Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Meal Foods’ Category

Slow Cooker Country Ribs with Cranberry & Apples

After one time too many of forgetting about dinner until 5:00, I pull out the crock pot. I despised loading and eating from the crock pot while I was growing up but I’ve been making my peace with the appliance recently. It has its place.

About a month ago I stumbled across a recipe on the internet under “Southern Foods” by Diana Rattray. I followed it loosely and the outcome was truly delicious, but not “Southern.” I’m sorry, but cranberries, apples and maple syrup add up to New England. Those ingredients make me think about my friend Lisa in Maine who is tapping maple trees this month and works the family farm with the help of draft horses.

Here’s my version of the recipe:

2 cans of whole-berry cranberry sauce
½ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup brown sugar
2-3 chopped apples that cook well (Fuji is my current favorite thanks to the Stein family!)
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1-2 tsp. cinnamon
½ of a red onion sliced
3-4 lbs country style pork ribs (I’m sure beef would be good too.)

Put everything but the meat and the onion into a sauce pan and heat it until it’s simmering and the sugar is nicely dissolved.

Meanwhile, toss the sliced onion and the ribs into the crock pot.

No,no, thank YOU! I love a bargain!

Pour the hot apple and cranberry mixture over the top.

Let it cook all day (6-7 hours) on low.

Serve with rice or whatever else suits your fancy. (I really stink at food staging…I could have at least gotten out the blue plates to take a picture of white rice. Oh, well.)

Last time I made this, I strained the left-over liquid, which has a wonderful sweetly cinnamon flavor and put in the refrigerator. A few days later I ladled off the fat which had risen to the top and mixed it with some sweet-n-sour sauce out of a jar to go with chicken. The result was an amazing version of sweet-n-sour chicken. Saving the cooking liquid is my attempt to turn over a new and more frugal (less lazy) culinary leaf at the inspiration of my sister-in-law. Then my friend Christa’s suggested that I read An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler, and I’m finally figuring it out. Waste not, want not! As I’m learning this art, I’m feeling even guiltier about dumping the liquid from a slow cooked organic chicken down the drain at Betsy’s house while helping with dishes during my last visit. She is seriously one of the sweetest and dearest people you could ever meet and the silent horror on her face as she watched the broth hit the drain was only surpassed by her immediate and gracious forgiveness. It got my attention though! I am reforming.

Advertisements

Piano Soup

Sometimes the evening meal hour takes me by surprise. You would think that after all these years the pattern of daily recurrence would be imprinted on my brain, but too often I find myself at 5:00 staring into the pantry wondering how I failed to remember that hungry boys would need to eat AGAIN!

One of my favorite standbys for this sort of predicament is Piano Soup. I learned the basic concept from my friend Christa in Germany when she served it for lunch one day. She used white beans, but when I needed a bigger batch one time and didn’t have enough white beans, I added black ones and re-named the soup to cover my lack of planning. Now I hum “Ebony and Ivory” and dance like Stevie Wonder while throwing it all together. It makes a delicious soup that college students and kids both love, and only takes about 10 minutes.

You’ll need some chopped cooked chicken, which I usually have on hand from periodically roasting rowing chickens….remember these guys? They get de-boned, chopped up and placed in quart-sized freezer bags to be used when I need “some chicken.”

Here are the ingredients you’ll need from the pantry.

Rinse the black and white beans – however many you need for the amount of soup you want. It takes four cans for my family.

Pour in some green chili enchilada sauce. The amount is a matter of taste. I only use half of a can this size and put the remainder in a freezer bag for next time.

And some chicken broth – however much it takes to cover the beans.

Drop in the thawed chicken.

Add a dash of sugar if you need to cut the heat. I throw in about ¼ cup for a batch this size.

Stir.

Heat.

Eat.

Meal time crisis averted!

Next I’ll post a slow cooker recipe…because after forgetting about an evening meal, the pendulum often swings the other direction and I start cooking in the morning.

Chicken & Rice with Fruit Salsa

I’ve been on another peach eating binge. We bought some at a farm about 20 miles from here and they were very good, albeit not Georgia peaches. I used them to make one of my very favorite meals.

Here’s the recipe:

Grilled Chicken:

2 lbs Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¼ cup lime juice

2 TBSP soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Fruit Salsa

2-3 medium peaches (plums, nectarines or grapes also work)

2 medium tomatoes

3-4 chopped green onions (be sure to get lots of the green part)

2 TBSP lime juice

½ tsp ground ginger

I clove of garlic crushed and finely chopped

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

This meat has to be started early in the afternoon which isn’t my strong suit, but fresh fruit sometimes inspires me to unusual feats!

A few hours before you plan to eat, the chicken breasts need to be tenderized with a meat mallet or similar device. I like to zip them into a plastic bag so that raw chicken juice doesn’t fly around my kitchen.

With a good pounding the breasts should flatten out considerably. Don’t skip this step. It really makes a difference in the tenderness of the meat.

Assemble the sweet tangy marinade with sugar, vinegar, lime juice and some soy sauce. If you have fresh limes, that’s obviously better, but we’re back to that planning issue!

When the marinade is ready, drop in the beaten chicken and make sure that it gets entirely dredged.

Cover the chicken and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

When the evening sun begins to cast a golden glow, it’s time to start on the salsa. (Perhaps that golden glow is just lousy photography, but I’ll go with it.)

The salsa gets almost the same marinade as the chicken, but without the soy sauce and it has some garlic and ginger thrown in.

Peaches are my favorite centerpiece fruit for this dish, but I’ve also made it with plums and they are an excellent substitute. I bet it would even be good with halved grapes.

Toss the chopped fruits and veggies in their marinade and make sure it all has a chance to sit for about 30 minutes before serving. The timing is just about perfect to pull the chicken out and get it started.

Grilling is not just for guys! My friend Kathy Madison taught me how to grill chicken breasts when we lived in Kansas and could see into each other’s kitchens for a year. She made it sound so simple that I had a hard time believing it would work, but it does – every time. Here’s how it goes: 1) Preheat the grill to medium high.

2) Throw on the chicken. Close the lid and wait seven minutes without opening it to poke, peek or prod. (Who wants to peek into an ugly grill like mine anyway!)

3) Open, turn the chicken over and quickly baste if desired. (I usually do drizzle on some of the remaining marinade.) Close and wait seven more minutes without opening the lid again. When the final seven minutes are up – it’s done. That simple.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes.

Then slice it into thin strips across the grain.

Pile the hot chicken on a bed of Jasmine rice and top it with the cool fresh salsa.

I’m sure that part of the reason I like this meal is that it’s very pretty, but it really is SO good!

Hope you enjoy!

Lisa

My Favorite Broccoli Salad

There is no mystery about why I like this salad – sweetness, saltiness, crunchiness, chewiness, and even cheese! What’s not to love? The mystery is in how the combination is so much greater than the sum of the parts! My friend Katherine Dunn made if for a welcome picnic while we lived in Germany and I fell in love. Thankfully, she is the type of person who promptly follows through when she promises you a recipe. I imagine she is often asked for them because I happen to have more than one in my own collection. Here are the directions exactly as given – and I actually follow them that way!

Once the bacon is going, get to chopping.

Keep in mind that the broccoli needs to be torn into tiny pieces that actually work with a picnic fork and a flimsy paper plate.

Blot as much grease as possible from the bacon before chopping it. If you’re not a pork person then substitute with turkey bacon, but don’t leave it out altogether. The saltiness is part of the magic.

Mix the dressing and give it a couple of minutes for the sugar to fully dissolve.

Pile all of the “dry” ingredients into a big bowl.

Toss them together.

Pour on the dressing and stir it again.

Move the salad to a pretty bowl. This step is important, especially when you are working with one of Katherine’s recipes. She is one of the most dignified women I have ever met and she wouldn’t dream of bringing an ugly bowl to a picnic.

I decided to use pottery from my favorite shop in France. I may have even purchased it the day Katherine and I went together. This particular bowl wasn’t crafted with broccoli salad in mind, I’m sure, but I liked the way it looked.

Let it chill for a couple of hours.

Enjoy! (And, share.)

Lisa

Un-Sil’s Rice

When we first got married and lived at Fort Lewis, Ric was known as “the tall skinny guy” because he was 6’2″ and 135lbs. Our next door neighbor was a lovely Korean woman named Un-Sil who apparently took note of his physique and decided she would do her part to save him from starvation. She fed us for the better part of three years every time she was cooking enough to share, which was at least one-a-week. The meal that I think was basically her version of my propensity to serve spaghetti or tacos when I’m feeling lazy or uninspired was a rice dish that she always apologized for as “just some rice”. We loved it, craved it, and celebrated every time it showed up on our doorstep with her sweet shy smile! She offered vague directions on how to make it back then, but since I didn’t actually get serious about learning to cook until a few years later it took me a while to figure out how to make something pretty close. I hope you’ll enjoy what has re-emerged as a favorite in our family – even though it does result in a lot of pot washing.

You’ll need rice, eggs, fresh carrots, frozen peas, rouladen beef, soy sauce and sugar. Notice that I’m following the vague recipe tradition…but I’m offering pictures.

The key to this being a quick meal is getting set up correctly before you start the rice. Then, it’s an intense project over the stove, but it only takes about 30 minutes.

Start by dicing some fresh carrots.

Toss them into a sauce pan and cover them with plenty of water because you’re going to eventually throw the peas in with them at the end. Bring the pot to a boil and then let it simmer while everything else is cooking.

Rouladen beef is cut in very thin flat pieces.

Cut it some more…into half-inch strips….

…then some more… into half-inch cubes. Toss those into a large frying pan on medium-high. Non-stick works best if you have that option. If not, spray the pan with non-stick spray but don’t use oil.

START both the beef and the carrots before you start the rice!

I use two cups for our family, cooked in four cups of water.

Crack eggs into a skillet coated with non-stick spray and turn it on medium-low.

Pour about ¼ cup of soy sauce into a dish.

Add an equal amount of sugar and stir it together. I usually have to microwave it to get the soy sauce warm enough to dissolve the sugar. Set it aside.

The meat needs to be “browned”, but as it starts to cook it ends up “boiling” in its own juice, which is not what you want.

When about this much juice has built up, remove it from the heat and drain the liquid.

Return the dry meat to the pan and keep going. I usually have to do this twice during the process.

Once it stops oozing its own juice and you’ve drained it one final time, give it a few minutes to do some actual browning- maybe two minutes on medium high. Then, it’s time to start adding the juice you’ve prepared.

Start by pouring in about half of the soy sauce and sugar mixture.

Stir to coat the meat.

Lower the heat to straight-up medium and keep stirring while the first portion of sauce reduces and gets absorbed.

By about this time, the eggs need a stir to start them scrambling.

Continue to gradually add sauce to the meat…

…until it’s all been poured in and mostly absorbed.

Add some salt and pepper to the eggs and turn them off before they over-cook.

The carrots should be tender at this point. Drop the peas in and bring the water back to a boil.

Drain the meat one more time and clean the pan up a bit with paper towel so that you don’t end up with brown goo in the rice at the end.

This was the absolute final outing for my strainer. I can’t remember how long I’ve had it, but I need a new one now. Look how the handle tore away from the metal. Sad.

I like to pile all of the other ingredients in together so that they keep each other warm and I can start the plethora of pans soaking.

The vegetables are ready to be drained as soon as the peas have had a minute or two of boiling.

A lid will help retain heat while the goodies wait for the rice.

When it’s finally done and fluffed,

toss in the waiting goodness and stir gently.

Ring the dinner bell, break out the chopsticks and dig in!

Blueberry Muffin Recipe #2371

I was going to tell you that this will be about the 5,000th blueberry muffin recipe posted on the internet but I decided to check my facts and apparently it will only be about the 2,371st. I know there are plenty out there because a few years ago my mother-in-law typed “Blueberry Muffins” into Google, reached into the cyber bowl of hits and pulled one out. It turned out to be a winner. I kept the printed recipe and have modified it in the interim. This summer while my recipe box was in storage she and I wanted to make the same muffins. After about thirty minutes of shaking the Google bowl with different word combinations and reaching in to find it again, we realized that picking the same hit twice is nearly impossible. We came close, but it wasn’t exactly the recipe we remembered.

Here is my version of the right one.

2/3 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ cups vanilla yogurt

1 tsp lemon juice

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 TBSP baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1½ cups fresh blueberries rinsed and drained (if you need to use frozen, thaw them and toss them in flour)

375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Makes 24.

Directions:

Assemble the wet ingredients.

Start by mixing the butter and sugar, just like cookies. You have to love a muffin recipe that involves Darth Mixer!

Add the eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Mix.

Then it’s time for the fluffy white ingredients.

Note that it calls for the capital T, tablespoon of baking powder!

Mix until you have a batter that looks a lot like cake batter, which reminds me of my friend Anita Cory telling me about a funny video on the American obsession with cake. The line I think of when I make these muffins goes something like “What is the difference between muffins and cake? Nothing! Muffins are bald cupcakes. We call them muffins because we don’t eat cake for breakfast.” (Our good friend Google can take you to the whole stand up routine if you type in “cake comedy Jim Gaffigan”. It’s pretty funny.)

Now, the blueberries are entering stage left but they cannot jump in the bowl with Darth doing the mixing!

They need to be dumped in last and folded gently into the batter.

Scoop into sprayed muffin pans.

This left-over batter will not see dishwater in my house. That’s what a good spatula is for – yummy.

Put them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

When they come out, spread some butter on their little tops while they’re hot…

…so that a sprinkling of sugar will stick. My children consider this the most important step.

Let them cool just a bit.

Pop them loose with a table knife or spoon.

I’m working with a new oven and I think I had the rack placed a little too high, so the bottoms are a little crispier than ideal. How embarrassing. Oh, well. Blogging perfection bites the dust again.

But, they were still very tasty!

I like these smooth cakey muffins but I think I’m also going to find a recipe with a crumble topping and more of a traditional muffin texture to add some variety during blueberry season. I’ll let you know when I come up with a good one. Of course if you’re reading this and have one to share, please send it on and save me from sorting through the 2700 options on the internet!

Chicken Pasta Salad and Corny Chicken Pictures

My kitchen is unpacked and I have internet access again! Not quite ready to wow you with food from the new Kitchen Catwalk but I still have a summer salad to share from Molly and I can even throw in a couple of crazy chicken pictures.

The directions she emailed with the pictures went something like this: “I can tell you the ingredients for this salad and that it has become a family favorite but you really just judge the amounts by what you have available and what looks right.” She may not be including precise measurements, but as I’m about to start always saying – a picture is worth a thousand measuring cups.

Here’s what goes in the salad.

Start by cooking and draining a box of pasta.

Then you’ll need Cooked, cubed chicken breast (Often, we barbeque extra to use in the salad – any marinade or salt and pepper adds to the taste.)


Red grapes halved


Mandarin oranges drained


Diced Celery


and Diced Onion


Slivered almonds (toasted if ambitious)

Mayonnaise (Real Mayo…NO Miracle Whip at [Molly’s] house)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix and Chill….and there you have it!


I think I’m going to try this early next week. At our house it will have to be green onions and the celery probably won’t make the cut, but the combination of cold pasta, oranges, grapes, nuts and chicken sounds perfect in such hot weather.

I happen to have some chopped cooked chicken that I can use and even pictures.


None of you will be shocked that the first time I got out the camera in my new kitchen was because I was cracking up over how a couple of beheaded birds looked in the French oven! The commissary doesn’t have rotisserie chickens, which I routinely use in all sorts of recipes, so now I have to roast my own. In the past I’ve never had trouble fitting two into my beloved French roaster, but these guys were so big they had to sit on Coke cans – (thanks to Betsy for the tech line support on how that worked).

They looked so cute in their little boat and the spoons were right there, looking so much like oars!


Row, row, row your chicken, gently down the stream…merrily, merrily, merrily…

The tune has been stuck in my head for two days.

Okay, seriously I really think the left-over barbeque sounds better for the chicken salad!

Hope you’re all having a great summer and lots of fun in the kitchen!

Molly’s Summer Spinach and Rice Salad

I still don’t have a kitchen of my own, so I’m living vicariously through those who do and apparently, I’ve also been pestering my friend Molly about helping me with this blog for long enough that she got serious with the camera in the kitchen. She sent me some summer salad pictures and recipes that look great! As a moving special, I’ll share them with you before I try them out in my own new kitchen – which I will be occupying on Friday!

The first recipe looks delicious and I have another one up my sleeve for later in the week, so stay tuned.

Here’s Molly….

SPINACH RICE SALAD

“Random Notes” – I don’t know when I last followed the directions exactly for this salad. Usually I double or triple and add ingredients until it looks and tastes right but this is the recipe my mom gave me. Amend as needed.

We always make the Italian Good Seasoning Dressing for the Italian dressing… using red wine vinegar for both the vinegar and water portion. I am sure another Italian dressing would be fine. I just can’t guarantee it. 🙂 Usually, I use regular Soy Sauce but less sodium was all I had…worked out fine. I have never used Minute Rice either…always long grain or Jasmine.

1 c. rice

1 T. soy sauce

1/2 c. Italian dressing

1/2 t. sugar

2 c. fresh spinach, cut in thin strips

1/2 c. diced celery

1/2 c. sliced green onion

1/3 c. crumbled crisp bacon

Stage One:

Cook rice according to directions. Transfer rice to bowl. Cool slightly. – (No pictures, but they have directions on the bag!)

Combine dressing, soy sauce, and sugar (often left out).

Stir the dressings into the warm rice. Cover and chill.

Stage 2-

When the rice is cool and you’re about ready to serve…

Chop green onions,

bacon,

celery,

and spinach,

and toss it all into a bowl so that it looks pretty like this!

Fold the veggies into the rice just before serving. Enjoy!

Thanks, Molly! Can’t wait to try this myself. – Lisa

Pesto Pizza

Here’s a quick and easy favorite that my friend Shannon Cummins introduced me to a few years back.

It takes…

1 pre-baked pizza crust

¼ cup pesto (more or less)

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

4 oz crumbled feta

1 chopped Roma tomato

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste.

Optional – Chopped Portobello mushrooms, olives, onions…this is pizza. You get the idea.

Spread the pizza crust with the pesto. You can make your own or buy it in a jar. (This fall I will be making and freezing pesto again, so check back if you want to see how it’s made – and frozen in bags like you see in the picture above.)

It smells delicious to open a bag of pesto! Next comes the chicken.

Then sprinkle on the feta.

Top with well drained tomatoes.

Add the cheddar and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

Blog Outtake: I was baking one regular and two small pizzas when I took these photos. Apparently my cookie stone was offended by the idea of hosting pizza and it spit one off the edge as I took them out of the oven. It was LOVELY to have a piping hot pile of feta, chicken, tomatoes and cheddar in the hinge of my oven door, not to mention what it did to the oven mitt I was using in a futile effort to clean it up. I thought about taking a picture, but I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind, and you really wouldn’t want to see something that ugly anyway, right? I spent a good portion of yesterday morning trying to pick the last bits of hardened cheese out of the fabric cording that seals the oven door but I’m afraid our renters may still be able to find evidence of the wreck that happened with pesto pizza if they look closely.

Quick Spinach Quiche

My family is always enthusiastic about quiche!

Eggs, cheese, flavorful ingredients, pie crust…what’s not to like?

Here’s the basic recipe for a Quick Spinach Quiche:

I box of roll out pie crust (no rolling pin – this is the quick version)
12 crisply browned bacon slices
1 cup finely chopped onion
6 eggs
1 box frozen chopped spinach
8 oz Swiss cheese
2 TBSP flour
2 1/2 cups half-n-half
salt and pepper

Bake at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes. Makes two pies.

You’ll notice in the picture below that my bacon strips look an awful lot like turkey kielbasa. That is what happens when you write bacon at the top of the grocery list and then leave the list in the car. You get home, smack yourself in the forehead and then rummage through the refrigerator for an alternative. The kielbasa was fine, but I think I prefer bacon. I thought about not blogging because I messed up again, but if I dropped blogging every time I deviate from the ideal form of a recipe I would post something about once a month – in a good month. And, I guess we’re highlighting the point that quiche is versatile.


On a remembered-the-grocery-list kitchen catwalk, you would fry the bacon while sautéing the onion in some oil. But in this case…


…the meat needed to be chopped into small pieces and I was able to brown it with the onion while I was working on the rest of the ingredients



The box of frozen spinach gets a nice warm shower in a colander until it’s thawed.


Then I wring it out. You don’t want green spinach juice turning your quiche into a soggy rendition of something out of a Dr. Seuss book.


There’s really not much in a box of frozen spinach once you take out the water!


I usually have sliced Swiss cheese on hand, but it need to be in shreds, so I just cut the slices into thin strips and it’s close enough.


Put the cheese in a small bowl and drop in the flour.


Toss the two until the cheese is coated and there aren’t any pieces sticking together.


Crack the eggs into the half-n-half.


Stir vigorously with a whisk. (Hard to do that and take a picture at the same time!)


Keep checking on the meat. It took a while for the moisture from the kielbasa to evaporate and the browning process to begin.


When the meat du jour is cooked, soak up any excess grease and oil with a paper towel.


Put the crusts into the pie plates and try to make it look nice. Surely you can do better than I do – even my 13 year old son can!

Then, divide the meat between the pie plates.


Decompress the spinach ball and sprinkle it evenly over the meat.


Spread a layer of cheese on top of that, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.


Give the eggs and half-n-half another vigorous stir to make sure the mixture hasn’t separated then pour it between the two pans.


Pop them onto the center rack of a very hot oven (425 degrees) and bake for about 35 minutes. It should look about like this when it’s done.


Let it sit for several minutes before trying to cut and serve.


Yummy! And, talk about great breakfast leftovers!