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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Menu Plan: First Week of Advent

Happy New Year! Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Church year. We enter this time in joy and penitence. It is a time of waiting for the Babe, but also for His coming in glory at the end of time. We must, therefore, prepare our hearts and souls for judgment and glory. This is a penitential season, so we will be increasing our fast. It is like a little Lent. Our menus will reflect that. After all of the feasting, we are kind of looking forward to the fast, actually. If you intend to keep the fast as well, this post has some meal ideas for you.

The children's godfather ended up making us some curry coated leg of lamb, squash and rice for us for dinner, after Thanksgiving, so we shifted our meals a little. The lamb was delicious! I have frozen some of our Thanksgiving meal to bring out at other times, and in other ways.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, November 21, 2010

Menu Plan: Thanksgiving Week

Well, Thanksgiving week is upon us and I am excited! I love Thanksgiving and cannot wait to eat all the good food and spend time with our friends and family. I hope you will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with those you love.

We have a repeat tonight. I was so busy yesterday that I shifted gears on dinner so we moved it to today.

This week is going to be cold. It is cold. Our low temperature forecast for Tuesday keeps dropping. It is -7 now. Our high for Wednesday is now looking like 14. Temperatures are supposed to rise the following week to closer to freezing and above freezing, but this week is frigid. We are working very hard to stay inside as much as possible.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 (though this may be later this week).

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekly Recipes: November 20

It's bonus week for you who check my Saturday recipes. I have an easy macaroni and cheese recipe we tried for lunch last week, lentil and sausage soup, spelt biscuits and pear pie along with the promised taco skillet recipe.

Easy Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese

This is easy and quick. It takes probably five minutes more than the box stuff, but doesn't involve any powdered cheese or orange powder. It is not as good as making a bechamel based cheese sauce and baking with buttered crumbs on top, but it also doesn't take 45 minutes and does taste good. I started with this recipe, but found it to be a bit too bland for us, so I added some elements of my own baked macaroni and cheese and this is what resulted.

1 pound elbow macaroni
6 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 cups shredded cheese
2 tablespoons prepared mustard (we used dijon)
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Put macaroni, milk and salt in a heavy pot and heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in cheese, mustard and hot sauce until cheese is melted. Serve.

Lentil-Chorizo Soup

This is very good with bread or biscuits and some fruit for a nice, hearty meal.

1 pound bulk chorizo
2 onions, chopped
4 carrots, scraped and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
2 1/2 cups lentils (I used French green lentils, and 3 cups because of a certain male adult here who doesn't care for thinner soups)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1 pound diced tomatoes with their juices, fresh or canned
8 cups chicken stock or packaged broth
salt, to taste (I don't use any, as the salt from the sausage and stock is enough for us)

In your soup pot, cook the sausage over medium heat to brown and render fat. Remove sausage and reserve. Add onions, carrots and garlic to the pot and cook until onions become translucent. Add lentils, oregano and bay leaf and stir to mix with vegetables. Add tomatoes and juices along with stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until lentils are done to your liking. Return sausage to the pot to heat and taste for seasoning.

Spelt Biscuits

We liked the spelt biscuits we tried before, but we found it to be too wet of a dough, even for spelt, so here is how I changed it.

4 cups spelt flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Whisk together spelt flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Rub butter into flour mixture until you have a mixture resembling corn meal with larger pieces of butter the size of peas and beans dispersed throughout the mix. Pour all of the buttermilk into the flour mixture and mix until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a little. Pat out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter or a glass and place on an ungreased baking pan. Bake for 12 minutes, or until risen and golden brown.

Pear Pie

Here is a simple, tasty pear pie. You can eat it with a caramel sauce or with vanilla ice cream or both or neither.

pie pastry for double crust
8 large pears, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
unsalted butter to top filling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and make sure the rack is in the lower third of the oven.

Mix pears with sugar, corn starch, nutmeg and lemon juice. Pour filling into lined pie pan. Dot with butter and cover with top crust. Flute edges and cut vents into the top crust.

Bake for about 40 - 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Taco Skillet

2 pounds ground beef (or 1 pound beef and one pound bulk chorizo)
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
2 cans black olives, drained and roughly chopped
24 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups chile based enchilada sauce (or one 16 ounce can)
1 pound bolitas or pintos, cooked and drained (about six cups of cooked beans)
salt, to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded pepper jack
sour cream (optional)
salsa (optional)
guacamole (optional)

Cook beef with onions and garlic, until meat is browned and onions are translucent and limp. Mix in ancho powder, cumin, oregano and chipotle powder. Add tortilla pieces, enchilada sauce and beans. Combine and cook over medium heat until heated through. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Sprinkle with cheese and serve with sour cream, salsa and guacamole if you like.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Menu Plan: November 14 - November 20

I never posted my modifications to the Indian Summer Gratin this past week, so here they are:

I doubled everything right off the bat. I probably used more like two pounds of squash and one and a half pounds of potatoes. We didn't have butternut, so I used some other winter squash we did grow and used our own French fingerling potatoes. We didn't have leeks, and I wasn't interested in a trip to the store, so I used one red onion and one yellow onion. I didn't have fresh thyme, so I used dried with much success, just reducing the amount I used. I used our Kamut bread to make the breadcrumbs. Since we are out of fresh corn season, I used Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn kernels. I almost always buy bacon ends, rather than slices, when we buy it separately from getting a whole hog, because it is cheaper and has a higher meat to fat ratio. We can pick up local, pasture raised bacon ends for $2.39 a pound and the sliced for $2.89 a pound. So, I used the bacon ends in this, which put a little more meat in the dish. Also, because I had been running shy of time, I put the squash and potatoes with the butter in the oven to start cooking while I prepared everything else. Because I had precooked the squash and potatoes a bit, when I layered everything else in the pan and put it in to bake, I left it uncovered and baked it all for 30 minutes. It was a huge success and was loved by our family and our neighborhood families at the harvest dinner.

We had a happy accident this week, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to recreate it. I've made copycat recipes for grape nuts which are one of the two dry cereals Rich really loves. They tasted good, but not like the cereal. Well, this week, I was banging together a loaf of bread with a mix of white whole wheat, kamut and spelt flours. I used milk for the liquid and honey for the sweetener, with normal amounts of salt and yeast. However, I had too much flour in at first, for the liquid, so I added some olive oil and more milk. Then realized I added too much liquid, so added more flour, and so on and so forth. I started and started that loaf of bread four or five times and it was probably a four pound loaf by the time I was finished. It tasted fine, but it was dense and heavy. We still used it for toast. Rich, meanwhile, toasted several slices a bit more and crumbled them up in a bowl with milk and brown sugar. It tasted exactly like grape nuts. Now, to see if I can make it again. Without burning out our bread machine.

I am so pleased, because I am almost completely finished with my Thanksgiving shopping (and our groceries for the next two or three weeks). We used our Fred Meyer rewards rebate, the extra coupons that come with it (one for $5 off produce, one for $5 off frozen foods and a 40% off clothing coupon that I used to get a nightgown, pj bottoms, socks for the boys and tights for Amira), the store coupons for a free turkey, butter, some coupons we found in the store on canned tomatoes and diaper wipes, some butter coupons I had in my purse and our reusable bag discount to get $313.79 worth of groceries, the clothes and a fat separator for $87.99, including tax on the clothes and housewares. It would have been $87.89, but the fellow forgot to count two of the bags, which he noted and apologized for and I certainly wasn't going to insist he give us a dime. This included a 20 pound turkey and an 18 pound turkey. I have a few things to pick up in town, three things I forgot to get at Fred Meyer and order the milk and we should be all ready. My goal is to get it all by Friday, so I can beat the weekend mobs. One of our neighbors has turkeys ready to butcher, also, and if we can buy one from him, we'll keep these frozen ones in our deep freeze for other meals and use the fresh turkey from down the street for our Thanksgiving bird. We've been hearing his turkeys calling to ours, but ours are not quite ready for butchering, so we were resigned to using the frozen one from the store until we saw the sign outside his house on our way to the harvest dinner.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, November 07, 2010

Menu Plan: November 7 - November 13

The Indian Summer Gratin was such a hit that the children requested it be repeated this week. Jerome actually wanted to eat it for breakfast the next day. So, here you see it again. I made a few modifications to the method and ingredient list based on what we had and our time limits. I will post them this week.

I am starting to prepare for Thanksgiving again. We will be able to see our children's godparents, but their son is away in Paraguay for a year and we will miss him. We may be able to have some local friends with their children over as well. Still no day after Thanksgiving party this year. Maybe our house will be ready enough by next year.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, November 06, 2010

Weekly Recipes: November 6

Tuscan Bean Soup

Here is my attempt to recreate the lovely soup I ate and Visconti's. It turned out pretty well and everyone seemed to like it.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound pancetta, finely diced
1 large onion, peeled and cut into slivers
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
1/2 cup rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 pound cannellini beans, cooked (about six cups)
8 cups water
3 cups tomato puree
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, green parts only
salt, to taste
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of one lemon, optional

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Toss in diced pancetta and onion slivers. Cook until onion starts to soften in spots. Add garlic and rosemary and cook a minute or two more.

Add cannellini beans along with water and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce temperature and keep at a simmer for about 15 minutes.

Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes and scallions just long enough to heat them. Taste for seasoning and salt as necessary. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving. Add lemon juice, if desired.

Sloppy Joes

Here is how I make sloppy joes. This is probably one of the few typical American children's meals I cook. This makes enough for at least eight people.

2 pounds ground beef
2 onions, chopped
2 sweet peppers, seeded and chopped (I like to use one red and one green)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 dill pickles, diced
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard (whichever kind you have or like)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons celery salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
buns, toasted to serve

Brown ground beef with onions, peppers and garlic. Add diced pickles, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, celery salt and ground pepper to the cooked meat and vegetables.

Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes. Serve on hamburger buns or kaiser rolls.

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