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Archive for August, 2009

DSCF9085Monday – Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Oven-roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Kale, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Tuesday – Chicken Cacciatore with Penne Pasta, Salad

Wednesday – Barbecued Chicken Sandwiches with Field Greens, Cinnamon Applesauce

Thursday – Black Bean Burritoes with Lime-cilantro Rice, Red Cabbage Slaw

Friday –  dinner at our parish homecoming.

Saturday – Grilled Flat-iron Steak, Wok-grilled vegetables: Broccoli, Red Bell Pepper, and Onion; Tomato and Fresh Mozarella Salad

Sunday – Pan-seared Salmon, Stir-fried Veggies, Roasted Potatoes, Potato Rosemary Bread

Just in case you’re wondering: Why Do I Share “What We Ate Last Week”?

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August In Review

DSCF7163We’ve had a blistering August here at My Kitchen Table and it’s not even over until tomorrow. In any event we’ve had:

  • Record numbers of visitors (thank you, thank you, and please tell a friend.)
  • Informal announcement about my upcoming cookbook.
  • Inaugural Tip Tuesday.  

Now for a quick review of the past 30 days:

Most popular posts:
What’s the Deal with Kale?
10 Money-Saving Menu Ideas
I say blackberry, you say……

Most popular recipes:
Mojito (and Blueberry Mojito) (hmmm, alcohol and sugar. Never quite expected this to win.)
Oven Baked Chex Mix (hmmm, salty. That being said this blog might not have been possible without the presence of this recipe. Since my first blog post this recipe is the all-time winner of hits.)
Fresh Basil Pesto (very nice: you can’t beat basil pesto in August. Summer-time in a bowl.)

Top Tip Tuesday Topic:
Cooking with Garlic

My Personal Favorites:
The Cat’s Out of the Bag
How to Eat More Whole, Real Food
25 Random Acts of (mostly food) Kindness

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The Cat’s Out of the Bag

May May Helps TestEarlier today I was busy testing a burrito and slaw recipe.  While I cook, I stack my recipes at the end of the “chop and chat” and my laptop sits across the kitchen. I had just finished the red cabbage slaw and sat down at my computer to type the first pass of the recipe. Deep in thought I looked up and you see can clearly see what was happening in the recipe testing area. May May my cat had positioned herself on my stack of recipes as if she was about to secretly eat the burrito to her right. I assure you: none of the food was for consumption for anyone outside our family and the stack of recipes she settled on belonged to me. It’s a manuscript. For my own cookbook. Yes, a cookbook authored by yours truly. I’ll reveal more details as they become available. For now I return to the other side of the kitchen. She just jumped down and I’m going to get back to work. Life in a test kitchen is always exciting, particularly when a cat’s involved.

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DSCF7227Today is tip Tuesday. I offer my time-tested tips for eating at home every night of the week.

Use simple recipes.  Everyday cooking is not the time to pull out Julie-and-Julia-style recipes. Stick with simple recipes. Simple recipes use fresh simple ingredients and taste simply delicious. My Quick White Clam Sauce for linguine is a perfect example.

Cook in a double batch. Making soup for 12 isn’t any more complicated than making soup for 6. Eat 1/2 the soup and freeze the rest. Then, on a night in the not so distant future, thaw and reheat the soup, add some whole-grain bread, butter, and a quick salad and you’ve earned a cooking-free night.

Assemble ingredients for an interactive meal.Tacos, quesadillas, sandwiches, and salads lend themselves to a meal where ingredients are presented in bowls and everyone fills their own plates. Then don’t forget to turn off the TV, sit down together at a table, and talk.

Slow cook. With 15 minutes in the morning and a good slow-cooker recipe, you can take the guess work out of evening meal preparation. Deem one night a week slow cooker night and bingo – you’ve once again created a free night except for doing the dishes.

Cook and freeze on Saturday morning.  Pick one morning or evening a week (I like Saturday) and cook several meals with abandon. Soup, chili, Quick Italian Meat Sauce, and meatloaf are all appropriate for cooking and freezing.

Ask kids to help. While they may look busy playing outside or doing homework, the younger people in your life learn valuable life-skills from spending time in a kitchen, doing a bit more than heating cheesy macaroni in the microwave. Set the table, tear lettuce, stir the pot, and pour the milk. Cooks of all ages are welcome.

Stock the pantryI’d argue that by making a plan and working the plan we might not need a well-stocked pantry. Theoretically what you have in your pantry and freezer should be food for next week’s meals. However, even the best plans can be derailed. Some of my favorite ingredients to have on hand include: 

  • canned cooked beans
  • canned reduced-salt diced tomatoes
  • reduced-sodium crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • brown rice
  • boxed chicken stock
  • assorted shapes of pasta
  • olive oil and canola oil
  • frozen green peas, green beans, and whole-kernel corn
  • frozen chopped spinach
  • frozen lean ground beef
  • frozen whole-grain hamburger buns
  • basil, thyme, rosemary
  • cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, curry powder
  • salt and peppercorns (and a pepper grinder)
  • one or two fresh lemons, one onion, and one head of garlic

With these ingredients I can cook a spaghetti, sloppy Joes, peas and pasta, chicken and vegetable soup, or red beans and rice without a second thought and we’re eating dinner in less than an hour. Read more here for a column I wrote on how I stock my pantry.

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DSCF8947Monday – Leftover Grilled Chicken Breasts, Red Cabbage Slaw, Half-runner Beans, Pesto Pasta Salad

Tuesday – Spaghetti with Quick Italian Meat Sauce, Mixed Greens Salad, Sliced Bread

Wednesday – Grilled Cheese, Pea and Lima Bean Soup

Thursday – Kentucky-style Slow-Cooker Pork Barbecue, Leftover Pesto Pasta Salad, Leftover Red Cabbage Slaw, Applesauce

Friday- Ravioli with Marinara Sauce, Chicken Sausages, Salad.

Saturday- Attended a neighborhood picnic. Took Sweet Freezer Pickles.

Sunday – Attended another picnic. I made a large bowl of Red Beans and Rice with Chili Vinaigrette.

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Freezer PicklesThis alternative to canning pickles extends garden-fresh cucumbers into the fall and, if you make enough, the winter. Cucumbers from your garden or farmer’s market aren’t waxed so they don’t need to be peeled.

Makes about 8 cups

8 cucumbers
1/2 red onion, peeled
2 tablespoons salt
about 8 cups ice
4 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Have ready four 2-cup freezer-safe containers. Thoroughly wash cucumbers. With a food processor, mandolin, or sharp knife slice the cucumbers and red onion very thin (dime-thickness) and place in a large bowl layering with the salt and ice. Let sit 2 hours. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds, and turmeric stirring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.

After 2 hours, drain the cucumbers well and remove any stray chunks of ice. Put the cucumbers back in a bowl and pour the sugar-vinegar solution over the cucumbers and stir. At this point the cucumbers can be served or stored in individual containers. To store in containers, use tongs to divide the cucumbers among the storage containers packing tightly but leaving about 1/2-inch space at the top of the container. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 10 days or freeze up to 6 months. Thaw before serving.

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Doughnuts1. My routine has changed over the past 10 days due to the beginning of a new school year. I like the routine of school, although let it be known I also enjoy the more carefree days of summer. The summer changes my cooking routine. We eat later, have breakfast later, and buy a lot more popsicles than should be humanly allowed. I keep the garage freezer stocked for kids of all ages to enjoy. (Beats the creepy “ice cream man” and the price-gouging to the tinkle of a bell.) On the other hand school invites me back to dinner a little earlier, planning for breakfast, and making lunches to send out in backpacks. And, just so you know, I might start going to the grocery on Wednesday instead of Thursday. I’ll keep you posted.

2. Perhaps I sound like a broken record, but I encourage you to pick one day (or night) a week to grocery shop. Go that same day every week. Stock up on everything you need. I know this requires planning. I know. That being said, this one small habit goes a long way in ensuring the availability of food and ingredients in your kitchen. I’ve decided regular grocery shopping (with a plan) is the best way to stave off eating out which to me is both a budget-buster and sometimes just not all that good.

3. No, I haven’t seen the movie Julie and Julia yet. I’ve heard mixed reviews but need to make an effort to go see the movie, especially since Irma Rombauer of the Joy of Cooking makes an appearance. For more about the Joy of Cooking visit the Joy Kitchen.

4. I don’t know if I mentioned back in March we adopted a dog from the animal shelter. She’s a cutie and has fit in quite well around the place. For the dog’s birthday my daughter was bent on getting the dog a birthday gift. We went to a local pet store and she bought a cookbook with recipes for making dog treats, complete with a bone-shaped “cookie” cutter. I can handle making dog treats because I’ve got a grip on cooking for us as well. Here’s my beef: don’t cook or bake for your dog and NOT yourself. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. As they say when you fly the friendly skies, put your own oxygen mask on first. Cook or bake for yourself and then the pets.

5. Our weekend is chock-full of events and I like this level of activity especially when everyone involved is excited. We’re going to need side dishes, coolers packed with drinks, ice, and sandwiches, and some sunscreen. If you have an action-packed weekend ahead revel in the good parts of that: health to participate and people to participate with. If you’re weekend is more low-key revel in that as well. Take the opportunity to do a pantry evaluation all in an effort to eat more whole, real food.

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