Saturday, January 31, 2009

Shopping (I started this post Friday 1/30)

I hate grocery shopping.  It's tedious and my local Whole Foods plays lousy music -- the kind of songs that get so stuck in your head that no amount of humming "The Girl from Ipanima" will dislodge.  But I must go: my children are too young to drive and if I send my husband, he always comes home with some sort of condiment that then sits in the fridge 'till it molds.  Change it up, my friend Jamie says -- go to a different store -- which I do on occasion.  I go to Target for paper and cleaning goods, I go to Acme for the non-organic things we eat.  I even go to the Spring Garden Whole Foods in Center City Phili, which is about 10 minutes further, (and which plays significantly better music) but I can't do that every week.  It doesn't really matter, grocery shopping is a total bore, and that's all there is too it.  The only way to manage it is to treat it like the Tet Offensive: get in, get out.

To do this I create a bunch of menus for the week.  This week I decided, steak on Friday night (we've all been feeling a bit iron deprived), Chicken on Saturday, Chicken soup later in the week (I'll make stock from the bones& freeze it).  Monday I'll use the leftover chicken in my famous left-over-chicken & pasta recipe (see below).  In the freezer I already have some fish and a pack of ravoli.  That takes care of  Tuesday and Wednesday (we're going out Sunday for the superbowl).  I have lots of beans, I have couscous, I have several cans of tomatoes and a jar of pasta sauce.   I also have frozen broccoli florets, and frozen peas.  In the crisper I've got a red pepper, a head of cauliflower, some flat leaf parsley (very wilty).  I have lemons, onions and garlic -- lots of good stuff.  I hope I'll be able to get enough food so I can, not only avoid shopping for 10 days or so, but get in and out of Whole Foods for under $100.  This should be possible, since I am stocked up on so many basics, (like pasta, onions, garlic) -- and I'm not shopping for Kleenex, bandaids, toilet paper -- the kinds of things that shove me over the edge.  The only real variable is if there is a sale on Chicken parts or pasta or something.  If there is a sale, I always stock up.

Ok, I'm back: and I just barely sneaked under my goal.  I'd have done better if I hadn't fallen to the siren call of 70% Kallari Chocolate (fair trade, no less) that cost me $4.99.  Sadly my shopping cart had no mast to which I could lash myself, and the chocolate came home clutched in my hot little hand.  Other than that, I got the London Broil ($8.03), a Bell and Evan's Chicken & and extra pack of wings ($12 and $3.99 - big ouch), a variety of cereals, some fruit, a couple of avacados... bla bla bla.

So, what am I having for dinner?  
Steak & Roasted Potatoes (adapted from Nigella Lawson's fabulous book Nigella Express):

preheat oven to 450.  Slice up potatoes into 2 inch chunks, toss with olive oil & sea salt, slam into oven until done (20min or so)

Meanwhile, slather steak with olive oil and salt on both sides and let it sit while you heat a skillet large enough for the steak to sear comfortably. When your pan is smoking, turn the heat to medium and slap in the steak.  Sear on each side for 4-5 min, without checking or you'll lose all the lovely crunch from the salt and oil.

While your meat is searing, cut up a lemon and squeeze 1/2 of it into 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Throw in some herbs (I used the wilty parsley, Nigella prefers thyme, but oregano, cilantro, just about what ever you have will be awesome -- even capers would be good), along with a couple of smashed garlic cloves, a couple of pinches of sea or Kosher salt and a grind of pepper.  Swish with a fork or a whisk, then pour it all onto a rimmed plate or baking dish large enough to hold the steak.

When the steak is done, plonk it onto the serving dish right into the olive oil and lemon juice, and wait 4 minutes, then flip it and wait another four.  Cut it up into slices -- and swish the potatoes in the sauce.  This is amazingly yummy and easy. 

Famous Chicken and Pasta

Roast a chicken, or use left over roast chicken -- or better yet, send someone to the grocery to buy a hot rotisserie chicken.  Take all the meat off the bone*.  While you are doing this, boil some pasta.  I always seem to have half bags or boxes of pasta lying around, and I just throw it all into a big pot and hope it all cooks to the same doneness.  Moments before the pasta is done, toss a bag of frozen peas into the water, then drain it all and return to pot. Swirl a tiny bit of olive oil into the pasta so it doesn't stick.  Throw the chicken into the pot with the pasta and peas, as well as any accumulated juices.  If there are no juices -- or if the juices don't seem to be enough,  then open a small can, or box of low sodium chicken broth and pour about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup into the pot with the chicken.  If you have some parsley, throw that in.  If you have thyme, strip the leaves off the stems and throw that in.  Salt and pepper to taste -- I always use kosher or sea salt.  Turn the burner on low, and stir like crazy while you reheat the whole thing. This is the easiest meal you will ever make, and it is so delicious that your children will always ask for it.  At least, mine do.

* stick the bones in a freezer bag and freeze to use to make chicken soup later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Breakfast for Dinner

We had pancakes, blueberries, orange slices and turkey bacon for dinner tonight.  (We seem to have a lot of bacon lying about lately...)  I haven't had breakfast for dinner in ages and it reminded me of the years when I was a child and we'd come home from a vacation or weekend away.  There'd be nothing in the fridge except butter and eggs.  We always had lots of eggs --  and possibly a bottle of milk in the box on the back steps, delivered that morning.  My mother would get out the huge silver mixing bowl and crack 12 eggs, splash in some milk, a little salt.  Then she'd throw butter in a hot pan along with the eggs.  Hungry and tired, nothing tasted better after travelling.  Unless there was bread, and then I'd make a sandwich by rolling my eggs up in very buttered toast.  Yum.

Maddy had a sleep over last Friday night, and Emma had a friend dropped off early in the morning, so I made pancakes.  I'd been to Williams Sonoma recently and seen a waffle/pancake mix with oatmeal in it, and thought, I can do that.  Into my usual pancake mix, I dumped some steel-cut oatmeal, another 1/2 cup of warmed milk and another beaten egg.  It turned out great, and the girls didn't notice, or at least didn't comment negatively, on the oatmeal addition.  I forgot, however, that girls of their age (pre-adolescent) eat like birds, so I had a lot left over. The concoction was pretty stiff -- but the addition of more milk loosened it up, and the pancakes were just as fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside as they were Saturday morning. 

Oatmeal Pancakes (makes enough for 4, double for more servings)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal pulsed through a food processor a few times
2 tsp granulated sugar (or more if you like 'em sweeter)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup of milk (or, yummier: 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/2 cup milk)lightly warmed.  Add more milk if batter seems too thick
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat your skillet or griddle
Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl with a whisk.  Stir in the cup of warm milk, then the eggs, then the butter.  Fold it all together, but don't over do it.
Swish some butter over your griddle, then pour out 1/4 cups of batter.  Flip when bubbles form, about 2-3 minutes.  In another minute the pancakes will brown on the bottom.  I always feel the need to eat the first one off the griddle, just to be sure all the seasoning is right.  (Sometimes I add more sugar or a touch of salt)

Keep pancakes warm beneath a clean kitchen towel until you're ready to serve.  (See Pam Anderson's book, The Perfect Recipe, -- she tested a bunch of methods for keeping pancakes warm and found keeping them wrapped in a clean kitchen towel kept them from getting rubbery) 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jill's additions to pasta with roasted root veg and bacon

Jill -- Nice! --  

Check out Jill's comment below.  She suggests adding thyme and apples.  I don't always have fresh thyme, although if you mix a tsp of dried thyme with olive oil and let it sit a bit before tossing with veggies (and now apples) that would be really yummy.  Just like Jill, I always seem to have a few dried up old apples kicking around the fruit bin.  Plus I love cooked apples and bacon together.  Especially with pancakes. (MMMMM -- pancakes....)

I also like to quarter and throw my shriveled apples under a chicken along with some carrots and potatoes (both of which are also usually shriveled) and roast it all at 450.  The apples and veggies mix with the juices of the chicken and it all tastes amazing when it comes out about an hour later.  Make sure you thoroughly season your chicken with a sprinkling of olive oil, then sea salt and pepper before your roast it. Season the veggies and apples this way too.

Maddy suggests tossing a bit of orange juice with the veggies and apples before throwing them in the pan, which sounds really delicious.  Even at 10 she is an imaginative cook.

Whatever happens to be in the fridge

 My  husband recently had ankle surgery: he's in a cast and can't do any of the house-helpful things he usually does.  This means that I cook and clean up, put the laundry through and fold, pick up the house, do all the grocery shopping, do all the driving for our children on the weekend - bla, bla, bla.  It's a bit relentless and I have come to understand why so many women of the '50's '60's and '70's turned to drugs.

So far I remain narcotic free.  However, I am simply not getting to the the grocery store as often as I usually do.  And we can't afford to order in.  Which means that we are eating through our fridge and pantry -- it also means that I am shopping more carefully and very little is going to waste. Which, considering the banking and housing industry could be a good thing... 

As of today, I haven't been to the grocery store in about 10 days. Last night, all I had in the fridge was: one lb of bacon, one turnip, one small yellow beet, about 5 carrots and a slightly shriveled red onion.  (I was hoping for some small potatoes I'd put in a tin, but they'd grown roots so long and tangled they grossed us all out.) I also had a very small piece of parmesan and not much more than a rind of asiago.  In the pantry was one lone box of spiral pasta.

Around 5pm, my sister called, and as she (and my mother) do so often she asked, "what are you making for dinner."  Roasted root vegetables with bacon and pasta -- which sounded much more exciting to the both of us than what was actually staring at me from the veggie bin.

I cooked it up anyway, and it was delicious.  Smith and the kids, with mouths full, insisted I publish it, and so this blog was born. This is what I plan to do: once a week I will publish my bottom of the pantry/fridge recipe with my husband and children's review.  If you have a recipe you always turn to on the night before you go to the grocery, let me know, I'll publish it here too.  Please let me know if your meal has been adapted from a cookbook or magazine -- not only will that give other cooks good ideas for resources, but I think we have to legally acknowledge where things come from. 

Here's the recipe:
Roasted Root Vegetables with bacon and pasta:

1 lb bacon (or however much you have)***
root vegetables (what ever you have: turnips, carrots, potatoes, beets, rutabagas, parsnips...broccoli and cauliflower would be good too if you have them)
1 onion (red are my preference, but any old onion will do)
1 lb pasta
sea salt to taste (for the pasta water)
fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450.  Lay strips of bacon out in a cast iron skillet (or if you don't have it, on a heavy cookie or jelly roll sheet).  Roast in oven for 10-15 min, depending on how crispy you like your bacon. (My skillet is small, so I had to do this in 3 batches). Press cooked bacon between 2 paper towels, then put in warming oven or wrap in foil to keep warm.  Pour off all but a table spoon of bacon fat.  Mix veggies with a bit of olive oil and then toss into pan with bacon fat.  Back it all goes into the oven to roast for 20 min, or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, boil your pasta until it's done the way you like it, adding a bit of sea salt into the water when you dump the pasta in. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot, crumble the bacon, and toss into the pot with the roasted veggies.  Stir around and add as much cheese as tastes good to you.  Grind a bit of pepper and add a touch more salt if you need it.

Serves 4 with nice amount of leftovers for lunch the next day
*** Note: turkey bacon, for non-pork eating friends and Tofu bacon for vegetarians works just as well -- you might need to add a bit more sea salt though. Or, better still, some really briny olives.  I always seem to have some olives suspended in nearly congealed oil in the back of the fridge.  Roasted olives are fabulous.