Posted by Annie Mueller
October 23, 2008 | 1 Comment
It’s time for a little stroll around the web-food-wonderland. I can get lost out there for days. It’s a fun place.
- Foodie Mama: a current fave of mine, this mom-oriented website offers recipes, tips, advice, and sections on “Feeding by Age” which addresses the unique challenges of feeding babies, toddlers, children, and teens. I guess the husbands are on their own! You can also find some great home gardening, canning and preserving, and cooking from scratch ideas here. Take a browse.
- Foodie Tots is a blog about “the pursuit of fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable food for the whole family.” It’s full of great photos and recipes. Just do a little search on “pasta” and see if you can stop your mouth from watering. Ummmm. Yes. Good enough to eat, definitely, and good-looking enough to get me in the kitchen.
- Tiny Morsels, since this post is turning out to be a mom-kid-food round-up, is somewhere you should definitely visit, even if you’re not a mom or a kid. The photos, again! I just ate lunch but I want to drool on my computer. Love the smoothie recipes. The whole blog inspires me to be healthier with my two munchkins.
- Grab Your Fork helps me balance out all the healthy vibes. I’ve determined that there are two types of food writers out there: those whose primary interest is something related to food (health, nutrition, organic, local, vegan, hormone-free, homemade, etc.) and those who are simply, purely, undeniably obsessed with food. All food. Any kind of food. Guess which kind I am. Guess which kind Grab Your Fork is…
- Serious Eats is a fun, waste hours and be glad you did kind of website. Lots of random, food-related news and articles, lots of recipes, lots of links, lots of fun. Not really serious at all, now that I think about it…
Traditional tetrazzini involves non-red meat, mushrooms, and almonds in a Parmesan sauce over pasta. So I’ve got the non-red meat part, but this recipe diverges from the traditional. It’s still a cream sauce, but with Asiago rather than Parmesan. The two could be interchanged, however. If I’d had mushrooms, I would have added them. I didn’t. The peppers and onions were great. We’ll just call this a flexible tetrazzini.
Flexible Ham Tetrazzini
1 pound angel hair, spaghetti, fettuccine, or egg noodles
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup butter, separated
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 pound cooked ham, cubed
1/2 cup flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon dill
8 ounces (1/2 lb) Asiago or Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and Pepper
1 medium tomato, chopped
In a large pot, heat enough water to cook the pasta. When it comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and onions; cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the bell peppers. Cook over medium heat until tender. Reduce the heat to low and add the cubed ham.
Meanwhile, in a smaller saucepan, melt the 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter over medium low heat. When melted and beginning to bubble, add the flour and whisk in until completely combined. Reduce heat to low; slowly whisk in the 2 cups of milk. Stir constantly as the mixture begins to thicken. Add the dill. Stir in the cheese a little bit at a time, stirring continually so that it does not stick and burn on the bottom of the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked pasta to the ham mixture, then stir in the chopped tomato just until warmed through. Pour the cream sauce over the top and stir to combine.
Serve immediately. It’s good the next day for lunch, too…
Don’t shun the slow cooker (or crock pot, whatever you want to call it.) I love chopping, dicing, peeling, sauteeing, stirring, blending… but I just don’t always have time to spend an hour or so in the kitchen doing all that great stuff. There are slow-cooker days every week. If I don’t figure that out ahead of time, our options are whatever leftovers may still be edible, sandwiches, or (the horror!) fast food. I like leftovers, but I don’t always enough left to feed us dinner. Sandwiches are great for lunch. I usually don’t want them again for dinner. And fast food… Well, do I really have to say anything? The slow cooker can help us…
Sweet Pepper Chicken
(from Taste of Home’s Slow Cooker Recipe Cards booklet, 2007.)
6 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed (you could substitute chicken pieces of any kind)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
1 medium green pepper, julienned
1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned
1 can (10-3/4 oz) EACH condensed cream of chicken soup and condensed cream of mushroom soup
OR skip the condensed soup and make a quick cream sauce from 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup flour, and 1 1/2 cups milk.
In a large skillet, brown chicken in oil on both sides. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Top with mushrooms, onion, and peppers.
Combine the soups; pour over vegetables. OR melt 1/2 cup butter in a sauce pan (medium low heat); whisk in 1/2 cup flour until completely blended, then slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups milk, whisking the whole time. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until beginning to thicken. Season well with salt and pepper to taste, then pour over the vegetables and chicken in the slow cooker.
Cover all and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken juices run clear.
Serve with hot cooked rice or pasta.
(from Taste of Home’s Slow Cooker Recipe Cards booklet, 2007.)
1 pounds boneless beef round or chuck steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups pearl onions or diced onions
1 large green pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
In a large skillet, brown steak in oil; transfer to a 5-quart slow cooker. Add the next 10 ingredients; stir well. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until meat is tender. Thicken (with cornstarch) if desired.
Serve over rice noodles or rice; garnish with chives or cilantro.
(from Taste of Home’s Slow Cooker Recipe Cards booklet, 2007.)
8 Italian sausage links (2 pounds) (substitute bratwurst or kielbasa, if desired)
48 ounces spaghetti sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 large green pepper, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried parsley (or 2 tablespoons minced fresh)
1 cup water
Place sausages in a large skillet; cover with water. Simmer 10 minutes; drain.
Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients in a 5-quart slow cooker. Add sausage. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Increase temperature to high; cook 1 hour longer.
Serve in buns or over cooked spaghetti. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese.
Sure, I can do a pb & j and survive, but it leaves me kind of cold. Cold-cut sandwiches are great for picnics and boat rides, but at home, every day? I need variety. I need warmth. I need something to sustain me through the afternoon. But I don’t need to spend 30 minutes cooking up a lunch that will be consumed in 15 minutes. I need quick. I need simple. I need ideas…
- Quesadillas: the only absolute requirements are tortillas and cheese. Any kind of cheese will do. Sprinkle, spread, or layer the cheese on one tortilla, top with whatever other ingredients you happen to have, top with a second tortilla, and slide onto a frying pan. Cook on medium high heat for 2 minutes, flip, and cook until all melty inside. Slice into wedges. Garnish as desired. Eat.
- Open-faced Toasted Sandwiches: I really do like sandwiches, just not the plain old cold kind everyday. But give me a thick piece of bread, some leftover cooked chicken or roast or a slice of ham, a piece of cheese, maybe some thin slices of pear or apple, or a few diced tomatoes… Two minutes under the broiler. Perfect.
- Wraps: not the cold kind. Get your wrap material, whether it be a plain old tortilla, a piece of pita bread, or a fancy sun-dried tomato and herb flat bread. Heat up your tasty leftovers, toss a bit of shredded lettuce in the wrap, load with the heated eats, fold, consume. If you don’t happen to have any wrap-appropriate tasty leftovers, try 1) rice and beans, 2) refried beans, cheese, tomato wedges, 3) a wrap version of tuna melt, 4) scrambled eggs, diced ham/onion/anything, cheese.
- Leftover Pasta: as you will recall, the pasta possibilities are endless. Plain noodles can be heated, tossed with butter and parmesan, and eaten as is. Or throw in a bit of whatever else looks appetizing in the pantry or refrigerator. Steamed veggies? Leftover cream of something soup? Jar of black olives? Little bit of Greek salad? Handful of spinach and a few mushrooms? You’ve got gourmet lunch waiting to happen.
What are your great, quick, simple, warm (or even cold) lunch ideas?
Fall gets me thinking soupy thoughts, if you hadn’t noticed. I love pulling up to the table with a big bowl of something steaming hot, a thick slice of fresh, buttered bread, and a great book to browse while I sip away. When I’m serving soup for supper, I tend to do meatier, slow-cooked stews and the like. But these two pleased my supper crowd, and they’re both easy to make within 30 minutes or so.
Fresh Tomato Soup
5 cloves of garlic
6 T. butter
6 cups (49 ounces) chicken or vegetable stock
10 ounce can tomato paste
3/4 cup whole milk, cream, or half and half
Prepare vegetables: Dice the tomatoes. Peel the onion and dice. Peel the garlic and mince.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a deep saute pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until fragrant; add the tomatoes. Cook until onions are tender and tomatoes are “melted.” Remove from heat. If you have a immersion blender, use it to puree the soup. If not, just mush it up with the back of a spoon.
Pour the tomato mixture through a sieve or strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids. Pour the liquid into a stock pot and add the chicken or vegetable stock.
In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste and the milk until blended. Add to the soup and stir until completely combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Dice the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add to the soup. When butter is melted, swirl into the soup and serve immediately.
Fresh crusty bread, baquettes, or bread sticks and butter.
Serve it in bread bowls.
Hot cheese toast on the side.
Top with diced chives, a dollop of sour cream, and crumbled bacon for the BLT version.
Serve over freshly cooked rice or pasta for a heartier but still vegetarian version.
3 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
5 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 can of creamed corn
3 – 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 – 2 cups milk
Cooked, crumbled bacon
Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the fresh corn and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant and lightly browned and corn is beginning to get tender.
Add the creamed corn and stock. Bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let bubble away on simmer for 15 minutes or so. (Go set the table, empty the dishwasher, feed the dog, check the mail, see what’s new at Kitchen Craft…).
Just before serving, add the milk and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir to combine and keep over heat until warmed through. Remove from heat and serve immediately with crumbled bacon on top.
Add 2 diced, cooked potatoes.
Add diced, cooked leftover chicken.
Substitute 1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel corn for fresh, if necessary.
Vary the ratio of stock to milk as you like. Use 4 cups stock and 2 cups milk for a “soupier” soup. Use 3 cups stock and 1 cup milk for a thicker version. Or use 3 cups milk and 1 cup stock for a much creamier version, just be sure to allow time for milk to heat through and don’t allow it to scald.
I don’t know why, but a fresh green salad with hard-boiled egg seems right with this soup.
Add 1 onion, diced, and 2 stalks celery, diced, and 1 bell pepper, diced, to the garlic-and-corn saute for a heartier soup.
Eliminate the bacon for a vegetarian version. Top with diced chives and tomatoes instead.
Eliminate the bacon, use olive oil instead of butter (eliminate the extra 2 tablespoons at the end) and soy milk for a vegan version.
Soup is one of my favorite cold-weather foods. It’s warm, comforting, and filling. It’s forgiving: you can tweak amounts and substitute ingredients and still come out with something perfect. Try that with a bread recipe.
The only drawback to soup is that many heartier soups are full of meat, cream, butter, and other fattening ingredients. Hey, I like a good bowl of fattening soup as much as the next girl, but sometimes I need something just as warm but not as calorie-laden. Enter my version of Thai Noodle Soup:
16 oz. package rice noodles
Assorted vegetables (such as): 1 squash, 1 onion, 1 tomato, 3 carrots
4 – 6 cups broth (use the stock of your choice: vegetable, seafood, chicken, beef)
Soy sauce to taste
Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Set aside.
Peel (as needed) and thinly slice the vegetables. Place in bowls or serving dishes. Set aside.
Heat the broth to low boil in a sauce pan. Add soy sauce to taste. Keep at a strong simmer.
Dice the cilantro and place in small bowl.
Assemble the soup in individual bowls (or let the individuals assemble their own soup): Start with a good scoop of rice noodles, a few spoonfuls of vegetables, and a generous ladle or two of the hot broth. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime.
What you get, of course, is a bowl of cooked noodles, fresh-crunchy-tender vegetables, and steaming, savory broth. You can customize this dish as you like. Feel free to add more seasonings to the broth (Asian fish sauce, ginger, garlic, chili, teriyaki, even curry powder). Vary the vegetables according to your taste, just be sure they are all sliced thinly so they will be slightly cooked by the hot broth. You could also throw in any kind of leftover (cooked) meat, shrimp, or fish. I prefer the vegetarian version. Keep the broth very hot so it does its job, and garnish at will. Enjoy!
Whenever I just don’t feel like cooking, I turn to M.F.K. Fisher. Some of her recipes are strange rather than appealing, but her descriptions get me running to the kitchen. Read these from The Art of Eating:
“It was a big round peach pie, still warm from Old Mary’s oven and the ride over the desert. It was deep, with lots of juice, and bursting with ripe peaches picked that noon. …Father cut the pie in three pieces and put them on white soup places in front of us, and then spooned out the thick cream. We ate with spoons too, blissful…” (p. 358)
“Small brown roasted chickens lay on every plate, the best ones I have ever eaten, done for me that afternoon by Madame Doellenbach of the Vieux Vivey and not chilled since but cooled in their own intangibly delicate juices. There was a salad of mountain lettuces. There was honest bread. …But what really mattered, what piped the high unforgettable tune of perfection, were the peas, which came from their hot pot onto our thick china plates in a cloud, a kind of miasma, of everything that anyone could ever want from them, even in a dream.” (p. 666)
“Breakfast, then, can be toast. It can be piles of toast, generously buttered, and a bowl of honey or jam…” (p. 193)
So simple, just describing food, and yet she makes me remember why I love food, why I own shelves full of cookbooks, why I actually like going to the grocery store and become delirious at the thought of the farmer’s market. Food is basic, and simple, and we take it for granted, and even grow weary of its three-meals-a-day monotony. Taking it a step back, viewing it from a distance, listening to the words that describe the smells and textures and tastes, we remember that it is more than necessity. It is good, a gift, a blessing on the repetition of our days, a sweet savor to lift the mundane up to miraculous.
Posted by Annie Mueller
October 9, 2008 | 1 Comment
- 101 Simple Appetizers in 20 Minutes or Less by Mark Bittman for the NYTimes.
- Quick and Satisfying Soup (tips) by Sherrie Le Masurier for Family Sanity Savers.
- Approximate Grilling Times for Meat and Poultry (chart, scroll down the page) from Meals For You.
- Student Recipes (ebook) from YumYum.com. This is actually a really nice beginner’s guide for cooking, covers basic methods and a lot of things you may know already, but also has good, simple ideas for cooking vegetables, making salad dressings, etc. You don’t have to download it; it’s all available on the site.
- Cooking Ideas from The True Cost of Food. This article covers (well) all the methods of cooking vegetables and ends with a collection of basic recipes from the book Recipes from America’s Small Farms by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Lori Stein.
- Saving Money with Homemade Convenience Mixes by Nellie Hedstrom for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. You thought Bisquick saved you time? Go read about a big batch of All-Purpose Convenience Mix and how it can become anything from biscuits to cheese bread to dumplings to muffins to coffee cake to brownies.
- Homemade Bread: Cheap, Delicious, Healthy, and Easier Than You Think by Trent Hamm at The Simple Dollar. This is a great introduction to the why and wherefore of homemade bread. My family is addicted to homemade bread. We hardly ever buy a pre-made loaf, and when we do, we don’t like it. Blech. The recipe in this article is very similar to mine, though I usually don’t use milk and make a batch big enough to produce three loaves at once.
- Secrets of a Mom Chef: Reusing Leftovers Creatively by Christine Stamm for Kaboose.
- Interactive Seasonal Food Map from Epicurious, along with their Menu Planner and Seasonal Recipes (browse by Summer, Spring, Fall, or Winter).
- Vegetarian Meals for Meatlovers from Earth Easy. A nice collection of very hearty main-dish vegetarian recipes.
- How to Plan a Dinner Party Menu by Jen Beisser for Chef’s Line Cooking Blog.
- 10 Tasty, Easy, and Healthy Breakfast Ideas from ZenHabits. Pretty pictures, too.
- How to Make a Great Green Salad by James Peterson for Fine Cooking.
Quick cook appetizers means minimal preparation with some cooking. You won’t be spending hours in the kitchen rolling out dough or some such nonsense… You should be able to pull all these together within 20 minutes of active time in the kitchen. Some require a bit more cooking time, but that part is hands-off. So take your appetizers up and your stress down.
1. Warm Dips and Crackers
Buffalo chicken dip, spinach-artichoke dip, warm Tex-Mex style bean dip, cheese dip, baked seafood dip: you could have an entire appetizer spread of nothing more than hot dips and food to eat it on. Offer at least one non-meaty dips and have plenty of crackers and chips.
2. Roasted Garlic and Baquette Slices
Slice the very top off of each whole head of garlic, place on a cookie sheet, and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Bake at 400 for about 1 hour, until very tender. Gently halve or quarter each head and serve warm or room temperature with slices of baquette.
3. Asian Vegetable Tray
Gather your favorite Asian vegetables: snow peas, radishes, daikon, edamame, Chinese kale, Oriental cucumber, kohlrabi, baby corn, or whatever you like. You don’t have to offer a huge variety. Blanch the “harder” vegetables, and offer the kale or other greens in small rolls on toothpicks. Make a dip out rice wine vinegar, minced Thai basil, Chinese parsley (cilantro), and mint.
4. Chicken Satay
Cube raw chicken breasts and thread onto skewers. Salt and pepper, then bake or grill until cooked through. Serve with a peanut satay dip.
Top tortilla chips with slightly mashed beans and grated cheese, and bake until cheese has melted. Add (or serve on the side) diced tomatoes, jalapenos, sour cream, salsa, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges.
6. Individual Stir Fry
Finely dice your favorite stir fry vegetables. I like carrots, green peppers, onions, and squash. Heat oil in a wok or skillet, stir fry the vegetables until crisp tender, and dip into individual bowls or lettuce pieces. Offer a variety of sauces for topping.
7. Beef Skewers
Cube skirt steak and let marinate in Worcestershire sauce or Italian dressing for 30 minutes at room temperature. Skewer the beef cubes with cherry tomatoes and pearl onions, then grill or bake until meat is cooked to your choice of doneness (I recommend medium as a general crowd-pleaser).
8. Mini BLTs
Cook thick-sliced bacon and cut each slice in half. Wrap each half-slice around a cherry tomato, pin with a toothpick, and serve on a firm piece of lettuce topped with a drizzle of garlic mayo or ranch dressing.
9. Cheese Toast
Assemble ahead of time, and then broil at the last minute. Use a variety of bread and cheese. Cut the bread into small rounds or squares, spread with butter, and top with a slice or two of cheese. Broil until cheese melts. Serve with apricot jam or a fruit chutney on the side.
10. Baked Apples
Slice firm, crunchy apples. (Peeling is optional.) Spread in a baking dish, dot with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon, a dash of salt, and a splash of vanilla. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until tender. Serve these out of a bowl with warmed caramel dip on one side and warmed brie on the other.
Non-Cook Appetizers are those which can be ready for serving with minimal preparation and no baking, roasting, sauteeing, warming, broiling, microwaving, fricasseeing… Because it just takes too much time to fricassee an appetizer when you’re getting ready for a party.
1. The Stand-by Tray: Cheese, Crackers, Olives, Nuts
It’s a stand-by because it’s tasty, it’s classy, it offers variety, and it’s easy to eat with your fingers while standing, chatting, and balancing your plate and drink. Have at least one hard cheese and one soft cheese, a variety of crackers or breads (2 – 3 kinds), olives on toothpicks (you could stack Greek and Stuffed olives, two to a toothpick), and a dish or two of nuts.
2. Cold Dips and Crackers or Crudites
Puree 2 cans of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of Tahini. Ta da! You have hummus. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with crackers, pita wedges, and sliced raw vegetables.
Other options: Make the hummus with black beans instead of the traditional garbanzos, for a switch; sprinkle the top with minced parsley or cilantro. People still love a traditional ranch dip or zesty vinaigrette for the crudites.
3. Marinated Vegetables
You can purchase these at a deli or salad bar, but they are easy to make at home. No cooking required. Use your favorite non-creamy salad dressing or make your own marinade: combine red wine vinegar, minced garlic, a bit of sugar, salt, and a pinch of dry mustard. Taste and adjust seasonings, then pour marinade over fresh, bite-size vegetables such as mushrooms, red and orange peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry or grape tomatoes. For a stronger visual impact (and to accomodate pickier eaters), marinate each type of vegetable separately and arrange on a tray or in separate bowls.
4. Purchased Meats, Spreads, and Rolls
Your only job is in the assembly. On a large tray (or several smaller ones), arrange a variety of rolls (pre slice them), your assortment of meats (two kinds is fine), and small bowls of spreads such as mayo, mustards (honey, spicy brown), and horseradish (if you are serving deli beef). Expand the offering by adding sliced cheese and a variety of crunchy pickles.
5. Prosciutto and Pears
Apples and melons work for this, too. Prepare whichever fruit you’ll be using: peel and slice into 2 inch long pieces. Wrap each piece of fruit in one piece of prosciutto, spear with a toothpick, and arrange on a tray.
6. Fresh Fruit
Always simple, always welcome. Make it more exciting by focusing on the freshest, in-season fruits, and add in a couple of more exotic options such as starfruit or pomegranates as well. The power is in the presentation, so slice and dice carefully and arrange for visual impact. You can always offer sweeter, cold dips along with the fruit, if you like, but that’s entirely optional.
7. Topped Cucumbers and Carrots
You’ll want the smaller cucumbers and the larger carrots for this appetizer. (Larger cucumbers have too many messy seeds.) Peel and slice the vegetables into 1/4″ thick rounds, then top with whatever seems suitable to you. Garlicky cream cheese spread and bacon bits, soft brie and capers, ranch sour cream and half a cherry tomato.
8. Crab or Shrimp Spread on Lettuce
Combine canned crab or shrimp with softened cream cheese, sour cream, grated onion, and a splash of lemon juice and worcestershire. Season with salt and pepper or Old Bay seasoning, then serve on small pieces of sturdy lettuce or daikon.
Buy it at a reliable source, tray it, and serve it. Be sure you have wasabi and soy sauce on hand as well.
10. Stacked Crackers and Bread Rounds
Start with sturdy crackers or small bread rounds. Top with a variety of goodies as suits your taste and party. Try rye bread with a cream cheese smear, a piece of smoked salmon, and a tiny pile of capers. Or top crackers with a cheese and fruit combination, or mozzarella, basil, and a grape tomato, or olive tapenade and fresh parsley, or roasted red peppers and a piece of bacon, or brie and a smidge of apricot jam.
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