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.


** 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.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

3X Chicken - Part III: Creamed Cabbage a la Martha

So, the other day I'm at a school meeting and I happen to mention to my friend Sheryl that I was about to post again, and she goes: Not more chicken!


Yes, more chicken - because I promised I'd tell you what I did with that last bit of chicken from two weeks ago. (Dear God! Two weeks? How'd THAT happen?)

But after this chickeny story, I promise to do something else, because actually I've made quite a lot of other kinds of food since the chicken but I just haven't had time to get it all down. I do occasionally work, you know. Over the past 2 weeks I've had a newsletter to create, and some long-time clients who need help with manuscripts. Plus my Ladies! - which is this little creative writing group I lead. Very fun, and we haven't met in a long long time and I've missed them dearly. And then, of course, there's been THIS:

which means girls home from school and everyone wants cookies. Which I made. And which (I promise, Robin) I'll post. Soon. I will. Really soon.

Alright: down to business. That last bit of chicken, which was already poached (if you remember) and some of which was made into soup, was finally added to a very tasty, though rich, cream cabbage dish I stole borrowed from Martha, (and for which there will be no picture because I am a spaz and deleted it by mistake.) (Also, I tried to find a link to the recipe at, but it wasn't there, so if you want the original recipe you'll have to get your hands on the January 2010 issue.)

Creamed Chicken, Spinach and Cabbage

1/2 head of cabbage - MS recommends green, but I had a head of Napa, and I think you could use anything. My cabbage was very tender - but if yours is one of the crunchier type, I suggest a quick par-boil, the instructions for which are below.

2 cups of fresh baby spinach (you could do this whole thing with spinach as far as I'm concerned - and just about any amount is fine, adjust seasoning accordingly)

3 TBLS of unsalted butter

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 small onion, diced, or 1 leek cleaned, trimmed - using white part only

2 cups warm milk (Martha says use whole milk, I use 2% Lactose Free, and it was just FINE)

1 cup of shredded cooked chicken

1/4 cup plus 1 TBLSP finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or just use Parmesean if you don't have this)

1 TBLSP finely grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons - and if you don't have lemons don't panic - you can leave them out all together and it will be ok, OR you can instead of lemons grate about 1/8 tsp of nutmeg into this.)

Preheat oven to 350. If you need to parboil the cabbage: bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add cabbage, cover and steam until tender, about 5 min. Drain and cool slightly.

If your cabbage is a tender variety, just rinse it and the spinach, make sure all grit is gone. Give the greens a good shake and pat them dry with paper towels, then cut them into strips - taking the spine out of the cabbage first.

Melt butter in a medium sauce pan, add onion or leek, stir over low heat until soft. Slightly raise temp, stir in flour and cook until bubbling but not brown. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly until it's incorporated into the flour and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, and add 1/4 cup cheese and lemon zest, then fold the cabbage, spinach and shredded chicken into the whole thing. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon into a shallow casserole dish (Martha recommends 6 cup capacity - but I have no idea how big the one I used was: every thing fit and fit fine, that's all I know.) Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cheese over the whole thing. Bake about 30 - 35 minutes or until it's slightly browned and bubbling. Let stand a bit - 5 or more minutes - before serving.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

It's hard to write about my own dinner when so many are going without it

Haiti reminded me, but it's not just Haiti, it's here: Philadelphia is one of the "hungriest" cities in the country.

I forget constantly that I'm lucky. I can buy Cheerios: I don't have to buy the cheap no-name cereal. I can put whatever cut of meat I want on my children's plates. When I run out of milk I jump into my car and drive up to the Acme for more. My girls are 13 and 11, and even at this stage, teen and pre-teen, they can't stand to be hungry for even one second so I often have apples and gum and cereal bars in my car. Just sitting around my car.

I give money - to Philabundance, and, recently, to a Hospital Albert Schweitzer, 90 miles outside Port Au Prince (click here to donate - your money goes directly there, and is not filtered through other organizatins) and I bring canned goods and cereal to our church (when I remember to) - which then gives donations to a Philadelphia community center. But I don't know. There is something so easy about doing these things. What am I teaching my children about helping others -- that all you have to do is write a check?

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I went online and found this story about The Power Of Half in the NYTimes - by op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristoff. It made me think of hunger - what could I do without to help alleviate the hunger in my area? My 13 year old and her friends in our Sunday school will fast one Saturday in March to call attention to world hunger - which is awesome - but it's only once a year. What if we did something like that as a family once a week? Ok, not fast. That wouldn't work with my two. But we could do something smaller on a regular basis, such as forego meat and dessert, and put the money we would have spent on that food toward hunger in the Philadelphia area. We all talked about it at dinner and decided that we would calculate what we spend per night on a home cooked meal and one night a week spend only a quarter or less on dinner for the family, donating the rest to a charity that fights hunger. The girls are I are going to do the shopping together, too, so we all really understand what things cost. I've read that the "average" middle class family of four spends about $20-$25 a night on dinner (That seems like a lot!) Can we we make a nutritious meal for a family of four for $4 or $5? It is a challenge when things like a head of broccoli cost $3 or more depending on where you buy it. And another question: does it count if I have to go far out of my way to shop at the cheaper market? Should I factor gas into the equation? I kind of feel like I should.

So this is what I'm doing - it's a process and we'll see how it goes. I'd love to know: how are you all talking with your families about Haiti and hunger and poverty?