Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bison Burgers on Squash Rolls

Supper was rather easy tonight because all the prep work was done in the morning, when the kids were playing cheerfully (ok, so they were watching Sesame Street). I used a coupon this week to get 1 1/2 lbs of bison patties (burgers) for free. I could have bought regular burgers, but from my brief browsing of the meat info at the store, I discovered that bison meat is very similar in nutrition to free range beef. My non-scientific, absolutely no background knowledge behind it guess is because bison aren't grazed in feedlots most of their lives and are grass fed, their meat resembles grass finished beef. Anyway, that's a little of my rationale behind the burgers I bought. For a moment I thought, I still have ground beef in my freezer I could use, but I have to admit, I love getting things for free when I can.

Since the meat just needed to be grilled I decided to use my remaining two yellow summer squash (you could also use zucchini or any other soft-skinned summer squash) to make squash yeast rolls. I shaped them large enough to make hamburger buns, but if you were after small, cute dinner rolls, you could easily take that route as well. To make them I shredded my two squash using my food processor attachment (oh, how I love gadgets!). It came out to about 3 cups. You could use as little as 2 c if that all you had. I combined the shredded squash, 1 c water, 1/2 c sugar, 3 T oil, and 2 t salt in a small saucepan on the stove. I heated until it was warm---it was still cool enough that I could comfortably stick my finger in it to test for warmth. If it's too hot, let it cool a bit. Hot liquids kill yeast, cold liquids, don't activate. Somewhere in the middle is what we're after--like hot tap water (granted that your water heater isn't set above 115 degrees or so).

While that was warming, I combined 1 c bread flour, 1 c whole wheat flour (if you have whole wheat bread flour, use that. I didn't and everything still turned out just fine), 1/3 c dry milk powder, and 2 T active dry yeast in a mixing bowl. Once the squash mixture is warm, add that to the flours and beat well until smooth. Then stir in enough additional white bread flour, I used a little over 3 c, but the recipe said 1 3/4 - 2 1/2 c. Add enough that you can knead the dough 8 - 10 minutes without it totally sticking to your hands. Once it is smooth and elastic, place in a greased bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rise until doubled in bulk. Punch down and then let it rise again for 10 minutes. Shape into rolls (make them smaller than you want them because they will rise both before they go into the oven and as they bake) and place on greased baking sheet (you may need 2 baking sheets). Let the rolls rise until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 25 - 35 minutes (depending on size of rolls).

The rolls turn out slightly sweet, yet perfect for hamburgers or other sandwiches. Let me just say, I am not big into the Sneaky Chef or Deceptively Delicious ideas. I don't use this recipe to sneak veggies into my kids---M loves zucchini, so that's not an issue. When I make recipes like this it is because I have the veggies in my fridge and I am, frankly, sick of them. Sometimes that happens with a CSA--you get food you don't particularly like. I don't like to waste food, so I look for ways to make the squash where I can forget they are there. I've tried chocolate chips cookies and brownies with zucchini. Those are both good. I've tried chocolate cake with beets in it. I didn't like that, it still tasted like beets (and who wants to eat chocolate and taste beets?).

But I digress. Supper was fabulous. The burgers were perfect. I topped mine with leftover Gazpacho Salsa from Sunday, Curtis at the salsa on the side. M loved the burger. We also had butter beans, which Curtis, M and later J enjoyed. Because everything was so simple to make, in the time I normally spent preparing supper, I read books with J and M. A great dinner!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grilled Vegetables on Penne

This is a great recipe when you have a bunch of grillable veggies. The combination doesn't really matter. Tonight we used a three eggplants, 2 bell peppers, a zucchini, 6 mushrooms, and 1/4 onion. I sliced the eggplants and zucchini, cut the mushrooms and bell peppers into chunks, and cut the onions into small wedges. I mixed all but the mushrooms together in a bowl. In a small separate bowl I combine 3 T fresh chopped basil, 1 t fresh chopped thyme, 1 T olive oil, 1/2 t sea salt (kosher salt or regular salt would also work), and 3 cloves of minced garlic. I dumped that on top of the mixed veggies and tossed to combine. I had heated up the grill and grilled all the veggies (except mushrooms) for around 8 minutes in a grill basket, stirring a couple of times. At the end of the 8 minutes, I threw the mushrooms in and grilled for another 4 or 5 minutes (or until the mushrooms released their juices).

To serve, I put the veggies on top of the penne pasta (although any chunky pasta would work--that's just what I had in my pantry). I drizzled a little olive oil on top and then grated some fresh grana padano (or parmesan type cheese) on top. Mmmm. I ate all but the zucchini which I traded with M who only ate the mushrooms and zucchini. J is continuing his supper boycott (not worried since he does not look like an underfed child). Curtis loved it and is taking leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Pretty much any veggies will work. I've also used new potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes when I've had those on hand. For carrots and potatoes, boil them for 5 - 10 minutes before grilling (just until they start to soften). Another option would be to skewer the veggies and make kabobs or to roast in a preheated 425 oven for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Menu and Grocery List

Menu for the week:

Monday: Grilled Veggies with Pasta (because that didn't happen last Thursday)
Tuesday: Bison Burgers on Squash Yeast Rolls
Wednesday: Sweet Potato Quesadillas
Thursday: Leaving open for ideas from CSA box. Possibly a frittata or something that uses lots of eggs!
Friday: Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne
Saturday: I'm not cooking day
Sunday: Roasted Chicken

Hopefully on Wednesday I'll make the Jewish Apple Cake (hmm...maybe I'll take it to playgroup on Thursday, wherever that may be!). I also want to make more yogurt on Tuesday and chocolate pudding some time later in the week---maybe Thursday evening as I am watching the VP debate.

The corresponding grocery list:
YoBaby yogurt
organic whole milk
local non-homogenized milk
organic honey nut o's cereal
organic shredded oat squares cereal
bison burgers (I got a pound and a half free with a coupon! Yippee!!)
whole wheat bread
flour tortillas (they were all out of whole wheat). :(
organic onions
a few mushrooms
a small block of mozzarella
fontina cheese
organic OJ
and my impulse buy--a bar of dark chocolate with coffee to stash in a drawer for "emergencies."

I also bought a plant--onion chives. I hope to plant that and my other herbs this morning (I recently bought a sage and dill plant. I know I shouldn't buy dill because it supposedly grows from seed really easily, but last time I planted seeds, none came up).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shrimp Scampi with Gazpacho Salsa

I decided to celebrate having my family back together this evening with Shrimp Scampi. I also found a great recipe on Epicurious for Gazpacho Salsa which I thought would go great on top of it (plus, it used cucumbers in chunks big enough for me to pick out). I made the salsa first to let the flavors "marry," and I knew the Shrimp Scampi I would need to pay attention the whole time I was cooking it. I am not including the recipe for the salsa, but have included a link to Epicurious's website. A quick note on the salsa recipe. Be sure to use smoked paprika. That makes the salsa spectacular. Again, that's a good ingredient to buy in the bulk spice section because you can get just a little of it (and not a whole jar for one recipe). I omitted the black olives and red onions because I didn't have either on hand. I think they both would have made the taste a little more complex, but I didn't think "this should black olives/onions" while I was eating (in other words, they weren't missed).

For the Shrimp scampi, I soaked 1 lb of frozen shrimp in a bowl of salted water until they were thawed enough to peel. (I normally don't devein my shrimp because that seems like too much work and I don't notice a taste difference---nor does the thought of it not being deveined bother me). I put a pot of water on to boil for pasta and prepared the seasoning for the shrimp. In a small bowl I combined 3 T olive oil, 3 T melted butter, and 4 cloves of minced garlic. I poured that into a 9 x 13" pan. In a separate bowl, I combined 2 T fresh parsley, 1 T finely grated lemon peel, and dash of salt and pepper. I mixed that in with the shrimp. Then I broiled the 9 x 13" pan with the butter, etc for 2 minutes. The butter became brown and everything was fragrant. I laid the shrimp into the hot pan, and broiled the shrimp for 2 minutes. I turned them over with a tongs and broiled them for another minute (and then another minute). To serve, I put the cooked pasta (I used capellini but any long pasta would work) in a large bowl and topped with the shrimp and butter sauce. I gently tossed the butter sauce in to coat the pasta.

I served the salsa on the side and whoever wanted to, but it on top of their shrimp and pasta. Curtis loved it with the salsa on top. M loved the shrimp and pasta but didn't eat the salsa because the tomatoes and cucumbers were mixed up (she loves both foods separately, just not together, silly girl!). J didn't eat much of anything because he had found a bag of raisins before supper that he ate way too many of. Overall, it was a great meal. I like the salsa on the pasta, but not on the shrimp. I will definitely repeat this meal!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Farmer's Market

I didn't need much at the Farmer's Market today--just the bacon I couldn't find last week and apples. I also grabbed a couple of tamales to take home for lunch and some yummy juice. While there were just 2 things on my list (bacon and apples) I ended up making bigger purchases than usual.

Last week Curtis asked Dan, the apple guy, to set aside some Granny Smith apples for his pie making experiments. Dan said he'd set aside a box. Thus, I picked up a box (not a full box, but 20 pounds worth!) of apples for Curtis.

Apples have been a little hard to come by this year---at least the seconds I like for applesauce and the "hard" apples Curtis prefers for apple pies. From our visit to the apple orchard in Medina last year, I learned a little bit about apples. There are basically two different types of apples--hard and soft. Soft apples tend to the be beautifully red, very sweet apples. They are soft because they have a high sugar content and when cooked, they turn to mush quite quickly. Soft apples aren't good for pies or other baked goods like apple cakes. They are great for applesauce because they don't need to cook for very long before being a mushy mess in the pan. They also make the best eating apples (in my humble opinion) because of their sweetness.

Hard apples are the green apples. Conversely, they don't have as much sugar and therefore hold their shape better for baking. These are the apples that make wonderful pies and cakes. They are sometimes too tart for eating according to some people's tastes. A few of the hard apples are usually pretty good thrown into the applesauce made with soft apples because it gives a little more depth to the flavor. In our family, the favorite apples for pies are Crispin's early in the season and Granny Smith's later in the season (here, apple season is from July!! through October).

You also may find unpasteurized cider at the Farmer's Market. At our Farmer's Market, if you bring your own container, you can buy a 1 quart or 1/2 gallon of cider. The orchards don't bottle their own cider to sell because of pasteurization laws (which currently is why Goodflow Juice here in town isn't being sold currently). Again, according to the orchard we visited, the pasteurization laws were put into place to protect consumers from the massive, commerical orchards that used machinery to scoop apples off the ground to make into cider. (Warning, the following is rather disgusting in my mind, so skip ahead if you have a weak stomach). Sometimes these machines would scoop up mice in their apple gathering and the mice would get processed with the apples. The pasteurization makes sure that no E-coli may have seeped it to the cider. E-coli is spread through feces, thus the mice/vermin are the problem. No animals, no e-coli. That makes me thankful the laws are in place. However, for smaller orchards that pick the apples for cider by hand, that isn't a problem and they don't invest in the expensive equipment to pasteurize and seal their own containers. They don't feel their consumers are at risk because they know that no stray animals have wandered into their cider. The way around the law for them is to bring cider to sell by the cup or let the consumers bring their own containers to take the cider home in.

I hope we can use our 20 lbs of apples before I need to figure out how to fit all 20 lbs into the refrigerator. I am looking forward to making a Jewish Apple Cake....I just need to find some people to feed it to (our family can't eat a whole cake by ourselves!). I am guessing our apple peeler, corer, slicer will be a good investment by the time Curtis makes all of his pies!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Egg Salad Wraps

I went ahead and made egg salad yesterday for my picnic lunch (M and J were more inclined to their classic PB & J). Now I am wondering how I am going to eat an 8 egg salad all by myself before it goes bad. Therefore, it was decided today, by me, that egg salad is what's for dinner. If I am remembering correctly J likes it pretty well. I am out of bread so, instead we are going all fancy with egg salad wraps (translated: egg salad wrapped up in a briefly warmed whole wheat tortilla). It will do for me and J usually doesn't eat much for dinner anyway. His big meal tends to be lunch and he tends to eat in 5 minutes or less at supper time.

The egg salad is one of my old standbys. I bring 8 eggs to boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. When the eggs are down, I immediately submerge them in cold water to stop the cooking and then peel them. A secret about peeling eggs--use the oldest eggs you have first. They peel easier than very fresh eggs. Once they are all peeled, I mash them with a pastry blender/potato masher (or a fork would work too). I then mix the eggs with 1/3 c mayo, 1 clove of minced garlic, 1/4 c diced red bell pepper (this I sometimes omit), 3 T fresh chopped basil, 2 T roasted pine nuts, 1/4 c diced celery (again, sometimes, like this time, omitted), 1 t red wine vinegar, 1/2 t salt, and black pepper to taste. I stir it just enough to combine everything. That's it. I love it for lunch sandwiches (or wraps) and it's great if I need to feed more than just me. I guess I'll be eating lots of egg salad this weekend!


I was told that people were having a problem with the link to my cookbook. The easiest way to find it (minus the malfunctioning link) may be to go to blurb.com and search the bookstore for Eating the Bounty (that's the name of the Cookbook). Hope that helps!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Composting Primer (or Confession)

We have two spaces for composting at our house.  At the back of our lot along the tree line we stacked concrete blocks to form a square.  We built that when we first moved into our house and for years have been throwing all kitchen scraps in there.  We never did anything noble with it, like turn it, water it, or use it in our garden.  It was just where fruits, vegetables, and coffee grounds went to quietly decompose.  

Our second space for composting is relatively new.  Last year for Christmas, Curtis gave me a compost tumbler (not your most romantic Christmas gift, but I was surprised, that's for sure!).  Out of a little bit of laziness on our part, it sits at the base of our back steps.  At times, especially during the summer, it is a little too close to the house for our liking, but by then it was already partially filled and too heavy to move.  It got to stay in it's current location.  The compost tumbler then was the new final resting place for kitchen scraps and bagged grass until we deemed it full enough.  At that point, we reverted back to using our original compost space to let the tumbler "cook."

A few basics about composting:  

What goes in it:  Food scraps---like vegetables, fruits, egg shells, coffee grounds, bread.  Meat and dairy isn't recommended, the best reason I've heard why is that those will attract unwanted varmints to your compost heap.  Both raw and cooked foods can be added.  These are the green.  Compost also likes brown:  dead leaves, dead grass.  With yard waste, avoid anything that may have gone to seed if you are planning on putting the compost in a garden.  The seeds will end up germinating in your garden and then you'll have who knows what in there.

How to get good compost for using in gardens:  In addition to decaying materials, compost needs heat, water, and preferably worms to adequately decompose the materials.  Some people also turn (or mix) their compost to speed up the process.  As I've said earlier, we are total composting slackers.  We just dump old food in our heap and let the process take it's good old time.  The big downfall to the compost tumbler we have is the lack of worms.  It sits off the ground and so there is no way for the worms to get in there and eat away at the scraps.  The final product is more clumped together and not quite as dirt like.  In the future, we think we are going to start the compost in the tumbler because it gets hot enough in there to kill any seeds (it's black so it absorbs a lot of sunlight) and then move it to the heap to finish it to allow the worms to do some work. 

Even if you have no intention of using compost for gardening, it's not a bad idea.  You use less trash bags and produce less waste every week if all kitchen scraps go to a heap tucked away somewhere quietly in the backyard.  In a trash bag in a landfill the decomposition process is hindered by that plastic bag...and if it does decompose, it's still stuck in the bag.  The heap in the back yard doesn't get big and unruly, it shrinks down as it decomposes.  Plus, it could be some cool science lessons for your kids---decomposition, what feeds the soil, worms, a myriad of bugs to look at, irreversible change (M's favorite science words these days), the whole exchange of energy within the food cycle---sun to plant to us to compost to plant again.

I still need to work our compost into our garden. I am trying to get up the motivation and energy to shovel up our entire 12 x 12 foot garden to mix in the compost and gypsum (which we add because our soil has a lot of clay in it which makes it more difficult for plants to have good root systems).  I need to do it soon because I am anxious to get in our seeds.   Just not so anxious to dig.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the CSA box today

I need to start by confessing that I wasn't terribly enamored by our box of veggies this week.  In the newsletter, the farm said we would be getting one mystery vegetable--arugula, sweet potatoes, or butter beans.  Since early Tuesday morning, I was planning what I would make with arugula or sweet potatoes...exotic recipes I hadn't had since last April or May.  I could barely wait to pick up my box.

Butter beans.  That was my mystery vegetable.  Ugh.  M made me feel a little better about it because as she was helping me unload the veggies into the fridge her response was "Yay!  Lima beans!"  Curtis was also pleased to see them, so I guess I will just make the best of the butter beans and wait another week for some wonderful cool weather vegetable.

Also in our box were more of the summer veggies:
3 tomatoes (yay!)
4 cucumbers
3 light purple eggplant---they are beautiful!
1 white eggplant
1 Japanese eggplant
2 traditional/typical small eggplant
2 yellow squash
1 small acorn squash
the above bemoaned bag of butter beans
a bag of basil
one dozen eggs
many small bell peppers

I left the okra and the hot peppers in the trade box.  I hope someone else can use them because at our house, they end up in the compost

My menu for the week stands.  You may notice I very rarely talk about the cucumbers in my cooking.  Other than a few cucumber salads and pickles, I don't use cucumbers in recipes.  We (meaning Curtis and M) primarily eat them raw.  M already picked out the smallest cucumber we got, put it in a bag, and said that was her cucumber for her airplane trip on Friday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza

Pizza is one of my old standby's.  When I am unsure what to eat, I scavenge through the refrigerator for whatever I can find and throw it on top of the pizza.  Tonight was particularly scarce.  I found 12 pepperonis in the freezer (I ended up with 11 because M ate one), cheddar cheese, and mushrooms.  If was I motivated or creative tonight, I could have made fresh pesto (or even just chopped basil) to go on top.  But, I was neither so I looked for things that were already made.  

I started the crust around 4:00 which would let the pizza be finished between 5:30- 6:00 (our normal supper time).  To make the crust, I dissolved 1 T yeast in 1 cup of warm water and let it stand for 5 minutes.  At that point, I mixed in 1 T sugar, 1/2 t salt,  2 T oil, and and 1 1/4 c flour.  I beat it until it was smooth.  I added 2 more cups of flour and kneaded the dough for 5 minutes until it felt smooth (as smooth as a baby's behind--really!).  Then I sat it in front of the oven vent (we have a gas range/oven), preheated the oven to 250, and turned the oven off after about 5 minutes.  I preheated the oven just to create a little extra heat to help the dough rise.  I let it rise for 45 minutes, until it was doubled in size.

I rolled the dough out onto a cookie sheet (technically a jelly roll pan).  I prefer the cookie sheet over a round pie pan because it makes a bigger pizza and has a slightly thinner crust.  After I rolled out the crust, I let the crust sit for 10 minutes, during which time I preheated the oven to 450, and prepared the toppings.  

For the toppings I opened a jar of pasta sauce I canned earlier this summer.  I spread about 1 c over the top of the pizza.  I pulled the 12 pepperonis out of the freezer and tried (unsuccessfully) to fend M off of eating them.  I sliced the mushrooms and grated the cheddar cheese and threw everything on top of the pizza.  I baked the pizza for 15 minutes.  Once it was done, I let it stand for 5 minutes to let everything firm up a little.

Every time the pizza comes out differently.  I have 3 crust recipes I use rather frequently--a whole wheat one (from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  I just cut the recipe in half), the basic one from above, and one that is lightly seasoned with garlic and parmesan.  Last summer (not as much this summer, for some reason), I would make grilled vegetables on one night and a couple nights later throw the leftover grilled vegetables on top of the pizza.  If I would have made the pizza tomorrow, I could have done a Greek pizza with goat cheese (in the fridge) and grilled eggplant out of our CSA box.  Endless opportunities!  Tonight, though, I aimed for easy and simple....classic pepperoni and mushrooms.  Everyone loved it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

I knew M wouldn't eat the stuffed peppers tonight (they had beans), so I was sure to have rice and lima beans as well.  Curtis and I thought they were great and J even ate some.  M, as expected, informed us she doesn't like beans and ate just rice and lots of lima beans.

Here's how I made them.  I cut the tops off of 4 bell peppers (I actually used 5 because they were really small!) and took the seeds out.  I steamed the peppers in 1 inch of boiling water for 5 minutes, until they were tender.  While the peppers were steaming, I started the filling.  I sauted about 1/2 c onion and 2 cloves garlic in olive oil.  I added 2 chopped tomatoes (from my garden no less---I kept them alive all summer and now they are starting produce tomatoes again), 2 T fresh parsley, 1 T fresh oregano, 1 t ground cumin, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 t salt and sauteed it for 5 minutes.  I then added 1 1/2 c (1 15-oz can) of black beans.  The original recipe also called for 2 c corn, but I am not a corn fan at all, so I always just leave that out.  Then simmer for 10 minutes.  Put the peppers in an oven proof dish so they will stand upright.  Stuff the peppers with the black bean mixture and top with shredded Parmesan cheese and bake for 20 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven.  I started cooking the rice when I started simmering the black beans.  They were done at the same time.

Menu and Grocery List

Monday- Mexican Stuffed Peppers and Lima Beans
Tuesday- Mushroom Pizza (and whatever else I can find to throw on top of it)
Wednesday- Church pictures followed by a kids eat free dinner at a local restaurant
Thursday- Grilled Summer Vegetables and pasta
Friday and Saturday - Curtis and M will be out of town. I suspect J and I will do a lot of scavenging and not a terrible amount of cooking. We'll see. I am leaving those days open.
Sunday- Quesadillas with Gazpacho Salsa

Plus, sometime during the week this week, I would like to make egg salad and squash rolls. Trying to use a dozen eggs every week is daunting. I think next time I subscribe to my CSA I will just get eggs every other week.

The corresponding grocery list:

Organic butter
Organic capellini (skinny spaghetti which we like better than spaghetti)
Whole and Skim Milk
YoBaby Yogurt
Organic cilantro
Grana Padano cheese (like Parmegiano Regiano cheese, but from a slightly different region of Italy and cheaper)
Smoked Paprika
Cremini Mushrooms (grown locally, Cremini mushrooms are baby portabellas---a fun fact, portabellas used to just be thrown out. People thought they were too large to eat.)

I always buy my spices in bulk. I've learned they are a lot cheaper this way and they stay fresh longer than the one size fits all jar I used to buy in the store. For example, my cumin cost only 30¢, the smoked paprika 26¢--I bought maybe 2 T worth, more than I'll use before it starts losing it flavor. If you buy the spices in a jar, you are paying for the jar and not the spice. With the exception of saffron and a few other spices, spices tend to be very inexpensive because you don't need much at a time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend in Review

It was a rather busy, hectic weekend, with meals out, a babysitter, and a birthday party.  I prepared supper for the evening the kids were with the babysitter, granola to eat with the yogurt I made earlier in the week, chocolate pudding just for me Friday afternoon, because sometimes you just need good comfort food, pancakes for breakfast this morning, and then this evening's dinner of cheddar waffles (I haven't decided yet whether to serve eggs with it or a sausage gravy---need to consult the hubby).

Here are my recipes:

Granola:  Mix together 3/4 c unsweetened coconut, 4 c rolled oats, 1 c sunflower seeds, 1 c wheat germ, 1/4 c sesame seeds, and 1 c chopped pecans.  On the stove, bring to a boil 1 c honey, 1/2 c oil, and 1 T cinnamon.  Once it boils, combine with the oats and nuts.  Spread on 2 oiled 9 x 13" baking pans and bake for 30 minutes in a preheated 325 degrees oven.  Remove from the oven to stir every ten minutes (twice) and then for the last 10 minutes, every 5 minutes.  Allow to cool undisturbed.  Once the granola is cooled mix in 1 c dried tart cherries and I c dried cranberries.

Chocolate Pudding.  Let me just start by saying if you have never had homemade, made from scratch chocolate pudding you haven't eaten chocolate pudding.  I prefer to make this with the leftover unhomogenized local milk I use for yogurt.  I think the pudding is actually best eaten warm, but it is still mighty fine after it's been cooled and refrigerated.  This is a more time intensive recipe--it involves standing at the stove and stirring quite a bit, but I have found this quite bearable if I am watching Grey's Anatomy at the same time (a true comfort evening!)

The recipe:  Mix 1/3 c cocoa, 1 c sugar, 2 T cornstarch, and 1/2 t salt in a pan.  Gradually stir in 2 c milk.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and boils.  Boil one minute.  Remove from heat, gradually stir in 1/2 of milk mixture into 2 egg yolks (slightly beaten).  Gradually stir egg yolks into saucepan.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat (again).  Stir in 2 t butter and 1 t vanilla.  Chill (if you haven't eaten all of it while it was still warm).

Oatmeal Pancakes:  Soak 3/4 c rolled oats in 1 1/2 c milk for 5 minutes.  Add 2 egg yolks (beaten) and 1/4 c oil.  Mix well.  In a separate bowl, combine 1 c whole wheat flour, 2 T sugar, 1 T baking powder, 1 t salt, and 1 t cinnamon.  Add to oatmeal mixture.  Beat 2 egg whites until stiff.  Fold egg whites into batter.  Fry in skillet until golden brown, turning once.

Since both kids are now eating pancakes, I double this recipe for our family of 4.  One recipe would be enough if we didn't want leftovers.  However, if I double it, we will have pancakes for breakfast for the next several mornings (reheated in the toaster oven).

That looks like a lot!  I'll save the kids' meal (Spaghetti Pie) and cheddar waffles for another posting.  

We did manage to make it to the Farmer's Market yesterday before our birthday party.  It ended up being a big spending day--I needed a chicken (which I got a 5 3/4 lb bird, the farmers told me how proud they were of the rooster because it's been their biggest chicken in a while.  I love the information you get by shopping at the Farmer's Market!), honey, and Curtis wanted a lot of apples for apple pies (both for us and to give to friends).  I also was looking for bacon, but neither pork farmer had any this week.  Bacon is one of those things that is often hard to find for some reason.  

Off to finish the waffles...I think I'll go with sausage gravy on top (that makes it seem a little more dinner like) and bok choy salad on the side.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Cookbook

One of the things that helped me most adapt to seasonal, local eating was a couple of good cookbooks. The Moosewood cookbooks are incredible. I especially like their New Classics, I've probably made one third to half of their recipes in the 4 or 5 years I've had their cookbook. Their Sundays at Moosewood cookbook is fun as well. That cookbook features different areas of the words and recipes from those areas. All Moosewood cookbooks are vegetarian, although fish and seafood recipes are included. The New Classics gave me lots of ideas for vegetables like summer squash, butternut squash, and cabbage to name a few. I enjoy Sundays at Moosewood for variety.

I have also found Mennonite Country Style Recipes and Kitchen Secrets by Esther Shank to be very helpful. If you want to start canning or freezing, this is an excellent place to start. It was first published in the 1970's or 80's (I think) and many recipes actually call for MSG, which I simply ignore. Curtis and I actually have sat down and laughed as we read this book because it not only gives cooking basics, but tells you how to kill a chicken and dress a rabbit. I can't say I've used that yet, but it's nice to know if I ever want to kill a chicken for stew, I'll know where to look.

By far, the most helpful cookbook has been Simply in Season (which is available at Ten Thousand Villages). This cookbook has both vegetarian and meat filled recipes. What makes it unique is that it doesn't often call for fancy ingredients you need to make a special trip to the store for and the chapters are divided by season. Granted, here we don't follow the same seasons as most of the US does, but it at least doesn't have things like asparagus and tomatoes in the same recipes (which are in season during very different seasons).

After collecting recipes from these cookbooks, cooking magazines, epicurious.com, and other cookbooks, remembering which recipe was where sometimes proved to be a problem. Thus, my own cookbook was born. I typed all my recipes into software I downloaded from blurb.com and created a location for all my tried and true recipes. I still am constantly finding new recipes (like the zucchini frittata, which incidentally, was from Moosewood's New Classics cookbook), which means eventually, there probably will be a volume 2. However, it's been really helpful to have everything in one place, sorted how I want them, and with an index I know how to use.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Substitute Dinner

Yesterday's CSA box influenced me to change tonight dinner plans.  I am glad I did.  I did have to make a short stop at the grocery store to accommodate the change of plans (and new batch of Baba Ganoush).  I picked up:  tahini, ramen noodles (yeah, I know processed food), rye flour, lemons and evaporated milk.

Tonight's dinner?  Tomato Quiche and a Bok Choy Salad.  The tomato quiche was a little more time intensive than some meals, but I gave a lot of time to make it so I could deal with whatever kid incidents occurred in the process.

I made my own pie crust for the quiche.  This took a little more time, but pie crusts are one of those things that after you make a few times go quite quickly.  I use a very basic pie crust recipe (for 9" pie pan).  I use 1 c of flour.  I cut 1/3 c butter into small pieces and then use a pastry cutter to mix with the flour (and then my fingers when I get impatient with the pastry cutter).  Once the butter is pea size, I add 2 T of water, a little at a time to the mixture until I can form a ball with my hands.  You can add more water if you need it, but the less water you use, the flakier the pie crust.  I transfered the crust to a 9" pie pan and then baked in a  preheated 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

The filling was easier.  I spread 2 c of diced tomatoes on the baked pie crust.  I sprinkled 1 T basil on top, plus 1 t salt, a little pepper, and 1/2 t of sugar.  On top of the tomatoes, I spread 1 c of cheese (I used a white and yellow cheddar combo, the recipe called for a Swiss cheese and cheddar mix).  In a separate bowl, I mixed together 1 c evaporated milk, 2 eggs, and 2 T flour.  I poured that on top of the cheese and baked at in a preheated 452 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until the eggs are set).

I made the bok choy salad while the quiche baked.  I diced 2 small heads of bok choy (I don't like using the stems when I make salad, but you can try and see if you like them.  In cooked recipes they are quite good).  I toasted 2 T sesame seeds and 1/2 c slivered almonds in a small pan on the stove (just until they smelled really fragrant).  I mixed the nuts/seeds with a package of ramen (uncooked and broken up).  I put about half of the ramen mixture on the bok choy.  For the dressing, I mixed together 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil, 1 T soy sauce and 2 T lemon juice.  I served the dressing on the side.

Family review of the meal?  Everyone liked the quiche (M wouldn't eat the crust, but she is currently on a "I don't like crusts" kick).  Curtis and I enjoyed the salad (and ate it all up!).

In the CSA box today

The box today was so terribly exciting! We got the first of fall greens! Yippee!! Baby bok choy. I am dreaming of bok choy salad and beef and bok choy stir fry. Mmm....I can't wait. Summer may finally be coming to an end. Also in the box this week:

2 yellow summer squash
okra (oh, what to do with okra????)
a bag of basil
a bunch of hot peppers that I left in the trade box
2 typical looking eggplants
4 small light purple eggplant
2 white eggplant (I took a few of the light purple ones from the trade box)
the fore mentioned bok choy
a butternut squash (another big yippee!!)
3 tomatoes
several bell peppers
3 cucumbers
a dozen eggs
a quart bag of green butter beans
plus a bonus honey dew melon (I happened to run into Brent, the farmer, while I was picking up my box at the farm. He said he was walking to the field for some melons and wondered if I wanted one. I wasn't going to turn that down. Madeleine enjoyed 2 large slices for snack this afternoon).

The only things that didn't go in the fridge were the butternut squash, eggplant, tomatoes, and basil. All the rest went straight in the the crisper drawer in plastic bags (I know, not super earth friendly, but they are bags I've reused--some many, many times).

I believe tomorrow morning will be spent making some more baba ganoush (and totally unrelated, granola). I am eager to change tomorrow night's meal of spaghetti squash with pasta sauce to either stuffed bell peppers with bok choy salad or bok choy and beef stirfry. I am so excited! We used 4 eggplants this evening for grilled eggplants with goat cheese. I didn't like the white ones as well as the light purple or long, thin Japanese eggplant cooked that way.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Breakfasts

My breakfasts lately have been pretty simple; granola and yogurt. I have been making my own yogurt again lately though, especially since I've found the trick for getting yogurt the right consistency.

About a year or so ago, I tried making my own yogurt using a large coffee thermos (the one to our coffee maker, in fact), some local nonhomogenized milk (that means it still has cream floating on top...mmmm...), and some local plain yogurt. I could never get the yogurt thick enough for my liking. The process was simple: bring the milk to boiling (the boiling kills some of the enzymes which is why lactose intolerant people can often eat yogurt and cheeses). Once it's boiled, let it cool back down to around 100 degrees. Mix in yogurt and then incubate for many, many hours. I thought maybe the problem was my coffee thermos--it possibly wasn't keeping it warm enough. (I warmed the thermos up by putting boiling water in it, emptying the water and then adding the yogurt). So, for Christmas I asked for a yogurt maker. I got a really simple one, basically it's 7 6-oz glass jars and a fancy hotplate with a lid. (only around $30 or so). I tried again: nonhomogenized milk, local yogurt. The first time I made it I was pleased with the results, but after that, it just wasn't setting up like I wanted it to. I took a break from yogurt for a while.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give it a try again. This time, I got yogurt starter (it's in the dairy section, next to the yogurt at Central Market--Whole Foods I am sure has it too). I've made it three times since then, and each time I've been pleased with the results...nice thick, creamy yogurt. I sweeten it with a some honey and then stir in some granola that I've made (that's on the to do list for tomorrow. I have enough granola left for my yogurt for breakfast). It's perfect and doesn't leave me hungry after an hour like the usual bowl of cereal will.

Why bother with making my own yogurt? It's actually cheaper than by organic yogurt. I get to put as much sweetener in as I want, plus I get to control what kind of sweetener (always local honey!) I put in. I don't generate waste in all the yogurt containers, which although they can be recycled, it still takes energy to recycle the plastic. Plus, it's easy and I just like to do it (which is really the biggest reason).

I boiled the milk this morning when the kids and I were eating breakfast and then let it cool while I worked in the garden for awhile. I strained it (to get rid of the skin that forms on top of milk as it cools), mixed in the starter, and the left it in the yogurt maker for 6 hours. That was it. Maybe 15 minutes of hands on time and lots of time when it just took care of itself. Not too bad.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Butternut Squash Risotta

It was our first cool fall day today. I decided that there was nothing like butternut squash to celebrate fall. I needed to look for a recipe though that didn't have too many other "fall" type vegetables, since I didn't have any of those. I found a risotto recipe that looked good.

I had never made risotto before, so I was a little nervous. One of my friends told me last week she had tried a similar recipe which was really good, so I decided to go for it. The recipe was from the October issue of Bon Appetit (I can't find the recipe online...). A brief description...I peeled and removed the seeds from 1 lb of butternut squash. I sauteed that in some butter and sprinkled it with a little brown sugar, salt and pepper. I made the risotto using beef and chicken broth, fresh thyme, onions and bacon, gradually adding the broth and stirring a lot. The recipe called for shallots, which I substituted with a less amount of regular onions. It also called for sage, but again, I had none and I didn't really miss it. The risotto was not lacking in flavor. That's the really short version. If you want the whole recipe let me know...it's pretty long.

Overall the dish turned out great! Curtis, J, and I loved. M wouldn't touch it. However she did eat the butter beans that I seasoned with a chicken bouillon cube, as did Curtis and J. The risotto wasn't as much work as I was worried about. I stirred for a little, then went to check on the kids playing in the backyard. I did that repeatedly.

Menu and Grocery List

Monday: Butternut Risotta with a side of Butter Beans
Tuesday: Small Group. I don't need to cook! :)
Wednesday: Manicotti from Central Market (coupon for $10 free this week)
Thursday: Spaghetti Squash with Pasta Sauce
Friday: Parents' Night Out at church so I am not cooking!

As you can tell, this is a week I don't need to cook as much for! No complaints here.

Grocery List:
YoBaby yogurt
organic unsalted butter
locally unhomogenized whole milk (for making yogurt this week)
whole wheat crackers
extra virgin olive oil
organic rice
arborio rice
organic rolled oats
unbleached flour
dried cranberries
dried tart cherries
organic honey nut O's
sunflower seeds
whole wheat pita
Manicotti (with coupon)
Sweet Leaf Iced Tea

In the middle of the week last week, we did get a gallon of whole milk and a gallon of skim milk. I still need to get whole wheat multi-grain bread and Asiago cheese from a local Italian market which was closed for renovations today.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday's Food

Sunday also has a set of traditions (not unlike Saturday, except that I agree to cooking on Sunday). Sunday is the one morning we sit down together for breakfast. Usually I make batter for pancakes or waffles and Curtis cooks them. M loves helping Curtis cook them. On my more ambitious mornings, I'll make coffee cake or biscuit sticky buns. Today we made waffles, using some of our sour milk that had been hiding in the back of the fridge.

For lunch, it was leftovers...normal Sunday lunch fare because by the time we are home from church we are cutting into kids nap times.

For suppers, I'll cook. Today was a zucchini frittata. Very easy, I managed to make oatmeal brownies (not nearly as healthy as they sound) while I made the frittata. For the frittata, I cooked 1/4 c brown rice. Once that was cooked, I sauted onion slices in olive oil until they were browned, then threw in 1 1/2 c zucchini (leftover for 2 weeks ago in my CSA box). I shredded the zucchini. The recipe called for half moon slices, but I really couldn't stand to even acknowledge that zucchini was in my food by seeing slices. Shredding it worked just fine. Once that was cooked, I removed it from heat and stirred in 1 T fresh mint and the cooked (3/4 c) brown rice. In a little bowl, I whisked 4 eggs and then added 1/4 c crumbled feta cheese. I mixed everything together. I cleaned out the 10 inch black skillet I used to saute the onions, added some more olive oil and heated it. Once the oil was hot, I dumped in the mixture and cooked it, uncovered until the eggs looked almost cooked, then I lowered the heat, covered it, and cooked it until the eggs were done.

Curtis, J, and I loved it. M wasn't too sure. She was holding out for the brownies. However, she was told if she didn't eat her eggs, there would be no brownies. She ate her slice, picking out all the onions meticulously, without much ado.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Today at the Farmers' Market

The Farmers' Market was greatly reduced in size today. The threat of high winds and rain from Hurricane Ike kept many vendors and shoppers away. We missed the bakeries and the apples especially. Curtis had been planning on making an apple pie, but that will have to wait until next week.

What we did get was 2 beautiful eggplant for only $2. M picked them all by herself for Baba Ganoush later in the day.

I have this new rule on Saturdays. I don't cook. The exception is if I really feel like cooking or have something special I want to make. Baba Ganoush fit my exception today. It was easy to make and went well with our Greek takeout.

I pierced the skin of the eggplants with a fork (to prevent exploding) and put on the grill. I grilled them, turning occasionally until the skins were charred and the eggplant oozed when I would squeeze it. I immediately put them in a container of cold water upon removing them from the grill. Once they were cool enough to handle, I took off the tops and the charred skins. Everything else (including seeds) went straight into the food processor. I processed the eggplant until it was smooth, then added 1/4 c tahini, 1/4 c lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, 1/2 t cumin, and 1 T olive oil. I processed again until it was well combined. When it was finished I tested it to see if it needed more of anything, and it did. I threw in some more lemon juice to balance the tahini flavor. Occasionally the Baba Ganoush will taste bitter. This unfortunately is caused by the eggplant. Eggplant doesn't need to be bitter. Good eggplant isn't. If you find it is bitter, you can experiment with seasonings. However, I have found that sometimes no amount of seasonings will save a bitter eggplant. It happens.

M and J would have just eaten Baba Ganoush and pita bread for supper if I would have let them. Now I have a weeks' worth of snacks (and parts of lunch) for them.

Friday, September 12, 2008

What I am Going to Do with Myself When the Cool Front Comes...

I am excited for cooler weather next week. It means the seasonal produce will be changing before too long. For me, it means time to finish weeding the garden, buying transplants, and planting seeds in our little 12 x 12 foot patch. I hope to transplant broccoli this year and plant seeds for leeks, carrots, spinach, and arugula. Mmmm....

If you don't have a garden, it is the perfect time to start, because the fall/winter is my favorite growing season of the year (especially after summer, in March, my opinion may have changed).

My friend, Kate, e-mailed me this great link to the Sustainable Food Center with a sample garden layout plan. The emphasis is how to get the most seeds in a small space my planting things together instead of in straight rows. (The small boxes are 1 square foot, the large boxes are 2 square feet). Curtis was really excited to see this...he is dreaming about peas. I think that can be his project.Our garden won't look exactly like this, we are working around 2 -3 of our existing tomato plants which will continue to produce until our first freeze in November-ish. We will also skip some of the greens and the cabbage...probably 4 broccoli plants, no radishes with more carrots in their place. We'll see how it goes!

Another great resource about how to get a garden started without a lot of digging was an article in this quarter's Edible Austin (you pick it up at Whole Foods/Central Market/any Austin Farmer's Market/and a bunch of other places. Unfortunately, the article isn't published online). The garden featured was a raised bed which had more cost than a start-up garden, but like I said earlier, a lot less digging.

If you are not ready to tackle a garden, flower beds are also good options. My arugula is going in a flower bed. For arugula and other greens, all you need is a bed with full sun. I just scrape a 1/2 inch of dirt off the top and sprinkle the seeds haphazardly. It grows like a bunch of tasty weeds.

Fusilli with Salsa Arrabiatta

This was another very easy meal--less than 1 hour to make (it could have been a whole lot shorter if I wasn't moving so slowly tonight).  I boiled water for pasta and at the same time, heated olive oil in a large skillet.  I sauted onion wedges, 3 bay leaves, and 3 oz prosciutto in the oil until I had the tomatoes ready to go in (about 5- 10 minutes, like I said, I was moving slowly).  I added what should have been (but wasn't) 4 c chopped fresh tomatoes, that I squeezed the juice out of in a bowl.  I added the tomatoes and 1 c of the boiling pasta water to the onions.  I simmered that for as long as it took the fusilli to cook.  Once the fusilli was done, I drained it and then combined everything in the pasta pot before serving in a pasta dish.

I left out the arrabiatta part of the name (if I am remembering correctly, arrabiatta means angry in Italian).  The recipe also called for sliced pepperoncini peppers (the same from the hamburgers from yesterday).  Curtis and I chopped and added our own to our pasta.

The nice thing about cooking with prosciutto or bacon is that a little goes a long way.  It's easy to get a big bang for your buck  (how many cliches can I use).  Proscuitto is very expensive by the pound, but 3 oz will add lots of flavor to anything that needs a little extra something.

Since I was moving so slowly (and rather uninspired), we ate leftover cucumber slices and leftover vegetables from when the in-laws were here.   That was more than enough.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Burgers and Eggplant

Dinner tonight was Mint Burgers with Feta Sauce, Grilled Eggplant with Goat Cheese, and Cucumber slices. All in all, it was quick and easy meal to make if you didn't have two small children trying to help and put their hands in EVERYTHING! It was a great summer meal because I didn't use the stove at all...everything was cooked outdoors on the gas grill. A brief description of each:

Mint Burgers: 1 lb of ground beef with 1 egg, 1/4 - 1/2 c bread crumbs, 1/4 t cinnamon, 1/4 t salt, 1/4 t pepper, 1/3 c fresh mint finely chopped, and 1/4 c chopped pepperoncini peppers(those peppers you get with pizzas all the time) for Curtis and my burgers. I just mixed it all together and grilled them. We ate them on whole wheat buns.

Feta Yogurt Sauce: I combined in the food processor 1/4 c yogurt, 1/2 c feta cheese, 1 garlic clove, 2 T fresh lemon juice, 1 T honey. That was all. I refrigerated it until it was supper time and then spread it on the top and bottom bun of the adults' burgers.

Grilled Eggplant with Goat Cheese: I cut the thin Japanese eggplant in half and put them coat side down in a plate with a generous layer of extra virgin olive oil. The eggplant are sponges and suck up all the oil. I grilled them cut side down first, flipped them when they were soft and then topped them with goat cheese. Fontina cheese is also really good. I took them off the grill when the cheese was melted.

Cucumber slices

The kids eagerly ate the burgers and buns. M dipped it in ketchup, J licked the ketchup off his bun and then ate the bun. M also had several cucumber slices. They don't like the eggplant with is just fine with us, because we love the grilled eggplant and don't mind not sharing.

Our Beef

This year, we split a split quarter of beef with some friends, meaning we ended up with 1/8 of a steer. (A split quarter, by the way, is some beef from the hind part of the steer and some from the front/fore part. By getting a split quarter, you get a wider range of cuts of beef). All said and done, we ended up paying between $4.50 and $5.oo a pound for meat. While this may be expensive for a package of ground beef or stew meat, it is extremely cheap for a ribeye steak or tenderloin.

We decided to try ordering straight from the farmer in an effort to get local meat and a reasonable price. The farmer, Hersh, that we ordered from lived not too far from our house. His cattle were grass fed and finished on grass that was not treated with pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers (in others, organic). I met him at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and talked to him, then researched some other farms I could also get beef from. I decided on him, because of how important it seemed to him that we got the best beef available. For example, I first approached him about beef in January. He suggested waiting for beef until April, although if I really wanted it in January, he could have some for me. Hersh told me that the beef in April is more nutritious because it has grazed on the new spring grasses, which are higher in nutrients and Omega 3. Curtis drove out the farm to pick up the beef which were packaged by cut. We've been enjoying our beef from Indian Hills Farm ever since. We never ate much beef before, but it is sure nice to just pull a package of hamburger from the freezer for dinner.

There are many other places that offer organic grass fed and finished beef as well. The bed and breakfast we recently stayed at recommended their next door neighbors, Red Barn Beef, as a source of beef. Another place that I am curious (but know very little about other than that they sell their beef to several area restaurants) about is Bastrop Cattle Company. They appear to not only offer sides of beef, but packages suited to different needs, like the Cowboy BBQ Pack.

As for us, I believe next year (or whenever we run out of beef), we'll invest in a whole split quarter ourselves. We have had no problem turning ourselves into beef eaters when we know the beef we are eating has as many Omega 3's as salmon and as little fat as chicken breasts. If you do decide to get a slab of beef, make sure you have enough freezer space. A deep freeze tucked into a garage or laundry is very helpful, because you will get a lot of meat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In the CSA box today

We pick up our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Johnson's Backyard Garden on Wednesdays. In other times of the year, when I haven't been eating summer squash for 4 months, we plan our weekly meals around what's in the box. By September, I am usually just trying to figure out what to do with same veggies we've been eating for months.

In this week's box:

3 cucumbers (which M eats for snacks)
a bunch of little hot peppers (which, I hate to admit, always is good compost food)
a watermelon (which was going to be snack today, but alas, upon splitting it open I discovered it had gone bad)
several Japanese eggplant
one small Bianca Rosa (or something like that, they're my favorite eggplants) eggplant
one carnival squash (which I am told you use like pumpkin or butternut squash)
several green and purple bell peppers
a bunch of basil
two bulbs of garlic
a dozen eggs
a quart bag (almost full) of colored butter beans. Last time I got these, I thought they would be like the lima beans my parents grow. Those are sweet and tender. Not so, I definitely need to season (with bacon or ham) these and cook for a long, long time.

Most things go in the refrigerator. Some exceptions: Carnival Squash goes in a dark cabinet to age. Most winter squash are better if they have been let sit for a month or so. The basil goes in a small cup of water on the counter (like cut flowers). The eggplant and garlic also get stored on the counter. We'll probably have the eggplant tomorrow night for supper so they don't go bad. Eggplants don't like the refrigerator though.

Missing from my list--okra and summer squash. Woohoo! The end may be in sight!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

How to Make Applesauce

In my effort to get away from buying any more processed food than necessary, I have started canning and freezing. Apples are in season now, so it is time to stock up on applesauce for the coming year.

I buy apples from the Sunset Valley Farmer's Market. My aunt went to high school in Pennsylvania with the guy who sells them, so I feel a weird sort of connection and keep going back to him. He sells a wide variety of apples. I've found that for applesauce, what works best are the "seconds." Seconds are apples that aren't perfect and not recommended (at least by me) as eating apples. They are usually a mix of whatever varieties are selling at the time--right now that is Crispins, Jonathans, and Fujis to name a few (I can't remember the rest). Because the seconds need spots cut out of them, they are significantly cheaper than the other apples.

To make the applesauce, I simply cut out the bad parts and quarter or sixth the apples. I try to get slices of somewhat equal sizes. I put a little bit of water in the bottom of the largest pot I have and throw the apples in. The water is mainly to prevent scorching, the apples themselves generally have enough water in them to make the right consistency of applesauce (this of course also depends on how much of each variety you have---the red, sweet apples have more water, and the green, tart apples have less water--which is one reason green apples are better for apple pies. They don't turn to mush in pies as fast as the red ones). I bring the apples to a boil, and then simmer until the apples are soft.

Once the apples are soft, I set up my kitchenaid mixer using the food and vegetable strainer attachment. The advantage to this is that you do not have to core or peel the apples before making applesauce. The attachment spits all that out the small hole on the end, while the applesauce comes down a chute at the bottom of the attachment. The whole process takes more or less 45 minutes. While the applesauce is still hot (but cool enough to taste), sweeten as much or little as you desire with sugar and season with cinnamon if you want.

I buy the ziploc disposal containers, 2 and 3 c sizes, and fill them mostly full, allowing a little headspace at the top for the applesauce to expand as it freezes. I throw it in the freezer and then pull it out whenever we want applesauce for a meal. Easy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fish with Puttanesca Sauce over Rice

My husband prepared this meal. He followed this recipe from Epicurious, minus the linguine, omitting the anchovy fillets and red pepper flakes, and adding a chopped bell pepper and onion. He used fresh basil, parsley, and oregano from our herb gardens. While the sauce was simmering, he browned the fish fillets (1 1/2 lbs of orange roughy) in a little olive oil in a hot skillet. Once the fish were browned, he stirred it into the sauce. I started rice before he got home from work and we served the fish and sauce over the rice.

I loved it, and M found parts edible (she's decided she doesn't like certain foods prepared certain ways or mixed together, so there was a lot of picking things out). She ate the rice, fish, and black olives and left the tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Menu and Grocery List for Week

Monday: Fish with Puttanesca Sauce (recipe for Puttanesca Sauce from epicurious).

Tuesday: Macaroni and Cheese

Wednesday: Dinner provided by In-Laws

Thursday: Mint Burgers with Feta Sauce

Friday: Fusilli with Salsa Arrabiatta

Grocery List:
white fish
organic O's cereal
organic Oat Squares cereal
brown sugar
0rganic unsweetened coconut
natural Peanut Butter
Black olives
organic Fusilli
Bay leaves (bulk)
bulk Feta
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
YoBaby yogurt
Velveeta (my processed food weakness because it makes the best stovetop Mac and Cheese)

I didn't plan ahead enough to get tomatoes at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, so I had to buy them at the grocery store. My husband picked this weeks menu, I suspect if I would have chose it, there would have been no tomatoes.