Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dairy-free trip to Giant

My version of processed dinner: spinach nuggets and sweet potato fries

So, based on the report from my daughter's ear guy, I decided to make some dairy-free transitions in our household. Tonight is dance, which means a late night for daughter, and tomorrow I work from the early afternoon onward which limits cooking time. I hate buying processed foods, but it seemed like Amy's Organics might be in order.

I spent $50.06 (for a total grocery expenditure in March of $280). They no longer carry Amy's Organic Vegetable Dairy Free Pot Pies, so instead I bought two Moo Moo vegetarian cuisine cashew stir fry dinners. These were $4.99 each and will serve as dinner for Daddy and Daughter tomorrow. Tonight we will have spinach nuggets ($5.49-- gasp! have prices gone up) and Ian's sweet potato fries ($3.49 and yes, I can make them cheaper myself but I don't have time.)

I purchased some plain soy milk (Nature's Promise, $2.39 for a half gallon) and organic Earth Balance margarine ($3.99, only 20 cents more than the regular). Broccoli crowns, a personal watermelon, romaine hearts (2/$5) and lots of tea and coffee. (Coffee deal yielded a $1 off coupon for next purchase.)

Wish I could say more, but it's time to leave my wireless internet and take daughter to dance class...

Mommy's five cheese mac

I made Betty Crocker's mac and cheese recipe last night with some classic Angel modifications. I don't have the recipe with me, and I didn't measure as I cooked. So this is a post based on memory.

It tasted incredible. The original Betty Crocker recipe is probably easy to find via the Betty Crocker label under this entry.

I started with about three tablespoons butter melting over medium-high heat with about two tablespoons chopped chives that I froze from my herb garden last summer. After three minutes of hearty swirling, I added about three tablespoons flour, trying not to let it degrade into a solid flour dumpling.

I added some fresh ground pepper and sea salt. Then lowered the heat to extremely low and added one cup heavy cream.  (I discovered I had no milk in the house.) I added a pinch of nutmeg. Once my flour and cream mixture had blended, I added three cups of plain soy milk. (And I am completely aware of how silly it must seem from a culinary perspective to have heavy cream and soy milk in the same dish. I am a big believer in "use what you got" cooking.)

Once that blended, I added the cheese. I probably used four ounces of velveeta (a gift from a friend), three ounces cheddar, and three or four ounces of mozzarella. Then I added the remaining fresh spinach I had on hand (about one cup, ripped into small slivers) and about a cup of frozen peas (again what I had on hand.) I wish I had some broccoli, but I didn't.

I made 16 ounces of small elbow noodles and it made two small casserole dishes full. Before baking at 375 for 30 minutes (and then cooking at 400 just to brown the top), I sprinkled each liberally with grated romano and then shredded asiago.

Fabulous. Truly fabulous. And probably a good thing, since it looks like my cooking might eliminate dairy for the next month to help with the fluid in my daughter's ears. I can survive without milk. Cheese hurts, but I can do it. How on earth am I going to cook without butter? I have a plan...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

farm tour #1: maple syrup

Guest columnist is my friend Gayle.

Angel and I share many philosophies about food. One is that people should know where their food comes from.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a big fan of the factory tour. And the farm tour. I love to see how things are made. We always did factory/farm tours on vacation. I thought it was the educational component. It was much later in life that I realized we did them because they were free.

Hopefully this will be a series of guest columns on farms, farmers markets and food tours. 

A few weeks ago I received an email from the Easton Farmers Market  and one item was about the Open House at Dutch Hill Preserves in Canadensis. You could see how maple syrup was made. Cool. I emailed Angel and asked if we could take Bug.  She said maybe. Depended on her work schedule.

So today we went. 

When we arrived, there was a crock pot of maple baked beans to taste (yummy!) and maple chowder. It tasted like chicken soup. Some maple syrup bread and a wonderful spread with walnuts. Actually I think it was walnuts soaked in maple syrup, warmed, and  poured over cream cheese. Devine on the bread. There was also lollipops. Mom said no. Bug asked the wrong adult!

After an intro on syrup making, the group marched down to the woods. And I was shocked. As we approached the woods it looked like it was strung with blue plastic tubing. I was expecting the traditional bucket and spout.

The season is brief. Using the trees and the bucket technique you might have to empty the bucket several times a day. There would be 22 acres of bucket. Yikes!The tubing eliminates that problem. However, animals, especially squirrels eat the tubes. That's a big problem..

The blue tubes were attached to the trees and dripped the syrup into a black collection tube. The collection tube sent it to the collection barrel, which was suctioned into the sugar house for processing.

Sixty gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of syrup. It makes you wonder how the original syrup makers thought of tapping a tree for sweetener. They really didn't need another labor intensive activity!

Children were given the opportunity to do it the old-fashioned way. But the sap wasn't running. It was too cold.

On the way back from the collection site we pasted the chicken coop. Bug loves chickens. When she's on her own, I fully expect to see a chicken coop in her yard.

Bug asked on the way home if they were having pancakes for breakfast. It's a school day so mom had to say no.

All and all it was a fun educational day. If you can ever see the process, do. If you just want some fresh, local maple syrup (or preserves), then stop by their stand at the Easton Farmers Market. It opens May 7th!

Click here for more pixs

New love: blueberry streusel breakfast bread

Store bought bread.
I don't use it as a rule, but last night in Target, I saw the Archer Farms blueberry streusel breakfast bread.

A little high in carbs, 3 grams protein per slice and not a whole lot if nutrients but it is yummy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Farewell, my salsa

Wegmans organic mango salsa has been a staple in my house for six years. My daughter loves nachos, so I pile them with beans, real cheddar cheese we grate ourselves and the mango salsa. That particular salsa was the only commercial salsa that packed nutritional punch:


2 Tablespoons wegmans mango salsa has
105 mg sodium
1 g fiber
3 g sugar
15 calories
8% rda vitamin A
15% rda vitamin C

Versus same serving of salsa from Aldi
180 mg sodium
1 g fiber
1 g sugar
2% vitamin A
No vitamin C

But wegmans has discontinued this product and will relaunch the line. I eagerly wait to see if a new product can compare.

Spinach feta middle eastern sandwich

An incredible vegetarian lunch today. We warmed our last zaatar (spelling?) bread from Forks mediterranean Deli and added feta and sautéed spinach.

For the spinach, I heated a tablespoon of butter and some garlic in the Le Creuset iron skillet, tossed in the spinach and added about 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Probably 1.5 cups frozen spinach.