Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Don’t take my sunshine.

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The SUN has been a source of frustration for residents of the Northwest this year.  We had a spattering of sunny days before school let out, but nothing at all consistent — and in between two days of beautiful blue skies we’d have a week or two of overcast, rainy days.  Now it’s mid-July, cloudy, and cool.

I’m holding out for the sunshine to return.

I’m a person who’s very influenced by the weather.  Long winters get me feeling bluer than most, and sun flooding through my ugly vertical blinds can turn my morning around.  One of my very favorite parts of summer is the food — fresh produce, that craving I get to just eat pasta salad (the good kind) and fruit all day, and the idea of fantastic things like homemade soda or granitas…

Chicken with tomato-herb pan sauce.

Please, please, sun, come back, so my grocery shopping and cooking can excite me again!

Spinach, mushroom, and goat cheese crepes with balsamic reduction.

Sun, good food, and good music (like the gem above from an old favorite band), stir my soul.  Have a listen, and, if you’re not in the Pacific Northwest, soak up some Vitamin D for me.

Love,

Gussy

Cooking with Math, Part 1.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

“With devotion’s visage
And pious action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself.” – Hamlet, Act III Sc. I

Devotion and piety are okay and all, but I quite think that sugar is one of the most wonderful things in the world. That was a little joke, in case you’re praying for me right now.

And even though I spent the last hour exercising my little heart out at a bootcamp I’m trying out, my first thought upon arrival home was sugar. But not eating it. Looking at it.

I do think cracked, caramelized and hardened sugar in my kitchen is one of the prettiest darn things I ever saw.

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French, Spanish, and cheap.

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

It’s apparently been foreign foods week here.  My last three major culinary pursuits have been unfamiliar territory in more ways than one!

Chicken Cordon Bleu, Espinacas con Garbanzos, and Empanadas are even more delicious to eat than they are to say.  Strangely, these new and exotic recipes were the result of an earnest attempt to curtail grocery spending after a month of totally random expenses.  (DEQ test and car registration?  Costco membership renewal? Coming down with a fever the same day I bought a weeks worth of groceries, which meant not only not eating some of the purchased food but having to buy more food I actually could eat? Come on.)  The challenge of making a nice but fairly simple dinner for our weeknight anniversary without purchasing expensive ingredients stressed me out until (until!) I realized that the fancy-sounding, ever-talked-about and never-eaten (at least for me) Chicken Cordon Bleu used chicken and thin sliced ham — ingredients I had in my freezer.  Thus, a lovely anniversary dinner was born and I only had to purchase two slices of swiss cheese, an 89 cent box of rice-a-roni (not ideal, but slaving over a risotto wasn’t going to happen), and a 50% off bottle of pinot noir.  [I used this recipe and made the reviewers’ recommended changes.]

Chicken Cordon Bleu

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So sorry, meal plan.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

I had some good stuff to make this week:  chicken salad pitas with grapes and celery for lunch, pizza and sauce from scratch, chicken soup from scratch…..

But here’s what I’m having instead:

(Yes, I did jack those pictures from Google… sorry.) :(

I’m feeling another 7-day weekend?  If my posts are sparse, that’s why.

Love,

Projects in meat stretching, part 1.

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Yes, that title makes me uncomfortable too.  But when one is trying to simultaneously get the most one can out of a ham and a chicken….. well, there just aren’t many categories to which both belong.

THE HAM.

Last time I made Stephanie’s fabulous split pea soup, I had a major ham debacle.  That is, I had no idea how to buy a thick slice of ham from which to slice ham cubes, and I made the mistake of going to the deli counter.  The conniving deli lady decided to cut me 2 slices of ham that ended up costing me $11.00.  I’m still mad at myself for paying it, but it was custom cut and I would have felt so awkward handing it back.  Thankfully, one slice ended up being plenty for my soup (which fed 5 people that day) and I was able to use the other slice to make us Denver omelets, which slightly made up for it.  Fast forward to split pea soup take two.  My wise mother suggested that next time I check out the pre-cooked little hams in the not deli section and slice them up myself, so I did — and I ended up finding a gigantic cooked half-ham on clearance for being nearly past its prime.  6 lbs for…. wait for it…. $11.00.  Feeling quite vindicated, I purchased said half-ham, thinking I could surely use the rest.  Uhhhh………

That night, I cut up the ham into several thick slices, many thin slices, and LOTS of cubes.  I used some of the cubes in soup and portioned the rest out to freeze it.  Which means that in the next however-long-it-is-before-frozen-ham-stops-being-good, I need to use up approximately 5 lbs of it.  I’m on my way, but still working on coming up with recipes.  Ham is not something I’d like to eat nightly, so I’m thankful it’s frozen.

Meal 1: Split pea soup

Meal 2: Sliced ham with a maple/vinaigrette glaze

Meal 3: (Coming up this week) Casserole with ham, broccoli, cheese, whole wheat egg noodles, and some other stuff.  But not carrots, because I bought enough but accidentally used them all before I remembered I was supposed to save one.  Oops.  Also, I’m generally against adding canned soup to things and calling it a “recipe,” but that picture looks pretty good, right?

Meals 4-288: I don’t know, but I really do feel like I have that much ham.

THE CHICKEN.

Logically, the same time I’m trying to use up too much ham is a perfect time to also decide to try to use a whole chicken in as many meals as possible.  I keep reading on thrifty mom food blogs about loaves-and-fishes situations with whole chickens — like how one 5 lb. chicken turned into 10 meals for 6 people and other ridiculousness. So I planned a few meals this week that feature or at least hint at the presence of chicken.  On Monday, I roasted and then ravaged the chicken, reserving its parts for today’s stock adventure.

Meal 1: Roasted chicken.  We each ate a couple slices along with potatoes and broccoli.

Meal 2: Chopped chicken breast over salad with pecans, craisins, and the best blue cheese dressing evah.

Meal 3: Stock, prepared today and currently chilling in the fridge.  I have about a gallon, which will most likely become soup, which will hopefully last for several meals/lunches.

Meal 4: BBQ chicken sandwiches on pub buns.  Perfect for the chicken that just wouldn’t come off without getting totally shredded.

Meals 5-?????:  I’ll keep you posted.

WHY?

I’d really like to cut our food budget down.  I love fancy ingredients and fresh herbs, but I think there are ways (such as meat-stretching) that I have yet to implement that could really make a difference in my grocery spending.  Take, for example, this very non-scientific anticipated savings calculation:

Stock vs. Chicken broth
Chicken carcass — basically free.
Onion, carrots (one of which was meant for ham casserole….), parsley and celery — $2-ish
3 garlic cloves and 5 peppercorns — 10 cents?
1 bay leaf and a few sprinkles of dried thyme — 20 cents?
= 16 cups for less than $3 as long as I have a carcass lying around.  Muahahaha.

or

16 cups of store-bought chicken broth (11-12 cans at .79/can*) = about $9
*I generally buy cans because I don’t use cartons quickly enough

This practice alone could make a huge difference, especially if I portion the stock and freeze it for use in dishes that call for a small amount, like one cup.

Stay tuned for part 2: the rest of the meals and how far a ham/chicken really can go.

Love,