Posts Tagged ‘food’

We got back very late Sunday night from a delightful Thanksgiving spent with family in Kansas. It was an adventure that involved a ticket (me) and buying a new-to-us car (Mr. Official.) Yeah, we really bought a car en route from Kansas to Tennessee. We don’t just take the road less traveled, we blaze a trail where no one else would ever think of going.

As soon as we pulled in the driveway, Swimmer Girl threw her bags in her Jeep, gave me a quick hug and a promise to call when she got back to school, and off she went. We unloaded luggage, shoved two HUGE grocery bags filled with frozen green chilies in my already stuffed deep freeze, and laid down our weary heads. My eyes didn’t close until I got a call from Swimmer Girl that assured me she had made it over Monteagle Mountain in the dead of a cold, rainy night and was safely ensconced in her warm dorm suite. (And you think a colicky baby can keep you awake.)

As I waited for her call, I mentally planned out my Monday: pick up the dogs from the kennel, get caught up on laundry (blissfully light thanks to doing a few loads courtesy of my mom’s washer and dryer before we returned home); plan dinner, call to schedule a plumber at our old house and a visit from the heat and air guys out here; and try to squeeze in a workout this evening.

The thought of that overstuffed and very frosty freezer kept nagging at me, and I knew before I dived into the holidays, I really needed to dethaw it (a perfectly acceptable term in Southern parlance). And the freezer in the kitchen was a frozen mess of this-n-that, too. It was high time to pull everything out, toss the frostbitten stuff, take a serious inventory and organize the contents of both freezers.

At first I told myself I would wait for a “good” time to tackle this thankless task. I looked at the extended forecast, hoping against hope a really cold day was on tap for this week, which does make it easier to keep the contents cold while I defrost the big freezer. No such luck. And honestly, do you ever find a GOOD time to defrost and clean out your freezer? Yeah, me either. So today’s overcast and cool day was as good as any other.

I didn’t get pictures of the messy “before” but here’s the afters…because it’s good to gloat I mean inspire others. One of these days, I’ll make good on my thread to hit the Container Store and get proper freezer bins. But for now…IMG_4549
my herbs and bread baking supplies are reunited and handy.

IMG_4552and I have a pretty good idea how much chicken and fish I need to use up sooner than later.

Out in the deep freezer, things improved as well.
My baking chips, nuts and dried fruit get top billing (yes, I really have an entire bin full of baking chips and another full of nuts and fruit) and all the cuts of pork and beef and cheese are handy.

IMG_4555I can even send Middle Son out to fetch frozen vegetables without sketching a diagram to follow.

IMG_4554My containers of homemade broth and those gotta-have quick-fix foods are fairly accessible (and you don’t need an ice pick to dislodge them.)

Defrosting a freezer, or even just organizing all those frozen foods is never a fun or fast job, but I’m pretty sure my efforts will reduce our grocery bills over the next several weeks as I use up items I had forgotten I had. And it will be much more pleasant to dive into either freezer and pull out whatever item I happen to need. Time to let the cooking and baking frenzy begin, starting with some bolognese sauce and spaghetti tonight.

Happy Monday,

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Do you like history?  I do.  It was an acquired taste, but I confess I do love peering intently into the stories that weave together and form the tapestry of human experience. So much of the past influences and affects our lives today.  You know, events like…

Today in 1990, Campbell’s Soup produced its 20 billionth (with a “b”) can of tomato soup.  Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s iconic-ness (is that a word?)  After all, Any Warhol and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art celebrate it.


On the 17th, Betty White turns an unbelievable 91, proving that the ability to laugh at life and yourself can keep you relevant and vibrantly youthful.

And speaking of timeless, A.A. Milne’s birthday is remembered on the 18th.  Where would we be without Winne-the-Pooh and his comrades?  My children and I have watched, read and sang the beloved stories of Pooh’s adpoohventures since Oldest Son was a baby.

(We still have his first Pooh bear….and it still plays the tune when you squeeze it.  When we knew Swimmer Girl was going to be a baby girl, her brothers suggested Pooh bedding for her crib, and made sure she would grow up knowing all the wonderful goings-on in the Hundred Acre Wood.)

And finally for this week of history, January 21 marks the 28th year since James Beard passed away at the age of 82.

I was a young bride when he died, and at the time my cooking style  bore absolutely no resemblance to haute cuisine.  (It still bears very little similarity, but my pantry is stocked with more and better foodstuffs than it was back in the mid-80s.) His legacy continues to drive American tastes and inspire would-be-foodies everywhere to raise the bar and make meals memorable, and I am grateful to him for helping make us all more aware of the what makes food “good.”

I hope your week is full of good thoughts and happy memories.

Happy Tuesday,

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January is “Discover History” month, so it’s only fitting to bring up a few tidbits of food and domesticity history for us to ponder.coffeeFor starters, move over Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.  This generation isn’t the first generation to LOVE its coffee.  Back in 1675, Charles II of England issued a proclamation to suppress coffee houses. The ban lasted a grand total of 15 days.  I’m surprised the king held out that long…a national headache from coffee deprivation would not be pretty.

Speaking of kings, it is Elvis’ birthday.  And we know what a foodie he was, right?

Yesterday was the 116th anniversary of what we now know as the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook.”  The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, as it was known then, was first published in 1896.

And on January 10, 1894, Clara Peller uttered her famous question for the first time, “Where’ the beef?”  Wendy’s Hamburgers and pop-culture were forever changed.

On this day in 1800, soup kitchens were opened in London.  Soup has a very  long history of feeding hungry souls and crosses all socio-economic boundaries.  Not surprising, January is national soup month.  We enjoyed a pot of chili last night, and potato soup is on the weekend menu.  What’s your favorite soup? If you want to check out our family’s favorite soups, you’ll find the recipes here.

Jan color

So there’s your week’s worth of domestic trivia on this chilly morning.

Happy Tuesday!


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h…then your favorite recipes are a glimpse into your gustatory system.  (Now there’s a term you don’t hear everyday, right?  Okay, let’s just call it your “tastes.”)

After a holiday pinning binge (pingeing?)  on Pinterest, I realized I have amassed 3,000 pins.  Not all are recipes, but a lot of them are because Pinterest is a great way to keep track of recipes I want to try without creating a stack of printed recipes and hand-scratched scribbled notes.

That’s my Pinterest story and I’m sticking to it.

Seriously, I won’t pin anything that I don’t plan to actually make, and I have un-pinned recipes that we tried and rejected.

I am simultaneously adventuresome AND particular about recipes I will even consider.  As a result my family has collectively “raised the bar” over the years, snubbing most pre-processed and fast food in favor of dishes made with fresh, wholesome ingredients in an array of colors, textures, and flavors.

And so I am often surprised (and saddened) when I find a much-hyped recipe (“This is the best thing I’ve ever made!!!!”) is bland or poorly seasoned, or the food consistency is mushy, hard or otherwise blech.  It’s not inedible; it just isn’t good.

I’m not a food snob….truly I’m not. In my pantry are some sodium- and fat-laced foods that would make true foodies cringe. Things like cream-of-something soup.  Powdered soup mixes.  The occasional ready-to-make rice or pasta dish.  Velveeta.  Onion and garlic powders. Quick oats. The list goes on.

In certain dishes, these ingredients have a role to play.  Not every dish needs to be totally scratch-made from just-plucked farm-fresh foods and gourmet seasonings in order to taste good. The trick (in my humble opinion) is to know when to use a short-cut and when to not short-change your dish.  And that knowledge comes through a lot of trial-and-error.

You don’t have to dirty every pot and pan to create a great weeknight dinner, either.   In case you hadn’t noticed, I really love my crockpot.  Crockpots and slowcookers are true kitchen workhorses.  And like any good workhorse, they are great for some things, and  disastrous for others.  Case in point:  I tried recipes for crockpot oatmeal and hash brown casserole over the holidays.  The oatmeal suffered from my inattentiveness when I mixed it together.  (Using a smaller second container as an insert and creating a water bath is a good idea.  But use good steel-cut oats, NOT quick oats.  Trust me.)  A hash brown casserole can be made the night before and baked in the morning with good results, but it is not a good dish for cooking overnight.  I should have known better, but I tried it because there were so many glowing comments.  Which makes me wonder if those blessed souls have ever had a really good hash brown casserole.

Yesterday I made a “forgotten chicken” casserole and stuck it in to bake before we headed to worship.  The result?  It has potential, but to those who raved on the original recipe….really?  It was bland, even though I used a wild rice and mushroom pilaf mix.  I can’t imagine a 3-hour baking would do anything good to the minute rice in the original recipe.  I will try it again, with some serious alterations and adjustments, because three hours at 275 yielded reasonably tender, moist chicken breasts.  There is hope for the concept, but the ingredients need a tweaking, and maybe a complete overhaul.

I realize that every family’s tastes and sensibilities will vary wildly.  But if I could wish for one thing, it would be that families everywhere would stop settling for overcooked and badly seasoned food; if the reviews on recipe sites are any indication, there’s far too much of that going on.  Home-cooked food should be anything but greasy, dry, tasteless, bland or mushy.

Trust me, anyone can learn to recognize high-potential recipes and then modify them to suit their tastes; when you do, cooking can become a very fun adventure.  If your family is in an eating rut, slowly introduce more contrasts in flavor and texture.  Not every food has to be an all-out assault on your “gustatory senses,” but stop settling for bad or same ‘ol, same ‘ol food every day.

Happy Monday…and happy cooking,

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The original recipe for this dish was in a recent issue of Cuisine at Home; I’ve modified it gently to suit my pantry and our tastes.  It is a gussied up version of beef stroganoff, but other than fussing with the mushrooms, it isn’t difficult to make, and the little extra effort is so worth it.  Wide pappardelle noodles can be found in most grocers with hand-crafted pasta, including World Market and Trader Joe’s.  Or you could make your own (but that definitely moves it from “weeknight” meal to something extra-special, at least for my typical dinner prep time and effort.)  The lemon and parsley on the noodles cuts through the heaviness of the mushroom cream sauce.  Give it a try…you might win praises from your family (as I did from mine), and even tuck it away as a company’s coming recipe that will please most any palate.

Mushroom Beef Tips over Pappardelle Noodles

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound lean beef tips (preferably tenderloin…it’s worth the extra $$$)
1 tablespoon black pepper
salt to taste
1 pound sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped shallots or 1 tablespoon dried shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic (one clove, minced)
1/2 cup dry Marsala or chicken broth
1/4 cup sour cream
1-2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

8 ounces dry pappardelle noodles
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat parsley
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste


Rinse and pat dry tenderloion tips (they should be in 1/2 to 1-inch cubes.)  Sprinkle with pepper.  Heat a large heavy skillet until water skitters around and forms a single “marble”. Wipe dry; add oil.In large, heavy skillet, add oil and beef tips in a single layer.  Sear until brown on all sides – about 3-5 minutes, and remove from pan.  Return pan to heat, add mushrooms and cover and cook over high heat until they release their moisture.  Remove cover and continue cooking until mushrooms brown and liquid evaporates, about 7-9 minutes.

If using fresh shallots, add them and the garlic and cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes.)  Deglaze skillet with Marsala or chicken broth.  (If using dried shallots, add liquid at the same time as the dried shallots and garlic.)  Reduce liquid by half and add back beef tips.  Reduce heat to medium and stir in mustard and lemon juice.  Adjust to taste.  Remove from heat and add sour cream (make sure it is not boiling when you do to avoid curdling the sour cream.)

While the beef tips are cooking, you can prepare the noodles.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a teaspoon of salt.  Add noodle and cook according to package directions.  Toss with butter, parsley and lemon zest; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange noodles in the bottom of a large serving platter and top with beef tips and cream sauce. Garnish with more parsley if desired.  SErve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

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Tweaking the schedule


For quite a while I posted a weekly recipe on Wednesday.  Every Wednesday.

But then one Wednesday, I didn’t post a recipe.  Same thing happened the next Wednesday.

And the next.  The next thing I knew, I hadn’t posted a recipe in several months.

It’s not that I don’t have recipes to share…I do. I just couldn’t seem to get a post written on Wednesday.

I figured it was time to figure this thing out.  And so I did.  Starting this week, look for a weekly recipe to appear on Friday.  Hopefully, EVERY Friday.

Happy Wednesday!

P.S. For 2013, I’m doing the One-year Bible Chronological StudyI hope you’ll join me!  Regardless of your faith, it’s a book worth reading.

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Tuesday Trivia, Tres!

I think I’m about to run out of alliterations that begin with “T” – I guess that will cause me to decide whether to continue this as a weekly tradition…or not.

A belated happy birthday to Clarence Birdseye.  He was born on December 9, 1886. In 1924 he would create the frozen food industry, with a little help from some friends to bankroll his venture.velveeta1

Today in 1874, Charles Kraft was born.  He created pasteurized cheese food that became a shelf-stable staple  during WWII and is still relied upon by cooks today for a quick, melt-able cheese for grilled cheese, queso, and – my favorite – macaroni and cheese. Velveeta also appears in some rather odd places…like a 1990s fudge recipe.  Also today, back in 1972 American astronauts stepped off the moon for the last time and Apollo 17 began its return trip home.

Looking ahead: on December 13, the Delmonico family opened their first restaurant in NYC.  A word to the wise, if you order a Delmonico steak, come hungry.  I ordered one in New York a few years ago, not realizing it was almost as big as I was.  I did it justice, but I learned my lesson.

On December 16, our country had its biggest teaparty ever in Boston and on December 17, two Christmas classics were born:  Dickens “A Christmas Carol” was first published in 1843 and in 1892, Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker” was first performed in St. Petersburg.

So what are you celebrating  this week in the wonderful world of domesticity?

Happy Tuesday,

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