Sunday, June 14, 2009

The seven-ingredient salsa

This is my mom's "secret" recipe. I'm not doing anyone any favors though - I feel for my own sake I have to document this. You wouldn't believe how many times I can only recall six ingredients and then forget the seventh - and the one I forget seems to be different every time.

You have to be a tinkerer to enjoy this recipe - note I have not put any amounts in. I will say that if you're going canned for the tomatoes (and that's what I usually do, unless tomatoes are at peak), you will want to have a 28 ounce can of peeled plum without italian spices. When you chop those up in the blender, the rest is all taste and feel.

Seven-ingredient Salsa

Peeled plum tomatoes
Pickled Jalapenos
Fresh cilantro
Fresh oregano

Salt to taste

Put ingredients one at a time in a blender. You will want to use the setting for the style of "chunkiness" you want in your salsa - I usually do "chop" for a salsa that still has texture but is more like a taco sauce. You will want to taste after each addition to your liking - the ingredients should be added in the order above. Be careful with the oregano - if you add too much, you'll have marinara and won't be able to recover from it w/o adding an entire new tomato can.

I have a dear chef friend Adam who once for a party added white rum to the above recipe. It's also great to leave this completely chunky and not use a blender but rather old-fashioned fine hand-chopping. The rum version had a great kick (sort of like the effect tequila has on fajitas), but when I told my Mother of our great addition I was met with dead silence on the other end of the phone, so use your judgement.

This will keep jarred in the fridge for up to two weeks and makes a great low-calorie topping to chicken, burritos, chips, fingers, etc...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A little yellow journalism

About bananas, I mean.

As a new mom with a girl in preschool I feel obligated to have fresh fruit and vegetables on hand at all times. However, lately the preschooler has been none too interested in bananas - so I'm left with a ton of rotting ones at various stages if I'm not careful.

I won't pretend that there isn't already millions of various banana bread recipes - but this one is a keeper for the time challenged. It's not the best crumb you'll find for a banana bread (I find sour cream and a lot of beating is required for that), but it comes together in SECONDS with a spoon and a bowl.

Quick-as-a-flash banana bread

Oven: 350 degrees F

1 cup sugar
3-4 overripe bananas
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
one egg
1/4 c. melted butter
some texture-filler (this can be nuts, leftover raisins or dried cranberries, white or chocolate chips - anything)

Throw together all but last ingredient in a bowl and smash bananas while the rest mixes into a nice yellow batter. Once a good consistency, fold in filler. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and pour in - cook 55 minutes or until knife is clean.

Served warm with butter is my fave.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On the super-cheap

Here's a very tasty soup (stolen mostly from the back of the Goya dried split pea package) that by my account cost about $7.00 to make eight VERY hearty servings.

Split pea soup with turkey ham

1 package Goya dried split peas, sorted and rinsed
1/2 to 3/4 lb. whole turkey ham, chopped/diced (if you are trying to do this from pantry/staples only, substitute 1/2 lb. cooked crumbled bacon)
3 cans of low salt chicken broth, or homemade, and 4 oz. extra water
1/2 large or one small onion, chopped finely
2 carrots, chopped finely
vegetable oil

Put vegetable oil on medium heat and saute onions until soft. Add carrots and ham and cook until ham is browned a bit and heated through. Add broth, water, and peas and bring to a boil. Once boiled, cover and put on a simmer until peas are soft. Add more water if necessary for consistency and salt/pepper to taste.

Freezes VERY well and looks great in a bread bowl!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Got five minutes during "24"?

Or any other show you're vegging out to after the kids are in bed?

Cook up 4 cups of water with 2 cups white rice. Let air cool and refrigerate.

Next morning, you can warm it up with a little butter, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins and have a great kid breakfast they'll die over.

Better yet, do the following for a FIVE MINUTE dinner that actually tastes good... I ALWAYS do this dinner if I've had a stir fry or anything that was "on rice" the night before - just double up the batch and your dinner is done for the next night. Plus it's about $1.50 a serving.

Homemade Shrimp Fried Rice, fast and cheap

Leftover rice cooked the night before
1/2 package frozen peas
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 lb. medium or large raw frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled & deveined
chopped scallions
garlic salt
soy sauce

Heat vegetable oil in pan over medium-high heat. Once oil is heated, place beaten eggs in pan and stir vigourously. Once almost set, add the shrimp and frozen peas and cook mixture until peas are soft and shrimp is pinked. Add leftover rice and mix together. Add scallions, garlic salt to taste, and soy sauce until rice takes on a light brown color. Stir occasionally - this is key. You want the heat high enough and the rice to sit in one place long enough to get a little crusty, but not too long that it burns. Scrape bottom of pan often to circulate. Serve immediately.

Enjoy the cheapness!!!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The prodigal blogger

Well, it should be noted that full-time working motherhood is a delicate balance. And, when you add a sick baby with RSV for a few weeks and a washer that has broken so you have to travel to clean onesies, well, menumaking goes out the window.

Back soon... hopefully... my body needs to get back on healthful menus (as I snarf my burger and chocolate milk).

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This week's menu

So we REALLY fell off the wagon last week - lots of crappy meals (though garden burgers aren't terrible) and kid ate way too much mac & cheese. I had a client visit, hubby had a deadline at work, and baby had pinkeye. Here's to getting back on the healthy menu bandwagon again:

Sunday: Panko chicken fingers and sauteed yellow squash
Monday: (hubby is home to watch it) Slow-cooked pork roast with onions, served with (purchased) chili verde, tomatoes, black beans, and avocado
Tuesday: Pork fried rice with peas and egg (saute the pork from the night before with a little hoisin and soy sauce before adding, make the rice the night before and refrigerate)
Wednesday: Orzo with grilled chicken, tomatoes, feta, and olives
Thursday: grilled chicken sandwiches with cheddar, bacon and roasted peppers; steamed broccoli
Friday: pasta in (purchased) vodka sauce with italian sausage; steamed carrots

If you're following my frozen meat and pantry, this required little groceries for the week (not counting stuff for kid's lunch):

feta, parmesan, american cheese, cheddar (I'm low on everything)
pork roast
good olives

Happy cooking everyone! Hopefully soon I'll be posting not only menus but nutritional information.

My new rock star, no-effort dessert!

So we had two dinners last weekend back-to-back, with lots of little ones at each visit. Needless to say, it wasn't a venue where you could easily do any cooking while the guests were actually there.

I found a recipe for Mascarpone-Filled Cake with Sherried Berries on here taken from Gourmet Magazine and edited it for the Time Challenged. Purchased sliced pound cake replaced the homemade cake with good results. And, if you use only bite-sized berries and a standing mixer for the cream, it's pretty much hands-free!

For the cream:

8 ounces mascarpone (1 cup)
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar

Whipped all together until soft peaks form

For the berries:

1/2 cup Fino (dry) Sherry
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups mixed berries, cut if large

these can stand at room temp up to 3 hours.

Enjoy! I have to say left over mascarpone is amazing with toast and strawberry jam. You'll feel guilty just eating it but will keep doing so anyway.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dinner parties with high fuss, no fuss

I find that I turn to certain meals depending on whether I invite someone over that likes to help me cook, and others when I don't expect to cook while the guests are there.

Last night we had the Brit over with his lovely family... the Brit is a corporate chef and I have to say in ten years of knowing him, last night was the FIRST time he actually didn't cook! The meal was lovely and we got to use a leftover turkey breast I had bought on sale and frozen:

1. Roasted turkey breast (coated in EVOO, stuffed with your stuffing of choice, dredged in sage/thyme/salt/pepper)
2. Butternut squash risotto with grated asiago cheese and cumin (you can find the recipe here:
3. Steamed broccoli

Above was low fuss but you had to cook while the guests were there (risotto is not forgiving if left!)

Tonight we're having another set of guests over and I'm using my fallbacks (will post pics later):

1) Spinach salad with goat cheese, roasted pears, and candied walnuts (adding scallops if I have time)
2) Wild mushroom lasagne with bechamel sauce
3. White cake with sherried berries and mascarpone cream

This menu is high fuss, but it's all done in advance and comes together within minutes once you decide when to eat!

Bon appetit! It's snowing here so I may have to improvise if I get out later to the grocery store than I'm hoping...

Monday, January 5, 2009

This week's menu

I'm still getting going with making grocery lists automatic, but here's the menu for this week. My grocery bill was less than $100 and it included the ever-expensive lunch items for my preschooler (fruit snacks, individual pringles, fruit, cold cuts)...

Wishing you all a healthy and economical week!

Monday: shrimp pad thai
Tuesday: asiago chicken fingers with sauteed squash
Wednesday: tequila-lime pork soft tacos with tomatoes, avocado, and onion
Thursday: cheeseburgers, broccoli, and french fries
Friday: roasted turkey breast with red potato hash and steamed green beans

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The best good-for-you chicken fingers, ever

In my quest to economically use the "family pack" of chicken breasts... here's another great use for two large chicken breasts. It will feed a family of four (small children) or a hearty three appetites.

Asiago chicken fingers with pan-fried yellow squash


You will need:

2 large chicken breasts, pounded slightly to tenderize
3 large eggs
Small splash of milk
Salt and Pepper
Panko bread crumbs
Grated Asiago cheese

3 medium-sized zucchini

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In one shallow bowl, beat the eggs with a splash of milk slightly. In the second bowl, combine salt, pepper, panko, flour, and asiago. A good guess is about 1/3 cup (more if you like a slight cheese taste) cheese, 1 cup panko, and 1/2 cup flour. Cut the raw chicken into finger-sized strips and dip into the egg batter. Allow excess to drain and dredge in the breading mixture. Repeat for all chicken, and the - this is key - repeat again for all chicken. The double breading makes it far more flavorful. Coat a glass pan with Pam and place the fingers in the pan. Spray fingers with a small coating of Pam. Bake at 20 minutes or until breading is crispy and slightly browned.

While chicken is cooking, slice the squash and season with salt and pepper. Pan-fry in a pan coated with EVOO on medium-high heat until done.

Serve the chicken fingers and squash with ketchup or a mixture of dijon and honey. Kids will eat them up, I guarantee!

The quickest snack or salad you've ever made for guests

This is a GREAT thing to bring to a party if you've been tasked to bring a munchie. People will rave about them and they take less than five minutes total to make. Also, they keep REALLY well in a ziploc in the fridge. I use them with sliced pears roasted with balsamic vinegar (400 deg for 25-30) over spinach with a little goat cheese for a really elegant salad course that's no time at all. I tend to use a little extra cayenne, but that's me.

From Bon Appetit, December 2000:

Candied Walnuts

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 cup walnuts (about 3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine walnuts and all remaining ingredients in medium bowl; toss to coat. Spread nut mixture on prepared baking sheet (some nuts may clump together). Bake until nuts are deep golden and sugar mixture is bubbling, stirring occasionally to break up clumps, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheet. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year to all!!!

So last night wasn't a "giveup takeout" night, but we did opt for sushi and some cocktails to ring in the new year. The three year old had her traditional three orders of tamago sushi and a good time was had by all.

An easy dinner this evening - pork roast in the "Set it and forget it" with a savory dry rub of sage, salt & pepper, stuffed with walnuts, goat cheese, and apples. Some roasted sweet potatoes and steamed squash on the side... nice. Will post pics if it comes out well.

Here's hoping everyone is relaxing and not working today!