Monday, January 26, 2009

Say Cheeeeeez

As a child I always hated those cheese balls. You know the ones. The ones your Aunt Betty brought to the family Thanksgiving gathering. The one made with the bright orange cheese that was covered in nuts. The one that everyone just kind of looked at and nobody ate.

Once grown and out on my own I discovered that not all cheese balls are created equal. I still shy away from them because of the dubious character of the cheese ball itself. One never knows what is used in the preparation of one of these. It is kind of like a fruit cake. Just where did that fruit (cheese) come from.

But, in defense of cheesy spreads everywhere, I came up with this dry mix that can be added to cottage cheese or cream cheese. It has a wonderful flavor when mixed into ordinary cottage cheese, makes a wonderful spread with cream cheese, and can even be formed into a ball if you wish to frighten small children.

Give it a try!

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Onion Soup Mix

This morning I got up and decided to prepare a humble meatloaf for tonight's dinner. The only thing I didn't have for the preparation was a package of Lipton's, or any other brand for that matter, Onion Soup mix. That being the case, I opened my spice cupboard and set about playing. What follows is one of the easiest kitchen substitutions known to mankind - or me.

Spice Cupboard Onion Soup Mix

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Let's Have Lunch!

Today I was in the mood for a simple yet healthy lunch. Not fast food, not a heavy soup or stew, but more than a salad. I settled on a turkey and sweet pepper wrap.
And, because I have always been told it is nice to share, I will share it with you! But we have to prepare it first.

First we have to gather our ingredients. Today I am going to use about 4 oz of thinly sliced, honey roasted turkey along with some red and orange mini sweet peppers (1 each). A quarter cup of bean sprouts will be good too, as well as a tiny bit of 5 different types of lettuce, whatever is on hand. Just for a bit of a kick, I am going to add some hot pepper rings as well. If you don't like them, you can pick them off of your side. I don't mind. For a dressing I am going to use Ken's Sweet Vidalia Onion. All of this will be placed on a whole wheat flatbread.

Next, we spread a bit of dressing on the flatbread. Then, place the vegies on the bread, leaving one end of bread bare. After that, the turkey goes over it all to within 1/4 inch of the bare edge. That is right, all the way across. After all is piled on the flatbread I begin rolling it from the vegie side until it is like a wrap from your favorite trendy and much more expensive cafe. Place toothpicks in each side so it won't come unrolled. If you have some fancy little picks with the cellophane on them, go ahead and treat yourself to some visual fun.

Add a bit of dressing to the plate for dipping and enjoy!

Pork Loin Chops in Orange/Garlic Glaze

Orange juice has been one of my favorite glazing ingredients forever. Being born and raised in California, it was a common ingredient. We used it on pork, fish, chicken, anything that could be enhanced with the tart, tangy sweetness of oranges.
This recipe is so wonderful that it will surprise you with its simplicity.

Pork Loin Chops in Orange/Garlic Glaze

4 boneless pork loin chops, 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
2 to 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cp orange juice
10 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered
1 chicken bouillon cube
generous pinch of rosemary

In large skillet, saute chops in olive oil, adding salt and pepper to your liking, until just brown. (I add copious amounts of pepper to this dish) Remove and set aside. To skillet add orange juice, garlic cloves, chicken bouillon cube and rosemary. Simmer on low heat until juice is reduced to a syrupy consistency. Return chops to skillet and braise in sauce until chops are cooked through, around 3 to 4 minutes.

These chops are great served with wild rice for a rich, relatively healthful meal!

This sauce is also great on chicken and seafood!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Yes, I Am OCD

My DH laughs at me because I organize my kitchen cupboards, spices, and pantry. Is that funny? I think not. But, I must admit, I can take this organization thing to extremes. For good reason though! Can you say "Easy"? Can you say "Time Saver"? Can you say "Lazy"? I don't know how people live without the shopping list, the inventory list, the alphabetization.

This is how I set up my OCD kitchen.

First, I do have an inventory of all the foodstuffs and products used in this household! There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than running out of something. One day, on a whim, I ran around the house with a pen and paper and wrote down all the things I had on hand that I couldn't live without. With list in hand, I went to my trusty computer, opened an Excel document and plugged in all the items, by category, along with the number to keep on hand. Now, before I go grocery shopping, all I have to do is print out an inventory sheet and do an inventory! Voila! Easy peesey! No more wondering if I need this or that or the other thing.

To make the inventory easier, I have my shelves organized by food type.

Yes, as I type this out I realize that this is beyond OCD and well into anal retentive. But it works for me.

It does make inventory easier. All I have to do is look and I know how many cans of crushed tomatoes I need or if there is an ample supply of chicken in the freezer. Don't laugh until you have tried it. And, nothing drives me bonkier than if the DH or DS puts the groceries away in the wrong place! Yes, this is true.

My spices, sent from Penzey's in ziplock, stay fresh bags, are placed into jars which are then alphabetized within the spice cupboard. You laugh! But, if you look at the number of different spices that I keep on hand, it would take hours to find the particular seasoning needed at a moment's notice. This method is a time saver in and of itself!!!

Yes, I am an overly organized person, but only in my kitchen and pantry. To me, there is nothing quite like looking at a well stocked, well organized cooking area. It makes the creative flow easier to maintain. It allows for quick and effortless gathering of ingredients. It just make sense to me because Yes! I am OCD.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sicilian Pasta Sauce, With or Without Meat, Your Choice!

This recipe was concocted using an old Sicilian recipe as the base. Then I used my superhuman kitchen cupboard powers and morphed it into something that used what I had on hand. Also a great way to use those nefarious, too soft, canned carrots that I wish I would have frozen instead! It was a hit with the teens and quite flavorful. From my kitchen to yours. Buon appetito!

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Ragout of Limas with Chicken/Basil Sausage

One of the reasons I love winter is that it gives me the opportunity to prepare thick and hearty soups and stews.
One of my favorite ingredients to base a hearty meal in a bowl on is beans; favas, limas, navy, black, kidney, you name it, it finds a way into one of my creations.
This recipe is one I made up on the fly. It is so simple and made the house smell like a French Restaurant in the springtime! It turned out so good that I have to make it again. That, and my daughter says I owe her the recipe, so here it is!
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I've Been Slimed!

Okra is one of those vegetables that most people steer clear of. First it is green. Second, it is shaped inappropriately. Third, it is slimy. Not just slick and slippery, but it actually produces slime. Who in their right mind would want to eat that stuff?
Well, to be honest, it is good!
Introduced to its culinary promise by my maternal grandparents, it has been a source of epicurean delight and torture ever since.
My grandfather would tell us to cross our legs when we ate it because it could
slide right through. We believed him for years. All of us, my brother, sister and I, would sit, legs crossed tightly, munching away. My grandfather would sit with a knowing smile on his face as he joined us, legs crossed at my grandmother's table. I am sure now that my grandfather must have taken great and sadistic pleasure in the fact that we hung on every word he said when it came to the wisdom of food.
Later in life, legs still gloriously crossed, I told my children the same thing. For some reason, they didn't buy it. But, they too have a love for this simple vegetable.
But, how do you use it? What can you do to make it palatable?
It is great in gumbos where that slime, er, texture, provides a source of thickening for the stew. It is great cooked with tomato and corn for a side dish.
My favorite method is to fry it. Yes, I said the dreaded word. F. R. Y. Don't be afraid, it isn't all that bad for you if you use minimal oil and make it Olive Oil, thank you very much!
Here is my recipe. Hope you enjoy it.

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I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to feed people!
Welcome to my kitchen.
I know, I know, it doesn't look like much. But, although it is a nightmare from the 60s, many delicious foods and fun filled afternoons are spent here.

This, my second blog will be focusing on the goings on in this room. Holiday foods, food for family, friends, and yes, even the food mistakes! All will have a place here. Feel free to copy any recipes you like. Please leave comments. And don't be afraid to have fun in my kitchen!