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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Menu Plan: May 30 - June 5

What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Menu Plan: May 23 - May 29

This is the first Pentecost without our church family. Last year was the first year we had not hosted our Tongues of Flame Barbecue. It was a little odd and quiet, but still a great celebration. We were able to visit with one friend from our former church. She was in the area on business and made a trip out to our place so we could see each other.

This last week I took a chance and it paid off. Fred Meyer had an incredible deal on fresh, wild caught halibut: $4.99 a pound for a half or whole fish. They weren't the biggest halibut you could find, but were plenty large enough for our family. Well, I called the first day I heard about it and one store only had a few left, but was expecting a shipment later in the week, the other store I called was all out and thought they might get another shipment. The morning the first store's shipment was expected, I called them. They didn't get it. I called the other store, they did get a shipment, but only had two whole fish left (and two halves). This store is an hour away. I decided to take a risk and packed the children in the car, got there as quickly as I could and headed straight to the seafood counter. We were able to get the very last halibut they had. By the time they were finished cutting it into steakd and fillets, there was only one half left of the two. Between the great deals on frozen wild salmon and cod from the week before and the fresh halibut (most of which we froze immediately), we are doing pretty well for seafood around here. This Friday's dinner plan is actually what we ate last Friday, because of having the fresh fish, but since I had recipes to post, I just kept the plans as they were.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekly Recipes: May 22

West African Peanut Soup

Adapted from Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant

2 large onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
6 carrots, peeled and diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups water
3 cups tomato sauce (or puree)
1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons sugar
salt, to taste
chopped scallions
chopped roasted peanuts

Saute onion and garlic in oil until it is translucent. Stir in ginger and cayenne. Add carrots and sweet potatoes and saute a few minutes more. Pour in water, tomato sauce and peanut butter bring to a boil, simmer 20 minutes (until the vegetables
are tender).

Puree the soup with a stick blender or in batches in a blender. Stir in sugar, taste for salt and salt as you see fit. Add more water or tomato sauce to make a thinner soup if desired.

Serve topped with plenty of chopped scallions and chopped roasted peanuts.

Homemade Rice-a-Roni

4 tablespoons butter
2 cups rice
1 cup orzo or vermicelli broken into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
1 small onion, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons of your favorite dried herbs or spice blend
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the rice, pasta, celery, onion and garlic. Cook until the rice and vegetables are transparent. Stir in the herbs. Add chicken broth and salt and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for another 20 minutes. Fluff rice and taste for seasoning.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Restaurant Recommendations

Rich and I have had many more opportunities to eat out in the last month than we normally do. I have three whole hearted recommendations for you for three very different types of restaurants.

In Seattle, we ate at the Steelhead Diner with some friends. The restaurant specializes in local, fresh food and drink. The dinner was exquisite. I had an amazing steak, Rich and our friend both had fish and chips, the likes of which one does not normally see, our friend's wife had a crusted salmon. Even though we had eaten more than enough, we did get dessert. I had a rhubarb coffee cake, which was warm and delicious and Rich had a gigantic sundae type dessert. Our friends were more sensible and shared a dessert. Be prepared to spend a decent amount of money here. Rich's meal was covered because he was on a business trip and dinner wasn't included in the conference, but the total bill was significant, even so. You are paying for high quality food, though, not simply for a chi-chi experience.

Restaurant number two is in Richland. Woo's Teriyaki seems like a little dive in a strip mall. It is a family run business, the family is from Korea, so this place has both the normal offerings you'd expect at a teriyaki place, including the obligatory Chinese dishes, and Korean food. Their hot food is really, really hot, and I eat spicy food on a regular basis. The food is incredible, the portions are good - not huge, but generous - reasonably priced and the service is great. I would recommend it to anyone. I had a lunch there while Rich was at a conference lunch (mine was much better than his), ordered the kung pao chicken, which was heavy on the pao. I didn't get it at the hottest level, but was glad I ordered the steamed vegetables to go with it and had to order a Coke to help it all go down. Next time I will get it medium instead of medium-hot. It was wonderful, though! They make all the food fresh, the meal starts with a light soup, comes with rice and is very filling and delicious. I brought my leftovers back to the hotel and Rich, who isn't a huge fan of Asian food, also enjoyed them. The hot food isn't just hot, it is flavorful, this isn't just some chile-head gimmick type place.

The third restaurant is Buddy La Fleur's in Wenatchee. It has both seated dining and a drive through. We were looking for something fast to eat on the road on the way home from a trip there and had been heading for a Wendy's when we saw this restaurant and decided to give a local place a chance over the chain. We are so glad we did. Rich and I both had a bacon cheeseburger, he had the seasoned fries and I had the onion rings. All of this was delicious and freshly made. Rich had a blackberry shake and I had a hot fudge shake. The hot fudge wasn't the best, so I would have been better off with a different option, and I ordered a large, which was way too big. Other than that, we were quite happy with the meal. It cost about the same amount as the chain fast food places, but was infinitely better and we could give our money to a local company as well.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Menu Plan: May 16 - May 22

This is the first week we don't have to be running all over this side of the state, it seems. We have a week and a half more of baseball games, but preparation for the ballet recital is over and gymnastics is winding down. We also didn't have errands to run every which way, so I'm hoping that our meals will go closer to plan.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekly Recipes: May 15

Muffaletta Bread
This bread recipe came from a lady on usenet. I have changed the ratios and amounts a little to better serve our family. I've also made it on the dough cycle in the bread machine successfully, though it is better done either in a stand mixer or by hand.

1 1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups pastry flour
2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons sesame seeds
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in the work bowl of a stand mixer, stir
well and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until good and foamy.

Meanwhile, combine the flours, salt and butter in a bowl and work in the fat
with your hands until broken up into very small pieces.

When the yeast is foamy, fit the mixer with a dough hook attachment and
gradually add the flour on low speed until its all incorporated.

Scrape the sides down between additions. When the dough comes together, turn
it onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 5-10
minutes, adding more flour if necessary.

Coat a large bowl with the olive oil, then put the dough in, turning once to coat both sides. Cover loosely with a clean dry towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and shape into a flat round about 9 inches across (it
will expand to about 10"). Place the dough on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds then press them lightly into the dough.

Loosely cover the loaf and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. When the dough has risen, remove the cover, then gently place into oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Muffaletta Salad Spread
This recipe came from the same lady and, again, I have tweaked it a bit.

1/2 cup kalamata olives, drained and pitted
1/2 cup Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, drained
1/2 cup giardiniera, drained
1/2 cup drained, pickled pepperoncini, stems removed
2 stalks celery
1 red bell pepper, seeded and stemmed
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Chop the olives through garlic in the food processor by pulsing. Add olive oil
until mixture just begins to loosen up. Transfer to a bowl. Store in the fridge.

To assemble your sandwich, split the loaf in half horizontally, spread both halves with the muffaletta spread. Layer ham and salami over the bottom half, place another layer of the provolone over the meat. Put the top on the sandwich and cut into large wedges. This sandwich serves all eight of us with leftovers.

Pasta Primavera Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

This is a really easy and tasty salad, and simple to vary as well. I make lots of mustard vinaigrette around here, because it is a good way to use up the bits of mustard left in a jar.

1 pound penne rigate pasta, cooked in al dente in salted water
5 cups chopped vegetables of your choice, I used a frozen mix of romanesco broccoli, orange and yellow carrots and green beans
1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces (I had some leftover asparagus from the previous week's farmer's market trip that wasn't enough to make into a side dish for the family. I was worried was starting to go bad, however since they had been harvested the morning I bought them, they were still in great shape, so I tossed them into the salad.)
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Mustard Vinaigrette

I put the frozen vegetables straight into my salad bowl and just tossed the hot, drained pasta over to thaw them. I added the asparagus at that point, too. Add in the cherry tomatoes and red pepper and toss to mix.

Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss to mix thoroughly. Chill so it isn't warm.

You can add diced fresh mozzarella or a little shredded parmesan to this. If you wanted to make it more of a meal, you could add cooked, diced chicken, turkey, ham or salami. Normally, I would add black olives to something like this, but because I was serving it with the muffaletta, I did not.

Mustard Vinaigrette
I usually make this with Dijon or grainy mustard, but whatever you have will work. You can add a touch of honey if you think your dressing is too tart, but I rarely do that. I like to use either thyme or tarragon as my herb, but use whatever you like, dill is nice, parsley or chives would work, too.

1 nearly empty jar of mustard, with the last bits you can't scrape out still in it
1/2 the jar of olive oil
1/3 the jar of vinegar (I use champagne vinegar, but again, any vinegar you like would work)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

I pour everything into the mustard jar, screw the lid on tightly and shake it all up until it is mixed nicely. Taste to see if it is too tart, or needs more salt and adjust as you see fit.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Menu Plan: May 9 - May 15

Yet again there are some repeats here. Mostly I kept to our menu plan last week, but we had a couple nights where I was just too tired and we ate leftovers or things I had in the freezer.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Weekly Recipes: May 8


I started with the basic recipe from Joy of Cooking and have modified it a little to suit our tastes. You can substitute buttermilk for the milk directly, which is a nice variation.

4 cups pastry flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 - 20 pieces
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Rub butter through flour mixture until you have incorporated it and still have many larger pieces of butter visible through the flour. Pour milk in and stir to form a soft dough.

Knead lightly to make sure all flour is mixed in. Pat or roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out with 2 inch round cutter (or any other shape you like). Place about an inch and a half apart on ungreased baking sheets.

You should be able to get just 20 biscuits from this. It is okay to pat together and re-roll the dough, but each additional rolling will make the biscuit less tender.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown on edges and flaky.

Breakfast Sausage Seasoning

We bought some breakfast sausage seasoning from Penzey's to try our hand at making bulk sausage. We thought it needed lots more sage, a little less sugar and some heat. So, we took the proportions they used and tinkered with them to get this. I use this to make sausage patties and sausage crumbles for eggs or breakfast casseroles.

1 pound ground pork
1 1/2 tablespoons sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, if you want it a little milder)
1/4 teaspoon thyme

You can mix this up the night before if you are forming patties, or just toss all the seasonings into the pan with the meat like I do for browned sausage crumbles in other dishes.

Sausage Gravy

1 pound breakfast sausage
1/4 cup flour
5 cups milk
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
salt to taste

Cook sausage into crumbles in a large pan over medium heat. Brown and render fat out. If your sausage doesn't have enough fat in it, you may need to add a little lard or butter. Sprinkle flour over sausage, stir in and cook for a minute or two. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring well. Add pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until gravy is thickened to your liking. Taste for salt and season if necessary. If your sausage is shy on sage, you may want to add some to your gravy.

Serve over hot split biscuits.

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Menu Plan: May 2 - May 8

We have a couple repeats this week, and a day dedicated to breakfast (though that wasn't on purpose). Rich and I get to have a night to ourselves this week, thanks to a friend who is going to watch our children so we can have a good time out, which will be a nice break for us. It will also be nice because we have yet another packed week. Baseball season is well underway, so we have three games this week, on top of the normal two gymnastics classes and ballet class, plus Amira has an extra rehearsal for ballet because we are getting closer to performance time.

We have also been busy moving fencing and getting our garden ready. It is hard work. I am reminded of the quotation from Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Farming looks mighty easy when your plough is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field." Much like our home projects, it all takes longer than we expect it. We have much to do, but we're trying to take it one project, one day at a time.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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