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Menu Planning Monday

Menu Planning Monday

I follow Menu planning mondays.

So, I was wandering through the intertubes this morning, trying to find a quicker version of some of the meals I have planned for this week.  I stumbled over Jamie Oliver’s TED talk Teach Every Child About Food. It’s a grand idea. In the 10 posted recipes that followed, I was surprised to see a few I knew and cook fairly regularly.

And that got me to thinking: what were my 10 easy to make and quick to eat recipes. These are the recipes that I fall back on time after time. Many of these are as much methods of cooking rather than specific recipes.

  1. Pasta or polenta and tomato sauce.  This is a staple in my house. Sometimes the sauce is bottled, other times I make it fresh, and still other times I have leftover sauce (usually marinara) in the freezer. Hot. Ready in 15 minutes or less and served with an angel’s dusting of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
  2. Beans and rice. This title is a bit of a mis-nomer. It’s really beans (flavored with garlic, onions, bell peppers and adobe sauce) served over rice (flavored with butter and frozen vegetables).  My recipe is very similar to this one. And I substitute frequently and regularly.
  3. Soup. There are thousands of recipes. Last night we had pea soup from a mix (cost me 79 cents). Last week I made Bittman’s Ginger Chicken soup and served it with soba noodles. I use left-over bread to make garlicy croutons and then ladle the hot broth over the croutons when serving. Leftovers come to work with me in mason jars.
  4. Potatoes. Twice baked (stuffed with cheese & chili or black beans and salsa), baked potato wedges (covered in olive oil & herbs or onion soup mix), boiled and mashed (and mixed with peas). No matter how you serve them –they are a meal unto themselves. When feeling fancy, I make a frittata. Typically I use whatever vegetables I have on hand.
  5. Eggs. Typically fried and served with toast. But when I’m feeling fancy, I love using them to make a cesar salad.
  6. Tacos. Since I flavor with cumin, I’ll call them tacos. But I make them with flatbread that’s not always pita (corn or flour). You can make your own corn tortillas if you want, or buy them and fry them as needed. But this recipe is leftovers + cheese + cumin and cilantro if you have it. Parsley if you don’t. Or just oregano if you’d rather. I make my own taco mix, but I’m not against frying a diced onion + garlic in olive oil. Adding a chopped tomato and a handful of fresh herbs. Toss in the cooked meat. Serve over sour cream and cheese in a hot piece of flatbread. Top with shredded cabbage or finely sliced lettuce.
  7. Martedi. Give it whatever name you want. It’s an excuse to pair meat + beans + tomato sauce + polenta together in a meal. Add vegetables if you like, season to taste, serve hot and save the leftovers.
  8. Hamburgers. Mix meat with a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and steak spice.  Make patties. Barbecue them until done. Top with cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tomato slice. Serve on toasted bread or fancy buns. Mix 1/2 a teaspoon of curry or pesto with two teaspoons of yogurt or mayo for the best hamburger sauce ever.
  9. Chicken thighs. Pan fry the chicken thighs until the skin is crispy. Drain. Add onions, garlic and mushrooms. Pan fry them in the center with the chicken pushed off to the side. When the onions are translucent – add more butter and the rice. Toast the rice until the butter is gone. Mix liberally. Then add liquid (wine, stock, water, leftover soup, tomato sauce + water, whatever) the rice. Bake at 375 until the chicken is done and the rice  is fluffy.  Variations on this include using barley or any of the dozens of types of rice available. Adding more vegetables (or less).
  10. BBQ meat, BBQ potatoes, and salad with red wine vinaigrette. I love my barbecue. I’ll cook almost anything on it – but this meal is a classic. If the cut of meat (beef, lamb, goat, chicken or fish) is tough – marinade it in equal parts wine (or flavored vinegar or lemon juice), olive oil and water. Toss whatever seasonings you want in it. Throw it on the grill and baste liberally. Turn often. When the potatoes are fork-tender, and the meat is done; bring both inside. Allow the meat to rest and make a salad. To the salad bowl–add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, oregano and pepper to taste. Mix liberally and serve.
The menu for the week:
Monday (Vegetarian)
(with diced peppers, garlic & onions & vegetables steamed atop the rice)
Tuesday (Chicken)
Dinner*: BBQ chicken breasts, smashed potatoes & salad (with homemade BBQ sauce & red wine vinaigrette)
Wednesday (Beef)
Dinner*: Marinated butcher’s block steak, home fries (Potoato wedges)
Thursday (Beans/Sausage)
DinnerMartedi over polenta with Parmesan & salad
Friday (Leftovers)
Dinner*: BBQ Cheeseburgers, all dressed with coleslaw and pickle

* Rainy day alternates
  • Montreal Steak Sandwiches, home fries (potato wedges) – with shredded salad, russian dressing
  • Pasta and sauce (vodka rose, marinara sauce, or scratch) with  turkey meatballs and garlic bread, salad
  • Soups (tinned, mix, or leftover) & garlic & ginger croutons (hm)
  • Meat pie & salad
  • Chicken pot pie & salad
  • Chili & cornbread
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Last night, with all the greens cleared away I found a quart of strawberries, 1/2 a quart of raspberries, two pears and an apple hiding in my fridge. They still looked pretty good; but I knew if I didn’t do something with them soon they’d go the way of the rotter (other wise known as the crisper drawer — where vegetables go to rot).

So I made jam. Without pectin (I never have pectin, not even sugar-free pectin around; and this was not exactly a planned event … then again who spontaneously decides to make jam … I mean, other than me).

It took some looking, but I found a good (and simple) recipe online to make Strawberry and Banana jam without pectin. And I set to work.

I rinsed the berries in the sink and set them atop a towel to drip dry.

I peeled, quartered & cored the pears and the apple … and then went looking for bananas.

I found two in the freezer (still in their peels), and two fresh on the kitchen table. I took three (two frozen, one fresh); peeled ’em, and cut them into slices.

I diced the strawberries, apples, and pears into a pretty rough chop.

All of this went into one large pan along with 2 cups of sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice.

And then the fun began. I stirred.

Walked away, prepared dinner, coming back from time to time and stirred some more.

You’re making a sticky mess here — so stirring is important. In the end (after 2 hours on the stove top) it never quite made it to temperature. Since I wasn’t ready to can it, I left it on the stove to cool after dinner.

It gelled nicely. I had some for breakfast this morning in fact. Yum.

So tonight I get to can the stuff. Now, were’s my canning rack…

Strawberry, Rasberry, Pear, Apple, and Banana jam

Ingredients

  • 4 cups combined Strawberries, Rasberries, Pears and apples, Diced To Preference
  • 2 cups Bananas, Mashed To Preference
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • ¼ cups Lemon Juice

Directions

  1. Dice the fruit so that it is roughly consistent in size. Slice your bananas.
  2.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix together the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C).
  4. Transfer to hot sterile jars, leaving 1/4 to 1/2-inch head space, and seal. Process any unsealed jars in a water bath. If the jam is going to be eaten right away, just refrigerate it.

9PM last night saw me stuffing my food processor with basil and parsley, almonds and garlic. It seemed, even at the time, a rather odd thing to do. But time and tide had led me to it. Fortunately for me pesto is easy to make (once you’ve done all the washing) and the food processor doesn’t actually run that long.

My CSA has been terrific. Each week I get a wonderful selection of vegetables that two people should be able to finish inside 7 days. Except, that hasn’t quite happened. So there I was on Monday, at risk of seeing my basil and salad greens spoil. I washed, I sorted, I plucked, and I spun dry lots and lots of salad greens: dandelion greens, watercress, baby bok-choy (or was that chard…), and argulara, along with bib, red and green lettuce. I sorted the greens from the herbs, chopped some of the lettuce, wrapped the excess in a towel and made a big salad for dinner with the rest.

So far, I’ve gotten sage, dill, parsley, and basil as herbs. The sage and dill that I’ve not yet used, I’ve hung to dry in my laundry room; but the basil and parsley had a completely different fate.

I washed the parsley and basil a second time, spun it dry, and then laid it out on a towel atop a hot cookie sheet (fresh from the oven) to dry. I’ve never had the patience to get my salad completely dry using a salad spinner, but the one time it really counts to have dry greens is when making pesto. So rather than get bored pumping my salad spinner (… that really does sound more entertaining than it ever could be you know…), I lay the greens out to air dry while I have dinner.

I love the taste of pesto. Surprisingly, I use it sparingly and almost never on noodles alone. Instead, I add it to stuffings, coat roasts in the stuff and throw teaspoons liberally into soups and stews. I could eat it on crackers (it would probably make an amazing dip or butter); but I don’t. I never quite think of it that way. Instead I think of it as an ingredient; something to add a depth of flavor to a slow-cooking dish.

I’m not a fan of pine nuts. I don’t know if it’s because of their expense, or the fact that it’s just as easy to get bad pine nuts as good. Walnuts are a good replacement for pine nuts – but I go … hehe… nuts. I’ll use whatever I’ve got: almonds, cashews, pistashio’s … you name it. Each provides its own subtle flavor to the pesto and they all work.

Basil pesto is the most common, but I’m slowly learning that a lot of home cooks supplement their small basil supply with other herbs. In the past, I’ve made pesto from a wide smattering of herbs — depending on what is fresh and abundant at the time.  Oregano or rosemary pesto are as yummy to me as the traditional basil. This time around basil and parsley I had aplenty – so that’s what I used.

A note on washing: since these herbs were fresh-picked and clean, I was probably being a bit paranoid to wash them twice in cold water. But with pesto – if there’s grit on the leaves, I’ll taste it. So I wash twice. No matter how clean it looks. Regardless how you wash it, or how many times you wash it–just make sure the leaves have no standing-water on them before you start. My hot-pan and towel trick works pretty well, given an hour or so to let them sit.

So, now I have three-days of fresh-washed salad in the fridge (maybe four if I skimp) and a whole 1/4 litre (jam jar worth) of pesto in my fridge. … I think I’ll cook a roast.

Pesto for the freezer

Ingredients

  • 3 cups basil and parsley, picked over, stems plucked and well washed & dried. 
  • 1/3 cup unsalted nuts (almonds this time, but pine nuts are traditional and walnuts are good too)
  • 1/3 – 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil.
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice.
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced.

Directions

  1. Toast the nuts in a dry pan. Be careful not to let them burn. Shake the pan often to keep them moving. If they start to smoke, or shatter easily when you bite into one — they’re done. About 5 minutes on a hot pan. In my case, I always toast more than I need for the … uh … testing.
  2. Add the dried herb leaves to your food processor fitted with the mincing blade. Top with the nuts.
  3. Pulse a few times until everything is well minced.
  4. Add some of the garlic and pulse again.
  5. Open the lid, scrape down the sides, and turn the machine back on.
  6. Add a slow drizzle of olive oil until a thick paste forms.
  7. Add the lemon juice and pulse a few more times just to mix.
  8. Scrape everything into a mason jar.
  9. Cover with a layer of olive oil. Seal and refrigerate.
  10. The next day, transfer from fridge to freezer.

To serve

  1. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of freshly grated peccorino-romano to 1 cup of pesto. Stir well to incorporate.

I love these type of posts; where a cook gives a list of ingredients and asks for a week’s worth of recipes. The list is taken from an LJ post on cooking. Here’s what I did with it.

  • canned green beans
  • 1 tin of corned beef hash (may be questionable expirey date)
  • tuna
  • chicken broth
  • chicken noodle soup
  • tomato soup
  • veggie soup
  • 3 boxes of whole wheat speghetti
  • Rice krispies
  • 15 boxes of white cheddar mac and cheese
  • large box of minute rice
  • 2 white potato
  • half a jar of primavera sauce
  • 10 chicken thighs (frozen in 2 sections of 3, 1 with 4)
  • 10 tilapia filets
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • ginger
  • cinnamon
  • sugar (brown and white)
  • grated cheddar with herbs and garlic in it.
  • frozen pastry (one sheet)

Sunday: Crunchy Tilapia with green beans and baked potatoes.
Grind up about a cup of rice crispies until you almost have a powder. Sprinkle the tilapia with salt and pepper, then dip in water. Coat with the rice crispies and fry it in a non-stick frying pan. Deglaze the pan with water, and save it. Drain, rinse, then heat the green beans. Bake two potatoes.

Leftovers of the crunchy Tilapia and green beans make a great hot lunch.

Desert: Roll out the frozen sheet of pastry. Make a mix of cinnamon, some of the ginger, and sugar.  Sprinkle liberally all over the sheet. Roll it tightly, then cut it evenly into rounds as thick as two thumbs. Bake the slices in a 350 degree oven until golden brown.

Monday: Chicken pasta primavera
Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces. Brown in a non-stick skillet. Add the tomato soup to the chicken, cover and simmer. Spice to taste. Cook up the pasta aldente, drain well, then add the primavera sauce to the pasta. Toss. Add the chicken and tomato soup – toss again. Serve with a bit of the grated cheese with herbs.

Add the tuna to the leftover pasta and take it as lunch. Can be eaten cold or hot.

Tuesday:  Chicken and rice. Make double the required amount. Season the chicken well with garlic and ginger, salt & pepper. Cook them in the oven (375-400 – 15 min or until their internal temperature reaches 160d F). Cook up the rice with the chicken stock in place of water. If you need more liquid, use the vegetable soup. Store half, serve the rest.

Leftover chicken and rice. Pack with a bit of extra liquid for reheating.

Wednesday: Take the remaining vegetable soup and an equal amount of water. Combine. Toast the rice in a non-stick skillet. Heat the soup. Add a ladle of hot soup to the rice. Stir. Repeat the process until the rice is aldente and the liquid is completely incorporated. Stir in the grated cheese with herbs.  Serve topped with leftover cooked chicken, cut-up.

Leftover rice-risotto with a bit of cheese makes a great hot lunch.

Thursday: Lightly season the tilapia (salt, pepper, ginger) and cook it in a non-stick skillet. Cook up some spaghetti and drain well. Deglaze the pan with the broth from the chicken noodle soup. Use the deglazing liqud (new & that from Monday) as sauce for your spaghetti and serve it with the cooked tilapia.

Leftover tilapia and spaghetti for lunch.

Friday: Mac and cheese. Make according to the package instructions.

I didn’t use the mac and cheese often, but it could just as easily have been used instead of the spaghetti.  The sauce would be a bit thin if using water instead of butter/milk – but if cooked separately and allowed to thicken naturally, it should be ok.

I also didn’t use the slightly iffy corn beef hash; but if it was usable, it would go great on leftover spaghetti or rice for lunch. Exact measurements aren’t used because I have no idea if the original poster is cooking for 1 or 6.

So, what would you recommend to the poster?

Tuesdays. The week has just begun, and the chores are only just starting to pile up.

I came home with something new. It was velvety and luscious. A real sauce of a tomato. I set it on the counter and it glowed in the afternoon light. In the fridge, five sausage links were chilling. I took them out and stripped them bare; tossing their casings away, to hang off the garbage bowl haphazardly.

Three shallots were peeled and fell under my knife. I left them in a fine dice. Then did the same with two cloves of garlic.

I pinched the sausage links into bite sized pieces, and the sausage fell apart. The cold meat slowly warmed in my hands as I rounded off each piece between my palms; turning it from turgid strips of meat into soft little balls.

I put my favorite pan on the stove, and gave it a nice glaze of olive oil. I used a sausage ball to spread the oil over the surface of the pan until it glistened. Then I turned up the heat until the olive oil was hot and the pan radiated heat so that I could feel just above the pan’s surface. I nestled each of the sausage balls into the olive oil on the pan; and left them to sizzle.

I flipped my sausage balls and tried to sear each side, or at least get a relatively even coloring on the balls. I then added my shallot, sage, and garlic to the mixture and stirred gently; allowing them to melt into the heat. When the mix was mostly dry, and just starting to get lazy and stick to the pan; I added the new tomato sauce. I had to stir vigorously to convince the shallots and garlic to allow the newcomer access to the pan; but in the end they yielded and melded together like old friends.

I set the timer for 20 mintues.

In a medium pan, I easily brought 4 cups of salted water to a boil. To calm the argument, I whisked in 2 cups of coarse-ground cornmeal. The cornmeal always wants to clump together and not mix, like all good party-goers should. The water, already madly bubbling, calms a bit when the newcomers arrive, but never for long. I kept whisking, and eventually the cornmeal got thick with the water, and the boiling water convinced the cornmeal to get angry and start popping. I reduced the heat and changed from my light-hearted whisk to a solid, flat-bottomed spatula–with which I beat that poor cornmeal until it stopped popping — pulling it up off the bottom of the hot pan and destroying its reason to stay mad. I then covered it and put it back on the reduced heat, repeating the process every time I heard it objectionably pop.

When the timer went off, I popped off the lid to the sausage mixture, and added a can of freshly showered navy beans. They were clean and white, and almost dry. I stirred them in and then added the oregano, and black pepper; tasting as I went.

I took the polenta off the heat entirely and poured it onto a plate. It was putty in my hands. I molded it into a round cake-shape, and left it there to get a grip on itself.

I stirred the sausage mixture one more time and left it to sit on the cold stove for 5 minutes.

Then I cut the polenta into slices, layered them on the plate and added 2 heaping ladle-fulls of Martedi on top.

Dinner was served.

Martedi

Inspired by FayeFood‘s dinner on a Tuesday. Modified a bit. This makes enough for 2 hungry people and a lunch. The recipe doubles and triples well, so long as you have a big enough pan. Stores for up to a week in the fridge, 6 months in the freezer. Feel free to use your favorite type of beans, and any type of sausage. Seasoning should always be to taste.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 sausages, casings removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes
  • 1 tin beans, well rinsed (any type of beans will do)
  • 2 teaspoon dried sage, or to taste.
  • 3 teaspoons dried greek oregano, or to taste.
  • black pepper, to taste.
Directions
  1. Add the olive oil to the pan, spread it evenly, and turn on the heat.
  2. When the pan feels hot about 1/2 an inch above the surface, add the sausages.
  3. Sear off the sausages in a hot pan. Drain any excess oil.
  4. Add the garlic, onion, and sage. Stir to incorporate.
  5. Add a can of pureed tomatoes and deglaze the pan.
  6. When this has cooked for a good twenty minutes, add the beans, and other seasonings.
  7. Allow to boil down for another 20 minutes. Serve hot over bread, rice, or polenta.

Polenta

The simplest of recipes for twice as much polenta as 2 people need. Takes about 20 minutes to make, most of it unattended.  Best served with a meal that has a good sauce. Leftovers can be baked (polenta croutons) & topped (polenta pizza), or used below another dish that has a good sauce. Stores for up to 2 days on the counter, a week in the fridge, and in the freezer for 6 month.

Ingredients
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups coarse-grain cornmeal
  • Salt, to taste
Directions
  1. Salt the water. It should just barely taste salty, like a kiss on the tongue.
  2. Bring the water to a rolling boil.
  3. Whisk in the polenta, break up any clumps that form. Keep whisking until the mixture looks evenly spread out through the water.
  4. Allow to thicken, stirring occasionally to pull it off the bottom and sides. Reduce the heat as you go so that its boiling (popping) doesn’t burn.
  5. Cook for about 20 minutes.
  6. If it is always sticking (and you are forever adjusting the heat to get it to stop popping), add 1/2 a cup of water to the mix and pull it off the heat. Stir well to incorporate the water, and keep it covered.
  7. Pour it onto a plate and shape it into the desired form. Careful – it’s sticky; so use either saran wrap to shape it or a wet spatula.
  8. Let sit for 10 minutes to come together.
  9. Slice and serve.

Fayefood recently wrote a blog post that talked about cooking. She ended her post with the following:

Just do it, do it, do it. Get up, do it. You can do it. And tell me how it goes.

It’s pretty much an explanation of how I cook. Occasionally, when I don’t want to cook, I draw a meal from the freezer. We call them easy-meals. And yes, they’re pretty much heat and serve (fish sticks, chicken strips, chicken wings, meatballs, frozen pasta sauce, frozen rice, veg, etc). The good news — they are usually homemade and stored for such occasions.  The bad news – sometimes they are store-bought. Sometimes the meals don’t turn out right. A few times they’re not even edible. I shrug, toss the food, bemoan the loss and try again the next night; subsisting on freezer staples, popcorn, and salads.

Last night, with friends coming over, I made shepherd’s pie. Normally, making shepherd’s pie is a several-night event (each night tasked with making some part of the whole and then combining them on the night I want to serve it).  I planned to make the meal in a similar way that I make chili.  But that plan went by the wayside. It was a weird week with sick days and doctor’s appointments. I was happy to just get dinner on the table each night; so the meals were very simple with very little seasoning or fancy side-dishes.

I started organizing yesterday as soon as I got home by digging out my food processor (well, moved the box it’s still packed in over towards the sink), but then didn’t use it.

Boil potatoes (peeled & cubed) , drained, then mashed with some reserved water from the pot & a pat of butter. Cook a miropoix (diced onions, carrots & celery) over the stove-top in your best olive oil. I add cubanelo peppers, but you don’t have to. When the vegetables are fork-tender, the meat is added (and broken up) in the same pan as the miropoix. I use ground beef, but any ground meat works. Stir well to mix. Once the meat is no longer pink, the fat is spooned out, and a tablespoon of flour, thyme, rosemary and a pinch of nutmeg are added along with a cup of broth. Mix well. Taste. Season accordingly. Pour into a baking dish, and topped with the mashed potatoes. The potatoes are topped with tiny dots of frozen butter and a dusting of paprika. When the potatoes are a golden crust and the gravy is bubbling, it’s taken out of the hot oven and left to sit. When the boiling stops, serve.

Serve it with a good green salad of romaine leaves, spinach, and finely sliced radicchio. Top it with 3 parts red wine vinegar and 2 parts olive oil along with a good pinch of oregano and a dash of pepper.

Friends arrived just in time to help me set the table and hear the fire alarm go off (it’s too close to the stove). There were no leftovers and the condiments on the table were ignored.

As to the previous part of the week, here’s what I cooked (as oppose to what I planned).

Sunday
22
Rotisserie chicken with cold slaw
Monday
23
BBQ Rainbow trout, fresh herbs and Best green salad with red wine vinagrette beans & goat cheese
Tuesday
24
Pan seared steak with seared corn
Best green salad with red wine vinagrette and beans
Wednesday
25
BBQ Hamburgers, all dressed
Thursday
26
Shepherd’s Pie (Cottage Pie) with best green salad and red wine vinagrette

Read part 2 here.

After a rough day at work, and forgetting to take out the hamburger in time for it to thaw, I skipped a night.

The next day I cooked up a batch of All-day boston baked beans and then made up homemade pizza using 1/2 the hamburger meat that I had initially taken out for the previous night’s dinner. When I came home, the beans were still invisible beneath a sheen of water & spices. In the end, I ended up ladeling out the beans into a bowl for storage and throwing out 1/2 the liquid that remained. In retrospect, I probably should have boiled down the liquid and added it to the beans; to create that oh-so-wonderful sauce that always accompanies boston-baked beans. I know I should have cooked the bacon before throwing it in the crock-pot, regardless of what the recipe claims. It would have better brought out the flavour of the bacon in the beans.

So both recipes now reside in my fridge. All I have to do is put the chili together and let it bake for a day in the crock-pot.

Dinner tonight, the homemade pizza, was pretty good. The dough wasn’t quite to my liking; but that could be as much practice as it is the recipe. I shall have to try another recipe for pizza dough next time.

The ingredients for the chili sat in my fridge for the weekend. Each day that I opened my fridge, I saw them. And yet there they remained.

Friday I was running late for work. And that night I went out with a friend.

Saturday, there were more chores to be done than hours in the day.

Sunday, I had guests over — and so had to clean the house before they arrived, and collapsed after they left.

Monday, I had the dentist in the morning, more chores (stuff we didn’t get done on Saturday), and then … I played Mass Effect until past my bedtime.

Today, up on time and didn’t think about the chili until I was going over my menu for the week… and remembered that I’d not made it yet.

So, tonight — I shall make chili.

Maybe I should re-title this set of posts to “It takes me a long time to make chili”.

Strange, but true.

I decided I missed having my chili, even though it is the season of hot-summer weather. I’ve tried several varieties and I enjoy my concoction of beef, sausage, beans and vegetables. Everyone seems to have their own version of chili–mine is affectionately called Protein poisoning chili. Each step in the recipe is a meal for a night. I’ve never tried to make all the ingredients for the chili at once and then make the chili on the same day. Everything in my chili recipe can be bought (bottled or canned), but it never tastes the same when I skimp on all the ingredients. Due to the season (summer), I have to skimp on some (using tinned tomatoes and store bought salsa, for example) if I’m to make the chili in a budget-conscious way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Over on Salt & Fat this week there’s a post about biscuits. I love home-made biscuits. Corn, yeasted, baking soda, you name ’em – I love ’em. I don’t make them often, and rarely plan it when I do.

Soda biscuits

These come together very quickly. Sometimes I roll and cut them, other times I just make little balls of dough, placing multiple balls in each cup of a muffin tin. The latter makes the dough easier to pull apart.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ tablespoon shortening, oil, or butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together to form a soft dough.
  2. Roll out on floured pastry board to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Cut with biscuit cutter.
  3. Place biscuits on greased baking pan.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Cooking shouldn’t be hard. Motivation to get started may be lacking (especially when the TV is playing all manner of movies all day long), but cooking should be easy and recipes adaptable.

My recipe for tacos is pretty simple; but best of all — it’s versatile.
Tonight, intending to make enough for lunches, I thought I’d make a batch of beef tacos and a batch of refried been and tomato tacos.

The former is simple: dice your vegetables. Add a drizzle of oil to a hot pan and throw in your spices. Once they become fragrant, add your vegetables. When they’re cooked, remove them from the heat and cook the beef in the same pan. Drain well. Then – add everything back into the pot. When it’s good and hot; remove the mixture and set aside. Add about a cup of beef broth and scrape the pan well. When the mixture is reduced by 1/2, add a pat of butter. If you want it thicker — add about 1/2 a cup of beans and mash them well. Add everything back in and reheat.

For the bean version – just replace the meat with the beans and add a diced tomato (juice and all). Use the pan gravy from the beef mixture (or start over with vegetable stock) and remember to mash the beans well.

Either wrap it in a tortilla or sever it over salad. I like to top it with sour cream and cheese, but anything goes.

It’s too hot to make mexican rice; but I am going to make a lentil, hazelnut and cheese salad for tomorrow’s lunch. That, combined with the re-fried beans and some lettuce will make for a filling meal.

Update: The lentil, hazelnut and cheese salad was amazing; I’m definitely going to have it again. The vegetarian version of the tacos needed to be reheated–which I didn’t want to do. I’ll save the filling for either making chili or a rainy day. Dinner last night (the meat version of the tacos) was really good – but needed more kick than the poblano peppers provided. Fortunately we had salsa on hand to deal with the problem.

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