Thursday, February 28, 2008

Staples to get a homecooked meal on the table when the craving grabs you..

I love my freezer, it's no secret. However, even I like to have a fresh homecooked meal from time to time. This weekend Tim returns home from being in Europe on business which is not as glamorous as it sounds, trust me. I used to do that sort of travel and it wrecks havoc on your eating habits. So this weekend I need to do hearty, satisfying meals that will start to re-adjust his system. I also don't want to go to the grocery store on until Monday when the Kid arrives for March break. Friday night we'll eat a nice light Chickpea Chowder from the freezer (I do love my freezer, did I mention that?). This recipe is a variation on the Chickpea Chowder recipe from Looneyspoons. If you haven't got a copy of this cookbook then I highly recommend it. In fact, you should have all 3 of the cookbooks written by the Podleski sisters. They are awesome... and the books are pretty great too! I've been making this recipe for about 10 years and it still stands up to the test of time and taste.

Now what to make for the rest of the weekend, keeping in mind that Tim's tummy will be used to large, heavy meals eaten out. Just by keeping a few root veggies on hand, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, turnip, onions, squash - you can whip together a stew. Now not everyone thinks of this but you don't have to use beef if you don't have some on hand (I happen to have a chunk of lean beef that will work perfect here). You could use chicken parts, removing the skin so you don't end up with a greasy stew, or you could use pork, veal or lamb. Whatever you have. Just be sure to brown the meat first as it adds so much to the flavour. My mom keeps a bag of stew veggies (it actually says that on the bag "stew mix") in her freezer and some stew beef. She whips up an excellent stew in a pinch. I'm going to find out what she puts in her broth to make it so tasty and I'll share the recipe with you. It's really good!

Another healthy option is to keep arborio rice to make risotto on hand. Toss in some frozen veggies, like spinach or asparagus and you are all set. A great vegetarian dish is good to go. However, to make a good risotto you need good parmesan or some type of hard Italian cheese. That is not a staple around here. When good Italian cheese comes into this house it never lasts long unless I hide it. I swear! The Kid is totally hooked on good Grana Padano.

Okay so what else is good to have on hand? Well how about pasta. Any shape or size will do. Keep a can of your favorite good Italian tomatoes in the cupboard. I add some frozen veggies like spinach, broccoli or brussel sprouts and a healthy meal is done! You can open a jar of your favorite sauce if you want to keep it super simple. The sauce is a veggie! Add meat if you are so inclined. This dish doesn't require good hard italian cheese to sprinkle on top but it's nice or you could add in diced feta, mozza or whatever tickles your fancy. But you don't have to if you don't have it on hand.

Do you know what my favorite pantry staple meal is? Tomato soup. Right from the can. It's nutritious, low fat and super tasty. Now that's comfort food even if it's not 'homemade'.

Bon Appetite

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Still going on about leftover chicken... And The best Chili recipe ever.

First off, my pizzas last night were delish! I just put on some pizza sauce from a squeeze bottle from the grocery store, some chopped frozen broccoli (mostly defrosted), some diced chicken, green onion and a mix of leftover cheeses I had in the fridge, provolone, mozza and a bit of parm. That bun made a perfect pizza crust.

Here is my chicken salad. I used some diced chicken, some leftover matchstick carrots I had on hand but you could just add peeled or shredded carrot and chopped green onion. I mixed this with half mayo, half ranch dressing and a splash of tabasco sauce. It's buffalo inspired chicken salad. I would have used blue cheese dressing if I had some on hand but I did have some blue cheese so I crumbed up a little of that to toss in.

I had to share this recipe. I made Chili with Chipotle and Chocolate out of December's Cooking Light magazine. Tim thought it was the best chili he has ever had. I found it bit too spicy for me but I would just take the seeds out of the chipotles as I was dicing them up. Or you could reduce it to just one chipotle to lesson the heat.

Here is the recipe on Cooking It works out to 5 points per serving.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Beer Can Chicken - it's not just for BBQs

Saturday night I did a beer can chicken in the oven. I'd rather cook a chicken the beer can way than just straight roasting because even if I over cook the chicken, it's still really moist. My beer can turkey at Christmas won over 3 other entries that the Kid had on Christmas day. It was the moistest! And because you have to put it in a pan of some sort to avoid completely ruining your oven, you catch the drippings for gravy. And some days ya just need gravy...

Saturday night I kept it simple. We were going to have movie night so I didn't want to be slaving away in the kitchen, mashing potatoes, boiling veggies, etc. I cut up potatoes, parsnip and carrots into wedges and roasted them to make "veggie fries" for dipping in the gravy. I put the parsnip and carrots in for 20 - 30 minutes before adding the potato wedges since the parsnips and carrots took longer to cook. I didn't think I like parsnips as a kid but I find them sweet and tasty now. This was an easy side dish to make since all I had to do was peel and cut. I roasted them in the same oven with the chicken. Easy! All I had to do while the chicken rested (for a minimum of 20 minutes - don't forget this important step!) was make the gravy out of the pan drippings and some chicken broth from a box and dinner was served.

My favorite part of beer can chicken is the leftovers. I always have at least enough for a chicken salad sandwich or two after feeding 3 people. This time I have enough for at least 2 meals for me and a couple of sandwiches. I'm home alone this week so having chicken leftovers in the fridge discourages me from eating popcorn for supper... (see previous posts)

Last night I threw some chicken in with whole wheat pasta, spinach, a little crumbled bacon, and some bottled light caesar dressing thinned with some of the pasta water. It was sinfully good. I munched on that while watching the Oscars! It was definitely decadent enough to match the fanfare of the show.

Tonight I'm really looking forward to "A Raisin in the Sun" on TV. It's a historic story but I've never seen it. Before I hit movie time and the popcorn (it's okay if it's not in place of a meal!) I'm making chicken and broccoli pizzas. I have some flat bread hamburger buns in the freezer. These come from the Superstore. I think they will make great pizzas. I'll try to make just about anything bread like into a pizza! It's one of my favorite home alone meals.

If I still have enough chicken leftover after making some chicken salad I might do Chicken burritos/tacos tomorrow night. I have a first rate salsa in the fridge, some cheddar, green onions, tortillas and a bit of sour cream. Oh and I know I have some leftover refried beans in the freezer. Mmmmm.

ps. Don't want to eat leftover chicken all week? Carve it all off the bones and freeze it in 1/2 cup or serving size packs. Then you can just take some out when you want cooked chicken fast. Imagine pulling out a pack of cooked chicken, grabbing a pizza shell of your choice, assembling your pizza, baking it and wheeeee - you've got dinner. Or piling that chicken in a tortilla, top with salsa and cheese, baking it and again - wheee - you've got dinner!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nana's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Squares

If you read my other blog you know that this month we said goodbye to my Nana. She suffered for 6 long months before finally finding peace. She and Grampie were married for 67 years. Grampie just celebrated his 90th birthday in December. Two days after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. As he says, he's had a good life. Nana gave him a family which was everything to him. I hope that he does not suffer.

Grampie's diagnosis was the third in my list of 3's. First a dear friend of ours in Sweden, Harry, was diagnosed with terminal cancer almost 2 years ago. He passed away at the end of January. Then Nana got sick this past summer. And now Grampie. I have been blessed with the opportunity to say good bye to both my Nana and I went to Sweden to say goodbye to Harry. He was a wonderful man.

Sweden is a wonderful place. I love it dearly for many reasons but since this is a cooking blog, we'll stick to that topic. Here is a little courtyard I discovered one summer. In the summer all the restaurant in the courtyard have tables outside. It's really lovely.

This was the restaurant I ate at. Yes, it's nicer when the trees are in bloom. But note the lack of snow... This is Stockholm in February!
Right outside this courtyard is the one of the best pizza restaurants "Al Forno" on Drottingatan, the main shopping street in central Stockholm. The best pizza I've ever had has been in Sweden. Odd place for great pizza, eh?

I wanted to share with you a recipe of Nana's in her honour. It's one of my favorites and she always made them for me. I wasn't much of a chocolate eater as a kid so these were just right for me.

Nana's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Squares


  • 1/2 cup Margarine
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (use the regular kind, not the all natural)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Icing sugar.
  • Preheat oven to 350, grease a square brownie pan
  • Mix margarine, peanut butter, brown sugar and eggs until fluffy
  • Add vanilla
  • Stir in dry ingredients until smooth
  • Blend in chocolate chips.
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes
  • Let cool completely then sprinkel with icing sugar.

Monday, February 04, 2008

All Hail the New York Giants!

Not a lot of serious cooking got done this weekend as it was Super Bowl weekend. So I have just one thing to say

All Hail the New York Giants!!!!!!!

It was an amazing game. For those of you who routed for the underdog, I salute you. See, you just have to have faith!

Looking for a tasty TV watching snack, see below for the Onion Ring recipe. I also made some boneless chicken wings. Just take some boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut each into 2 or 3 pieces, shap them like wings and put in a baking dish, like a lasagna pan. Pour on some of your favorite sauce. You can buy something from the store or make one. I had a nice variation of one out of "Eat, Shrink and Be Merry" that was suppose to be like a honey garlic sauce but I left out the honey and added more spicyness. I served mine with a buffalo inspired sauce of sour cream, mayo, tabasco and feta cheese. They were awesome and not too heavy. I'll be making these again for any other pub food type gathering!