown sugar and cinnamon. I even made an "adult" doughnut by thickening the honey white wine sauce from the fruit salad the other day and then rolling it in granulated sugar. I made cocoa doughnuts with baking cocoa, chocolate sprinkles, granulated sugar and powdered sugar. And mix every other combination among them...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

End of August trip to Aldi

Had $26 plus change to my name. So, I went to Aldi.

Spent $26.36 (and will need to go to the store before Monday to get bananas for Lil Miss's school lunch)

- 2 bags tortilla chips, 99 cents each
- Broccoli crowns, 1.39
- Graham crackers, $1.25
- Kid Cuisine chicken dinner, one, at $1.79 (we have leftovers for our dinner tonight that are spicy so we thought we'd spoil her with some processed junk)
- Hazelnut nondairy creamer, $1.99
- 2 boxes of baking soda, 49 cents each
- Spinach rigatoni or something like that, $2.99
- chopped pecans, $2.89
- apple juice concentrate, 92 cents
- harvest vegetables in the steam in bag, 4 servings, $3.49
- flour tortillas, 99 cents
- white grape raspberry frozen juice concentrate, $1.24
- evaporated milk, 69 cents
- chicken and dumplings soup, 2 cans, $1.39
- Eggs, 99 cents

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Progresso Dinner

Ah, tonight we had Progresso reduced sodium pot roast/beef vegetable soup with more biscuits from lunch. So no recipes. It's chilly, gloomy and I'm wounded.


My in-laws left at 11:45 which left me 22 minutes to whip up lunch, when we're low on groceries and I strained my back.

I had my daughter help me whip up a batch of skillet biscuits, all with unbleached white flour as I'm out of my specialty flours of wheat and rye.

When my husband got home, he sliced a tomato from the garden for me and got the spring mix ready. My daughter got the mayo. I put a drop of olive oil in the small frying pan and dropped our last four slices of Morningstar Vegetarian bacon in the pan and covered them with a pinch of organic four color pepper.

We assembled the little sandwiches and they were yummy. For dessert we had warm biscuits with blackberry jam, and my daughter-- so enamored with these fluffy biscuits-- requested a THIRD, this one with peanut butter and jelly.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cucumber Sandwiches

After I pulled my back today, my husband made one of my favorite summer snacks for me:
Cucumber sandwiches!

- Cream cheese
- cucumber
- It's a dilly

on crackers or bread.

In this case, on multigrain/rye crackers.

Cream Cheese and Tuna sandwiches

I made these open-faced tuna sandwiches as an attempt at a quick lunch when we are low on groceries.

- 2 everything bagels
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1.5 teaspoons mayonnaise
- 1 can tuna
- 1/2 teaspoon four color pepper
- about 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar for each half a bagel, which is about 1/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon grated romano
- about 1 heaping tablespoon cream cheese for each bagel half

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the Le Creuset skillet, I melted one tablespoon butter on low and placed the four bagel halves face-down in the pan to toast. After about two minutes, I turned the heat to medium, let them toast for a minute and flip over.

As soon as you flip the bagels, turn off the heat to the burner so you can leave the bagels in there. Spread about a tablespoon of cream cheese onto each bagel.

In a separate bowl, mix tuna, mayo, pepper and romano. Place about 1/4 of the tuna mix on each bagel in an even layer. Top with cheddar, about 2 tablespoons each sandwich.

Place the skillet in the oven for five to ten minutes to melt the cheese on top.

Honeyed Fruit

As I was prepping the fruit salad yesterday, at the last minute I decided to make white wine-honey sauce for it. It's a French recipe I found online for a dinner party, that depending on the dryness of the wine used to make the sauce can be enjoyable for children and adults alike. But that's if you use a sweet wine, like a Vouvray. I, in this case, used a dry Reisling made by a friend. (I save my old wine bottles for him and he returns one from the batch filled with home brew.)

My original experience with this recipe can be found here:

I thought yesterday's version was worth noting, in part because of the local nature of some of the ingredients. The honey was local honey and the wine, as I mentioned, came from a friend.

This is the list of ingredients for the sauce:
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons plus two teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

It's all supposed to be mixed in the blender. I used a measuring glass and a whisk. And I didn't use as much sugar. I never do. After you mix it, you're supposed to chill it in the fridge for 20 minutes. I slapped mine in the freezer for ten.

My fruits, as mentioned in the earlier post about this meal, were the leftovers of a fresh pineapple, a banana and the last of my strawberries sliced.

What was leftover, I let soak in the fridge (with some sauce left in reserve and I'm thinking ice cream). That became my breakfast this morning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thin Broccoli Quiche

So, today I made a thin quiche for lunch. The egg filling was four eggs and about 1 1/4 cup of milk. I sprayed the bottom of my pie dish with cooking spray and coated with fresh broccoli, about 1/3 teaspoon four color pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt, and thorough sprinkles across the broccoli of grated romano from Calandras.

I baked it at 425 for 12 minutes, then lowered the temp to 300 for the next twenty, keeping an eye on it because it's so thin.

This will accompany a fruit salad made from the last of the pineapple, the leftover strawberries and a big banana.

Salad will be served, but it's slightly wilted. My husband will still eat it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Raisin-stuffing dates

It's 9 p.m. and after a rather odd day, we need a snack. So I opted to try another variation of the stuffed dates that have proven popular in my universe.

This is the original recipe I invented in February:
(I served it as an appetizer with the pork)

This is yesterday's version:

This fruity version was trying to make up for the fact that we were on our final dates...

(makes six little appetizers)

- 3 dates, pitted, and sliced in half
- About 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- About 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 dash nutmeg
- About 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- About 1 tablespoon raisins
- 6 slices morningstar vegetarian bacon
- About 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon cream cheese or neufchâtel

In a warm skillet (on low) spread the walnut oil and sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Add the raisins and the dates. Let cook for about three minutes and flip the dates.

Meanwhile put the cream cheese in a bowl.

Stir the raisins around. Remove from skillet as soon as they are shiny and puffy. Add to cream cheese and try to stir into as close to a whipped filling as you can get.

Once the second side of the dates have been cooked for about three minutes, remove to a dish. Throw the bacon into the skillet. Do not wipe the skillet clean first. After a minute flip the bacon. Cook another minute. Remove to plate.

With a butter knife, smear some raisin-cheese filling onto each date half. Then wrap with the bacon and return to the skillet, "seam" of the bacon down. When all six are in the pan, increase temperature to medium and cook for about two minutes.

Remove from pan.

*These do not get as crisp as the ones from the oven. You could probably roll them and cook each side if you wanted that crispness without turning the oven on.

French Herbs with Cheryl Karcher

Today, thanks to the prodding and support of a very sweet friend, I attended a French herb workshop at Grouse Studios in Frenchtown. The "teacher" for this informal seminar was Cheryl A. Karcher of Hilltop Herbals.

Fun, fun afternoon.

The blend of experience levels at the workshop made it really interesting. I wanted to learn more about some of the French herbs you commonly see in recipes but I've been hesitant to buy them fresh because they're expensive and I wasn't sure what to do with them.

Really~ I have no clue what to do with sorrel, tarragon, and I would love to make more use of my lavender and lemon thyme. I also need to grow my own rosemary. It's pathetic that I don't.

I'm not going to share any of Cheryl's recipes although I can't guarantee I won't be playing with them in the future. Cheryl has to make a living like everyone else, so these recipes are not mine to share. But we dined on toasted bread with Cheryl's herbed butter and of course white wine. We had a lovely sautéed chicken with mustard and rosemary sauce, an orange/spinach salad with tarragon dressing, and a crisp string bean salad with a lemon/garlic/lemon thyme dressing. And she shared some of her lavender cookies and rose raspberry tea with us.

Also exciting for me was to get up close and personal with fleur de sel. I've wanted some but didn't feel justified in making the investment.

So, what did I learn?

That I need to expand my herbs, and that sorrel is high in iron.

My current herbs: lemon thyme, basil, parsley, spearmint, catmint, oregano (a bush these days), chives, lavender, pink lavender...

My wish list: rosemary

Cheryl's workshop gave me some real food (or herb) for thought... and I'm just too excited to contemplate it now. But look for her inspiration in coming days.

Tammy's lunch: Warmed Stuffed Dates

The salad for Tammy's lunch was simple: spring mix my mother-in-law brought with the Very Veggie Dole prepackaged salad, added some cucumber from the store, a diced green pepper from my garden, and lots of raisins and sunflower seeds.

Dessert was fresh pineapple and strawberries.

The entree was leftover sicilian.

The beverage was the house specialty of green tea and rose tea.

But the warm appetizer stole the attention.
I modified my stuffed date recipe.

I sliced the dates in half and coated my skillet with walnut oil. I warmed the skillet on low, added a dash of cinnamon across the bottom of the pan, and added the dates. I increased heat to almost medium and let the dates cook for about four minutes. Then I flipped them. Waited four minutes or so and removed them from the skillet.

I turned the heat off from under the skillet, added a slice of morningstar vegetarian bacon for each whole date, waited a minute, and flipped the bacon. Since the heat was off and the skillet was slowly cooling, I left the bacon in there and swiped some cream cheese into each of my date halves. Then I closed the dates and returned them to their original shape.

Once all the dates were stuffed, I wrapped each date in fake bacon and returned them to the skillet where I baked them in a preheated oven (400 degrees) for about ten minutes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

7 a.m. shopping

I have one of my dear friends coming for lunch and I didn't have enough energy last night to go to the store. My menu includes leftover sicilian, a nice salad, and bacon-wrapped dates.

The shopping list said:
- salad
- salad mixings
- fruit
- cream cheese
- Morningstar veggie bacon
- coffee?

I arrived at the store at about 7:10 a.m., sleep still crusted in my eyes and about a half cup of coffee in my system.

I spent $26.56 (which will be added to the August expenditures so far this month of $133 I believe)

I purchased:
- 2 milky way bars, 1 regular and 1 midnight dark (I have had a craving for cheap chocolate lately, and I'm meeting my friend for writing business and my character has an addiction to Milky Ways), $1
- roasted sunflower seeds unsalted, $1.99 pound, $1.17
- canola oil, small bottle, 24 ounces, $2.09
- New England blueberry cobbler coffee, 11 ounces, $5.19 (splurge but soooo yummy)
- almost 3 pounds bananas, $1.66
- cucumber, 79 cents
- Dole very veggie bagged salad, $2.50
- Strawberries, $2.50
- whole pineapple, $2.99
- welch's white grape raspberry frozen juice concentrate, $1.89
- neufchâtel cheese, a block, $1.29
- morningstar bacon, $3.49

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


This is bad.

I have a meeting tonight and I've made such yummy stuff for lunch I'm thinking of making doughnuts for dinner.

This is one of the recipes from Cooks.com...


1 c. milk, scalded
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 pkg. yeast
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 egg
Confectioners' sugar

Pour milk over butter and sugars; stir until melted and cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, stirring until dissolved. Sift flour, salt and nutmeg. Gradually add half the dry mixture to milk; add egg and beat well. Add remaining flour and leave dough in warm place for 1 hour. Knead gently, roll to quarter inch thickness and cut into diamonds. Allow to rise 30 minutes to 1 hour. Fry in deep fat, 375 degrees and dust with confectioners' sugar or use confectioners' sugar glaze if desired.

I think I'd rather make cinnamon buns/sticky rolls instead... then I can pretend the raisins and nuts make them healthy...

I never really thought about the fact that doughnuts are fried.

Curry Chicken Rice Soup

This soup is loosely based on a scrumptious recipe I have for Mulligatawny.

I have no apple. And to me, apple is the yummy part.

My soup today:
- one chicken breast chopped into chunks and cooked on low in the cast iron skillet, with a 1/2 teaspoon four color pepper, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground garlic salt, and once the meat is 95% done about 1.5 cups water.

In the soup pot combine
- 48 ounces chicken broth
- 8 ounces water
- 1-2 cups leftover brown rice
- three diced carrots
- one tomato from the garden, diced
- 2 leaves basil, from the garden
- 4-6 leaves oregano from the garden

Now, when you're ready to combine the chicken pot into the soup pot, first you need to add your "thickener." The original recipe called for 1/4 cup flour and two teaspoons curry powder mixed into the soup.

Instead, I took a tea cup and a very small whisk... I used about 1/8 cup corn starch (it was more readily at hand than the flour) and the curry powder in the bottom of the teacup. Filled the teacup 3/4 full with water and whisked until smooth.

I took the chicken skillet off the burner and stirred the cornstarch liquid into the cooled chicken/liquid and then poured that into the soup. I slowly increased temperature from low to medium, stirring occasionally, and then brought it to a boil on medium. After some stirring, I reduced it to a simmer. Covered. And left it on the stove.

English Muffins

Ever since a friend and I were discussing bread and converting plain recipes into English muffin style bread. I'm hoping to make chicken soup today, since I have some leftover chicken and my daughter has been asking for chicken soup... Bread would go nicely.

At King Arthur flour, I found two versions of a recipe.

presents this:
This yeasty, coarse-textured bread makes the best toast ever, a perfect partner to fresh summer jam or preserves. A purely mix-it-slap-in-the-pan-bake-and-eat-it loaf, it's earned a place of honor in our King Arthur test kitchen Hall of Fame.

* 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 tablespoon instant yeast
* 1 cup milk
* 1/4 cup water
* 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
* cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan


1) Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.

2) Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. The liquid will feel very hot (hotter than lukewarm), but not so hot that it would scald you. As a reference point, the hottest water from your kitchen tap is probably around 120°F (unless your tap water is so hot that it burns you).

3) Pour the hot liquid over the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl.

4) Beat at high speed for 1 minute. The dough will be very soft.

5) Lightly grease an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal.

6) Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

7) Cover the pan, and let the dough rise till it's just barely crowned over the rim of the pan. When you look at the rim of the pan from eye level, you should see the dough, but it shouldn't be more than, say, 1/4" over the rim. This will take about 45 minutes to 1 hour, if you heated the liquid to the correct temperature and your kitchen isn't very cold. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.

8) Remove the cover, and bake the bread for 20 to 22 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.

9) Remove the bread from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Let the bread cool completely before slicing.

This is the bread machine recipe from King Arthur, I like the look of this better:

For those of you who don't feel like doing a lot of rolling and cutting, here's an English muffin bread developed for the bread machine. It makes a mild-flavored, light-textured 1 1/2-pound loaf, perfect for toast.

1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

Program your machine for basic white bread, light crust. Midway through the second kneading cycle, check the dough; it should be soft, smooth and slightly sticky. Adjust the dough's consistency with additional flour or water, if necessary (as this recipe was developed in the dead of winter, when flour is at its driest, you may find you need to use more flour -- or less water -- in the summer.) For a true English muffin effect, remove the dough after either the final kneading or before the final rise and roll it in cornmeal. Place the dough back in the machine to rise and bake. Yield: 1 loaf.

Nutrition information per serving (1/2-inch slice, 45g): 80 cal, 1.5g fat, 3g protein, 16g complex carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 1mg cholesterol, 225mg sodium, 56mg potassium, 9RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 55mg calcium, 37mg phosphorus.

I did work with the traditional recipe, but I tried some of my own twists. I doubled the recipe and divided the dough into three loafs instead of two. I used half unsweetened soy milk and half two percent milk. I used 3 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups unbleached white flour. I used local honey with a touch of sugar instead of just sugar. And I added a pinch of baking powder. One of these days I will learn to follow a recipe.

I would love to try this:
(and reading her entry is very enjoyable) but I don't want to deal with grams today.

While my bread didn't look as nook and cranny-ish as I would have liked, it tasted like an english muffin.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I swear I've typed this recipe before but I feel like doing it again even so. I'm making American-style cinnamon-raisin bread. It's a good day for it, about 80 degrees and very humid.

So humid that I mixed some honey into the yeasty water, went downstairs to check the laundry and the yeast had puffed up and almost out of the measuring cup by the time I got back.

The original Betty Crocker 25th Anniversary Cookbook recipe for
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
- 6 to 7 cups unbleached or all purpose white flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 2 packages regular or quick acting dry yeast
- 2 1/4 cups very warm water
- 1 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Mix 3.5 cups flour with the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast in large bowl. Add water. Beat on low one minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed one minute. Stir in remaining flour, one cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle. Stir in one cup raisins.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead about ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise 40 to 60 minutes until dough doubles. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Grease 2 loaf pans. Punch dough down and divide in half. Flatten dough and make a rectangle 18 x 9 inches.

Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangle. Flatten or roll into 9 x 9 square. Roll dough tightly, beginning at the open (unfolded) ends to form a loaf. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Press each end with side of hand to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam down in pan. Brush loafs lightly with margarine. Cover and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes until double.

Place oven rack in lowest position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Cool on wire rack.

My variations:

My ingredient list:
- 3 plus cups of unbleached white flour
- 3 plus cups of whole wheat flour
I used local honey instead of sugar

Instead of mixing the yeast into the dry ingredients, I put the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water, added the honey and then let it sit while I assembled the rest of the ingredients.

I used almost 2 tablespoons butter instead of shortening.

I could glaze with cornstarch and water instead of butter. I used a mixture of walnut oil and water. I glazed with this, coated with old fashioned oats, and coated again.

I used a mix of brown sugar (light and dark), cinnamon, maybe white sugar and nutmeg for the spice filling.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cornbread and refried beans

The old vegan cornbread recipe:

Preheat oven to 350. These muffins, or cornbread, need to go in a hot oven as soon as they're mixed.

* 1.5 cups yellow cornmeal
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1.5 cups soy milk
* 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients. In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Pour liquid into dry, mix until just combined. Bake 30-40 minutes. Note: You may not need quite that much oil.

Now, using this recipe from the Food Network as a base, I am going to attempt refried black beans.


* 1 cup dried pinto beans, soaked overnight in a large bowl with water to cover by 2-inches, and drained
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/2 cup bacon drippings or lard
* 1 cup chopped yellow onions
* 1 tablespoon minced garlic
* 1 tablespoon minced, seeded jalapeno
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* Pinch cayenne
* 1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano
* 1/2 cup grated queso blanco
* 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, garnish


In a medium, heavy pot, combine the beans, bay leaf, and enough water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, adding more water as necessary to keep covered. When the beans are soft, mash in the pot with a potato masher or the back of heavy wooden spoon. Remove from the heat.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat the bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 45 seconds to 1 minute. Add the beans and any cooking liquid from the pot, and the oregano, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring with a heavy wooden spoon, until the mixture forms a thick paste, 5 to 10 minutes, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time to keep from getting dry.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a decorative bowl. Sprinkle with the cheese and cilantro, and serve.

My version:
I started with the old Le Creuset skillet. Out of habit, I slapped a couple tablespoons of butter into it, forgetting I wanted them to be vegan. The beans. So I quickly switched to extra virgin olive oil. I didn't measure anything, perhaps 'cause I'm brave, also because I'm reckless.

I got a bag of beans from the freezer. A ziploc sandwich baggie full of black beans. I thawed them in the microwave on defrost, smashing them periodically with my fingers. I added some homegrown oregano, a sprinkle of four-color organic peppercorn, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin and a dash of paprika.

Oops! Grilled Cheese

I set out to make grilled cheese with tuna using our last four slices of bread. Since we only had those two sandwiches, I planned to cut them into three slices each so each person got two grilled cheese with cheddar and tuna "fingers" and a salad of romaine lettuce and raisins.

When I went to help the child flip the sandwich, it flew across the room and landed in the middle of the old brownie tin I use to bathe the tortoise. I took the side of the bread that landed against the pan, threw it out, and used cut the remaining guts and bread in half to make a double stuffed sandwich.

Otherwise, instead of 2/3 a sandwich each, we'd have gotten 1/3. This way we each got half, though the child got the HUGE stuffed half.

I also served some homemade granola to make up for the missing sandwich.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mac and Cheese Taste Test

Although I would like to believe Betty Crocker taught me well the basics of mac and cheese, I do have boxed, processed macaroni and cheese two to three times a month. My husband likes it (as he does my baked mac) and more importantly, it's something he's comfortable making.

As a family, we prefer Wegmans mac and cheese. The generic Wegmans stuff. The spirals. NOT the white cheddar. Not the elbows.

Kraft is yummy, especially that new formula they have out now, but I won't pay their prices. If I pay that for mac and cheese in a box, I'll go with Nature's Promise Cheddar or Anne's Organic. Some of that Anne's organic stuff includes significant vegetable matter.

Even Aldi's generic mac and cheese will do in a pinch. My husband often adds a touch of cheddar to make it more appealing. But it will do.

Tonight, we tried Target's Archer Farm. First off, it was more expensive than what I would normally pay. But we wanted to see if it was worth it. Sometimes it pays to splurge as a treat, and sometimes it just proves you aren't missing anything by buying the cheap stuff.

We had two varieties: Buffalo Mac and Cheese and Smoky Bacon and Parmesan Entrée Mac and Cheese.

I could not resist Buffalo-sauce flavored mac and cheese.

The only differences between the two: the entree mac and cheese required a cup of milk and had 5 servings per box. The buffalo required no milk, a specific amount of water that the cheese sauce boiled in while you cooked the noodles and it only made 3 servings.

The Buffalo was too spicy for the child. It had a funny artificial cardboard-like aftertaste. I hated it. The noodles carried these weird flavor. The sauce, when I dabbed bread in it, was fine. I found the smoky bacon flavor bland, but edible. My husband thought it gritty. So he ate the Buffalo instead.

This led to the following status line on facebook:
" Angel Ackerman must make homemade mac and cheese. I'm thinking Gouda, cheddar, romano and maybe Chaumes. Expensive mac and cheese. But after tonight's taste test of Target's Archer Farms Mac and Cheese, if I must do a box, I'm sticking to Wegmans or Kraft."

My friends have already noticed. I'm plotting a Macaroni and Cheese night. I'll have each of my friends bring 8 ounces of their favorite cheese and whip them into funky gourmet mac and cheeses. Now THAT should be fun.

Jessica's Feast

My dear friend Jessica's feast. She came over and made me (and my family) lunch.

- Romaine Lettuce, straight up, French style
- Incredible chicken salad made with organic chicken, coconut, mandarin oranges, craisins, blueberries and cucumber. YUM.
- a soft baguette. She likes them soft. I like them crusty. Almost sounds like we're talking about men, doesn't it?
- Brie

I provided:
- Beaujolais
- Rose iced tea
- Squares of Ghiradelli chocolate for dessert, some 60% dark, some expresso escape.

Rose tea

I love the Tazo Rest Tea. It's primarily rose, with lavender, lemon, and valerian. All sorts of restful herbs, but no chamomile which always overpowers everything.

I have been making iced tea with 50% green tea and 50% this rest tea, and it's good. Today I scaled back the amount of green tea.

The Tazo tea hot is yummy by itself so I don't know why I'm hesitant to make a full batch of Tazo rest iced tea.

Monday, August 9, 2010


From all recipes.com:


* 1 1/2 cups water
* 3 teaspoons beef bouillon
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 onion, chopped
* 1/4 cup butter


1. Combine water, bouillon, flour, onion and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until thickened.

I used chives instead of onion and instead of beef bouillon/water I used a can of beef broth.

This was my first gravy and it had no lumps and wash a great consistency.

Mango Basil Meatballs

Looking at the week ahead, I opted for some red meat for dinner. Local beef from a nearby dairy farm, but hamburger nonetheless. Meatballs. Served as? Not sure. But it won't involve red sauce or pasta since we had that for lunch and it's too late in the game to make brown rice.

Betty Crocker's Meatball recipe is this:
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 egg

Mix. Make 1.5 inches balls. Cook in 13x9x2 inch rectangular pan at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

But we all know I can't follow a recipe. I swapped the rectangular dish for my Le Creuset skillet.

Here are my ingredients:
- 1 package (I hope it's) 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup crumbled Matzoh
(now my meat was frozen and I thawed it in the microwave and it got juicy, then the Matzoh was too big, so I tossed it all in and improvised)
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup mango coconut pepper sauce (to replace the milk, but I misread the amount)
- 1/2 teaspoon four color organic peppercorn
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground garlic salt
- 10 leaves fresh basil from the garden, torn
- 1 egg

They "feel" "right."

Will keep you posted.

They were incredible!

Monday morning update

It's amazing how fun meal planning is when you have food in the house.

My family had yogurt and homemade granola at 7 a.m.

I had my breakfast at 10:30 and made a second breakfast for daughter Bug. We eat had half a peanut butter and blackberry jam sandwich on Target's Archer Farms Honey Wheat bread. And the last of the dates, 2 each. Apple juice for her. A second cup of coffee for me. (We both had a full water bottle during our bike trek.)

Carbohydrates. Not including the jam for the PB&J, two of the items in this morning's meals have lots of carbs. Bread, that's obvious. And yogurt, may not seem so obvious. When I had gestational diabetes, I was allotted 3 servings of carbs with my lunch, not including one fruit, and 4 with my dinner.

That's why to this day I make half-sandwiches instead of whole. Because each slice of bread counts as 1 serving, and 13 doritoes/potato chips etc is also 1 serving. If I wanted the chips, I usually skimped on the bread. And I learned that a half-sandwich is just as filling, and depending what's on it can end up tasting really thick, as if you put double meat or cheese on it. I still don't miss that extra slice.

Compare this to yogurt. Because yogurt is made with milk and lactose is a sugar, and then our American palate likes it sweet so we add MORE sugar... A low-fat yogurt that has that thick creamy pudding-like taste had 2-3 servings of carbohydrates. That's an entire lunch worth. For a diabetic pregnant woman (who, by the way, gets more food than your everyday diabetic). And fat free yogurt sweetened with asparatame STILL has 1 full serving of carbs. With that choice, I'd rather opt for a low-fat oatmeal cookie. Probably leave me more emotionally satisfied.

So that's my rant.

For lunch we will probably have leftover spaghetti and sausage my husband made over the weekend with grated romano from Calandra's cheese in Nazareth.

CVS and conquer

Today my daughter and I rode our bikes to CVS where we spent $15.72. We didn't really get groceries, but when you consider what we bought, it's a pretty cool deal. Some of the items I bought at Target yesterday I should have saved for CVS (Progresso soup was buy one get one at CVS, at $2.19 whereas Target was $1.66 each and the coupon was for four... so the per can cost at CVS before the coupon would have been $1.10, 56 cents cheaper...)

Consumer note: CVS often runs sales for items that have coupons in THAT Sunday's paper. For instance, I received this Sunday's paper and there was a 35 cent coupon for Colgate. CVS had Colgate buy one get one. Using the coupons in this manner prevents the "clip, save, forget" problem. And the deals (compare with my target example) are good.

I usually review all the drugstore circulars before looking at the coupons, and then review the circulars I thought had pertinent deals a second time after clipping.

In this week's coupons AND on sale at CVS: Nature Valley granola bars, Chex mix, Progresso soup, candy, razor blades (I think), and Colgate. Probably other stuff too, but it's been a while since I practiced this.

Coupons, circulars, and stopping at multiple stores only works if you know what you usually pay/ can find stuff at. (Wow, awkward English.)

At Target, I almost bought shampoo. But they wanted $1.92 for the big cheapo bottle of Suave. My motto is if you're going to buy cheap shampoo, you never pay more than a dollar, or $1.29 if you're desperate.

CVS had VO5 on sale for 69 cents.

So, my trip to CVS was about medicine. I needed my iron pills. Ferrous Sulfate. (200 pills for $9.79) Normally I would get these from my small independent pharmacy that I love, but I wanted to walk (or bike) and I knew CVS had other stuff on sale.

How far did my $15.72 go? (I was aiming for $11 because that's what I had in cash, and that would have worked if I got 30 Ferrous pills instead of 200 and since I take 2 a day...)

- Iron pills, 200 in the bottle at $9.79
- 3 bags of candy (sour patch kids, sour patch watermelons, and swedish fish), 8 ounces each. 2/$3.00 minus $2 manufacturer coupon (That's $2.50 for the set or something like 83 cents a bag, but NOT a necessary item, just fun for 'family movie night.' Sure can help the family from being deprived.)
- Colgate whitening 6.4 ounce tubes, buy one get one free, bought 2 at $2.49 minus 35 cent manufacturer coupon (2 big tubes of toothpaste for $2.14, that's $1.07 each)
- 4 bottles of VO5 shampoo/conditioner at 69 cents each.

Then take ALL that and subtract my CVS Extra Bucks of $1.50

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You CAN'T do your grocery shopping at Target

I needed some stuff. Houseware stuff, grocery stuff and pharmacy stuff. I thought I'd do an experiment seeing if I could do it all at Target. For my local readers, I thought I could resurrect the Laneco days.

Sadly, I could not.

With a list, some coupons, a husband and a six year old, I set out. $156 later...

The expenditure broke down relatively well, but I did not get nearly enough fresh items and many basic items cost more than I was willing to spend.

But here goes...

- Shout color catchers, 2 boxes at $2.99 each minus a manufacturer's coupon for $2 (I LOVE these things and I was heartbroken last month when I saw the inside of my current box has a coupon for a $1 off my next box and it expired the previous month. A box lasts me more than a year. Two might last the rest of my life)
- liquid fabric softener, 51 ounces, $3.99
- MOVIES... Stuart Little and Mathilda. $5 each.
- 1 pound carrots, 99 cents
- Strawberry preserves, $1.87
- Seedless blackberry jam, $2.69
- French's mustard, spicy brown, $1.25
- Archer Farms Macaroni and Cheese, Buffalo style, $2.49 (How could I not try this??? Buffalo Sauce is my favorite thing. )
- Archer Farms Macaroni and Cheese entrée smoky bacon, $3.49 (for one of the nights my husband cooks)
- Progresso soup, four cans at $1.66 each minus $1 manufacturer's coupon
- beef broth, about 16 ounces, 67 cents
- 24 ounces of medium salsa, $2.64
- 2 bags of brown rice, 97 cents each
- New England Blueberry Cobbler ground coffee, $5.17
- Buttery Caramel ground coffee, $5.99
- The ridiculously large can of everyday coffee, $6.99
- Tazo Rest tea (incredible stuff, primarily rose, lemon, lavender... ) $3.29
- Celestial Seasonings blueberry herbal tea, $2.24
- Archer Farms Honey Wheat bread, $2.39
- Sunsweet dark chocolate covered "dried plums," $2.79 (my daughter BEGGED for these. She thought we should try them. My daughter was begging for PRUNES!!! I figure I'll save them for days she has trouble pooping.)
- 3 small lemons, 33 cents each
- Big canister of raisins, SunMaid, $2.59
- Bag of frozen california blend veggies, $1.12
- bag of frozen corn, $1.02
- 4 Frozen Pretzels stuffed with spinach and Feta, (dinner for "movie night"= 10 grams of protein, vitamin A and C, some calcium...) $4.99
- Old orchard 100 % juice apple-raspberry concentrate, $1.17
- Pineapple-orange 100% juice frozen concentrate, $1.32
- 12 pack of cherry coke zero (Okay, is this giving in to a bad habit or admitting the necessity for an anemic to have such things around. I soooo don't want to be popping Diet Cokes to make it through the day. I know a breast cancer survivor who drank several a day and I wanted to slap her upside the head for it.) $3
- Half gallon 2% milk, $1.99
- six everything bagels, $1.24 (the airy useless kind, but good for a pinch if you keep them in the freezer)
- 1 dozen eggs, $1.19
- Silk Almond Milk, one vanilla and one DARK CHOCOLATE!!!! $2.99 each
- 32 ounces of Dannon vanilla yogurt $1.66
- 7 individual portions of funky flavors of Archer Farm yogurt (strawberry cheesecake, key lime pie, honey almond) 49 cents each
- Archer Farms monster cookie ice cream (peanut butter ice cream with M&M's and oatmeal cookies) $3.50
- Morningstar vegetarian breakfast patties (the infamous sausages!) three boxes at $3 each
- 750 tablets of 200 mg ibuprofen, $9.04
- 200 women's multivitamins, $7.04
- 2 10-ounce reusable bottles with the freezer insert, $4.99 (perfect for child, school?) $3.99
- 4 cans wet cat food, 37 cents each
- Kotex 40 count and a 44 count of utlra thin maxis, $5.54 each minus $1 manufacturer's coupon
- U tampons, the 36 count, regular, $7.19 minus $1 manufacturer's coupon


Today, I had a gigantic chicken breast leftover from dinner with my dad and stepmom at the dinner. It was their version of chicken français ( they call it Frances which makes me laugh). But no matter what you call it, chicken in lemon-butter sauce is one of the delights of the Earth.

I whipped out my Le Creuset pan and dumped some drained canned potato slices, which never works for anything remotely hashbrown-like because they are too wet. But I kept the heat low, used a hearty amount extra virgin olive oil, and kept an eye on them best I could.

Now before I continue, this is NOT a meal of anything remotely gourmet. I don't think I've been to the grocery store for six weeks, so I've been relying on our freezer and pantry reserves. And now those are also depleted.

So recycling this chicken breast into a meal for three is an exercise in cheap utility. And filling bellies.

Okay, starting over:

- One large chicken breast (cooked)
- 1 cup peas (cooked)
- one can sliced potatoes
- extra virgin olive oil
- one-half teaspoon fresh ground garlic salt

Coat skillet with extra virgin olive oil. Heat on low. Add potatoes. Cook for a short while. Add peas. Cook for a short while, stirring occasionally. Gradual increase heat almost to medium. Add chicken. Add more oil if needed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eggplant Spinach Lasagne

I stopped after my haircut and splurged on some cheese from Calandra's. I wanted a twist of mozzerella, but the per pound price is up to $6 making the average twist $7-something. I had $6-something.

So, I also purchased a pound of grated romano, which brought my tab to $14.88 and seemed more appropriate if I were going to write a check.

For lunch we had mozzerrella with the leftover fried ham (think breadless sandwiches), my mom's ugly bean dip, bruschetta made with tomatoes and basil from the garden, and the last loaf of homemade bread from the freezer.

If I had thought about it, I would have also purchased ricotta. But I didn't. So when I got the idea to use some of the mozzerrella to make a lasagne (I have had one box of no boil lasagne noodles forever) I needed some other filling. I decided on eggplant and spinach.

- one box no boil lasagne noodles
- garlic powder
- 2 cans tomato sauce (the normal sized cans, not the tiny ones)
- four color organic peppercorn
- olive oil
- about 2 cups spinach
- about ten pieces of breaded and fried eggplant
- 1/3 pound fresh mozzerella

The lasagne has three layers. So used about 1/3 for each layer. Except for the eggplant, it only goes on the bottom 2 layers.

In a small pyrex casserole dish, layer the sauce, noodles, spices, a little cheese, eggplant, spinach, and then repeat. The top layer has no eggplant, but does have cheese. I used spaghetti noodles to tent aluminum foil over the whole lasagne and baked at 375 for an hour. I plan to uncover for the last 15 minutes.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Farm Fresh Cream Sauce

I didn't go to the grocery store yet, in part because the tire on the car exploded and in other part because we have so many random items in this house that I like the challenge of using what we've got.

This morning I was thinking vegetables rolled in cold cuts. But then I decided on pasta for dinner. We have some tri-color rotini, and some lunchmeat ham my mother-in-law brought last week. I thought I could combine those. We also have some raw milk that's a week old and we always have plenty of butter.

- Tri-color rotini
- Leftover cold cut ham
- About 4 tablespoons butter
- About 1 teaspoon organic four color pepper
- 1 cup raw milk
- 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
- dash nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 2 cups peas

So I made the rotini.

In my Le Creuset skillet, I started with with a pat of butter and some four color peppercorn. I tossed all the ham into the skillet, heated over medium and fried both sides. I removed the ham from the skillet and put it on a cutting board. I added two tablespoons of butter to the skillet, reducing heat to low. Stirring constantly, I added the butter.

The base of this recipe came from the Betty Crocker 25th Anniversary Cookbook.

This is probably the first time my flour-butter base for the cream sauce actually came out as liquid and not as a lump. I think it's because of the even heating in the cast iron skillet. After stirring it until bubbly, I removed the skillet from the heat and added the milk. Stirred until everything melted and mixed together.

I returned the skillet to the heat, added the rest of the herbs (dill, garlic salt, remaining pepper, nutmeg) and stirred constantly as it thickened. When it got almost bubbly and a nice consistency, I added the peas and the ham and stirred until everything was warm.

Then I added the rotini, and stirred together.

My stirring technique for this involved a wide plastic turner where I scraped back and forth across the skillet.

It was my best cream sauce ever.