Monday, July 28, 2008
Barley Stuffed Zucchini
1/2 cup pearl barley (NOT the quick cooking kind)
1 1/4 cup beef broth
3 medium or 6 small zucchini
1 lb lean ground beef (I use Laura's Lean 96/4)
1 tsp montreal steak seasoning
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
10 oz box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
4 oz goat cheese
4 oz light cream cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
In small sauce pan bring beef broth to a boil and add barley. Reduce heat and simmer until barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice zucchini in half, lengthwise and scoop out visible seeds. Hollow out the remainder of the pulp, leaving a zucchini "boat" to stuff. Dice pulp and set aside. Place zucchini shells cut side up on a greased baking sheet and spray lightly with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn oven temperature down to 375 degrees.
In a large skillet brown ground beef seasoned with steak seasoning. Add onion, bell pepper, reserved zucchini pulp, and pepper flakes. Saute until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in worchestershire sauce and spinach. Add goat cheese and cream cheese and stir until melted and creamy. Stir in the cooked barley. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Stuff zucchini with ground beef mixture and return to baking sheet. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the zucchini and place baking sheet in oven. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Friday, July 25, 2008
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef (I used Laura's Lean, 96/4)
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (I used part of a yellow one and a pablano)
1 stalk celery with leaves, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/4- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, depending on your love of spiciness
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 cup pearl barley (NOT the quick cooking kind)
6 cups chicken broth
8 cups shredded cabbage (about 1/2 of a large head)
2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 packets of Splenda
V-8 or tomato juice to thin soup if desired
In large soup pot brown ground beef with the onion, pepper, celery, carrot and pepper flakes until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent. Add garlic, paprika and coriander and saute for another minute or two. Add chicken broth and rinsed barley and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until barley is tender, approximately 45 minutes. Add cabbage, season with salt and pepper, stir well, and cover. Cook until cabbage wilts and cooks down a bit, then add tomato sauce, tomatoes and Splenda. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Add V-8 or tomato juice to thin soup if desired.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Homemade Whole Wheat Croutons
2 whole wheat bagels, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsps. italian seasoning
2 tsps. garlic salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine oil, seasonings and cheese. Place bagel cubes into a bowl and pour oil mixture over them. Toss to coat. Spread cubes in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container after thoroughly cooled.
Here they are, floating happily in my bowl of Curried Sweet Potato and Bean Soup.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
It will therefore come as no surprise to find out that I'm a Food Network junkie. I actually think my desire to become a chef came full circle because of the Food Network. While others tune into their afternoon soaps, I grab my coffee and sit down for an afternoon of Paula Deen, Michael Chiarello, Giada De Laurentiis, Emeril, Mario, Rachael, etc. I've learned terms and techniques that extended far beyond what my mother had been able to teach me as a young girl. She was what I call a "have to" cook. That is to say that she cooked because she had to. With nine children to feed, she had very little time and money to consider technique, freshness and the like, so I can only assume that cooking became a very boring task for her, done daily out of duty and love. She had none of the modern conveniences and shortcuts that today's homemaker takes for granted. For example, not only can we buy chicken that's already been cut up, we can buy it skinless and boneless...and even pre-cooked! Not so back in my mom's day. You know the expression "running around like a chicken with its head cut off?" I actually witnessed that phenomenon as a child when my mother butchered the very chickens that she'd cook and serve us. They really do run around for a bit after they've been decapitated! When they'd finally give up the fight, she'd dunk them in a vat of scalding water to loosen the feathers, pluck said feathers, then run the bird over an open flame to get any remaining hairs. Feet came off next, followed by surgery to remove the inner organs. THEN she was ready to cut the little clucker up and begin the cooking process. Now THAT... should be the definition of cooking from scratch. She had almost an entire day vested in that chicken dinner that went on our table, whereas modern days chefs can decide at 4:00 that they want to make chicken for a 5:30 dinner. Enter the microwave, another convenience she did not have. You can also add food processors, blenders and bread machines to the list of appliances we have now that weren't available back then. Is it then any wonder why she never really enjoyed cooking? It was a tedious process accentuated with the monotony of its creative restraints. Inviting and nutritious cuisine is all about time and money, after all.
Enter today's working mother, and the reason we now have a country full of obese children. I'm not judging working mothers by any means. I was one. I also have overweight children. Mac and cheese from the blue box was a home-cooked meal back in the day, and I was so proud at the time that I hadn't had to resort to another fast food meal! Even with all my modern day appliances, it was still difficult for me to plan and make an inviting meal after working eight hours. I can't help but think that if I'd had access to resources the likes of "Thirty Minute Meals" with Rachael Ray, I might have been more educated in quick and nutritious cooking. Of course, I'd still have had to find the time to watch her show...and do the shopping.... and the prepping.... and the dishes.
It's come full circle indeed, from the days of my mother butchering her own chickens, to the present, where moms are the ones running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Fifty years old. One half of a century. Five decades.
Do I celebrate or self-destruct? I'm not sure, but in either case, a six pack of Bud Light will be involved.
In any event, I am reflective upon the days that have passed and look forward to peacefully enjoying what the future holds. I've lived through difficult days and I know there will be more to come. I've had equally as many (probably more) joyful days, and I know there will be more of those as well.
I'm trying to refrain from looking at the glass as half over.
And I'm accepting that today is the first day of the second half of the rest of my life.
But, regarding that whole "age is a state of mind" thingie? I've got the map out. I think I want to move.
Meet Sloopy, the canine formerly known as Gandhi.
From sunup to sundown, his most difficult decision is whether to sleep in bed or on the couch. On a truly bad day, there may only be two pillows positioned together at the same time, and he's then forced to make do. On the (rare) off chance that he might have to settle for a snooze on the floor, it's only because a blanket has fallen and been left there for his nap time needs.
Ahhh... a dog's life indeed. We're just thankful he lets us live with him.
3 bell peppers (I used the long red ones mentioned above)
1/2 lb. very lean ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced (I used a poblano)
2 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp beef bouillon granules
salt and pepper
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed
3 Tbsp sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 cups frozen shredded potatoes (hash browns)
Cut peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes. Set aside.
In a large skillet, brown ground beef, onion, pepper, mushrooms and salt and pepper until meet is browned and mushrooms lose their moisture. Stir in garlic and saute for another minute or so. Stir in cumin and bouillon and combine. Add spinach, cream cheese and sour cream and stir until cream cheese is melted. Add cheddar cheese and frozen potatoes and stir to combine.
Stuff pepper halves with mixture and place in a lightly greased casserole dish. Bake in preheated oven set to 375 for 30-40 minutes or until peppers are softened to desired consistency.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Most of my bean recipes start with dried beans that I've soaked, rinsed, then cooked per package directions, but I harbor a soft spot for Bush's Baked Beans and always use them for this recipe. If I could just get that damn dog to cough up the bean recipe, I'd make this from scratch too. Roll that beautiful bean footage!
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced (I used a poblano pepper)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 packet taco seasoning
1 (28 oz) can Bush's Original Baked Beans
salt and pepper to taste
shredded cheese of your liking, optional (I like pepper jack for this recipe)
tortilla chips, optional
Brown ground beef, onion, pepper and garlic. Drain. Stir in taco seasoning and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add baked beans. Season to taste. Cover with lid and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Top with shredded cheese and serve with tortilla chips, if desired.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
We weren't a poor family by any means, but I think all will agree that compromises have to be made when there are that many mouths to feed and that many bodies to clothe. I will always remember my first "new" winter coat. I was thirteen at the time. Of course all of the daughters shared the same Communion dress, and by the time it was handed down to me, the others had left their marks on it, so to speak. Water conservation was always an ongoing issue, mandating the weekly Saturday bath ratio to be one tubful of water to nine parts kid. And once again, the low man on the totem pole got the short end of the stick and left the tub dirtier than she went in.
"Waste not, want not" was my mother's favorite saying and she followed that mantra throughout all aspects of her homemaking. We reused foil and the wax paper in cereal boxes. We washed out baggies and used handkerchiefs instead of kleenex. And the woman could stretch a food dollar to beyond imaginable limits. One chicken could feed eleven people, if ample bread and potatoes were served with it. She made every part of the bird serviceable and since LMOTP (say it with me, Low Man On Totem Pole) got what the elders left behind, my favorite part of the chicken was forced upon me. Fried chicken neck, to be specific. It was my norm until many years later, when once again I was forced to accept the embarrassment that accompanied all my faux-formed norms. It was while ordering at my very first "sit down" restaurant that I learned chicken necks were really not part of ANY restaurant's menu. I can't pass the Glandorf Inn to this day without my cheeks turning a thousand shades of red.
And then there were the birthdays. (sigh) I think I eventually accepted all the other differences between my friends and myself, but my family's lack of sufficient birthday recognition really cheezed my ass. Other kids were having parties with bakery-made and decorated cakes, balloons, presents, and other various and enviable birthday accoutrements, and my birthday recognition consisted merely of a homemade cake. No party. No presents. No nothing. Devastation became my birthday norm and it wasn't until I became an adult that I decided to take my norm into my own hands. Enter, the Birth Month. From July 1st thru the 31st, it's all about me. My hubby and kids know that from the minute they flip over June's calendar page, there's a new queen in town. And each year I get such a kick out of hearing them sing "Happy Birthmonth to You."
Years pass and queens get older and less self-centered. And this queen also managed to give birth to a princess in the very month of July, mandating the whole "share-the-birthmonth" policy. However, I still hang on to my "birthweek" celebration. And today is kickoff. Four days until fifty.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Those memory-crashing blips where the right and left side of your brain refuse to cooperate and your synapses decide to have their own Hatfields and McCoys moment. You sit there dumbfounded at the ATM like a deer caught in headlights. I CAN'T REMEMBER MY PIN! Or someone asks for your phone number and you're catapulted back to kindergarten and the panic of trying to dig up those digits from somewhere.. anywhere.... IT'S JUST NOT THERE! And then there's the times like today when my daughter asked me where I'd put the shirt she'd had laying on the table. "In the dumpster," I replied. "WTF?" she asked with her eyebrows. "I mean, in the hamster," I answered. "What the hell are you on?" her eyebrows questioned again, before she fell to the floor in hysteria. I stood there with the kindergartener-at-the-ATM look for a second, then started laughing too. "What's that thing called? You know... that white whicker thing that holds dirty laundry? WHY CAN'T I THINK OF THAT WORD??"
"I'm assuming you mean HAMPER" she finally choked out.
Yeah, moments like that. Don't deny it. You've had them too.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Homemade chicken broth/stock
2-3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken
3 quarts water, add more as chicken boils
3 bay leaves
2 stalks celery with leaves, halved
1 carrot, quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. each, dried sage, thyme and parsley
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
moderate amount of salt and pepper... to your liking
Place all of the above in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove chicken, cool, and debone. Return bones to pot and boil for another 30-45 minutes. Strain broth. Pour broth in container and add deboned chicken if using for the recipe below. Chill and skim fat from surface before using.
This usually gives me about two quarts of fairly gelatinous broth, which gives the finished chicken and noodles a very nice and creamy consistency.
I actually went all out for this (because I had the time) and made my own noodles. I know, I know... I need to get a life. I purchased a pasta maker for my Kitchen Aid mixer a few years back and it's been collecting dust for awhile now. I figured if I make noodles once a week until I die, I might be able justify the $100 I spent on it. The picture below is of my noodles drying nicely on the counter. If I'm using store-bought noodles, I always buy Amish noodles (usually located in the bakery section of the store.) They're so much more flavorful and heartier than the ones in the pasta aisle (Mueller's, etc.)
Chicken and Noodles
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely diced carrot
1 cup finely diced celery/and leaves
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 quarts good quality chicken broth (I actually had to add an extra can of broth this time)
4 cups cooked, shredded chicken
12-16 oz. egg noodles
In soup pot heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until onions become translucent and mushrooms lose their moisture (5-6 minutes.) Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute. Add broth and return heat to high. Once boiling, turn heat down a bit and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes. Return heat to high and add chicken and noodles after boiling begins. Reduce heat to medium and boil until noodles are tender. This will vary depending on the size of the noodle, and whether you're using fresh or dried noodles.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I do believe in mood enhancing. I think subtle lighting, candles, soothing room colors, soft sounds (music waterfall, ocean waves, etc.) can all be used to produce a calming effect on our senses. However, when I read this:
The three-legged frog is considered very lucky. It usually has one or three coins in its mouth. The position of the three-legged frog with a coin in its mouth, is very important. It is to be placed anywhere near your main door on the inside and it should look inwards, as if it has just entered your house with the money ! Do not ever place this frog with the coin facing, i.e. looking at your main door, as this symbolizes money going out of the house.
Many people love reading books and they also take pride in possessing them. The habit, per se, is very good. But books, when kept in open shelves create shar chi or 'killing breath' which is bad for the occupant of the room. Open book shelves whether in the office or in the home are like knives, which give out negative energy and is bad Feng Shui. The best way to correct this is by having doors, on all the shelves. Keep the shelves covered and not exposed. This will reduce the bad effects of the open shelves.
I immediately labeled Feng Shui as bullshit. Superstitious and pagan-like practices of the paranoid. Just my two cents.
This is a picture of a stain-glassed window inserted into the wall directly ahead of you as you walk in through the front door. I haven't been able to establish its significance in the Feng Shuit practice, but I'm sure it has to do with colors and light welcoming qi into the home for a nice cup of tea. What ev.