October 31, 2010

No, we have not been starving!

A loyal follower sent me an email last week, asking if we were starving ourselves at the Stolzman household.  No, we have been eating, just nothing too interesting.  While I have taken pictures of our meals, nothing seemed to jump out at me as blog-worthy.  It has occurred to me, however, that most meals at in our house are ordinary.  The event of sitting at the table, set with place-mats and water goblets, is so run of the mill that I forget that's the main course, every night.  What we eat is secondary (although, with a food blog, the food should be more appealing) to the time we spend as a family.  That's how families stay connected.  My current boss, who is a school psychologist, often says research points to the most successful families eating together, and the one thing parents can do to ensure cohesiveness is to actually eat together.  Turn off the tv, the radio, and the cell phones.  The food doesn't have to be fancy; in fact, most winter evenings we have soup and sandwiches. At last week's National Honor Society Induction Ceremony, the faculty adviser asked us what we did to raise two great kids (such a gratifying question).  Our immediate answer: "family dinner, every night".  Of course the reality is that family dinner cannot happen every night, especially during the high school years.  But it did happen every night during the formative years. My advice is to make it count.  If sitting at the table with the family can only happen once a week then make that one night a priority.  Involve each member of the household in the food planning and preparation, and most especially in the clean up :-)  You'll be happy you did!!!

This yummy soup was prepared by Joe, while I sat reading a book (my very favorite way to cook).

Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 chicken thighs and 1 chicken breast, cooked thoroughly in 4 cups chicken broth.
1 medium onion, chopped and sauteed
1 cup chunky salsa, any brand
1/2 tsp garlic (or to taste)
1/4 tsp cumin (or to taste)
1 cup corn (frozen or canned)
1 15 oz can black beans
1/2 tsp chili powder (to taste)
2 diced jalapenos (seeds removed) optional
corn tortilla chips

Bring the chicken, in the chicken broth, to a boil.  Then simmer until you can shred it with a fork.  Add the sauteed onion, spices, beans, corn, and jalapenos.  Simmer at least 1 hour, or longer.  For the tortilla strips, simply cut up corn tortillas and bake in a 400 oven until brown.  Use as garnish on the top of the soup.  Add a dollop of sour cream if desired. 

October 17, 2010

A Rainy Sunday Dinner

What's better than a rainy Sunday?  Not much.  A good book, cup of tea, a nap on the couch.  *sigh* 

Last night before bed, Joe put a chicken in the large crock pot, covered it with water, added salt, pepper, and chunks of "aromatic" vegetables, set it on high, and we awoke to chicken falling off the bone and homemade chicken stock.  A great way to plan ahead; now there is cooked chicken in the fridge, ready for several days worth of meals. The vegetables used to flavor the stock were carrots, celery, onion, and garlic.  Simply place large pieces in the crock pot with the chicken and discard in the morning.

I used the chicken for a Sunday pot pie dinner. Yum!  Store bought pie crust (top and bottom).  Sauteed carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. 3 or 4 potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces.  Layer the ingredients into the bottom pie crust. For the gravy, make a roux with 3 Tbsp butter, melted in a sauce pot.  Add enough flour to make small pea sized pieces. Cook on medium until brown.  Add chicken stock (enough to make the amount of gravy desired).  Whisk until smooth.  Add salt, pepper, tarragon, marjoram, and one bay leaf.  If the gravy is too thin add potato flakes to thicken.  Pour over the pie crust.  Add the top crust, crimping edges thoroughly.  Cut two small slits into the top crust for steam to vent, and then brush the top with an egg and milk wash.  Cover the edges with tin foil to prevent browning, and cook at 350 for at least an hour.  If the top isn't too brown after one hour then leave in for another fifteen minutes.  Cook for 15 minutes on the stove top. 


Cherry Italian Ice

We've said goodbye to summer. No more hot, humid days. No more sundresses. No more dining al fresco. I spent this weekend cold. Waking up in the morning with a chill, pulling my jacket and scarf a little tighter in the afternoon, and putting on a sweater to putter around my apartment in the evening. Fall means squash soup, kielbasa and cabbage, and hearty Sunday meals. While I love these things, I give you one last remnant of summer (which I found on my phone today, having had good intentions to post it a couple of months ago when the photo was taken):
This was my first Italian ice--cherry! I always thought Italian ices were like the sno-cones you get at the state fair, but they're not even close. They're creamy and flavorful to the last bite.


October 11, 2010

Why am I making so many desserts??

Maybe desserts are comfort food for me?  Whatever the case, they sure are yummy. This particular recipe came out of the Sacramento Bee last week.  On Wednesdays, they have a food & wine section that highlights recipes and regional fare.  Once in a while they have a decent looking recipe. Everyone liked the cake, but Andrew is not a fan of walnuts so he only had a couple of bites.  I'll probably try it again without nuts, just for him :-).  

Butternut pineapple spice cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups finely grated peeled butternut squash (not cooked)
1 cup drained crushed pineapple
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts

cream cheese frosting
one 8oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter and flour a 9x13 baking dish.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and allspice.
In a large mixing bowl, comine the oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.  Beat until well combined.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add the vanilla. Continue to beat until fluffy.  Gradually add the dry ingredients, mixing just until the batter is smooth and blended.  Fold in the squash, pineapple and walnuts.  Spread into prepared pan.  Bake for 35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of hte cake comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: in a medium bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla.  Add 2 cups of the powdered sugar and beat until smooth.  If the frosting is too thin, mix in the additional 1/2 cup powdered sugar. 

Helpful hints
To peel the squash, just cut a small portion off the bottom so it stands, and peel vertically down with a vegetable peeler. For ease of grating, cut into hand held chunks and use the small side of a cheese grater.  The whole squash won't be used.  Leftover squash can be cut into bit-sized chunks and used in a soup or stew.

It's easy to roast walnuts.  Place them on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for approx. 10 min.  Be careful, once they darken they are burned.

When baking it's best to leave eggs sit on the counter until room temperature before using.

My cake baked for approx. 45 minutes instead of 35.

The Sacramento Bee does this nifty thing where they print all the nutritional information after each recipe.  But after reading it, I decided it wasn't so nifty after all.  Just go run an extra mile and you'll be fine!!


October 7, 2010

Spanish Rice

Fajitas are a quick dinner, easy to make, and fairly healthy (depending, of course, on how much sour cream and cheese one slathers on).  Side dishes, however, can be problematic.  The sam-o gets boring after a while, so I went with something new tonight and made Spanish Rice.  I don't actually eat rice  but everyone else in my family does. Although I did taste this dish and it was pretty good.

Saute chopped green peppers, onions, and garlic until soft  (can add chopped jalapeno to taste).  Add 1 cup of rice and cook until browned.  Add 1 can of low sodium chicken broth (15 oz) and 1 can of diced tomatoes with chilies, including the juice, a pinch of chili powder and cumin.  Bring to low boil, turn down to simmer. Stirring every ten minutes for 30 minutes. 


October 5, 2010

Jumpin' the gun....

Autumn is my favorite time of year (although I recall saying that about spring).  It seems I'm the only one I know anxiously awaiting the time change, relishing the earlier nights.  A crisp coolness in the air, leaves on the ground, closure for the year.  *sigh*

Soups and stews reign supreme at the Stolzman household from November through March.  Any and all combination of ingredients.  Yum!  Even though it was a bit warm today, some leftover mashed potatoes were calling out to be the base of broccoli, cheese, and bacon soup.

Super easy to make.
However much leftover steamed broccoli you have combined with some leftover mashed potatoes and a few cans of chicken broth.  Cook some bacon crisp and add cheese.  Tonight it was Velveeta, but it can be cheddar or any other.  Heat until the cheese is melted.  It helps to have an immersion blender for the potatoes, otherwise they can take a while to blend with the broth.


And a very happy birthday to my lovely sister Marie!!!