Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pickles and Plans

I’ve started to do my grocery shopping on Saturday mornings while Sylvia naps and Matt and Liam hang out.  It’s early enough that I can get in and out of the 3 store I frequent in about an hour and I’m not frazzled for the rest of the day.  This Saturday, I found pickling cucumbers on sale.  They were perfect, local and since I already had the seasoning mixes, ripe for the picking (pardon the pun).  20 pounds and 4 hours later I had an impressive line of 22 pints and 6 quarts of fresh, homemade pickles!  I am a huge pickle fan, especially when on a peanut butter sandwich, and am super excited to pull those jars off the shelves in the middle of winter!  As a bonus, this weekend was perfect to be spent in the kitchen.  Breezy and in the mid-70s, I couldn’t have ordered better days.  
Another recent plan is to start researching batch cooking methods.  I came home from the library with a stack of books with a number of recipes that I’ll be trying out in the next few weeks.  I have a few standbys for frozen meals, but I’m looking forward to expanding my choices.  
This week, I’m recycling meals that I didn’t make from my last few menu plans.  Matt has a few appointments after work so he won’t be around when Liam and I eat.  I’m prepping meats to be grilled and used on salads for our lunches and since the weather is supposed to be mild in the middle of the week, I’m hoping to squeeze in a little extra baking.  Thankfully, I don’t have many things to do myself, so I’m looking forward to days spent outside in the sun, playing with the kids!

Meatloaf
Murgh Makhani (a special request from Matt and I’m making a double recipe of the sauce to keep in the freezer)
Salmon Cakes with Sweet Potato Fries
Asian BBQ Chicken and Rice (a new freezer recipe… I’ll let you know how it turns out!)
Honey Mustard Pork Chops

Stocking the larder 2011

Last night, I used the very last pint of my home-canned diced tomatoes.  I honestly stood at the counter and wondered if I was really ready to see them go.  It was a sad, sad moment, but they tasted as wonderful as they did the day we put them in the jars.  I love that about canning.  I love that all the fruits, jams, jellies and pickles that I can are there in the dead of winter to cheer me up.  As one friend said recently, opening a jar of home canned peaches is like eating CANDY!!!
In this house, we have a canning cellar like before, but this time it’s almost 3 times as large!  I had Matt move some shelving into the room around the edges and I’m currently storing my party wear, random holiday items and wrapping paper while I’m waiting to see how much food I manage to store up this summer and fall.  I’ve set my canning/freezing goal fairly low so that I know I can make it.  I had had high hopes for last year, but with a toddler, morning sickness and moving, not much really got done.  This year, I have a toddler still and a little one who needs a lot of attention.  I’m figuring that I’ll be canning mostly while the kids sleep or on the weekends while Matt is home.  2 weeks ago, I canned 14 jars of strawberry jam.  My Sister-in-Law picked them for me from her garden patch, Matt helped me clean and crush them and I did all the filling and timing for the jar processing.  In past years, I wouldn’t have done it like that as I would have seen the whole project through picking to jar cooling, but times have changed and I have adaptations to make.  With that being said, here’s my list for food preservation goals!
Canning:
  • 1 dozen pints fruit jam/jelly (this goal is already met, but I plan to do more once the raspberries and blackberries are in season)
  • 1/2 pk of peaches
  • 2 dozen pints Applesauce (minimum)
  • 1 dozen pints Apple Cider Jelly
  • 6 pints Hot Pepper Jelly
  • 1 dozen pints Carmel Pear Butter
  • 2-3 dozen pints diced tomatoes
  • 1 dozen pints Salsa
  • 1 dozen pints Pizza sauce
Freezing
  • 10-12 pint bags of blanched peppers and onions
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Pumpkin puree 
  • Squash puree

I’m also planning that once the canning and freezing is done, I’m going to make a trip to the Planktown Market and stock up on bulk pastas,oats, flour, sugar, etc.  I don’t foresee wanting to make trips to Shiloh with 2 littles right before Christmas because I ran out of flour.  I still need to figure out a storage solution to keep the extra bulk items airtight.  Matt and I have also been talking about doing some of the Once a Month Cooking so that as the school year picks up and I have more students and less time in the evenings things still remain as relaxed and fun as they do in the summer!

Just in time for the weekend!

Summer weekends are for adventuring in our house.  Ever the list maker, I made a cute project for our family so we can not only our usual summer activities, but also remind me of all the things I’ve been anxious to get to do as a family now that Liam is old enough to enjoy them.  One of the big things we like to do is take little afternoon trips and picnic.  With picnicking comes quick and easy meals that sometimes need variety.  

Since it’s summer, produce is in it’s glory and now is the time to enjoy a fresh, crisp BLT.  BLTs don’t work so well for a packed lunch in my opinion, so I created this pasta salad.  It’s hearty enough to be eaten alone, but can very easily compliment a sandwich.  You can make this in advance, but I do recommend not adding the lettuce until right before you serve it, just so you have a good crunch!
BLT Pasta Salad
  • 1 lb pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 c. Ranch Dressing
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 8-10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • Half a large head of Iceberg Lettuce, diced
  • 8 ounces Colby cheese, cut into small cubes

Once the pasta is cooked, it should set long enough to be cool to the touch.  Combine the rest of the ingredients, stirring so that they are evenly distributed. Serve cold. 

Butter!!!!!

My uncle bought me a cookbook for Christmas a few years ago entitled Fat. Right on the cover it proclaimed itself as “an appreciation of a misunderstood ingredient, with recipes”.I couldn’t have asked for more. The book is broken up into 4 parts: butter, pork fat, poultry fat and lamb/beef fats. There are a number of recipes that I am anxious to try, especially since I rarely find anything that calls for the fat to stay in the recipe. 

Photo Credit: AGlugofOil.com

For this meal, I chose from the chapter on butter. I took some liberties with the actual cooking process since I was hungry and wanted to eat sooner. The book’s version takes a smidge longer and is slightly more authentic to the traditional dish. Either way, this delightful dish is simple and accessible for any weeknight meal. This recipe calls for both ghee and butter, so we get to really experience the full range of flavors. Matt isn’t a fan of the smell of ghee  when it is heated, but I love it. One whiff and I am standing in the streets of Calcutta again. 

Murgh Makhani (butter chicken)
- 2 onions, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
- 1/4 cup peeled and coarsely chopped ginger
- 8 cardamom pods
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- 2 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 2 green chiles
- 1 dried red chile
- 3/4 cup water
- 1 lb of chicken pieces
- salt
- 2-3 Tbsp. Ghee
- 14 oz. canned tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, diced
- 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or parsley
- 1 lime

Place the first 10 ingredients in a food processor and whirl until a smooth, soupy sauce. Heat the ghee in a skillet and brown each of the pieces of chicken. (Add more ghee if necessary.) When the chicken is sufficiently browned, remove it from the pan and salt. Pour the chili sauce into the skillet and heat to a quick bubble. Stir in the tomatoes and paste. Add in the cream a little bit at a time, stirring to incorporate. Put the chicken in a casserole dish and dot the tops with butter. Pour the sauce over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for half an hour. Serve over rice or orzo and squeeze some lime juice over each plate. Finally, sprinkle the chopped herbs and enjoy!

Dippin’

Whenever I’ve mentioned that Liam is turning into a rather picky eater, people always suggest that I give him things to dip.  As in, dip things into ketchup or ranch or honey mustard.  Well, he isn’t a big fan of the ranch dressing, save the occasional finger painting, he won’t even try mustard and as far as ketchup goes… he won’t eat anything that has been in contact with it.  Not kidding.  I can’t say I’m all that heart broken over this, but it does rule out any of the “tricks” that are always suggested for getting kids to eat. 
I made this dish with the intent to use it as a dip for Matt and I and then to offer Liam the chips as a side so he could eat it with a spoon.  He was content to eat like this for a while until he noticed I wasn’t using a spoon, but a chip to feed myself.  He asked for a “tate” and was hooked.  Not only was he devouring this meal, I diced the chicken so finely he didn’t even notice it was there (we’re currently on a strike against any meat that isn’t ground beef) and he was so proud of his new skill that he kept showing Daddy how he could take a bite with a chip.  This recipe just found it’s way onto my standby list for menus.  Finally.  Something other than meatloaf for supper.
Dippin’ Chicken Tacos

  • 1 recipe Mexican Rice
  • 1 pint salsa
  • 1/2 half an onion, diced
  • 1 cup shredded chicken (I had cooked my chicken in the crockpot, shredded it and then diced it to be close in size to the rice.)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vegetable puree (I used squash in mine)
Saute the onion until tender and then add in the chicken to heat through.  Mix the puree and the sour cream together and pour into the pan, reducing the heat if necessary to keep from bubbling.  Add the salsa and the rice and stir until combined.  Pour the mixture into an 8 by 8 baking dish and top with the shredded cheese.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes, depending on how dark you like your cheese to be.  Serve as a dip with small tortilla chips.

Frozen fruit for a hot, hot day

Ahhhh… the silence of naptime.  For the first time this week, I’m sitting here doing what I want to do.  I have a toddler and a newborn, my days start at 530 and end around 11 or 12.  I’m back to making meals for supper, but I will admit that most of them are partially completed since I’m still drawing on my freezer stores.  My brain is slightly addled with the addition of nursing schedules to already busy days that are now spent primarily outside.  Oh.  And my toddler no longer likes food.  He only wants to eat “nacks”.  I haven’t been able to get him to eat breakfast for 3 weeks, he refuses to eat any fruit other than bananas and only wants to see bread, cheese, yogurt or ground beef on his plate at mealtimes.  As a result, I’ve started mashing, pureeing and grating as many vegetables and fruit into our meals as possible.  Sometimes, it works.  Others, not so much.  
One thing I can get him to eat is ice cream.  I decided that I could also make frozen yogurt pops for us to snack on in the afternoons and get some extra fruit in him (and me!) that way.  This is a basic recipe, so I’ll be trying more and more combinations as the summer progresses.  I’m watching the store to see if they get some frozen mangoes in so I can make peach mango pops.  Yum!  I bought my Popsicle molds at Target and they’re nice, but I’ll warn you, the addition of yogurt makes the homemade Popsicle firmer and therefore more difficult to remove from the mold.  I had to leave the mold out on the counter for 20 minutes before the pops were loose enough to come out.  The wait was worth it, though!
Peach “Cream” Freezies
  • 1 lb fresh fruit or 3 cups frozen fruit
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/4 cup water

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Pour into Popsicle molds and freeze until firm.