Category Archives: Cooking

Purging the files

Last weekend, I purged my recipe file. I have this big green file folder that I use to store recipes. For the past 5 years or so (okay, maybe 10), I have been collecting recipes that looked good. And stuffing them into the file folder (organized into categories, of course. Sort of.) And I thought about it recently and realized that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, Emma would go through that file and instead of thinking fondly about the great family dinners we had, she would think, “Look at all these recipes that don’t even sound familiar.” So I decided to purge. This requires getting honest with yourself about what you’re never going to do. Kind of like going through your closet and getting red of anything you haven’t worn in a year. And here’s what I purged:

1. Any recipe for sorbet, ice cream, granita, sherbet, popsicles, or anything found in the frozen treats section. Easier to buy it. And probably better.

2. Anything that requires pounding something with a mallet.

3. Crock pot recipes for anything that is not intended to be served mushy. Because it always ends up mushy.

4. Anything that contains both chocolate and noodles.

5. Anything that has more than 10 ingredients. (Unless a) it’s for a special occasion and b) I’ve already made it so I know that it’s worth it.)

6. Anything that contains both fruit and meat. (I make an exception for apples and pork. Yum.)

7. Anything that has a jello-like consistency and isn’t jello. Like aspic.

8. Cold soup. (I know that some people like them. I don’t.)

9. 10 recipes for variations on “chicken in peanut sauce”. Because I have one that we all love and who needs more than one way to cook chicken in peanut sauce? Ditto for chicken enchiladas.

10. Candy. There are lots of professional candy makers who can make it better than I can. And that whole candy thermometer thing is a pain.

I got rid of about half of my recipes. In all honesty, I probably could have gotten rid of 3/4. But it’s a start.

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Easy Recipe – Adobo Chicken in the Crock Pot

My kids don’t like chicken in the crock pot, so I don’t make it much. But I found this easy recipe for Adobo Chicken in allrecipes and made it last night.  Everyone loved it (even David, my pickiest eater.)

1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds) – the recipe says to cut it into pieces, but there’s something about cutting through chicken bones that skeeves me out, so I just put the whole thing into the crock pot (after taking out the bag-o-stuff from the chicken’s “cavity”, of course)

1 sweet onion, sliced

3/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)

lots of crushed garlic (ok, I cheated and used lots of garlic from a jar)

Put the chicken in the crock pot. Pieces. Whole. Whatever. Put the onion slices on top of the chicken. Mix together the garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, and pour over the chicken. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

I served it with cooked rice (which I kind of burned, but we all ate it anyway). The sauce is really thin, so I poured it over the rice (which probably helped with the burnt issue).  I also served it with steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, which added some color to the meal.

Easy and delicious and lots of left-overs.

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Turkey noodle corn soup

I think I’ve mentioned before (or maybe I’m losing my mind and just think I mentioned it before) that I didn’t learn to cook until I was in my 30’s. I don’t really remember much about dinners before that. Somehow, before I had a child to feed, I didn’t think it was that important to cook a meal at dinnertime. And then all of a sudden it was.

I’m still only the kind of cook who makes things from recipes. I’m really good at following directions (except when I don’t want to, which is frequently), so I don’t find cooking from recipes all that challenging.  But I don’t think of it as really being able to cook.

So I’m really, really proud of myself when I do something without a recipe. And I’m even prouder when I make something without a recipe and it actually tastes good. And I’m even prouder yet when I make a something without a recipe and it actually tastes good and I made it from stuff I already had on hand.

So last Saturday, I made turkey noodle corn soup.  I had made a turkey breast in the crock pot, and I had lots of turkey left over.  So here’s what I did.

1. I took all the (already cooked) meat off the bone and put the meat back in the refrigerator.

2. I covered the bone(s) with water, added a cup of chopped celery, 3 small chopped onions, and some salt and pepper, and I boiled it for 2 hours.  (If the meat is uncooked, you can just boil the whole thing until the meat falls off the bone.) This part made the whole house smell great.

3. I boiled a bag of egg noodles.

4. I threw away the bone and saved the broth. (Note: if you are boiling the breast with the meat on it, you probably want to put the broth in the refrigerator overnight and skim the fat off before adding all of the ingredients, but since I had already taken the meat and skin off the bone before boiling, there wasn’t much fat in it.)

4. I cut up the turkey meat, and added it to the broth/celery/onion, threw in the noodles, added about 1/2 bag of frozen corn, added 1 tsp. of nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste, and then heated it up.

I bought a loaf of good Italian bread, and we got about 2 1/2 meals out of the soup/bread/(Girl Scout cookie) combination.  Everyone loved the soup. Even David, the world’s pickiest eater. (Emma said it was as good as Nana’s.)

And yes, I’m really proud of myself.

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Breaded Cod with Spinach

I adapted this recipe from one I saw in Woman’s Day a few years ago. It’s delicious.  I serve it with a side of boiled red potatoes or boiled noodles with a bit of parmesan and olive oil.

Ingredients:

4 cod fillets

1 cup panko bread crumbs, Italian-flavored

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 lb. spinach

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. pine nuts, toasted

Toss  spinach, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts in a large rectangular glass baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. olive oil and grated parmesan in a bowl.  Roll cod pieces in mixture and place over spinach mixture. (I find it hard to get the bread crumb mixture to stick, so I end up pressing it onto the fish.)

Bake, covered with aluminum foil, in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for 5 more minutes.  Serve immediately.

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Peanut noodles with chicken

Now that Fall is here, I’ve been cooking again.  I found this basic recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine, and doctored it up a bit.  Everyone liked it – Emma even took leftovers of it to school for her lunch. (And her friends asked for copies of the recipe.)

1 lb. spaghetti or linguine

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced ( I use garlic from a jar. Saves time.)

4 med. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

1/4 c. rice vinegar

1/4 c. soy sauce

1/3 c. smooth peanut butter

3 Tbsp. water

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

1 bag shredded carrots

1 medium red pepper, thinly sliced

lots of cilantro

1. Boil water. Cook pasta according to directions. Rinse and drain pasta.

2. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, heat garlic and 1 inch of a water to boiling on high. Add chicken, reduce heat to medium-low and cook chicken for 13-14 minutes (until it’s not pink. Pink is bad for chicken.) Remove chicken from skillet and place in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes. Throw out the icky water.  With hands, shred chicken.

3. While chicken and pasta are cooking, in a large bowl whisk vinegar, soy sauce, peanut butter, water and ginger until smooth.

4. To bowl with peanut sauce, add pasta, shredded chicken, cucumber, carrots and pepper; toss to coat.  To serve, garnish with lots of cilantro.

The last time I made this, I added some steamed broccoli to it as well, as both David and Margaret are eating broccoli these days, and request it early every day. I do not know why – it totally came out of the blue.

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Best slow-cooker pork chops ever

No, I really mean it.  Even Emma liked it, and we know she’s not a big crock pot fan.  (Margaret liked it too. David not so much, but he’s going through a non-meat phase.) I found the original recipe on www.allrecipes.com, but I modified it a bit.

Ingredients:

4-6 pork chops (I used bone-in pork chops, and I think that’s why they were so moist)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup flour

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. dry ground mustard

1 can cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup water

Instructions:

Combine flour, mustard and seasoned salt on a plate. Dredge pork chops in flour combination (both sides). Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Brown pork chops.  When brown, place pork chops in slow cooker.

Add cream of chicken soup and water to pan, scrape browned bits off the pan and mix.

Pour the soup/water/brown stuff over the pork chops.  Cook on low 8 hours.

I served this with egg noodles (seasoned with some butter and fresh grated parmesan cheese) and steamed fresh green beans.  The sauce was really good on the noodles.  I think next time I’ll add some carrots to the crock pot so I don’t have to make a separate vegetable.

I’ll be making this again soon.

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Pasta in a flash

I made this baked pasta dish for Margaret’s birthday gathering on Sunday. It was so easy, and delicious. I used ground turkey instead of ground beef, and I added an onion, sauteeing it with the ground turkey and mushrooms.  I added a bit of sugar to the sauce, as I like my stewed tomatoes a bit sweet (thank you, Dad, for teaching me to put sugar on my stewed tomatoes.)

And how did I find this magnificent recipe? I went to www.allrecipes.com and typed in “Easy Pasta Recipes”.  I’ll share it with you now, so that you can skip that tedious step:

Easy Baked Pasta with Ground Turkey

I served it with Italian bread, and a green salad with blue cheese, mandarin orange slices and walnuts, with a homemade dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a 1/2 tsp. (ish) of sugar (more sugar…it’s becoming a theme!). 

And cake and ice cream. And wine. (For the adults.)

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