Sunday, December 28, 2008

Waffles and, Finally, Some Photos

I received a camera for Christmas, so now I'll be able to add pictures to this blog. And the first one:

A stack of Belgian waffles, made this morning with our brand new Belgian waffle maker, received as a gift from Aunt M. Today is DH's birthday, so what better morning to break in the waffle maker? I tried the "classic" recipe from the waffle iron manual, which turned out nicely, but was horribly complicated and produced way, way too many waffles (the waffles in the photo now live in the freezer). So next time I'll try the "overnight" recipe, which looks easier and produces fewer waffles.
Mmmm. Waffles.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Butternut Squash

About a year ago, I got a great recipe for butternut squash from a coworker (see here). I was never a big fan of squash, but have made it from time to time, usually acorn, never butternut. This particular recipe, from Afghanistan, is very good. So I made it for dinner last night. It was a big squash, so I now have a lot of leftovers, some of which I'll have for lunch this week and some of which will go into the freezer for another day. Instead of serving it with nan bread, which I've done in the past but did not have time for yesterday, I made chapatis, which were very good. And they're whole wheat, which makes them that much healthier. I made some chicken breast as well, and all in all it was a good dinner.

Tonight I'll be making a roast chicken. It'll be my standard recipe: stuff the cavity with fresh herbs from the garden (rosemary, thyme and sage), sprinkle the skin with salt, pepper, thyme, and sage. If I had a lemon I'd put that in there, too, but I don't. No big deal. We will have roasted potatoes (Yukon Gold) and collard greens. Usually I spice up the greens with red pepper, but tonight I might use some of my jalapenos. We will have leftovers for dinner tomorrow (I don't have time to cook on Mondays), and I'll find other ways to use up the chicken. I always make stock from the bones.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Freezer is Full

I succeeded in filling my freezer with the bounty of summer, so much so that there is literally no more room for anything, which is a probem, because I am constantly coming up with things to stuff into the freezer. Things like 1/2 a loaf of corn bread, or a dozen bagels, or frozen raviolis, or a batch of soup. I've got to get the tendency to freeze things under control until I start making some progress in using up what's in there.

And what is in there this year? I have frozen 2-3 flats of blueberries (they were cheap this year), lots of green peppers (my plants were very productive), and tomato sauces and purees (bought 1/2 a bushel of tomatoes for $8 and spent a weekend cooking and pureeing). I used the tomatoes from my garden to make salsas. The freezer also has asparagus (makes great pasta, in a cream sauce with proscuitto), green beans, apple sauce, and blueberry spread (my first attempt at a non-cooked preserve). I have a couple of batches of paprika gravy, some soups (spicy chicken, curried chicken, curried eggplant, and smothered cabbage). There's french fries, a frozen pizza, frozen ravioli, ground beef, sausage and chocolate ice cream as well. And let's not forget the whole chicken, which takes up a fair amount of space and just might find itself being dinner on Sunday (DD has been lobbying for roast chicken).

The little freezer upstairs (the top half of the fridge) has the hot peppers I grew, as well as three bags of basil (hope that's enough to get through the winter). There's some peppers and blueberries, beets, chicken breast, ground beef, corn bread, cranberries, spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. And other things I'm sure I forgot.

Heaven forbid we lose power this winter and I lose the contents of my freezer. A lot of work went into putting those fruits and veggies up, and I would be sorely disappointed if I lost them. But should we find ourselves snowed in for a week, at least we won't starve.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Quick Knitting Update

I am currently working on a scarf for my FIL. It's a navy blue washable wool with four cables running up it. An easy pattern that is knitting up nicely.

Over the summer I made a scarf for DD from a ribbon yarn I picked up at a store in the Finger Lakes. Last time I knit with ribbon yarn; it twists something terrible while knitting, so I was constantly untwisting the yarn. But the scarf turned out nicely.

Also made a pair of socks for DS, but they turned out to be a little small and a couple of dropped stitches resulted in holes, which I haven't fixed yet.


I bought a giant cabbage at the farmer's market last weekend. Okay, it didn't seem so giant when I bought it, but we couldn't get it in the fridge without chopping it into 4 big pieces.

So then I had to do something with the cabbage. I took a quarter of it and made a batch of smothered cabbage soup, from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking. I added bacon to it, because, well, it seemed like a good idea. And it was. It turned out to be a pretty good soup, but not the best cabbage soup I've made. Probably will not be making it again.

The rest of the cabbage I cooked up according to a recipe from my mother: slice the cabbage, put it in a big pot with olive oil, saute for a little while, add 1-2 cups of water, 3-6 boullion cubes, some sugar and some nutmeg. This is a very yummy way to make cabbage, and I've made enough to freeze for later. That one cabbage went a very long way.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Good Day in the Kitchen

Yesterday was an excellent day in the kitchen. I made:

1) applesauce, from old soft apples that no one was going to eat (peel, core, chop and cook with a little water and a cinnamon stick until soft, mush with a potato masher).

2) spicy chicken soup. The day before I cooked a whole chicken on the grill (cut in half, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary and black pepper) and from the carcass I made a nice, dark broth (the grilled skin had a lot to do with the color of the stock). To the stock I added the remaining chicken meat, a diced onion, some broccoli leftover from dinner the night before, a little pasta I found in the fridge, sprigs of thyme and rosemary from the garden, salt, pepper, and lots of red pepper. This soup has a kick to it. It's now sitting in the freezer.

3) blueberry cream. The recipe is from Kaffehouse by Rick Rodgers, a Christmas gift from DH. It's supposed to go inside a roulade, but I was in no mood to try to make a rolled cake, having never done it before. So I decided to make the cream (using fresh local blueberries), and serve it in

4) crepes, which turned out pretty good, but the filling is pretty rich and should probably be tempered by a larger piece of cake, rather than a thin crepe. Still good, though, and I have resolved to one day make a roulade. Should start by making sure I have the right pan on hand. Oh, and crepes are a wonderful invention. In the past I've kept some in the freezer and they definitely come in handy. They are great to have around when I've made a batch of paprika gravy (from the Frugal Gourmet's Our Immigrant Ancestors). There's always a lot, and chicken paprika crepes is a good way to use some up.

And then for dinner we had burgers on the grill, with roasted new potatoes tossed in fresh parsley.

The farmer's market has been hopping. Went twice this week. Took my mother on Thursday so she could get bread and lunch meat from the Polish deli for her road trip (they left on Friday morning). I bought strawberries (getting near the end of the season), sweet cherries (the best I've had in years. I'll never by from the grocery store again), broccoli, onions, cabbage, beets and asparagus. But that wasn't enough, no, returned on Saturday with DD for the Blueberry Festival (free blueberry cake and blueberries on sale). I bought a flat of blueberries (used a pint for the blueberry cream and froze the rest), more strawberries and cherries, carrots (for some reason, not seen too often at the market), and new potatoes. I'll have to get another flat of blueberries next week so that I can make sure the freezer is properly stocked (I eat them in oatmeal in the winter).

Tonight we're having fish, asparagus, and some kind of bread, maybe soda bread or cheese muffins. I'll have to poke around and see what kind of recipies I've got.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thank Goodness for the Freezer

My mother and her gentleman friend have been visiting for the past few days. We took them on a two day excursion to the Finger Lakes region of New York, about a five hour drive from where we live. So we returned home today around 5:00. And instead of ordering out, which is so tempting to do when coming home from a long drive, I pulled a container of spaghetti sauce and meatballs out of the freezer and made spaghetti and meatballs. With a salad (from the garden) and a loaf of Italian bread picked up at the store, we had dinner with minimal effort, and it was great to eat real cooked food after a few days of restaurant food (which gets old fast). A stocked freezer is a good friend.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Today, for the first time, I ate rhubarb. And it was yummy. Wonder why I waited for so long. Anyway, I made a crisp with rhubarb, strawberries and an apple. Turned out a little runny, and the rhubarb is tart, but it was a good crisp, and I'll just have to make it again.

The farmer's market was hopping yesterday. In addition to the rhubarb, I bought asparagus, hot house tomatoes, onions, strawberries, and... beets! Really hoping there would be beets this weekend, and there were, so I bought enough for dinner tomorrow and to freeze some for later.

Tonight's dinner was an asparagus frittata, from Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cooking. It stuck to the pan (didn't use non-stick), so it broke and looked awful, but it tasted good. (Could have used more salt.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Spaghetti and meatballs

Today I made a big pot of spaghetti sauce with meatballs. The sauce recipe is from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines, but I make the following modifications:

substitute a can of tomato sauce for one can of crushed tomatoes
reduce red wine to 1 cup
omit mushrooms
add diced green peppers
increase crushed red peppers to 1 teaspoon

And today, well, no basil (horrors!). The basil in the garden is struggling with the chilly weather we've had, and I couldn't bring myself to cut off what few good leaves they have. And I don't have any dry basil in the house. Why should I? It's available from the herb garden in the summer, and I freeze a bunch for use in the winter. (Note to self: freeze a lot more this summer. Running out of basil in March is not good.)

DH found the meatball recipe from a now defunct men's magazine that he used to get. Very simple, but the key is to put the meatballs in simmering sauce to cook (not fry or bake them). I've always had a terrible time when frying meatballs because they tend to stick to the pot, but no more. These are terrific.

The recipe makes enough for many meals. We ate tonight, the rest of the meatballs and sauce were divided into two large containers and put in the freezer for later. Each container will be enough for dinner and a few lunches. I might make a batch of spaghetti sauce with no meatballs so that I have sauce on hand for lasagna or some other pasta.

A little knitting news: I used some of my birthday money to subscribe to Interweave Knits. It's the sort of thing I would not spend my own money one, but birthday money, that's something else....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The First Strawberries

The produces is really starting to roll now. Today at the farmer's market I bought spinach, asparagus, red lettuce, arugala, green onions, leeks, and....the first strawberries of the season. Fresh local strawberries taste a million times better than the ones in the grocery store. I might make strawberry shortcake, or strawberry chiffon pie, or just eat them as is. We'll have a few weeks now to enjoy our local strawberries.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Finally, Some Knitting

I finished a pair of socks for DD last night; stayed up a little late doing so, but they are done and turned out quite nicely. Made of Sockina Colori in a brown/blue colorway, size 3 needles at 8 stitches to the inch. Started them at Easter. I'll make a pair for DS next using the same kind of yarn in a red/orange color. Will post a picture later.

Visited the farmer's market today. Bought arugala, radishes, asparagus, hothouse tomatoes, and some dill for planting. Waiting expectantly for strawberries.

Today we had tacos, a first, since we in the past it has always been burritoes. All we did was change the wrapper, but it went over well. Had to make a new batch of beans, frijoles alla charra from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison. I never buy refried beans anymore; always make my own. This recipe is very good, but I have found that using chipoltle chilis instead of jalpenos improves the beans. I freeze the bulk of the beans, usually enough for four more meals.

Tomorrow we'll be having the asparagus tart that I found many years ago in Bon Apetit. Asparagus is in season, and now is the time for eating it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Frozen Pizza and Gumdrops

We went to a concert last night, so I opted to make something quick for dinner. Had some homemade pizza in the freezer, and I popped it in the oven. First of all, 10 minutes at 400 degrees was not enough to make the onion and pepper pizza hot, but it seems to have been long enough for the plain one. Most importantly, though, it didn't turn out quite as good as I'd hoped. Some things don't freeze well, and I'm adding homemade pizza to that list. Fresh is best (which is why I make pizza in the first place).

This afternoon I whipped up a batch of orange flavored gumdrops. The recipe is from Homemade, by the editors of Readers Digest. It was easy, pretty quick for candy (and no thermometer involved, just boiling for 5 minutes), and I had all the ingredients on hand. They are sitting in the fridge cooling off; later tonight I'll cut them up and roll them in sugar.

Visted the farmer's market yesterday and bought asparagus and spinach. There were no radishes or I'd have picked up another bundle or two. Perhaps next week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Note About Biscotti

When toasting biscotti, turning the oven temperature up higher does not make the biscotti toast faster. It makes them burn. Remember that next time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Black Bean Soup and Biscotti

Tuesdays are a little harried, and I look for something quick and easy for dinner. This week the choice was black bean soup and cornbread. The soup recipe is from Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. It's quick, tasty, and makes just enough to toss in the freezer for a couple of future lunches. And on top of all that, beans are good for you.

The cornbread recipe is from the Better Homes and Garden cookbook, although I've used others in the past. I prefer cornbread with an equal amount of cornmeal and flour; recipes with more cornmeal produce a bread with texture that is hard on the mouth. Also, I find that the cornmeal from Hodgson Mill produces a superior cornbread.

Today I was overcome with the urge to make biscotti. The biscotti recipe I use is from my father. I add no nuts or fruit, preferring it plain (only with the anise flavoring). I do use half whole wheat and half white flour, something I'm sure my father didn't do, but it works well. The biscotti are a little drier, but once they are toasted there is no obvious difference. It's a good recipe and makes a ton of cookies (even though I cut the original recipe in half). I'll be set for cookies for a while now.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Write in My Cookbooks

I was taught that books are to be treasured and taken care of. They were to be treated gently, with respect, and never, ever written in. I still believe that, but I have been making an exception in the case of my cookbooks. When I modify a recipe, which is not infrequently, I will make note of it in the cookbook. It's the only way I'll remember what I've been doing, and what's the point of fiddling with a recipe if you don't remember it next time. So, most recently I scribbled in Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads. I really like the Cuban Bread recipe, but have recently been making three smaller loaves rather than the two called for. I've also stopped slashing the top -- makes slicing the bread hard. Three loaves bake for 35 minutes.

This week's menu:

Saturday -- Burritoes
Sunday -- Asparagus bundles, bread, salad
Monday -- Chicken stirfry and rice
Tuesday -- black bean soup
Wednesday -- pizza
Thursday -- Grilled chicken breast, roasted potatoes, veggie
Friday -- Kielbasa and sauerkraut

Last week's menu was followed everyday except Thursday -- had no tomatoes on hand, so I made pancakes instead of BLTs.

Visited the farmer's market today. Picked up some asparagus, spinach and radishes -- the first of the season for all three. Also bought some collard plants and tomatoes. Planted the collards, but am holding off on the tomatoes until next weekend or the weekend after. Picked up three pepper plants yesterday: jalapenos, serranos and Anaheims. Will plant the same weekend as the peppers. Still need to get a six pack of sweet peppers, parsely and dill. Also planning on planting carrots and bush beans from seed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Grilling Season

We brought the grill out today and enjoyed our first grilled meal of the season. Hamburgers. Always a hit. They do taste so much better when cooked on the grill (I use the George Foreman grill in the winter, but it just isn't the same).

This week's menu:

Saturday - hamburgers
Sunday - pasta with roasted tomato sauce and procuitto, salad, bread (if I have time to bake)
Monday - I have a meeting; DH and kids are one their own
Tuesday - pizza night
Wednesday - chili and cornbread (in the freezer; thought we'd have it last week)
Thursday - BLT's
Friday - lamb sausage, polenta

Made the first visit of the season to the farmer's market. Not much going on, but the farmers I usually chat with were there (I honestly didn't expect them to be), and they said that there will be asparagus next week. Yum. I bought potatoes and a six pack of basil plants and then checked out the rest of the market. Nothing else for today, but next week I might get my tomato and pepper plants.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Praise of the Lentil

Yesterday I made curried lentils with dinner (recipe from The Colour Book of Indian Cooking edited by Eileen Turner). I also make a lentil curry based on the Lentils and Rice recipe in Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. The two recipes are very different, but both good, and the one I make will depend on my mood at the time.

I am very fond of lentils. Mujaddara, a dish of lentils and rice, is believed to be the "mess of pottage" that Esau sold his birthright for. I'm still on the lookout for the perfect mujaddara recipe.

My favorite lentil soup recipe is from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've tried a few others, but I think I'll stick with this one.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The First Post

I enjoy cooking, and I enjoy eating what I cook. But with two kids, and a full time job, and various meetings and activities, the only way I can cook is to have a plan. So before I do my grocery shopping, I come up with a menu for the week, based on the schedule for the week, what is available in the freezer and pantry, and family requests. The menu for this week is:

Saturday - homemade pizza
Sunday - chicken, potatoes, salad and veggie
Monday - ground beef and rice, lentils, veggie
Tuesday - chili and cornbread
Wednesday - takout pizza
Thursday - pasta with roasted tomato sauce
Friday - ???

Last night I made pizza. DH believes that one cannot have too much pizza in the house, so I doubled the recipe, making four pizzas instead of the usual two. The dough recipe is from Julia Child's The Way to Cook; the only time I use a different dough recipe is when I make pizza on the grill. The sauce is from Jamison and Jamison's Born to Grill.

So what's on four pizzas? One was half plain/half pepperoni; another was sausage, peppers and onions (my favorite); the third was half plain/half sausage; and the last was half plain, half sausage and peppers.

The plan for tonight is sauteed chicken breast, roasted potatoes, a salad and a veggie. Pretty basic, no cookbook involved.

Tuesday is a busy night in our house, so I always plan on something easy. This week it will be the chili and cornbread in the freezer; only needs heating up, and we're done. Wednesday is pizza night in our house, although sometimes we'll get Chinese, much to the disappointment of DH and DS.