Monday, January 24, 2011

Spaghetti is your canvas~ Create My Friends~ Create

Tonight's Masterpiece ~ Spaghetti with chicken and vegetables
I love the versatility of a meal that lets me be creative. Spaghetti was my canvas this evening and I enjoyed the process of creating it.
Getting ready to create the pasta
When kneaded for ten minutes or so the pasta dough becomes soft and pliable. I love the beautiful color and texture of the fresh dough.
I love the way the spaghetti looks as it comes through the roller
There is definitely a technique to making fresh pasta. It will require some practice but, before long you will know the dough is ready by the way it feels as you knead it.
Nothing tastes like fresh pasta
 Fresh pasta cooks much more quickly then the dry version and the taste will tempt you to make your own from now on.
Use veggies you have on hand to create a colorful dish
I used vegetables I had on hand
1 leek
1 zucchini
1/2 onion
red orange and yellow peppers
Red pepper flake
Italian spices
Sun dried tomato 
Salt & Pepper

Adding the chicken to the veggies
  I roasted two bone- in chicken breasts, removed the meat from the bones and added the chicken to the veggies. Shrimp or scallops would work beautifully in this dish as well.
Total under $10.00 for a feast that includes the leftovers I will use for my husband's lunch tomorrow
Fast easy and oh so delicious

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Give me A Quiche To Build A Dream On And My Imagination Will Thrive Upon That Quiche

The greatest delight the fields and woods minister is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable.  I am not alone and unacknowledged.  They nod to me and I to them.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 If asked to name a perfect, easy to prepare dish for a family brunch, a get together with friends or a fast and easy supper for busy nights like tonight I would have to say quiche. We are expecting company tomorrow so dinner can’t be to complicated or I won’t be able to finish getting the house ready.

Quiche used to be so popular and lately it seems to have fallen out of favor. I’ve tried to update and lighten up the recipe by using only half of the allotted crust and by using mostly 1% milk. I’ve chosen to prepare a veggie cheese quiche tonight. I really hate to waste food so, I am using bits and pieces of leftover vegetables and creating a delicious and economical meal.
I cut the ice cold butter before adding it to the flour
I make my own crust because it’s easy to do and I know and trust the ingredients,
1.1/4 cups flour
1 stick of butter
½ tsp Salt
4-6 tbs Water

That is all, no ingredients you can’t pronounce and it took me all of five minutes to do.
I put the salt and flour in my food processor and pulsed once or twice
Added 1 stick of very cold almost frozen butter, which I cube to help the mixing along
I add the butter to the flour and process till the butter looks pea sized.
I slowly add about 4-6 TBS cold water till the dough forms a ball and then I stop
Don’t over mix.
I divide the dough in two and refrigerate for an hour before I roll it out to the size of the quiche dish.
Notice I’ve made two portions. One to use now and one to freeze for another meal.
I roll our crust thinly, which makes it a bit less caloric and works for us. 
1 tsp olive oil
1-cup kale (I sometimes use spinach or broccoli as well)
½ onion
1/4 cup leftover leek (cleaned and sliced)
5 sun-dried tomatoes 
(if packaged in oil~ blot them)
1 roma tomato (diced)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan

I sauté the vegetables in the oil till softened
I then completely cool them

Whisking the egg mixture
Scramble four eggs
 ¾ cup of 1% milk
¼ cup half and half
¼ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
Add the veggies and the cheese
Blind bake the crust for 10-15 minutes till firm but not brown
Remove from oven
Cool for a few minutes
Add the cooled veggies
Add ½ cup feta
¼ cup Parmesan
Gently pour egg mixture over the top
Bake for 30-40 minutes till done
Adding the filling
Total Under $6.00 for a meal with plenty of leftovers
John loved the quiche. We found it to be rich and flavorful despite the thin crust and the use of 1% milk.. He enjoyed the flavor of the sun-dried tomato in the dish and said it turned out to be one of the best he has ever had.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lady And The Tramp Revisited

We depend on chickens for so many meals ~lets treat them properly with respect and raise them cleanly
I love the scene in Lady and the tramp where the pups share a string of spaghetti and a romantic moment. For me tonight’s dinner falls into that category as well. John and I will share a petite portion of pot pie. This is a rich dish so the servings will be more than enough to satisfy us as we share a romantic pot pie moment.
A couple of weeks ago I made a basic Pate brise dough and found I had a bit leftover. I didn’t have enough for a pie pan or a casserole dish but I did have enough for a small 5x5 circular pan. I decided it was the perfect size for a chicken pot pie built for two.
Nice to have this meal ready for a busy day
The pate brise recipe is a basic standard
 2 1/2 cups AP flour
¼  tsp salt
 1 tbs sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter chilled and cut into small pieces
I put it all in the food processor and slowly add
ice water till it all forms a ball

Note: this recipe will make more than you need for this dish
Remember the leftovers are what I used for this potpie.
I’d cut it in ½ for this dish or use half and freeze half.
(Or you could make cinnamon buns for breakfast the next morning)
Store bought pie shells will work as well use what you have on hand.

For the filling sauté
½ onion
2 ribs celery (chopped)
3 small chopped carrots
1 small potato cut in small pieces
 in butter and oil (about 2 Tbs total)
When softened 6-7 minutes I sprinkle with flour (about 1 Tbs)
Which makes it like a little roux keep cooking it  (1 minute more or so)
add  approx ½ cup 1% milk 
and ½ cup chicken stock
heat till it thickens adjust thickness to your liking by adding stock
½ cup thawed frozen peas
3/4 cup leftover chicken I had on hand
S&P to taste
poultry seasoning or sage to taste
Classic ingredients are so versatile ~ keep these on hand 
I add the mixture to the crust
I top with more crust
I cut air vents on top
I cook for 45 minutes-1 hour at 375 degrees
till the crust is browned and the potpie is bubbly 
Total under $5.00 for this treat for two
A whole bowl of Happy
TIP OF THE DAY: Even a small amount of leftover dough can be made into a tasty dish. If I hadn't had enough for a pot pie I would have made cinnamon bites or maybe Apricot jam filled treats. Use it all and save money in a delicious way.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Todays Meal Is Brought To You By The Letter P

Delicious Ham
There are days I feel like getting in the car and going on an adventure. Our temporary move to Los Angeles has given me the opportunity to explore many new and exciting places. After all the rain we had during the holidays I was more than ready to get out of the house and drive. I had a great day discovering several new neighborhoods, listening to oldies on the radio and letting the GPS guide me.
A little bit goes a long way and tastes terrific
I didn’t have a great deal of time to plan or prepare a complicated dinner today. I wanted to fix something flavorful and not too heavy. I’d planned ahead for a day like this and I knew just what I was craving.

My oil decanter makes me smile every time I use it
2 slices Prosciutto $1.00
1 cup dry whole wheat penne pasta $.75
½ cup frozen peas $.50
½ cup gated Parmesan cheese $.75
1Tbs olive oil

I cooked the Prosciutto till crispy and crumbled it
I cooked the penne pasta till al dente

I put the Prosciutto and pasta
In a pan with the peas
Place the Parmesan in the pan
Mixed well 
Drizzle olive oil  
Sprinkle with red pepper flakes to taste 

I’m serving the pasta with a green salad topped with a tangerine vinaigrette
Total under $5.00
Comfort food with lots of flavor
TIP OF THE DAY: Products like Prosciutto tend to be expensive however; you don’t need to rule these items out entirely. Many ingredients are available for purchase by the slice (or the ounce) and as you can see from this recipe just two slices gave this meal a real flavor boost. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Gift Of Tangerines:Seasonality Times Three

When we care for the earth the earth will in turn sustain us
This is the time of year when everyone takes a moment to reevaluate their eating habits and incorporate even more good choices into their meal planning.
The Beautiful Tangerine tree
 At our house we are also looking at our food choices and continuing our efforts to eat delicious yet healthy and seasonal foods.
Seasonality is a cornerstone of smart cooking
This weekend we were grateful to be given tangerines and oranges that were picked right off my Aunt and Uncle’s fruit trees. I’ve decided to make a meal for us today that celebrates the tangerine and the sharing of natures bounty with family.
The menu will include

Tangerine ginger soy snapper
Tangerine glazed carrots
And a festive salad with a
Tangerine vinaigrette

¾ Lb wild caught snapper
(The store was out of wild salmon) $5.00
½ inch piece of ginger (grate it)  $.15
3 tangerines juiced a lovely gift..
Sprinkle of hot pepper flake
1 tsp soy sauce

I marinated the snapper in the above for 1-2 hours
I then bake it in a 350-degree oven for 18 minutes or till done

Small green salad with tangerine vinaigrette
We love to experiment with new and interesting vinegars
For the dressing I combined
A tiny bit of tangerine zest
Juice of 1 tangerine
½ tbs honey
1 tbs white balsamic vinegar
and then I slowly drizzled in the olive oil (about 2 tbs) as I whisked it to an emulsion

This salad would also  make a wonderful meal topped with grilled salmon
I tossed the dressing with
1/4 head Lettuce
1 Roma tomato
Tangerine sections
Crushed pecans
Dried cranberries
Artichoke hearts

Brazed carrots glazed in tangerine juice 
I added a tsp of olive oil to the pan 
I pan braze the carrots in water and
tangerine juice
When done to al dente add juice of one tangerine 
As it reduces it will form a glaze over the carrots
I add a touch of cayenne and salt during the cooking.
A Healthy and delicious tangerine themed meal
Total under $10.00 for this Tangerine dream dinner

TIP OF THE DAY: When given a wonderful seasonal ingredient like the tangerine, it is fun to build a menu around it. Take standard dishes you cook regularly and put a fun twist on the recipe. Some of them are bound to  become family favorites

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Spinach & Ricotta Stuffed Ravioli An Unlikely Yet Yummy Hostess Gift

One of the many reasons we love visiting family
     We are going away for the weekend to visit my aunt and uncle and we are bringing part of Saturday night’s dinner as a gift for our hosts. I’ve spent this morning making spinach ricotta ravioli and on Saturday night all they will need to prepare are the bread and a beautiful salad.
The dough is ready to roll. Its a beautiful color and has a great texture
      I prepared the standard pasta recipe I’ve discussed in previous posts and this time I’m filling them with spinach and ricotta.
Cooking the Spinach
3.5 cups All Pourpose flour
4 eggs
3/4 tsp salt
splash olive oil
water if needed
mix by hand  
kneed till smooth and soft
The filling is ready to use
For the filling
10 oz frozen spinach
¾ lb of part skim ricotta
¾ cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp black pepper
½ tsp salt
a dash of nutmeg

I sauté the spinach in butter and olive oil
with garlic and a touch of minced onion
When done I cool completely
Time to make the ravioli
Prepare the filling:
I place ricotta in a bowl
I add an egg
I add ½ cup
A touch of nutmeg
Pepper and Salt
I then add the cooled spinach

I put a small amount along the pasta
And make the pillows
I trip them with a cute little pasta cutting tool
And set them on a cookie sheet.
This pasta tool is a fun toy
I’m freezing these to take on out trip as I will not cook them till Saturday. 
To cook them I will place them in boiling salted water
When they are done they will float to the top of the water.
Total under $10.00 to feed four people

TIP OF THE DAY: Consider bringing part of the meal as a hostess gift. If you love to cook prepare a loaf of bread, a soup or even a frozen dish the hosts can enjoy during the week. Time to relax and not worry about cooking is generally a much appreciated gift.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Best Laid Plans: Rosemary Soup To The Rescue

Rosemary to the Rescue
      Like most people we are beginning the new year looking for ways to eat well and undo the result some of our holiday indulgences. At our house soup is one way we rebalance and get back in the nutrition zone.   
     One of my favorite wintertime treats is a warm bowl of butternut squash soup. Today I was preparing a batch with an Indian twist. Curry, turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon highlight the squash soup and warm me to the core.

The soup was a beautiful color and consistency and I was putting the finishing touches on it when I did something I rarely if ever do. I poured a touch of cinnamon from the container to the pot. The problem was a fistful of cinnamon fell in to my stockpot rendering the soup inedible. I couldn’t help but smile at the situation. It was actually a pretty funny moment.

I stood in the kitchen with my hands on my hips thinking about how I would salvage our evening meal. I did a quick inventory and I got to work

1 can organic great northern beans $1.39
½ onion $.50
3 cloves garlic $.10
1 small sprig rosemary
½ tsp thyme
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
I love the immersion blender. Its a real workhorse.

I sautéed the onion and garlic
Added the beans and broth
Minced the rosemary
Continued to cook it all together
Added thyme
Added S&P

I will serve it with toasted focaccia croutons on top
(Glad I’d baked some recently)
I'll also serve small toasted cheese sandwiches using the focaccia and some nice Tillamook cheddar. 
 Total under $3.00 for this nice save
A delicious way to save dinner
TIP OF THE DAY: Try to keep a few cans of  beans in the pantry. A bean soup is a great healthy wy to salvage a meal that gets ruined.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Flat Bread Pizza For A Rainy Day

Ready to go in the oven

     A rainy day is a perfect time to catch up on all the things around the house that tend to get neglected during the holiday rush. In addition to all my usual household chores, I spent the day putting away the Christmas decorations and rearranging the closet. 

     We are always told to save for a rainy day and it occurred to me that expression could easily apply to menu planning as well as finance. I knew I’d have my hands full today so yesterday afternoon I roasted a sheet pan of plum tomatoes, a small onion and a head of garlic in anticipation of the flatbread pizza dinner we are having tonight. The beauty of this dish is, that it is comprised of elements that I had put away for a rainy day.
The only thing I cooked this evening was the fresh kale with a bit of garlic
     I prepared a batch of whole-wheat lavash last week that I used for making flat breads. When I bake I always try to freeze a couple of portions of the dough for later use.

     I had also prepared a lasagna for Christmas eve and I put a container of the meat sauce in the freezer for a meal to enjoy this week.

5-6 plum tomatoes $1.30
1 small onion $.45
1 head garlic $.25
¾ bunch kale $.50
I chop the roasted tomatoes with the roasted garlic cloves before I add it to the pizza

removed from the freezer this morning
Roll out the dough and bake it for 10-12 minutes

Leftover spaghetti sauce
Heat the sauce and lightly coat the flatbread 

Top with pieces of chopped roasted tomato onion and garlic
Top with some chopped marinated artichoke hearts
Top with grated cheese
Pop back in the oven till hot and melty
Total under $3.00
Flatbread Pizza For A Rainy Day
TIP OF THE DAY: As you prepare your meals try to take a small portion of this or that and freeze it for another day. Use it for a lunch or an add in for a pasta. I used mine for flat bread pizza for a rainy day.