Monday, July 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Of all the meals we ate last week, the Curry Chicken was probably my favorite. Very surprising considering that I did not grow up eating those flavors. Joe and Samantha also liked it. She knows that it's called curry, but she even called the currants "curry", so there's still a little confusion there. This was a freezer meal, but just as good as the first time around.

I'm at a point where I want to actively cook more meals each week. Part of me doesn't want the summer to slip away with casseroles cooking in a hot oven. Heck, I'd be happy if it were always summer. So more grilling and new ways to use up the fresh CSA veggies while they're in season.

Monday - mexican un-stuffed shells, fritos and ro-tel dip, cucumbers

Tuesday - escarole, beans and italian sausage over pasta -- not sure how the greens are gonna fly with Joe, but I have a whole head of escarole to use up, so here goes.

Wednesday - turkey dressing casserole

Thursday - beef in a leaf -- now that we have beef again I can make this asian-inspired dish

Friday - pizza night, salad -- I froze half the dough last week, so the hard part will be deciding what toppings to use this week!

Saturday - spicy honey chicken thighs on the grill, starchy side, green veg

Sunday - brats on the grill, buffalo chicken spaghetti, green veg

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Homemade Cake Release

My sister will be attempting to decorate her first cake this week for her oldest daughter's birthday party. (Laura likes stargazer lilies, so I took this picture of mine in bloom for her.) Baking the cake itself isn't hard, but wondering whether it will come out of the pan in one piece can be scary.

Typically a cake mix will tell you to grease the pan with shortening and then dust it with flour. Sometimes it's hard to grease the pan evenly if the pan has a lot of nooks and crannies. Another option these days is to buy a can of nonstick spray that already includes the flour. I know that Pam, Crisco and Wilton carry such a spray, but who really wants to have to buy another product that you will only use occasionally?

My Wilton Method instructor gave me a recipe to make it easier. The best part is that most bakers are likely to have all the ingredients already in their kitchen. I divided the original recipe by four, so if you make a lot of cakes feel free to quadruple my quantities. It works great as long as you line the bottom of the pan with wax paper and then brush the sides with cake release. I've only had it fail once, but that was a banana bread recipe that I've found to be particularly difficult and I didn't line the pan with wax paper.

Homemade Cake Release

1 /4 cup + 2 tablespoons Crisco
1 tablespoon Oil
1 tablespoon Flour

Mix until creamy. Brush onto sides and bottom of pan with a basting brush. Store leftovers in refrigerator. It keeps a long time.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

We finally got the beef quarter from the Sippels! I am very excited to be able to eat something besides the chicken and turkey that have been dominating the menus lately, so I slipped in beef a couple times this week.

Monday - chicken curry, rice, peas

Tuesday - turkey spaghetti, green veg

Wednesday - cheeseburger skillet, french fries, green veg

Thursday - chicken enchiladas, crockpot refried beans, green veg

Friday - pizza night

Saturday - CSA potluck

Sunday - grill night - STEAK!!!

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Using up the veggies: Chard Tartlets

Every Thursday in the summer, we receive our CSA share from the Sippels. I get excited about some veggies and dread others. The ones we like are gobbled up in a day or two. The ones we dislike stick around the fridge until they are mushy, moldy or otherwise inedible and get tossed in the compost bin.

To keep on top of what's left in the crisper drawers, I have a list on the fridge of all the herbs and veggies. When we use up something, then I cross it off. When we pick up that week's share, I add the names. It's a lot easier than rummaging through the crisper drawers to see what I still have.

Before last week's pickup we still had and their status before tonight's dinner:
- lettuce -- took to a cookout
- garlic scapes (they're the stem and flowerhead that garlic plants get)
- swiss chard (a colorful green)
- beets
- sage leaves -- dehydrated for more sage-y weather
- kale

Last week in our share we got and their status before tonight's dinner:
- more lettuce -- took to a cookout
- more beets
- cabbage
- collard greens
- zucchini -- made pickles
- yellow squash -- cooked
- kohlrabi
- tomatoes -- gone

Today is Tuesday so that means only tonight and tomorrow before the fridge is inundated with more veggies. I had to take action now.

I decided to use up some of the greens. When we were on vacation last month I made Sharna's Chard Tart. The original recipe uses a pie crust, but I didn't have one, so I decided to make a crustless tart instead. Joe isn't crazy about greens, so I baked them in muffin tins for individual portions and froze the rest. I used up the swiss chard and the kale leaves that were still green. Even without a crust, I thought these were really good.

While those were baking, I tackled the beets. One of the blogs I read, Once a Month Mom, had a post recently about making freezer pickled beets. I usually can my beets, but that's a lot of work for only a jar or two of beet pickles. I will try anything once, so there's now a container of pickled beets in my freezer.

If my list is correct, I still have left:
- garlic scapes (they'll keep, so I'm not worried)
- collards
- kohlrabi
- cabbage
- half a hot pepper from my garden

Maybe tomorrow will be coleslaw using the kohlrabi and cabbage as well as some carrots and onions from the garden. Or not. Tuna casserole is on the menu. In my experience greens make a better side for tuna casserole, so maybe it'll be the collards. Probably not.

Here's my version of the chard tart:

Chard Tartlets

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 bunch swiss chard, coarsely chopped and stalks sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 pinch ground red pepper
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with (roughly) 10 cupcake papers. Lightly spray the papers with cooking spray.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onion and cook until onions are soft. Add swiss chard stalks and garlic to the skillet and continue cooking until tender. Add the leaves and cook until tender. Season with basil, salt, pepper and red pepper.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, yogurt and cheese. Stir in the chard mixture. Scrape into the prepared cupcake papers, filling 3/4 or more full. These don't rise very much, but they do bubble.
Bake at 375 until filling is golden and firm, 25-35 minutes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Pork Fat Rules

Yesterday we cooked a 7.46 pound bone-in pork shoulder.
Joe liberally coated the meat with a blend of salt, pepper and garlic.
Joe put it on the grill with an aluminum pan of cider vinegar and water underneath.
He put charcoal and applewood chips in the sidebox. He also put some charcoal in the main compartment.After several agonizing hours of smoking, the butt was finally done.
In one cast iron skillet, I added the pulled pork, salt, hot pepper flakes, cider vinegar and water.
After simmering and stirring, the lovely carolina barbecue looked like this:
For some variety, I put pulled pork in another skillet and topped it with bottled barbecue sauce.
With some nudging from some cider vinegar, the alternate barbecue eventually looked like this:

Menu Plan Monday

Yesterday Joe smoked a pork shoulder. Yum. I'll post about that later. This week:

Monday - turkey dressing casserole

Tuesday - mexican un-stuffed shells

Wednesday - tuna casserole

Thursday - turkey enchilada casserole

Friday - redeem Samantha's Papa Murphy's coupon for a free medium cheese pizza from the library's summer reading program

Saturday - Samantha will be spending the night with Joe's parents while we go to Shamrock Vineyard's Twilight Dinner. Last year we went and had a good time.

Sunday - grill night -- maple honey pork chops

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

Last week I was late posting my menu, so this week I'm going to get it done early.

Sunday - Chicken Curry, rice - I was taking a risk by serving Joe an entree with curry powder, onions and dried fruit, but he liked it and I thought it was delicious.

Monday - Turkey Spaghetti, green veg

Tuesday - Maple Honey Mustard Pork Chops, green veg, starchy side

Wednesday - Chicken Enchiladas, refried beans, green veg

Thursday - burgers stuffed with pepperjack cheese, Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti, green veg

Friday - pizza night, salad

Saturday - cookout at Clinger's house - will have to think of something to take

Sunday - Smoke the Pork Shoulder - carolina barbecue, pasta salad, green veg

Do you know what you're eating this week? If you would like some menu plan inspiration, be sure to check out Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie to see what others are having!

OAMC Big Day

Yesterday morning Joe cooked a 14 lb turkey on the grill for me. Grilling a turkey is great any time of year. On Thanksgiving Day, it frees up precious oven space. In the summer, it doesn't heat up the kitchen. It always tastes great with the hint of smokiness that grilling adds.

I especially liked the cost of buying it in November. Super cheap. They were such a bargain that I bought two turkeys even though we were flying out of state for Thanksgiving. I shudder to think what they go for this time of year.

Yesterday afternoon while Samantha and Joe were napping, I chopped and measured all the turkey meat. I still had an hour to spare before I needed to get ready to leave for a July 4th party, so I made the decision to assemble a couple easy dishes right away rather than waiting. Both dishes were no-cook, mix and layer casseroles. I made up 2 pans each of Turkey Enchilada Casserole and Southwestern Turkey Casserole. I assembled them in less time than it took to chop all the meat off the bird, which saved me 45 minutes today. Another bonus was that the food was frozen this morning and ready to be wrapped, bagged and stacked. That freed up 4 baking dishes and freezer space.

This morning I resumed in the kitchen. I had my game plan written up, but with the first two dishes knocked out already, I wasn't sure where to start. I had selected those recipes because they were so fast that they would give me that jump start to my motivation. It's great to be able to say "I've only been working an hour, but already I've completed two recipes." It really helps get the momentum rolling.

Eventually I re-tweaked the game plan and got started. I finished cooking by 1 pm with a lunch break included. Today I made:
- 3 dishes of Turkey Dressing Casserole
- 2 dishes of Mexican Un-Stuffed Shells
- 2 dishes of Turkey Spaghetti
- 2 dishes of Chicken Curry
- 3 mini-loaves of Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
- 12 Mocha Chip Muffins
- 12 Turkey and Muenster Roll-ups
- 12 Pepperoni and Provolone Roll-ups using same dough recipe as the turkey ones

Between yesterday and today, I made 13 supper entrees and a few breakfast and lunch items. That won't last us a month on its own, but I still have frozen meals from my last cooking session as well as extras that I've stashed away here and there. Plus, Joe will be smoking a pork shoulder next weekend. Lots of yummy Carolina Barbecue and other pork dishes to add to the freezer. We'll be set until the end of the month.

I was so pooped after cooking that I took a 2-hour nap this afternoon. Maybe it wasn't the cooking. Maybe it was not getting to bed until midnight after an evening of drinking some Buckeye Red and then waking with the sun to cook the next day.