Tuesday, November 23, 2010

To Brine or not to Brine

I like to imagine Shakespeare all done up in a frilly little apron with a chef's toque balanced on his head trying to decide
whether 'tis nobler for the bird to suffer overnight
The salt and herbs of outrageous fortune (particularly when purchased from Whole Foods)

Or to baste, thrice, upon a skin rubbed with butter 

And, by opposing the brine, end one step of prep. To baste, to brine--

No more--and by basting to hope we end

The dry bird, and the thousand natural gacks

That dried out flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To baste, to brine--

To baste--perchance to forget to baste: ay, there's the rub,

For in that dearth of basting what chalkiness may come

When we do shuffle out the mortal fowl,

Must give us pause. 



Tonight, I cook the brine:



my pretty brine


I am using a brine for chicken I found in Ad Hoc At Home - by French Laundry dude Thomas Keller - I haven't changed it at all - so I probably can't just reprint it without getting sued (not that so many in the world read this blog - In reality I'm probably quite safe).  However, the important thing to know is that you should use 10 oz of kosher salt - (I use Davids because it doesn't have any anti-caking agents in it, it's just pure salt), one quart of water and 1/2 a cup of honey.  Then throw in whatever herbs or other flavor agents you choose. (garlic, lemons, parsley for example...)  All this is for a 10 - 12 lb bird.

You have to cook your brine the day before you brine your bird because it has to cool thoroughly before you dunk your bird in it.  Then don't let the bird sit in the brine more than 12 hours or your turkey will taste like a plate of table salt.  

I'm also planning on cooking a 10lb turkey the regular way (I have 20 people coming, and, perhaps more alarming, 4 of them are teenaged boys) - although I'm going to butterfly that bird, and cook it upside down for an hour before flipping it. 

I'll let you know which turns out better - perhaps Hamlet's poultry ponderings will be answered anon...


From The Shameless Self-Promotion Department:

This is my flash fiction just published on Melusine! (click on shameless self-promotion above for the link)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Bucket of Bread (dough)


Check it out:

 

I bought this great book Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day - and while it does take a bit more than 5 minutes - I have been baking bread just about every other day with the recipes there-in.  This is what one recent loaf looked like: 

wow.  this is one blurry picture.  sorry.

Beautiful, right?  And I have, almost single-handedly been eating a loaf of bread a day.  With Irish Butter.  Oh. My. God.  I have to stop.  My double chin is going to develop its own double chin.

So, what you do, is mix up a big batch of bread dough in a big tub, like the one pictured above.  I got that one from the King Arthur website.  It's pretty easy -  in a big tub or bowl, stir together 3 cups of warm water, 2TBLSP of yeast, 1 TBSLP kosher salt and I add 1TBLSP of brown sugar.  Let that sit for a while, then add 5 cups of flour and squish it all together with both hands like it's wet clay and you're six.  Let all that sit at room temperature for 2 hours - or so - then refrigerate it over night.  In the morning hack off a 1lb portion (about two large handfuls) - form it into a ball or a football shape - let it sit out for 2 hours, or all day if need be - there's nothing in it to spoil - and then when you are on your way home from teaching, call your daughter and ask her to preheat the oven to 450.  After she's finished arguing with you about it (E:"but mom, I'm watching HOUSE!" K: "On the DVR!  Which you can PAUSE for 3 minutes to punch three numbers on the controls!"), and with a huge I-do-so-much-for-YOU-what-have-you-done-for-ME-lately-sigh gets up and does it, you can be smug the rest of the way home that tonight you and your family will feast on fresh baked bread even if you accompany it with canned soup and frozen veggies.  

When you get home, dust the dough with flour, make a couple of slashes in the top and slide it in the oven.  I don't have a pizza stone (which is what the book recommends*) so I've been baking it on my massive cast iron skillet which you should throw in the oven to preheat about 10 minutes before throwing the bread on top of it.  The book suggests pouring a cup of water into a pan on the rack above the bread - which I've done a few times, but which, I have to say, has not created the desired extra crispy crust that was promised.  So I don't do it because I'm lazy.  Bake the bread for 30- 45 min - you want the crust to be fairly dark - darker than you'd think - because the dough is so wet.  Resist, resist, resist cutting into the bread for an hour or so after you take it out because it really does your bread a disservice - releasing all the steam before it's done, and causing it to be soggy.  Sometimes I can actually wait.

Buy this book, or get it from the library, because there's all this science behind the baking of this bread which you will want to read.  Or, if you live in my neighborhood, be extra nice to me and I might just give you a loaf of bread for free.  Before my double chin's double chin develops yet another double chin.

* I bought a pizza stone from I-don't-remember-where and every time I used it, it made the house smell like Elizabeth New Jersey, which is to say, chemicals.  I thew it out.  

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Nine to Five

Ok, more like noon to five, but whatever.  I'm a working girl now, and even though I'm only teaching two days a week, it is amazing to me how much that has cut into my cooking time.  (I do have essays to set, and articles to read and papers to grade... so there!) My wonderful mother, bless her heart, has brought us dinner about once a week from this amazing Italian deli somewhere near her.  My family is addicted to the chicken marsala - (Smith and I recently got into a brief but intense tiff over who would get the leftovers for lunch the next day) - but I still have to make dinner 5-6 nights a week and lunch for the kids & husband the next day.  (I know, they should all be making their own lunches, and sometimes they do, but I also admit to feeling so thoroughly OUT of their lives at school and work, I actually kind of enjoy it.)  And then there are those last minute things your children like to spring on you.

For instance, last Wednesday.   A good friend's son was in town to visit colleges in the area, I had student conferences starting at noon, my class to teach and another student conference directly after class.  Then I had to drive down to Center City to pick up my friend's son.  (I know I'm being particularly parenthetical in this post, but I just want to say, that though I do have friends who have college-aged children, those friends had their kids when they were 12.  12, I tell you.  We are all still very young.  That's all I'm going to say on this matter right now.)

As I'm driving home, Em calls to tell me she volunteered that I'd bring muffins or cupcakes to school the next day for a bake sale.

It's 5:30pm.  We have a guest for the night.  I'VE ALREADY GOT DINNER MADE (you read that right - yes I was that organized.)  All I need to do when I get home is warm it up and cook some pasta.  I even have fresh bread waiting to be baked (more on this in my next post).  Halloween candy for dessert.

And, of course, I haven't been to the grocery story in quite some time, because, if I don't have time to cook (something I like to do), I most certainly don't have time to get to the store (something I HATE).

But because I'm the kind of mom who says how high when her children say jump, I spent the whole car ride home thinking about ingredients I may or may not have in the pantry.  Flour?  Only cake flour.  Canola oil?  Not likely, there's unsalted butter though... Chocolate chips?  Nope.  Turns out several grubby little hands had demolished those by the fistful over the past few weeks.  Lots of apples.  Lots and lots of apples.  So, apple muffins.

I got home, and put dinner together, and had fun talking with my friend's son (who, unlike my own children, helped me tidy the kitchen) (although if my kids were at someone else's house they'd probably help there) and made apple muffins.  I started with a recipe from Nigella Lawson's cookbook, Nigella Express for bananna butterscotch muffins.  And then I used what I had.

I have no idea whether the muffins sold well because Em got a stomach ache and came home early the next day.

As Alanis Morrisette would say, isn't that ironic. *

These are not the Applesauce muffins.  These are chocolate chip muffins I made a different day.  I sent the apple ones to school before photographing them.  However, this post was looking so sad and blank, I decided to post this picture hoping it the chocolate chips wouldn't be noticeable.  They are.  I'm just going to keep it up anyway.

Applesauce Muffins

1 cup of cake flour
2/3 cup of all purpose, or white whole wheat flour (which is what I used)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp of cinnamon - or apple pie spice
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup melted butter
2 eggs beaten up with a fork
1 1/4 cups applesauce
1 cup of diced skinned apples

1tsp cinnamon
1TBLSP granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 400 and line a 12 cup muffin tin with liners.  (You will hate yourself if you don't use a liner.  No matter how much you butter or oil your tin, the muffins will stick - if you don't have liners use parchment cut into little squares. If you haven't got parchment then aluminum foil will do,  if you haven't got foil, well then God bless you.) (Holidays are around the corner, but my family will not allow me to play anything from my vast collection of Holiday music until Thanksgiving.  Sigh.) (moving on.)

Dump all the dry ingredients into a big bowl and stir them around a bit.  Add the eggs and melted butter. Stir.  Fold the applesauce and diced apples into this mixture.

Divide equal quantities into the muffin tin (I use an ice cream scooper) and bake for 20 minutes - or so.  Mix the cinnamon with the sugar and sprinkle on the muffins the moment they come out of the oven so it has a chance to melt in a bit.


* I know full well many believe Alanis Morrissette used "ironic" incorrectly.  However dictionary.com does allow this definition of irony:  an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might havebeen, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/irony


In my case, I believe this use of "ironic" holds up...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apricot Chicken - or, The Yummiest Chicken Ever

Oh My God - it's been a month since I posted.  I just don't know what happened.  Well, other than the start of school for the girls and the start of a new teaching job, then Em's birthday and my [redacted]-year high school reunion.  I don't know why this all has to be so stressful, it just has and while I've been cooking and even taking pictures, I just haven't been able to carve out the time to write.

The funny thing is, I didn't take a picture of the yummiest chicken ever for this post - but since my kids LOVED it - (have even mentioned several times since they ate it how much they loved it) - I thought I'd better post this recipe before I forget what I did.

So, here's the story: Last Sunday I was thumbing through Better Homes and Gardens and there was this recipe for chicken with tomato and dried apricots and raisins which, I actually thought sounded kind of yucky, but which suddenly reminded me that apricots and soy sauce are a very tasty combination and I hadn't made my apricot chicken in a long time.

Smith and I left the kids at home and made a little date of going to the grocery store.  (That just sounds kind of sad, doesn't it - but it was actually fun!  And he only bought blue cheese - no weird condiments!  Yay Smith!)  I bought a pack of chicken breasts (bone in, skin on), a jar of apricot jelly, some raisins, could not find dried apricots - or fresh for that matter, but oh well.  Then, we went home and I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon cooking this up, sipping a glass of wine, and listening to Harry Shearer on NPR satirize all the wack-a-doodle politicians in this great country of ours.

Apricot Soy Chicken

4TBLSP Apricot Jam or Jelly
1 TBLSP Soy Sauce

2 -4 Chicken breasts (I bought 2 and cut them in half because no one in my family eats that much)
kosher salt to taste (probably 1-2 tsp)
pepper to taste (several grindings)
1 small onion
1 stalk of celery

1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup chicken stock
1TBSLP soy sauce

1TBLSP of all purpose flour

Preheat your oven to 450.

Find a nice bowl and spoon the Apricot Jam or jelly into it, followed by the soy sauce. Stir it up using a whisk.  It shouldn't be soupy - the jelly should keep it a bit thick.

Salt and pepper the chicken - both sides.  Then rub the jelly/soy mixture all over the chicken breasts, making sure you shove a bit of it up under the skin.  Chop up the onion and the celery and scatter them over the bottom of a 9x13 roasting pan.  Don't use anything too big - because next you are going to nestle the chicken on top of the onions and celery and if you use a pan that's too big, you chicken will sit next to the onions and celery not on top of it.   Stick the chicken in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour the chicken stock into the bowl that you used previously to mix up the apricot/soy stuff.  Then, stir the raisins and the soy sauce into the chicken stock.  When the chicken has roasted for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 200.  Pull your chicken out and pour this mixture over the whole thing.  Put it back into the oven for about 20 - 35 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are.  (If you have a thermometer, the chicken will be done at about 165) - take the chicken out of the oven and put the chicken on a plate and tent with foil.  Then, pour the sauce, onions, raisins and all, into a sauce pan, sprinkle in the flour and stir stir stir.  Let the sauce bubble away until it is reduced by a half -

When you are ready to serve, plate your chicken along with whatever frozen vegetable you've heated up at the last minute, and pour the sauce over the breast.  Your children will love you for this, guaranteed.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lemon Cupcakes Make Even the First Day of School Bearable

School: we're two weeks in - how's it going for you?  Frankly, I'm happy to be back on a schedule again - Every spring I'm thrilled that school is over thinking that my summer will stretch into long lazy days, reading down the pile of books on my nightstand, taking my children to amusement parks and beaches, wandering the halls of cool museums - the reality?  Driving.  I spend my summer driving.  I drive the girls to camps, and summer classes, and pick up their friends, and drive for take out food and driving to the mall and when I'm not doing those things, I'm doing my usual errands, groceries, dry cleaners, dog food.  This year I was hired as an adjunct at the very last minute by Temple, which is "yay" but also "holy #@% I have to prepare!"  So, it's been hectic.  Good hectic, but, you know.

Anyway - to deal with the anxiety of the start of school, Mads and I made a batch of yummy lemony cupcakes with vanilla pudding in the middle.

 I admit, I used a boxed pudding which I had kicking around in my pantry (I intended to use it for a cake which I never made..) but the cupcakes we made from scratch.

They were so good - I didn't frost them - we thought that it would be overkill what with the pudding inside and all, so we made a little glaze with lemon juice, confectioners sugar and a teaspoon of heavy cream.  Spectacular, if Mad's and I may brag a bit.



We doctored a basic yellow cupcake recipe from a sweet little book called Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans - you can get it from Amazon here




Lemon and Pudding Cupcakes

3/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup of unbleached cake flour
1/2 tsp of baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter at room temp (if you haven't taken the butter out of the fridge in time - which Mad's and I hadn't - shred your butter on a box grater, spread it out on a plate and let it sit out while you get everything else together - it will come to room temp fairly quickly.
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp of lemon zest
1 Tblsp lemon juice (or to taste)
1/2 cup milk


Lemon Glaze:
3 TBLSP of Lemon juice
3 TBLSP of confectioners sugar
1 TBLSP of heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350


Sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and set aside.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the eggs.  Stop mixer and scrape down the sides.  Add the  lemon juice, zest, vanilla and beat for a bit.
Add the flour and milk
alternating between the 2
and finishing with the flour.  Mix until just incorporated.

Fill your muffin tin with paper cups, and then, using a 2 inch ice cream scoop, scoop your batter into each cup.  Lick the bowl - it's worth it.

Bake your cupcakes on the middle rack of your oven for 20 - 23 min - or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the middle cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool on a rack - while you make the pudding and the glaze.


I made pudding from a box - but this is how I made the glaze:
sift the confectioners sugar into a shallow bowl,  using a whisk - whisk in the lemon juice until the glaze is runny.  Then add just a small amount of heavy cream - up to 1 TBLSP- which cuts the acidity of the lemon a bit (you can leave this out if you want).  
Once the pudding is made, and cooled and your cupcakes are cooled, 
dip the tops of your cupcakes in the glaze.  Wait a few minuets for the glaze 
to set - then carefully cut the top off the cupcake, dig out a little well for the pudding and spoon about a teaspoon of the pudding into your well before replacing the top. 

You have to store these in the fridge where they will last about 3-4 days.  Or, you and your family can greedily eat them up all at once for the back-to-school comfort only a sweetly tart cupcake like this can bring...



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Basil

I have planter of basil in my yard.  One.  And even though I have an enormous amount of pesto in my fridge, and the plant still looks like this:

You can see how dry it's been - I watered this this morning

I cut it back almost every day, and over night it grows back to frightening heights, and I just want to say that plants like this scare me.  It's all a little alien - like if we don't pay close attention they might just take over.  Grass is like this; grass grows through blacktop.  Freaky.  Let's just say I'm looking forward to the winter months when things are dormant.  In the meantime, I'm making pesto as fast as I can.  Since my daughter can't eat pine nuts, I usually mash the basil up with garlic and oil and call it a day.  Sometimes I add cheese, sometimes I don't - however the other day, I added lemon and it was a revelation.

I've been using my little crock of lemon/basil pesto on EVERYTHING - from turkey sandwiches to scrambled eggs.


But the best thing, so far was slathering a tablespoon or so on these beautiful pork chops I picked up at the Farmer's Market and marinated.  Then I grilled them and heavens they were good!

Look at em:


I just ate lunch, and these still make me hungry




Aren't they beautiful?





Lemon Basil Pesto


Start with a fistful of basil from your yard (or the farmer's market) and strip all the leaves from the stems. Jam it all in your blender or food processor, or if you have one in the bowl of a stone mortar.  Add at least one clove of raw garlic, and about a tablespoon of lemon zest (I used one large lemon).  Blend, pulse or pound all this together until it makes a paste.  Then squeeze the lemon into the basil paste and blend, pulse or stir.  Finally add about 1/4 cup of very very good extra virgin olive oil to the whole thing.  If you are blending or pulsing, add it slowly through the feed tube.  If you used a mortar then whisk it in until combined.  Taste the whole thing.  You can add some parmesan here if you like, about 1/4 cup grated, or, just sea salt.  Both are good.  Sometimes I just like just to add the salt - especially if I'm going to let it sit in the fridge for a while because the parmesan can kind of take over.  Always add a bit of pepper.  If you like a little zing - add about a 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes to the mixture before you blend, pulse or pound.  This keeps in the fridge for about 3 weeks or so.  You can also freeze this: put tablespoons of the pesto into ice cube trays, freeze for a couple of hours, then pop them out and put the cubes of pesto in a freezer bag.  Very yummy in the dead of winter when all you want is a shot of something really really green.

Pork Chops and Basil Pesto


So go get yourself some pork chops or lamb chops - they're good too with this. (Although I always feel like I have to sell a kidney or something to afford enough lamb for the 4 of us.)  Slather them with the pesto at least 2 hours before you grill them, or over night.

Heat the grill - I have a new charcoal grill that I'm in love with - I like to pile all the hot coals on one side of the grill so I have a really hot side (for searing) and a cooler side for the cooking.

By the way - if you make a small slit in the fat around the outer edge of the chop, your pork chops won't curl up when you grill them.  (I stole this tip from Cook's Illustrated).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Out of the Freezer and Into the Frying Pan

You know how you come home after a frustrating day, and you open the fridge and there's nothing, absolutely nothing in there to cook and your kids are whiney because they're hungry and they are starting to pick on each other and your husband is tired, too tired to pick up take out on the way home, and you yank open the freezer hoping there's a frozen pizza in there, but there isn't, all that's in there are some turkey burgers you froze last week when your daughter gave you a hard time about having turkey burgers AGAIN and she hates turkey burgers and so you said "FINE we'll have pizza" and she said, "I hate pizza we always have pizza" and you said, "fine we'll just not eat," and your husband got all prince charming and made you one of his new amazing drinks with gin and lemon; and you know how when you have a little gin you go to your happy place where cooking is really not an option and so you wrapped up all those turkey burgers and threw them in the freezer for another day, and your daughter came downstairs and allowed as how she could have pizza after all, so you ordered one, and turned on a movie and, now, flash forward in time and here we are with all those turkey burgers after a long day, but you never defrosted them and every one knows you should always defrost meat before your cook it it, because, because, well, why - why not, why not just throw it in a pan, frozen, on a very low heat, and cook it slowly and see what happens because there is nothing else in the house and what the heck.  You know how that happens?

Well, that was my day the other day and I took a chance.

I took four turkey burgers straight from the freezer and stuck them in a pan over very low heat, and covered the pan.  It did take a long time, but they cooked through, and you know what?  They were really really good: not dried out, not bacteria filled, and in fact BOTH my girls ate them and pronounced them yummy.  My theory is this: 1)the turkey was a mixture of light and dark meat.  2) I had also mixed them with shredded zucchini in an effort to use some of the enormous amounts of that vegetable I suddenly seemed to have and that kept them moist because zucchini is really water.  3) I have a tendency to squish my burgers very flat, because that's the way the kids like 'em, and I do what my kids like.  And, most importantly, 4) I think the very fact that they started our frozen was the very thing that kept them from drying out.  I do.

So, friends, fear not.  Drag your burgers still frozen from the deep freeze and toss them on into the frying pan.  And if you have frozen buns, stick those in the toaster.  Or, do as I did, and use plain old white bread toast and slap on a pice of lettuce and a slice of tomato (a nice heirloom from the farmer's market). I believe at the last minute I also added a couple pieces of cheddar.

My Recipe (but feel free to use your own - I think the key is to make the burgers fairly flat)
yielded 6 burgers

1/2 lb white meat ground turkey (more or less - )
1/2 lb dark meat ground turkey (very important, or your burgers will be dry and tasteless)
1 large zucchini shredded
A splash or two of Worcestershire Sauce
1-2 tsp of sea salt
ground pepper, as much as you like


Mix all of this in a bowl with your hands.  Form into 4-6 flat patties - I have girls so I make smallish burgers and give Smith 2 if he's really hungry.  Get into a big fight with your kid, drink gin, throw the burgers onto a cookie sheet and stick in the freezer.  After an hour, take them out and wrap in parchment and put each into a ziploc freezer bag.

To Cook:
Set a skillet on the stove.  Wipe the skillet with an olive oil drenched paper towel - you don't want too much oil or it will get greasy, but you don't want the meat to totally stick either.  Add the burgers, turn the flame on LOW.  Cover.  Resist the urge to check until about 10 min have passed.  Then check, if the burgers look less frozen, flip them.  Keep the flame on low for at least 7 minutes.  Then check your burgers, mine looked pretty juicy, and they gave a bit when I pressed them gently.  Then I turned the heat up a lot, took the cover off, and let each side sear a minute.  Take them out and let them rest covered in foil for 10 min.  Serve!  You will thank me for this, you really will.

OH - by the way, thanks for reading to the end of this post, and because you put up with me and my rambling on for so long about turkey burgers and teenagers I'm now going to give you Smith's recipe for his amazing summer gin cocktail, which, I promise you will kick your butt - so make sure you drink it in a small glass, like I do.  Smith got this recipe from his former boss who is now a friend, and who has a confusing last name, and who my children have called Mr. Guacamole since they were little, so I am calling this awesome cocktail, the

"Frank Guacamole"


1.5 oz gin 
.25 oz of Campari
.25 of Cointreau
.75 oz lemon juice


Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake.  Strain into martini glasses.  This is supposed to be enough for one cocktail, but I usually split this with Smith - then he'll make himself another later...



Saturday, July 24, 2010

With Figs Like These...

Well, my old high-school friend Marc is back from Uganda- and in honor of his return I decided to do something with some figs I picked up because his post on figs had me salivating.  Plus, I had this gorgeous goat's milk ricotta I bought at the farmer's market in my fridge that I really needed to do something with.  On top of all of this excitement, we were going over to Mark and Barry's for a pre-vacation send off dinner (their vacation, not ours -  we, sadly, are going exactly nowhere this summer) and Smith was bringing mojitos and I wanted to bring an appetizer that would go well - something spicy and salty and a little bit sweetish.

I have to admit I never used to be much of a fig fan, unless they were surrounded in a soft cookie were titled "Newton".  When I was a kid, fig Newtons were my second favorite after school snack, following slightly stale and soft graham crackers dipped in milk until they fell apart.  After which you quickly drink the milk before the crumbs hit the bottom of the glass.  Mmmmm.  But, oddly, tastes change even as adults.  For instance, a year or so ago, I was out with my olive-despising friend Caroline - we hadn't seen each other in a while - so when she ordered the hummus/warm olive appetizer I almost fell off my chair.  I felt I didn't know who she WAS anymore - you know?  We've known each other since the late '80's and in all that time, I never once saw her eat an olive, mostly saw her gag in the vicinity of olives, yet suddenly there she was slurping them down.  And so it is with me and figs.  Where the raw fruit once kind of skeeved me out (perhaps because of a music video involving plates of fruit greasy haired men and women in leather that MTV played incessantly my freshman year of college...), now, I love them, especially warm from the grill or the broiler.  They are fantastic.  So, for dessert, make them Marc's way (delicious!), but for an appetizer, follow my little recipe here, because they were simply and just sublime:


Figs with Bacon and Ricotta
*(of COURSE there was bacon - ! - had to use up the last 2 thick slices in the freezer)

2 thick slices of bacon cut up into small pieces
1 nice little pint of figs - I think there were about 8 in the one I picked up from the store - sliced in half length wise
1/4 - 1/2 cup of goats milk ricotta - or any fresh ricotta
a few dashes of Tabasco, or any hot sauce of your choice
a pinch of fleur de sel, or other really tasty sea salt

First, haul out your cast iron, or stainless steel skillet, heat it up and toss in your bacon.  Cook until crispy then take it out and let it drain on some paper towels.  Pour out all but a tablespoon or so of bacon fat out of the pan, reheat, and put in the figs, cut side down.  Cook over medium heat until just fragrant.  Meanwhile preheat the broiler (I use my toaster oven broiler because it doesn't take a lifetime to hit 500 degrees).  Place your figs on a cookie sheet covered in parchment, spoon a little ricotta in the center of each fig, hit each ricotta filled fig with a dash of hot sauce and a tiny pinch of sea salt, then place the sheet into the broiler and broil until the ricotta turns a nice golden color.  Just before serving place small piece of bacon on top.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

So Much Zucchini, So Few Recipes ( or, In a Pickle)

Last week, I was back at the farmer's market, and bought zucchini, cucumbers and these nifty little yellow peppers that look like a cross between a banana pepper and and a jalapeno.  Then some friends of mine went off to England for a few weeks and asked me to pick vegetables while they were away, which I did.   Sadly, the tomatoes were still too green to take home, though I nabbed a few eggplants.  However, what my friends had was a preponderance of zucchini.  There was so much zucchini, and the zucchini were so large, I found myself looking nervously around for Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams.  Seriously, do not fall asleep near a patch of zucchini.  I am only half joking about this.

Anyway, suddenly I had pounds and pounds of zucchini - I made a batch of zucchini bread, I shredded some up and mixed this into some turkey burgers along with an egg and a splash of Worcestershire Sauce (very similar to the turkey meatloaf I made a while ago) which was pretty good, but I still had about 5 1lb zucchini (ies? - how does one plural zucchini) to do something with and that was the moment I thought: pickle.

Who doesn't love a pickle?  And aren't zucchini rather close in essence to the ubiquitous cucumber?  What's more, I have a new favorite cookbook, Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers which has a neat recipe for zucchini pickles and in the snacks and appetizers section.

Using their recipe as a base, I whipped up a batch of pickles, and have been obsessed with pickles ever since.  So far I have pickled (Using the recipe below as a base for experimentation) the zucchini, cucumbers, onions, fresh cherry tomatoes (surprisingly wonderful) the yellow peppers and some radishes.  I am NOT boiling jars and using sealing wax, however, so if you use my recipe, be aware that you should use up these pickles within 2 or so weeks.  Smith and I have been eating them at dinner, with a little swirl of this outstanding olive oil I picked up when we dropped Mads at camp.  Amazing.

Pickles


First, find yourself a pile of jars.  I used old jam jars as well as a couple of pyrex bowls with lids.  I am on the prowl for more jars, however.  Any friends in my neighborhood interested in dropping empty glass jars with lids off at my house will receive pickles in return...

1lb of zucchini (or cucumbers, or peppers or, well, whatever it is you want to pickle)
1 onion (or a couple of shallots, or a handful of green onions with the roots cut off, or sweet red spring onions - which will turn your pickles pink however)
A handful of your hardier herbs: dill, or parsley or cilantro tough stems cut off (depending on what you think will taste good with what you are pickling) (P.S. basil just turns brown, don't use it I don't care how rampant your basil is in the back yard.  It become unappealing over time in the vinegar)
1/2 cup of champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 cup of water
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp kosher salt
1-2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf


Slice your vegetables they way you want to eat them.  The Lee Bros. like em sliced on the diagonal, but if your zucchini is the size of a T-ball bat, you might need to half it before cutting it on the diagonal.  Cut any onions thickly.  I didn't cut the tomatoes at all.  OH - didn't use the lemon juice with the tomatoes, just used a whole cup of vinegar - but I think lemon juice would be fine.  Shove your veggies in the jar.

Heat the rest of the ingredients in a non-reactive sauce pot - and let it come to a simmer.  When it is just simmering pour it all over the veggies in the jar.  Let the jar sit open until it comes to room temperature, then seal it up and put it in the fridge.  Finish off within two weeks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Crush

I have this little crush on David Tanis.  For six months he is the head Chef at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. (I know I've written about my love and adoration of Alice Waters.)  Then for six months he lives and cooks in PARIS.  Holding little salons and dinner parties and a private dining club.  IN PARIS.  Maybe it's not so much David Tanis I have a crush on, as it is his lifestyle.  I have his book, A Platter Of Figs and Other Recipes, and you know who he thanks in the acknowledgments?  David Sedaris.  When he's in PARIS he hangs out with David Sedaris.  Ok?  See what I'm saying here?  (Has anyone ever noticed before that Sedaris rhymes with Paris in this weird way?)

I also have a crush on David Tanis's food.  His whole philosophy is to use food when it is at the height of its season and to prepare it in a way that is both simple, fresh and flavorful.

So, last week, we're going to this party and I'm supposed to bring a dish, and I'm flipping through A Platter of Figs and see this spring menu with rabbit and what not and spinach cake - and I'm just caught by this spinach cake idea.  It looks so easy, and yet could be so amazing what with the fresh spinach I already had in my fridge from the farmer's market.  It's just leeks and a bit of butter and steamed fresh spinach and eggs and you whir it all up in a blender and pour it into a deep dish pie plate with a bit of parmesan on top and bake it until it's fluffy and set.  Well, maybe it's because I didn't spin the spinach after I washed it, or maybe it's because I had to let the concoction sit in the blender for 10 minutes when I went to pick Mads up from a friend's house, or even maybe it's my oven, which hasn't been calibrated in a while and might be cooking at a lower temp, or, maybe it's because I don't live in PARIS, but the whole thing turned out tasty, but watery.  Really watery.  I was bummed.  I know it wasn't David Tanis's fault, because that guy is a god.

So, I decided to make the whole thing over again last night because the farmer's market is on Thursdays and I thought I'd be able to pick up some awesome spinach, except there was this unbelievable hail/rain/armageddonish storm at 3pm right when people were setting up the farmer's market and most people just packed up and went on home.  I did score some incredible chocolate cake from Sarah Bakes - Sara is a parent at my daughter's school and is a good person to know if you need cake or brownies.  A really, really good person to know.  But, no spinach.  Only potatoes.

I did have a little bit of spinach left over from a salad I'd made earlier in the week, and I had some broccolini - which the girls love - and I had the leeks and eggs - and I was getting all ready to make this when I got a couple of phone calls which I had to take, then there was some issue in the basement with the dog eating a couple of pairs of underwear (you don't want to know...) and I thought we were having a guitar lesson for Emma, but that turned out not to be the case, at which point Smith came home and uncorked a Reisling, and the next thing I knew it was almost 7pm and I hadn't even begun to saute vegetables for a dish which needed 45 minutes (possibly more) in the oven.

In the end, I did what I always do - I took the basic idea of David Tanis's spinach cake and winged it - sauteed the vegetables, mixed up the eggs with some milk and tossed them into the pan, and baked it at 400 until it got puffy.  I liked it - but it was no David Tanis recipe, and it was a lot like a fritatta.  Then again, when I made David Tanis' recipe it was no David Tanis recipe...



This is what I did:

1 leek, chopped and rinsed of grit
2 TBLSP of butter
1 lb of baby spinach
1 lb of broccolini (that baby broccoli with the long tender stems) roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
a quick grating of nutmeg
a 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper - optional if you have kids, which I do.
6 eggs, whisked well
1 cup of milk
a grating of parmesan over the top

Preheat your oven to 400.  Saute the leeks in the butter.  When the leeks are nice and tender add the broccolini for a bit, then finally the spinach.  Season everything well because you're going to be adding the eggs soon.  Let the spinach wilt and the vegetable cook down

Meanwhile, whisk up the eggs the nutmeg and cayenne with the milk until it's all a bit frothy.

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, grate on the cheese and stick the whole thing into the oven.  (Make sure you are using an oven proof pan!)

Let it cook about - I don't know 15 min?  I just kept checking though my oven's little window because I didn't want the whole thing to deflate.  It might have been 20 minutes.  In any case, I took it out when it was nicely browned and crusty.

Do check out the recipe for spinach cake on page 34 of A Platter Of Figs - and let me know if yours turns out better than mine...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Farmer's Market and a Stir Fry

I'm trying to go meatless 3 nights a week, which isn't easy for a mostly carnivorous family like mine.  Any day now, I tell my friends, my daughter, Mad, will go vegetarian; she already despises people who wear fur and leather.  (It is very difficult to find shoes without even a trimming of leather unless they are Converse All Stars, flip flops or Crocs - and she won't wear crocks any more).  However, like Michael Pollan, Mad feels that humans were born omnivores, and an omnivorous diet includes meat. She feels that we need meat for our health, perhaps even for survival, but that with all the synthetic fibers out there, we do not need to, as she likes to say, "slaughter animals for FASHION."

I'm afraid to say, that my desire to go meatless several times a week has more to do with the deficit in my own (synthetically produced) wallet, as opposed to say, animal rights or green concerns.  Ok, it also has to do with my preference for organically and humanely raised meat, and the fact that such meat costs, well, let's just say, a lot.  So we're cutting back which is lovely because this cutting back coincides with the opening of the brand spankin' new farmer's market in my township.

Last Thursday I bought these beautiful red spring onions, some garlic scapes - which are the tops of the garlic bulb (and which I discovered can be tough if you don't cut the pointy tops off) - some parsley, some chervil and a ton of fresh basil.

This is what I made with it all.  The girls ate it up - which is just a complete miracle in my opinion (please, no one tell them about the fish sauce).

Farmer's Market Stir Fry

TBLSP of oil - I used peanut but you can use grapeseed if you like
1 bunch of red spring onions - or scallions - trimmed and sliced
1 bunch of garlic scapes - trimmed and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger (or more to taste)
2 cloves of garlic
3 cups of cooked white rice (I soak it then cook it because you want it very soft, not at all al dente)
1/3 cup fish sauce

juice of 1 lime

2 eggs, lightly beaten
about 1/4 cup of fresh basil

On the table:
Chinese chili sauce
soy sauce

I don't own a wok - (I do have a birthday in July coming up...) - so I use a large skillet.  Place this over a very high heat and get the pan as hot as you can.  Swirl in the oil, then throw the onions and garlic scapes in and stir around quickly.  When the onion and scapes are wilted throw in the ginger and garlic, but don't let them cook too long because they burn quickly.  Throw in all of the rice, then add fish sauce and the lime juice.  Let this cook down about a minute.  Add the eggs.  Let the eggs sit in the pan for 30 seconds to set, then stir it all up very quickly.  Add the basil, and you are done.

Plate it up, adding a little fresh basil.  At the table I like to add a few drops of chili sauce (Smith adds a LOT of chili sauce.)  My Mad, who is a salt-aholic adds soy sauce, but I feel the fish sauce is salty enough for my taste.

No pictures (sorry) - I never think to charge the battery soon enough.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I Don't Own a Microwave ...

A lot of my friends are astonished that I don't own a microwave.   How do I defrost things? (In the refrigerator, over night.)   How do I cook frozen vegetables? (In a pot with water, it's just as quick.)  What about popcorn? (Cast iron dutch oven, heat-tolerant grapeseed oil = a lot more fun making popcorn.  Plus, Jiffy Pop if I'm desperate.  Who doesn't love Jiffy Pop?)  How do I melt chocolate?  (I'll admit, the chocolate melting is the best reason to own a microwave - no chance of steam sneaking in from the bottom part of the double boiler - but still, not a good enough reason.)

And then they ask, Why?

Well, I'm happy to tell you why we don't own a microwave, and it comes down to one very simple and clear reason:
paranoia.

I'm not the least bit embarrassed to admit this.  My microwave paranoia began when I was pregnant with my first child.  I'd throw the potato in the oven, slam the door, hit the 5 minutes on full power button then run to the other end of the house quick as I could.  When I became too pregnant to quickly get out of the way of the "dangerous leaking microwaves," I made my husband hit power, once I was safely out of the way.

Many of our friends used microwaves to heat milk and formula for their babies, but not us.  I felt it was wrong, somehow.  Plus I kept reading things about how microwaves don't heat evenly and children were being scalded by "hot pockets of milk".  We didn't use a lot of formula, but when we did it was room temperature for my babies, all the way.  To this day, Mad prefers her milk after it's had a chance to sit around a bit.

Then, in 2002 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and baby that was the end of it: the microwave was out.  I'd never trusted it, but now, now I felt there was proof.  It became my scapegoat, the source of my illness, and proof that the "fastification" (yes I did just make that word up) of food and food prep were helping no one.  We'd been eating organically grown food, drinking milk from grass fed cows, spending a fortune at Whole Foods and the health food store.  I made my own bread.  I idolized Alice Waters!  I was NOT a candidate for cancer.  I remember telling my sister-in-law about my diagnosis, and her response was, "YOU?!"  I never smoked, I went to bed early, I breast fed my children (the second one until she could talk...), I exercised,  and there was no history, whatsoever, of breast cancer in my family.

Ergo, the microwave.  I threw it away, and when we redid the kitchen, I didn't even make a space for a new one.

I'm sure my family missed it: what with the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, I don't think I cooked much for almost a full year.  My poor husband.  Lots of people brought us meals, and it probably would have been nice for him to have been able to heat it up quickly and easily with the touch of a button.  But no go.  My paranoia had been confirmed: I had proof positive.  (I also believe that any sports team I actively support will lose if I watch them in  the playoffs.  Proof positive: last night I caught a couple minutes of the Stanley Cup.  Don't blame Michael Leighton, Philadelphia, blame me.)

During my treatment I met a nutritionist who confirmed my fears about the microwave.  She told me that there had been a study in Switzerland by these two guys: Blanc and Hertzel which showed the microwave actively changed the molecular structure of the food it was cooking, especially if you began with raw food.  And that when one ate this food, one's body had to work hard to recognize it as food - which caused your blood to produce more white blood cells, which caused - you guessed it - cancer.

When I came home armed with this new information, my husband despaired of ever being able to eat his Ben and Jerry's with out running it under warm water, or letting it sit out for 20 minutes.  He missed his microwave.

But who cares, right?  Because once treatment was over, I was all fine and dandy.  We kept on with the organic food, grass fed beef and milk, microwave free home.

Except.

Except two months ago I go in for my routine MRI.

And then the oncologist calls.

It wasn't quite cancer, but it was DCIS, a kind of pre-cancer which meant, given my history, more surgery.  Which I did.  And I'm fine.  They say it's all gone, that I'm not going to get breast cancer again (unless of course something metastasizes, but who am I to look on the dark side?).

OK, that was a long way of explaining why I haven't blogged since April.  I was tired, and my chest hurt and for two weeks my dear friends brought us food, and after that, I was just too whiney to do anything but cook old standbys. We've been eating a lot of pasta, and the girls are pretty sick of it.

And I thought, well, maybe it wasn't the microwave after all.  And I decided to google that theory about the microwave changing molecules ... and, yeah, it's most likely a bit of bunk.  It kind of depends on which website you choose to believe...

My husband is holding out some slim hope that I might allow a microwave back into our home.  But I tell him, "don't hold your breath," because even though I'm (supposedly) cancer free, and even though the microwave=cancer theory is (supposedly) untrue, one thing remains unchanged:

I'm paranoid.

Friday, April 9, 2010

I Never Seem To Post About Holidays (Lemony Bean Dip)

It was Easter recently.  We celebrate Easter here, although we'll never turn down a Passover Seder invitation.  Love that apple/honey/nut stuff...  Anyway, my mom asked me to bring hors d'oeuvres to the lunch she was serving, and as I was thinking about what to bring, I realized I've never really posted anything holiday-ish here.  Mainly because the things I post are last minute dinner ideas, rather than the long thought-out recipes that one cooks up for a fancier meal.  However, it turns out that the dip I brought kind of covers both - ok, scratch that, it wasn't thought-out in any way - I cribbed the whole idea from an Oprah Winfrey magaizine (don't judge until you've read of copy - there's good stuff in there-) - and I used ingredients I had in my fridge, freezer and pantry.  


Since we were having lamb for the main meal, I went with a kind of Greek theme.  In my fridge were all kinds of olives because I love olives and no one else in my immediate family likes them as much as I do.  So I marinated the olives in some oil, vinegar (I used red wine because that was what I had) a dash of Vermouth and some parsley and some thyme.  


I did dash out to the store because I had a sudden and intense craving for Feta - bought a block, came home, broke it up some, sprinkled it with cracked pepper, as well as good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.  Very yummy.


Finally, I made this dip.  In the magazine, they used it as a spread for a club-style sandwich with sliced tomatoes, avocado and bacon, but I felt that if I doubled it I could make it into a yummy dip and top it with all those things.  And then, of course I didn't have quite all of the ingredients called for so I started substituting here and there.  Let me tell you, it was good.


Here's what it looked like when it was all done:


Here's how I made it:


Lemony Bean Dip:


2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
4-5 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced 
1/4 cup of dry vermouth (or white wine if you have it, which I didn't)
1/2 cup of broth: chicken or veg, (or            add another 1/4 cup of vermouth plus 1/4 cup water)
Juice of one medium lemon
peel from that same lemon, diced
2 tsp of thyme (O calls for rosemary which I simply didn't have - but could be good - you could also use parsley, chervil, or even some basil or better yet, a bit of mint)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or tabasco, or any hot sauce you have - you can leave this out too)
cracked pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
1 avacado diced
1 large diced tomato - or a handful of cherry tomatoes quartered
2 slices of crisply cooked bacon, crumbled (also optional- but I always have bacon because I freeze individual slices on a cookie tray, then drop the frozen slices into a ziploc and keep them in the freezer.  Easy-peasy.  However, to my horror I did not have bacon the saturday before Easter, I guess we must have eaten it all right before we left for Spring Break, and so, no bacon was crumbled on my dip.)


Heat oil in a large skillet, drop in garlic for a couple of minutes, but don't let it brown because garlic burns really quickly, toss in the zest, then the 3 cans of beans.  Cook a few minutes, then add the vermouth, broth, lemon juice, herbs and cayenne.  Let this all cook a bit until it gets thicker.  Then whirr it up in a food processor.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


So, let your dip cool until it reaches room temp.  When you go to serve it, put the dip in a shallow bowl, chop your avocado and tomato into manageable chunks and stir them in, reserving some for the top.  Sprinkle the top with the crumbled bacon.  If you have it.  Which I didn't.  Which was a damn shame.


I served it with pita chips from the grocery store, as well as some thickly sliced cucumbers and carrots


The whole thing really complemented my Mom's lamb dinner: grilled lamb, green peas, mashed potatoes and salad.  


Yesterday, I had a left over lamb sandwich with some of the bean dip and the remaining feta on top.  As my 13 year old would say: OMG.











Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A kind of Ragu - I guess

On Friday my dog got into the drawer where we keep the Benedryl and Motrin. Somehow she opened this drawer - all on her own - and managed to get the child proof top off the motrin and swallow some. At first, I thought she'd only gotten into the Benedryl, but it turns out she must have gotten into the Motrin too because by Sunday at 3am she was wildly drinking water and peeing every few minutes. Smith took her to the doggie hospital. Yesterday Mads and I drove down to see her, and had to wait an hour before they could bring her out and by the time we got back home we were so cranky and tired (plus Mads had a test she was freaking out over - did I ever freak out over a test in 5th grade?, no, I don't think so...my kids are so much more stressed than I was) that we ordered Chinese.

Have I mentioned that she's my sous-chef? I think I have. It's hard to cook when she's not by my feet.


Today, the Vet Hospital told me I could pick her up at 3pm. One of the beautiful things about having a 13 yr old is that she can walk over to the elementary school, pick up the 11 yr old and walk on home. Of course Em forgot her key this morning and I had to drop it off at the elementary school (because Middle School is a little like prison and won't let you see your kid at all during the day). So, I left later than I wanted, then got lost on the way, then got to the Animal Hospital and had to wait for the dog to be released, then drove home in rush hour traffic, and walked in the door only to fight with the girls because they'd been watching TV all afternoon and wanted to watch EVEN MORE because TV is like heroin when you're a pre- and a teen and the more you watch the more you absolutely must watch. Those two would watch TV 'til their eyes bled.* And they weren't even watching good stuff - like the Simpsons, or The Office (their usual fare) - but total crap - ie: Wizards of Waverly Place and Look Alike. God.

At least it wasn't "My Super Sweet Sixteen."

I wanted to make meatloaf tonight. I wanted to make meatloaf and mashed potatoes and green beans with orange slices (from the Lee Brother's new cookbook). Because I'd established a craving for this. But by the time I got back, I only had 40 minutes before Em's guitar lesson and that is simply not enough time for meatloaf.

So I made another one of my "throw it all in one pot and hope for the best meals" - and this one turned out ok and I decided to call it "Ragu" - after a recipe in a Nigella Lawson cookbook that has very little resemblance to the one I made up tonight, but what the hell.

Before I even started to make dinner tonight I needed a little bit of this:

Because it's been a crappy week. And it's only Tuesday.
*(by the way, Mads declares she wouldn't watch TV until her eyes bled, she'd play on the computer until her eyes bled - so, my bad)

Once again, I had all this stuff in the fridge that I wanted to use up: some 2 week old baby peppers - not quite wrinkly; cauliflower; some ground bison; some frozen green beans; an onion. Tossed it all in and it wasn't half bad. The beauty of the thing was that I didn't have quite enough meat for a whole meat loaf, but throwing it all in a pan with a pile of vegetables stretched the meat far and wide so that there were even leftovers for Smith to bring in the next day. Oh, and I threw these itty bitty potatoes I had left over from that bag of potatoes I bought last week into the toaster oven at 425. They were so small they cooked in about 40 minutes.

I went a little wild with the pictures today, so bear with me.



Not Nigella's Meat Ragu

1 lb of ground meat (whatever you've got: bison, turkey, chuck)
1 yellow onion
1 or 2 carrots (I chopped up a pack of baby carrots just to get them out out out. I get so sick of baby carrots - I don't know why I ever by them, no one ever eats them - and they're always dry as dirt)
1/2 head of cauliflower
frozen green beans snapped in half
1 tblsp of Worstershire
1/2 - 1 cup of Chicken broth
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (if you have it, which I did tonight)
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper to taste
sour cream (optional, but nice)

Pull out your biggest skillet and brown the meat in a little swirl of olive oil. Brown your meat, take it out, swirl in more olive oil if need be, return pan to heat, dump in onions, cook until almost translucent, dump in rest of vegetables except green beans (if frozen, if they're fresh dump them in now), add Worstershire, broth, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Bring up to a simmer, and cook a few minutes until the vegetables are tender-ish (the cauliflower will be crispier than the rest, but I like it that way). Return meat to pan along with green beans. At this point you can either add the sour cream and stir it into everything, or you can plop it on top of the whole thing later.

You could also add a good handful of shredded cheddar if you have it, or maybe a little chutney (I didn't have either one. Damn.)

Here's the finished thing:


Here's pictures of the girls hands, because they liked these pictures and asked me to put them in:



And here's my sous-chef cleaning up:


I missed her.
Glad she's home.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Twice Baked and Stuffed


Looks good, doesn't it? What's not to love about a stuffed potato?

Bought this huge bag of potatoes at Produce Junction for about $2 the other day, thinking I could make a meal of them for my Feed the Hungry Edition - and learned a mean little lesson: it's really hard to feed your family for $5 unless you are buying each of them a .99 cent burger from McDonalds.

Still, I spent a lot less than $25 on this meal - but only if you consider the fact that I had to spend almost $25 to get there. In other words, I got about 15 small potatoes for $2, I spent $1.99 on a 16 oz thingy of sour cream and and a pound of butter cost $3. My quart of milk also cost $3. I spent $1.66 on a tiny amount of turkey and almost $5 on a pound of turkey bacon. A block of cheddar was also about $3 and as was a bag of frozen green beans. Even though I only used bits of these ingredients, saving the rest for another meal (or two) - still: what if I ONLY HAD five dollars in my pocket? And that's kind of the point, isn't it? I have enough money to make a nutritious meal because I have enough money to buy the ingredients to begin with. I didn't even factor in the salt and pepper and grapeseed oil because, since I have them at home all the time I forgot to write down their price when at the store.
So, my four stuffed potatoes plus 1/2 a bag of frozen green beans cost about $9 to make, which meant that we put $16 in our Feed The Hungry Jar.

Stuffed Potatoes (and frozen green beans - I think you all know how to cook the beans - so I'm not going to tell you...)

4 (or 5 baking potatoes, if the potatoes a small and meager looking)
1 piece of turkey bacon cut into small pieces (* see note below)
1TBLSP grapeseed oil, just enough to lightly coat the skillet
1/4 lb (more or less) ground dark meat turkey
1 cup of sour cream (if you like 'em tangy, which we do, or use less of this and more milk)
1/2 cup of milk
2 TBLSP butter
1/2 cup of mild cheddar cheese divided


Heat your oven to 450 then throw in your washed and pierced potatoes. (I use the toaster oven to cook potatoes because a)I'm generally to lazy to preheat and b) it uses a lot less energy.)

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet (or any fry pan) and cook up the bacon until it's crisp. Take it out and saute the ground turkey in the same skillet. When the turkey is almost cooked through, take it off the heat, mix the bacon back in and set aside.

When the potatoes are done, take them out of the oven and cut them open so they lie flat. Scoop out the insides and put in a bowl (if you used 5 potatoes, save the 5th potato skin for later, but add the insides to the bowl). Add the sour cream, milk, butter and 1/4 cup of cheddar. Then mix in the turkey. Salt and pepper it to taste. Set your potato skins out on a cookie sheet and carefully (I know Nigella Lawson would say, lovingly, here) return your potato mixture to the skins. Sprinkle each potato with some cheddar, and return it all to the oven. Bake about 15 minutes until completely warmed through and the cheese on the top has gotten melty and maybe a little brown in spots.

See:

** Note: I use the turkey bacon because I find ground turkey to be a little insipid and the bacon boosts the flavor. You certainly could leave it out, just make sure to salt and pepper the turkey while you brown it.