Real Food for Real Life

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Another visit south...

 Texas Style Beef Brisket, Southern Style Green Beans, 
Pinto Beans topped cheese and diced onion, and Macaroni Salad from the deli

I had a beef brisket that I wanted to make using a recipe that I have used before with flavorful success, and since I have been into pairing appropriate regional dishes together, I wanted something just right to go with the "Texas style" that I had in mind.  I have never been to Texas so I asked Ben's uncle Dave, who lives in south Texas, for some help.  Dave (a reader since the beginning, WAY back in October) came through for me and gave more suggestions than I could possibly make for one meal.  The interesting thing was the similarity between his suggestions and many of the foods I grew up eating (except we only put onions on our pinto beans, not the cheese); I guess those southern roots are strong :) Ben said he really liked my "hillbilly" green beans, and said that he had never had them that way before. 
I would like to thank Dave for both his input and support, it is much appreciated.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday is my favorite day of the week...


 Sundays, are by far, my favorite day of the week.  We tend the have some sort of activity on Saturdays (I had cub scout training events that kept me out of the house for much of the day the past two weeks), but Sundays are usually just for us.  There is not usually anything we HAVE to do, and after sleeping in (if 7:30 can be considered sleeping in), Ben and I can spend all morning reading the news (or whatever).

Sundays for us also usually involve an actual cooked breakfast, instead of our usual bagels and cereal, and often a Sunday dinner too.  Ben made breakfast yesterday, making one of his hash and egg creations, which is always welcome (both the hash and Ben doing the cooking).  Last Sunday Chris really wanted sausage gravy and biscuits, but Ben really wanted baked eggs, so he told the boy that he would run to Micky Dees and get him an order.  Chris agreed, so Ben got his eggs.

I first made these eggs from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris cookbook a few years ago, and they have adapted over time to our individual tastes (more cheese and herbs and a more "well-done" egg). Both versions are delicious, and you can't go wrong with this easy breakfast dish that is so rich that it will seem like you slaved away in the kitchen.   Here is Ina's original recipe and you will find my adaptation below...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grocery Challenge, Week 5


Here's the tally for week 5:

3/21      Kroger    $13.12     (Attack of the Sweet Tooth!!!)
3/22      Kroger    $34.55
3/25      Aldi        $69.30
3/25     Kroger    $35.95
                          _______
                           $152.92

$2.92 over.  Last week I was almost $30 under, but over again this week; I was really hoping for two weeks running :(
The trip to Kroger on the 21st was made by Ben and Chris.  The boys (lead, of course, by the big one) had a sweet tooth so ventured to the grocery to satisfy it.  They came home with not one, but FIVE different kinds of jellybeans (and a small dark chocolate Easter bunny for mom).  What am I to do with them?
Here's hoping we do better in the coming week...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Snow >:-(

 This is NOT snow, in fact,
this is what I am looking forward to once summer va-ca arrives.

Snow >:-(   Yep, that's my Facebook status for today.  After a stretch of near 70 degree days, I awake this morning to a cold and windy 30 degree outside temperature, and, yes, snow on the ground (sigh...).  I had planned to grill some pork ribs yesterday, but found those plans derailed by rain, and now this.  Oh well, that's what we get for living in Ohio (someday, oh, someday...).

As I said, I had a nice package of country style pork ribs that I had marinating with the intention of throwing them on the grill for dinner.  These ribs, having been frozen and thawed, had to be used, rain or no rain.  Some slow and low cooking in the oven produced a tender rib that, while not as good as grilled (at least to my mind), was still very tasty.  To accompany these ribs I cooked up a pot of collard greens (couldn't be in a hurry now, could I?), and threw together a super easy and tasty corn pudding.  It may be cold outside, but our tummies were warm and satisfied...


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shepherd's Pie gone upscale...

Shepherd's Pie Gone Upscale

The first time I had Shepherd's Pie was when I was in Scotland as an exchange student during high school.  Somehow, this thrifty casserole of minced beef, veggies, and gravy, topped by a mashed potato "crust" was never in my mother's repertoire.  I made this dish (or simple variations) quite often in my early days of cooking (when I couldn't cook very well, and didn't have much money to do it with), but the dish fell from favor as both my kitchen skills and income increased.  

When I packaged up the leftovers from the braised beef shanks the other day, I shredded up the beef and cut the green beans into smaller pieces, before mixing it all together.  I figured I would make a stew or something.  When I went to make dinner Tuesday, I found not only the beef mixture in the fridge, but also some of those completely decadent garlic smashed potatoes (remember the cream cheese?), and a single purchased pie crust.  I have made wonderfully delicious potpies before using leftovers, so I thought I would make a beef one, but with a potato top crust.  Also in the fridge were the remains of the roasted red peppers from last week, so I stirred those into the mix too.  After a little cheese, more for color than taste, and an egg as a binder, were mixed into the potatoes, I was ready to layer up a pie.

The end result was definitely nothing like the (lackluster) Shepherd's Pies I had made before, and I think using leftovers in this manner is much more in keeping with the origins of this dish.  The braised beef and veggies were so rich, and the roasted peppers added a very nice extra kick; the potatoes were still wonderful, maybe more so by having the nice bit of crisp on the outside, and I am always a fan of pie crust.  All in all, I think I liked this dish better than the one from which it originated.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And that promised recipe...

Red Wine Braised Beef Shanks and Garlic Smashed Potatoes
and Simply Steamed Green Beans

As I mentioned in a previous post, I got some beef shanks prepared on Friday morning (once I got them in the oven I headed outside to work), and this made Sunday dinner wonderfully easy to prepare.  While I have made braised beef dishes a number of different ways, I had never before used beef shanks.  Everything I had heard about shanks was that there was an additional richness obtained from the slow cooking of the bone marrow, so I really wanted to try them.  This dish was super rich and delicious, but quite honestly, I can't say it was any better than if I had just used stew meat- I think there is just too much richness anyway to notice an incremental increase (and the stew meat is much easier to find at the grocery).

I served the shanks (or portions of them anyway, two of these bad boys together weighed in at 2 1/2 lbs.!), and the vegetable filled sauce over garlic smashed potatoes.  To make the potatoes, just add a head of peeled garlic cloves to the potatoes before cooking, then mash them up with the potatoes.  I always leave the skin on and don't even try to get out the lumps, they are so much better that way.  Ben must have really been craving richness, because he requested that I add cream cheese to the potatoes as well (8oz. reduced fat); they were certainly decadent.  To cut the richness a bit, I served simply steamed green beans with lemon wedges to squeeze over for the touch of acidity (I think you will find you need it).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring is here (continued)...

The head of that path along the south side of the house last summer, all green and lush.

I am just not feeling like writing about food today (gasp!!), but as I sit here waiting for phone calls to be returned (don't people realize that even we homemakers have something we would rather be doing), I am gazing out my back door, and at all the trees aching to burst with bud.   Thinking of all I have yet to accomplish in my personal piece of the great outdoors, I decided to share a few photos from last year.  These are just "big view" photos, not the many (many, many) individual flower pics I have taken.  Take a moment to have a peek and dream of the seasons yet to come...

The mailbox last September, the vine is "Sweet Autumn" clematis.
The back yard.  It is hard to tell from the photo, but the back corner is very steep, so I made it one huge planting area so that Ben wouldn't injure himself mowing it.
We eat nearly every meal on the deck when the weather is nice.
 One of many meals on the deck last year.
The patio where we spend many wonderful evenings.
The view of the patio from the yard- it will be very private once the plantings have gained more size.  I planted this bed to celebrate (finally!) getting my degree.
The AC unit and a potting area are very nicely hidden.
Where I like to work some magic when I'm not in the kitchen.  
This sheltered spot is behind the garage.
I call this my "Monster Rose," a climber called Zephirine Drouhin that I cut down nearly to the ground every year, but comes back with a vengeance (more than one storey tall last year).  This is near our front door and the fragrance is magnificent. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring is here...

Tuscan Chicken with Mediterranean White Bean and Romaine Salads

Spring is finally here and I have been so busy clearing the winter debris from all my planting beds.  While all the plantings are beautiful once the growth is fully under way, every spring I feel like I have been overly ambitious with the plantings- three days of clearing and I have so much more to do...
This is the path down the south side of my house, just to give you a clue of what I am up against.  I have the house, patio, and deck surrounded, most of the perimeter of the yard, and the random beds here and there.  It will all be worth it in another week or three :)

Friday morning, in anticipation of spending the day outside, and a very busy weekend coming up, I spent a little prep time in the kitchen  For dinner Friday night I got some chicken marinating in order to make Ina Garten's Tuscan Lemon Chicken, and also threw together two quick salads, one being my Mediterranean White Bean Salad- I knew the lemony flavors would work well with the chicken (and did they ever :).  I also prepared some beef shanks for braising in anticipation of having them for Sunday dinner (it was supposed to be cold and rainy), and popped them in the oven while ventured outside to tackle more beds.  A note for those readers with children- Ben and I found the chicken to be absolutely delicious (the grilled lemon halves were an especially nice touch), but the little guy wasn't so sure and wondered (out loud) why I didn't just barbecue the chicken.   Ben and I enjoyed a bottle of Redwood-creek Sauvignon Blanc (2007), a perfectly wonderful and refreshing wine, especially considering the $6.99 price tag (we enjoy wine, but are certainly not snobby about it).

Tuscan Lemon Chicken

1 chicken, flattened (I used chicken leg quarters instead)
Kosher salt
1/3 cup good olive oil
2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbs. minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 tbs. minced fresh rosemary (I used 1 tsp. dried)
freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, halved

Ina gives directions for flattening a whole chicken and grilling it under weights (see the link to the original above).  I kept it very simple and just put the chicken and all the marinating ingredients in a gallon sized ziplock bag; Ben then grilled it that evening on the gas grill and used no weights.  The lemon halves he charred and then finished up on the upper rack and they turned out perfectly.

The mailbox, before I cut away all the dead growth.
The mailbox after-
the clematis was already growing again under all the mess.
And tomorrow...Red Wine Braised Beef Shanks with Garlic Smashed Potatoes

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grocery Challenge, Week 4

Here's the tally for Week 4:

3/15   Kroger      $44.05
3/16   Wal-Mart  $26.14
3/19    Kroger     $41.79
3/20   Kroger      $28.50
                          _______
                          $140.48

$9.52 under, and again, there were purchases that could have easily been cut had it been necessary (isn't it lovely to have a nice bottle of wine with dinner though?).

The last trip to Kroger was Ben's, and one that made me so happy.  I left the house yesterday at 645 am and did not return until almost 6pm (but I am now a certified trainer for the Boy Scouts of America, for whatever that is worth :).  I arrived home to the most wonderful smell of burgers on the grill- my sweetie had not only shopped, but was making dinner for my arrival home.  Ben made the tastiest Bacon Blue Burger I think I had ever had.  He made thin patties of ground chuck, sandwiched a layer of blue cheese between two patties and then sealed them around the edges.  He topped the burgs with some bacon, more blue cheese, and a slice of Swiss to melt and hold it all on top.  OMG, burger heaven!!  I am so sorry that I don't have a picture, but we were so hungry, and they smell so good, that we just ate them right up :)  To make up for a lack of picture, I'll give you one of my handsome young Webelos Scout instead- after all, it was to be able to train the leaders of these boys that I spent the day away from home anyway...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Finally, an "About Me"...

 Me and my lovely family, picnicing on Kelley's Island a few years ago
(I love this picture).

I have been doing this blog thing for almost 6 months now, and in all that time I have never really said much about me, or why I am doing this (except for that little short bit in the sidebar).  Today I added an "About" page- you can find it under the big photo with my recipes and kitchen tips.  Here's what I said...


Hello and welcome to Casa En La Cocina…
If you are new to Casa En La Cocina, please allow me to take a moment to acquaint you with the site.  Casa En La Cocina is a blog, or a personal website, created and maintained by me, Mary Spilman, to chronicle my adventures in cooking.  Unlike most of the large cooking sites that populate the Web, with thousands of viewers, and thousands of recipes, Casa En La Cocina is my personal blog, and all the recipes are tested, and maybe even crated, by me, or my friends and family.  I hold no pretensions about my skills in the kitchen, I’m just a fairly good home cook who loves (usually) cooking and trying out new things.  I invite you to try the recipes, and if you would like (I know I would, very much), leave me a comment.  Do you collect recipes and cookbooks, or  are you just looking for some inspiration?   Think of this as me sharing my collection with you, and hopefully you will find some inspiration here.   As I prepare recipes multiple times, I often think of improvements, or just tasty variations, and update the recipes. So keep in mind that what you see here is a work in progress.


About me…
My name is Mary Spilman and I live in Hamilton, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati.   I have no culinary training of any sort, I am “just” a stay at home mom who does a lot of volunteer work.  I love to play in the dirt in the garden, as well as getting messy in the kitchen.  I really only started getting any good at either endeavor when I left the "paid" workforce (as all parents at home will attest, I do plenty of work!). I was really able to explore and learn when I wasn't always in a rush just to get something on the table.
How I got started with this whole blogging thing…
I joined Facebook during the summer of 2009, and started posting food (and flower) photos very soon after. That fall I made the statement that I should write a food blog, to which some friends said, "Do it." My blog, Casa En La Cocina, was born during October 2009, and it continues to be a learning experience as I navigate my way around this new medium.  Please join me on my journey...
Where I get my recipes...
Many of the recipes are old favorites of family and friends, many I have made up, and many are those that I have found (and usually adapted to my needs) in cookbooks, magazines, and on the Internet. I will credit my sources if I use a recipe not my own, and will even credit the inspiration for dishes I have created, if appropriate.

Copyright…
My recipes and personal food photography are copyright protected.  That said, as long as you give credit where it is due (please include the name Casa En La Cocina), and link back to my post, please feel free to share my work on your own blog or social network.

Advertising…
I dislike the constant buzz of ads in our daily lives, and nothing annoys me more than pop-ups and scrolling ads distracting me from what I am trying to read.  I am not in this to make money, I am here to have fun, and to collect recipes for me and whoever else may care to come along for the adventure.  The handful of “ads” that you see in my sidebar are not for products, but are blog directories with which I have listed Casa En La Cocina- nothing moves or flashes, so they should not be too distracting.  Please feel free to find refuge here, I do.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have enjoyed your visit!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grocery bargain love...

Gnocchi with Roasted Sweet Peppers, Kalamata Olives, Fresh Mozzarella, and Dijon Turkey

I've said it before, I love grocery bargains.  Last week at Kroger I found a big bag of some unidentified red peppers for 69 cents.  I love peppers of all kinds, hot and sweet, so I was game.  At Aldi last week I found 8oz. packages of fresh mozzarella for an unbelievable 25 cents each (I have had their brand before, and while not of the highest quality, it is very good for most everyday cooking).  I snapped up 8 of these ($2!!) and added them to my freezer stores at home (freezing cheese is fine if you plan to cook with it, but not for eating out of hand).

Looking for dinner inspiration yesterday, I had about 1lb. of last week's Dijon Turkey Tenderloin and that bag of peppers.  I cut off a pepper end for a taste and found them to be sweet, so thoughts of any sort of spicy salsa went out the window; instead my mind turned to roasted red peppers.  A dig through my food stores uncovered a package of gnocchi, kalamata olives, capers, and the fresh mozzarella.  Some of the very best home cooking comes, not from recipes, but from inspiration brought on by the ingredients on hand, and that held true in this instance.  These simple ingredients came together to form one of the very best dishes I have eaten, and again, the leftovers are MINE (I can be quite stingy with the really good stuff :).

I'm not sure the variety, but they were sweet like a red bell pepper, but with a much thinner wall.  They were quite large, and a quick weigh on the kitchen scale had these seven peppers at 1 3/4lbs.
For easy handling on the grill, I cut off the ends and split the peppers lengthwise before removing the seeds and membranes (very few).
A few minutes on each side over high heat and the peppers were tender, with some tasty charred bits.  I just set these aside until cool enough to handle.  I then cut them into thirds lengthwise, and then into thin ribbons.  I used about 1/2 for dinner and stored the rest away in the fridge for later use.  Because I don't mind it, I did not take off the thin outer peel, but if I wanted to do so I would have placed these in a covered bowl to "steam," and then rubbed and pulled off the peel.
This is how I like to store big bunches of fresh herbs (this is cilantro and Italian parsley).  Rinse them off, cut off excess stem, and place in cups filled with cool water.  I stash these at the back of the fridge and find that I can keep the herbs fresh a week or more.  Very easy to just pull out a handful or a few sprigs.  If I just have a small amount of fresh herbs I will wrap them lightly in a damp paper towel and place the bundle in a plastic bag loosely closed.  Again, they are stashed in the fridge, but I find that herbs stored like this need to be used sooner.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A mistaken purchase...

Tandoori Pork with Coconut Rice and Indian Style Broccoli

I love vanilla yogurt, especially if I have some fruit to spoon it on top of, and sprinkling it with a handful of a nice granola cereal is especially nice too, with or without the fruit.  Imagine my surprise Saturday morning when I bit into my yogurt topped cantaloupe to discover that I had mistakenly picked up PLAIN yogurt, not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly pucker inducing when the mouth is anticipating the lightly sweetened vanilla version.  

This mistaken purchase led me to thoughts of a dish that I had always meant to try, but never seemed to get around to- Chicken Tandoori. I did not have the tandoori masala necessary to season the yogurt, but a quick internet search later and I was pulling a variety of spices from my spice drawer.  I didn't have everything called for, but I think I came up with a fine tasting variation (as attested to by the 10 year old who did all the mixing).  A dig through the freezer failed to uncover any chicken breasts, boneless or otherwise, a very odd thing because I ALWAYS have chicken around.  I did find an agreeable substitute in the form of a boneless pork loin.  After defrosting, I sliced off five nice chops and wrapped the rest up for use later in the week.  Those chops were tossed into a gallon bag with the seasoned yogurt and put in the fridge to await Sunday's dinner.

But now, what to serve it this Indian style pork.  Coconut rice was a given (don;t know if it is authentic, but we all love it), but I needed a green veg (yes, I cook by color).  A check of the veggie bins revealed avocados, asparagus, broccoli, romaine, and a lonely little lime.  Wanting something appropriate for the pork, I found Indobase.com, and a recipe for broccoli that sounded good.

Now for the verdict- the the rice, as usual, was delicious, and the pork was soo yummylicious that this recipe is a keeper (I am going to try it next with some skin on chicken parts).  The broccoli?  It was okay, but the family would have preferred plain steamed broccoli (one of our staples), so I won't make this again (why make more work for myself?).  And the leftovers?  Mine, all mine...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grocery Challenge, Week 3


Here's the tally for Week 3...

3/07   Kroger         $29.62
3/09   Kroger         $31.26
3/12   Aldi             $62.12
                              ______
                              $123.00

$27 UNDER!! 

On the trip to Aldi, I knew I had roughly $89 dollars left in the budget, so I kept track of what I was spending, rounding everything up to the nearest quarter dollar.  Approaching the checkout I had figured on $65 and my total was $62.12 (it is better to over estimate than under) .

If I started couponing again, the savings could potentially be huge, but alas, I have found that I really no longer have the patience for it (getting older, getting lazy, or just no true need for it?).  I no longer really use coupons, except for the occasional "Free" item, or the "$" off entire purchase that you get from Kroger.

What I find amazing with this total is that I still purchased wine and beer this week, meaning that the actual cost of food, toiletries, and cleaning products was well under $100.  I am really curious now to see what the upcoming week will bring...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What I've been cooking lately...

 Festive Spinach Rice with roasted Dijon Turkey Tenderloin.

Not much going on this weekend.  I had planned to start clearing the beds outside in preparation for spring, but the continuing rain makes that impossible today (maybe tomorrow).  Chris and I are the only ones home this weekend- I think we will grab a video and pizza for the evening and just enjoy the laziness.   I'll take this relaxed weekend as a chance to get some of my recent creations up and in the index, and then I'll snuggle up with a good book.  These will all fall firmly in the easy and quick category, good to remember for those busy days. that inevitably outnumber the lazy ones.  Enjoy :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Rain, rain, go away...

Wednesday had been so nice (70 degrees and sunny!!), that I wanted to grill and eat outside on Thursday.  I arose that morning to a bit of gloom and drizzle, but the sun was trying to peek out, so I went ahead that morning and got the chicken marinating.  Come dinner time, and not only had the sun failed to emerge from hiding, but it was RAINING (boooo, boooo).  Ben suggested that we could go out to eat, but I don't like to even leave the house if it is raining, so I got the George Foreman out and proceeded with dinner.  Real grilling is definitely preferable, but this little gadget gets the job done in a pinch.  We had the lemon and olive oil marinated chicken (one of my favorite preps for chicken) with some simply roasted asparagus, and a variation of Michael Symon's mac and cheese recipe.  We didn't grill or eat outside, but we still ate well :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another southern favorite...


This is our own adaptation and we love to have this once the weather is warm and we can dine outside.  We always have this when we are vacationing in the low country.  This is an eat with your hands meal, and yes, you must peel the shrimp yourself.  Serve with cocktail sauce if you must.
Low Country Boil


2 lbs. medium to large shrimp
2 lbs. smoked sausage, cut into big bite size pieces
2 pounds small red potatoes, halved or quartered, as necessary
4 large ears of corn, cut into thirds
4 quarts water
1 (3-ounce) bag of crab boil seasoning, we use Zatarain's
4 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning


Add potatoes to large pot, then add 4 quarts water and seasonings. Cover pot and heat to a rolling boil; cook 5 minutes. Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain and place in a large serving bowl family style; or if you are eating outside (the best way), dump the whole drained mix on newspapers spread on the middle of your table.   Serves 6 to 8.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No time to cook (much)...

Jury duty and scouts on Monday, and scout activities of some sort all day yesterday have not left much time for cooking.  Monday night I cooked up some pasta and tossed a salad to accompany the leftover spicy stuffed peppers, while last night we had our own version of the Double Decker Taco, accompanied with a simply seasoned rice.  Ben did note that he really liked the "taco meat."  I used ground pork instead of the usual ground turkey and he thought it more flavorful (although Chris said he liked the "regular" meat better).
With not much real cooking happening here I am going to share an old favorite that I really want to get in the recipe file, Shrimp and Grits. This southern comfort food combines shrimp and bacon over a creamy base of super rich grits...who could ask for more?  Look soon for another southern favorite, Low Country Boil.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The snow is almost gone...

 
Sunday marked our third day of sunny, almost 50 degree weather.  This day called for the much anticipated  Irish Whiskey Burgers, and reason to use the gas grill for the first time in 2010.  Ben thought that since we were having "Irish" burgers, that we should have potatoes and cabbage, hence to roasted tatties and simple slaw.  May I recommend a Jameson and Ginger for the grownups; it is refreshing and seems to me a warm weather tipple.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Seems like spring...

There is still some snow on the ground, but Saturday was our second day of near fifty degree weather, and that called for a celebration.  Ben rolled out his Weber (first time for 2010), and I rolled out some steaks.  Some simply seasoned steaks and a few mushroom skewers, beautifully grilled, a simple salad, a crusty bread, and a nice bottle of red and we were ready to welcome spring.

 
Mushroom skewers and bread rounds waiting to hit the heat. 
The mushrooms are brushed lightly with some of the same vinaigrette used on the salad.

 
Mixed greens. thinly sliced red onion, halved kalamata olives, and roasted red pepper in a 
light vinaigrette serve as the base for our welcome to spring steak dinner.

Top the salad with the beautiful steak meat, a mushroom skewer, 
some shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and call it done.
An hour before grilling the steaks were patted dry, rubbed with olive oil, seasoned liberally with coarse salt and coarse ground black pepper, and left to come to room temperature on the counter.
We enjoyed a bottle of Chambourcin with our meal.  This wine comes from Hanover Winery, a new winery that has opened very near our home.  This nice dry, medium bodied wine is Ben's favorite; I enjoy it very much as well, but also really enjoy the Marechal Foch, s dry, full bodied red.

Grocery Challenge, Week 2

 Here's the tally for week 2...

3/01   Kroger      $25.93
3/02   Aldi          $54.87
3/02   Kroger      $35.71
3/05  Noonans   $22.06
3/05  Kroger      $28.23
                         _______
                         $166.80

$16.80 over.  When I pointed out that I was$18 under the first week, Ben's reply was "Justify it how you wish."  True, BUT I do wish to note that on the trip to Kroger on the 5th he put in the cart a Miller Home Draft Kit that was $19.99 (plus tax!!), so really, I was (kinda) under.  As a side note- he has had this kit for two days now and reports that it was not worth the extra expense, and that the beer was actually a bit flat.

The trip to Kroger on the 1st was Ben's and he made me proud :)  He came home with three packages of cheese that had been marked down, including a very nice Cappiello that we had over the weekend.

Noonans is a liquor store and I needed a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey to make my burgers today.

While I went over budget this week, I did find myself putting things back on the shelf, a definite change for me.  By cutting the beer and liquor purchase this week, I would have shaved over $40 from the total, certainly something to consider when setting a budget.  Another thought for the week- Ben, Chris, and I ate out at Buffalo Wild Wings, and while we enjoyed our meal, the tab was $51 BEFORE the tip, and the quality did not warrant the cost.  Another reason we don't eat out often.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A new toy...

Okay, it's not  a toy, it's a plastic colander.  I picked this up at our local  Dollar Tree for a buck and asked the dear hubby to drill the holes to make them larger.  That monotonous chore done, and with the addition of a hard plastic spatula, I had a "spatzle maker."  Whenever I have made spatzle in the past, I used an old Tupperware colander I got from my mother forever ago (I think she had had it since sometime in the 70's- it's avocado green), but it was made for the sink, not holding in the hand, and its rectangular holes made funny shaped spatzle. 

I wanted to test drive the new "toy," so I made spatzle again last night, despite the fact we had had it so recently.  I had a head of cabbage so I decided to make cabbage and noodles, but use the spatzle instead of the usual purchased dry egg noodles.  Cabbage and noodles is not something I ever ate growing up; I was introduced to this dish by Ben, whose grandmother used to make it as a Lenten meal,  but it is sooo good (and so simple).  Adding a little browned kielbasa or smoked sausage makes it a complete meal (for you NON-vegetarian types).  Wanting more veg, I also steamed some carrots with a bit of rosemary and tossed with a little butter.  The spatzle was so easy to make with the new hand held colander, and so good, that there will be many more of these tasty little bites in our future.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Live to Cook

 One of the cookbooks I got for Christmas was Michael Symon's "Live to Cook".  I've made a few things now from the book, including his incredibly delicious, but easy, mac & cheese using goat cheese (still need to share that one sometime), and I am dying to try my hand at making my own bacon (yes!).

Another recipe I had been waiting to make was his Spicy Stuffed Peppers, using Hungarian wax peppers, similar to banana peppers.  I had purchased some of these for this use, but lacking the Italian sausage to stuff them with, I made my own using ground turkey (tasty, quick, easy, cheap, and healthy...who could ask for more?).  Symon says to use Sunday Sauce (the recipe is in the book), or a prepared tomato sauce as a base for the peppers.  I made a roasted tomato sauce and added to that a small amount of Spicy Red Pepper Sauce that I had tucked away in the freezer (umm, umm good).  My peppers were obviously not as large as the ones Symon used, because I did not use even close to a pound and a half of the sausage.  A look through the veggie bin uncovered a red bell pepper and two large jalapenos, so I added those to the mix as well (the Christopher was served a piece of the stuffed bell pepper, because at 10, he just doesn't appreciate spicy yet).  Feeling that I wanted it even richer (I do like to spoil myself), I topped the peppers with some sliced fresh mozzarella once they were done and set them back under the broiler for a nice melt.  All three peppers were delicious treated in this manner, with the wax and jalapeno peppers decidedly on the warm side.

We had Caesar salad and a crusty bread to sop up the juices to make this meal complete.  The grownups enjoyed a bottle of Bardolino Chiaretto  (2006), a nice dry Italian rose that offers the lesson that just because a wine is pinkl, it does not mean it's sweet.
The lineup just before going in the oven.
Fresh mozzarella waiting to top the peppers.
Waiting to be eaten (sorry for the out of focus shot).

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