Archive for ‘Misc’

February 1, 2011

Frozen Herbs and Citrus

Few more freezer ideas for everyone!

Recently a few tips were shared with me, that I wanted to share with all of you. Thanks to my friend Linda (who once owned a restaurant and has a bunch of helpful tips like these. Lucky for me I can pick her brain – lucky for you, I can share them, here, with you!).  I am not sure about you, but it seems whenever I go to the fridge in need of chopped off up parsley to finish off my dish or when I need the zest of a lemon for my salad dressing I find wilted herbs and moldy lemons.  While I was helping Linda to organize her culinary life on the computer, I was mentioning some of the new ideas I had for my blog. She shared some great ideas with me for herbs and citrus. Most herbs freeze well for purposes of using them in cooking. Parsley will wilted upon thawing, but if you chop the parsley and then freeze it, it is ready to be added to soups, pastas, casseroles or whatever else directly out of the freezer. The flavor remains unchanged and parsley keeps its bright green color.

So for all of you who did not know this wonderful tip – Thank Linda!

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I am sure this will work with other herbs, but I haven’t tried any to test the color and flavor – let me know what your experience has been!

Freezing citrus zest and juice is another tip. First zest the citrus (lemons and limes are what I use most)  and separate your zest so you have one type in its own bag, label the bags and freeze.

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Now juice the lemons and limes and put the juice in ice cube trays to freeze. Once the juice is frozen you can put them all in one big bag and pull out cubes as you need them. 1 cube = about a Tablespoon of juice! Conveniently premeasured too!

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Those are a few quick tips for you…remember to label and date items you put in the freezer!

One last thing, a useful tip for keeping organized, I like to keep a list by the freezer with a list of the items in my freezer. This way I am reminded of all the great things I put in there so things do not go to waste. This is also my quick reference to what’s for dinner!

January 16, 2011

January 17-23 Menu

Sunday breakfast: doughnut muffins by King Arthur Flour – very good!

Doughnut Muffins

Okay this is the first of my weekly meal plans. As mentioned a few posts ago one of my goals this year is to become more organized and create a Menu and since I am sharing all aspects of my 2011 goals, here is the next part of it. My hope is that over this year I will end up with a collection of Go-To recipes that are easy enough for weeknight dinners, and some freezer friendly recipes ready prepared for quick use during the week.

For years now I have been planning my dinners by week, I will attempt planning my lunches too.  A few weeks ago I found a blog called This Week for Dinner where people share their weekly dinner menus – great site you should visit it if you want inspiration for ideas!

Monday

– Pan Roasted Pork Saltimbocca w/butter and herb orzo and green salad.

(Lunch: Egg Salad Sandwich, sliced apples & edamame)

Tuesday

-Make your own flatbread pizzas (flatbread dough made Sunday then frozen)

(Lunch: left overs)

Wednesday

-Cornflake Chicken Strips w/potato wedges and steamed broccoli

(Lunch: w/a friend -Thai food)

Thursday

– Ham ‘n Beans (from the freezer)

(Lunch: Turkey BLT w/avocado spread)

Friday

– Eat Out! (Tacos – my daughter loves tacos)

(Lunch: Toasted Turkey sandwich w/sliced apples)

Saturday

Roman Chicken (Freeze leftovers for next week)

Sunday

Roasted whole chicken and mushrooms (my favorite staple food) w/garlic and parmesan mashed yukon golds. (I am going to Roast my chicken this week with Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking – Style)

I warn you I am spontaneous and if I find a good recipe during the week that warrants cooking on the weekend I may change up my weekend plan.

January 5, 2011

Making it with Your Own Hands

As a single mother, working full-time and having a 30-minute commute home each weeknight, my biggest challenge is making dinners that are ready before 8pm. I can see why there is so much popularity with pre-made foods and eating at fast-food establishments. On top of a full work day, there are errands to run and children’s activities to take care of. By the time all that is done, what energy is left for cooking a homemade meal? Yeah sounds daunting! (Oh wait! You still have to make a lunch for everyone for the next day).

Thinking all this over, and realizing that I have been spoiled over the past 4 years – my sitter has been my sister-in-law and she has provided lunches for my daughter, I realize that it’s about to get tougher!

The challenge we all have with making homemade meals is the misconception that it is more time consuming and more expensive. I spend much less money on food when I make it at home, than I do going out to eat dinner every night. (I am not saying do not ever eat out – because that is ridiculous and it is a lot of fun to try new restaurants or to visit your favorites! Just don’t make it an everyday habit.) On top of saving money you end up eating healthier because now you are in control of the fat, salt, fiber etc… that is in your food. With a little organization and a well-stocked pantry, the goal is more attainable and your misconceptions start to melt away! (I’m a huge fan of organization, by the way, and actually I thrive on it).

Each year I set “culinary goals” for myself (last years was this blog in fact), and with the changes coming up this year, I decided I want to get myself and my kitchen better organized. I want more than half of my weekly meals to be homemade. Meaning I need to find a way to have homemade meals at my fingertips.

Some initial ideas off the top of my head …freezer friendly meals/food, weekly meal planning, creating menus, learning to better stock my pantry and fridge, waste less food, and collect or create recipes that are easy, fast, and fresh.

Also on my “culinary goals” list is to finally join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). With a CSA, you pay a local farmer at the beginning of the season (sometimes in combination with volunteering your time on the farm) and in exchange you get a weekly basket of fresh produce. Some farmers include eggs, while others offer packages that include meat. This all depends on where you live and what the farmers in your area offer. I am so excited about this because not only will I feel better about what my daughter eats, but I will also be challenged to cook and eat things I might not have otherwise chosen. Plus the money I pay goes to help support a local family farm, and in turn contributes to the health of the earth. Each Saturday I take my daughter to the Farmer’s Market; it’s actually something my daughter and I both look forward to doing (perhaps it’s the bounce house, but we do learn along the way). We have a good time and it is really neat to see so much of our community each week supporting the farmers and eating local!

If you have ever read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivores Dilemma you may know why I believe strongly in eating locally and sustainably. A local farm is more likely one that is “sustainable” and not using a bunch of chemicals to grow food. A sustainable farm has its own ecology – a farmer can feed the crop wastes to animals and then feed the animals’ waste to the crops and very little waste is put out into the environment causing pollution. Commercial farmers pump synthetic nitrogen into their crops to help pump out as much produce as possible. There is something about robbing the soil of all its ability to produce plants, flooding rivers with pollution from synthetic chemicals, affecting communities’ tap water and dead zones in the sea that makes me think industrial agriculture is not working as well as we once thought. If you have not read the The Omnivores Dilemma, I highly recommend the book. Reading this book has helped me to understand the whys of eating locally and sustainably, why it is good for our bodies and for our environment. (My personal opinion).

My, ever-changing, personal food philosophy is to make what I eat with my own hands, rather than out of a box or from a fast-food company.

So with all that said, here are my 2011 Food/Culinary Goals:

1. Organize!
2. Clean out and stock up!
3. Find ways to waste less food.
4. Create an arsenal of Go-To recipes for lunches and weeknight dinners to help save time. A restaurant has a menu, why not my kitchen!
5. Make more than half our weekly meals homemade.
6. Eat local, when I can.

Wish me luck – I’m open to all suggestions and information you may have, please share!

Here is one of my new favorite fast weeknight dinners to start off.

1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 shallot
½ box spaghetti noodles
1 can cannellini beans (or other white bean)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ cup shredded parmesan

(You could also use a can of garbanzo bean and roast them with the cauliflower to mix it up – roasted garbanzos are good!)

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Coat the cauliflower lightly in olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Roast the cauliflower in a 450° oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile cook spaghetti noodles according to the package directions, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water when you drain the noodles.

Put 2T. Olive oil in the pot and sauté the shallots for 2 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower and sauté for another minute more.

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Drain a can of cannellini, or other white beans, and add the beans to the cauliflower. Add the noodles and pasta water. Add chopped parsley and stir to coat the pasta.

Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

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(Hopefully these are the last crummy weeknight photos that I have to use – I just ordered a lightscoop which will make it easier to take photos on weeknights when it’s dark and I don’t have natural light…)

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers!

 

August 18, 2010

PUBLISHED!

Such an amazing, exciting thing has happened! I can now call myself a published food writer! So I have one article under my belt – but there are more to come! The Nevada Appeal has brought me on as one of the food section contributors.  As simple as it may sound to some, this is truly an exciting new opportunity for me and means so much more to me. This could be the boost I needed to really get myself out there and into the world of food which so consumes me! Anyone who knows me, know’s how passionate I am (and maybe a little crazy) about food,  making food, learning about food, and feeding people food!  So I am very thankful for this opportunity. I am especially thankful Charlie Abowd and Linda Murrone for presenting the opportunity and making it happen! GREATLY appreciated!

Here is a link to what the article looks like in print!

http://nevadaappeal.nv.newsmemory.com/eebrowser/frame/check.4703/flash/loadPage.php?token=3bnbxNLC19nRpaPNoZSVn5efjJabncKmmpVtsMLij5WmmKeGlZSekKudmG15l6ePlZuX

April 24, 2010

Homemade Croutons

Croutons

When I buy bread for garlic bread I never seem to be able to use it up as fast as it starts getting hard so now I turn that bread into something! Croutons. We can always use croutons for our salads and now I don’t have to waste bread or buy croutons!

The rest of a loaf of bread going stale
olive oil
salt
1t. garlic powder (or use garlic infused olive oil)
I have also used the Johnny’s Garlic Spread seasoning and it came out really good.

Tear or cut the bread into cubes. Let it get dry out over night (or you can skip this step and it will take a little longer to toast the bread).

Drizzle oil over croutons and toss. Add your seasoning or salt and garlic powder and toss again.

Toast the croutons until they brown – 5 minutes or so. turn and toast the other side for another 5 minutes or so. Or until the croutons are to your toastiness!

March 7, 2010

Artisan Breads Every Day w/Peter Reinhart @ Nothing To It!

(Please forgive the photo quality – they were taken on my phone) 

On Saturday I took a class at Nothing To It! (which is a great place to take cooking classes this was my second class with them). My dad gave me the book Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day (you have probably seen it in my list of cookbooks I use/read and I mentioned it in my Ciabatta post).  Several weeks ago I saw that he was actually teaching a class at Nothing To It, what coincidence! So I signed up right away! Lucky I did because looking at his schedule, his other classes on the West Coast have filled up and there were several out-of-towners in our class. There were 60 people in the class and that’s pretty significant for the small cooking school in small town Reno. 

The class was great. I learned a lot and just watching an expert make bread is a great experience. To watch Peter mix, shape and bake the bread is a lesson on it’s own. But he also shared tips and knowledge he picked up during his years of experiences being a baker – owning a bakery, writing cookbooks and now teaching.   As well as sharing the science of bread. In fact I could probably use a few classes of this information!- he teaches at Johnson and Wales. 

A Couple of the many things I took away from this class: 

Oil instead of butter! Peter mentioned that he started using oil and has found the dough is more supple. So I will be trying this out.

High altitude baking – water boils at a lower temp, which means you can reduce the oven temps.  We (those of us here in Carson) are only at 4500 ft so it’s not a huge difference and we probably don’t need to do this. However, since our climate is drier – and higher altitude environments are generally drier – it may require us to use more water in some recipes. AH HA moment! hence my Babka recipe blunder! I thought the dough was too dry but didn’t think I could add more water without compromising the dough. I was prepared to ask him if he would add more water to some of the recipes since we have a drier environment, but that was the first question that came up in the class! Guess I wasn’t the only one with that problem!!! My biggest babka problem was that it was not cooked through. I thought I used too much chocolate which resulted in it being undercooked, well this was the bread that Peter had to keep checking in class and it went back in the oven several times! While it seems to brown fast it didn’t burn like I thought it would so I should have just kept baking it – now I know. 

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Babka and Challa baking

Next Peter demonstrated how to do a 6 braid Challa (pronounced hall-a, which makes me think of that Gwen Stefani song…holla back girl! LOL)! Instructions for braiding are pretty intimidating, but much easier to absorb when you get to see it done first hand!

Challa Braiding

Taste

While the enriched doughs (Challa, brioche) and sweat breads are super good, my favorites are definitely the lean doughs.  The nutty, crusty breads have always been my favorite, well before I got started making bread.  So my favorites are ciabattas, batards, boules and the like. However, the sticky buns are fantastic. Peter made three different stucky buns and my favorite was the cranberry pecan – those of you who eat my food will be having this sometime soon!  There was much more I learned that will help me in my bread making adventures! I feel more confident that while bread recipes are so scientific, I have more room to play around with than I thought.  So I’m going to be BRAVE in my bread making now! LOL I tell my daughter to “be brave” whenever she is scared…

This is the worst photo of me but I’m going to post it anyway because it’s all I have. It was a great class and I can’t wait to start making more bread! 

Me and Peter

January 31, 2010

Next…

Next weekend I’m going to make some Babka bread it looks SUPER good! It has chocolate and cinnamon swirled! MMMM, but takes a few hours at home to make it.

(UPDATE: I made this bread and it didn’t turn out at all! My daughter keeps telling people about how it didn’t turn out…can’t live it down. I will try it again soon. I learned that Peter Reinhart, the author of the book the Babka recipe came from, is going to teach a class in Reno so I signed up! Maybe he’ll teach me how to make it while I’m there.)

On another note, I got my daughter this camera for Christmas and she takes it everywhere. Today I found her taking pictures of her dinner! I was laughing so hard. I was just talking to someone and said she’s probably going to start thinking that everyone takes pictures of their food before eating…LOL!

Have a good Monday!

January 25, 2010

Wine Country….Ahhh the serenity

I seriously L-O-V-E this place, fell in love…. FINALLY I made it to Wine Country (Sonoma to be exact, well the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek, Alexandar Valley, Santa Rosa Healdsburg to be even more exact) . Wine tasting all weekend some fabulous wines and great food. Can’t ask for a better trip. I bought a few bottles of really good wine – quality is so much different than the cheap bottle in the store. This trip taught me a lot about what I like in wine and it was nice and relaxing. I had such a great trip and was so thankful I got to go. I hope that I get to go again real soon! I was in heaven, food, wine, beautiful setting…ahhhhh it’s my happy place…ha ha ha okay enough of dorking out!

This area was just awesome even though the entire weekend was overcast and rainy I was still in awe! I cannot wait to go see it in the Spring/Summer when everything is growing. Maybe I need to reassess my retirement plan to include buying a vineyard…ha ha ha, when I win the lotto maybe! Anyway, it was an awesome trip and it was everything I always imagined it would be…

Some of the reasons I love Sonoma…

December 21, 2009

Fa la la la la, la la la la……….

MERRY CHRISTMAS everyone!!!!

Here is a fun picture of Santa. A friend of my mom’s held a Project Santa/Food and Toy Drive yesterday and I took the photos with Santa. Here is one that is just so cute!!!! Puppies! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas…now I’m off to finish up my Christmas shopping!!!! 🙂