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.